By Meredith Farkas | November 27, 2004
I recently read an interesting article for my Information Retrieval course about Power Laws and Weblogs, which I found very interesting in light of my recent forrays into blogging. The author states that blogs follow the same power laws that affect most social and economic systems. “A new social system starts, and seems delightfully free of the elitism and cliquishness of the existing systems. Then, as the new system grows, problems of scale set in. Not everyone can participate in every conversation. Not everyone gets to be heard. Some core group seems more connected than the rest of us, and so on.” Power Laws are commonly related to economics and are used to explain imbalances. It is the law used to explain that that 80% of the wealth is held by 20% of the population. It can also be used in information retrieval to describe patterns of word occurences (Zipf’s Law).
Power Laws can easily be applied to blogs. We’ve all seen that a very small minority of blogs get thousands and thousands of hits, while most only get one or two (much like the 80/20 wealth distribution). In the library world, there are a few blogs, like Librarian.net and The Shifted Librarian that thousands of people visit and/or subscribe to. And there is a core group of library blogs, that include the afformentioned blogs as well as Walking Paper, the Librarian in Black, the Free Range Librarian, etc. that all refer to one another’s blogs and seem more connected than the rest of us. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. It’s the natural progression of any social medium. And frankly, those core blogs are the most informative and the most interesting. They’re a valuable resource and I learn more from them than from most news sources related to libraries. But how does one break into this core group? Will having interesting and relevant content and updating frequently do it? Or is it impossible to join their “clique”? Frankly, I’m just happy to have an audience beyond just me and my husband. I actually got giddy when I saw that Jessamyn had referred to my blog entry of the same name that I’d written earlier that day (meaning that she actually READ my blog). Good lord! It’s like high school all over again, isn’t it? And I’m still such a geek!