Net Media Perspective
“C&I is Not a Blog”
This is the “other half” of the Net Media feature for November—the part that didn’t fit because there was too much to say about Wikipedia and Citizendium. Since the last roundup on blogging (Net Media in C&I 6.6), I’ve accumulated several items on blogging that I believe are worth comment.
Why the title? Because that’s a comment I used to make once in a while, when someone included Cites & Insights in a list of blogs or called it a blog. The only things C&I has in common with blogs are that it’s published on the web and it’s typically written by one person. It’s not a series of entries that appear in reverse chronological order. It’s fundamentally PDF, which is entirely foreign to the nature of blogs.
I don’t think I’ve heard this ejournal mislabeled as a blog for more than a year. That could be because I also have a blog, but I think it’s because bloggers and the people who read them have become more conscious of the multiplicity of forms. Wikis aren’t blogs. Blogs aren’t ejournals. Ejournals aren’t portals. The “read/write web” is more than blogs.
First up, metablogging—blogs on blogs.
Redhaired future librarian asks a provocative question in this July 25, 2006 post:
Are blogs really good for two-way communication? I’m starting to suspect no.
I belong to a forum of people who have only one thing in common. We represent a wide range of political beliefs, religious beliefs, ethnicities, and gender identities. Somehow, on this forum, we are able to have real discussions, including disagreements. People still generally respect each other while engaging in dialogue.
Redhaired used to blog “when Blogger was still brand new.” Back then, “people were willing to disagree with each other, while respecting each other’s rights to have an opinion.” But a change happened—in Redhaired’s opinion, because of the 2000 election and September 11. Redhaired quit blogging a few months after September 11 “because of the hostile atmosphere.”
I don’t see discourse any more in blogs. With a few exceptions, the blogs I have come across tend to have commenters who always agree with the main post. Commenters who do not agree are ignored, dismissed, or treated as if they’re attacking the original poster. (Ignored is more common.) That’s if a person who disagrees even bothers to post a comment. There seems to be an intolerance for people with different opinions and priorities.
Redhaired wonders whether it’s the medium, whether “people who like to pontificate and be agreed with are drawn to blogging,” and how this “seeming lack of tolerance for differing opinions and priorities translate[s] to real-life librarian work.” The post ends:
Can blogs be used for true two-way communication?
My answer to Redhaired’s question is a qualified Yes. It is possible to have conversations in blogs. Most libloggers welcome civil disagreement and attempt to respond to it; I’ve seen few exceptions.
Most library blogs don’t get very many comments and a few blogs tend to have mostly comments that agree with the posts. When I sense that a blogger tends to mistreat those who disagree with the blogger, I don’t post comments.
For this year’s study of liblogs, the media comments per post was only 0.42. Most blogs had less than half a comment per post but more than a dozen averaged at least three comments per post. The high-reach blogs in the 2005 study had a median of only half a comment per post, but five showed more than three comments per post.
Yes, conversations are possible. Yes, it’s possible to disagree and still show mutual respect, at least on most liblogs. But blogs are not ideal conversational media and I don’t think that’s likely to change.
Iris at Pegasus librarian posted this on August 6, 2006, beginning: “Funny to admit this nearly 150 posts into my blog, but I really don’t know what I’m doing.” Excerpting from the post:
I’ve read a few posts in the last few months about what should and should not be blogged, and I’ve begun to learn the art of linking in context. But then I hear of people promising not to talk about personal, political, religious, or off-topic stuff. (I can say from experience that it’s hard to be off-topic when there’s no defined topic, but this breaks the cardinal rule of blogging: build yourself a niche and write to that niche.) I’ve heard that people prefer short posts (hmmm, I’m not always very good at that one)…
Even so, I often find myself wondering whether a particular post is “appropriate” for this blog, or I visit someone else’s blog and see the skill that can only come from experience, and I have to admit that I’m utterly clueless. I can’t even define “appropriate” posts for myself, so how can I be expected to make consistent decisions?...
I’ve begun to realize that blogging, like letter writing, is an art as much as a skill….All I can say is that I’ll keep writing and learning.
This post requires disagreement, for a different reason: Iris writes well and writes about interesting things. Pegasus librarian is one of several dozen blogs where a Bloglines “new post” flag is a delight. I know I won’t be preached at but may get a new, refreshing, and different viewpoint; I know Iris won’t be doing echo posts; I know she cares about what she says.
Iris got several comments beginning with this gem from Joshua M. Neff:
Eh, niche, schniche. I think you should write about whatever you feel like writing about. I mean, if you don’t write about it, who will? People are under no obligation to read what you write, but you’re under no obligation to write what people expect to read.
Here’s my own comment:
I seem to be offering variations on this comment various places, but:
Here’s what I believe the New Rules for Worthwhile Blogging to be:
1. Post about what matters to you. That’s likely to change over time.
2. Post when you have something to say.
3. Take as many words to say it as it needs.
4. Think for a couple of seconds about what you’re about to release to humanity in general--butbdon’t obsess over it.
5. Don’t worry about huge readership, a niche, or anything else. Do what you’re doing and the right readers will find you.
Sez I, who found you a while back.
I left out the last sentence of the original post, the one that tells me Pegasus Librarian will continue to be an interesting, worthwhile blog: “Tips would be appreciated, though I reserve the right to disregard them entirely.” As I would never in my life say, “You go, girl!”
Michael Yunkin posted this on August 30, 2006 at digitize everything—but you may have trouble finding it. I’m including it as a bit of blog and wiki history, one of the cases in which someone states eloquently why a project is being abandoned.
The blog name pushed one of my buttons, particularly the motto “Helping dig the grave of all things analog,” but I took it semi-facetiously and found Yunkin’s rare posts worth reading. Yunkin’s site also had a wiki, Digiwik, created as “a tool that would be useful for the digitization community, would allow me to learn what others are accomplishing in the field, would help me answer my own questions about digitization, and as an added bonus, would give me a chance to learn how to run a website.”
While Yunkin says it was somewhat successful on the last two points, it failed on the first. There was a great deal of initial interest—but very few contributions to the wiki. He sees three reasons: Members of the community are all looking for answers and may not feel “expert” enough to contribute; many questions are easily answered, and tough questions have different answers at every institution; people may not have time to work on a shared wiki. Or maybe the wiki needed higher-profile sponsorship.
Whatever the reasons, the wiki never took off. “Digiwik is closing up shop. $50 a month is too much to host a tool that’s of use to so few.” Yunkin’s own work is moving away from digitization initiatives, so the blog also makes less sense.
Yunkin’s right in saying that a digitization wiki could benefit from case studies and reviews of specific projects. That’s what we need in all areas, and it’s the kind of thing wikis can do well and traditional publishing does badly: Lots of searchable “what we did and what we learned” cases, including those that succeed, those that fail, and those in the middle.
I’m commenting less on stuff from within OCLC because I now work there; that makes my comments prone to perceptions of conflict of interest. There are always exceptions.
Alane posted this on September 20, 2006 at It’s all good, starting with a joke “because there is a dearth of humour in most library blogs.” After the joke, Alane proceeds:
I’ve spent some time rummaging around the wiki Amanda Etches-Johnson built that lists blogs by libraries and library directors. I did not look at every entry but I looked at lots. A few words sum up my impressions. Earnest, dry, not regularly updated, without personality. You get my drift. In fact, some aren’t really blogs, in my opinion, because commenting is turned off.
I disagree with Alane on the final sentence: Blogs without comments may not be conversations, but they’re certainly blogs. I spend most of my time on “personal” liblogs, so I’m not in a position to refute what she says. A fair number of blogs by library people have some humor, but that’s a different issue. Alane mentions exceptions such as blogs from Kansas State, Oberlin College, Archdale Public and West Palm Beach public. The real reason I’m commenting on Alane’s post comes in the last three paragraphs, quoted here in full:
There’s no reason at all that library blogs have to be impersonal and dry. Think about your own favourite blogs to read and visit...I’ll bet they are compelling and interesting not because of a steady (or not so steady stream) of facts but because they entertain as well as inform, and because there’s a human voice.
Consider this anecdote from the voice behind the McMaster U Lib blog, University Librarian, Jeffery Trzeciak. He’s writing about meeting a student who thanked him for blogging: “He encouraged me to write more frequently and I mentioned how I wanted to take the time to carefully consider each post. His response: just write about what you’re doing--say something about a book you’re reading. It doesn’t always have to be ‘big thoughts.’ You know...he’s right. People crave communication. It doesn’t always have to be the ‘big issues’ but it should be heartfelt.”
Ya gotta have heart if you blog...having a blog for your library that is boring and heartless is not good marketing. It suggests your library is too.
I wholeheartedly agree. Blogs-as-marketing are tricky business and a “blog to have a blog” is likely to fail, but a good blog as honest communication can be an effective way to tell a library’s story better (“marketing” with a less mercantile name).
Joshua M. Neff, October 13, 2006, The goblin in the library: “I’ve been blogging for 5 years now, and I’ve only just started to really think about why.” Neff thinks you need a good reason to blog in 2006 (and didn’t in 2001), and elaborates on his own reasons and reasons for libraries to blog.
He started because he got egged on by others and had creative writing he wanted to post, and at the time a blog was the easiest way to do that. Now?
Where blogs really shine is in the pairing of posts and comments. Like peanut butter and jelly, blog posts and comments are a delicious and delightful combination, and one is not nearly as good without the other. When you have blog posts and comments, you don’t just get to publish your blatherings, you get feedback from friends and strangers. You get conversations. Ephemeral, yet archived and preserved for posterity, conversations. I’m something of a nut for conversations. And you get these posts and conversations delivered in a hot-off-the-presses fashion…
What does this mean for libraries? Blogs are immediate conversations between the library and the public, ephemeral but preserved. Wow! You can have conversations with your public face-to-face, over the telephone, through snailmail and email and instant messaging. With blogs, you can have conversations that are preserved and on display, immediate and eternal, like a fly in amber.
And what does this mean for me? I get to have immediate, ephemeral, preserved conversations with friends, with family, with fellow librarians who I’ve never met face-to-face. It’s something I love to do, and blogs are the tops for that.
This post received exactly one comment—but that’s neither here nor there. If you see a resonance with Alane’s post, it’s there: Neff also seems to believe that library blogs should enable comments to make them conversations—and, I’ll infer, that the best library blogs are conversational in tone.
Joshua M. Neff and I disagree at times. This is not one of them.
I may not like manifestos but who doesn’t like lists? Here we have four metablogs, three with numbered lists, one with categories. I found them all interesting, entertaining, and at least partly true.
This is third-hand: I picked it up in a May 28, 2006 post by Judith Siess at OPL plus, quoting a May 23, 2006 post by Ann Handley and David Armano at Marketing profs: Daily fix. I’m omitting some of the commentary.
10. You check your blog stats a LOT…
9. Your significant other suspects you are having an affair with your blog…
8. You “mental blog” while driving or on the train, and sometimes even when you are alone in the shower.
7. You filter everything through your post-writing…
6. You suffer from “blog envy” when another blogger posts something juicy before you do. You suffer “comment envy” when said post gets 40-something comments – the jerk!
5. You “binge blog” 3 or 4 posts at once—only to feel guilty and empty afterward.
4. You ditched all your real friends for blog friends, because, well, “they understand.”
3. You think, “I can stop at any time.”
2. Your lunch hour has become your “blog hour.” You keep a few posts tucked in your desk in case you need them during the day.
1. After 5 minutes of meeting someone really interesting you ask, “So, do you blog?”
Speaking of Marketing profs: Daily fix (blog.marketingprofs.com), here’s one by Eric Kintz on June 6, 2006. Starting with the common wisdom:
“Thou shall post every day” is the most fundamental and most well known principle of blogging....
Every new blogger is warned about “the” ultimate rule and is confronted with the pressure of a day going by with no new post.
Kintz (a VP at HP) offers ten reasons why that’s no longer true unless you’re anxious to join the A-list. These are mostly the topic sentences; Kintz offers a clear paragraph expanding on each one. You already know I agree that high frequency is no longer a necessary aspect of personal blogs, so let’s just say “I agree.”
1. Traffic is generated by participating in the community, not daily posting…Daily posting deals with the clutter by adding more clutter.
2. Traffic is irrelevant to your blog’s success anyway.
3. Loyal readers coming back daily to check your posts is so Web 1.0…Loyal readers subscribe to your blog via RSS feeds…
4. Frequent posting is actually starting to have a negative impact on loyalty… [According to] Seth Godin…RSS fatigue is already setting in.
5. Frequent posting keeps key senior executives and thought leaders out of the blogosphere.
6. Frequent posting drives poor content quality.
7. Frequent posting threatens the credibility of the blogosphere.
8. Frequent posting will push corporate bloggers into the hands of PR agencies.
9. Frequent posting creates the equivalent of a blogging landfill.
10. I love my family too much.
The comments—loads of them—are fascinating.
Here’s another third-hand case: Angel of The itinerant librarian (his other blog) posted a list of “9 things every blogger should understand” from Aaron B. Hockley, Another blogger (www.anotherblogger.com), and added Angel’s own comments
Herewith, five of the nine—with portions of Angel’s comments (in italics):
1. Every reader has an opinion… and they’re all correct in their own mind.
2. Posting the same things as everyone else will render you invisible.
3. The corollary to the previous item: posting unique content is the way to get noticed. [While not looking to get noticed,] I see no point in blogging about something that the rest of the biblioblogosphere has beaten to a pulp.
4. It is better to have your controversial posts read by folks who disagree with you than those who are on your side.
5. Only a very small percentage of your readers will leave comments…
You should take this as seriously as everything else at Annoyed librarian (where this appeared on July 17, 2006)—and that’s a tricky comment, I’m afraid. Once again, I’ll just give the taxonomy; AL provides hypothetical quotes from a post in each category—some of the hypotheticals a bit less blind than others.
Library Blog as Personal Diary
Library Blog as Personal Diary Written by Andy Rooney
Library Blog as Professional Therapy
Library Blog as Personal Cry for Help
Library Blog as Pathetic Cry for Attention
Library Blog as Counter-Librarian Blog
Library Blog as Professional Self-promotion
Library Blog as Serious Library Report
Library Blog as Witty Library Report
Library Blog as Book Review Medium
Library Blog as Book Free Zone
Library Blog as Librarian Cheerleader
Library Blog as Cynical Library Critic
Library Blog as Informative Library Analysis
Library Blog as Unpaid Technology Advertising
Library Blog as Informative Technology Selection Tool
Library Blog as Future Manifesto
Library Blog as Business Manifesto
Library Blog as Left-wing Propaganda
Library Blog as Right-wing Propaganda
Library Blog as Fair and Balanced Political Analysis
Library Blog as Inoffensive Satire
Library Blog as Offensive Satire
You say you don’t recognize your blog on that list? Are you sure?
Full disclosure: AL references my blog posts on the way to the “Great Middle” survey—and, as I commented, this post helped convince me to avoid either taxonomy or folksonomy within the survey.
Charles C. Mann wrote this, which appeared in the September 2006 Wired (and is available from wired.com). It begins oddly:
I am aware that spending a lot of time Googling yourself is kind of narcissistic, OK? But there are situations, I would argue, when it is efficiently—even forgivably—narcissistic. When I published a book last year, I wanted to know what, if anything, people were saying about it. Ego-surfing was the obvious way to do that. Which is how I stumbled across Some Title.
What I’ve found is that Googling yourself is pointless once you’re even slightly well know—even if you have a distinctive name. Using “Charles C. Mann” (in quotes) shows “about 237,000”—of which 481 are viewable. Expanding the search to show “similar” results, you run into the Google 999-result limit: It is simply not possible to see everything that’s been said, and Google tends to favor older material. (Even adding “1491,” the key word in the book’s title, you get “about 171,000,” and expanding the 320-odd first result hits the 999-result limit.)
Which doesn’t detract from his point: Sooner or later in any sizable result, you reach sites like Some title, which “identified itself as a blog but obviously wasn’t one.” In other words, splogs. I’ve seen it, you’ve probably seen it, and it’s getting worse.
Mann does a nice job in this article: He does the research and writes well. He found the “author” of Some title, who—along with a partner and a few employees—runs either a few thousand splogs or “not that many,” and who took in at least $71,000 between August and October of 2005. How? Through ad revenue, gained because their sites appear high in search engines—which they do because of link farms and, in some cases, trackbacks.
There may be millions of splogs. They screw up search results; they also siphon off ad revenue that might otherwise go to more content-heavy sites. That’s the fault of idiots who click on ads in splogs, of course. Splogs aren’t illegal. Unfortunately, some of the tools used to identify splogs are heavy-handed (one would label Cites & Insights as a splog site because of the .info domain). It’s an ongoing issue, and most commentators quoted in the article don’t think there’s any way to handle splogs effectively.
How does the splogger behind Some Title feel about the extent to which splogs might screw up the web in general? “I’m just making my living. I guess I don’t think about that kind of thing very much.”
At least Wired doesn’t see this as a promising new business opportunity. I can think of at least one other magazine that might view this as a prospect (see C&I 6:9, page 25, bottom right).
Nicholas Carr posted this on August 15, 2006 at Rough type. He begins with a prelude:
Once upon a time there was an island named Blogosphere, and at the very center of that island stood a great castle built of stone, and spreading out from that castle for miles in every direction was a vast settlement of peasants who lived in shacks fashioned of tin and cardboard and straw.
I love stories and framing one in traditional story-telling mode is nice. He’s discussing “innocent fraud,” a term by John Kenneth Galbraith for such euphemisms as “market economy” in place of “capitalism.”
An innocent fraud is a lie, but it’s a lie that’s more white than black. It’s a lie that makes most everyone happy. It suits the purposes of the powerful because it masks the full extent of their power, and it suits the purposes of the powerless because it masks the full extent of their powerlessness.
What we tell ourselves about the blogosphere—that it’s open and democratic and egalitarian, that it stands in contrast and in opposition to the controlled and controlling mass media—is an innocent fraud.
As Carr points out, it’s not hard to see through innocent frauds including this one. Carr quotes non-A-list bloggers including Seth Finkelstein, who had false hopes about blogging (“delusions of influence”) and finds blog evangelism “very cruel, as it preys on people’s frustrated hopes and dreams.” Carr notes:
The powerful have a greater stake in the perpetuation of an innocent fraud than do the powerless. Long after the powerless have suspended their suspension of disbelief, the powerful will continue to hold tightly to the fraud, repeating it endlessly amongst themselves in an echo chamber that provides a false ring of truth.
Anybody can become an A-lister. There is no A-list. Any blog can reach a vast audience. You know the myths. Within the broad field of blogs, I no longer have any doubt that they are myths. The A-listers play by different rules and mostly draw sycophants as commenters; these days, though, many of the A-list blogs are really just new forms of old or corporate media in any case.
The next section recounts a conference at which an A-list blogger was asked how some other blogger could get a link. The answer’s simple: Write a post referring to the A-lister, further increasing the A-listers reach and influence. (I’d guess favorable references get more backlinks than disagreements do.)
As the blogophere has become more rigidly hierarchical, not by design but as a natural consequence of hyperlinking patterns, filtering algorithms, aggregation engines, and subscription and syndication technologies, not to mention human nature, it has turned into a grand system of patronage operated—with the best of intentions, mind you—by a tiny, self-perpetuating elite. A blog-peasant, one of the Great Unread, comes to the wall of the castle to offer a tribute to a royal, and the royal drops a couple of coins of attention into the peasant’s little purse. The peasant is happy, and the royal’s hold over his position in the castle is a little bit stronger.
In the epilogue, a blog-peasant sees in a crystal an image of a fleet of merchant ships sailing to Blogosphere, with names like Time-Warner and Condé Nast, as blog-peasants jeer and tell invaders they would be vanquished by the royals. But, of course, as the captains arrived at the castle with crates of gold, “they were not repelled by the royals with cannons but rather welcomed with fanfares.”
The charming and, for those who want influence, all too true story runs 2.5 pages. When I printed it out the next day, there were 12 print pages of comments—by September 29, comments totaled roughly 38 pages. I can’t summarize them all (nor do I plan to read them all, particularly when an A-lister accuses Carr of “cheating” by using a summary voice instead of loads’o’quotes and links. He doesn’t quite say straw man, but comes close.
Some people realistically say they aren’t looking to route around old media, that they aren’t looking for influence: Their blogs serve narrower purposes. (Carr calls this “private blogging” but “niche blogging” is a third area.) That’s true for Walt at random—but that doesn’t negate the truth of Carr’s article as it relates to those who buy into the egalitarian myth and do want to be heard as “public bloggers.” Some of the comments are remarkably self-revealing: One seems to say “oh, nobody really believes those old blog-and-reach-millions stuff anyway” then goes on to report on “pretty intense discussions” with such everyday people as Jeff Jarvis. Michael Arrington says, “If you find that you are blogging just to get influence and attention, you should stop because you are going to be disappointed.” Of course, nobody said they were blogging just to get influence and attention; the disappointment seems to be that blogging turns out to be no more egalitarian than traditional media, maybe less. It’s amusing that as I note Arrington’s “write for yourself” comment, I see him smokin’ on a fine cigar, money floating down around him, in a full-page illustration for “Blogging for dollars,” a Business 2.0 article about just how much “influence and attention” people like, ahem, Arrington (TechCrunch) actually have. He’s pulling in $60K in ad revenue each month and quit his day job to blog full time—and, by the way, this poor soul can host 500 people at a party in his one-acre backyard in Atherton, one of the priciest enclaves in Silicon Valley. Which brings us to…
Business 2.0, September 2006. “It’s not just a hobby—some small sites are making big money. Here’s how to turn your passion into an online empire.” Right. If you’re Michael Arrington, a millionaire with all sorts of insider friends, you can get heavy advertising bucks. If you set out to create hype-and-gossip sites like Gizmodo, Defamer and Wonkette, old media in a new guise, you can rake in the bucks. John Battelle blew it as a print publisher, but he’s aggregating a bunch of “A list” blogs to concentrate ad revenue. Here’s another genuine alternative media democratic from-the-ground-up effort: PopSugar, “a fast-growing celebrity gossip site.” The founder’s motto: “We create editorial for an ADD culture.”
Sound like blogging to you? In form, yes: Lots of little articles presented in reverse chronological order. But most of these blogs are about as “alternative” as Time Magazine: They’re deliberately founded with hired bloggers aiming to attract the largest number of eyeballs to sell ads. If there ever was a revolution, it’s been nicely co-opted.
Your chances of making those big bucks? Turns out that, once you take away the Hot Sites, there’s not a lot left over (although the article never says that outright). And the blognates (blog magnates) are building lots of new blogs to soak up any excess revenue.
The hot blogs here aren’t getting big bucks from Google AdWords, with its pay-per-click pricing. They’re selling ads based on traditional cost-per-thousand-impressions models, and getting absurdly high rates ($7 per thousand and up). If I was in it for the money, I’d be jealous. When Walt at random ran AdWords, I averaged about a buck a month since most readers (properly) weren’t interested in the ads enough to click through. Pay me $2 per thousand visits (less than one-third the rate of the hot Federated Media sites), and I’d be bringing in $3 a day at current visitation rates—not serious money, but not bad for a midrange blog and enough that there might still be ads on the blog. But you have to be hot stuff to get impressions-based ad revenue, and I think The great unread and other articles discussed previously pretty much spell out the odds of becoming hot stuff if you’re an honest-to-gosh blogger.
This 25-page Pew Internet & American Life report (July 19, 2006) is unusual: It draws from two different polls over a period of time. One “random-digit survey” has a sample of more than 7,000 adults (4,750 of them internet users, 8% of those bloggers). That’s a large enough survey that general results are probably as accurate as telephone surveys can get. (That last is a general caveat: I believe that such a high percentage of dual-income households and people with active social lives refuse to answer telephone surveys that all phone surveys are defective, although certainly not as defective as internet surveys.)
The other survey yielded 233 results, not enough for the results to be very meaningful even at the grossest level. Once you start reporting on subsets of that survey, things get pretty dicey; you become aware that “9% of those who…” means “26 people said…”
The report addresses that issue and the added issue that question wording may not elicit the right responses. Jumping to the penultimate page, consider these sentences:
For example, a blogroll is also sometimes called a friends list or a subscription list. The term “hits” used to ask bloggers about their traffic has inconsistent meaning across software packages and thus may not accurately measure traffic to a particular weblog.
I’ll use Walt at random to illustrate both problems (not to mention a larger problem with the use of “RSS” in a question). I don’t have a blogroll, and if I was responding to that question I’d say no (but I don’t respond to phone surveys). But I do have a link in the “Places” section of the right-hand column called “Blogs I read,” which links to the public portion of my Bloglines subscription: In other words, a subscription list. As to hits, consider October 1-November 13: Urchin says I had 117,633 hits—but 61,063 sessions (called “visits” in other blog analysis software). So is my daily average 1,388 or 2,673? If asked, I’d say “over 1,300 sessions per day,” but the other number is equally valid. There’s another twist if you’re looking for big numbers: Urchin separates out hits from robots (including feed checkers), as it should—and those total another 83,785 for that period. So is the “right” number really “over 200,000”?
The RSS issue? The report says “only 18% of bloggers offer an RSS feed of their blog’s content.” I find that unlikely, given that such feeds are pretty much automatic with most blogging software. I do find it plausible that only 18% of bloggers find “RSS feed” a meaningful term. Ask whether people can subscribe to a feed of their blogs, and a much higher percentage might say yes—or might not, if LiveJournal and MySpace are really the top blogging sites.
So: Lots of caveats. Which I mention because this report is just chock full of fascinating tidbits, many of which make perfectly good sense—and it’s not always clear which tidbits are based on large samples and which are mostly anecdotal.
You’ve probably heard some of the highlights, since the report’s been out for four months. If you haven’t, it’s worth downloading (from www.pewinternet.org). Be particularly wary of any statement that begins “Typical bloggers”—since there’s no such thing, based on the survey itself. Neither the median nor the mean of the 233-person universe can be considered “typical.” It may be reasonable to say that:
Ø Slightly more bloggers use pseudonyms than use their real names.
Ø Only about a third of bloggers consider their blog a form of journalism.
Ø Almost nine out of ten blogs allow comments.
Ø Most bloggers are under 30, slightly more than half live in the suburbs, but age, location, and racial breakdowns are both based on very small samples.
Ø Very few bloggers spend lots of time on it, and very few (around one-seventh) blog every day. Only about a third stick to one topic.
Ø I wonder about this one: Supposedly, almost half of bloggers have two or more blogs—and more than a quarter have three or more. Really? Additionally, almost a third of the bloggers say their primary blog is a multi-author blog.
Ø Most bloggers only post when they have something to say.
Ø This one represents odd emphasis in the heading: “Text dominates most blogs, but one-third of bloggers post audio files.” That may be true—but the paragraph also says “72% display photos on their blogs” and 49% post “images other than photos.” Why focus on audio? Oddly, only 80% of bloggers say they post text to their blogs: Does that mean 20% of blogs consist entirely of photos, video, or audio?
Ø Most people are rational about blogging for money: Only 15% say “earning money is reason they blog” and 8% report actual income.
Ø “The audience of a particular blog is technically nearly impossible to measure.” Now there’s an unmistakably true statement. Only 13% of bloggers report more than 100 hits a day, with 22% stating fewer than ten (almost half have no idea).
Ø “Of the bloggers who do know their traffic, male bloggers…are more likely to report higher average levels of traffic.” I won’t offer a line about the male tendency to exaggerate size…oops, I guess I just did.
Ø “Blog writers are enthusiastic blog readers.” One would hope so—and I wonder about the 10% of bloggers who haven’t read any other blogs. Isn’t that a little like writing books but not reading them?
Don’t take any of this stuff too seriously. As a set of overall indicators, I suspect it’s about right.
An article by Rachna Dhamija, J.D. Tygar, and Marti Hearst (Harvard, UC Berkeley, and UC Berkeley) presented at CHI 2006 and readily available on the web. It’s an interesting study reported in a ten-page article.
The trio analyzed a “large set of captured phishing attacks” and developed hypotheses as to why the strategies might work. They then did a usability study in which 22 participants were shown 20 web sites and asked to determine which ones were fraudulent. It’s a small-scale study, but nonetheless interesting. 23% of the participants did not look at browser cues such as the address line, status bar, and security indicators, leading to incorrect choices 40% of the time.
The paper notes common phishing methods to disguise phony sites and some underlying issues. It’s a tough world. Newer browser versions may help, but awareness on the part of users is fundamental. I assume that you never click on a link without glancing at the actual URL at the bottom of the browser window when you hover over the link (or in the tooltip, in Outlook and some other cases)?
A few other notes: Popup warnings about certificates were ineffective. The worst case (fooling 20 participants) was an exact copy of the Bank of the West homepage—but the domain was “bankofthevvest” not “bankofthewest.” Try spotting that difference on the screen! (One participant did—and she was between 53 and 58 years old.) Six spoof sites fooled at least half of the participants—but two real sites were assumed to be spoofs by at least half of the participants, which is bad news for Etrade and Capital One.
Fascinating stuff. Don’t worry about the sample size; read this paper as a guide to what you should be looking for.
Just a brief mention, almost a shout out to “CW” of Ruminations—Constance Wiebrands of Curtin University of Technology in Australia. Her article is an interesting brief introduction to blogs and their likely value for librarians engaged in “conversations” among themselves and with patrons. I’m not ready to buy the “library as conversation” meme, at least not as the primary or sole thrust of libraries—but you don’t need to accept that thesis to find this article valuable.
Weibrands was a naysayer about blogs “when asked to investigate blogging and its implications for the Library and Information Service at Curtin… What value could blogging, an indulgent, over-hyped waste of time, possibly have for librarians and for the library as a whole?” That was at the start of 2005. She learned; she surveyed a few dozen libloggers; and she now runs one worthwhile blog and contributes to another one.
She “consider[s] the comments feature to be what truly differentiates a blog from a ‘traditional’ website.” I can’t agree with that—but I’ll agree that if you’re looking for conversation, comments are a must. Wiebrands offers quotes from some of those surveyed. She cites a typically inflated number for the total number of blogs, but that’s irrelevant to her points.
I trust Curtin found this report worthwhile. I certainly enjoyed reading it.
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