Analysing the blogging analysts

I was going to put this in the snark section of Missing Link but decided it deserved a post of its own. Tim Blair is currently stoushing with a trio of academic researchers into blogging and “citizen journalism”.

Jason Wilson, Axel Bruns and Barry Saunders apparently have an ARC grant to investigate “innovative applications of digital media for participatory journalism and citizen engagement in Australian public communication”, but seem to have gone feral in the process, descending from the ivory tower and joining the wild bush horses of the blogosphere. Their latest response to Blair is a minor stoush classic:

A few lazy ad hominem attacks, cut and paste some ready-made phrases about left-wing academics, and voila, we have another blog post to, er, maintain the rage amongst the faithful. Whoopee. And people wonder why the conservative side of Australian politics is intellectually bankrupt?

While quite a few Troppo readers will no doubt be inclined to accept without question this characterisation of Blair, on this occasion that would be a mistake.

Bruns et al chose to interpret Blair’s initial attack on their writings as merely an objection to their being publicly funded by an ARC grant. While it’s true that Blair delivered his usual sideswipe at publicly-funded academia, that wasn’t in fact the main subject of his concern at all. Blair’s real concerns are set out clearly in both his initial post to a Bruns et al article a week or so ago, and in today’s riposte to last Thursday’s retaliatory sledging by Bruns et al:

  1. You claim to have pointed out that Australias bloggers are overwhelmingly left-of-centre. Yet the linked piece identified no such thing, and in fact appeared not to be concerned at all with the political allegiences of Australian bloggers. Could you please indicate a specific section of that piece supporting your claim?
  2. You claim that Australia is home to equivalents to the left-leaning Daily Kos. Could you please name these sites? (Note: Daily Kos attracts around one million hits per day. Proportionally, an Australian blog would be pulling in around 60,000 daily hits to be of similar local impact.)
  3. Jason theorised that the left-of-centre blogosphere has prospered in Australia because opinion pages only seem to be open to forthright conservatives. Would Jason classify Catherine Deveny, Richard Ackland, Traceeee Hutchison, Mike Carlton, Kathy McCabe, Phillip Adams, Sue Dunleavy, Richard Glover, Jill Singer, Alan Ramsey, Kenneth Davidson, Anne Summers, Peter Hartcher, Annabel Crabb, Michael Leunig, Michelle Grattan, Tim Colebatch, Martin Flanagan and Adele Horin as forthright conservatives?
  4. You claim that Tom Switzers resignation as the editor of the Ozs opinion pages is a clear sign that hard-right columnists [are] looking increasingly isolated. How did you reach that conclusion?

Each of these concerns arise directly from the writings of Bruns et al. Moreover, at least in my view, each requires a response to rebut the strong impression that they are just partisan barrackers whose research should not be taken seriously. That is a shame, because the Australian blogosphere exhibits numerous characteristics that make it a potentially fertile field for serious academic research.

Blair adequately demolishes points 3 and 4 in the above quote, absent some explanation from Bruns et al. However, points 1 and 2 merit further discussion.

I’ll dispose of 2 first. No political blog in Australia, whether left, right or centrist oriented, has an audience anywhere near as large as Daily Kos, Little Green Footballs etc, in either absolute terms or proportional to Australia’s population. In fact Blair has by far the largest audience according to Alexa, with a ranking of 164,177. I suspect that Andrew Bolt’s “blog” would also have a fairly large audience, but I can’t be sure because Alexa doesn’t show it separately from the main News Ltd site. The largest left-leaning blog, Larvatus Prodeo, has a much lower Alexa ranking of 352,094. You can see why Blair might have felt that an evaluation which spuriously equated LP (let alone any smaller left-leaning blog) to Daily Kos was a bit rich in the circumstances.

The claim that Australias bloggers are overwhelmingly left-of-centre is marginally more plausible, but nevertheless misleading.

When I started blogging in 2002, there was actually a significant preponderance of right-leaning Australian bloggers. The explosion in availability and popularity of easy blogging platforms like Blogspot happened to coincide with September 11 and the subsequent Afghanistan and Iraq conflicts, and the short run effect was to stimulate lots of right-leaning “war bloggers” to attack their keyboards and begin blogging in patriotic outraged fervour.

However, that situation has progressively reversed itself (perhaps in part reflecting public reassessment of the wisdom of the Iraq intervention and pre-emptive aggressive warfare in general – including, I should make clear, my own re-evaluation as someone who initially cautiously supported the Iraq invasion), so that today we instead have a measurable preponderance of left-leaning bloggers over those of a more right wing persuasion. Missing Link’s Google Reader blogroll (which the team reviews daily) is probably as close as you could get to a comprehensive listing of Australian blogs that post frequently on political topics and that have been operating long enough to become known. Our list contains 70 left-leaning blogs, 35 centrist ones and 34 right-leaning ones (not counting economic and psephological bloggers whom we mostly don’t attempt to place ideologically).

However, that ratio is slightly misleading. There are 3 fairly large right-leaning group blogs, namely Catallaxy, Australian Libertarians and A Western Heart. Most of the authors at these group blogs once had individual blogs of their own, but have chosen to cease publishing them and concentrate solely on writing for their group blogs. By contrast, most of the authors at the two major left-leaning group blogs, LP and Road to Surfdom, have maintained their personal blogs and adopted a practice of cross-posting at both. Thus we get a somewhat misleading picture of the numbers of left and right -leaning bloggers if we only look at the raw numbers of blogs.

I estimate that the real numbers are approximately 70-45 in favour of the left, with another 35 blogs (including the rather large group of disparate individuals here at Club Troppo) not being clearly aligned either to left or right. It’s fair enough to assert that the Australian blogosphere leans overall to the left, but it’s hardly “overwhelming”. Moreover, even a cursory look (let alone a careful academic one) at blogging’s short history indicates that this ideological balance is a dynamic one which can be expected to shift again as world and local political circumstances change. I doubt that one can sensibly draw any meaningful sociological conclusions from it.

Tim Blair also initially made an issue of a claim by Bruns et al that “it’s hard to pick out our own equivalent to Little Green Footballs or Town Hall, where Australian conservatives can form communities of opinion “, but seems to have dropped that objection in today’s post. God knows why, because it’s probably the most dubious claim of all by Bruns et al. For a start, what do they mean by “communities”? If we take the relatively crude measure of number of comment box contributions, it’s clear that Blair hosts a very large and vibrant community. As a matter of idle interest, earlier today I counted the average number of comments on the last 10 posts at several right and left leaning blogs.

Right – Tim Blair’s average is 85 comments per post, Andrew Bolt’s is 54, Catallaxy’s is 36.

Left – Tim Dunlop’s average is 48, LP’s is 43, Road to Surfdom’s is 8, Jeremy Sear’s is 17 and Andrew Bartlett’s is 16.

Doesn’t leave much room for a good faith conclusion that the right’s sense of community is deficient by comparison with the left, does it? Bruns et al, however, allow their own prejudices to cloud their assessment and play semantic games with the proposition. They apparently see commenters at right-leaning blogs as just a rabble of “the faithful” while the left’s audience is a “community”.

However, Bruns et al have a more pseudo-scientific basis for ascribing a greater sense of “community” to left-leaning blogs, as they explained in last Thursday’s post:

Oh, and in fairness, in case any of the Blairites are indeed interested in evidence for our claim that the left of the Australian blogosphere is better developed than the right, here’s a study I conducted about a year ago. Follow-up studies focussing on a number of different cases have shown much the same outcome – greater clustering and more cluster members on the left than on the right. (Raw data from these studies is available at Issuecrawler, if anyone would like to do their own analysis.)

The principal graph on which this assertion of a “better developed” left blogger community is based can be found here. It plots link referrals between blogs concerning the David Hicks issue during a period a year or so ago, and it’s certainly true that there is marked clustering of a large group of blogs many of which most people would classify as left-leaning. But the cluster also includes three separate manifestations of Club Troppo, none of which can reasonably be labelled “leftish”, and several others which are also best viewed as centrist or non-aligned. Thus the claim that this large cluster evidences a highly developed left-leaning community is misleading on this ground alone. Similarly, individual blogs like Susoz and Robert Merkel are also part of this tight cluster, even though they are actually LP group bloggers. Again that helps to create a false impression of tight clustering and community, especially when nearly all the right-leaning group bloggers no longer maintain their individual blogs with which to swap links and create a pictorial impression of clustering. The latter no doubt frequently link to each other, but those links simply wouldn’t be detected by Bruns et al as evidence of clustering/community because they’re internal to a single group blog.

However, in an even broader sense, what does the clustering phenomenon actually mean? It simply connotes blogs that habitually link and refer to each other. Is it reasonable to define a “better developed” community as one whose members are more inward-looking and self-referential, mostly swapping links between themselves? Conversely, is it reasonable to define blogs which link widely to both Australian and overseas blogs as exemplifying a less developed community? Surely these assumptions require questioning and analysis at the very least.

For example, we can also see a number of blogs of a generally left-leaning persuasion that are just as loosely clustered as Blair and other “righties”. Tim Lambert, Robert Merkel, Gary Sauer-Thompson and Christopher Sheil are examples. They all linked less often to local blogs and more often to overseas ones, not because of a looser sense of community than the tightly clustered blogs, but because the diverse range of their authors’ intellectual interests drew them towards other sources than purely local ones.

An adequate understanding of these and other blogosphere phenomena requires a much wider and more subtle range of qualitative approaches than this trio seems to have contemplated. Apart from anything else, their understanding would benefit enormously from sitting down with blogging veterans like Tim Blair (and Tim Dunlop, John Quiggin and others including me), but their prospects of getting a co-operative response are hardly enhanced by their current seemingly partisan, confrontationist stance. The ARC should expect more for its money.

About Ken Parish

Ken Parish is a legal academic at Charles Darwin University, with research areas in public law (constitutional and administrative law) and teaching & learning theory and practice. He has been a legal academic for almost 12 years. Before that he ran a legal practice in Darwin for 15 years and was a Member of the NT Legislative Assembly for almost 4 years in he early 1990s.
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75 Responses to Analysing the blogging analysts

  1. John Quiggin says:

    I’ll hop in to defend the “overwhelmingly left of centre” claim. I think nearly all the blogs you’ve classed as centrist in your sidebar, lean more to the left of centre than the right. That includes Club Troppo, by the way, though most of the others are more clearly left, partly because there are fewer authors. And many of the right-leaning blogs in your list are moribund or have moved away from political commentary.

  2. Jason Wilson says:

    Hi Ken.

    I’m one of the researchers whose work you’re talking about here. Just a matter of housekeeping first – there seems to be a little confusion in your post here about blogs – one, Gatewatching, is a group blog involving Barry, Axel and I, but you do seem to mix that up in the post with Axel’s personal blog, Snurblog – I think Tim’s post conflates them slightly, too.

    I’d direct you and your readers’ attention to my most recent response to Tim’s questions on Gatewatching, here. This makes clearer, I hope, the relationship between our ABC Opinion writing, our blogging, and the larger ARC project we’re involved in. I think Tim has managed to blur all of this pretty effectively, and I thought some clarification was necessary.

    You may well appreciate that it’s easy to be stung into hasty responses when you’ve been “Blaired” – I’ve tried to answer Tim’s objection in good faith in the post linked to above – I’ll leave you to be the judge of whether I’ve succeeded. It must be said that Tim did talk about our work without seeking to confirm anything about our project with us – I hope the post I’ve directed you to corrects some of that.

    Your own contribution here, which seeks to nuance our idea of left and right in the Australian blogosphere is incredibly useful, and your questions around notions of “community” etc. are fair ones. I won’t go too far into debating them here, but I’m happy to talk to you about it at some other stage. It should be stressed that we’ve never represented our opinion pieces or blog posts as final, formal research findings – stimulating this kind of response is one good reason for trying out our ideas in public.

    In fairness to Axel’s research on Australia’s blogosphere, it’s the innovative methodology and the data he turned up which I think is the most important thing of all, and I assume that he’s sincere in saying he’d welcome other interpretations and readings of the data. This quantitative approach is, of course, not the only approach we’ll be taking – we’re also looking at blogging from a number of other angles, but Axel’s interest in this approach has been rewarded by what I think is an interesting and provocative paper.

    I should add that the early part of our project has been practically-focussed – we spent the election campaign running youdecide2007, by which we hoped to get practical experience in the kinds of things that we’re researching, and also to try out some innovative methods of promoting online public affairs communities.

    We are planning to interview Australian bloggers, and I’ve already interviewed a number – including some you mention like Sen. Bartlett and Tim Dunlop – and I’ve extended an invitation in my post to Tim for an interview, and I’d like to take the same opportunity in respect of yourself at this time.

    I’d suggest finally, though, that your claim that the ARC is wasting its money is a little harsh. As I point out over on Gatewatching, the opinion stuff is done outside the bounds of the project proper, mainly because we’re so enthusiastic about being part of the conversation that’s being had about blogging in this country. Again, you’re entitled to your opinion, but perhaps a bit more information on the project would modify that opinion somewhat. I suppose it’s our fault that the scope of the project isn’t clearer – we’ll work on that, and hope that you’ll continue to monitor it with interest.

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  4. TimT says:

    Maybe, or maybe not. Take Rob Merkel, one of the smartest of the sidebar ‘centrists’ – he blogs at LP and happily bangs on about climate change with the rest of the lefties, but he also seems quite enthusiastic about nuclear energy (hardly orthodox left-wing position, that) and is generally quite strong on the need for sensible economic management. I think the Saint (Dog Fight at Bankstown) leans to the right. I read a couple of right-wing blogs where the bloggers don’t really worry about commenting a great deal on other’s blogs. Tex, for example

    Leon Bertrand

    (he comments and argues on Jeremy Sear’s blog, but I haven’t seen him elsewhere)

    And the observation deck bloggers

    The perceived left-wing tendency of the blogosphere may in fact be just that, perceived, and not real.

  5. John Quiggin says:

    I’m at least agnostic on nuclear power, though I don’t think it will be a goer in Australia for some time, and I’m in favor of sensible economic management. So unless you want to put me in the centre I don’t think those points change the judgement that Rob is at least centre-left. I agree that Saint is a little to the right of centre, but not enough to change the overall claim. And Tex is an example of my claim that lots of rightwing bloggers aren’t doing much political stuff these days.

    I’ll leave the linking issue alone for now.

  6. Jason Wilson says:

    See above for a trackback to my post where I answer this from within the research team – my comment seems to have been definitively swallowed.

    Anyhow – I’d liek to respond specifically to this from Ken:

    I estimate that the real numbers are approximately 70-45 in favour of the left, with another 35 blogs (including the rather large group of disparate individuals here at Club Troppo) not being clearly aligned either to left or right. Its fair enough to assert that the Australian blogosphere leans overall to the left, but its hardly overwhelming. Moreover, even a cursory look (let alone a careful academic one) at bloggings short history indicates that this ideological balance is a dynamic one which can be expected to shift again as world and local political circumstances change. I doubt that one can sensibly draw any meaningful sociological conclusions from it.

    Even without the questions John’s asking about political alignments, Ken, 70-45 is a 14/9 ratio – what would it need to be before it was overwhelming?

    You’re right in saying that the ideological balance is dynamic, but isn’t where it is in the cycle significant? It might be expected to shift again, but the only point we were trying to make – the one that Tim took such exception to – was that it could be that a preponderance of left-wing blogs now is as a result of a preponderance of conservative opinion in the MSM during the late Howard era. This is the idea that we floated that started Tim off, but how unreasonable does it sound to other people?

  7. Ken Parish says:

    Hi Jason

    I looked for your comment but couldn’t find it even in the spam. Buggered if I know what’s happened to it but those things occur sometimes.

    On your own post responding to this one, I don’t have anything specific to raise. I’d be happy to sit down with you at some appropriate time. I’ll be in Sydney and Melbourne at various times over the next few months on CDU business.

    BTW I didn’t suggest that the ARC was wasting its money, rather that it had a right to expect more. I don’t resile from that comment. I know from personal experience that Tim B can be a prickly customer. In some respects that’s his “schtick”. However, on this occasion I can see and identify with some of the elements of your posts that got his back up (quite genuinely, I suspect). Hopefully it isn’t too late to mend fences with Tim (and others who have also no doubt been rendered deeply suspicious of your motives).

    I really hope you can because, as I said in the primary post, there are many issues about the blogosphere that are crying out for serious academic research. It’s a fascinating and under-explored phenomenon that most people still seem to see (erroneously) as a temporary and frivolous one.

    Finally, I don’t see a 14/9 ratio as “overwhelming” (and in fact it’s almost exactly 50/50 left/non-left if you accept ML’s classificatory assessment) but perhaps that’s a semantic issue in part. I’d be interested to see a corrected cluster graph that eliminates 2 of the 3 manifestations of Troppo, and the double counting of the LP individual blogs (and other moribund ones like Chris Sheil’s Back Pages, and which also takes account of the greater group centralisation of the right blogosphere that I’ve canvassed. I think that the clustering phenomenon your graph shows would be much less marked but still present. That’s where qualitative methods would come in, to explore the range of reasons why some bloggers (including left-leaning ones like Lambert etc) choose to “live” in a global community milieu while others (including me until quite recently) overwhelmingly reference and interact with local Australian blogs. I doubt that it will tell you much about “community” in a traditional sense, but it might tell you a lot of other things that are much more useful in the long run. For example, you point out repeatedly that there are significant differences between the way the US blogosphere and Australia’s have developed. Clearly that’s true, but it’s the reasons for it that make it interesting. They are unlikely to be capable of being teased out by purely quantitative methods.

  8. Jason Wilson says:

    Hi again, Ken.

    I, too, most certainly hope that it’s not too late to mend fences! Tim seems to have taken my clarifications in good part, so there’s some room for optimism there.

    I can assure you that our chief motivation is really actually to understand the importance of the blogosphere in the shifts that are happening in the consumption and production of news. I think that if you look over our ABC Opinion columns, and also the youdecide2007 stuff, what you’ll see is a range of contributions that are lot more even-handed, poltically speaking, than they might have been presented as being over the course of this debate. They’re all premised on the idea that this is not a frviolous or fleeting phenomenon. The only people we really consistently have a go at is probably The Australian!

    Tim had a bit of fun at Axel’s expense, but again, in his work, across a number of books and publications, I think you’ll see an abiding concern with trying to understand these shifts, and very little concern with pushing any narrow political agenda. I’m sure that he’ll consider your criticisms of the quantitative work when he revisits the data.

    You’re right about the need for qualitative stuff, too, and we are doing that – hence the interviews, and the “participant-observer”-style work on the practical projects. And of course you have to consider qualitative readings of blogs in order to make sense of quantitative data anyway… We’re still in an early phase, and your comments and your preparedness to consider an interview are both positive developments.

    And once again, the fact that we’re testing hypotheses for explaining the situation as it strikes us, and testing them in public, does not mean that these are our formal results. If anything, what we’re learning about most of all is the experiential dimension of blogging – staking out an opinion, copping criticism, fighting your corner, and often enough having to concede a point in public. That’s another reason that this whole exchange has been so interesting.

  9. Graham says:

    Two brief observations:-

    First, notwithstanding many references to “centre”,”left of centre” etc I failed to find what criteria was being applied in the making of these “blogger” assessments.

    Second,the left/right continuum has probably been around since the French Revolution but has become less and less useful as a classifacatory tool in contemporary political debates. Many significant issues today cannot be analysed using the blunt shorthand of left/right terminology. Ideology is of course not dead but analysis needs to be conducted with much greater complexity and subtlty than appears to be the case with this post


  10. saint says:

    “I agree that Saint is a little to the right of centre”

    But but, Tim Blair has called me a leftist! And I voted below the line thank you very much.

    No frigging wonder I’m in a straitjacket ;-)

  11. What Graham said. The right-left classification is simply misleading and it delays the time when the classical liberal agenda is addressed in its own terms by critics from the left and the non-left. That will be the day!!

    BTW has someone out there read “Us and Them” eds Sawer and Hindess, and especially the chapter by Hindess which I have criticised. I want to take a fresh look because he claims I have misread his paper and I am keen to fix this up and withdraw any criticism that is invalid.

  12. Fred Argy says:

    Ken thanks for that interesting piece. But I agree with Graham that the terms “left” and “Right” need clearer definition. I think the benchmark test should be the role of governments relative to individual freedom.

    On this test, some people (like me for example) are all over the place. They are (a) very liberal on personal morality issues (little or no government interference on sexual preferences, what people can read or view, abortions etc.)
    (b) opposed to a big role for governments in markets and resource allocation (where competitive forces prevail) and
    (c) sceptical of passive welfare as a dominant instrument of redistribution.

    Yet these same people may be very much in favour of an active role for governments in (a) levelling opportunities (health, education, employment, housing, public transport etc.) (e) ensuring that economic reforms are sensitive to their incremental distribution effects and (f) in protecting the environment. And for the most part, they are agnostic on most foreign policy issues (treat each case such as Hicks on its merit).

    I don’t think one can classify such people as necessarily left or right and I think it applies to many bloggers I read. Nor are they really ‘centrists’ as they have strong views on many issues. It is all confusing but fascinating.

  13. Ken Parish says:

    I entirely agree with the point that left-right is a simplistic and therefore misleading (and in many respects pointless) dichotomy. Moreover, it’s a dichotomy that led Jonathon Haidt down a blind alley in his musings about conservatives and morality, undermining the receptio of his otherwise fascinating research about the cognitive bases of moral decision-making.

    Here too Bruns et al have succumbed to framing the debate in terms of the dichotomy and I’ve joined issue on those terms and exacerbated the problem. There are lots of fascinating phenomena in the blogosphere needing careful research (as I suggested in my comments to Jason), but fuelling the left-right divide isn’t among them.

  14. Patrick says:

    Back ‘on point’ :

    the only point we were trying to make – the one that Tim took such exception to – was that it could be that a preponderance of left-wing blogs now is as a result of a preponderance of conservative opinion in the MSM during the late Howard era. This is the idea that we floated that started Tim off, but how unreasonable does it sound to other people?

    Surely this sounds like a complete furphy to everyone on this blog?

    It only takes about six months of reading blogs to realise that:

    the left bemoan right-wing media bias,
    the right bemoans left-wing media bias, and
    everyone agrees that a lot of journalism is pure crap.

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  16. Laura says:

    Yes, it sounds a furphy to me Patrick. If the ‘preponderance’ of ‘left-leaning’ blogs is real (and scare quotes are really necessary here) then it could just as easily be a sort of snowballing of things that happened during the leadup to the 2004 election.

    I’m afraid I also have to register the usual protest against excessively narrow definitions of what constitutes a political blog or what counts as a post on a political topic. But I’m not going to bother arguing about it, because it’s not my research that’s being hopelessly skewed as a consequence :)

  17. Jacques Chester says:

    If we’re going to talk about quantitative methods, it’s time to summon The Two Andrews to the debate. Maybe between them and the LDP mob they could whip up a blogger spectrum test using ye olde political diamond.

    In the meantime this is all giving me flashbacks to Slashdot and Kuro5hin circa 2000, so I’ve created a “metablogging” category for those wishing to join the fray.

  18. Bring Back CL's blog says:

    Sant is in a straighjacket. That would be mad.

    I thought he was prayerie bound!!

  19. Legal Eagle says:

    I concur with those above who have questioned the Left/Right divide. Personally, in some respects I lean one way or the other depending on the issue. I’ve had to make up my very own wing.

    P.S. Patrick’s comments made me laugh. At least we all agree on something. I just hate badly reasoned arguments, whether they’re left or right wing. There’s an awful lot of rubbish in the MSM.

  20. The Doctor says:

    So Ken did you count messages to the blogs, or separate contributors?

  21. Ken Parish says:

    “So Ken did you count messages to the blogs, or separate contributors?”

    I don’t understand what you mean. I added up the comments on the last 10 posts of each named blog, then divided by 10 to get an average number of comments per post.

  22. Niall says:

    This is just more of the usual same from Blair. If we’re to look at statistics, as to whose blog get’s the most comments or who has the more external links, or which blog author shave’s their arsehole and who doesn’t…..perhaps note should be taken of the fact that Blair’s supposed popularity rests primarily among American conservatives and not Australians. Popularity is in the ideology of the reader and blogging is a pure and simple popularity contest. Perhaps the greatest of all popularity contests, given the rampant one-upmanship which seems to pervade the ‘sphere.

    On the left -v- right dichotomy, I’m in total agreement with Graham and other commenters that it’s a complete and utter nonsense to claim one over the other in percentage terms. Firstly, there is no hard data, and secondly, just who decides what is ‘left’ and what is ‘right’? More amusingly to me…..what the fuck is ‘centre’?

    So, some academics scunged a grant to study citizen journalism/blogging/literary masturbation (collectively interchangable in most cases). Big fat hairy deal! That fact that Blair is first out of the blocks in the whinging stakes only leads me to believe that he’s probably miffed because he didn’t think of the idea first.

  23. Jacques Chester says:


    I think the question was whether you counted comments or commentators. My reading is the former.

  24. Lyn says:

    No way can the average number of comments tell you anything reliable about the popularity or sense of community at a blog. Consider how often a long thread turns out to be a handful of people having a brawl over something. How many of Tim Blair’s commenters leave multiple, single sentence comments? All blogs, and sometimes the whole blogosphere, go through quiet periods.

    Links alone are misleading for similar reasons.

    There’s further confusion when what could nominally be refered to as either a left or right leaning blog posts an entry that attracts a lot of comment from the opposite side of the political fence.

  25. saint says:

    Didn’t one of the earlier incarnations of Tim’s blog mention RWDB…now dropped? Too lazy to check. In any case yes, get rid of the left-right nomenclature, except for the loonies on the extremes/those who wish to self-identify as such. Because just about everyone has.

    I also recall that when I started blogging (about 4 1/2 years ago), certain bloggers got a leg up by (international) friends and colleagues. Sure, one must maintain the readership once you get it, but who knows what sort of talent out there was missed because of a lack of self-promotion.

  26. Ken Parish says:

    I talked about the left-right dichotomy because that’s the way Bruns et al framed their observations. Similarly I analysed the claims about Daily Kos, LGF and huge audiences again because that’s how Bruns et al framed the argument.

    Moreover, although one or both may deny it, both Tim Blair and Mark Bahnisch appear to have a strong interest in gaining a very large audience, and pursue strategies aimed at that objective. Both regularly boast about their page read numbers. I had such aspirations when I first started blogging, but soon discovered that a large and fractious audience was more trouble than it was worth. Moreover, the best way of maintaining a large audience is to strike a clear ideological/tribal stance, because we humans are tribal creatures who mostly feel more comfortable mixing with like-minded people, and again that’s something I’m not interested in doing. Blair and LP pursue a tribal strategy (although Mark at least would no doubt deny it). Thus, although the left-right dichotomy is simplistic, it’s one with undeniable emotive/tribal resonances, and bloggers wanting to build large audiences do in fact exploit it.

    In dealing with the Bruns/Blair blue, I had several choices of approach:

    (1) Ignore the discussion completely;
    (2) Engage with it on its own terms;
    (3) Engage with it on its own terms and also point out that they were (at least in part) misconceived;
    (4) Respond and say it was all garbage and then talk about what I thought was important.

    I chose option 3, and others have added additional points where they think the focus of discussion was wrong/unhelpful or deficient. With a bit of luck Jason et al will find our various viewpoints helpful to their research, which I think should be encouraged and assisted (however much some may adopt a cynical stance towards it).

  27. Tony T. says:

    I’m with Mr Quiggle.

    Flute (Centrist) and Barista (Arts) are rampant lefties.

    But FXHolden is a rampant fascist hippy.

  28. Ken Parish says:

    Youre just narky because I demoted you from Right Wing Death Beast to moderate right.

  29. Tony T. says:

    That’s because my large and fractious audience have become fractious about cricket.

    As far as state politics are concerned, Vic has a good Melbourne Grammar boy at the head of their secretive, pro-business, conservative government, so that’s good. No complaints. Although it won’t be long before ex-teacher Brumby caves to the teachers union and gives us… I mean, the teachers what they want.

    And federally, when Labor have been in power for a while the righties will have lots to complain about, just like when the Coalition was in power and the lefties had lots to complain about.

    It can’t be long until everyone realises Rudd is a massive, but very cunning, fraud.

  30. mmm … I’d probably agree with John Quiggan that some 9most) of the Centris blogs lean slightly to the left.

    However, it seems to me that Centrist is a range, and on a political scale might range from -1 (left) to +1 (right), and I think most would fit within this definition.

    Of 3 “political scale tests” for Aus politics, I came out at Centre, centre-left, and centre-right. As with any “test” or survey, it is the questins that determine the result. For what it’s worth, I think I fit in the Centre of politics, and show some conservative views and some social views based strongly on principles of social justice.

    I hope my blog is rather like the boy who cried “The emporer has no clothes” – a voice that cuts through the “spin” crafted for politicians who seek to serve themselves.

    The Analyst

  31. mmm … I’d probably agree with John Quiggan that some 9most) of the Centris blogs lean slightly to the left.

    However, it seems to me that Centrist is a range, and on a political scale might range from -1 (left) to +1 (right), and I think most would fit within this definition.

    Of 3 “political scale tests” for Aus politics, I came out at Centre, centre-left, and centre-right. As with any “test” or survey, it is the questins that determine the result. For what it’s worth, I think I fit in the Centre of politics, and show some conservative views and some social views based strongly on principles of social justice.

    I hope my blog is rather like the boy who cried “The emporer has no clothes” – a voice that cuts through the “spin” crafted for politicians who seek to serve themselves.

    The Analyst

  32. As with all such research, the need to categorise and neatly explain everything in a single analysis risks oversimplifying or mythologising. But it’s still a topic very much worth researching – even with a government grant – but I hope they remember unclear results can be more accurate than a single neat theory of everything.

    The loose categorising of people into left or right irritates the hell out of me, but in the absence of a better shorthand way of categorising people I can see why it still keeps being used. Indeed, I still use it myself sometimes even though it irritates the hell out of me. Despite its limitations, it still retains some loose value. The main thing that annoys me about it is the straightjacket it seeks to place around people – ie. that people who are ‘left’ are all assumed to believe one set of things and people who are ‘right’ believe another set, thus leaving no scope for assessing each issue on its merits and being used to automatically dismiss a view or person.

    I’m not sure of the value of meausuring comments or commenters. I suppose it might have some loose indicative value. But without being too harsh on some of the people who are kind enough to leave comments on my blog, sometimes I find the comments threads on my site so full of incoherent or sometimes just plain juvenile and nasty dribble that it makes me want to switch off comments all together (although no doubt some would say the same of my posts which the comments are ‘responding’ to). I certainly don’t necessarily feel much of a sense of a community with some of my most regular commenters, so I’m not sure its a terribly helpful way of measuring this. Having said that, I don’t particular want a bunch of comments that just agree with me and tell me I’m brilliant (although one or two every now and then would be nice) – I’d rather have a few comments that provoke thought and give me some fresh insights than 100 comments flinging standard issue insults at the so-called ‘right’ or ‘left’ (which is bringing me back to my previous paragraph, so I should stop here before I start imitating the commenters I’m complaining about).

  33. Mr Parish – I claim to be misrepresented by that arch Kanganite the Hon Member for Teaching, Sport and Sport, Mr Tony T. He’s Country Member.

    I am no Fascist with a capital N neither am I a small f fascist or even a brownshirt. Although I do tend to favour knee high leather boots, monocles and comb overs my temper is democratic and I have the utmost forebearance when it comes to the underclasses and their employers.

    As to rampant. I’m afraid that Tony T is only casting nasturtiums. I’m only rampant in the privacy of my bedroom, never in public. Except for the time Sister Mary Potential caught me down at the state school toilets.

    Now to the biggest insult of all, and I suggest you suspend him from the house for this, I wish to state categorically – I am not a hippy, I have no desire to be a hippy, I have no hippy tendencies and I did not, and am not currently seeking, seek hippy re-assignment surgery.

  34. Ken Parish says:

    There there Francis. Tony has developed a tendency to colourful hyperbole from listening to an excess of stumpcam conversations at the cricket. You should consider yourself fortunate he didn’t call you a monkey in Hindi. I’m sure he merely meant that you were a middle aged chap of tastefully dissolute appearance and occasional authoritarian demeanour with a fondness for intoxicating substances. You see? Perfectly harmless and inoffensive. Even our comment box abuse here at Troppo is very civil.

  35. Jason Wilson says:

    Hi all. I’ve been following this thread with great interest – thanks for the attention to our work. I feel like I need to stress again that the pieces that occasioned Tim’s criticisms (and which are part of what Ken commented on) are not formal research pieces, but Opinion pieces for ABC Online. If they sometimes seem simplistic, that’s because they are to an extent – we work within an 800 word or so limit. Limited room for nuance, there, and no hope of encompassing the complexity of the Australian blogosphere in any particular piece. Still, if they occasion this kind of discussion, I guess they’re more than worth it. I also know that we’ve caused ABC Online readers to check out blogs that they may not otherwise have read.

    On the left-right stuff, we can put the vocabulary aside for the moment and consider this. Axel’s research with the tracker software did show one thing – that at least on the Hicks issue (only ever presented as a case study) – there were some blogs that were densely interconnected in terms of referrals. Some prominent blogs were far more likely to discuss Hicks than others, and some were more likely to refer to other blogs’ discussions of Hicks than others. Axel tried to explain this in terms of left-right, and that’s one, easy way of framing it, but he concedes that the data is available for other interpretations. It’s difficult to argue with the raw data, but we certainly can talk about how we read it.

    Check out this visualisation.

    The densely interlinked cluster of blogs on the lower left – is it fair enough to describe them as “left wing”? If not, what’s another way of thinking about their common clear preparedness to discuss the issue (relative to other, prominent blogs) and their propensity to link to one another in these discussions? Is it fair enough to say that they have a range of political opinions in common?

    Ken’s right – this is precisely where qualitative work comes into play. Reading the posts, thinking about the contexts of the links, and thinking about the ways in which this conversation developed from the point of view of what was written are obviously important. But in fairness, I think Axel was testing out methods quantifying and visualising the conversations that take place across the blogosphere, not trying to give final answers about who sits where on the political spectrum. It’s not a political quiz, and the left-right stuff is offered in the paper as one explanation for the data showing a density of links between some blogs, and a greater likelihood of certain bloggers discussing the issue at length.

    And doesn’t this methodology allow us to frame these questions about the blogosphere in new and interesting ways? Doesn’t it tell us something new about the relationships between all of these sites in relation to a prominent political issue?

  36. Jacques Chester says:


    This work reminds me a bit of the process of factor analysis which lead (in part) to the Five Factor Model (FFM) of personality. What’s important about the development of the FFM was that it was the first investigation into personality traits that did not start from theory. It looked for concurrencies and clusters amongst test results; they clustered along five axes.

    What I’m driving at is this: what’s your null hypothesis? It might well be that the cluster of blogs on any particular keyword is purely random. So it wouldn’t be enough to pick one keyword and settle the matter there, you’d need a large sample size — possibly a few hundred. I imagine you could get candidate words by sorting total word appearances on a monthly basis from the major papers or something like that.

    After you have applied the test over several hundred cases you will start to see correlations popping up all over the place — that blog A often links to B which rarely links to C. And so on. The clusters, if there are any, will become a lot clearer, and in particular you can start to pull out numbers which disprove the null hypothesis.

    Note that I am suggesting that you don’t classify the blogs yourself. I am saying that you should let the test do it for you in a blind fashion. Otherwise you run into the troubles which this thread has outlined.

    Another approach occurs to me, which is to use naive bayesian classification to sort these things out. Indeed you could feed the former set of tests into the later in order to classify new blogs as they come to hand.

    In short, what you guys need is a statistician with a bent for data mining. I’m afraid it’s not me.

  37. Patrick says:

    re that diagram, I think that whether blogs are .net, .com or or .anything else just might be totally irrelevant to any point you might possibly be trying to make.

    Also there is the type of linking. Tim Blair links to Tracee Hutchinson (admittedly not a blog) all the time, and Chris Sheils as often as he can, for example – which hardly makes the two of them a community!

  38. Ken Parish says:


    Unless I’m completely misunderstanding the research, they didn’t just run a keyword search for “David Hicks”, although that might well have been the first step. They checked that the posts really were about David Hicks and identified that these posts linked to other posts about David Hicks, then plotting the linkages. Thus I don’t think the method is subject to the objection you raise. You don’t link to another post on the same subject by chance.

    Patrick’s point, however, has more potential relevance. There’s no mention in the paper (that I saw) of seeking to contextualise the links (e.g. as satirical or supportive). However, given my own knowledge of the political orientations of the tightly clustered blogs (as opposed to most of the loosely clustered ones towards the right), it’s unlikely that the links between the clustered blogs were satirical in nature, wheres the few links from Blair etc almost certainly were. You would certainly need to undertake such an analysis to reach useful conclusions, as Jason acknowledges in his most recent comment.

    A possibly larger factor is that Bruns et al have picked an issue that is “owned” by “the left” (for want of a more sophisticated classificatory system). You would expect to see more posts and more links between bloggers who could be expected to be strongly interested in that issue than between those for whom it is mostly an “irritant” issue only discussed reactively. If you chose an issue “owned” by “the right” (e.g. the Jyllands Posten cartoons of Mohammed), I suspect you would see a very different clustering pattern. The clustering may well have more to do with the nature of the issue than the nature and extent of community.

    Posts about nuclear energy might be an interesting issue to plot, It’s an issue that is “owned” by the right in the sense that Howard promoted it as a solution to global warming not involving Kyoto or carbon taxes etc, and it aligns generally with widespread right scepticism about global warming. OTO it’s an issue “owned” by the left in that people on the left have mostly always tended to be passionately opposed to nuclear energy. You also have at least one anomalous entrant in this particular field. Robert Merkel is a blogger usually identified as leftish, but who takes a fairly strongly pro-nuclear stance. It would be interesting to see whether Robert’s blog appeared as tightly clustered with right-leaning blogs on that particular issue. That would tend to confirm that the patterns are issue-based rather than community-based in any general sense. Similarly, I recall that I used to get quite a lot of links from “right” blogs on the Iraq issue in the early days when I supported the intervention, even though on other issues I would not have been seen as evidently right-leaning (nor, for that matter, clearly left-leaning). My blog would probably show as clustered with Blair et al on that issue if patterns were plotted at that time.

    It’s interesting, but I’m not at all sure that the plotting exercise tells you much of great value without engaging in the qualitative contextualisation that Jason has acknowledged is needed.

  39. Laura says:

    Yes, what is that .com .net business? Everyone knows that having your own domain is supposed to be a sign that you mean serious business, but everyone also knows that if you host on Blogger you have no worries with service interruptions.

    I’m still kinda puzzled about the terminology.
    “On the left-right stuff, we can put the vocabulary aside for the moment…Axel tried to explain this in terms of left-right….The densely interlinked cluster of blogs on the lower left – is it fair enough to describe them as left wing?….its not a political quiz, and the left-right stuff is offered in the paper as one explanation for the data”

    followed by

    “doesnt this methodology allow us to frame these questions about the blogosphere in new and interesting ways?”


    I’ve been reading most of the blogs in the crowded part of the chart for three or four years. (the ones whose names I can decipher, anyway.) It’s no news to me (nor I should imagine is it news to any other denizen of this version of the Australian blogosphere – there are other versions, of course) that they link to each other in blogrolls and in posts, subscribe to each others’ feeds, comment on each others’ posts. Can this congregating be explained as an expression of leftist solidarity?

    Hell, no. Really. Gentlemen.

    There are heaps of ‘lefty’ bloggers around who don’t link much and who don’t get many links. Many of them are just as readable as the ones on the chart. If dense interlinking is to be satisfactorily explained by the bloggers’ political tendencies then why are some lefty blogs not part of the linky network? I see that technorati has been asked to show blogs with some authority, which technorati measures by links, since it has that type of mind. Can Technorati also explain why some blogs don’t get into the linking business? And does this compromise their leftiness?

    I need to be convinced that linking patterns reflect anything at all besides linking patterns. Specifically I need it explained to me how a higher link ratio equates to that infinitely slippery and intangible concept, ‘influence’

  40. Tony T. says:

    Point of order.

    You must have misheard me, I said happy. The rest was taken out of context.

  41. Laura says:

    And what happens to blog posts which are clearly addressing a current affairs topic but do so slantwise, without using the obvious keywords – viz this post responding to events following the death of Heath Ledger:

  42. Ken Parish says:

    There is no point of order. The Honourable Member will cease disrupting the House with irrelevant interjections and resume his seat. Otherwise the sergeant at arms may administer a penalty at least as serious as the one they gave Harbhajan Singh. And we can all see how effectively that little twerp’s been deterred.

  43. Ken Parish says:


    #41 is essentially the point I made earlier – that plotting links doesn’t necessarily tell you much without evaluating and contextualising them.

    On your point about “influence”, I think number of links is likely to be at least relevant to that concept (to the extent it’s measurable). You generally find a site for the first time either by following a link from another site or by a Google search (which uses number and “quality” of links to rank the site by reference to your search query). You’re unlikely to be influenced by someone’s words on the Internet unless you actually read them, and you’re much more likely to read them if they’re written on a site/blog that is heavily linked.

    That said, the fact that Google, Technorati etc have chosen to construct the architecture of Internet searching by means of link patterns/volume to a large extent creates a self-fulfilling prophecy. Traffic is driven towards sites that court and achieve heavy interlinking activity, irrespective of whether the content is of a nature that the person driven to that site will actually find interesting when they get there. I might visit (say) Tim Blair or Mark Steyn once becaue they’re high up a Google search on an issue that interests me, but if I discover that they have nothing useful to tell me I probably won’t visit again. However, there are so many casual disengaged web surfers out there compared with the relatively small group of regular blog readers, that one-off visitors may well be sufficient to maintain high page read stats. OTO bloggers like Blari clearly DO have a large and loyal regular readership/community.

    Also, just plotting links (even if you do contextualise and evaluate them qualitatively) leaves out two whole critical dimensions of the conversation/community, namely comment box conversation and distribution of RSS subscriptions. Increasingly we’ve found here at Troppo that a lot of our readers access us via RSS feeds rather than by physically surfing to the site. They only turn up “physically” at the site if they decide to comment on a particular post, to which they’ve been alerted by receiving RSS notification. I wonder what patterns would be found if you plotted the number and range of RSS feed subscriptions from Australian blogs (though how you could easily do so is another question), or the patterns of comment box activity. In many ways, comment box activity and feeds are much more central to the notion of “community” as it actually operates in the contemporary blogosphere than the relatively crude measure of linking activity. It’s just that linking activity is very easy to plot because you can access Google and other search engine data.

    In other words, it may well be that the only real significance of linking these days is that it drives search engine placment which maximises the chances that a potential reader will find a blog in the first place. However, once found, the social interaction and building of community thereafter have little to do with links and everything to do with the architecture of feeds and comment box interactions. My own subjective impression is that blogs (even those of broadly similar ideological orientation) tend to link to each other much less frequently nowadays than was the case when I first started blogging in 2002, largley because the conversation is driven by RSS subscription rather than linking.

    Finally, your reference to “leftist solidarity” in #39 illustrates the negative consequences of the heavy concentration on the left-right dichotomy in both Bruns et al’s academic pieces and their newspaper and blog posts. They seem to have started out looking at issues surrounding the formation of “communities” in cyberspace, which I agree is a fascinating subject about which there is much to learn, but been sidetracked by excessive framing of the conversation in simplistic left-right terms, then been completely derailed by entering into the partisan sledging themselves!

    Part of the problem is that the left-right dichotomy does indeed capture part of the social and political dynamic of political blogging, but in doing so it also tends to predetermine conclusions and blind one to other and possibly more interesting dimensions.

  44. Tony T. says:

    The little twerp cracks me up.

    The left right dichotomy was perpetuated when the lefty blogs started rabbiting on, some with a performance-enhanced level of dudgeon, about the Rudd cardboard cutout as if this was the greatest sin in the history of parliamentary discourse.

    People: it was funny. Simple as that. If the stunt was pulled by one of the Labor funsters, you would have been LOLing and ROLFing all over each other in your attempts to say so.

  45. Laura says:

    Thanks Ken.

    When I remember to look at my blog’s sitemeter it’s clear that most of the drop-in visitors and the random links from strangers are actually there for the photographs only – googlers looking for a photo to illustrate their own writings, or photo links called up because the googlers found something and hotlinked it.

    When I had posting privileges at LP it was fairly clear that a lot of the site traffic there was related to the images.

    I wonder if this means that heavily illustrated sites get more random link action of the kind that’s fairly meaningless but nevertheless boosts search engine rankings?

  46. Ken Parish says:

    “I wonder if this means that heavily illustrated sites get more random link action of the kind thats fairly meaningless but nevertheless boosts search engine rankings?”

    I don’t know. I’ve started using lots of images here at troppo over the last year or so, simply because I like doing it and think it adds an interesting extra dimension to the reader experience (especially some of the videos embedded in Missing Link posts). Whether this boosts the hit count I have no idea. Jacques may have some observations, because he monitors those sorts of things. I never look at our page read stats, referrer logs or anything else.

    I like writing about topics that interest me and discussing them with people who think about and respond to them constructively. If I achieve that I don’t care whether we have 500 readers or 500,000. In fact my experience suggests that having 500,000 readers (not that I ever have) is inimical to constructive discussion, because you inevitably then get a high proportion of trolls and general dickheads who derail the conversation and drive away other people who you’d like to discuss things with but who can’t be bothered having their time wasted by wading through the idiot comments or dealing with an unpleasant aggressive atmosphere. OTO if you’re too aggressively restrictive, some people who you’d like to discuss things with won’t bother to come because they think your site is excessively prescriptive and intolerant of dissent. Troppo has sometimes suffered from that perception, even though it’s an entirely erroneous perception and we’ve only ever banned abusive trolls and deleted ad hominem abuse. That leads to another fascinating subject for academic analysis: what effect do differing comment box mediation policies have on the volume and quality of comment box interaction? What does that mean for the development of “community”, both in the short and longer term?

  47. Tony T. says:

    I get 100 hits a day looking for this. (Bit rude.)

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  49. Jason Wilson says:

    Hi folks. I have written a long response – mostly to points from Ken and Laura – over on our blog. I was gonna post it here but it felt a bit rude taking up so much troppo space. I’ll look for responses here – not trying to steal traffic!

    Link here.

  50. I don’t really want to buy into this for a host of reasons, though it’s an interesting discussion. But I want to correct the claim that “a lot” of LP’s traffic is generated by searching for images. The stats package we previously used separated out hits from crawlers and other bots and also hits from google images from other traffic. The only time there was really a substantial proportion of the traffic going to images as such was when a photo of Segolene Royale in a bikini was featured – a lot of hits coincident with the mention in the MSM about that. Certainly any claims I ever made about traffic were about traffic with what could obviously be excluded subtracted.

    And contrary to Ken’s point up the thread, it’s been a long time since I made any claim about traffic at all. Put it down to the naivete of previously being 30 something and a callow youth. We don’t have a stats package of any sort installed now, so I wouldn’t have a clue what our stats are.

  51. Patrick says:

    Ah, so that’s why LP has a ranking above 1,000,000! Note that Blair’s site is almost image-free.


  52. No, it’s not, as I previously explained, Patrick!

    Anyway, part of my shift in terms of thinking stats stoushes are meaningful relates to the “my hits are bigger than your hits” alpha male schtick which seems to cluster around any such discussion. To the degree that I’ve participated in that in the past, I am truly regretful!

    Anyway, will leave youse to it.

  53. Patrick says:

    Sorry I hadn’t refreshed. I still think it is funny and the defensiveness of your response even funnier :)

    But I will take your apparent conversion in good faith.

  54. Niall says:

    Personally, I think KP and the good Senator summed up the realities quite well. It’s all basically a lot of horse patooties with some mildly amusing insult value for those so minded. What’s the deal with hit counts and comments logged anyway? Do people seriously write in the fervent hope they’ll be read? There must be a shitload of depressed, rejected bloggers in the world, if that’s the case.

  55. Laura says:

    Niall – help for depressed bloggers –

    Mark – you yourself emailed to the LP collective (7/12/07) that 16.4% of hits were coming from Google Images. I don’t care either way but you’re implying I’m making it up.

  56. Well, frankly, Laura, I’m not overwhelmingly happy with your willingness to discuss information and emails which in my view are private, nor for your effectively dragging me into a discussion which I didn’t want to participate in. But since you raise it, what I was referring to in that email was “hits” in total – including those from google crawlers and image searchers. I’ve already said that any claims I made about traffic I ever made (and I don’t intend to make any again, as I said) substracted such traffic from the quantum.

    Perhaps I didn’t make that as clear as I could in a private email which wasn’t intended to be discussed publicly.

    The problem LP had at one stage was that a lot of bandwidth – which is a different thing from hits – was being taken up by images – which are big files and place extra stress on the server. My recollection (and I’m not 100% clear about this, and I don’t have time to check because I have to give a lecture in half an hour) is that we installed a script which would prevent access from google image searches and crawlers to free up more server resources.

    As to the general discussion, I suspect a lot of what is going on is a sort of “practitioner” suspicion of academic research into their “patch”. To the degree that’s the case, I think people might reflect on that. In my view, Jason has shown exemplary courtesy – and also academic accountability – in responding to criticisms and questions. I look forward to the results of the research project.

    Now I’m out of here.

  57. C.L. says:

    #45 I used to find the same thing at SiteMeter. A lot of traffic was via Google images. One of them used to be via-a-vis a picture of an ugly old John Henry Cardinal Newman. I have Mark to thank for that, as he posted it as a portrait of Currency Lad!

    Do people seriously write in the fervent hope theyll be read?

    Er yes, Niall. Yes they do.

  58. Jacques Chester says:

    I dont know. Ive started using lots of images here at troppo over the last year or so, simply because I like doing it and think it adds an interesting extra dimension to the reader experience (especially some of the videos embedded in Missing Link posts). Whether this boosts the hit count I have no idea. Jacques may have some observations, because he monitors those sorts of things. I never look at our page read stats, referrer logs or anything else.

    We get a steady flow of traffic from people looking for “female masturbation”, as it was mentioned in a Missing Link early last year. There’s also a steady flow of people who link an image we have of George W Bush in front of the infamous “Missing Accomplished” sign which I attached to one of my many posts about server stuff.

    A few weeks ago we got a massive surge when a picture of Katherine Heigl we have started popping up on MSN images if you searched for “Elisha Gray”. Naturally enough most people, given a choice between looking at long dead telephone engineers and a nubile young pretty, choose the pretty.

    On the old server we had a lot of problems with search engine crawlers; Yahoo’s slurp in particular is very poorly behaved. So for a while we blocked all search engines. These days the XML-Sitemap plugin keeps things sane, though Yahoo still turn over the whole archive every few weeks.

    When I’m not cocking up, the new server has made life very easy. It’s powerful enough to serve about 100 sites of our magnitude, I reckon.

  59. Jacques Chester says:

    Of course this sort of counting links research will become much easier if the SIOC project has its way.

  60. saint says:

    I’d query any study using Technorati to assess links – Technorati has been notoriously unreliable for ages.

    Some time ago, I compared hits between sitemeter and typepad stats for my blog. Significant difference so I just ignore. Also with RSS feeds these days, and people switching RSS readers without cleaning up the old stuff, difficult to work out your regular readers.

    I get a fair share of random hits from people looking for images (and they come in clusters, for things like Guggenheim Bilbao, which makes me think school projects).

    But my random google/search engine hits are consistently high for ‘dog fight’ (heh heh), ‘sigheh’ (interesting that) and any one of the list of televangelist shysters in my Google god trilogy (thank you Sen. Bartlett; you may have done more than a few people a community service).

    Oh and Lucas Neill’s girlfriend.

  61. harry says:

    “Well, frankly, Laura, Im not overwhelmingly happy with your willingness to discuss information and emails which in my view are private,”

    # Mark is running for parliament? Or is he on the board of a company that’s just been rumbled for doing something immoral?

    “nor for your effectively dragging me into a discussion which I didnt want to participate in. But since you raise it,…”

    # Twist his arm, Laura – go on.

  62. Niall says:


    Sad, CL…….very, very sad.

  63. C.L. says:

    Sad was that picture of you at your old blog, Niall – fat, hairy, bespectacled and apparently naked. Remember that? Attracted somebody, though, as I seem to recall you later “married” a lesbian who hated men.

  64. C.L. says:

    My guess is she wasn’t Vietnamese.

  65. Ken Parish says:

    Oh come on CL. Niall’s comment wasn’t really ad hominem, but yours certainly are. I’m sure Cardinal Newman wouldn’t have been impressed.

  66. Jason Soon says:

    #63 – yowza!

  67. Jc says:

    Don’t mean to get involved this angry little thread, seeing I hate my name associated with any stoushes and all….

    But can we get a link to those pic Cl is referring to. Honestly my curiosity is just killing man. Sorry, but I couldn’t help myself asking.

  68. NPOV says:

    Surely determining how many are to the left, right and centre depends on where you define the “center”? Also, the right is very much split into genuinely conservative (Bolt/Blair), and libertarian (Catallaxy/ALS). I quite enjoy reading the libertarian blogs, and even agree with much of what’s discussed there (I’d classify myself as left-libertarian), but the genuinely conservative I don’t find interesting at all (Bolt and Blair are surely mostly popular because they’re funny, not because there’s actually genuinely interesting discussions that occur there). Interestingly enough there are no “socially conservative/economically left-of-centre” blogs that I’ve come across (here or elsewhere). Perhaps some of the blue-collar-workers-union type blogs might classify?

  69. Jc says:

    You find Bolt funny, NP? I haven’t read him in a very long time, but I never found him that funny.

    That’s amusing there really aren’t many socially convervative blogs.

    There is actaully one that I know . Don’t agree with the stuff he says, but he’s not a bad read (not foaming at the mouth type) and seems to over things from a socially conservative side.

    Oz conservative

    I sometimes take a look and see what’s he’s writing.

  70. NPOV says:

    Well personally I find “boltwatch” (Sears) funnier than Bolt himself, but Bolt is capable of humour. Or at least…used to be…just looking at his latest week’s worth of offerings, I’m not sure what on earth it is that makes his blog popular.

    I didn’t say there were no socially conservative blogs, as I would place both Bolt and Blair in that category. And obviously there are religious blogs. Just not ones that are coupled with an economically left-of-centre leaning.

  71. Fyodor says:

    Heh. What Jason said. When Jesus said, “turn the other cheek”, CL, I’m pretty sure he meant the one on your face.

    I must say it’s good to see you back in action.

  72. Liam says:

    C’mon Ken. If Cardinal Newman had a blog he’d be just as foul-mouthed, short-tempered and uncivil as the rest of us. “Where’s the EVIDENCE that Roman clergy are any less truthful than Anglican clergy?” [SUBMIT]

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  74. Jage says:

    So long as blogs – such as LP – explictly label themselves as ‘left-wing collectives’ then of course the ‘Left-Right’ dichotomy is valid, as least for the LP-type blogs. When such blogs run an essentially conflict-charged community that lives and breathes stalking its enemies defined in terms such as “right-wing,” “neocons,” “Government Gazzette,” “Hansonites,” “genocide denialists,” and so on, who are WE to tell them that they do not operate within the old Left/Right dichotomy?

    Of course the real challenge becomes validating those whom the LPers label as “right wing.” ;)

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