Wednesday, July 2, 2008

The importance of the blogging archipelago

By now I think many of us have seen the wonderful map of the WoW Community, drawn by Tim Howgego.

I’m totally fascinated by it myself and keep coming back to it in my thoughts. I did have the feeling that the community was huge and varied, but this really helped me to sort things out, to see the big outlines of it.

Of course there’s one area which draws my attention a bit more than the others: the southwest corner, where the Blogosphere’s dwelling – a lot of small spots scattered over a huge area, with WoWinsider as a sort of central huge island.

We’re all there like small spots, nameless, hardly viewable at all. Even well known bloggers, read by many, such as Matticus and BRK haven’t got any named island of their own. An exception is Mania’s Arcania, who proudly could announce that she had got one, but on the other hand, she’s not categorized as belonging to the blogosphere, but rather to the Niche Class and Topic Archipelago, which is slightly different.

From this picture you could easily get the impression that the Blogosphere is something you could easily disregard of. After all it’s known by only a handful of people if you compare it to websites and tools such as Curse, WoWinsider, Thottbot, MMO-champion and Wowwiki. Can a blog with 3, 30 or in best case 300 regular readers really play any roll in the community at all?

Actually I think it can, and I think that the WoW bloggers shouldn’t be totally discouraged by this map. Even though most of us are so small and insignificant that we’re even not what I would call islands, but rather small cliffs, hardly viewable above the water, I think some of us (not me though) have more influence than we imagine.

I like to see the best of the blogs as a sort of think tank for the whole WoW community – and to Blizzard as well. (I imagine they actually care about comments from the community when they’re planning for further development.)

Many great ideas are originally born in the blogs – to be distributed and spread to the masses, after they’ve been picked up by the more established channels, such as WoWinsider. Sometimes bloggers are credited for the work they do – sometimes I’m afraid they’re not. But the ideas originated in the Blogosphere. We who belong to it know where we read it first. And even though we won’t get all the applauses we deserve, we keep on thinking and producing. Because, just as WarcraftBloggers puts it – we can’t shut up.

A last observation about this map: I really like how he has graded the community from “nice” to “evil”. In the very right corner are the gold sellers, while the blogosphere is perfectly well situated on the west border. Most of us are non profit amateurs writing just out of passion and of the pleasure we get from this ongoing exchange of thoughts. We’re facing the frontier, always exploring new territories of the WoW phenomena, boldly going were no man has gone before.

I’m proud to be an island in the Blogosphere. Even though it’s just a nameless cliff where the birds only land occasionally, seemingly by accident.


Cynra said...

Tweet tweet?

I hadn't seen this before, but I had seen the original xkcd map. It's an interesting concept and -- like you -- I think that his choice to delineate good to evil by laying them out from left to right very interesting. As a contributor, however meager, to the blogosphere, it makes me feel rather good. And it should probably be pointed out that Tim Howgego himself is also a blogger, no matter how tiny or large that island in the blogosphere is!

Anonymous said...

To be honest, I can't call WI a full-fledged blog, but I have a slight bias against them.

I do believe Mania has a bigger readership than BRK. I've been linked from both before, but Mania's referral more than doubled BRK's. I believe Petopia's popularity contributes to it.

Larísa said...

Loronar, I agree about WI. I've got a bit mixed feelings for it as you. Sometimes they do have great stuff - like the interview with the mage theorycrafter Lhivera the other day, it's really interesting.
Sometimes they just throw out crap questions seemingly just to fill their daily quota. Sometimes they more or less steal stuff without giving proper credit. I regard it more as a newspaper than as a real blog to be honest.

Kestrel said...

Larisa, I thoroughly enjoyed this most excellent post--every bit as much as I enjoyed Tim's map!

I think Mania's highlighte, not so much for her excellent blog, but for Petopia, which was one of the very first non-Blizzard WoW sites I was ever aware of.

timski said...

The map completely intrigues me too. And every time I look at it, I want to change something... The reaction to it has been fantastic.

Some of the more popular 'blogs should probably have been named. It ultimately becomes quite personal. So unless you play a hunter, Mania and BRK probably aren't on "your radar". And a lot of the small blogs are still read by some people - even if it's just your mum, your guild, your cat - they're all still important to those readers.

Quantifying how popular sites are is terribly difficult. As a rough guide, almost everything named on the map will have over 100,000 individual people reading each month. The large sites rate in millions. By gaming standards, those numbers are huge. However, size varies a lot by metric.

For example, a site like MMO-Champion is required daily reading for a lot of people. So it's daily readership is high (I'd guess hundreds of thousands). However many of the same people go back day after day, so the monthly total unique visitors won't be radically different. In contrast a site such as Petopia probably isn't daily viewing for most its users, so the monthly readership is far higher than the daily. Then MMO-Champion is one of those sites where the most readers tend to just read the front page. In contrast, each visit to a site like Petopia might involve reading, let's say, 10 pages. So the actually level of engagement appears would be higher.

Do those numbers show the strength of a community? How to quantify internet video and radio audiences? The more you look into it, the harder it gets.

On WoW Insider: It's all semantics. Some people take the position that a 'blog is an inherently personal thing, and some have no problem with "media bloggers" who write full-time for an audience of millions. Award sites like the Weblog Awards say:

"A weblogis defined as a page with dated entries."

Which is about as vague as it gets.

Anonymous said...

I am happy to have only just recently squeezed into a perch on the cliff face of the blogsphere. The energy generated by the ideas bouncing back and forth is incredible.
great post!

Larísa said...

Timski, I'm a bit chocked and really honoured you payed a visit to my little cliff!

The more I think about the map, the more I'd like to see a detailed one covering the Blogosphere. Those islands actually aren't just randomly scattered over the place. There are ties between them. When I first entered this area some months ago I didn't have a clue. I'm still only in the beginning of realizing the vasteness of it. But I also see patterns. Blogs which stick together, sort of clusters.

Maybe you would like to do an enlargement of it?

I'll keep thinking about it. Could turn into another blog post later on.

2nd Nin said...

Could be interesting to actually try and link all the blogs we know of, and their relationships. Its interesting that I follow links to Larisa, or Blessing of Kings and Ardent Defender, then I follow their links... its a bit like Wikipeida, one click and you are hooked.