A really interesting comment was raised with the Exclusion Project which was that the person felt that the ALI blogosphere itself broke down into separate cliques. She questioned whether we’re really a cohesive community or whether we divide ourselves into small groups usually based on experience (those parenting after adoption stick with those parenting after adoption, or those with PCOS hanging out online with those with PCOS).
I see it from where I stand as sort of both truths at the exact same time -- we’re a cohesive group (especially in comparison to other online communities) yet we’re also very much divided into small cliques.
Back when I first started blogging, I had about 100 blogs on the original blogroll. There were 10 categories. Now, there are 52 categories and over 2700 blogs. And I add about 20 more each week. Back when there were 100 blogs on the blogroll, I didn’t read all 100 regularly, but I knew all of them and I checked in weekly or monthly. Even if I didn’t read the blogger personally, when someone posted about someone else on their blog, I always knew exactly who they were talking about. When the LFCA started, there were already many more than 100 blogs on the blogroll, but people still could look down the LFCA and know at least 90% of the people who had news listed. Now there are times when I’m uploading a blurb for the LFCA and I don’t even know the blogger, and I read a wide-swathe of blogs and have a fairly good memory of blogs I’ve even only seen once.
By virtue of size, we have had to become fragmented. No one can keep 2700+ blogs in their mind when blogging is a hobby; not a job. It’s supposed to be enjoyable. It’s supposed to be a place to draw support. It is not supposed to be a huge guilt trip of what you’re not doing or not getting or not achieving -- at least, that is how I see it. I feel your online life should add to your overall emotional health, not suck it dry. People break down into cliques not with the desire to exclude, but instead, with the desire to have an enjoyable online experience that brings something missing to their world.
I also don’t think these cliques are impossible to break into though people tend to enter a state once they’ve been online for a while where they travel with the people they originally found. They add fewer and fewer new bloggers to their Readers. It’s not that they wouldn’t welcome a new person into the conversation or go and read a blog post or two on a new blog, but they’re less likely to start up that two-way relationship with someone new when their Reader already feels full. That said, there are always new people entering, so there are always new people to connect with. And those connections certainly happen. A big portion of my Reader are blogs I’ve been reading for 4+ years. But there are also people in there who haven’t yet celebrated their first blogoversary. Mostly because whatever they said or conversations we’ve had off-blog have resonated with me.
It is hard to be a new blogger. It feels like it’s harder to be a new blogger now than it was to be a new blogger years ago. It was still hard to find your niche and build a readership. There are tools now that didn’t exist back then -- such as other social networking sites -- that can jump start a readership. But it was also a smaller group and once you had stood around in the blogosphere for a while and participated in reading and commenting, people welcomed you in to the community simply by virtue of the fact that there were so few bloggers around at all. Now, there are so many people entering the blogosphere that it can feel a bit like overload and new people aren’t necessarily going to be dragged into the center of things simply by standing around. You need to shout to be heard. You need to nudge a bit.
I think there are things we do exceptionally well as a community. We cross out of our cliques to give comfort (which does not mean that there aren’t people who slip through the cracks). We bond together for big projects. We add our voices so we can shout extra loud to the outside world. There are also things that have waned in our community -- I believe due to size more than due to maliciousness or uppitiness -- the LFCA, the support, the welcoming in of new people.
The President gives a State of the Union every year. Perhaps we also need to revisit yearly the State of Our Blogosphere (SOOB!) to look at ways we can improve and places where we’re kicking ass.
Do you agree or disagree with how I see our corner of the blogosphere? I’d love to hear from older bloggers and newer bloggers from what they’ve observed.
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