Just read a great article on blogs by James Farmer of the Australian newspaper The Age. He describes the growth of blogs at the paper and says, “What really gets me going about blogs though is their web-nativeness. They’re the natural columns of the web – allowing their authors to build up a relationship with readers over time in the one, clearly defined, place. Not only are they one of the major ‘web-first’ and ‘web-only’ publications that we have, but the kind of content that our bloggers contribute adds a huge degree of variety and interest to the site…Our bloggers have a more authentic angle and frequently their writing is far more personal and immediate than other styles on the site.” This is one major reason why I started Using Wiki in Education – to communicate with others who share an interest in the wiki and its impact on education, and at the same time to organize my thoughts and ongoing research. Cory Doctorow refers to this notion of the blog as his outboard brain: “Blogging gave my knowledge-grazing direction and reward. Writing a blog entry about a useful and/or interesting subject forces me to extract the salient features of the link into a two- or three-sentence elevator pitch to my readers, whose decision to follow a link is predicated on my ability to convey its interestingness to them. This exercise fixes the subjects in my head the same way that taking notes at a lecture does, putting them in reliable and easily-accessible mental registers. Blogging also provides an incentive to keep blogging. As Boing Boing’s hit-counter rises steadily, growing 10-30 percent every month, I get a continuous, low-grade stream of brain-rewards; rewards that are reinforced by admiring email, cross-links from other blogs that show up in my referrer logs, stories that I broke climbing the ranks on Daypop and Blogdex (and getting picked up by major news outlets). The more I blog, the more reward I generate: strangers approach me at conferences and tell me how much they liked some particular entry; people whose sites I’ve pointed to send me grateful email thanking me for bringing their pet projects to the attention of so many people.” On my blog, having a blogroll for my readers lets me catalog in a formal manner those that I respect and rely on for high-quality information and organizes my information consumption by letting me quickly access the blogs I most frequently read.
The Pew Internet & American Life Project explores the growth of blogging in statistical terms and profiles bloggers in the recently released Bloggers: A Portrait of the Internet’s New Storytellers. A nationally representative sample of 233 bloggers was interviewed in depth about their motivations for blogging, the content of their blogs, and their attitudes toward their blogs. The results are quite comprehenisve and show, among other things, that bloggers are a racially diverse group, evenly split between women and men, spend between two and ten hours a week on their blog, fact-check (56%) and cite sources (57%) of material they publish, and encourage community to grow around their blog (87% allow comments, 41% have a blogroll or list of friends’ web sites). More is available in the full report, and it’s a fascinating read.