The Boing Boing Effect

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Wired printed an article recently (I wish I could remember the title) that discussed the network structure of relationships and fame. For example, imagine individuals as nodes in a big graph. Join the nodes by drawing directional vertices that indicate whether a person knows of another person. An arrow drawn from Bob to Alice indicates Bob knows Alice. The fact that there's no arrow from Alice to Bob indicates Bob's a total loser (or stalker).

In this graph, the average person's node will have a roughly balanced number of arrows pointing in as arrows pointing out. That makes sense because in general, you'll know around the same number of people that know you unless you're a total loner. But for the truly famous, say for example Bill Gates, the arrows pointing in hugely outnumber the arrows out, which explains the hoard of people asking him for money. The effect of this is that there's no way for Bill to have personal communications with everyone who knows of him. There's literally not enough time (not to mention incentive).

The article goes on to discuss how this relates to websites and blogs. For the relative unknown majority out there with blogs (such as this one), the number of arrows pointing in is quite small. Yep. Most likely, your blog is downright obscure. However, there is one advantage. Having a small readership allows one to actually participate in the small number of inane conversations that spark from time to time in the comments section of a post. The fact I even have a comments section is often indicative of the small audience I serve.

However, once you turn it up a notch in audience size, things change. For instance, you'll probably never get feedback from someone at the truly collosal sites such as CNN.com. Even sites that are somewhere in the middle such as Boing Boing and Slashdot have such a large audience that two-way communication is pretty non-existent.

To give you an idea of the mindshare these sites have, consider the following stats. A micro-node blog like mine gets around 40 web views and 150 aggregator views per post on average. That's pretty darn insignificant, but at least I can be pretty sure that those aren't all accounted for by my wife. Non-family members actually read this. "Hi y'all. Welcome! I come in peace!" Now suppose a site like BoingBoing decides to link to a post on this humble site like they did last week. Such an action leads to 18,365 web views (and counting) with 216 aggregator views. Keep in mind that this represents a small subsection of the entire Boing Boing readership who took the time to actually follow a link to some nobody's blog. Talk about alot of arrows pointing in.

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