The Blog Caste System

Read this New York Magazine article on The Haves and Have-Nots of the Blogging Boom

You see, I tend to think I’ve got a pretty good thing going on here with this blog. I’ve been at it for more than two years and I try to balance the ridiculous links with occasional life commentary and such, have a “voice” as a writer, etc. All in all, I think I can stand with some of the best and brightest on the web. For some of you, I’m probably the equivalent of the gateway drug to the internet. You’re never going to go looking for random links; you just come here and expect to find them. So be it. I’m glad to be of service.

But despite the previous paragraph, I’m probably never going to bring in the traffic that, say, a similar blog like Kottke does. (I’m not picking on Jason, I read his blog everyday and think he’s top notch.) I have, on any given day, about 0.0025% of the traffic that Jason does. Seriously, I did the math. And what’s really scary is that my traffic count isn’t too shabby.

Why is that? Is my blog somehow only 0.0025% as good as his? Probably not (although that’s a matter of taste I suppose.) But in a web world where everyone with the mind to do so can set up a blog and start talking in less than 10 minutes, everyone is not as equal as we think.

It’s all about power-law distribution. (Or the 80/20 rule, or Winner-Take-All, etc.) When we have multiple options, we simply don’t weigh each option based on its own merit. We base our decisions on what other people are doing and it’s very true that popularity tends to breed popularity at a rate that is difficult to catch-up to. Why are the top blogs famous? For the most part, they’re famous for being famous. Now granted, most of them have fantastic content, or people wouldn’t keep coming back. The simple fact that so many people link to and read them is a sort of the distributed approval from the masses. But keep in mind that there are probably 100 (1000? 10,000?) blogs that are just as good as the ones you read everyday that you’ll never find. The blog world is a system, and its forefathers (and mothers) are well-entrenched at the top. And the not-so-famous? Well it’s hardly believable we could ever catch-up; that’s just simple social system reality.

That is, unless we get a mention on one of those high-traffic blogs, which may or may not propel you into a higher traffic bracket. You see, it’s still a system and we’re still connected. It’s such a strange social phenomenon, really. And this is terribly interesting stuff to me considering I’m a blogger and I’m insanely curious about online social interaction/networking/etc. 

If you’d like more info on power-law distribution, read Clay Shirky, who writes brilliant things about the internet, Kottke’s post about it, or the Wikipedia entry.