Tuesday, 15 April 2008

Blogging - Worthy of study?

Researchers at the University of California, Irvine have undertaken a study which has, apparently, provided new insights into blog readers' online habits as well as how they perceive their roles in blog-based communities.

The research, led by Eric Baumer is the first to focus primarily on blog reading.

The UCI study examined in-depth the blog-reading habits of 15 participants of various ages to determine how they consume content and interact with blogs and blog writers. It won’t come as much of a surprise to find that the research found that some readers frequently post comments, while in others "lurk," or visit without commenting. Amongst the other findings:

1) Readers have diverse opinions of what makes a blog a blog. Academic definitions generally refer to blogs as frequently modified Web pages with dated entries listed in reverse chronological order. But study participants identified a wide variety of characteristics in what they considered to be blogs. These included both technical aspects like RSS feeds and track back links, as well as social aspects, including the presence of conversation or personal content.

2) Regular blog reading often becomes more habitual and less content oriented. Similar to e-mail checking, blog reading can become ingrained into users' online routine. Sometimes, even the usefulness of the blog content itself can be less vital than the activity of reading or skimming the blog to fulfil a person's particular routine.

3) The timing of a blog post is not nearly as relevant to readers as its position among the other entries. Readers are more likely to read the most recent posts at the top of the screen, and are generally less concerned with the exact age of a post. A vast majority of participants said they were not bothered when they were not able to read each and every blog post, challenging a common theory that users tend to feel overwhelmed by the need to remain constantly up to date.

4) Blog readers feel a responsibility to make insightful contributions. While past research noted readers expect bloggers to deliver frequent, high-quality posts, the UCI study found readers also place pressure on themselves to produce coherent, worthwhile comments in response to good blog posts.

I’m not sure that this research adds much to the sum of human / blogging knowledge.

It does kind of suggest that visitors will come by on a regular basis irrespective of what you are posting and that you don’t need to post quite as regularly as you feel you should. This would be reassuring for this author unless it was for the fact that most visits here seem to be generated by English students studying classic literature.

Well that or they want a further chance to see a computer enhanced Angelina Jolie.

Either way they are likely to be disappointed.

And were the results of the research illuminating? Probably not. But what it might suggest is that if blogging is now the subject of academic research then it might have finally arrived as an important medium. Which as one infinitesimally small contributor in the general scheme of things makes me feel rather pleased.


jmb said...

Interesting. Some I relate to, others not so much. On some blogs, if I comment I do like to think I have contributed something, so I don't if I can't think of anything brilliant, which is often.

On the other hand on some blogs, mostly women's it seems, I feel obliged to say something every time so as not to offend.

I do have some blogs which I check only every couple of weeks and drop a comment to indicate I've been by. That's why I like MyBlogLog. One can see who's been by and leave a trace oneself, without necessarily commenting.

Sorry it wasn't brilliant. Too bad!

Semaj Mahgih said...

That was interesting, esp.:

3) The timing of a blog post is not nearly as relevant to readers as its position among the other entries.

Thanks Grendel.

jams o donnell said...

Interesting stuff. It may not say anything we don't already know in our waaters but it is sometimes useful to have that stated to us. Hmm not a very insightful comment, sadly

CherryPie said...

I agree with number 3 that is exactly how it works on the photo site flickr. If you post more than one pic a day most people only comment on the last picture. If you have made more of a connection with your visitors they will comment on a few more.

I agree with jmb, myblog is a good way to let people know you enjoy reading their blog even if you don't always comment.

Liz said...

I wish someone would pay me to do some vitally interesting research.

Crushed said...

I agree with what is said about comments.
Problem is, sonme people leave really long in depth, well thought out comments, but you can't think of anything to say to their posts- they know enough to make sensible comments to you, but you are sadly ignorant of something to say on their posts.

Because not commenting is quite rude, if they regularly comment to you.