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I Was a Teenage Power Grid

On May 27th, two days after I graduated from college, I began my internship with Mediaite. That morning, on a glass table in the living room of Dan’s townhouse, I saw the two faces of the beast that would consume my waking hours for the next month-and-a-half.

No, not Colby Hall! How dare you! Anyone who writes a biography of Kobe Bryant is hardly a “beast.” I am talking, of course, about the Power Grid, Mediaite’s comprehensive ranking system for media personalities.

That morning, I saw a mockup made by Rex Sorgatz, our site designer. The mockup looked a lot like the Grid as you see it today: a sleek array of faces moving up and down, with ranks and statistics galore. Then, I saw the Power Grid as it actually existed: a Google Doc listing the employers and job descriptions of about 900 media professionals. In the coming few weeks, the Mediaite team would add almost 600 new people, the product of brainstorming sessions, scoured mastheads, our friends incredulously sputtering, say, “how could you forget Carson Daly?” (or “how could you forget me?”). Next to every name we had and every name we hadn’t yet thought of, there were countless empty rows to be filled in with URLs and statistics, all eventually to be fed to our custom-designed console and digested by our proprietary ranking algorithm. That’s where I came in. That’s where we came in.

Not surprisingly, entering Wikipedia pages, Twitter accounts, and four to six oft-obscure statistics—and finding and cropping photos for good measure—for 1500 people takes a lot of hours and tears. Luckily, Mediaite has a tireless, overcaffeinated corps of interns with a lot of time and plentiful tear ducts. I like to think of us as a “band of brothers,” even though Arielle is a girl.

Anyone can fill 12,500 or so boxes with words and numbers, provided they are crazy, but the question remains: Why? What are you accomplishing? Though the Power Grid has so far been wildly popular, it has caught a bit of flack from the likes of Jeff Bercovici, who wrote that it was “perhaps the stupidest [power list] yet” and “designed badly.” Does the Power Grid suck?

No, it doesn’t.

The proof is in the pudding: I think that the top five people in each category—the Mediaite 60—is a pretty compelling list. There are, of course, some surprises that might not have popped up on a purely editorial list. Is Ezra Klein really the #5 Print/Online reporter? I wouldn’t have guessed it, and I don’t really believe it now, though I like his writing a lot. But the whole point of turning control over to a ranking algorithm is to let yourself be surprised, and to try to learn what you can from the surprises.

There is still a lot that we can and will do to improve the Power Grid. We are missing some people who deserve to be in here—email us here if you are one or can think of any—and there are bound to be a few typos in the system that affect the rankings being calculated.

More excitingly, over the next few months we are planning to roll out new metrics, new categories of people to be ranked, and new features for the Power Grid. It’s going to keep getting more engaging, more accurate, and more interactive. You can e-mail us here if there are any features you want to see in the Power Grid of the future.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have some data entry to do.

Robert Quigley is an editorial intern at Mediaite.

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