How we change what others think, feel, believe and do
Blogs and Diffusion
Blogs (and micro-blogging such Twitter) are a phenomenon of the information age, and have evolved from simple online diaries to important information-dissemination and conversational mechanisms.
Not only do people read blogs for new ideas they also copy them on and reference them in spreading the word, making blogging a critical diffusion mechanism of the modern age.
When ideas and information are spread, the receiver has to determine whether to trust the source to tell the whole truth. Newspapers and other media have a certain amount of trust but also are suspected as being under the control of political and business forces. Blogs are written by individuals who are not affected by such control so are often trusted more.
Blogs may also be written in real-time and news can be nearer to the event. Blogs are consequently more relevant for those seeking on-the-ground short-term information.
As individual bloggers are read and their notoriety spreads, they acquire a fame and brand of their own, becoming widely read and reference hubs of knowledge, ideas and information.
Blogs often include feedback comments by which readers can challenge or enhance the information provided. It also enables conversation which further enriches understanding. This interaction easily becomes conversation out of which further meaning is developed.
There have been a number of attempts to rank blogs by popularity, and the criteria used for this indicate key variables of diffusion. Li and Chen (2008), for example use a composite of trustworthiness and reliability (TR), social intimacy and popularity (SIP) and semantic similarity (SS).
For a message to be retransmitted to others, it must first be trusted as the re-transmitter is, in their actions, putting their own reputation on the line. Reliability is a key component of trust and a blogger who gives reliably sound information will be trusted more. Social intimacy and popularity implies a level of bonding and consequent further trust. Semantic similarity indicates similarity of meaning and consequent similarity in personality, likewise increasing trust and hence a greater likelihood of re-transmitting and so diffusing the blog.
As with any measure of success, providers will seek to optimize their ranking and bloggers do likewise, paying close attention to how they are measured and responding accordingly. It is not surprising that a critical measure of success on Twitter is the number of 'retweet' retransmissions that a twitterer receives.
Li, Yung-Ming and Chen, Ching-Wen (2008). A synthetical approach for blog recommendation: Combining trust, social relation, and semantic analysis, doi:10.1016/j.eswa.2008.07.077