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‘Those that belong to the Emperor’ (on weblog types)

Since I turned back to my study of weblogs at Microsoft and started to work on further analysis/writing it up, I’m constantly struggling to find a way to present the results that somehow refers to a typology of weblogs. All my attempts so far bring me to multiple categories – overlapping, orthogonal, incomplete…

Much like those of widely quoted classification on animals fom Jorge Luis Borges:

These ambiguities, redundances, and deficiences recall those attributed by Dr. Franz Kuhn to a certain Chinese encyclopedia entitled Celestial Emporium of Benevolent Knowledge. On those remote pages it is written that animals are divided into (a) those that belong to the Emperor, (b) embalmed ones, (c) those that are trained, (d) suckling pigs, (e) mermaids, (f) fabulous ones, (g) stray dogs, (h) those that are included in this classification, (i) those that tremble as if they were mad, (j) innumerable ones, (k) those drawn with a very fine camel’s hair brush, (l) others, (m) those that have just broken a flower vase, (n) those that resemble flies from a distance.

I’m writing about the selection of people for interviews for that study and I can’t avoid thinking of the parallels. Since the exploratory nature of the study we wanted to talk to people representing a diversity – of the types of weblogs they wrote, their attitudes to blogging, their position in organisation… Somewhere after first few interviews I made a list titled “find those bloggers” that was supposed to help adding diversity to the data we already had (insights from relatively high-profile bloggers from technology-related groups). It’s pretty much like those animals of Borges:

  • internal bloggers
  • team bloggers
  • bloggers blogging in other countries/languages
  • bloggers from marketing, research, interns or contractors
  • low-profile bloggers (both internal and external)
  • those who stopped
  • MSN spaces hosted bloggers
  • those successfully blogging at both team and individual blog
  • “ghost” bloggers (those contributing content to their manager’s blog)
  • blog readers

Of course, the challenge was to find all those 🙂 Given unsystematic categories, the sampling was unsystematic as well:

  • I asked for recommendations during interviews, but also also looked for possible leads or introductions during any social encounters while being there
  • I spent a lot of time at all places with identyfiable weblogs by Microsoft employees, looking at deviations from what we already had (e.g. browsing recently updated weblogs to see those with unusual content or clearly belonging to a group or written on another language)
  • I tried to match the data I could get on bloggers to internal contact information to figure out those located in other countries or working in groups different from what we already had (this included sampling by location)
  • I ended up doing interview with a blogger who criticised me for not talking to a representative group when we announced an internal talk on the study results

Although I’m pretty sure of getting difficult methodological questions whenever the result are presented, I’m happy of doing it this way – giving space to emergent categories even if they don’t fit a typology – they brought interesting insights.

Of course, now I’m struggling of presenting all that in a structured way with at least some logic behind :)))

Archived version of this entry is available at http://blog.mathemagenic.com/2006/03/17.html#a1740; comments are here.

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