Dan's Metablog
Writing about blogging, identity, and narrative

Bridging the Gap: Not so bad   Wednesday, May 31   8:10 PM

I've been too hard on Herring et al. Their study "Bridging the Gap: A Genre Analysis of Weblogs" is useful information when used correctly, and it's usually used correctly.

The study used a sample of 203 blogs to draw some conclusions about blogging. As I've noted before, there are so many restrictions on this sample (e.g. the exclusion of LiveJournal and Diaryland blogs, 6) that it's clearly a distorted picture of the blogosphere as a whole:

"Thus the blogs selected for analysis were established, English language, text-based blogs. An estimated 60% of the randomly selected blogs met these combined criteria. As we were primarily interested in active blogs, we also excluded any blogs that had not been updated within the two weeks prior to data collection; this resulted in the elimination of several additional blogs." (3-4)

To their credit, Herring et al. know this. They can't read every blog out there, and obviously their conclusions are based on a limited sample. They don't want a mass of diary weblogs to swallow the other genres in their study; I don't agree with that decision but I understand it.

You can learn a lot about the blogosphere from this article.

Sometimes though, sometimes "Bridging the Gap" is used in a sloppy way, to draw conclusions that I don't think you can really draw from this sample. Sometimes the writers don't give any explanation of this study, they don't talk about it in general terms (which would be perfectly all right), they don't mention what was in the sample, they don't even say anything about a "sample" at all, except perhaps to mischaracterize it.

These, then, seem to be the actual offenders:

"Basically, two major sorts of weblogs can be distinguished: diaries or personal journals and filters. Journals amount to approximately seventy percent of all blogs, and filters to about ten to fifteen percent ([Herring et al. 2004])." (Kolbitsch and Maurer, 190)
"The modal number of comments in individually authored blogs has been found to be zero [6]" (Nardi et al., 46)
"A similar study finds that 40.4% of blog authors are under age 20 (Herring, Scheidt, Bonus, & Wright, 2004)." (Huffaker, 92).

And most shocking of all:

"However, a recent study found that only 12.6% of currently active weblogs are filters, and 48.8% contain no links to other weblogs at all (Herring, Scheidt, Bonus & Wright, 2004)." (Herring et. al 2005, 1).


Herring, S. C., Scheidt, L. A., Bonus, S., and Wright, E. (2004). Bridging the gap: A genre analysis of weblogs. Proceedings of the 37th Hawai'i International Conference on System Sciences (HICSS-37). Los Alamitos: IEEE Computer Society Press.  

Herring, Susan C., Inna Kouper, John C. Paolillo, Lois Ann Scheidt, Michael Tyworth, Peter Welsch, Elijah Wright, and Ning Yu. "Conversations in the Blogosphere: An Analysis 'From the Bottom Up'." Proc. of the 38th Hawaii International Conference on System Sciences (HICSS'05), Los Alamitos: IEEE Press. 2005: 107b.

Huffaker, David. "The educated blogger: Using weblogs to promote literacy in the classroom." AACE Journal. 13.2 (2005): 91-98.

Kolbitsch, Josef and Hermann Maurer. "The Transformation of the Web: How Emerging Communities Shape the Information we Consume." Journal of Universal Computer Science. 12.2 (April 2006).

Nardi, Bonnie, Diane Schiano, Michelle Gumbrecht, and Luke Swartz. "Why we blog" Communications of the ACM. 47.12 (2004): 41-46.

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