Blogging less?

I seem to remember reading a post from a liblogger suggesting that, in general, libloggers were posting less now than in the past–and, if I remember correctly, suggesting that I might have actual numbers. (Sorry, lost track of the post where this was mentioned.)

Well, I do and I don’t–and the situation’s a little complicated.

In the immediate sense, it’s almost certainly true that libloggers (that is, library people who blog) are posting less now–because it’s summer, a whole bunch of people have announced they’re taking the summer off from blogging, people are on vacation more…

In a broader sense? Yes, I have the same naive sense–and eventually I should have reasonably good evidence, probably with a whole bunch of ancillary suggestions. (Yes, I’m the midst of One Project. More on that soon, either here or in C&I.)

So far, I can look at “200” liblogs (well, actually 197, but who’s counting?), of which 154 had posts both in March-May 2007 and March-May 2008. (Some of the others began between June and December 2007, my cutoff; some shut down before March 2008; some simply didn’t have any posts during one quarter or the other.)

BUT–and it’s a big caveat–I have no reason at all to believe those 197 liblogs are representative of the “visible English-language liblog universe,” even as I define it (which contains somewhere around 580 liblogs in all). They might be; they might not. What they have in common is that the sortable blog names (that is, shorn of initial articles and odd punctuation) begin with A, B, C, D, E, F, G, H–and the first four of 40-odd ones beginning with I.

So these numbers may mean nothing at all, but here they are:

  • 42 of the 154 (27%) had significantly more posts in 2008 than in 2007–I’m defining “significantly” as at least 10% more. Of those, 31 (20%) had at least 25% more posts.
  • 14–that is, 9%–stayed roughly the same, with from 10% fewer to 10% more posts in 2008.
  • 98 of the 154 (64%) had significantly fewer posts in 2008 than in 2007, including 51 (one-third) with fewer than half as many posts. There’s your big figure: More libloggers posted less than half as often in 2008 than posted significantly more often.
  • Overall, there were 23% fewer posts among these blogs.

There are all sorts of correlations you could do (are the posts longer, for example), and I plan to do some of those. I did one quick one, because I also had a naive sense about this: That, in general, people might be commenting more on each post.

Just looking at cases where there were significant changes in comments per post (again using +10% or -10% as the boundaries for significance):

  • 58 of the 154 (38%) had at least 10% more comments per post, and in all casea had at least 20% more comments per post. Of those, 49 (32%) hat at least 50% more comments per post.
  • 48 of the 154 (31%) had at least 10% fewer comments per post–but only 18 (12%) had fewer than half as many comments per post. (The rest? Some had no real changes; some don’t allow comments; some simply didn’t have any comments in 2007–in which case percentages couldn’t be calculated.)
  • So: More liblogs had at least 50% more comments per post in 2008 than had any significant decline in comments per post. For this subgroup, it appears to be true that people are commenting more on each post.

That’s enough numbers for now, particularly given that huge caveat. Would the umpty-zillion liblogs beginning with “L” show sharply different characteristics? Time will tell…or not, because that’s sort of a silly subanalysis once the metrics are complete.

[“Umpty-zillion” is a term useful in NSWAG work–that is, non-scientific wild-ass guessing. I think the actual number for this universe is somewhere betweeen 80 and 120. Isn’t it odd that so many liblogs start with “l”–and mostly with “lib”! Imagine that.]

In other news, for anyone who’s read this far: Yahoo! is giving another object lesson in Why You Don’t Own DRM-Heavy Purchases–You’re Just Renting Them (under terms you don’t control).

That’s right–the protected music you purchased from Yahoo! will soon lose its transferability, unless you evade the DRM by burning the tracks to CD as CD Audio, then reripping. And, of course, if you rerip in any lossy format, the results will probably be worse than the originals, since taking music through multiple lossy compression/expansion cycles works even worse than it does with photos.

Microsoft was ready to do the same thing, but after uproar they’ve decided to support the servers for at least a few more years.

Admittedly, we’re dealing with tiny obscure little companies here. Presumably you feel safe that a giant like Apple would never, ever shut down a service, so you’re safe with your DRM tracks from iTunes…

No, I’m not directly affected: I’ve never purchased downloadable audio of any sort, and if I do, it will be DRM-free. I may be indirectly affected, though: I used and loved MusicMatch Jukebox Pro to manage my all-ripped-from-my-CDs music collection (it had great label-printing and CD insert-printing facilities and, in the Pro version, solid ripping and burning capabilities). Yahoo bought the company and shut down MusicMatch Jukebox. The transfer to Yahoo Jukebox eventually worked fairly well…but I’m wondering whether there is any long-term future for that program and whether my software will eventually come up short. Note that this was Pro: I paid for the software. (Comments on the desirability of switching to iTunes will be cheerfully ignored.)

Remember: DRM protects the publisher‘s “rights,” not yours–Digital Restrictions Management continues to be a better expansion of the term. (Yes, sigh, I do buy media with DRM…but they’re physical media–DVDs–so there are slightly fewer issues. And I don’t much care for it even there.)

7 Responses to “Blogging less?”

  1. Mark says:

    I am *so* glad I didn’t have anything in my mouth when I read this:

    “Admittedly, we’re dealing with tiny obscure little companies here. Presumably you feel safe ….”

    Absolute pure genius snark, Walt. I love it.

  2. John says:

    This is an interesting study. I think Twitter has something to do with it. Other factors may be involved, but to the extent that it is related to Twitter, I see your study as a media study, not unlike those that examine the effect of digital media on reading/writing. I think Twitter serves some good purposes, but as recently mentioned at Tame the Web, “We’ve lamented this before, this ‘fact’ that the whole community is blogging less since Twitter, engaging less deeply, it seems. Reading less” (July 16, 2008, Twitter: Love it or Hate It?). I’ll be following your updates.

  3. walt says:

    Mark: Thanks.

    John: I have to admit that I see no reason to lament tiny little spur-of-the-moment things going to Twitter rather than blogs–and I’ll certainly be looking at average post length as one of several correlations, once I’ve gone through the rest of the sampling.

    In fact, I see no reason to lament at all. Even these possibly-biased, single-factor results don’t suggest that the community is “engaging less deeply” or “reading less.” The general increase in comments per post (if that holds up) suggests the opposite, if anything–that fewer posts are getting lost in the shuffle, that people are responding when appropriate.

    But then, I’ve never been much for lamenting. Which is probably a good thing!

  4. John says:

    Walt: One of the great things about Twitter is that “tiny little spur-of-the-moment things” are going to it. I said so in my blog post on which you commented. What I said there was “By moving a lot of this dynamic information to Twitter, the blogosphere gets cleaned up”. A great thing!

    And, as you say, your results do not show “that the community is engaging less deeply or reading less.” Not yet. My point is that the type of numbers you are collecting are the beginning of what could be a very interesting media study, the effect of Twitter on the depth of reading/writing in the library blogosphere. Other lib-bloggers are noticing changes in these patterns, but there are no numbers yet.

    I do not lament the change. If people are shifting to Twitter for their conversations, there must be something to it, even if it is not my preference. More power to them.

    You may or may not decide to look at the Twitter element, and the patterns in reading/writing in the library blogosphere. Entirely up to you of course. Just wishful thinking because it interests me.

  5. walt says:

    John: I think it is an interesting possible study. I’m just not sure it’s one I’d be qualified or energetic enough to carry out. For one thing, I might need to sign up with Twitter again…

    I already have the sense that it’s a little odd for one semi-retired individual to be carrying out the kind of study that might typically be done with a grant or by a library school–and I think “the effect of Twitter on the depth of reading/writing in the library blogosphere” might be such a study. I might be able to contribute a bunch of background data, on the other hand…

    (One real virtue of institutional/grant-funded studies: $ up front. The feedback and results from the research I did on library blogs, as opposed to liblogs, has not–shall we say–enormously encouraged me to carry out deeper or lateral research in that area. “Run! Run away!” is more like it. But that’s another post!)

  6. Steve Lawson says:

    And there’s the problem of this being a moving target. Most of the people I’m most interested in keeping up with have largely abandoned Twitter for FriendFeed. If you are only on Twitter, you are missing the real back channel for everything on FriendFeed. Seems insane that Twitter has a backchannel, but that’s what things are like down the rabbit hole.

  7. John says:

    I hear you, Walt. It gets busy at both ends. I’d like to say that I’ll consider doing an independent study on the subject for one of my five remaining MLIS courses, but it is unlikely to be so. I’m still trying to keep up with the tide of activity that came from the last one.