In response to Seán Cooke’s recent experiment, Rajiv opens an interesting discussion on blogging and hyperconnectivity on his blog Rajiv Writes. He notes that “that Seán’s conclusions assume that all of us belong or want to belong to something called “blogosphere” and seek a community through an interconnectedness of blogs, very much like people on Facebook, MySpace etc. But this is NOT true for all bloggers.” I wrote a rather lengthy comment to his post and realized (as I often do when my comments run more than a few sentences) that I need to write an actual blog post.
I have been thinking about the blogging community and what Rajiv calls “hyperconnectivity” quite a bit lately, in large part due to Seán’s experiment. I agree with Rajiv that not all bloggers want to have a community: some either blog only for a small select group or they keep their blog private. WordPress and other blogging platforms are very easy to use as well as free and can be a great way to create a repository for one’s writing without necessarily sharing it with the world. They can also be more convenient than other social networking sites like Facebook, to communicate with family or friends without having to deal with annoying advertisements or invites to silly games.
So I agree that not all bloggers want to increase their connectivity. But there are many of us who do. In fact, I do, which is one reason why I participated in Sean’s experiment.
I found Seán’s experiment results very interesting, but I do view them as limited for primarily this reason: he used a convenience sample, with a “snowball effect” (people reblogging his post to other bloggers that he was not already connected with). Thus, only bloggers who were interested in being part of an ever-growing blogging community were likely to participate. Thus, inherent in his results is the bias of self-selection (those who chose to participate did so because they are interested in growing their community). Also, the number of bloggers he ultimately used is an infinitesimally small percentage of the entire blogging community. For Sean’s results to be generalized to the entire blogging community, he would have had to conduct a massive random sample survey of the blogosphere, including bloggers whose blogs are private. (And even then, there would still be serious limitations. In case you haven’t guessed already, I have professional experience in social surveys and data collection :))
However, for what Seán was trying to do with his experiment, I would argue a convenience sample is exactly what he needed to use: Seán wants to help other bloggers grow their community, their connectivity. To do that, he needs the participation of those who want to grow their community, not those who want to stay private or limit themselves to a small group.
For us who participated in Sean’s experiment (and the many bloggers who didn’t but who are reading his posts, wanting to know more), it was an interesting and creative experience, and illuminating for me. It helped me to realize how far behind the curve I am with growing my community. I reblog a lot, which gets me some traffic, but essentially reblogging drives traffic to the blog I’m reblogging. In most cases (as in book promotions and book giveaways), that’s what I want to happen. But it would be disingenius of me to deny that I would also hope to benefit somehow when I reblog.
Through his blog, Seán promises to provide guidance on how to grow one’s garden of followers. Granted, there is a lot of advice out there already, but, through his experiment, Seán actually demonstrated one way to do this. He didn’t just write about it, he did it. I participated because it was fun and Seán allowed enough time (for me anyway) to follow up without feeling too pressured (although I did sweat a little in my search for the Wizard Pig).
By promising to offer guidance, Seán continues to demonstrate the “give-and-take” nature of blogging. He will provide posts on ways to improve traffic to one’s blog, but there’s a “price:” “for every ten reblogs this posts gets, [he]will put up a post on ways to improve your blogging traffic.” Now, what you think I did?