Mapping the Blogosphere

We all know about the interconnectedness of the blogosphere. We also know about the “chimneys” of information flows that many RSS users find themselves in (I discussed this in an earlier post about serendipity). But what do these interconnections actually look like?

A recent article, Human Trails in Cyberspace in The Chronicle of Higher Education [subscription required] describes attempts to map these interconnections. At first glance, a map of the interconnections between blogs [See slide 3 in particular; images are from, subscription required] looks something like an Independence Day fireworks show. According to the article, though,

Matthew Hurst, director of science and innovation for Nielsen BuzzMetrics, a company that analyzes Internet trends for businesses, … [has created a map that] distributes blogs in visual space based on how much they link to each other. “If things are very close to each other, it means they talk to each other a lot,” he says. “When you do this analysis, you inevitably end up with a large percentage of blogs that are just floating around by themselves because they don’t have a lot of in or out links The size of the circles on Mr. Hurst’s map indicates the numbers of links to the blogs. The colors of the circles show the type of blog software used or on what kind of server the sites are hosted….”

This brings home the perhaps obvious point that the most popular blogs and bloggers — those positioned near the center on slide 3 — reference their peers more often than they do new or less-popular blogs. Which makes sense; we all write about what we know, and what we learn about is greatly influenced by what already know. Yet I was pleasantly surprised that the periphery was as active and interconnected as depicted.

As the success of social software tools like and Flickr have made clear, the voice of the people can be a powerful tool in finding “the good stuff.” Interestingly, “good” is not really defined — as long as there’s an unspoken consensus of what is “good,” those items rise to the top. However, I do wonder how much equally “good stuff” never gets seen by the masses because it doesn’t attract the attention of the few in the center. Perhaps my misgivings are unfounded and the vast majority of the “good stuff” — yours, mine, and your Aunt Petunia’s — is brought to the surface precisely because the masses of the public are sure to find it and gently “Digg” it to the surface through word of blog.