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Tilting at Windmills

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March 10, 2005
By: Kevin Drum

BLOGS AND BLOGGERS....I know that not everyone is interested in blog navel gazing, but this study by Lada Adamic and Natalie Glance about blog behavior is pretty interesting and it has a cool blogo-diagram too. Let's look at the diagram first.

The authors collected a sample of 40 political blogs, 20 from the right and 20 from the left, and then plotted the links between them over a period of time. The top diagram shows all connections, the middle diagram includes only connections that have at least five reciprocal links, and the bottom diagram includes only connections that have at least 25 reciprocal links. I'm represented by blue circle #16, for example, and if you think that I link frequently to Matt Yglesias, Josh Marshall, Tapped, and Brad DeLong well, now you've got geometrical proof of it.

There are a few interesting observations here:

  • The conservative blogosphere has a generally denser web of relationships than the liberal blogosphere. More on this later.

  • However, it also includes the least connected major blogs. In the bottom diagram, the only large blogs without a single connection are both on the right: Andrew Sullivan and RealClear Politics.

  • Generally speaking, there aren't very many ongoing relationships between right and left. You only need five links to get a connection in the middle diagram, but even so there are only three connections between right and left: Sullivan-Marshall, Sullivan-Kos, and Volokh-Crooked Timber.

The primary finding of the study (or at least the finding I think is the most interesting) is that conservative blogs have a stronger sense of community than liberal blogs a quality that I often wish liberals could emulate. Here's what Adamic and Glance found:

  • Conservatives link to other conservative blogs at a much higher rate than liberals link to other liberals: .20 links per post compared to .12 links per post.

  • Conservative bloggers have a more "uniform voice" than liberal bloggers, as measured by what they link to. If you count only links to blogs, not media reports, the difference in uniformity is even greater. (However, on another measure, the "echo chamber" quality of liberal and conservative blogs is about the same.)

  • Liberal bloggers tend to link to a fairly small subset of other liberals. Conservatives spread the link love around.

The study also found (unsurprisingly) that blogs are primarily a medium based on criticism, not support:

Notice the overall pattern: Democrats are the ones more often cited by right-leaning bloggers, while Republicans are more often mentioned by left-leaning bloggers....These statistics indicate that our A-list political bloggers, like mainstream journalists (and like most of us) support their positions by criticizing those of the political figures they dislike.

Donald Rumsfeld, for example, is cited almost exclusively by liberal bloggers, while Michael Moore is ignored by the left but widely cited by the right.

Food for thought. Munch away in comments.

Kevin Drum 12:06 AM Permalink | Trackbacks

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