Counterintuitive blog battles

This may appear somewhat obsessive, but I’ve been following developments of my ban from the Sabbah blog. On a reflective side, I have to admit that being banned does not feel comfortable. I understand that there is nothing significant and i should let it go (which i will given the amount of things i have to finish before i leave for the winter break :), but there is something really bothering when you feel that injustice has been done. Gladly, this whole story seems to lead me towards some interesting thoughts about the unique aspects of the discourse in the blogosphere.

Going back to the ban story, an amusing part is that just a few days after deleting my comments and blocking me from further participation, Haitham published a post arguing against complains his blog-application received on Facebook (FB). The absurd of the situation for me was that a man who just actively practiced censorship himself, was complaining against potential censorship against him. But that was just a beginning, because i followed some of the threads reacting to his post to discover that it became sort of a rally against “Zionist censorship” on FB (and it is amazing what king of judgment people are able to make without knowing the subject matter, and how many people do not distinguish between FB profile and FB application while making claims about them).  For whatever reasons, I saw my case as playing into this discussion.

The comments led me to a community of what i think are rather radical left-wing bloggers (I conclude it based on the fact that one of them had to post a Daily Kos rule restricting allowed criticism of the site). I don’t know how big it is and how large its readership, but it is certainly a very active community, particularly in fighting with the equally radical right wing blogs.

Some of the links led me to an interesting discussion about Daily Kos banning a number of pro-Palestinian activist that happened a few month ago. Basically the argument I follwed was between Booman Tribune (BT) and Little Green Footballs (LGF). Following Sabbah’s post about complains on FB, BT published a long post questioning FB’s policies/tendencies of silencing the Palestinian activists and referring to the Daily Kos case as an example of “censorship of Israeli-Palestinian advocacy” in supposedly liberal media. LGF reacted with a sarcastic remark followed by a quote from the aforementioned post aiming it not so much towards Booman, as towards Daily Kos itself.

Here are some observations.

First, about potential impact. As i said, both communities appear rather active. The post on LGF generated 147 comments by the time of this post. The post on BT generated about 20 (and I engaged in a discussion there too), but it has posts with 70 comments and up. According to Alexa, 0.00755% of internet users visited LGF in the last three month and only 0.00125% visited BT (i have to read more about how they measure that, but it allows comparison). NY Times for example accounted for 0.498% of internet traffic in the last three month, whch actually puts the reach of both blogs in proportion.

Another point, which i think is particularly interesting and unique to blogosphere is linking. Both BT and LGF provide links to the original posts on the rivalry blogs. That makes sense and is in line with proper etiquette of online discussion. It also helps to make a stronger point for an argument, when you are quoting the opponent and showing them wrong. However, from the point of view of rivals this is also an irrational behavior, because by linking to the rival one contributes to the authority/ranking of the opponent (which i assume not the goal of either of them).

Here are some numbers. LGF is ranked 97 according to Technorati with an authority of 3,832, 195 fans, and 55,286 blog reactions. BT is ranked 906 with authority of 3,133, 15 fans, and 10,558 blog reaction. According to Alexa, LGF is ranked 25,485 based on a combination of traffic and page views, with 3,550 incoming links. BT ranked 147,195 based on a combination of traffic and page views, and has 619 incoming links. So, LGF appears as a clear leader between the two blogs thus contributing to BT by linking to it. This does not mean that BT does not contribute to LGF’s ranking by linking to it, but that contribution is relatively small compared to what BT gains from a revers link.

What can we learn about strategy of blog battles based on this post. Well, not much at all. It is a single case, it does not reveal anything, and it is confusing. What it does however is triggering some thoughts.

For example, to me, it resembles political campaigns where leaders contribute to the loosing parties by mentioning them in their campaign. This is why, one of the strategies of the leader is ignoring the opponent. According to this, it would make sense for LGF to stop linking to BT in order not to contribute to the opponent. However, there is an issue of creditability and the question is if such behavior would not undermine the creditability of LGF among its readers. At the same time, according to Alexa LGF lost 10% of its traffic in the last 3 months, while BT showed 155% grows. So what does it say about linking? Maybe i’s not worth it after all?

On a flip side, thinking about promotion of a blog, it makes perfect sense to bug the “big fish”. When it comes to political blogging, seems like it does not really matter if the response is positive or negative, the mare fact of a link from a bigger website, contributes to the authority of the linked blog. Thus, for BT the strategy seems clearer. Relating to the content published on the leading website and causing the to react (even if it’s just a critique) is a positive development in a sense of contribution to traffic and online ratings. If we are to measure impact in terms of links, hits, and page views, the strategy seems to be clear. However, in the particular case, BT doesn’t have a link to LGF, but that is probably because of the focus of the particular post, and not as a result of strategic decision.

This however, leads to some thoughts about the qualitative aspects of impact and the online political discourse. At the end of the day much more people are reading LGF than BT. This may be of course a matter of timin, LGF was found in 2000 and BT only in 2005. However i guess the issue is more complicated and i believe people behind both blogs have been active online and within their respective communities prior to launching the specific platforms (in other words, it is too complex to figure out at the moment). A more interesting question however, is about content generation. If i adopt rational theory for a moment and assume that the “bugging bigger fish” strategy is correct, then creating original content is not cost efficient for the smaller blogs. The question then, if it is so, and what does it do to the online discourse. And in the particular example, we are actually witnessing an opposite tendency where the leader is reacting to the content of the follower. Did we say confusing and counterintuitive?

OK, this post is getting too long and too dispersed, so i better stop here.

Any thoughts or comments? (assuming you made it so far :)

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