Meta-blogging? Intertwining Grassroots; Connecting the Blogging World

I generally try not to turn mediageek into a weblog about weblogging, since plenty of other webloggers do that. While I do not deny the growing impact of the weblogging mov’t, I also think that the more you blog about weblogging, the more you insulate the community, since such posts are of interest to fairly small (albeit growing) group–namely, webloggers. In maintaining this weblog I hope to reach a wider audience than just people in the know about weblogs. Folks who may be interested in the content you post may very well not care that it comes from a weblog, and so lots of meta-blog posts can end up being just so much boring and useless info to those folks. (I need synonyms! How many times can one use the term “weblog” in a single paragraph?)

That said, I do think that weblogs do fall into the rough rubric of grassroots media, and do merit some mention on mediageek at times when either some very important news pops up, or there reaches a critical mass of interesting happenings that can be budled together into one post.

In the last year the weblogging community has become more interconnected through the development and use of various tools. Indices and search engines like Daypop and BlogFinder provide more precise exploration for blogs than a whole-web search like Yahoo. Since a huge component of weblogging is linking, a blog enthusiast at the MIT Media Lab devisedblogdex to track what webloggers are linking to. Looking at this index reveals that memes spread across the weblogger space of the Internet pretty quickly, as a wide variety of bloggers pick up from other bloggers links to news and whatever weirdness is hot. Each day blogdex ranks all of the links on all of blogs in its database by how many blogs link to them.

Today I found out about a new feature being implemented on blogdex that’s just in beta now, called the “social network explorer.” When you give it a link it shows you what other weblogs link to it. But the most interesting feature is that it also returns a list of blogs that blogdex thinks are similar (“blogdex also recommends”), similar to the recommendations that Amazon returns based upon your browsing and buying habits. This feature is still in evaluation mode, and so has no input interface. To use it put in this URL:http://blogdex.media.mit.edu/socnet/index.asp?ego= followed by the URL of the site you want to see connections for. So, for mediageek, you’d put in: http://blogdex.media.mit.edu/socnet/index.asp?ego=mediageek.org

Though one comment to the blogdex newsblog observes that the “blogdex also recommends” sites don’t seem very similar, I found that several of the links to be pretty appropriate. The top link is for machination.org, self described as: “a weblog digging up indymedia and independent thought in the ‘mainstream’.” It’s a website I’m glad to have found, and not sure I would’ve encountered otherwise. Though it makes me wonder what the algorithm is behind this matching feature. Did it do simple word matching — like matching “indpendent?”

The interweaving links, rampant sharing and elaborating are a few things that set weblogging apart from more conventional webpages, and especially set it apart from the mainstream media. While CNN or the NY Times will put links to outside information, they are nonetheless very concerned with keeping you on their site — keeping their sites “sticky.” Those sites don’t want to direct too much traffic away from the site (noting that Google nonetheless does quite well at directing traffic away). Webloggers do not necessarily have that concern, largely because they’re not big profit enterprises. If they make any money at all — as Blogger and Metafilter are trying to do —
they only do so to make back hosting costs, or help keep the webmasters alive for all the time they dump into their sites.

This doesn’t mean that I don’t think webloggers shouldn’t make some money for their efforts. If more webloggers could weblog for a living (or part of a living), then we’d probably see even richer content. But I do argue that weblogs really don’t adapt well to big-profit areans, since some of their basic principles of existence don’t jive well with the received wisdom of making a profit on the web (such as it is). This is more than a simple knee-jerk “money and profit ruins everything good” argument–although in the modern world it’s hard to make a BIG profit and stay true to founding principles (if those principles were not tied to profit in the first place). Rather, the success and utility of weblogs relies on their ability to be lean and quick — that’s why meme spread so fast. Their very idiosyncratic nature — because they tend to be personal operations — is also one of their greatest strenghts. It’s very hard to turn this into a big profit enterprise (though Martha Stewart might argue otherwise). We’ll still have to see where it all goes, but for right now I’ll enjoy the ride.

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