21 November 2010

Entropy in the blogosphere: the disintegration of social networking

One of the good things I have found about blogging is that one can find people interested in similar things and exchange ideas with them. There are various tools, like blogrolls, for finding bloggers who say interesting things.

In the past I've found social blogrolling tools, like MyBlogLog and BlogCatalog, useful for this. But both have recently become considerably less useful, though for quite different reasons. BlogCatalog, as I noted in a recent post, recently decided to change the way it looks and works, and shot itself in the foot. With its reduced functionality it is almost useless.

MyBlogLog continues to function, and it is the behaviour of users that is the problem.

Both of them had little widgets (or "gadgets" as Blogger calls them) that you can put in the sidebar to show who visited your blog. And that is a reminder to me to visit their blogs. OK, some people don't show up there because they read blogs through RSS feeds. But others don't show up there because they have taken themselves out of MyBlogLog entirely, though their blogs remain there like orphaned children.

Here are some of the abandoned ones:

Bishop Alan's blog
The Stroppy Rabbit
Calum Carr's take on... whatever

Some are still there, but have removed the widget from their own blogs:

Skewed view
Conjectural navel gazing: Jesus in lint form
The poor mouth

While others never bothered to put the widget on in the first place.

The trouble with that is that it makes it more difficult to surf from blog to blog -- I visit the blog of someone who has recently visited me, move on to someone who has recently visited them, and so on. But with the widget gone, there's nowhere to go but back. So I'm beginning to feel constricted, as if the number of options is shrinking. It's all rather sad.

On my family history blog I discovered that most of those who visited (as shown on MyBlogLog) were not interested in family history or genealogy, and some were just spammers. But in that field someone revived an old device -- the web-ring. Web-rings let you surf from site to site following a similar theme. The problem with static web pages was that once you had seen them all, you had seen them all. Great for new visitors, but not for people who had seen all the sites. With dynamic web sites, like blogs, however, it is ideal. Each time you visit there is likely to be new content. So perhaps things are not so bad after all. I just have to find a web-ring for this blog, which is such a mixture of stuff it is difficult to fit into any category at all. So, goodbye BlogCatalog, hello blogrings.


Matt Stone said...

Steve, I think I'd be one of those who've never bothered with either service in the first place. I think I joined one of them once, as a trial, but my anti-widget bias won out. I prefer RSS feeds. Not only in terms of tracking individual blogs but also in terms of who's blogging on what keywords. What I find disappointing is the demise of the blogroll. People see less inclined to reference other blogs. I gather the reason is that it improves SEO, but the experience is deminished. I think that in many ways blogs are still recovering from Facebook. It's effected the signal to noise ratio drastically. Maybe the rediscovery of web-rings is something to consider.

CalumCarr said...


I found Mybloglog to be have lost its usefulness. So few visitors used it that the same avatars would sit in the sidebar and greet me with a "ha, we're still here!". It just wasn't providing me with the worthwhile information.

Also at the time of removal of the widget I was very close to shutting my blog down: I had opened another blog which I was going to write as a different person. Rather than change any login details I decided to withdraw from MyblogLog so that I never left a footprint.

Clearly I am still here as CalumCarr but I never reinstated MBL because of its diminished usefulness.

I hadn't considered the possibility that others would be inconvenienced in a major way by my decision.

I'm sorry my decision has affected you adversely.

I do read your blog every day through G Reader but, unfortunately, that leaves no footprint for you.

jams o donnell said...

I found that it simply stopped working for me so I thought rather than leave it broken I would ditch the widget.

James Higham said...

I've largely given Mybloglog away, Steve and rely on Sitemeter referrals as a rough idea but of course, many people use certain sites as jumping off points and so it's not accurate.

For example, you never appear there but do in Mybloglog.

James Higham said...

Also, just looked but I'm in here now and I don't show up in MBL in your sidebar.


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