Blogshares: How much is a blog worth?

My friend Andrew Rickard just pointed out a totally cool new site to me: Blogshares. The concept is like the Hollywood Stock Exchange; you get $500 in fake money, which you then invest in your favorite blogs. Blogs are valued by how many inbound links they have, which make it a sort of de-facto reputation-management system, a la “google juice”. The more people like you, the more your popularity, the higher your stock rises.

As the site’s FAQ notes:

BlogShares is a fantasy stock market for weblogs (aka blogs), web sites written by amateurs and professionals alike. The purpose of this manual isn’t to try to define what a blog is and so it’ll assume familiarity with blogs and blogging.

BlogShares is partly a game where registered users can speculate on the value of a blog by buying and selling shares in them. It is also an evolving snapshot of a limited portion of the Blogosphere (the universe of blogs) tracking the single commodity that drives BlogShares: the hyperlink. Blogs are valued on the basis of their incoming links and add value to the market by linking to other known blogs. The valuation process is based on a principal of popularity or how many other blogs like a particular blog. However, in BlogShares not all participants are equal. The value of an incoming link is a factor of the linker’s own popularity.

Of course, the instant I went to the site, the first thing I did was CHECK TO SEE HOW COLLISION DETECTION IS DOING. As it turns out, I’m in okay shape — number 359 on the list of the Top 500 Blogs. That puts me near Neil Gaiman’s journal, and Game Girl Advance — nice company in which to be. My overall valuation is $2,902.32, and I’m owned by three folks. It’s kind of interesting to check into their portfolios and see who else they own; it’s like a cross between a hotlist and a financial decision.

As my friend Andrew — a financial writer and incredibly astute critic of the markets — pointed out to me in an email, though, this system is weirdly hackable:

At the moment I appear to have a controlling interest in your ass. The problem with the site, however, is the relative ease with which one can manipulate the markets. All I have to do is sign on with multiple email accounts and my consortium of fictional people could snap up dozens of blogs (driving up prices, of course). What then? Once we have acquired control of several internet properties, could we force a merger? It’s only natural that we’d start looking for “synergies”, and try to replace ten bloggers with one semi-literate goof in the hopes that readers won’t notice. The mind boggles. Or bloggles, rather.

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I'm Clive Thompson, the author of Smarter Than You Think: How Technology is Changing Our Minds for the Better (Penguin Press). You can order the book now at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Powells, Indiebound, or through your local bookstore! I'm also a contributing writer for the New York Times Magazine and a columnist for Wired magazine. Email is here or ping me via the antiquated form of AOL IM (pomeranian99).

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Collision Detection: A Blog by Clive Thompson