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Monday 05.07.04, 10:30

Mark Bernstein: "The Social Physics of New Weblog Technologies"

Session Notes

Why are they interesting to study - millions of them - written by amateurs spending time and money to create these things for us

They are hard to study because they are about people

We need to look at different aspects of what we are doing and think about the change it is bringing about - history, stats, ethnography, criticism, simulation, economics, lit theory, psychology etc

Eastgate comes to this study as a toolsmith specialising in hypertext. It is all links to them, but they try to bring an intellectual rigour to studying this new linkage phenomenon.

What weblogs want:

"writing for mother" - it is fine to produce weblogs that are read by only a few people.

Ten tips for writing - see his piece on A List Apart

Research: until now research tends to focus on trying to persuade the academy to take it seriously - why not try to do research that matters for weblogs themselves.

At the moment the field is small, so tool makers are linked to research and weblog users - technorati, etc., make this easier to track. Code is young and flexible and there are lots of weblog writers linked to the toolsmiths.

Does blogging change writers? Does the discpline make you a better writer? What does it do for professionals?

Take 18 students who signed up for a writing class - give half weblogs and half paper and then see who does best. Statistical significance unlikely; political pressure to account for age, gender, race, etc. Pointless exercise.

However, we can analyse existing weblogs that have been going for few years. We can apply literary theory to analyse these weblogs and look at the effect of updtae frequency, etc.

What is success for a weblog?

How would this knowledge change software? - we know a lot about usability, but it priviledges novices

What do weblogs cost and what do they earn? - they cost E1k pa approx and major ones cost E50k pa

Do they earn this money back? without advertising?

Book publishing continues despite the fact that the majority of people make very little money, but they get indirect compensation which makes it worthwhile.

How to make this all work

We need "salvage ethnography" to look at flame wars and the death of systems like usenet and slashdot. Otherwise we will only have archeology to fall back on.

Blogrolls and link patterns - how can they have the opposite effect from flame wars.

Trackbacks and open comments are inspired but wrong. How do we avoid them killing weblogs?

Fiction and Authenticity - what is it - how do we approach it

He publishes hypertext fiction. IS this contrary to weblogs? Are weblog true? not all...

Will people travel and start love affairs just to produce content for their weblogs?

Tekka - his magazine using a fictional voices approach to sharing news.

Using our archives:

we must get more clever categories and archives to build value in weblogs.

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