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Blog networking study: staying in touch

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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When connections are established weblogs provide a way to stay in touch regardless the degree of interaction between bloggers at any particular moment. Martin noticed that after he stopped blogging, reading other weblogs become even more important, “to see what [his contacts] are up to without having to interrupt them, to contact them directly”. Gabriela gives an example of former colleagues who are following her weblog to find what is happening in her life “without sending an email”.

When the participants talk about the weblogs they read regularly, those usually include weblogs of people they know well. “For the people I know I read to find out how they are going”, says Shawn. He does so to find out “if there is something important to ring them up” and tells that it often prompts “some other way of communicating with the person”.

For Ton keeping up with others’ “online traces” (blogs and other channels) helps to maintain a relationship. He emphasise the importance of trivial exchanges (e.g. updates on Jaiku or Twitter – “I’m having a coffee”) that create a sense of connection similar to the same type of exchanges with people in a close physical proximity. It is the similar for Luis, who says that Twitter provides a space to share “titbits on what I’m doing” resulting in a sense of “ambient intimacy” , while weblog is for “more elaborate thought” or Gabriela, who “keeps an eye on people via microblogging and other tools”, picking up their weblogs once in a while to read in more detail.

Ton suggests that once connections are established the intensity of interactions might decrease:

In the beginning you also have to show each other that you are making and effort, to may be seduce each other a bit. Network starts by giving […] and part of it is an attention and an empathy; you have to make the effort first.

He tells that after a while it’s different, still an effort, but very different type of interactions:

Even if there is no interaction I still see the connection […] I see other people coming online with their status updates [e.g. on Skype]. There is no real interaction, but I know that he sees me coming online as well.

When connections are established and there is less need to interact, weblogs provide a way to keep up with life and thinking of their authors without directly contacting them. However, many bloggers also stay in touch via other tools. Microblogging tools are mentioned often in this context; they are used for sharing mundane updates and details of everyday life, creating a sense of connections similar to those that appear when sharing a physical space with co-workers.

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