I’ve written before about my interest in geeky stuff like the Alexa website rankings. A fellow AIDS dissident turned me on to Alexa last year, using it to point out how many Dissident websites and blogs there are out there, and how favorably many of them rank, especially compared to those websites that exist solely to attempt to discredit AIDS questioners and rethinkers, aka Dogmatists.
Since then I’ve been tracking these websites of interest to AIDS dissidents and updating an Excel spreadsheet every few months. Not that I don’t have too much time on my hands, but it isn’t that difficult or time-consuming to do if you find that sort of thing entertaining.
Here is how Alexa describes what their rank means:
The rank is calculated using a combination of average daily visitors to resistanceisfruitful.com and pageviews on resistanceisfruitful.com over the past 3 months. The site with the highest combination of visitors and pageviews is ranked #1.
In other words, Google’s Alexa rank is 1; Facebook’s is 2 and so on. Another way to think about this is that there are 6,000 websites with more traffic than the site with an Alexa rank of 6,001.
So, The New York Times’ Alexa rank is 91. The Weather Channel is 113. The website rank for the city of Kansas City is 279,211, while that of my home town of Colby, Kansas is 9,156,448.
All of these are global rankings, which means they are based on total Internet traffic data collected from a variety of sources. Alexa also breaks down the data for some sites according to country.
Below is a list of Dissident and Dogmatist sites, sorted according to the latest global rankings from Alexa (Dogmatist sites highlighted in yellow). I am more than just puzzled that resistance is fruitful is currently the second highest ranked AIDS dissident website, and I’ll discuss why below.
It doesn’t take much Googling to find a lot of criticism about the validity of Alexa’s ranking, as well as some black hatters wanting to sell their supposed “secrets” for gaming Alexa’s system. Alexa, which is owned by amazon.com, defends its methods, which they update periodically to stay ahead of the bad guys.
For the record, I have never contemplated, let alone implemented any illicit code or unethical strategies to artificially inflate my blog’s rank. I have installed the Alexa toolbar in my Firefox browser; I include a link in my signature when I comment on the web; and I promote this blog to about 150 facebook “friends”, and as a bloglet on OpenSalon, where I started posting a year and a half ago. The last thing on my mind then was being popular. I was coming out of a pharma-induced haze and struggling through the consequences of dealing with more than a decade of severe medical and health problems. I just wanted to tell my story. Blogging was therapy. If I’d only known then what I know now!
So, what is one to think of these rankings?
First of all, take them with a grain of salt. Lists of rankings, like the one above, can be flawed and have some weaknesses. I don’t trust Alexa’s algorithms to know with certainty that Site A is really more popular than Site B, for example.
Systems like Alexa are more valuable for comparing a site with itself over time. If Alexa says Site A’s traffic increased 15% last month, while Site B’s traffic declined by 55%, I think that is valid and useful information.
That is the kind of data analysis I do in an Excel spreadsheet. With it I can sort data gathered over a period of time and see almost immediately, for example, that Heal London is growing quickly in popularity, moving up the list 28 places since last December, when House of Numbers was in the #1 position (currently #4). The former AIDS Myth Exposed also used to rank near the top of the list until the forums there were moved to a new site called Questioning AIDS (which I am also involved with). QA quickly moved to the top of list of Dissident websites while AME fell like a rock off a cliff, and Treatment Information Group saw a significant bump in traffic from a domain redirect for AME.
Isn’t that all fascinating?
There is other data, some of it available at Alexa, that bloggers and webmasters should consider more important than number of clicks, or “hits”. How many pages does a visitor read, for example. How long does a reader spend on my site? What percentage of hits are new visitors, versus returning guests? I’d rather have 12 visitors a day who read several pages and spend 15 minutes here, than have 100 “hits” that take a quick glance and “bounce” off to another blog or website.
On the other hand, a site with an Alexa rank larger than a few thousand (remember, higher numbers = lower rank) is not likely to change the world, either. And a blog toddling along at say… 6 million or so, is probably being read by friends and family. That’s OK. I doubt that more than a few casual bloggers do so to become famous or important, though some may try. Most of us just want to get something off of our chests, or want to tell our personal story, or maybe share family news and photos.
The larger question I’ve been pondering is: what does it say about a community—a so-called “movement”—to be represented by a list of bloggers and websites with rankings like those above?
There are obviously a lot of people affected by AIDS in ways that can only be labeled as “questioning”, or “rethinking”, or what I am calling “dissident”. After all, they are the bulk of the more than 70 such sites on my links page! Still, most of these blogs barely show up on Alexa’s radar. And the so-called “Dogmatists”, or as I prefer to call them, “anti-Dissidents”—those hardy, vocal souls who consider us a threat so grave that we should be silenced—rank pretty far down that list.
My ego would love to toot my horn and exclaim that I am significant, or at least a big fish in a small pond, but the realist in me knows better. Others write better, are more knowledgeable and have more to say than I do.
This list tells me that AIDS dissidence, despite being around since the beginning of what has come to be called AIDS, has a very small following, but that doesn’t have to mean we are inconsequential.
Consider that arguably the largest mainstream AIDS website, The Body, with all the resources and financial backing of government grants and BigPharma advertising, manages to rank only 32,398, while similarly backed poz.com and aidsmeds.com are ranked 62,765 and 236,628 respectively. Assuming the Alexa rankings reflect relevance in the Internet community, “AIDS” doesn’t rank that high in general, so why should I expect AIDS dissidence to be of great interest to very many people?
We are not a large community, and it is unlikely we ever will be, at least for the foreseeable future. Basing our relevance and importance on numbers like Alexa rankings might be compared to trying to track one’s health using numbers from CD4 and so-called viral load test results—interesting, but of limited value. There are better ways to gauge our health and there are surely better ways to judge our significance.
I choose to be content with the handful of new contacts I have made, as well as re-establishing a couple of old relationships with others who are also simply not convinced that the AIDS mainstream has things figured out the way they’d like us to believe.
I learned a long time ago that I cannot save the world from injustice and unfairness, but that doesn’t mean there is no value in speaking out against both. I did not get involved with AIDS Dissidence because I believe in Superman. I do not think anyone can stop the runaway train called AIDS with their bare hands. Nothing short of a wreck will stop it.