Blogging and The Growing Community

Mary Hodder



I find that blogging is like being at a conference all the time, where the conversation and iteration of ideas and discussions is rapid, thoughtful and informative.  The advancement of the conversation is central to the interest I have with this medium, that lies somewhere between email, and serious journal publication, somewhere between a casual verbal conversation and a formal talk.


My process begins with a general reading of the publications I am interested in, some of which are general sites like the NY Times and Washington Post, LA Times and Chicago Tribune, and some which are specific to technology, security, privacy, media and intellectual property.  I also peruse about 30 blogs that post on topics in the above range of specific topics I’m interested in.  In the past, as blogs would link to other blogs with good content, I would follow the links, discovering some good writers and thinkers in the process of understanding IP for my own postings in the bIPlog. 


Part of my process involves reading articles and thinking about what they mean to me in terms of intellectual property and where the conversation lies within the blogosphere.  And part of my process is to manually click through some blogs to note any comments and conversations already started on a particular topic.  I might just blog the article and topic, giving my own opinion, but if there is some conversation already emerging, I would include a summary of the conversation and then add my own original content.  However, blogs that have previously been useful and insightful are favored, and I return to the known voices defining issues within this special topic field of IP and technology.

Generating a conversation where ideas and discussions are traded and advanced, in a relatively short time, say 24 to 48 hours after and conversation starts is very exciting.


More recently, I have read Clay Shirky’s Power Laws, Weblog and Inequality, and thought about the process where linking, both through posts and blogrolls, conveys relevance on other blogs.  The ideas are based on the idea that Joi Ito calls, Emergent Democracy, where in a network, as more nodes join, there is an emerging power law distribution that causes fewer and fewer nodes to get the most hits as people search for reliable content in an increasingly dispersed environment.  The idea is that “diversity plus freed of choice creates inequality, and the greater the diversity, the more extreme the inequality.” (Shirky, p.1) 


After these works were published in the past couple of weeks, developed the Interesting Newcomers List apparently because of the Ito and Shirky articles.  The idea is that the list promotes new bloggers who have overall low link numbers, but have a sharp increase in links, to counteract some of these inequalities. 


A New Method:   The site also has a URL search window, at, where a blogger can enter in the URL of a blog to find out who else is linking to the blog.  However, I’ve figured out that by putting in the link to an article that I am blogging about, I can find all the writers who have referred to this article in the past few hours.  In contrast, will not typically have an article referenced for a week or so, and Google News will not list blogs talking about this article, but has created something really amazing, where with this sort of reverse telephone-style lookup, I can look at every blog they  search for a reference to any URL, to find as much conversation as possible.  I can look at blogs linking to articles and sites, and then link the bIPlog to those with interesting original comments, or just see how many people are even paying attention by pointing to either a particular blogger’s post referring to the article/url.  


This reverse lookup, as it were, levels the playing field even more than the part of that lists the Interesting Newcomers.  For the purposes of a special interest blog, where there is a limited blogosphere of discussion on a topic, yet with shifting conversations over different blogs, this method is enormously helpful in tracking the conversation, and maintaining the most relevant comments regardless of whose voice and blog are posting them.  In addition, I believe that to one degree or another, this method also rebalances some of the developing inequality that occurs as a network adds nodes and enlarges to the point where only a few sources are linked to and read by the majority.


If the interest in this medium is to advance the conversation, in my case about intellectual property and technology, then this method in helpful in keeping the conversation fresh and inclusive and about the conversation itself, keeping available the possibility for new viewpoints to contribute to that discussion.