Session 2: What a blog is

You thought I forgot about this, but I didn't. We're in the middle of my personal GodBlogCon with everything you need to know about blogging, and the deal is this: we're only going to talk once about the medium of blogging, and the rest of the time we are going to talk about the method and objective of blogging.

To start talking about medium, from Technorati. It has some nifty charts and a lot of really-boring junk. BORING. But this kind of information only comes sandwiched between the stale bread of statistics.

Let me give you an example:
The Low Authority Group (3-9 blogs linking in the last 6 months)

The average blog age (the number of days that the blog has been in existence) is about 228 days, which shows a real commitment to blogging. However, bloggers of this type average only 12 posts per month, meaning that their posting habits are generally dedicated but infrequent.

The Middle Authority Group (10-99 blogs linking in the last 6 months)

This contrasts somewhat with the second group, which enjoys an average age not much older than the first at 260 days and which posts 50% more frequently than the first. There is a clear correlation between posting volume and Technorati authority ranking.

The High Authority Group (100-499 blogs linking in the last 6 months)

The third group represents a decided shift in blog age while not blogging much more frequently than the last. In keeping with the theme of the maturation of the blogosphere, it seems evident that many of these bloggers were previously in category two and have grown in authority organically over time. In other words, sheer dedication pays off over time.

The Very High Authority Group (500 or more blogs linking in the last 6 months)

In the final group we see what might be considered the blogging elite. This group, which represents more than 4,000 blogs, exhibits a radical shift in post frequency as well as blog age. Bloggers of this type have been at it longer – a year and a half on average – and post nearly twice a day, an increase in posting volume of over 100% from the previous group. Many of the blogs in this category, in fact, are about as old as Technorati and we’ve grown up together. Some of these are full-fledged professional enterprises that post many, many times per day and behave increasingly like our friends in the mainstream media. As has been widely reported, the impact of these bloggers on our cultures and democracies is increasingly dramatic.

A note on Ranking

For those of you who are new to Technorati's ranking systems, we establish a blog’s authority (or influence) by tracking the number of distinct blogs that link to it over the past 6 months. In this chart, we’ve looked at folks with at least 3 links or more and grouped them into four separate categories. In total, we’re looking at about 1.5 million blogs of the 57 million total. Even though I labeled the first group as the "Low Authority" group, given that these people are in the top 2% of all of the blogs that exist, the concept of "low" is purely in relation to the other groups above.
Now, for some of you, your eyes have already glazed over -- and you people will never be better bloggers. It's a shame really, because some of you are really cool people.

But here's the deal: regardless of the TTLB ranking system, Technorati is the gold standard of measuring influence in the blogosphere. Why? Because they are earning a living exploiting the way the blogosphere works -- and N.Z.Bear, whom I respect as a pioneer, is simply part of one clan in the blogosphere which is quickly becoming irrelevant. So the way Technorati measures influence tells us something about how we must -- if we are going to use blogs as a medium -- operate to gain influence and authority in (for lack of a better term) the discussion.

Let's get serious for a minute: PostSecret has almost 12,000 unique inbound links. Don't pretend you don't know what that is -- you've read that blog. It's not even designed very well -- it uses a standard Blogger template, which is serviceable, but it's completely no-frills. But in that, it's in the top 100 blogs based on the Technorati influence metrics.

There's nothing at PostSecret that's changing the world, and it's only interesting is a very skank, reality TV kind of way -- the way the first MTV "Real" show was "interesting". Yet it's got 12,000 inbound links?

Listen: Mark Driscoll's site has "only" 1,100 inbound links -- and it is 10,000 times more edifying than PostSecret. What's up with that? Has the word simply not gotten out about Pastor Driscoll's blog, or is the problem that we Christians are actually ill-informed about how, exactly, to make get a blog distributed in the bandwidth?

Personally, I think it's the latter. And we're a funny lot. We're willing to call Hugh Hewitt and Michelle Malkin and Scrappleface "GodBloggers", but on the flip side those kinds of "GodBloggers" are completely unwilling to link to (for example) or TeamPyro. Their reasons are, well, their own, but the bottom line is that they want to be affiliated with the political idea of God and not the actual person of God because frankly, somebody might get hurt.

In that, Mark Driscoll ought to have a broader platform than he does -- but he needs a network of people who are like-minded to get him circulated.

Here's the real rub: there's a guy out there who calls himself "Arklahomboy", and his blog -stinks-. Content? Nope. Design? nope. Train of thought? Nope. So how does this guy have over 300 blogs linking to him, placing him in the top 8,000-ish blogs in the blogosphere?

It's simple: he joins aggregators. That's not very complicated, is it? He sends out an e-mail, drops a piece of code into his sidebar, and viola: he becomes "more influential" at the drop of a hat.

Now, I have said all of that to say this: the key to having an influential blog is shameless self-promotion. If you cannot do that, you will never be an "influential" blogger. And for some people, I think that's fine. What we do not need in the world today is more "Aklahomboys" who make one-line posts and belong to 6 aggregators and somehow turn up on the radar but have nothing to offer.

Shameless self-promotion is easy if you have a radio show or a nationally-syndicated column. Or a really large church. Or you have published a book. Having a blog after you have one of these things is really a self-promotion of an almost-egregious kind. Seriously now: we buy your books, and we listen to your radio show. Did you not get in all the things you had to say? But there they are: blogging for some reason, and the reason is transparent: to maintain a certain level of public awareness and hype. One talks about his blog on the radio show, and then about the radio on the blog, and about the book on the blog, and then about the blog in the book ... geez, bub: is it about you or what?

I take a like of ribbing from my internet friends about my blog because the self-promotion is so obvious. Listen: DUH! The only way -- the only way -- to get part of the podium in this medium is shameless self promotion. Some people take the coward's way out and join 2 or 3 (or 6) radically-different aggregators to get as much coverage as possible, and others of us -- me in particular -- join one reasonably-large aggregator (so my blog is not constantly timing out trying to run the javascript for the aggregators) and then promote the junk out of what we have.

It sounds tawdry, doesn't it? A little earthy and shameful? Listen: if, after the commensurate level of self promotion, you turn out a blog like "Rant Fever", it is more than a little tawdry: it's downright narcissistic. No questions asked.

But if, while you are tossing out hooks to see where you can get some linkage, you are blogging about Christ, and about the Gospel, and about sinners, and about the church, and about the Gospel, and about Christ, and about marriage in that context, you got your hands a little dirty for the sake of raising Christ up for sinners to see him.

So your medium is this: get your blog connected to the blogosphere -- don't hide it under a bushel. All the other stuff you do has to be done in a public way, but if you're going to get connected, do it with gusto. Just do it.

That's the medium. In the next session, we're going to talk about methods. There's meta open for Q&A, so step up to the mike, speak clearly, and remember to ask your question in a way the panelists can answer.

UPDATED: JD Hatfield pointed out, by way of Socratic questioning, that the right thing to do for this session is to establish an aggregator to show everyone how cool and easy it is to join one, and to get a blogroll going for people who are actually blogging about God. So I'm about 30 minutes away from having an aggregator ready for public consumption, and when it is actually ready, you can find out how to join right here.