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October 20, 2003

Weinberger on "When Blogging Gets Big"

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Posted by Liz Lawley

David Weinberger has a thoughtful, interesting post today on what's going to happen when (he says when, not if) blogs get _really_ big. The whole post is good, but this item caught my eye in particular:
The distinction between the big, high-traffic blogs and the rest of the world of blogging will be increasingly sharply etched. The "tail" will gain more and more value as the number of high-traffic blogs necessarily grows much more slowly. At some point, the "A-List" bloggers won't even seem like bloggers because what they're doing is so different from what the rest of us are doing. By analogy, when I receive some massive-circ email newsletter, I don't think of it as being like email I receive from a friend, even though both are using email transport. (This doesn't mean the high-traffic blogs will be of less intrinsic value. It does mean they'll be of less value relative to the increasing cumulative value of the lower-traffic blogs.)
The problem I've always had with the "power law" view of weblogs is that it treats all weblogs as the same sort of medium...when in fact, there's a big difference between the blogs at the top of that power law curve, the ones in the middle, and the ones at the tail.

Comments (4) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: social software


1. Richard MacManus on October 20, 2003 7:58 PM writes...

I'm not sure what you mean - what's the "big difference" between A-List blogs and C-List ones (like my humble blog)? I like to think I'm a "publisher" of sorts, even though my audience would only number in the 10's right now. An A-Lister is read by thousands more people, but essentially we're both publishing our ideas onto the Web.

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2. Liz Lawley on October 20, 2003 8:07 PM writes...

The big difference, to me, is that when you're at the top of the "power law curve," you're in broadcast mode. When you're at the tail end, you're in private diary mode. But in the middle, that's where the interlinking and dialog and community-forming are happening. Those are very different modes of communication.

David uses an excellent example of large-scale email mailing lists. They use the same technical medium, but the nature of the communication is very different.

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3. Richard MacManus on October 20, 2003 8:56 PM writes...

OK, so the difference you are referring to is at the "communication" level - which by your definition depends on quantity of readers. Fair enough. However I myself don't usually think of weblogs as a communications medium - I think of them as a publishing medium. Granted, I think David's point was that weblogs will morph into a communications medium akin to email. But right now I use my weblog is a vehicle to publish ideas. So I think I'm in the same 'publishing mode' as an A-List blogger, even though I'm definitely not reaching as many readers and perhaps not reaching the same level of quality.

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4. Lawrence Krubner on October 21, 2003 2:11 PM writes...

Clay Shirky has pointed out, and I think it is good to point out again, there is no "A-list" with a power curve. If a curve goes out for awhile, and then falls off steeply, then you have an A-list. But if a curve falls steeply from the first entrant, as a power curve does, then there is no A-list. You have to ask yourself, when you look at a graph, on what side of the curve is the curve concave? An "A-list" is something like the 1950's entertainment group known loosely as the Rat Pack - an elite group of equals who are separate from you and me. But Clay Shirky pointed out that in a power curve the single biggest gap is the gap between the first entrant and the second entrant. The second biggest gap is that between the second entrant and the third entrant. Therefore, with a power curve, there is no elite group of roughly equal writers at the top of the blogosphere. Rather, the place of greatest difference in power and influence is at the top. When dealing with industries or cliques where there is a real "A-list" it is fairly easy to say where the cut off line is between the A-list and everyone else. But in an industry with a power curve, it is damn near impossible to say with any certainty what "the top" is, or how to find a clear mark of demarcation. The power curve is smooth - at any point it seems reasonable to include or not include the next group of entrants further down the list.

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