Blog Types

January 21, 2004

Hmm, both DW and Dana and Liz at Misbehaving are fashing about types of blogs and the meaning of blogging.

I am amused because both are engaged in a categorization debate. As even my undergraduates know, if you can define the terms under discussion you will have controlled the debate. Dana posted a few days ago asking why bloggers are mostly straight white men. Her post spurred some interesting debate. I and several other people turned to the meta-debate: Dana had posited a difference between "blog" which focus on news and politics and tend to be written by straight white men and "webjournals" which tend to be about personal lives and relationships and tend to be written by women. I differed with her on two grounds: she was making an arbitrary division where I saw two of several poles and she was making a normative distinction between blogs and journals and then asking why there was a gender difference between the two.

That discussion inspired Dana's current effort, and DW's musings inspired me to write about both of them. When I categorize I generally prefer to use a very broad general definition and then add adjectives to describe the various sub-groups, affinity poles, and alignments within that broad general definition. So for me, if it is regularly updated with chronological postings, it is a web log or blog. Within that very broad category some folks spend more time journaling, others do nothing but links and short comments, others write thinker blogs with long posts and few links, some folks just do memes and quizzes and time-wasters, kiddie blogs write about the emotions of high school, and so on. Most blogs contain a mix of all of the above - I know this is a thinker blog, a workplace blog and a writing and teaching journal all at the same time, and even Glen Reynolds writes about cars and cooking in addition to his quick links and "heh, indeed."

For me the interesting question is what combination of elements do various blogs have, which combinations tend to be more commonly written and which combinations tend to be more commonly visited. I suspect, just from mark 1 eyeball and my own web browsing, that most web logs are kiddie blogs or personal journals and that most of these have a very small readership. There are a few widely popular blogs, some personal some links and politics. In general, folks say, you build traffic by linking - so gregarious cross linkers grow faster. This pattern, if true, suggests that links and politics blogs should get a fair amount of traffic, that thinker blogs should get less traffic, and that personal blogs that spend a lot of their time referencing other blogs, personal or otherwise, are more likely to be visited than are personal blogs that are closer to self-contained journals. Sex sells, of course, although there as well linkers NWS probably have the traffic advantage over thinkers.

Personally I prefer to read value-added blogs: the blog should contain something more than the story of your day and something more than a link and brief description. Say why this part of this day matters to you, ask a question about life, the universe and everything, make me laugh, but don't just recite what you ate. (look at my first month to see that sort of boring blog.) Add some comment to the political link, add your analysis, make a connection between what this person said and something else that you know about, but don't just say "heh, indeed."

Going back to the topic, I think that Dana's project has potential - I would be interested to see a list of ideal types or logical poles around which we can organize blogs. Personally I would imagine something like a color wheel - if red is tendency to link, blue is tendency to write about personal life, and yellow is tendency to write about politics, then most blogs could easily be color coded and mapped. That color-coded map could then be cross-linked to traffic patterns - probably from technorati rather than TTLB - and we could draw some further generalizations. Obviously there are more than three poles we could use for analysis, but this suggests how I approach categorization - I see the world as a mixture and sort out the mixture by using a complex set of ideal types.

This blog would be dark green under the color wheel schema.

Posted by Red Ted at January 21, 2004 12:29 PM | TrackBack