Repealing the Power-law
Whether weblogs adhere to the Power-law will determine the nature of the medium. Doc and Chris Gulker have been hashing out the NEC Power-law paper and how it relates to weblogs. This thread began at the same time I met Chris at the Supernova blogger dinner, where sketched out how his weblog metrics research uncovered a Power-law pattern:
A Power-law distribution is a concentration of links within a few hubs, a scale-free network. This is in contrast to a random network where each node has the same scale of links, resulting in a bell-curve distribution. Power-law is driven by "preferential attachment." When a new node enters the network it prefers to link to more connected hubs. Over time, hubs grow faster, with only more random exceptions such as the rise of Google. On a pure link basis this is the structure of the web, as demonstrated by Albert-László Barabási in his book Linked.
But weblogs are distinct from the web and web sites. They are really communication tools that are personal and provide diverse link-modes that make it a social medium. Link-modes include:
- Post links
- Blogroll links
- RSS Subscriptions
These link-modes provide a diverse selection of how blog-to-blog relationships can be defined. The etiquitte for forming relationships is in flux, and link-modes provide ways of declaring them. The denser the link-mode declarations, the stronger the social ties.
Duncan Watts provides an alternative view of the emergence of Power-law distributions in his new book Six Degrees: The Science of a Connected Age. As you start to ratchet up the requirements for what it means to know someone, connections diminish.
If blog-to-blog relationships are defined by a dense interconnection of link-modes, Power-law distribution is less dramatic -- weblogs are clusters of localized relationships of strong ties that may posses greater power than a global hub-and-spoke network of weak ties. The NEC model identifies categorical differences in the distribution of e-commerce network structure. Publishing e-commerce sites (Amazon) follow a power-law. But Photography e-commerce sites, which are bound to physical locality in providing service do not.
Although localized Meatspace relationships will move into Blogspace, localized communities accentuate it and it will be further driven by GeoURL -- Blogspace isn't bound to a physical location but creates clusters similar to localities.
Strong ties can be established and maintained over vast distances. Clusters of smaller and diverse interests can discover each other achieve mass because Blogspace is simply that big. These strong ties are more powerful in their meaning to participants in their communities, but also for lurking browsers seeking diverse resources on a one-off basis.
If we define Blogspace as a social space instead of a collection of pages and links we may see a more democratic distribution of network structure. And we may re-create the web in a way that means more to us.