Creatures of Information


Penelope Trunk - blog domo at Brazen Careerist

We walk the corridors, searching the shelves and rearranging them, looking for lines of meaning amid leagues of cacophony and incoherence, reading the history of the past and of the future, collecting our thoughts and collecting the thoughts of others, and every so often glimpsing mirrors, in which we may recognize creatures of the information. Jorge Luis Borges The Library of Babel


[ResponseIS Tweeting Better Than Blogging?] I’ve had to think about the social ‘net as a marketing opportunity for my job. I approached this by going out and sifting through the resources about current best practices. Because I’ve long be a skimmer of the marketing world as it is situated by the internet, I have also long known the most basic, challenge is making it possible for your customers to both: find your content, and, spend a quality moment with ‘it.’

That said customer might proceed to a trial–marketing lingo for doing something that you the provider knows he or she is doing–is almost the frosting on the cake of nailing down steps one and two.

Find and capture (attention.)

When I peruse the google analytics for ND2.0 or any of my own productions, I am impressed and dismayed in equal parts by their suggestive qualification of user behavior. They found us, and they spent an average of 2:02 minutes with us. (The realization of a trial here would be a comment.)

Awash in information, yet, somewhere in this ocean is content which may be found if time is invested. Stepping back from this opaque generality, is a slightly more refined generality: an individual invests time in a manner distinctive to him or her, is motivated by an overt or tacit goal, and, his or her’s success requires a successful act of retrieval and selection.

To give this description a finer grain, we would need to know something more detailed about the conjunction of: goals, time, tool, manner/regimen, medium, media, (and more.)

In this there would arise the positive question. For example, what characterizes the user most likely to read content of some specific length? There could be all sorts of ways to break down the previously mentioned descriptive elements.

Of course I am in possession of my own subject, myself. (Netdynamics was partly rooted in reflexive accounts.) I have a good idea about that which comprises the array of my own goals, what kinds of content focus both my time and attention, and, I also have a fairly rich terminology for establishing the baseline description concerned with characterizing what kind/type/disposition I possess.

If I integrate a rough and approximate sense of goal directed search-and-retrieval with this kind of baseline description, and, I then scale this conceptually to include all persons who could be differentiated in this way, I can then blast this downward to questions about Twitter and blogosphere. I reckon the devil would be in the details betwixt, for example, two extremes. One extreme is the person who meets their goals by exclusively spending not more than two minutes with any section of content, and, another person who only uses the internet to retrieve long-form content.

Following through with this sketch it seems we land in the interdisciplinary flux of psychology, anthropology, sociology, and, information science.

From this, there could be a folksy supposition: there are those users who are tend to express attention deficit disorder. This user’s time is easily waylaid. What would a causal hypothesis be once we establish that some users operate like this?


ND2.0’s two-to-four hundred visits per month are somewhere on the continuum of quantifiable responsive agency and activity. Our blog is more active than all the dead and lesser blogs. We haven’t invested the time to elevate its activity, yet the default is not completely shabby at all. Yet, we’re not aiming to address the complex problem of how to make our content retrievable, vital, and, incidentally, formulate its distribution in ways which match the various ways users deploy to meet their goals.


In three different feedreaders I have subscribed to a total of over 2,000 blogs. I keyword search through the blogs using the RSS client. Another way to look at this is that I have created a subset of blogs and severely limited the base data set. This would be contrasted with searching via Google. In the case of using Google, I am looking through a humongous data set, but, I also have to invest the time in wading through the false positives. My experience is that there’s lots of gold deep in the pages of a Google search, yet the time investment is often too much.

I don’t know what the actual figures are, however, for argument’s sake, say I spend 25% of my time ‘after retrieval,’ on average, using up 5 minutes per retrieved item. This is a somewhat complicated vector, right? This includes the twenty to sixty minutes–or so–I might spend reading a journal article or long magazine article. The other side of this measure is that I spend 25% of my time using time at the rate of less than five minutes per retrieved item. Leaving the 50% I require to search and retrieve.

(No matter what the actual distribution of time is, it shifts were I to drop out, so-to-speak, “off screen,” dealing with content I print out, or listen to.)


One last observation; when I look at my Twitter stream ( and or at blogs, I’m impressed by the implicit time investment of other users. And, I can make distinctions, such as the difference between Twitter users who are mostly scattering links, and, Twitter users who mostly are interacting with each other. Likewise, on blogs, I’m fascinated by comment threads. Not for their content, but because of their group relations and social-psychological context.

I’m very impressed by the blog Crooked Timber, where something like three dozen people are expressing (day in and day out,) deeply thought responses to sophisticated thinking.

There are many extremely successful blogs produced by a single person. Take for example Brazen Careeristfrom Penelope Trunk. It gets hundreds of thousands of hits per month.

A blog requires users who possess the right combination of traits, motivation, goals–as long as the blog is oriented to users. Obviously, there is the other side of the equation: those who develop and produce and distribute content for users.

As for Twitter, comments will follow. I will say this: it’s not well matched with my disposition. I prefer to manage serendipity rather than simply be subjected to it!

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  • Apurr Sonar says:

    there are several posts in what you’ve written.
    [don’t you know the first thing about sticky blogs? no more than a screenful! no-one likes to scroll]
    a lot of meat there.

    i think you might have nailed it with:

    Following through with this sketch it seems we land in the interdisciplinary flux of psychology, anthropology, sociology, and, information science.

    to which i can only be reminded of a quotation that seemed appropriate
    [which took me several minutes to find, copy and paste, then clean up the text]

    Values are not only characteristic of an individual but are also
    held by groups of people and by whole cultures. The reader will
    recognize that as soon as interpretation of messages is considered,
    no clear distinction can be made between communication theory, value
    theory, and anthropological statements about culture.”

    Jurgen Ruesch and Gregory Bateson 1987 [1951]. Communication: The
    Social Matrix of Psychiatry. 2nd ed Norton. New York.

  • Apurr Sonar says:


    ND2.0′s two-to-four hundred visits per month are somewhere on the continuum of quantifiable responsive agency and activity. Our blog is more active than all the dead and lesser blogs. We haven’t invested the time to elevate its activity, yet the default is not completely shabby at all. Yet, we’re not aiming to address the complex problem of how to make our content retrievable, vital, and, incidentally, formulate its distribution in ways which match the various ways users deploy to meet their goals.

    to the extent that we do have time to invest in this blog – which as you’d realise, is NOT a labour of commerce so much as a labour of interest: thus is will never make a ‘return’ in the form of pecuniary advantage – there are several ways that i’m aware that i try to at least increase the range of hits for our site.
    whether the visitors stay long or return is a matter that cannot be measured or conjectured by me… usefully… but i suppose, as you do hoon, that it’s a combination of factors.
    and one of them most definitely rests with the amount of time any one person has at their disposal, crossed with their degree of interest in the topics we proffer.
    since i cannot control either of those factors (since i must write about what interests me in the netdynamic field, crossed with what time i have available), i do not worry too much about them.

    at the same time, there are a few conscious ways i try to increase traffic here.
    one is that i use the URL of this site as my ‘website’ on several occasions. e.g. in an occasional sigfile when writing to people interested in CMC-related topics, and on my twitter account. when i think we’ve posted something of general interest, i log into our twitter account and post a tweet. then, i retweet it on my own twitter account. and vice versa sometimes. if i mention a site that i like or where i’ve read something i’ve liked, i try to remember to link it. also, if i remember to do so, i leave appropriate tags on posts – OK so i turned off tagaroo and their suggestions for images. i must admit, even though i understand the reasoning for this, my non-commercial soul rebels.
    some these actions would account for some of the traffic through.

    then, it is up to us, i hear you say, to increase the sticky-ness of the visitor.
    well, as may be – but, as i say, i can only write what i can write.
    and, having visited the crooked timber site, i can only report that, although impressed with their ability to churn out the text, it was obviously not a site meant to appeal to me.
    firstly, as far as i can see US-focus.
    2ndly, there is a very male ‘feel’ to the site – this may be due to the stern discussion of matters such as politics and sport (natch, now that i use a generalisation such as ‘stern’ i feel an analytic twitch coming over me – what is it about the tenor (as well as the field) of the short stretches of text that i read that gave me this ‘male’ gendered impression?)
    and 3rd, yes, the topics, the length in general… ah, the modality of the site… how can i put it? for readers, not interactants perhaps – despite and because of the comments they engender. it is serious without being witty. these days, seriousness does not cut it at all with me. i mean wall-to-wall seriousness (whaddya mean, ‘these days’?). it’s the tenor again – people writing from a position of higher authority, of higher knowledge… and not only that, of security in their values being unassailed. this has always formed a wall for me. some people like this style of ‘persona’ i know. but it doesn’t generally appeal to me.

    OK. will try to respond to other points after breakfast

  • hoon says:

    Let’s for a moment say of our blog here that it is self-indulgent, it indulges specific self-type persons, and, it does so along the contours of these same person’s interests. Tis you and me, babe.

    A general question about building traffic could match with a general question with building readership. Obviously, out of raw traffic might arise dedicated readers. However, there’s nothing about the medium which makes it a no-brainer to assume that building traffic is an efficient way to gain readers.

    Set this aside, and then consider what targeted approaches might consist. Finally, consider what are ‘best practices’ in the sense that any blog getting, for example, 50 hits a day must be doing something right.

    Take this latter consideration and imagine what an inquiry into these modestly successful cottages would require. In other words, how would you go about determining what are the factors involved in supporting a blog that gets 1500 hits per month, and, is further qualified by this blog receiving from 5-15 comments per day–3% to 10% agentive throughput.

    Include this strategy and concentrate iand inquiry into subject-area or disciplinary-focused blogs. Take any sophisticated social science subject. Sociology; post-modernism; semiotics; Freudian psychology; phenomenology. What do you then discover? Say you want to go find your favorite subject “out there,” what is found?

    I’ve got my feed reader categorized by subject. I also know little tricks using Google–avoid Google’s blog search engine is one trick. Plug into a regular Google search:

    inurl:blogspot [whatever keywords] and you get nothing but blogspot hosted blogs.

    There are certain very vitals sectors, such as management and business, and there are surprisingly sparsely populated sectors, such as psychology. The arts world supports lots of blogs.

    No matter what your lens, everything you discover is in someway the evidence of time investment on both sides of the producer/reader transaction.

    The idealized blog cottage would be one that has a vital community ‘around’ it. But, although there are tens of millions of english-language blogs, there doesn’t seem to be even hundreds of thriving blogs, and this seems the case even at the low level of vitality I’ve marked: 1500 visits per month and 3% contributed engagement.

    I have a fair amount of confidence in my suggestion, in its suppositions about actual outcomes. Still, i could be wrong in implying 1% of blogs have obtained any appreciable audience for their output.

    At the same time, lots of giants out there in the blogosphere too. Huge communities. Because of the scale involved, there are psychology-oriented blogs and I could say there are not many but there are ‘enough.’

    This is all on the supply side.


    On the user or demand side, I mention my own patterns for use. Using Netnews Wire for non-music blogs and Vienna for music blogs, I can scan the day’s post headlines in aboyt 15 minutes. But, I don’t do it this way, rather, I search using keywords. I visit around 10 blogs per day, don’t comment, and probably spend and average of five minutes per blog per day. Call this my user overhead, and it amounts to an hour per day. This makes me, I suppose, a fairly active user but I haven’t joined any communities by weighing in at their nexus of activity.

    Roughly, I’ve typified here my agency as a blog user. I assume there are lots of different models for blog usage on this demand side. Going farther, I think it would be very hard to generalize given all the different user models cum typologies. This lands in the realm of anthropology.

    Field trip, anybody?


    My guess: the number one way to promote more vital user agency on the demand side is to spend a lot of time commenting on like-minded or related blogs. Do this to, in effect, call attention to your own operation as a supplier.

  • hoon says:

    I trotted out Crooked Timber as a very substantial instance, and could have pulled many other examples out of my trove of instances.

  • Apurr Sonar says:

    yes, i only commented on crooked timber, because i went there and saw what it was about in order to get a feel for what you were saying about blogs that are invested with time-spenders of a certain calibre. to that end, the example was a good one. at the same time, my personal response dovetails into the topic of what users do when they interact with a blog how that relates to what they might seek in the first place.

    i’m up for a field trip – i invite you to construct an itinerary. i’m willing to see some different styles, types, topics, genres of blogs and blogging.

    my own blogging orientation involves random access. i spend time reading and responding on this one, i have an SFL blog that i update regularly with bit and pieces, a blog where i post comments and notes about wordpress themes. otherwise, when term time is on, i check out blogs that my students mention. i hardly go back to them. so blogging is not really a big part of my life, even though i spend probably an hour a day on the ones i do look at, or work on.

    first tutorial today, and the mainly 1st year uni students asked about their media habits – and most of them do not watch much hard news or read it. furthermore, very few of them have a twitter account, very few have a blog. but the opinion was in about blogs and blogging: self-indulgent look-at-me devices, of little interest to anyone.
    they all had a facebook account though, which many of them seemed to access regularly.
    the reason people blog was in the hopes of getting noticed and then perhaps syndicated or paid money for blogging, but generally they fail becasue most bloggers have nothing of interest to say…
    well. there you are!

  • hoon says:

    Your survey of students is, at the least, data about resource use. It’s interesting. I would have asked the students how they rate their awareness and understanding–that’s two questions–of their environment, or something similar to environment. My guess was the students would overrate themselves. …tis human nature.

    If you think of each channel for distributing content as providing a medium for development, and then mark its success at a minimum as representing some sort of instance where the content is engaged with by a “receiver,” it would be understood for this engagement to occur the user/receiver has to invest time “up close” as it were.

    If your resource evokes have enough such instances then it hardly matters what the population of non-users think about blogs. I’m peddling an ironic implication here: what’s enough?

    From our Netdynam discussion days, we know how analytically worthwhile are the terms of narcissism in all fleshy and virtual contexts for human exchange. Favoring the self-indulgence of Facebook over the more challenged medium for same, found in (some/most) blogs, is the frying pan calling the kettle black. Yup, ‘well. there you are!’

    One angle for analysis, and you could tell me about the ecosemiotic and cybernetic vectors, is how the structure of a specific channel affords narcissistic exchange. The peculiar implication of your students’ generalized comment is that the use of Facebook is not so reflexive as would be the provision of content on a blog. Of course this is a really amusing comment suggesting that to be sunk in the reflexive, thus self-referential, flux of one channel is to possibly promote a shadowy projection onto another channel.

    I can appreciate the structured ‘genius’ of Facebook. Yet, I also can now reflect upon my own personal experience in a variety of channels and focus this reflection on how a given channel provides concrete features that amplify the user’s –my own–specific kinds of sensings.

    So, for example, I tell you that I personally prefer the ‘narcissistic affordances’ of the email discussion group, where there seems to exist a center ring.

  • Apurr Sonar says:

    yes, you and i both prefer the affordances of the email list – and one reason i like it, is due to the facility of long written discussions, without extraneous matterial for me, and having some idea of the audience composition – although in some sense, i do not like to be centre of attention. e.g. i eschew birthday parties (and have done since i was offered a 21st by my mother) and one of the worst nightmares i can think of, would be to be a ‘bride’ in a special dress and centre stage, etc.

    otherwise, i cannot address your concerns, because they do not impinge on my conscious thinking areas… i mean, i never think of how “the structure of a specific channel affords narcissistic exchange”, although what i DO think of and try to analyse may come quite close to that, e.g. i’m trying to hone a proposal for a chapter (based on a recent conference presentation) regarding the affordances of WP themes for ‘expressing’ identity.
    i need to slice off a lot of issues which attach to this.
    firstly the affordances of a “user” in this sense, need to be seen against the backdrop of ‘end-user profile’, and located near the end of a cline which goes from uttter newbie at one end to php and CSS savvy web-design developer at the other (in which case, one would be designing themes, not selecting from amongst them, but the principle of ‘identification’ remains).
    and then there is the reader-user: but this person is projected (by the user-owner) as a member of the ‘tribe’ with whom the selector of the theme would want to identify, and the theme then acts as a sign: this blog’s values or topic or attitudes are such-and-such.

    so, first i look at blog themes – jumping right over the differences between channels.

    i mean, i could paint.
    i take photos
    i present at conferences.
    i publish papers
    these are all channels of self-exposure and afford potential narcissistic exchange… but at another level, i need to narrow down focus (of analysis) in order to be able to say anything ‘meaningful’ about these channels anyway.

  • Apurr Sonar says:

    the 200+ students in this year’s intake group (bachelor of media & communication) are at present uploading their first task to the blog site in which they need to outline their own media use profile.

    this is meant to become fodder for some general brief discussion in the next tutorial, to compare and contrast what the peer group does wrt media engagement, and what students intend for their future in taking the course..

    you may find some of it interesting to read.
    i have already looked through quite a number and will do so with specific focus on my own tute group over the weekend. welcome to post comments too – we’ve warned them it’s public.


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