WordPress Possibly Related Posts With Sphere

The new WordPress.com possibly related posts is game changing – and gaming changing if they get it right.

The following are some notes I am taking whilst testing
Possibly Related Posts



Some notes about these links

  • It is not just WordPress.com blogs, as Doug Haslam is using .org
  • These are all old posts, the newest is over 9 months old
  • There have certainly been many more related posts, such as on Mashable.
  • I tested whether the links were indexed in Technorati – they weren’t, but then the WordPress.com blog doesn’t have a normal feed and might be banned from Technorati as it might skew things a little with 3,000,000 sitewide links pointing at it
  • The links were also not shown in Google Blogsearch, but again… no feed

As an experiment, I pinged the page in Technorati anyway to see if things update.

Other pages such as this one (new dashboard) on the WordPress.com blog has more relevant fresh links, so it does sometimes work.

So we need to visit a bloger who is obviously still in Technorati such as… Lorelle, with her most recent blog challenge

Possibly Related Posts 2

Lets see where these links point

http://lorelle.wordpress.com/2007/08/17/weekly-digest-quarter-through-two-months-of-guest-blogging… ok I shortened this URL a little

Notice 2 of those links are on her own blog, and they are highlighted in bold and listed first – that is useful if you don’t have an alternative using plugins such as Simple Tags.

I suppose from a reader point of view it also enhances the browsing experience… at least a little.

I checked all the URLs, and again Technorati wasn’t showing any links from Lorelle’s blog to those blogs listed as possibly related. So I gave them a ping as well, and we will see if there are long term results.

What Does Sphere Say?

The official Sphere announcement shows a little more information

A Sphere-powered module resides beneath posts on all WordPress.com index pages showing related articles from three sources: from the author of that article, from across the WordPress community, and from sources in our mainstream media index.

Sphere are owned by AOL

In Matt’s post there is talk of pushing this out to WordPress.org blogs, and probably that also includes WordPress MU as well.
If you decide to opt out, your links are no longer shown.

It Is No Longer Javascript

I had a little look at Sphere some time ago, and was accepted into their program for the widgets. I just got a little tied up around Christmas moving house so I did nothing with it. The acceptance email was actually still in my gmail inbox along with 9000 other emails (some of those are actually read and actioned, just not archived) – they didn’t send a followup reminder, and I had been waiting over a year to be included.

If I am included within the network by displaying the widget at the bottom of posts, I might then also be included within the WordPress.com possibly related blogs as being a “mainstream blog”

So I would be giving out a javascript link, which might send some traffic away, but in return I get a nice search engine followable link from all the WordPress.com blogs that decide to use this feature.

In addition to the original registration that was possible (and actually still seems to be available for a normal widget, there is also a WordPress Plugin listed in the tools section.


What is strange is that 2 of the above blogs originally mentioned are not running Sphere links or the widget.

Also significant is that the WordPress.com version which has the links in HTML doesn’t seem to include the links in feeds, which on many blogs is where the readers are. Maybe that is just oversight.

I certainly wouldn’t include a “live links” version of the code unless it appeared in the feed, and would probably prefer live links in feed, and Javascript on my blog.

The lack of links in the feed might also be a reason that Technorati isn’t picking up the links (though they could have code to filter already) and why Google Blogsearch isn’t picking up the links, as that works just with feeds.

Hmm It Is A Link

There are widgets and widgets – some widgets are pure javascript, and others are links that get rewriten by javascript.

<span style="margin-bottom:40px; border-bottom:none;"><a href="http://www.sphere.com/search?q=sphereit:http://andybeard.eu/2008/04/wordpresscom-subdomain-spam-with-tags.html"class="iconsphere" title="Sphere: Related Content" onclick="return Sphere.Widget.search('http://andybeard.eu/2008/04/wordpresscom-subdomain-spam-with-tags.html')" >Sphere: Related Content</a></span>

As far as I am concerned that is linking to a search query, thus it should have nofollow on the link, but it doesn’t.

That might need to be tweaked in the plugin.

So I now have a “Sphere It!” button, lets see if I start appearing across 3 Million WordPress.com blogs, and large news sites.

For those on WordPress.com who are worried about this feature, Lorelle now has a warning and no doubt WordPress Wank will be entertaining.

There are major issues among more controversial hate related blogging, and editorial control – I suppose the same problems exist having Digg headlines on your blog.
Also of note is that I forst spotted Lorelles new post when testing my Sphere widget after I posted. Not all the blogs listed are junk.

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  1. says

    Note of clarification: I use .org now, but was using WP.com when I originally wrote that post. It may still be indexed on the old site, but I’m not sure how that works

  2. says

    I’ve gotten traffic from the New York Times before via Sphere recommendations and never ran Sphere myself. Do you think adding a Sphere widget would improve the odds of appearing on WordPress.com blogs?

  3. says

    I’ve had the Sphere plugin for a long time (on one blog over a year at least) and it’s a perfect fit for me. The “Possibly Related” posts thing on WP.com is something I really don’t want to see on my self-hosted WP blog. The Sphere link is one thing- a button that the user can click to decide if they want to find content at another blog/site- but I don’t want to “endorse” posts of other blogs that I’ve never even visited. Does that make sense? At any rate, I agree with Lorelle in that it should have been an opt-in feature- not an opt-out.

  4. says

    That’s a pretty awesome service. I currently use a different related posts plugin that pulls them from my own blog. That Sphere service could really improve interactivity on my blog, and would definitely help things out. Thanks for the tip!

  5. says

    Hi all – very active conversation – :)

    The goal of the new feature is to create opportunities for readers to discover more content that is related to what you’re writing about. We’ve included content from your archives, from other WordPress.com blogs and for Mainstream Media sites (MSM).

    Like any technology, we’re making lots (and lots) of tweaks on the fly to get the filters properly tuned. While subjective, we’ve been successful in making these tweaks on a large number of partner sites (www.sphere.com) so I’m hopeful (with a little patience and goodwill), we’ll make improvements as we go along. In the meantime, you’re input is really critical for us to make those improvements, so please keep sending.


  6. says

    Using the word “possible” in a new “software feature” is hilarious. They could use some better phrase than “Possibly related posts”. What’s so bad about “Recommended posts” or something similar?

  7. says

    Thanks for the ping.
    No idea why one of my older posts shows up as “possibly related.” As it’s a post about blogging and bloggers, it might just be based on tags or keywords, but I’m surprised because those are popular tags/keywords already.
    I don’t use Sphere on my blogs but it might be neat. Especially if it helps connect readers interested in the same issues.

  8. says

    I have used SphereIt plugin when it first came out but had to disable since it was sending more traffic away then it was brining in.

    I think now they just gave us a superb reason to start using it again. Sucks to be people on wordpress.com blog but it is a benefit for *.org users :D

    Hopefully now my content will be “Possibly Related” on other tech blogs on wordpress.com. Fair or not is a separate argument and I agree that links properties should be addressed but I welcome the new service.


  1. [...] Andy Beard wonders why the links, which are clearly search queries, aren’t no-followed. So do I. Well, no, I don’t really. I just think they should be. It isn’t especially fair or intuitive that people are dishing out PR to random unapproved links when they can’t even switch off no-follow for regular commenters. [...]