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Interview with the Creator of SocialRank and ProductivityZen

A couple weeks ago I was invited to nominate productivity blogs for ProductivityZen, a productivity blog community based on SocialRank, which is a way of measuring the worth of individual blog posts. Well today ProductivityZen has been launched, as well as many other blog communities based on the SocialRank ranking system. I was lucky enough to get an interview with Vishen Lakhiani, the creator of, and the brains behind this whole SocialRank operation.

So first of all, I think the readers what to know what exactly is SocialRank?

SocialRank is a math algorithm (just like Google’s PageRank). But it measures something very different. SocialRank measures the quality of a blog article. Good articles score high in SocialRank. Poor content scores low. SocialRank is designed to help users identify the hottest stories in niches that interest them, like Productivity, Gardening, Parenting etc. Using SocialRank we’re able to launch thousands of niche discovery portals – just like Digg or Reddit – but focused on niche content.

On Oct 1 we’re launching 30 such sites. Among them: – Gadgets and Technology – Marketing – Blog Monetization – Productivity – Programming – The World of Second Life

This seems like nothing I have ever seen before. Where and when did you get the idea for something like this?

Part of the idea came from reading the book “The Long Tail” by Chris Anderson. Anderson write about how the Internet has a caused a surge in content and choices for anyone seeking information in a niche area. Looking for articles on Productivity? Well there are hundreds of blog posts going up daily on the topic.
But this causes a problem….YOU have limited time. Out of the hundreds of new posts on Productivity that went up today – which ones do you pay attention to? Surely, they can’t all be good? With limited time, you only want to focus on the hottest stories.

Chris Anderson noticed this problem. In the Long Tail he writes that people get overwhelmed by the huge array of choices – and the way to solve this dilemma is to ensue that filters are in place to help people choose well. There should exist a way for anyone to instantly see the top 10 Productivity stories in the blogosphere today – WITHOUT having to waste time shifting through thousands of blogs.

We wondered if we could solve the problem with math. And that’s how SocialRank emerged. Now if you’re looking for today’s top news on Productivity – just visit and it acts as a filter to make sure that out of the hundreds of new posts on the topic – only the best ones get to you. It helps you seek out the most relevant and important info – faster than before.

By the sounds of it, SocialRank is a very innovative product. How do you think it will impact the whole blogosphere?

It will help newer bloggers more rapidly gain an audience. If you get a site like Technorati right now and try to find Productivity posts, you’ll certainly find a few. But they will tend to come from well established bloggers with higher Technorati Rank. It’s the same with Google. Older, well-established blogs tend to have higher pagerank and show up more often in searchs. But aside from giants like LifeHacker – they do exist 1000s of other Productivity bloggers, and we want to make it easier for their content to gain an audience. So unlike Pagerank or Technorati Rank, SocialRank pays little attention to the age or how well-established a blog is. We only look at the QUALITY of the content.


Think of this as a form of “Brand Dampening”. We dampen the influence of brand-name bloggers from skewing the data. For example, we know that long established blogs tend to score better in terms of bloglines subscribers, technorati rank, google page rank etc. If we followed just these criteria, a new upstart blogger with some great content but little history in the field would have a hard time gaining attention. Let’s say you just started a blog about productivity, and you just wrote a great post that got tons of backlinks from Digg and Stumbleupon. It’s slowly being picked up across the web. Now let’s say in that same day, LifeHacker, unveils a new post on productivity but it turns out to be mediorce. if we just looked at the usual criteria, (bloglines subscribers, technorati rank, google page rank) LifeHacker’s post would still score higher than the new blogger with the great article simple because of LifeHacker’s brand and established scores. But with SocialRank – this is not the case. We actually notice when LifeHacker puts out a below par post and we adjust it’s SocialRank accordingly and we notice when the newer blogger suddenly produces a stunning post. And we reward him appropriately.

The new guy – is now playing on a level playing field. And a whole lot new blogs suddenly get a chance to stand out and shine.

That sounds amazing, and definitely solves a problem, but what makes SocialRank different from current ranking systems such as AideRSS, which uses a PostRank system to filter feeds, and allows users to subscribe only to the top 50% most popular of their selected feeds?

AideRSS is a great service, but only if you are stuck to a particularly feed. Think of it this way. If you like comedy shows on TV, would you just stick to one channel – say Comedy Central? Or would you rather prefer to be able to jump across channels, NBC, BBC, ABC, depending on what shows are hot. Most people would say the latter. The channel is not important. It’s the quality of the show. Now let’s relate this to productivity. Some people may want to stay subscribed to only LifeHacker. But most others may prefer to read productivity posts that are good – irregardless of what blog they come from. The “brand” of the blog is not important. The quality of the post it. So while AideRSS is great if you want to stick to the RSS feed of just one blog. (think one channel). SocialRank allows you to look at the entire spectrum of Productivity Blogs and pull out the best content.

It sounds like SocialRank could really make the life of blog readers all over easier. Do you think SocialRank will make finding great content much easier, and how?

I think I explained the part about finding great content already. Just visit and take a look. There’s another feature I want to describe. On the sidebar of every SocialRank site you’ll notice a list of top blogs.

The #1 blog on that list right now is Let me explain how we determine this list. This is NOT the list of the most established productivity blogs. If that were so, the list would be fairly static over time.Rather, what we show, are the Productivity blogs that experienced the largest boosts in attention Today. This implies that the blogger had been doing a great job and gained a ton of backlinks or comments in the last 24 hrs. It’s as easy for a newer blogger to make this list as an established blog. The result is that you end up finding cool new interesting blogs daily. Like I said – we want to help the little guys.

You said you are starting multiple communities based on SocialRank for popular blog niches. Is this just a small operation, or are we talking about hundreds to thousands of niche communities?

We’re talking thousands. The first 30 launch Oct 1. You can see the complete list on But that’s not all. We’re now developing communities for bloggers around the world in areas that are lacking a free press. The idea is to allow bloggers to band together to create alternatives to Government-endorsed news. We call this channel of sites A Sudanese activist contacted us for help and we launched Check it out. It helps fellow activist and Sudanese political bloggers hear news from Sudan outside the usual channels of Government controlled news. We’re going to take this worldwide and launch hundreds of regional “blog-powered” newspapers.

But we’re not stopping there. We’re also building a SocialRank-powered site to help voters with election 08. It’s called and will launch in a few weeks.Using SocialRank, we display the hottest stories from liberal bloggers and conservative bloggers side by side. The idea is to give voters a one page snapshot of current issue to help educate them before the coming election.

Well thanks a lot for the interview Vishen, and we hope the best to you with SocialRank and all your future endeavors. In the mean time I invite everyone to check out some of the great communities SocialRank has to offer.

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