Saturday, June 05, 2004

Blog Mortaility Rate

I don't know where I saw it so I cannot point you to the specific article, but someone, somewhere recently posted some interesting statistics on the total number of blogs and the total number that are frequently updated. As Technorati illustrates, new blogs are popping up at an astounding rate. It is reasonable to assume then that the number of cobweblogs (ooo, that's new I think) is increasing at an equally astounding rate. But why? Yesterday, while preparing for the class I'll be teaching this summer, I stumbled upon one possible factor. Amongst the ethical requirements, university policies and sample work was an article entitled "Teaching Assistants as Teachers and Writers: Developmental Issues in TA Training" (The Writing Instructor: Winter 1986) and the following thought:

"[Lev] Vygotsky posits a "zone of proximal development" which he defines as " the distance between the actual developmental level as determined by independent problem solving and the level of potential development as determined through problem solving under adult guidance or in collaboration with more capable peers" (Mind in Society, 86). In other words, we grow through helpful mediation and intervention. Development is social and interactive. It doesn't take place in a vacuum."

With over 2.6 million weblogs being tracked by Technorati alone, most blogs (including this one) are in a vacuum. we talk to ourselves hoping to snag a reader or two from the transient audience that lands on our sites by accident. The "community" promised by weblogs (evidenced by insanely long blogrolls) remains an illusion for the thousands of personal publishers whose efforts rarely yield any more than a comment. Clay Shirky addresses this in his article Power Laws, Weblogs, and Inequality. From the article:

"Though there are more new bloggers and more new readers every day, most of the new readers are adding to the traffic of the top few blogs, while most new blogs are getting below average traffic, a gap that will grow as the weblog world does. It's not impossible to launch a good new blog and become widely read, but it's harder than it was last year, and it will be harder still next year."

Surely it would be unreasonable to expect a new blog to ascend to the level of Instapundit or other worthy A-list blogs like Boing Boing or Tony Pierce's Busblog, but what motivates the base of the blog power pyramid to continue with the effort when it is not clear if anyone is even paying attention? In this environment blogging becomes almost anti-social. There is no collaboration and there is no community. There is also no audience, which leaves the writer in a vacuum.

This is not meant to be a jealous indictment of the blogging elite...without them this site would not exist and I would have much less of interest to read online. It is merely a possible explanation why so many blogs go dark. They never find people to collaborate with, learn from and speak to.


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