WordPress Content Recommendations: Off to a Good Start


I love recommendations. Well done, they make my life easier and provide a great source for learning things I didn’t know. So I’m pretty excited about a new feature rolled out by WordPress.com, “possibly related posts”, on April 26, 2008.

At the bottom of blog posts on wordpress.com, you’ll see a list of several blogs under the heading, “Possibly related posts: (automatically generated)”. These are posts which should have some relation to the blog post you just read. WordPress is working with Sphere to deliver these recommendations.

There’s an priority ranking to the recommendations:

  1. Similar posts on the same blog
  2. Similar posts from around wordpress.com
  3. Articles, blog posts from elsewhere on the Web

Two areas are of interest here: (i) what recommendations appear on your blog; (ii) what other blogs are showing your posts shown as ‘possibly related’.

Recommendations That Appear on Your Blog

I surveyed five of my blog posts to see what were listed as possibly related posts. They’re shown below, along with a rating of ‘yes’ for related, ‘no’ for not related, ‘sorta’ for posts that might appeal to some readers of the blog post.

I. Ten FriendFeed Visitors Beats 1,000 StumbleUpons Any Day (link)

  • Wired blog: FriendFeed Offers Developers the Key to Build Custom Social Apps (link): no
  • New York Times: Friends May Be the Best Guide Through the Noise (link): yes

II. You Can’t Win If You Don’t Play: A Blog Hits 50 Posts (link)

  • This blog: When Your Blog Is LouisGrayCrunched… (link): yes
  • A wp.com blog: asylum street spankers, and a word about hits (link): sorta
  • CBS Sportsline: Major League Baseball (link): no

III. How Do Solo Bloggers Break into the Techmeme !00? (link)

  • A wp.com blog: break (link): sorta
  • A wp.com blog: Ichimonji No Kata – Raiko No Kata – Kukishin Dakentaijutsu (link): no
  • Scobleizer: New PR Trend: Anti-Gaming TechMeme? (link): yes

IV. The Best Blogs You’re Not Reading? Toluu Knows (link)

  • A wp.com blog: ‘A Fistful of Euros’ awards (link): yes
  • A wp.com: The demise of letter writing: oh, really? (link): yes
  • A wp.com: Reading blogs simply (link): no

V. How to Write a Farewell Email to Your Co-Workers (link)

  • A wp.com blog: How To Write Emails People Will Actually Read (link): yes
  • A wp.com: Email Etiquette (link): yes
  • A wp.com blog: Getting Better Results from your Email Marketing (link): no

The recommendations are off to a decent start. “Related” is a subjective measure, and my ratings above may not match what another reader would think.

How about comparing the WordPress recommendations to other sites? Here’s what Kleiner Perkins-backed startup Aggregate Knowledge’s discovery algorithm currently shows on the Washington Post story, “Failed Yahoo Talks Leave Google on Top“:

Only one of four are related to the Yahoo – Google story. Admittedly, Aggregate Knowledge doesn’t tout itself as a ‘related articles’ service, but their list of other articles should be viewed in this context: “Will people click on those links?”

And here’s what the New York Times shows as “Related Articles” for the article “Friends May Be the Best Guide Through the Noise“, which discussed lifestream companies FriendFeed, Iminta and others:

None of the ‘related articles’ relate to the story.

Recommendations for Your Blog that Appear Elsewhere

What’s interesting here is that you, as a blogger, can see what other blogs have similar subject matter as you. Oh, and the possibility of increased traffic doesn’t hurt.

I’ve really only seen clicks to this blog on ‘possibly related’ recommendations from two sites (with links to posts that include links back to this blog):

  • Scobleizer.com (link)
  • Alexander van Elsa’s Weblog (link)

Neither of those is a surprise. Both have good posts related to social media and Web 2.0, subjects which are covered as well. The ‘possibly related posts’ from this blog shown there are relevant to the posts on which they appear.

Final Thoughts

I’m a fan of this feature, which is still in its early days. It does have its detractors though. Here are a couple comments posted on wordpress.com about the feature:

I actually hate the randomness of this, even though you’re using an engine to try to find related material. Here’s why this is a horrible bad idea, and really, you should turn it OFF everyone’s blog unless they specifically ask for it: If I want random, unvetted links on a topic, I’ll google it. The REASON why blogs are a great medium is one of TRUSTED information. If I know a blogger is smart, savvy, well connected, and honest, I will trust THEIR opinions, and look to what links THEY supply. Making these robot-choices LOOK like they are endorsed by the blogger is where this really falls down, and makes me want to shut it off immediately and everywhere. It is so unfortunate that this is on by default. I will recommend to everyone that they shut off this feature. This is so anti-blogging, it’s not funny, and in fact sad coming from a trusted blogging platform. I bet if you took this issue to serious bloggers first, they would have chimed in overwhelmingly in the negative camp.

Morriss Partee

What it seems to be designed for is to keep the readers IN wordpress, which is understandably your goal. What it PROBABLY will do for individual bloggers is take the reader away from his or her blog into someone else’s blog within wordpress, a dubious result in my way of thinking. But what do I know?

Alice

Count me as a fan, and I hope they continue to iterate through improvements to the recommendations. I fundamentally disagree with Morriss Partee. Blogging is about conversations, even if they go elsewhere. If my blog post piqued someone’s interest and they click to another blog, that’s fine by me. I’d rather the reader have a good time than try to trap him onto my blog.

Go WordPress, go!

*****

See this item on FriendFeed: http://friendfeed.com/e/7a1528d4-96c3-40ea-f5c3-6493372fa956

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About Hutch Carpenter
Chief Scientist Revolution Credit

3 Responses to WordPress Content Recommendations: Off to a Good Start

  1. engtech says:

    I’ve been following this as well, and I’ve seen the same 50% ratio of hit/miss with the related posts.

    It goes up to about 70% miss if you include when the related post destinations aren’t worth linking to, eg: a “this link was interesting so I’ll quote it” type post.

  2. @engtech – 50% relevance seems to be good as content recommendation engines go. I haven’t run into the splog-type of related posts yet.

  3. Pingback: Possibly an announcement about possibly related posts « Laika’s MedLibLog

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