The Avi Chai Foundation, which is closely linked to haredi apologist Marvin Schick, funded a study of the jewish Internet. Excluded from that study's rankings of top Jewish blogs and Websites is the only Jewish blog or Website to have exposed Schick's ethical lapses, even though that blog's traffic far exceeds most of the blogs and Websites the study ranks.
The Avi Chai Foundation has just published a study of the Jewish Internet. The methodology is, I believe, questionable and, as you will soon see, there is a very real possibility of intentional bias.
Avi Chai's website notes:
AVI CHAI adheres to the philosophy of Rav Avraham Yitzhak HaCohen Kook zt’l, Chief Rabbi of Israel from 1921 – 1935, in interpreting these covenants and in drawing guidance concerning criteria for projects designed to further AVI CHAI’s objectives.
The academic who conducted this study is Ari Y. Kelman, a professor of American Studies at the University of California-Davis, and the study appears on his university Webpage. Kelman set out to study the Jewish Internet and rank the Websites within it.
To do this, according to his published report Kelman relied on four traffic measuring services – Alexa.com, SEOmo.com, Compete.com, Google pagerank. Kelman also used an algorithm written specifically for his study.
Kelman told me he also used Quantcast.com, but no mention of Quantcast appears in his report. This is significant because Quantcast was the only traffic-measuring service in 2009 that had hard data on most of the Websites and blogs Kelman ranked. Even so, Kelman removed Quantcast and its data from his report. This means Kelman excluded the best hard evidence available, for reasons that are not clear, and relied instead on estimates.
So what about the traffic-measuring services Kelman did use?
Compete.com was in its infancy at the beginning of 2009 when Kelman gathered his data.
(That anyone would think nearly two-year old data would accurately reflect the Internet as it is today or a group’s reaction to the Internet as it is today is itself ridiculous and reflects Kelman’s lack of understanding of his research subject.)
Alexa.com primarily serves as an estimator of traffic, not as a hard measurement of traffic.
SEOmoz.com measures links to individual Websites. The problem here is that media citations often do not include hard links to the blogs and Websites cited. For example, this site is often referred to in such citations as Failedmessiah or the blog Failedmessiah and not failedmessiah.com or failedmessiah.typepad.com. Because those citations are not links, they are not counted – even when, in my case, those citations appear in dozens of Jewish newspapers and the New York Times.
Kelman also includes dozens of other blogs and Websites that have significantly less traffic than FailedMessiah, but does not include FailedMessiah. (My mention of the traffic of other blogs and Websites should not be taken as an attack by me against them. Many of them are run by people I consider friends, and I respect the work they do.)
Hard-measured today by Quantcast, FailedMessiah has twice the traffic that Jewlicious or FrumSatire have. Both are mentioned prominently in Kelman’s study. Indeed, at the point in time Kelman measured, FailedMessiah.com had about 25% of Jewcy’s reach. Jewcy had an office, an editor, and several other employees along with dozens of contributors ad several large financial backers, and I was a national columnist for Jewcy at that time.
“Significantly, over the past few years, [blogs] have also played a significant role in breaking and exploring some important news stories including the MASA incident, the Rubashkin’s scandal and revelations of sexual misconduct at Brooklyn yeshivot.”
Yet even though FailedMessiah broke literally dozens of stories about the Rubashkin scandal – including the immigration raid itself – Kelman does not include FailedMessiah in his study.
I asked Kelman why he excluded FailedMessiah. He claimed excluding FailedMessiah was a simple mistake. He had heard the name FailedMessiah “bandied about”, Kelman told me, and the “omission was purely accidental.”
To measure the level of Kelman’s errors (or his incompetence and/or bias), look at the links posted on the far right sidebar of this page under the title FailedMessiah in the Media. You’ll see FailedMessiah was cited prominently in both the Jewish and non-Jewish media during the time Kelman’s data was gathered. Kelman read many of these publications and measured some of them. Being “bandied about” by the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Forward, JTA, Jerusalem Post, Ha’aretz, and many others, while having traffic that dwarfs most of the other blogs and Websites mentioned, wasn’t enough to rank in Kelman’s study.
And then we have this quote from Kelman’s study, which contains the only mention of FailedMessiah:
“In an interview with [FrumSatire blogger Heshy] Fried, who is both young and Orthodox, he explained that his efforts with Frumsatire are intended to engage the very large Orthodox audience in conversations and debates over contemporary Jewish life. ‘Blogger is still a dirty word in some Orthodox communities,’ he said, adding that sites like his and like Failedmessiah are attempts to foster dialogue and transparency.”
In other words, a blogger prominently featured in Kelman's study mentions FailedMessiah, and Kelman paraphrases that quote, which again shows that he must have been familiar with FailedMessiah and its importance.
Marvin Schick is Avi Chai's "Senior Consultant" and is listed as such under the heading "AVI CHAI-Staff" on its Website. Schick is close to the Foundation’s leadership.
Over the years, I’ve exposed Schick’s ethical lapses and Avi Chai’s enabling of them.
Schick wrote about Orthodox Jewish crime, attempting to show media bias against haredim in reporting it. But he did not mention the prominent criminals in his own family.
Schick made false (and probably defamatory) claims about author/journalist/sociologist Hella Winston, which I exposed.
Schick minimized pedophilia in the haredi community, claiming reporting of it was motivated by anti-haredi bias, and that pedophilia was actually less prevalent in the haredi community than elsewhere, contentions I both ridiculed and refuted.
And Schick publishes a privately-sponsored column in The Jewish Week, a column whose sponsorship both Schick and The Jewish Week refuse to reveal – and which could be Avi Chai, a member of its board or one of its major funders –and this is something I also exposed.
George Rohr, Chabad's uber-funder, sits on Avi Chai's Board of Trustees. I've reported on Rohr and what I believe to be his corrosive impact on Jewish communal institutions, specifically his apparent ability to quash negative reporting on Chabad.
(I should also add that Avi Chai employs a Baruch Kelman, who may be related to the study's author.)
It is a striking coincidence that the only Jewish blog to take on Schick, Avi Chai, Rohr and Chabad would “accidentally” be excluded from an academic study funded by Avi Chai. Indeed, of the blogs cited in Kelman’s study, FailedMessiah was and is the only one to regularly cover the Rubashkin Scandal – a significant black eye for Chabad and haredim – along with other crime and pedophilia in the haredi community, and Chabad messianism.
Kelman told me he would add a footnote to the book that will soon be published noting that FailedMessiah and potentially other Jewish Websites and blogs had been omitted from his study, but Kelman refused to correct the study itself, claiming it was too late to do so.
You can choose to believe Kelman erred or you can choose to believe Kelman cooked the books, either for personal reasons or on behalf of the Avi Chai Foundation and/or Rohr.
Either way, Kelman's study is tainted.
Here is a PDF file of Kelman's study:
Update 8:10 am 11-17-10 – Readers have pointed out that three influential Jewish blogs were left out of Kelman's study.
But these three blogs share something in common with FailedMessiah – they all have taken positions that are considered by Chabad to be anti-Chabad. Rabbi Gil Student even wrote a book explaining why Chabad's late rebbe cannot be the messiah.
It is an amazing coincidence that Kelman managed to exclude those three blogs and FailedMessiah from his study.
It is an even larger coincidence that Chabad's uber-funder George Rohr sits on the Avi Chai Foundation's Board of Trustees.
Again, you can choose to believe Kelman erred or you can choose to believe Kelman skewed his study to intentionally eliminate blogs Chabad and Rohr would not or do not like.
Either way, as I noted above, Kelman's study is deeply flawed.
Update 11-25-10 – DovBear.blogspot.com isn't mentioned, either, and he is often considered by Chabad to be anti-Chabad and anti-Orthodox, even though he is himself observant.
And Ohr.edu is ranked in the top 100 Jewish websites by traffic even though my traffic is – and was in 2009, as well – more than 4 times more than theirs.
Even if all these omissions are errors rather than intentional exclusions, Kelman has proved himself to be an incompetent academic. And his study is absolute garbage.