Mary Hodder on Blog Community Discovering

In a thoughtful essay, Mary Hodder explores what it will take for blog search to go beyond the “top 100 syndrome” to discover the interesting patterns of influence and community.

…this is about going beyond lists and links, to understand that the social relationships of expression between and across blogs is really about searching for a “metric for identity” or “metric for affiliation”, “metric for community”, or “metric for influence”.

Mary is ambivalent about creating new forms of “rankism”.

I have to say, I’ve resisted this for the past year, even though many people have asked me to work on something like this, because I hate rankism. I think scoring, even a more sophisticated version of it, akin to page-rank, is problematic and takes what is delightful about the blogosphere away, namely the fun of discovering a new writer or media creator on their terms, not others.

The algorithm would weight links in posts higher than blogroll links, and new blogroll links higher than old ones. It might include new terms like time read, comments, and topic score.
Hopefully, the tradeoff for more rank-ism is better discovery. This weekend, I spent some time exploring Sepia Mutiny – a group blog for South Asian writers – and its cousins, after meeting one of the authors at BlogHer. This form of indirect discovery is delightful. A tool that helps with such serendipity would hopefully be more like the joys of a used book search database, and less like “sororitization”, the turning of social groups into popularity contests.
I wonder whether rank is the wrong presentation, and clouds are right. Clouds would primarily show the communities that a blogger is in — and may show secondarily the influence strength of that community?

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