Blog networking study: getting to know others from a distance

by Lilia Efimova on 23 November 2008

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.

***

Weblogs provide an opportunity to get to know their authors “from a distance” (Martin), to learn about them to be able to decide on engaging further or not and do so without a “commitment of giving time and attention to the relation” (Nancy) and to allow others “to build up an opinion without knowing you” (Luis).

In this process a weblog provides a representation of a blogger through their writing. It not only gives others an impression of “who you are and what you do”, but also allows to “get an introduction of your community” by seeing who comments (Luis).

Shawn suggests that weblogs provide “some level of reputation”, exposing people and their interests:

It is not explicit; you intuitively get a feel for type of the person they are and whether that […] is your type of person. It’s almost like a pre-dating.

Bloggers point that although weblog is a form of publication, it works differently from publishing an article: “if you read somebody’s paper you get to know their ideas, if you read their weblog, you get to know them as a person” (Dave), “when you write a blogpost you are giving yourself out as a person” (Luis).

What exactly helps to get to know a blogger as a person? Several bloggers mention passionate writing and “personal things” that appear on a weblog (for example, when talking about Bill Ives both Luis and Shawn mention his passion for food and restaurant reviews next to his KM writings).

However, it is more than that. Euan suggests that there is also

something about the pacing and the size of the blogging window, two or three paragraph idea that’s weighty enough […] That’s why I still blog even if I have Twitter: you can put more thoughts into a blogpost. You are expressing something hopefully slightly more profound about yourself and your ideas.

For Nancy blogging helps to get to know others by providing “a window into their life over time”, “exposure of their thinking over time”, however it depends a lot on how well people write, so “you don’t get to know crappy writers via their weblogs”. Martin tells about the type of weblog writing that helps him to get to know others as those that show “willingness to expose what you don’t know […] willingness to learn… not yet finished thinking” or the opposite, “being brave and bold”, taking a radical position that invites criticism. Shawn says that “photos seem to give your more than just the text”, “you also get a sense of the people in terms of links and depth of their posts”.

Learning about other bloggers comes through an aggregation of various signals:

You can pick up little subliminal or subconscious or peripheral bits and pieces about people through what they write, how they write, how their blog looks, how they react to things.(Euan)

Euan gives an example of observing how bloggers engage in an interaction in weblog comments that gives signals about them similar to observing their behaviour in a face to face conversation.

Since the process of getting to know others “from a distance” involves reading and browsing that does not leave many traces, a blogger does not necessarily knows about it. Monica tells about an invitation to come as a keynote speaker that she though was a joke until she’s got a confirming phone call:

I didn’t know I was followed by them. If [people] leave comments, you have a clue, a footprint. It turns out that the guy who was reading my blog suggested that I would be a good person to talk as a keynote speaker.

Gabriela is aware of people using her weblog to find more about her. She gives an example of a job interview for her current job, where her boss knew a lot of things about her from the weblog. However, she says, “I never had a bad experience with exposing myself through my blog. I didn’t feel threatened.”

Shawn gives an example of meeting readers of his weblog at a conference:

…people come up to you and they know you through your blog, but you have never met them before. It’s a kind of a disarming experience… you feel it’s quite an asymmetrical relationship. They have a really good sense who you are, what you do, what interests you and you don’t even know their name. I think that’s kind of peculiar to people who blog and have some sort of readership…

Luis, who has similar experiences with meeting previously unknown readers of his weblog at events, finds it “fascinating”. He says “that person gets my attention full at that moment” because “they took the effort to read what I write”.

In sum, blogging provides a “living portrait” that not only shows ideas and interests of a blogger, but also helps to get to know her as a person, by observing writing, linking and interaction over time. Such observation is not necessarily reciprocal, so asymmetrical relations are something that bloggers have to deal with. While it may be one-sided, learning about other bloggers from a distance provides an opportunity to make informed choices about possible closer contact with them, knowledge of their interests and personalities, as well as enough starting points for an interaction.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Martin Dugage 24 November 2008 at 23:15

I like the “pre-dating” idea. Though blogs are not necessarily made to attract mates, they are meant to be preliminaries to some more advanced form of collaboration. Blog posts are peacock feathers…

2 Lilia Efimova 26 November 2008 at 00:53

Martin, although I didn’t interview you (sorry, decided not to :), this comment is very “quotable” and may end up in the report on the results.

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