Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Answer to Networks Question

Thanks to Paris for responding back to my question about networking literature on Sounds Iranian. I've found an number of interesting articles on the suggested site,

I guess the most profound thing about weblogs, which has very slowly and very subtly dawned on me since I first began studying blogs almost two years ago, is the model they have served as a revolutionary source of communications. This idea can be best summed up, as it is in the article I read: "Weblogs are the best attempt we've seen to date of making freedom of speech and freedom of the press the same freedom." What an amazingly true phrase. And yet, as this same article points out, this same "freedom" does not result in the same utopian equality that one might be tempted to think it would, or might hope for. Social interaction creates hierarchy and inequality, and this phenomenon plays out just as much online as it does anywhere else.

I like that the article above and this one here set up the problem as such: "Diversity plus freedom of choice creates inequality, and the greater the diversity, the more extreme the inequality."

The conclusion was also interesting:

At the head will be webloggers who join the mainstream media (a phrase which seems to mean "media we've gotten used to.") The transformation here is simple - as a blogger's audience grows large, more people read her work than she can possibly read, she can't link to everyone who wants her attention, and she can't answer all her incoming mail or follow up to the comments on her site. The result of these pressures is that she becomes a broadcast outlet, distributing material without participating in conversations about it.

Meanwhile, the long tail of weblogs with few readers will become conversational. In a world where most bloggers get below average traffic, audience size can't be the only metric for success. LiveJournal had this figured out years ago, by assuming that people would be writing for their friends, rather than some impersonal audience. Publishing an essay and having 3 random people read it is a recipe for disappointment, but publishing an account of your Saturday night and having your 3 closest friends read it feels like a conversation, especially if they follow up with their own accounts. LiveJournal has an edge on most other blogging platforms because it can keep far better track of friend and group relationships, but the rise of general blog tools like Trackback may enable this conversational mode for most blogs.

In between blogs-as-mainstream-media and blogs-as-dinner-conversation will be Blogging Classic, blogs published by one or a few people, for a moderately-sized audience, with whom the authors have a relatively engaged relationship. Because of the continuing growth of the weblog world, more blogs in the future will follow this pattern than today. However, these blogs will be in the minority for both traffic (dwarfed by the mainstream media blogs) and overall number of blogs (outnumbered by the conversational blogs.)

Reading all this brings out the existential questions I have about my own blog. What's my goal? Does it fall in line with the way I utilize it? Who is my target audience? Do I want an audience at all, or is this for myself (as I often assume, but don't always act according to)?

Regardless, I think that the second article strikes a chord with my desire to shift, however slightly, the perspective of this blog. I have an idea for its new structure, but I haven't really had the chance or the motivation to change it. Maybe soon.

Sunday, January 7, 2007

Network Theory in Blogging

I'm fairly certain that anyone concerned with studying the dynamics of the blogosphere (including myself) would do well to start with a thorough study of network theory. It seems an obvious but often overlooked starting block. I myself have little specialized knowledge of this field. In any case, I think that the role of composite and summary blogs like GVO would be better understood if network analysis were done on blogging networks.

Link dump time: I'd like to make a note of this blog in order to perhaps explore it later.

I am toying with moving either towards covering more places I would ideally like to travel to, or language practice. I suppose I could combine both as well. In either case I think that this space might be used more effectively (i.e. for my own purposes) than it currently is. Nous allons voir, non?