Research on Malaysian Bloggers

The Survey for Blog Readers and Bloggers is closed. Thanks for your participation!

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Weblogs and Power Law Distribution

Image from, from a post on Weblogs and Power Laws

Some observers have noticed that the popularity of blogs follows the power law distribution, i.e. the graph that you see above. This graph was plotted from the Top 100 most linked to weblogs in Technorati on 24 Jan 2003. As you can see, there is a vast difference between the #1 popular (at 6000 links) and the #8 (1000 links), for example. However, #50 doesn't show a lot of difference from #100. This concept is similar to the 80/20 rule, i.e. 20% of the population holding 80% of the wealth.

Here are some interesting quotes from Clay Shirky's article of Power Laws, Weblogs and Inequality.
"Diversity plus freedom of choice creates inequality, and the greater the diversity, the more extreme the inequality."

"In systems where many people are free to choose between many options, a small subset of the whole will get a disproportionate amount of traffic (or attention, or income), even if no members of the system actively work towards such an outcome. This has nothing to do with moral weakness, selling out, or any other psychological explanation. The very act of choosing, spread widely enough and freely enough, creates a power law distribution."

"We know that power law distributions tend to arise in social systems where many people express their preferences among many options. We also know that as the number of options rise, the curve becomes more extreme. This is a counter-intuitive finding - most of us would expect a rising number of choices to flatten the curve, but in fact, increasing the size of the system increases the gap between the #1 spot and the median spot."

"Perhaps some writing is simply better than average (a preference for quality), perhaps people want the recommendations of others (a preference for marketing), perhaps there is value in reading the same blogs as your friends (a preference for "solidarity goods", things best enjoyed by a group). It could be all three, or some other effect entirely, and it could be different for different readers and different writers. What matters is that any tendency towards agreement in diverse and free systems, however small and for whatever reason, can create power law distributions."

"Once a power law distribution exists, it can take on a certain amount of homeostasis, the tendency of a system to retain its form even against external pressures. Is the weblog world such a system? Are there people who are as talented or deserving as the current stars, but who are not getting anything like the traffic? Doubtless. Will this problem get worse in the future? Yes."

Clay Shirky predicts that in the future, the "head" of the graph, i.e. the #1 will become mainstream media, (he means media that we have gotten used to - and the communication done in these A-list blogs will be one-way because the bloggers will not be free enough to reply to all the comments) and the "tail", i.e. the much less popular will become conversational.

"The relatively egalitarian distribution of readers in the early years had nothing to do with the nature of weblogs or webloggers. There just weren't enough blogs to have really unequal distributions. Now there are."

I found this concept a couple of days earlier from the Internet, while I was browsing Technorati's State of the Blogosphere, October 2006.


Post a Comment

<< Home