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Conversation and Connectivity in the Blogosphere. Blog Research on Genre (BROG) Project School of Library and Information Science Indiana University, Bloomington. BROG project members. Faculty Susan Herring John Paolillo Students Ben Clark Inna Kouper Sarah Mercure Lois Ann Scheidt

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Conversation and Connectivity in the Blogosphere

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Conversation and connectivity in the blogosphere

Conversation and Connectivity in the Blogosphere

Blog Research on Genre (BROG) Project

School of Library and Information Science

Indiana University, Bloomington

Brog project members

BROG project members

  • Faculty

    • Susan Herring

    • John Paolillo

  • Students

    • Ben Clark

    • Inna Kouper

    • Sarah Mercure

    • Lois Ann Scheidt

    • Sharon Stoerger

    • Pete Welsch

    • Elijah Wright

The blogosphere

The Blogosphere

  • the collective term encompassing all weblogs (cf. blog biosphere)

  • the “intellectual cyberspace” inhabited by bloggers (Wm. Quick, 2001)

  • “blogs as a community; blogs as a social network” (

Blogs and conversation

Blogs and conversation

“Full-blown conversations [are] carried on between three or five blogs, each referencing the other on their argument or rebuttal of the other’s positions”

(Newsweek, 2002)

Blogs and conversation cont

Blogs and conversation (cont.)

Weblogs enable “a massively distributed but completely connected conversation covering every imaginable topic of interest”

(Marlow, 2004)

Research questions

Research questions

  • How much conversation takes place in the blogosphere?

  • What is it like?

Sampling procedure

Sampling procedure

  • Random sampling from site

    Selected first four blogs with links to other blogs in sidebars.

  • Snowball sampling from random blogs

    Followed and recorded all links to blogs in sidebars out three degrees of separation.

    Result = 5,517 unique URLs and 14,890 source-destination pairs

  • Random sampling from snowball sample

    50 blogs with minimum 5 posts in March 2005

Resultant data sample

Resultant data sample

  • Established, active blogs

  • Links in sidebar

  • Part of a loose network

    Resemble blogs most often discussed in the media and blog research (Herring et al., 2004b)

Analytical methods

Analytical methods

  • Social network analysis of links in snowball sample (n=5,517 blogs)

  • Visualization of most densely interlinked blogs (n=254 blogs)

  • Content analysis of posts and comments (n=50 blogs)

    See: Herring et al. (2005). Conversations in the blogosphere: An analysis ‘from the bottom up’. HICSS 38.



  • Pajek

  • Cut-off at 10 in-degrees

  • Three main clusters:

    • Catholicism

    • Homeschooling

    • A-list (political commentary; humor)

Content analysis

Content analysis

  • For each blog (A):

    • Coded conversational units

      • References in posts

      • Comments

    • Coded connections between units

    • Distinguished within sample (B) and outside sample (non-B) references and comments

  • One month (March 2005) coded

    • Entirely, for B blogs

    • 1st three posts + 1st 10 comments per post, for non-B blogs

Example references

Example references

  • Power Line has good news about Iraq; a topic that Glenn Reynolds notes is apparently unfit to print in The New York Times. [blog name & blogger name]

  • Indeed, as the man who first linked to Frizzell would say. [indirect nominal reference]

  • Get Well Soon,Blogfaddah. [direct address]

Example comments

Example comments

  • “...examine how National Guard deployments are affecting state readiness.”

    readiness for what? the Parti Québécois tank units that are massing at the border? [quotes and responds]

  • This is actually very good news for Firefox users. [deictic reference]

  • Attila Girl, (…) I am sorry for what you went through. I hope you have peace with it. [direct address; 2nd person pronouns]

A blog conversation

A blog conversation

(Post by Blogger A) Blogger non-B says <link>, and I disagree…

(Comment by Blogger non-B) Blogger A, you misunderstood me…

(Comment by Blogger A) Blogger non-B, thanks for your reply…

Results conversational units

Results: Conversational units

  • N=582 units

    • References in posts to other blog(ger)s: N=135

      • Mostly blogger's name, blog name, and link to content

    • Hyperlinked: 48%Trackback: 10.3%

    • Comments by other bloggers: N=447

      • Mostly implicit and 2nd person address

Connections between units

Connections between units

  • 0 references reply to a post in another blog in the sample

  • Comments reply by definition

    • To current post (83%)

    • To previous comment in thread (17%)

    • Longest exchange in sample (post + comments): 5 units

Inside vs outside sample

Inside vs. outside sample

  • References to B: 29%

    • Linked from sidebar to B: 49%

  • References to non-B: 71%

    • Linked from sidebar to non-B: 31%

  • Comments by B: 0

    • Linked from sidebar to B: 0

  • Comments by non-B: 83%

    • Linked from sidebar to non-B: 27%



  • More comments than references in posts participate in conversations

    • Comments address other bloggers directly

    • References refer to other bloggers and/or link to their content

  • Most comments and references involve blogs outside the sample

  • Only 27-49% of blogs that are conversed with are also linked from the sidebar



  • Not all blogs interconnect, although some do

  • Conversing blogs don’t necessarily link to each other

  • Most blog conversations in sample take place in comment threads, not posts

Study limitations

Study limitations

  • Sampling method creates bias towards connectivity

    • Average blogs may be less conversational

  • Did not track reciprocal conversations outside the sample

    • References in posts may receive responses from blogs elsewhere

  • 50-blog sample is small

    • May not represent the blogosphere as a whole

Future research

Future research

  • Need for systematic, large-scale study of exchanges among bloggers

  • Need to take account of private (e.g., email, IM) as well as public exchanges

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