The mind-blowing world of informal blogging networks

Most of us bloggers follow other blogs. We come across these blogs in different ways – sometimes it is a blogger that is following us, or that comments on our posts, so we check them out, like what we see, and follow. Sometimes we have observed them commenting on another blog and something interests us about them, it could be what they say, it could be their photo, it could be their name, but whatever it is, we decide to click through to their blog. Sometimes they are blogs that are recommended by other people. Or sometimes we might be actively searching for blogs on a particular subject and come across new ones that way.

Often I don’t remember which route brought me to a blog, and I’m quite regularly surprised when I bump into the same people commenting on different blogs. Little informal network groups build up, with several people all following each other. Then there are peripheral people who may just follow some from that group, with some following them back. Obviously there are formal blogging networks out there where bloggers specifically subscribe to be part of a group, but I’m talking here about the informal groups that grow organically. Groups are linked to other groups, sometimes just by one person, sometimes more. Some following goes in only one direction and some is reciprocal. Each person may be part of a few different little groups that aren’t linked to each other, or are.

I wanted to visualise how these networks might look, to see if I could understand it all better, and so I began to draw. I follow a lot more blogs than I have drawn, but I was trying to draw a simple version…

Hand drawn blog network map

Once I had reached that point, I remembered that I had intended to use solid lines to link people within a group, and dotted lines where they link to another group. I also realised that even this supposedly simplified version was going to be far too complicated, and I wondered whether there was any point in doing it anyway, because it wasn’t any kind of real illustration of what goes on, but just what I imagined based on what I saw from my own little part of the blogging world. I also wondered whether I should have drawn more links to blogs on there that don’t end up as part of group, which led me to wonder whether it was even possible for an active blogger who followed several blogs to never end up as part of a group. Then I started wondering what the point was of anything at all and that’s when I knew it was time to stop drawing.

Anyway, this is the type of thing that starts to blow my mind when I think about it too much because I’m someone who likes to have the whole picture, and this is too complex for me to get the whole picture, so I guess I shall return to my own little happy blogging groups and just keep writing…

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56 responses to “The mind-blowing world of informal blogging networks

  1. When you think your mind is about to blow up, that’s the point to start thinking harder (but maybe another day) not stop! This is really interesting and I do hope you revisit. Nicola

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  2. The math head in me loves your illustration. It’s like little microcosms that make up one larger society and eventually we bump into and then cling to others, like a constantly moving and evolving cell. I’m quite enamoured with it.

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    • Well do feel free to print it out and frame it for your wall! 😉

      After I’d been drawing it for a while, I no longer knew whether I was doing anything meaningful, or just drawing random circles and lines!

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  3. I love strolling around an unfamiliar blog. I love it even more when I stumble upon a familiar face while strolling there. I’m all like, “Hey! I didn’t expect you to be here! Cool beans!”

    The more I familiarize myself with the world of blogging, the smaller the world seems to become. It’s kinda nice.

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  4. Blog networks do turn into an amoeba in some ways with their organic growth and development. For me it seems to grow in spurts. I’ll be at a stasis point with blogs I follow and who follows me. Then several new people will start following mine. And as I follow them (either formally or informally), I see how connected they were already. I think I saw that all this social networking has dropped us from “six degrees” of separation to around four or five. I do wonder where it will all lead!

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    • Yes it’s true, I would really like to see a real version of what I was trying to create, but then it would be so huge and complex it would be impossible for me to get my head around! It’s an interesting subject.

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  5. WordPress ate my previous comment! You might want to check your spam queue…. It’s an interesting phenomenon, and I do wonder where all this social networking will take us.

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  6. Hilaious! I love how you think…you must either nap a lot or never 😉

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  7. I love seeing familiar faces in the comment section of blogs I follow. We really must get together for that cocktail party.

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    • Yes, but which group do we invite? And do we just invite the core members or the peripheral people? Or are we in fact the peripheral people? I just don’t know! I guess it will be a case of everyone is welcome!

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      • The more the merrier!

        At trying to lay a guilt trip, but I haven’t seen you around my blog lately. Taking a blog reading break?

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        • I have done a bit less reading and commenting on blogs this past week or so, so I do have a little backlog to catch up on – don’t worry, I’ll be back! It’s funny how we get used to the people who comment regularly and then wonder what’s up if they don’t for a while!

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  8. I’ve been noticing a trend lately too. In the past couple of weeks, I’ve noticed the same people at most of the blogs I follow. The constants are surprising, but I feel good being part of a similar-minded group of bloggers and I LIKE it.
    Good idea to map it out, Vanessa. A picture IS worth a thousand words and helps puts your idea into perspective, as much as it is possible. Good idea, you have here.

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    • I wouldn’t want anyone to be under the impression that there was anything scientific behind my mapping! I’m not sure I achieved anything with it either, other than giving myself something to write about on my blog!

      I like it all very much too, as you say, like-minded people finding each other and grouping together – something that none of us expected when we started blogging.

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  9. Blogs, twitter, facebook, my wife hates them all and fails to understand them. But I love them, and I think they are a great way of meeting people I would otherwise have never met. Blogs in particular are a great way of engaging in discussion, and talking over various topics, agreeing, disagreeing, just findng common ground sometimes. I’m pretty sure, Vanessa, that we will never meet face to face, but we have met in the virtual space of the internet, and it’s been fun, and will continue to be so, I hope. No, I never, ever want my virtual life to replace my real one, but really, at the end of the day, all we are dong here is what we do in real life: talking. 🙂

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    • Yes indeed, and the interactions all feel very genuine and real don’t they. The closest thing I think really is forums, where you can have in-depth discussions and develop relationships with random people. On forums however the conversations seem to regularly descend into unpleasantness and insults, which just doesn’t seem to happen in the blogging world, or certainly not in the blogging circles I mix in!

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      • I agree. Some forums can end up becoming a little cliquey, but blogs don’t seem to go that way. Perhaps that’s because one person is in charge of a blog, and all the commenters are, for the most part, responding to that one person. But, yes, forums are more useful for in depth discussions.

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        • Over the years I’ve become involved in three different forums in terms of posting regularly over a long period. I always end up getting annoyed by the nastiness and point scoring that goes on. These problems are exacerbated by the Private Message systems. I don’t need it.

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    • I hate Facebook and I’m not a fan of Twitter either but I do love blogs. I’ve made several real friendships through blogging. (Some I now know in real life, other just online) – I might not meet all the people I have in depth discussions with but I don’t need to meet them for the relationship to be worthwhile.

      One thing that bugs me (and I know it shouldn’t) is when I recommend a new blog that I’ve just discovered to my other blogging pals for them to respond “Oh yeah, I’ve been following them forever!” – If they know they’re great why didn’t they tell me about them?!

      P.S. When I read your discription of how you were mapping out the connections I couldn’t help but create a similar map in my head for my own groups. It got very confusing very quickly. If only I’d had a pen.:-D

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      • I do Facebook and Twitter, I do like Facebook a lot, mostly for catching up with old friends that I probably wouldn’t otherwise catch up with, and for nosing at people’s photos. But I’m so glad I discovered the world of blogging!

        I don’t think there’s any way I could really accurately map all the links from all the blogs I follow, although if I did it on a computer instead of by hand…

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  10. I love how you think! I have noticed that too, I follow a bunch of writing blogs (thanks to lovely Limebirds) and I’ll see people I know that are regulars at the Limebird site commenting on other random blogs that I follow that have nothing to do with writing, which makes me wonder the same things you are.

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  11. SO funny you bring this up. I was wondering about the fact I see the same friendly usernames and gravatars (lol) at many of the blogs I follow. It’s actually a wonderful feeling to know I belong to a core group. And then I belong to several smaller groups who have nothing to do with the core group I’m in. It is totally so un-high school (for me, anyway, because I was NOT in the popular crowd). But when I see the same friends returning to my blog, it feels like I’m part of a definite community.

    Just to tag on your exchange with Laura re Limebird, Beth found me back in November. She liked and commented on a post of mine. I think at that time I only had like 3 1/2 followers. When I went to the LB site to thank her, I noticed her greeting about “Fancy being a Limebird?”

    The rest is history. (And I’m glad you and Laura were hatched there, too. 🙂 )

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    • You’ve hit on something here, I was never in the popular crowd at school either, I was always a quiet background person (is it the nature of writers to be a bit withdrawn?), but having lots of followers for my blog, and lots of people commenting on my posts makes me feel quite popular! I hadn’t realised that, haha.

      Yes, obviously having something like Limebird, which brings several people together on one blog, helps to develop a group around it, with the Limebirds and the regular commenters on there following each other’s blogs.

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  12. It’s so true. I’ve discovered that, too, without, however, taking the time to make the groovy diagram!

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    • Now you and I have been following each other for a while, but I don’t think either of us are in any of each others’ groups are we? I don’t think I’ve seen you commenting on any other blogs that I go on.

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  13. A noble effort on your part. Ever see the sociograms used to describe group interactions? Same thing. To quote Grouch Marx (again): “I would never join a club that would accept me as a member”. Or to quote Ray Davies: “This is where I belong”.

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  14. Your blog could not have more relevance to me as I have now stumbled across your site. The blogging thing is like an octopus with a million tentacles reaching everywhere to connect us all.

    Tim

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  15. I like the drawing. I do find that the same names keep popping up on the blogs I follow as well. It must mean we all have good taste 🙂

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  16. All those lines make my head hurt. Here’s what I’ve learned is so amazing about the blogoshpere, it’s like penpals, but faster, closer, and with more pictures and people. I’m often surprised with I go over to Blogger, I’ll find a whole new world and networks of people. There are so many of us out there.

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  17. A perfect blog for how I found you. Saw your face more than once on blogs I like, so I clicked through. 🙂

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  18. Great post, Vanessa! I think about this kind of stuff quite often as well – great minds strike again, eh? I often wonder how much of it is through recommendation/coincidence etc. It’s pretty amazing the way that people are linked online – even more interesting when you think about our connections in every day life. 🙂

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  19. Pingback: When the real world merges with the blogging world | Vanessa-Jane Chapman

  20. You read my mind, and we barely just met! Since I have been stalking, er, following my very talented sister’s blog, I’ve gotten to read and meet lots of fellow bloggers. They do tend to populate and follow similar writers, especially with all the contests floating about.
    You’ve articulated something I’ve seen. Well done!

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    • Thank you. It’s interesting because when most people start blogging, they have no idea that all this networking exists, but you’ve kind of done it the other way round, you’ve discovered the networking, and are now starting to blog – welcome aboard!

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  21. Pingback: Virtually friends | Slouching towards Thatcham

  22. Came across your blog and it was a nice read! What you just described is a whole area of research called Social networks.. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sociology_of_the_Internet

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  23. Pingback: Vanessa’s Getting All Meta Again | Vanessa-Jane Chapman

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