A really big look at liblogs: Good idea or waste of time?

Here’s an honest question, where I’m actually looking for advice–although, admittedly, factors beyond email and comment responses could influence my decision.

The question:

Would a really big look at liblogs, including lots of year-to-year change data, be a good idea, a waste of time, or a positively bad idea?

Definition: “Liblogs” = what Steven Cohen calls “libr* blogs”–that is, blogs by “library people” as opposed to official library blogs, but not limited to blogs by MLS-holding librarians (as if there was any way to know!).

Now, if you already have an answer without reading further, great: send me email or comment below. If you actually want a little clarification…read on below the fold.


Really big look: The population for the new study would consist of:

  • All the blogs in my 2005 “60 interesting blogs” survey that are still active. (See this essay or this issue.)
  • All of the 213 blogs in my 2006 study of “the great middle” that are still active. (See this issue–since the essay is essentially the entire issue, it’s a better bet than the HTML version.)
  • A bunch of others–including those mentioned in Meredith Farkas’ “favorite blogs” study, those in LISWiki’s blog list that weren’t included in 2005-2006, those in the LISZen source list, those in Dave Pattern’s “library blog cloud” source list, and those I just discovered on my own–that meet the base criteria.

Base criteria for those that weren’t in one of the other studies:

  • In English
  • Not clearly defined as an official library blog
  • Somehow at least vaguely related to libraries or library people
  • Reachable
  • Established before January 2008
  • At least one post between August 31, 2007 and March 1, 2008
  • “Visible”: The sum of Bloglines subscriptions and Technorati “authority” in the first two weeks of March 2008 is at least nine.

If I do the full study, there would be one more criterion, for blogs that weren’t in earlier studies: “Semi-active”–having at least one post in two of the three months March, April, and May 2008.

That population–not including the final criterion–is now 542 blogs, including 48 added from Farkas’ “Favorites” report, 81 added from LISZen, 37 added from LISWiki, 9 added from the cloud, and 29 others (items were added in that order–if something was added from LISZen, it wouldn’t also be added from LISWiki).

Lots of year-to-year change data: If I do this, I’d have the following:

  • March-May 2007 data for all blogs for which it’s available, noting that data would be limited to what’s reasonably available. (E.g.: If the archives for a blog hide most of each post, I’ll include post count and comment count, but not length of posts–I’m not going to take a sample and extrapolate, and I’m sure not going to retrieve each post individually!)
  • March-May 2008 data for all blogs.
  • Comparisons between 2007 and 2005 for 43 blogs that were in the 2005 report and not the 2006 report.
  • Comparisons between 2006 and 2007 for surviving blogs that were in the 2006 report.
  • Comparisons between 2007 and 2008 for all blogs available in both periods.

If I do this, I’d establish norms and quintiles based on real populations: Thus, overall length and length per post would only include blogs with easily-retrievable full-text archives; comments overall and comments per post would exclude blogs that clearly don’t allow comments (or that have comment counts hidden in archives).


An honest question, this. Last weekend, I did enough experimenting to conclude that it may be feasible to do this megastudy this summer/fall–and I’m planning to do the 2007 metrics for 2005 and 2006 inclusions (they’re about 1/3 done already) for my TxLA appearance. A lot of work for five minutes out of a 50-minute presentation, but it should be interesting.

So the question is: Do I do the other 2007 metrics and do I plan for the big project?

If I don’t, I’ll turn the current project into one or more blog posts or C&I articles.

If I do, I’ll produce a book. It might even have one-sentence summaries of what I believe to be each blog’s focus and strengths–but only when I have something nice to say and am capable of reading the blog. I wouldn’t include a full sample post for each blog; I might include a paragraph. I would have a little writeup on each one.

So: What’s your opinion? (I’m not asking “Would you buy the book?” Different question.)
Note: If someone offers me another part-time gig, this whole discussion might be moot.

11 Responses to “A really big look at liblogs: Good idea or waste of time?”

  1. Jeff Says:

    Hard to say what you should do. I really enjoyed the blog analysis. I was able to discover a great deal more blogs from it, especially the great middle analysis. You certainly have a great deal more blogs to deal with (doubling the amount from before) so I can see that as a challenge. I think it would need to be a book, but it would nice to see some of the content outside the book.

    The book can benefit libraries that are participating in 23 thing type challenges and could be marketed to those libraries just as the other Library Blog books you have. It answers the question of, “I want to blog, but where do I start?” It is generally beneficial as an archive of library blog activities as well. It would be greatly beneficial to library blogs as it will treat them like separate publications, as if you were reviewing 500 different Library Journals.

  2. Christina Pikas Says:

    I’m not sure how much it is valuable to talk in such general terms about liblogs. We have one thing in common, but what else? I’m not sure all of that work is going to pay off, to be honest. To me, highlighting more interesting things in smaller samples would be more interesting.

  3. T Scott Says:

    The comparisons would be interesting. I’ve had the impression the past few months that there’s been quite a shift among that universe of liblogs over the course of the past year or so — while more blogs have been started, it seems as if the overall intensity of discussion has lessened considerably. I don’t have any real data, but it feels as if there are fewer posts per blog and less discussion on the topics that come up. But I don’t know how much of that is a reflection of my own shifting interests and the fact that I continually add and drop feeds. It seems to me that the intense enthusiasm for blogging that we saw a few years ago has died down — lots of people have started blogs, but they run out of things to say fairly quickly, or, after a time, their interests shift and they don’t find the time for posting anymore. But like I say, that’s just an impression — if you did the study it might provide some concrete evidence for whether that impression is accurate or not.

  4. Jon Gorman Says:

    I’ll have to side with Christina here. I think highlighting a few blogs that you like or ones you’ve discovered that don’t seem to have the readership you think they should might be valuable.

    A big level analysis is less interesting to me. The diversity of many blogs makes it difficult to decide what to do with that information. I’m not sure what trends would be useful for me either as a professional or as someone interested in the subject matter of blogs. To some extent, I am more interested in data on print materials, if only due to the expense factors.

    Of course, I tend not to like some of the more popular blogs, although I’ll read them to keep abreast of what is being covered. I tend to read more of the blogs towards middle. I honestly haven’t been keeping up. If I wanted to add more blogs, I’d probably avoid more library ones and look for more in software engineering or information retrieval. And again in those cases, I don’t want a big overview, just some good blogs.

    I guess there’s one big overview type of thing that might be interesting, the amount of duplicate information. There seems to be several blogs that all just will cycle around posts. So person A will post and B, C, D, and E will comment on it. Seeing these types of connections and how they correspond to the social and professional networks would be interesting. But that’s much more an anthropological question. In any case, I’m babbling.

  5. Shaunna Mireau Says:

    I hope you undertake this huge project. It would be a very useful metric to add to your previous work on this.

  6. bowerbird Says:

    walt, i believe it would be very _interesting_
    (because _process_ is always fascinating),
    but that it won’t be _important_, long-term
    (because we will end up in the same place,
    whether we’re aware of the journey or not)…

    -bowerbird

  7. John Dupuis Says:

    I agree with bowerbird and others that, at this point, a quantitative analysis would probably be more interesting than useful. However, I also think that some sort of qualitative analysis could be important as well as interesting. Perhaps using Balanced Libraries as a model rather than the Public and Academic Libraries Blogs books.

  8. walt Says:

    Thanks for the responses so far. I’m not going to comment, because I’m still gathering comments, and will be for at least a week or two more before making any decisions.

  9. Steven Kaye Says:

    I’m (selfishly) curious about the other corporate libloggers out there, and curious how much blogging goes on that’s not “Meme of the moment” (degreed professionals vs. non-degreed, how much handholding to do in training, etc.).

    More that sort of stuff than posting/commenting activity and trends, though it would be interesting to see how that varied by type of liblogger possibly.

  10. bowerbird Says:

    walt-

    you know what? i think i’ve changed my mind.

    i think an analysis from you would be _both_
    interesting _and_ important simply because
    you’ve spent a lot of time doing this research,
    and — given that you’re a smart old fellow —
    i believe that means you’ll extract some juice.

    -bowerbird

  11. walt Says:

    bowerbird–

    Thanks for that. If I do this project, I do indeed think I’ll “extract some juice.” (Question is, how many people will I anger in the process?)

    And I’ll take “smart old fellow” as a compliment, even though, after finishing a 2-week cruise on Holland America, I don’t currently think of myself as “old”–on HAL, 62 is somewhere between young and middle-aged by comparison!

    Still haven’t decided; still won’t until July at the earliest…


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