Stars and Friends (pt. 1)

I wonder if Dave Winer is lonely.

There is some sort of unstated “fitness measure” within the blogosphere–made explicit through services like Technorati. The assumption is that the more inbound links you have, the more “respect” (for lack of a better word) is expressed. This is compounded in a reputation system like Google’s, in which those who receive more links are thought to have more to give. You can never be too rich, too thin, or have too many inbound links. That handful that manage to attract the most inbound links from the network are “stars.”

There are advantages to this sort of perspective. Few could deny that Google did an amazing job of helping to tame the wild web, and those blogs that are heavily linked do tend to be of interest. It is a very familiar perspective to those who are accustomed to think in economic terms as well. Increasing the income of links is a good thing, especially if you can also control the number of links you spend going to other sites. In very real terms, this is the kind of metric that also appeals to commercial websites. Ford wants to increase the number of inbound links but is unlikely to have many (if any) outbound links.

But is it lonely at the top? To some people, the idea that you could be a star and not be satisfied with your social network is preposterous. With so many people who know and respect you, you could never be lonely. Others value relationships that are more of a two-way street.

Stay with me while I apply this analogy to Dave Winer, a target of convenience. Take a glance at Scripting News on Technorati, and note that a total of 1599 blogs are linking to the site. By that measure, Winer is clearly a star. But using only hyperlinks as an indicator, are there other metrics we could apply?

Though not essential to my argument, it is worthwhile to note that the commercial site was the antithesis to the prototypical early blog, which often linked promiscuously. As more blogs arrived on the scene, they tended to link to one another. I suspect–and this can be demonstrated, with a little work–that the majority of blog-to-blog links remain reciprocal.

Reciprocity is important to social relationships. We knew this before there were blogs and before there was an internet. Friends develop over two-way communications and sharing of information. Networks, and some economies, develop in this way too.

While Scripting News may rank highly in terms of its star status, it is not nearly as high in terms of its friendliness: the degree to which links are reciprocated. Over the next few days, I’ll be posting a bit about what the implications of reciprocal links are to communities within the blogosphere, how this relates to larger social models and views on communication technology (e.g., Pool’s “technologies of freedom”), and maybe, depending on how deep and consilient I am feeling, how networks of relationships lead to not only social structure, but structuration in other systems as well.

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  1. jeremy hunsinger
    Posted 8/20/2003 at 7:42 am | Permalink

    radio, as i recall came with scripting new turned on in the aggregator along with some other blogs and news sources. you should perhaps consider control of the platform or relationship to a platform as an indicator of ‘stardom’.

  2. Posted 8/20/2003 at 10:27 am | Permalink

    Ah, so perhaps not the best example. But the *reason* for the stardom is less important to me at this stage than the fact that it exists. That is, I’m not suggesting that the term “stardom” refers to the celebrity of the blogger so much as it does to the network that surrounds her blog. In that way, Scripting News is still a star–just in the way that MSNBC Search (or whatever it is called) is a top search engine, regardless of how it got there (as an IE default).

  3. Posted 8/20/2003 at 10:33 am | Permalink

    Great essay, looking forward to your discussion on the reciprocity factors. How are you calculating it? By looking at the Outbound Links from each of these “stars?” Or some other measure?


  4. jeremy hunsinger
    Posted 8/20/2003 at 11:37 am | Permalink

    yes, but it certainly means the numbers may be inflated.

    i was actually looking at something like this for my core and periphery of bloggers proposal a while back. my method was somewhat similar, start spidering out then look at where concentrations of links occur, but i think you have to do also across time to really get a feel for where people stand in the core/periphery model because some people are very very popular at a certain time, and then it wanes,

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