Excuse the mess! Moving to Movabletype very very soon!
I met several interesting people at a Houston weblog party : Big Pink Cookie,Coffee Corner, This page intentionally left blank, Overflow, Daily Ventings and Exclamations, getdonkey.com, Waterlily, Offthekuff and cybertoad.
As much as I enjoyed meeting all these talented people, it was interesting also to meet people BEFORE reading their blogs. (At South by Southwest, I had experienced the eerie sensation of meeting the flesh-and-blood person AFTER reading their blogs). Of course, everyone was delightful and interesting, and it gave me some perspective with which to view these blogs. But it also called attention to the social nature of blogs. These people frequently link to one another (not that there’s anything wrong with that!) and use weblogs to map out their network of social connections. I know A who knows B who knows C. That was an aspect that had never occurred to me before. My interest was merely in mapping out my own brain’s surfing itinerary. With weblogs, linking and being linked produces a rush akin to being introduced to a new person in a social situation. There are even etiquette rules (one of which I had been blissfully oblivious). For example, how do you politely recommend yourself to be listed on another’s site without seeming cheeky? When someone links to you, you have gained a cyberfriend, one more social connection just hanging out there and and checking to see when you’ve last updated. When checking referral logs, a person is actually checking the people who have visited. (My socially-aware sister, when in high school, used to hang up photographs of friends and medallions from her drill team activities and birthday cards and such. I never understand that desire until now). The bulletin board/commentary function on most blogs also provide an outlet for the socializing that results from opening your front door to visitors.
One of the bloggers, (I think it was bigpinkcookie), jokingly referred to someone’s blog as belonging to the A-List Bloggers, and I know what she meant. Sometimes it seems as though all the great writers know each other, all the great geeks know each other, and all the powerful politicians know each other. and so the most reknowned bloggers should know one another as well. Although most of the A-list blogs are good, some are not particularly remarkable, and even the good ones aren’t always remarkable (perhaps I am only showing my envy of their daily hits). It probably should not seem surprising that cliques should form in the cyberworld, but how often do they form on the basis of preexisting friendships in real life? Also, one can maintain only a finite number of social connections, (real or virtual), and there is not exactly a contest to see who can have the most. In weblogging, influence comes from 1)technical proficiency, 2)cool graphics, 3)linking to everybody, 4)posting frequently, 5)picking a subject that is unique, 6)being read by other people with influence. Anything else? Oh, yes, good content.
Ed Dumbhill has written about a sort of “Friend of a Friend” XML vocabulary which can be a sort of semantics for virtual social relationships. Although some critics have pointed the problems and limitations of such an idea, it would be interesting to map out the social relationships enabled by blogs and compare them with the social relationships enabled by school or work. For example, does the six degrees of separation rule apply to the virtual world as well? Or are the connections more direct? How much do virtual cyber relationships form along ethnic or socioeconomic grounds that segregate us in real life? How blind are weblogs of one group to those of another group? Do young people read weblogs of annointed A-list people? Or do they just read their friends?