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Blog networking study: finding and being found

This post is part of the series describing the results of the study of blogger networking practices. Please take into account a couple of things:

  • This is a draft. Healthy scepticism and comments are very welcome.
  • Statements are linked to the names of people who talked about particular issue, those might be true or not true for others.

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How bloggers find each other? Study participants find new bloggers by attracting them with their own writing, through their network and in places where they meet bloggers they already know.

One way to discover others is writing own weblog, which then serves as “a conversation starter”, “a big neon sign that invites others to come and comment” (Ton). With multiple instruments that weblogs provide it is easy to get notified about comments to one’s weblog or links from other blogs. Bloggers follow trackbacks or subscribe to notification about referrals to their pages (e.g. via Technorati or Google blogsearch). Nancy, who had a web-site people linked to before, credits this attention to incoming links that is part of blogging as the reason for “discovering” people in her network that she was not aware of.

Those who comment on one’s blog writing are not random people. Bloggers appreciate the attention to their own work and the effort taken to comment: “the people who link to you are interesting, because they found your ideas interesting, they comment” (Dave). Monica indicates that commenting on blogs was not the obvious way to grow one’s professional network when she started: “I didn’t realise that linking and giving credits to someone’s work would extend my professional network very quickly”.

Another way to find other bloggers is through following links from people already in one’s own network, who provide filtering and recommendation:

it’s a collective pointing that helps to find stuff, once you have an established group of bloggers you read and trust. And their ability to find a good stuff to point to it increases your signal to noise ratio on the web. […] Blogs do that better than other tools because of the context – you have to say why that is important, why you are pointing to something. (Euan)

Finally, bloggers find other bloggers in places where they go to interact with those they already know. Although usually these are events that bloggers attend to meet each other in person, they could be online places as well: Ton gives an example of a German blogger whom he first “met” in a comments section of an American weblog.

Given that bloggers indicated that their blogging connections often extremely diverse I ask what exactly contributes to finding others across boundaries. Nancy suggests that it is the public nature of weblogs and their discoverability as a result of cross-linking. She adds that comparing to communities, where there is usually an “agreement what it’s all about even if it’s about nothing”, with a weblog it is more easy “to cross over” between topics both when writing and reading.

This crossing becomes easier as weblogs are person-centred – “a weblog is about me even if you think you write about a topic” (Martin). They also represent different interests of their authors (“most of the times I read them for KM, but find something else”, Gabriela) and readers may value the diversity of topics covered (“good bloggers are eclectics, they do different things, they surprise you […] that is what keeps you going back”, Dave).

In addition, at first blogging is “connecting through content” (Nancy). When one follows a link to a new weblog, blogger’s words are visible, while the details about the author (such as age, gender, professional affiliations or place in various hierarchies) are not necessarily on the surface or made explicit at all. As a result, with blogging “you can’t live of your reputation, you live of what you say” (Dave).

In the process of discovering interesting others weblogs serve as attractors and filters. From one side presenting oneself to the world through writing a weblog attracts others who resonate with this writing and comment or link back. From other side, weblogs work as filters: links by bloggers one reads provides not only pointing to potentially interesting others, but also personal recommendation. Since weblogs are rather person-centred than strictly focused on a predefined topic, a blogger often writes about a variety of personally relevant issues, exposing readers to potentially new and unexpected topical areas and other bloggers within those.

While finding others may result in a direct interaction (e.g. continuing a conversation in a weblog comments), it is not always so. The following post describes how it is possible to get to know other bloggers from a distance, without any interaction.

{ 2 comments… add one }
  • David Brake November 23, 2008, 18:54

    You appear to be writing mainly about people who discover each other through blogging rather than people who discover each other offline then learn that the other has a blog. Don’t you need to accommodate that as a separate possibility?

  • Lilia Efimova November 24, 2008, 10:37

    David, this is what came out of the data – in the majority of cases those I interviewed meet others via blogs…. I do have a phrase about meeting bloggers in person at events – I guess I should make it more explicit and a bit more general.

    Now thinking that it also might have to do with the participants being early adopters – I can imagine that they didn’t see many others with weblogs around them.

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