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October 6, 2004

Blog Explosion and Insider's Club: Brothers in cluelessness

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Posted by Clay Shirky

A couple years ago, when I was looking for some concise way to define Social Software, one of the definitions I used was “stuff worth spamming”, on the theory that any open group channel worth its salt would attract that form of system gaming.

Behold Blog Explosion, the first blog spam co-operative. With Blog Explosion, you can now sign up to generate worthless traffic to other weblogs, in return for their generating worthless traffic to you:

The concept is very simple. You read other blog sites and they in return visit your blog. Blogexplosion is the internet’s first blog exchange where thousands of bloggers visit each other’s blogs in order to receive tons of blog traffic. Imagine how many other people out there could be adding your blog to their blogroller and how many people would be reading your blog every day with this sort of attention. It’s free to use!

And offers more proof, as if any were needed, that fantasizing about weblogs has become a broad cultural obsession, as the article Take the inside track to the insider’s club, demonstrates:

Injecting yourself into the inside ranks of any subculture, from coin collecting to Java software programming, was once an arduous, seemingly impossible task, requiring years of experience, flights to far-off conventions, and lots of schmoozing with insiders. No more. Now anyone can assume the position of insider — one of those in-the-know types who is up on the latest news, is acquainted with all the major players, and is viewed as a personage of some esteem within a discreet arena. From e-mail to Weblogs, the online world opens up avenues to cozy up to experts, make a mark in your avocation or profession, and be viewed, in your own right, as someone who matters.

It ends with the exhortation ” And the ultimate act of insiderdom? Create a Weblog. Do it, devote your life to it, and you will soon be a star.”

I can’t tell whether to feel happy or sad that I’ve sat through this movie so many times that I can mouth the words, but seeing the idea of web rings and that old “Now you can have direct access to world leaders — through e-mail!” meme run through the “Now with new Blogs!” treatment does suggest we’ve entered the phase where first-mover advantages are being sold to Nth movers, where N is large. Next stop, exposes airing the disappointment of people who started a blog and worked on it all week and still didn’t become famous.

Just like the web before it, the people selling ‘it’s the easy path to a big audience’ are not the inventors of the pattern but the people who understood how things worked when the crowd was small, and begin selling those virtues to the people whose very entrance into the system pushes it out of communal equilibrium.

Comments (1) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: social software


1. BlogExplosion on October 8, 2004 4:58 AM writes...

Hi there

Just reading your understanding of BlogExplosion as a spam co-operative I have to say that is not really a fair description of what the site is about. To refer to the site having anything to do with spam (or the exchange of traffic as spam)is neither accurate or representative of what is happening here.

How do I know that? Well I am the co-owner of and while I completely respect and welcome the range of opinions and attitudes of people visiting the site (both good and bad), I also hope that before people make any conclusions about anything they at least check it out first.

How do the majority of blogs on the internet get traffic today? Well the traditional method has mostly been cross/reciprocal linking and leaving comments on other blogs. If you offer interesting and informative content or at least make regular posts to your blog there is a decent chance some people will come back time to time and check on what you have written lately.

The concept of "exchanging traffic" with other bloggers is not a waste of time... If you have been blogging for any amount of time isn't that what you do normally already? Bloggers generally have a list of blogs or seek blogs that interest them for whatever reason and they visit those blogs and other similar blogs because those blogs have content that is relevant to them. Those blogs then link to other blogs and you often follow those links to see what those blogs are about too. Over time you keep and link to a growing list of blogs that you visit on a regular basis creating a reciprocal network of blogs linked by content and interest.

Are you not already essentially exchanging views with other blogs there? Are there not times where sometimes you come across new blogs that contain information that is new to you or the content is compellling, thought-provoking or entertaining?

I ask how is different than exactly that? The delivery mechanism might differ somewhat but the end result is people are still visiting/reading other blogs. I do readily admit that BlogExplosion is only two weeks old and just starting out, but I think there is definitely the opportunity to generate value for participating members.

In those two short weeks we have been live there have been around 650 blogs added to Blog Explosion directory. You can view it here.

The directory of blogs have thumbnail images of each blog, a description of what the blog is about, each blog cam be rated by other members and is listed by content category.

If you ask me I think it's much easier and maybe even more entertaining to be able to quickly browse for blogs in a decently presented directory than spending a couple of hours chasing links from other blogs you have found while surfing the internet.

For instance if you like politics check out the directory for political blogs on BlogExplosion. - At minimum there are some pretty decent and interesting political blogs there no?

Thumbnails of newly added blogs are generated within 24 hours and each blog is checked manually for approval first. Even if you prefer not to exchange traffic with other blogs isn't there value to at least having your blog listed in the directory (free). We hope to have a minimum of 100,000 members on BlogExplosion within two years and I can't think of a single reason why I wouldn't want my blog listed there as well. Whether you are the first or the last blog added to the directory the actual order of the results are rotated daily so that all blogs have the same exposure and are not based on time of inclusion.

Back to the issue of exchanging views of blogs between members and what that is worth. I admit we are still not quite big enough to allow members to only surf blogs of interest, but we should be able to do that within a month or two. I also strongly argue that this is not a total waste of time either.

While members are surfing other blogs and earning/exchanging traffic they are also leaving comments on blogs that have rarely had comments posted in the past and they are also linking to each other when members come across a blog they like. Beyond the straight exchange of blog traffic BlogExplosion is creating interaction, a sense of community and dialogue. Even if you end up stop using BlogExplosion you will still enjoy the benefits of people that have linked to you over that period of time which creates a long-term traffic opportunity as well.

Key problem for the blogging industry...

How many blogs have you seen over the years where the person has simply stopped posting because nobody has visited their blog? How many dead blogs are floating around the internet even right now?

I dread to think 3-5 years from now how many inactive blogs will be spidered from search engines where listings are littered with blogs that have long been long left to die. Tens of thousands, millions?

I have received feedback from a bunch of members already that have said they are excited about blogging again because they know people will be reading their blogs more. Members have to view other blogs for a minimum of 30 seconds to receive credit for each visit and they are actually reading them and yes they are often leaving comments as well. I have doing a little research over the last month visiting thousands of blogs where when I click on their stats button many blogs have received maybe 3-5 visitors on an average day or maybe 50 visitors over the last month. Many blogs have much more but outside quality or whatever reason involved there isn't much motivation to keep actively posting and maintaining a blog if you don't have anyone reading it.

BlogExplosion gives the average blogger out there the opportunity to receive anywhere from 10-300 visitors per day. It may take us awhile to get there but on average members are getting anywhere from 30-70 visitors per day as a result of using BlogExplosion. Not too bad for a little blogger out there that has never seen much action and even if it is merely exchanging traffic with another blogger members seem to be more than happy with the added exposure.

Blogging to make money. Not likely but people are still trying to figure out how...

For the average blog on the internet today the sad reality is it seems the most common method to generate ANY revenue from your blog is hosting Google Ads or asking for donations to help cover monthly bandwidth fees.

Web Marketing 101
1. Websites make money by generating large amounts of inventory to sell to advertisers
2. To target their advertising to a specific audience or demographic that caters to a particular advertiser product or service
3. Beyond appealing to a specific target audience advertisers also desire advertising venues that have larger reach and magnitude to extend their message to as many people as possible

Now BlogExplosion can't target a specific audience quite yet but in terms of generating additional inventory there is a better chance of generating more revenue with 1000 people viewing your blog a month than 50 people visiting your blog a month. Many people maintain blogs for the love of simply expressing themselves and generating revenue is not the primary motivation, but whatever the reason the ability to generate inventory each month is beneficial from a revenue standpoint (count the pennies) or even the simple satisfaction of knowing people are reading you blog.

With 60-100 new members signing up with BlogExplosion per day (that number is growing too) it means there are always fresh faces checking out your blog. Many may not be interested but there will be others that will spend the time and give it a good look. I again argue there is value involved in this process and yes your blog can definitely benefit from that. You don't write something off until you at least give it a chance to succeed.

Finally I add that you may be surprised at the range of features we offer. Beyond being 100% free to use, there are definitely some things worth checking out on BlogExplosion. That final verdict ultimately can only be made by you, but at least take a look before making that decision.

Jeff Trumble

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