August 01, 2005

Blogher: Observations, gratifications and goals..

Saturday at Blogher was an amazing experience. And high in contrast to my usual experience with the conferences I usually attend, which are mostly men. Men's conversational style at events is often competitive and not very sharing of information. Over time, I've learned to share information and develop strong ties with many of those men, without competing, but rather by having interesting conversations. But at Blogher, which was 80% women, my style of conversing at my usual conferences would not go over, even if not competitive. This was a much more collaborative scene, and listening proved to be the most interesting thing, and the best way to connect with all the many amazing women there.

Although. I did talk. In the morning session during the session that was essentially about inbound link counts for bloggers. After 45 minutes of intense anger and frustration from many audience speakers in the room toward Technorati link counts and top 100, I suggested we create a community based algorithm, based on more complex social relationships than links. It's something I've been working on for few months, trying to frame, about what this problem is and how we might solve it. But it's a complex issue and I'm also busy. So it's taken a while. However, my blog post is almost done, and I do plan to put it up in the next day or so.

So.. the first session was a debate about "playing by the rules" which refers to the inbound link count rules, where A-listers who've been around for a long time have so many links, and get the most attention and credibility due to the Technorati Top 100 list.

I pointed out to them that 4 or so years ago.. when there were only 100k blogs, that a relatively small group of people all linked to each other in blogrolls, and so those blogroll links are sometimes old and the networks dense, for A listers, and yet, Technorati doesn't do anything to express a blogroll link that is years old from a current blogroll link. They simply scrape the front page of a blog, and treat all links, old or new blogroll links, and current post links, as the same and then count them, for their rankings.

People in the audience didn't realize this, and I could see it was helpful to know more. But then I suggested the community algorithm. People really liked that idea, because it gives us a constructive way forward to find new ways to express conversation and influence in the blogosphere.

In the afternoon closing session, which was far less angry and much more about appreciating the amazing experience of spending a day with hundreds of women who blog, many people again spoke. It was there that I suggested that we make a speakers list. Then when conference organizers say they have mostly male speakers because they can't think of anyone else, or that male speakers lists are due to a lack of interesting others to invite, we can point them to the wiki and say, there are women who are experts in their fields do interesting things and they should be here speaking! Now, there really is no excuse.

This list, made on a wiki donated by Socialtext (thank you, thank you, thank you!!!), has been seeded with a few women I know, or met at the conference. However, it is far from complete, and I need the community's help to get it going.

Please list yourself, male or female, and list categories so that you can be searched by areas of expertise. Look at the profiles already there for examples.

I feel strongly when there are problems, that we identify them, and express frustration, but that soon after, we get to work on fixing them. I hope these two ideas get us closer to moving toward many industry conferences with more accomplished and amazing women who represent other points of views, and other ways of accounting for the blogosphere than inbound link counts.

Posted by Mary Hodder at August 1, 2005 08:01 AM | TrackBack
Comments

Mary: you close with an observation I think is critical: we had to start the day by letting people get their frustrations out, since that frustration has to be acknowledged as part of the reason BlogHer has resonated like it did.

But a whole day of that would have been non-productive and, frankly, unpleasant. So having people like you and many others who moved the conversation to actionable items was extremely helpful and necessary.

The number of people posting their to-do lists to our BlogHer site is further testament that we want to do, not just talk.

Posted by: Elisa Camahort at August 1, 2005 10:47 AM

Mary, let me know how I can help on the community algorithm.

Posted by: Christopher Carfi at August 1, 2005 11:51 AM

Mary:

I look forward to reading your post on the community algorithm and putting it into action as part of my personal to-do list (see linked post above). I will also create simple how-to steps or tips and put it with blog primers for when I'm training others ...

Hopefully, I understood correctly what you explained during our training session for live blogging ... I can go back and edit my bookmarklet that creates technorati tags and change URL to point to blogher.

I have one question .... I used the technorati tag because I had a bookmarklet that made it easy to cut and paste ... anything that made the live blogging quicker is something that I used. So now I want to go back to all my posts and change it the blogher pointer that you come up with ... is that worth the time investment? To retro actively do it? Or screw it and use the new pointer from here forward?

I'm probably getting ahead of myself -- and your post will explain it all.

Great to meet you!

Beth

Posted by: Beth at August 1, 2005 06:22 PM

Excuse me for commenting as I was just passing by and really appreciated seeing the activism of women as our world (tech) is thinly populated with the female contingent.

Anyhow on the subject of to-do lists it would be cool for you to have tag clouds so that you could all find out who are trying to do the same things quickly, visually - it's quite a bit quicker than other methods of searching through text tags.

Just my 2c. Keep motivated and certainly walk the walk as well as talk the talk - so many people are good at the latter it would be a shame not to improve the former.

Posted by: Ed Daniel at August 2, 2005 12:12 AM

Spent the day reading up on the conference, fascinating stuff indeed. I'll be following the progress, and contributing if possible, of the various threads in the months to come.

Posted by: Gordon at August 2, 2005 10:33 AM

At Corante we have been discussing the need to additional dimensions of trust, accountability, enhancing TypeTey and track back servers with additional reputation management features, various rating systems and other ways to move beyond link count as popularity index. The difference between the 50-100 on the Technorati list is less than 2,000 links!

Posted by: David Evans at August 3, 2005 08:41 AM

It's a traditional "good old' boys" network what you're talking about, but of course it's not about "boys vs. girls" there were many female pioneers in blogging. THe problem is it needs to embrace change and encourage it. Sure a lot of old school bloggers have worked hard to get where they're at, but this is about resting on your laurels. The face of blogging is changing quickly and we need to embrace that change. Blogher is a perfect example of this. The fact that technorati failed to respond is a poor omen.

What I want to say is this. Technoratti needs "freshness" if it doesn't already have it. It needs to start expiring some of those age old page ranks and start providing options for looking at "the day" "the month" or "the year" not just "since the beginning of the blogosphere". All these are important ways of looking at the issue.

But I also say, perhaps it does. Technoratti doesn't place it's faith so much in the blog rolls as it does the actual content of the posts. Perhaps it should ignore blogrolls or reevaluate their value. On the other hand blogshares is completely based on blogrolls... and you can see the stagnation in it, though let's face it it's a different thing entirely and I'm not sure how relevant it is for finding daily news, it's more just an interesting perspective.

All that said improving our transparency and visibility is something we in the vlogosphere (as one of those new sub-cultures of blogging) and myself in particular have been heavily focused on. The vloging issue is unique because it generally is not as "linky" as text based media. We've had to actively encourage the use of delicious, re-vlogging, link blogging, and so called "my picks" mini blogs to get people to generally blog about each others vlogs rather than just commenting. As I put it this process is the difference between BEING the media and just making media. In order for the conversation to bubble up we need to be the trusted filters and conduit for each other. It's not nearly enough to post a video, you have to actively engage the conversation by interlinking ideas and videos.

The problem we had and still have to a large degree is that vloggers discuss the issues in the videoblogging yahoo group almost exclusively where the community is strong, but largely impenetrable by the general public.

So the issues discussion never happens in the blogosphere where others can see and pick up on it. While vloggers comment prolifically on each others videos these comments do not interlink the vlogs.

We've actively pushed for blogging around conferences, blogs about vlogging, and other collaborative blogs and remixing. It's starting to have the net effect that I can enter one vlog and find myself on a vlog I've never heard of 5 posts later.

We still however have a small problem with the a-list tendency we see elsewhere in the blog world and more importantly that outsiders particularly in the mainstream press have few inroads to getting an understanding about just what video blogging is all about.

We're continually working on more forms of intermediation to try to naturally bubble up the debate and encourage the sort of weblogs Inc. type industry mags and news players so outsiders can start to latch onto what's going on in the community. I heard one quote the other day comparing vide bloggers to a cult ...a quite nasty comparison but one that typifies outsiders failure to grasp video blogging.

These mischaracterization are due both the fact we have a strong community and the fact that more traditional press still doesn't get media that's not done for large audiences and entertainment value. They don't understand that a video blog can be created for and enjoyed by an audience of two and most video blogs have a very finite audience. We're not trying to recreate TV we're trying to destroy th myths about popularity, entertainement, and most of all that TV or movies are the baseline for comparison for any widespread public video debate.

The new battle cry, it "mundane is the new punk" but I'm often fond of the alternative, "mundane is the new subversive".

It's a real problem of perception that we're trying to crack and though blogging and opensource are breakig down very similar perceptions about the idenity, value, and roles of the individual in society, we still have a uphill battle that's going to take years.

On a side note podcasting has filled in this middle gound with some quality programing aimed at being for the public. Even some radio stations, but this has allowed only allowed those with traditional expectations that podcasting is somehow like radio to cling to their perceptions. Although I think they will soon find the promise hollow after the hype dies down. This is because the value of podcasting lies primarily in the very ends of the network just as podcasting and it may take 10 or 20 years for the differnce between pluralist media and long tail media to reconcile and meet somewhere in the middle.

In short, the other 99% of the world is still craving their CSI and we're not going to give it to them anytime soon. The closest thing on the horizon is Robert Cringley's Nerd TV which will be coming to the intranets near you in early September.

It's all about a process of constantly breakig down favored constructs.

-Mike, now of http://www.evilvlog.com/
aka. mike of mmeiser.com/blog

Posted by: Michael Meiser at August 3, 2005 04:04 PM