Friday, September 16, 2005

When the system games you


As blog traffic exchanges go, BlogExplosion remains at the top of my list, and the new features they're rolling out are top-notch -- a very nice ping utility, headline indexing and so forth. Part of the site remodel includes an improved version of "Battle of the Blogs" which, after first stroking my ego, is now serving me a big plate of crow.

A little background: Early on, I formulated some simple rules for doing reasonably well in competition (and, more importantly, getting an optimum number of visitors to Kn@ppster) on Battle of the Blogs. For example, I generally wager the minimum number of credits (10) so as to maximize my credit-to-visitor ratio (competing blogs receive 15 visits). I also made a conscious decision not to obsess over my win/loss ratio or my competitive standing versus other blogs. This was going to be friendly competition with built-in advantages, not a dramatic production.

And it worked -- to date, Kn@ppster has, so far as I can tell, won more "battles" than any other blog in the competition. I've also lost quite a few. In the old ranking system, my ratio of about 60% wins to 40% losses didn't place me in the Top 50; when the new system debuted, Kn@ppster rose immediately to #2 in the lifetime rankings, behind one blog which had fewer wins, but also fewer losses (Diner Bitch, which happens to be one of my favorites).

About this time, I started to lose sight of my original goals. It started with the urge to improve my "batting average." Then, when I showed up at number 2, it translated into a crackhead-like obsession with doing whatever I had to do to knock Daria down and become King of the Mountain ("there can be only one!").

I started breaking my own rules. Instead of just posting a challenge and going up against whoever took it, or taking the first available challenge, I started gaming the system -- looking for blogs with less stellar records and swooping in for the easy kill. Why go up against a competitor who wins 2/3 of her battles when you can take on a blogger who loses 2/3 of his? It seemed like a no-brainer ... and it was, but not the way I expected.

[N.B. One thing to remember here is that while there's a connection between quality and competition, the connection is a tenuous one -- some very good blogs just don't do that well for various reasons that I don't feel like going into right now and can't always pin down. For example, Milky Way Diner is one of my favorites ... and loses more battles than it wins. Who knows why?]

I started getting my head handed to me by blogs I didn't expect to have any trouble beating. I dropped to #3 in the rankings, then rose to #2, then fell again.

I know a trend when I see it.

I could write it off, as some soreheads do, to secret conspiracies ("hey, everyone, Knapp's being an asshole -- let's go vote against him, no matter who he fights"), and I wouldn't be terribly surprised if something of the sort is happening. On the other hand, I'm not going to be a sorehead about it. Hell, I deserve it. I've been acting like a boxer who goes out and beats up passersby because he doesn't want to risk getting his nose bloodied in the ring. He thinks he can mug ten people for $50 each more easily than he can win a $500 purse in a stand-up fight. Well, sooner or later, one of those passersby is going to surprise him with a mean right hook ... or maybe they'll just gang up on him. Either way he's screwed, and either way he deserves it.

So, effective immediately, I am back to the straight and narrow (cue the theme from "Rocky"). 10-credit challenges, first-come, first-served. I'll probably continue to take some lumps, but I seem to throw my best punches when I worry more about blogging and less about battling anyway. Let's get it on.

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