Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Peer-to-peer

Sharon Wildwind

I thought I’d stay close to home this week and blog about blogging.

The blogging tide may have turned. Lone bloggers are either joining group blogs (like this one) or morphing into Facebook, Twitter, or other social sites. In the past month half a dozen on-line interest groups that I follow have instituted or arguing about instituting a no-blog-promotion policy. And indeed, at least two of these sites have turned into less than 20% useful information and over 80%, “come visit my blog” messages.

The problem with blogs is that they are too insular. Even if by some chance 10 writers decided to blog on the same topic on the same day—a statistical certainty given the number of blogs out there—and I happened to be following all 10—low statistical probability given the number of blogs out there and the amount of time to read blogs in a given day—there’s no mechanism for connecting separate comments into a single meaningful discussion.

Even if I Google one blog topic, say writing query letters, that generates over 900,000 possible sites. It doesn’t separate out query letters for non-fiction and poetry versus those for fiction and, within fiction, wouldn’t tell me which were query letters for short stories versus those for longer works. It would also give me no clue about the quality of the recommendations in a given blog.

Most important, Google entries are ranked according to popularity. Those blogs which had had a lot of hits would be listed in the top ten, and the particular blog I would find most helpful might be down at number 803,221. There’s no way I’m going to scroll through over eight hundred thousand blog entries to find the one that meets my needs.

Scientists faced a similar problem several years ago. The amount of available research data and the number of research projects world-wide had grown far beyond using conferences and peer-review journals to distribute findings within in the scientific community.

The Liebel-Lab at the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) in Germany developed a pilot project called Sciencenet, which makes raw research data available to other scientists. The goal of this and other Peer2Peer projects is first to give scientists a reliable way to share data and help them connect with one another.

We're drowning in information and starving for knowledge.
~Rutherford D. Rodgers, librarian, Yale University

Amen, Doctor Rogers. What we need to do as writers is spend less time writing isolated postings and more time coming together as a community for discussion and problem-solving.

So if a new writer asked me if she should start a blog, my answer today would be "no." What I'd suggest that she do instead is join an established Internet group and contribute what she would have written in her blog into the general discussion. We need more cohesion, not more fragmentation.

6 comments:

Paul said...

Blog carnivals have been around for a long time. They are sort of aggregates for subject matter, generally voluntarily submitted based on stated themes. I and the Bird is a well known one for birders. The Festival of the Trees is a blog carnival all about trees. I've looked around for blog carnivals about writing, but I haven't really found any, other than several that died out years ago.

Sheila Connolly said...

Writers seem to share a herd mentality. Someone says, you must have a website--and everyone slaps together a website. You must blog, and there are now a zillion blogs (who could possibly read them all?). Book trailers are hot, so make one, or one for each book, or one for your cat. You must join Myspace/Facebook/Twitter, and then friend everybody in the universe. Anybody heard from Myspace lately? Will Facebook disappear too?

And so it goes. We are all hunting for that one little advantage that will draw readers to our books, but mainly we attract other writers.

Lonnie Cruse said...

I left MySpace recently but am enjoying Facebook . . . with friends. I can keep up with people I wasn't usually able to keep up with other ways. Beyond that, I don't use Facebook much to promote my writing. I WILL be mentioning my new book there soon but not driving it into the ground . . . I hope.

Sharon Wildwind said...

Paul, thanks for the info about blog carnivals. I hadn't heard of them before.

Is everyone as frustrated as I am about too much electronic communication, too little time?

Elizabeth Zelvin said...

On the pro-blog side, Poe's Deadly Daughters (ie me, in this case) posted a blog on the topic of blood a couple of weeks ago and announced it on DorothyL. It got a significantly, even remarkably higher number of visits than we usually do. My inference is that we're still reaching readers as well as writers.

Another point: I blog because I love blogging--it's like being a journalist once a week and offers me the fun of expressing my opinions and quirky observations--just the way writers write because they love writing, not because they have a good chance of becoming rich and famous or reaching millions of readers.

lil Gluckstern said...

I really like your idea of new authors joining a group blog. I am a reader who loves books and admires writers, but I don't want to spend that much time on Facebook. I just sinned I know. I like visiting this and a couple of blogs each day, and getting more familiar with the writers. DorothyL is a great forum, but sometimes the complaints sound a little whiny. I like hearing about who's blogging where, and I can pick and choose. I also have discovered more books, and authors than I will ever read, but so what?