What do we want to measure on the blogs, and how? Here are some possible metrics and what they would do for us.

  • Links per post
    • Internal links can measure the extent to which a given blogger is building upon and looking for connections in previous work. More internal links may indicate a greater effort at personal and social knowledge management (SKM).
    • External links can measure the extent to which a given blogger is paying attention to, responding to, and building on the work of others. More external links show more SKM.
    • Relevant vs. automatic: Focus on the links deliberately added by the author, and preferably the ones relevant to the topic at hand (though we can be loose with the definition of relevant: if an author sees fit to include the link, it must have some relevance, in the author’s thinking). Automatic links like those pumped out by Zemanta (example: Middle Border Sun) don’t tell us much, if anything. They maybe indicate a general intention by the author to provide more links and maybe make some serendipitous discovery, but they are just as likely to demonstrate an urge to boost traffic. Zemanta-generated links show no direct intentionality, and often aren’t even relevant to the main topic at hand, providing at best tangential references or background.
  • Standalone stories versus series: Some posts may have nothing to do with anything else. Those would be standalones. A series of posts may look at a single issue over time. The author may signal the developing, building nature of a series with regular backlinks and references, usually at the beginning of the post. The title may also signal series membership (e.g. “Part 3,” “Update”). The author may even go so far as to create a sidebar table-of-contents widget with links to all portions of the series (e.g., my 5-parter on the water project district). Such explicit declarations of a series may be less common: identifying series may require reading the texts and watching for the connections.
    • Collaborative/Community Stories: This category would include series created by multiple authors. That may be authors sharing a single blog or working in a community like Daily Kos. Maybe even more interesting would be manifestations of such collaborative stories among independent blogs. I’m thinking first of situations like how Rebecca built on my post about the SDSU PVP lawsuit… and now Doug’s post!. I’m not sure the SD Blogosphere fracas over objectification (remember: we can trace the genesis of that discussion to Pastor Hickey) in June counts in this category: is a group discussion/argument a collaborative story? There were certainly opposing camps… does it count as collaboration to simply chime in in support with a blog post or a comment to develop the argument further?
    • Length of chain: count the stories in the series. The number of times an author builds on a story, or the number of building posts and authors, may indicate more SKM.
  • Time span of links: A lot of blog content is ephemeral. We read it today, maybe this week, and then it’s forgotten. Only rare posts stick out and keep getting referred to a month or a year later. Perhaps we should measure the time spanned by a link. If an old post is still getting links 6 or 12 or 36 months later, it must have some significant knowledge. It’s not just today’s news; it’s knowledge with lasting power, worth keeping in our limited attention stock. I’m not sure what the threshold is, but a link that reaches back a certain amount of time indicates author interest that is out of the ordinary, not not the usual morning reading list. It’s not something that got pushed there by the RSS feed. It shows a salient memory, or research, and a desire to really anchor an argument.

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