Blogging and authorship

In The Role of the Author in Topical Blogs (Proceedings of CHI 2005. Extended abstracts. Pages: 1256 - 1259), Scott Carter presents a compelling study about blogs and the role of authors in this context. He puts the emphasis on how blogs challenge the notion of authorship.

Seemingly, rather than a model in which the author’s writings are themselves a contribution, the blog author weaves a tapestry of links, quotations, and references amongst generated content. In this paper, I present a study of the role of the author plays in the construction of topical blogs, in particular focusing on how blog authors make decisions about what to post and how they judge the quality of posts. To this end, I analyzed the blogs and blogging habits of eight participants using a quantitative analysis tool that I developed, a diary study, and interviews with each participant. Results suggest that authors of topical blogs often do not create new content but strive to, often follow journalistic conventions,use the content of their blogs as a reference tool for other work practices, and are connected as a community by a set of source documents.The contribution of this work is to provide insight onto the notion of authorship with respect to blogs. I address this by looking at both the practice of blog authorship as well as the ways by which blog authors judge the success of posts.

The results are quite interesting:

  • Participants overwhelmingly commented that a good post is one that contributes new information or, to a lesser extent, extensive commentary about some issue on which the participant is an expert
  • Some participants included the timeliness of the post with respect to its subject material as being important as well. When asked to specify a particular post that they had written that they judged to be high quality, respondents usually chose posts that had much lower link and quote densities than average for their blog.
  • participants said that it was best to link to completely new information or at least source information, bypassing other filters and news sourcesmaking
  • Participants reported judging the quality of a post primarily by trackbacks (links from other blogs to their post) or by their own analysis of server traffic. Another metric that most participants used was links from blogs with a much larger perceived audience than their own. Participants did not attribute much value to the size and quality of comments left on the blog.
  • participants said that they followed journalistic convention when updating posts — explicitly marking changes and using extra text or color to call attention to the fact that the post had been changed.
  • participants described the use of their blog as an archive tool directly linked to their work practice. In these cases, posts often served as way to save information that would later be used in the construction of other documents.
  • Participants said that their goal was to make their posts as broadly understandable as possible, but that usually time constraints restricted them from doing so.
  • Participants relied on news feeds and e-mail lists to find sources for their posts. All participants also reported perusing topic related blogs and news sites.

Why do I blog this? even though these results are quite common for bloggers, they give a relevant picture of one part of the blogosphere to those who think blogging is limited to personal life accounts.