A Problem with Paul Caron’s Law Blog Rankings

Every quarter, tax law prof (and owner of the Law Professor Blogs Network) Paul Caron publishes a list of the top blogs published by law professors. Here’s the most recent one. Election Law Blog usually ranks in the 20s in these rankings—pretty respectable for the specialty law blogs. I find unsurprisingly that my ranking goes up slightly in election years and down in off years. The blog rankings also always undercount my readers, because they do not include the 1000+ people who get my full text posts each day via email on the election law listserv, or the hundreds more who get them via email through Feedburner or the legislation listserv.

I never paid too much attention to the rankings for that reason, and because I see the blog as an adjunct to my public service, teaching and scholarship in the election law field. My law school has always supported my blog and I don’t sell advertising (unlike many other law blogs, including the blogs in Caron’s network).

But then I saw this post by Matt Bodie and I’m quite concerned that the numbers now in Caron’s rankings are being unfairly gamed by some using “auto-refresh” on blogs—and especially Caron’s shift now to list only “page views” in rankings. (To make sense of the last sentence, you will want to read Matt’s post.)

When I saw Matt’s post I asked UCI Law’s IT department about whether it would make sense to add auto-refresh to my blog. The answer was an unequivocal no.  Here is part of the response:

We discourage auto-refresh for the following reasons:

  • Mostly used to somewhat deceptively inflate the page view number and to increase the number of pay-per-click impressions in an open page.
  • May interrupt a user who is reading an article or in the middle of writing a comment.
  • May cause increased load on your server.
  • Accessibility guidelines say no to auto-refreshing: http://www.un.org/webaccessibility/5_scripts/53_refresh.shtml

Auto-refresh really only makes sense if you’re on a site that has constantly updating content, like displaying an auto-updating feed of the scores of a live World Cup game for example. Facebook auto-refreshes but allows users to choose whether you want to click to view the “New Stories” or not.

You will want to read not only Matt’s post but also the comments, including one by Paul Caron and one by Steve Bainbridge.

UPDATE: More from Bainbridge here and from Brian Leiter.

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