Ben Thompson on Ben Thompson

Applying PageRank’s ideas to identify Ben’s top 10 articles, daily updates, podcasts, and links

from https://stratechery.com/2015/curation-and-algorithms/

 

Ben Thompson writes a lot. Across articles on Stratechery, Daily Updates, and his Exponent podcast with James Allworth, he has made 931 distinct pieces of content to date, not including frequent guest appearances on The Talk Show and This Week In Tech. And that is only his tech stuff!

This can make things very daunting for anyone new to Ben’s world and trying to hang on to the most important threads. For these people Ben has self-curated yearly reviews with the top pieces of content and a short summary: 2016 | 2015 Big Five | 2015 | 2014 | 2013. However, apart from simple web traffic, Ben has never had sufficient data to produce a better curation algorithm than his own selections. As Ben says in his piece, “curation works best when there is a good amount of data, but not too much.” Ben’s own body of work has now started to be “too much” for beginners to handle.

Fortunately Ben also quotes himself a lot. For anyone familiar with Google’s PageRank this presents an immediate opportunity to create a network graph where relative importance of articles is an emergent feature.

Unfortunately, because there is not much hierarchy in these links, a typical network graph fails to produce anything useful:

So we must employ more quantitative methods here. For this exercise we simply count Ben’s own backlinks to himself and don’t go for the full iterative PageRank because we found that iteration did not add anything meaningful for our purposes (which is purely ranking source nodes, not creating a search engine of everything Ben has ever linked to). PageRank also faces a well known problem with older pages naturally having more of an opportunity to receive a higher rank, which we address by scaling the rank by the square root of time to introduce an exponential decay factor.

This allows us to produce an adjusted rank for every post, which when sorted throws these up as the top 10 Ben Thompson posts:

Title

Source

Timestamp

Rank

Post Age

Adj. Rank

Aggregation Theory weekly 2015-07-21 00:32:07+00:00 73.0 664 days 06:32:21 2.832949
The Facebook Epoch weekly 2015-09-30 07:36:58+00:00 51.0 592 days 23:27:30 2.096087
Peak Google weekly 2014-10-22 11:43:35+00:00 51.0 935 days 19:20:53 1.667878
What Clayton Christensen Got Wrong weekly 2013-09-22 11:41:23+00:00 55.0 1330 days 19:23:05 1.508123
Manifestos and Monopolies weekly 2017-02-21 06:57:24+00:00 13.0 83 days 00:07:04 1.426935
Popping the Publishing Bubble weekly 2015-09-16 07:01:36+00:00 35.0 607 days 00:02:52 1.420606
The Amazon Tax weekly 2016-03-15 07:33:20+00:00 29.0 425 days 23:31:08 1.406707
Facebook and the Cost of Monopoly weekly 2017-04-19 09:13:25+00:00 7.0 25 days 21:51:03 1.400000
The Great Unbundling weekly 2017-01-18 08:49:21+00:00 14.0 116 days 22:15:07 1.299867
Publishers and the Smiling Curve weekly 2014-10-28 12:00:33+00:00 38.0 929 days 19:03:55 1.246740

No prizes for guessing that articles like Aggregation Theory and The Facebook Epoch top the list, but equally interesting that the Adj. Rank formula also throws up 2017’s Manifestos and Monopolies and Facebook and the Cost of Monopoly as important.

Stratechery Articles are specifically written to be shared and linked to, so it is no surprise that they dominate the top Ben content of all time, so we can also filter for just daily updates:

Title

Source

Timestamp

Rank

Post Age

Adj. Rank

Amazon Re:Invent; Google vs AWS vs IBM vs M daily 2016-12-01 02:22:49+00:00 12.0 165 days 04:41:39 0.934199
Amazon Echo Expands, The Nest Failure, Mic daily 2016-03-07 05:58:43+00:00 16.0 434 days 01:05:45 0.768025
Twitter Follow-up, Apple’s Good Earnings, Appl… daily 2016-01-27 03:50:57+00:00 15.0 474 days 03:13:31 0.688973
Wikitribune, Apple Cuts Affiliate Fees, Netfli… daily 2017-04-25 04:16:42+00:00 3.0 20 days 02:47:46 0.670820
The New York Times Versus Uber, Uber Versus… daily 2017-04-24 05:12:33+00:00 3.0 21 days 01:51:55 0.654654
Unicorns Follow-up; Uber, Contractors, and… daily 2015-06-18 02:36:09+00:00 16.0 697 days 04:28:19 0.606043
Apple’s Run, Apple’s Earnings and the iPhone… daily 2016-04-27 06:01:09+00:00 11.0 383 days 01:03:19 0.562074
Crisis at Uber, Uber’s Culture, Who is Respons… daily 2017-02-23 02:47:39+00:00 5.0 81 days 04:16:49 0.555556
Does Uber Have a Strategy Problem?, Netflix… daily 2016-09-20 04:12:54+00:00 8.0 237 days 02:51:34 0.519656
Microsoft Teams versus Slack, Facebook’s… daily 2016-11-07 04:12:59+00:00 7.0 189 days 02:51:29 0.509175

Why not Exponent?

Title

Source

Timestamp

Rank

Post Age

Adj. Rank

Episode 012: The Internet Rainforest exponent 2014-08-07 20:15:32+00:00 7.0 1011 days 10:48:56 0.220152
Episode 016: Naked People exponent 2014-09-05 16:31:22+00:00 4.0 982 days 14:33:06 0.127645
Episode 005: The World Has Changed exponent 2014-05-28 15:52:37+00:00 4.0 1082 days 15:11:51 0.121604
Episode 105 — The Most Political exponent 2017-02-24 12:39:31+00:00 1.0 79 days 18:24:57 0.112509
Episode 081 — We Have Always Been at War exponent 2016-06-03 08:58:56+00:00 2.0 345 days 22:05:32 0.107676
Episode 021: Gamergate of Thrones exponent 2014-10-17 17:52:11+00:00 3.0 940 days 13:12:17 0.097849
Episode 034 – The Story of Stratechery exponent 2015-02-06 15:50:13+00:00 2.0 828 days 15:14:15 0.069505
Episode 092 — Defining Consumerization of IT exponent 2016-10-14 10:01:58+00:00 1.0 212 days 21:02:30 0.068680
Episode 027 – Regulation, Stagnation, and exponent 2014-12-05 14:53:14+00:00 2.0 891 days 16:11:14 0.067003
Episode 020: I Want You to be Wrong exponent 2014-10-03 14:51:52+00:00 2.0 954 days 16:12:36 0.064752

Plotting these over time, we can see that Ben has created a wealth of content that has remained evergreen, but great articles are particularly clustered around 2016 and on media topics like Facebook, Twitter/Snapchat, and Publishing:

We can keep going. Ever wondered about Ben’s most important drawings? Here are the top 10:

  1. http://stratechery.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/11/Screen-Shot-2014-11-14-at-5.03.05-PM.png
  2. http://stratechery.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/07/hierachryneedsdevices.jpg
  3. https://stratechery.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/07/stratechery-Year-One-215.png
  4. http://stratechery.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/09/image-2.jpg
  5. http://stratechery.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/09/image-1.jpg
  6. https://stratechery.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/06/Ideas-1.png
  7. http://stratechery.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/04/Photo-2013-04-16-11.07.51-PM.png
  8. http://stratechery.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/03/lineapps.png
  9. http://stratechery.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/03/WelcomeToStratechery-Sailboats.jpg (my personal favorite)
  10. http://stratechery.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/12/photo-3.jpg

The PageRank method fails here because of how infrequently Ben refers to the exact same image. This could be addressed by increasing the relative weight of the annual review posts, but we have left this exercise for future parties to pursue.

How about outgoing links? True Stratechery fans should not be surprised at what comes top:

  1. https://jackdawresearch.com/quarterly-company-decks/
  2. http://cdixon.org/2012/07/08/how-bundling-benefits-sellers-and-buyers/
  3. https://www.facebook.com/notes/mark-zuckerberg/building-global-community/10103508221158471/?pnref=story
  4. http://www.bloomberg.com/bw/articles/2014-03-03/advertisings-century-of-flat-line-growth
  5. http://www.bothsidesofthetable.com/2011/12/27/should-startups-focus-on-profitability-or-not/
  6. http://mp.weixin.qq.com/s/5d6Th5wndmJT25cRHemZNg
  7. http://seekingalpha.com/article/3968300-apple-aapl-timothy-donald-cook-q2-2016-results-earnings-call-transcript?part=single
  8. http://www.wsj.com/articles/snapchat-releases-first-hardware-product-spectacles-1474682719
  9. http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2015/02/23/shape-things-come
  10. https://www.susanjfowler.com/blog/2017/2/19/reflecting-on-one-very-strange-year-at-uber

This work could be turned into a standing site index if there is enough interest.

Five links from me every week grouped by theme. Subscribe atslashslashblog.wordpress.com or chat live @swyx.

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