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February 3, 2005
The Power of KosBy Greyhawk
TEN MONTHS AGO Kos's ascendancy seemed hardly pre-ordained. On April 1, 2004, Kos responded to the savage murder of four American contractors in Falluja by writing, "I feel nothing over the death of the mercenaries [sic]. They are there to wage war for profit. Screw them."
Actually, that's almost right. In fact, the "screw them" event is what actually propelled Kos to the top of the blogosphere (though he was close before that) and therein lies the fundamental problem with Kos' "success" - the lower he goes, the more readers he attracts. And how does this large number of "page views" translate into "clout"? Invariably those pols who Kos supports fail - from Dean in the primaries to Kerry in the general election. In fact, of 15 candidates Kos 'supported' (if the price was right) in the last election, all 15 lost.
More Kos facts: Kos was one of the blogs touting the faulty "exit polls" during the last election. The end result was a great opportunity for mainstream media to bash blogs for not fact checking, being quick to publish questionable material as facts, etc. etc. - a big hit to the credibility of blogs in general.
The bottom line is that Kos' readers (and you can pick a random post and read their comments to get familiar with them) are really not the movers and shakers of this world. I believe Hugh Hewitt has made this point repeatedly, if not specifically about Kos, that your "influence" as a blogger is measured by who your readers are, not how many readers you have.
And I'd note that as far as numbers, that "page view" statistic is misleading. Kos readership is made up of a core of around 5-6 thousand readers* (and I'm probably being generous here) who visit his site 20-40 times a day. Why? They're checking in repeatedly to see the evolving comment threads - this is the big attraction at the Daily Kos. A "community" has been built there over time, one I'd speculate replaces actual face-to-face human contact for a lot of his readers.
That Barbara Boxer finds the number of page views at Daily Kos attractive speaks a lot for the in-depth research ability of Democratic powers that be. Those numbers do not translate into political success, in fact the evidence mounts that the opposite is true.
Last, note that I'm in favor of what's good for blogs, and I will repeat here my support of the two-party system - with a re-invigorated and robust Democratic Party as one of the two, but Kos is increasingly poison for both.
*In support of this number I offer a recent e-mail exchange I had with a fellow milblogger. He mentioned that a couple recent links to his site from Kos had resulted in about 500 visitors to his blog. This guy wasn't complaining, he was just surprised at the low number. I offered two possible explanations in response, neither of which speak well for the Kos crowd. One, the actual numbers are low, as stated above, and two, most of Kos' readers are quite willing to take whatever he says as gospel and don't actually follow the links he provides. I've seen this phenomenon with a few left-wing blogs that link here from time to time. The comment thread at the linking site has more comments from more people than numbers of visits I got from that link. All of them are quick to agree with whatever the linker said though - and that's troubling. That said, by all means don't take my word for it, go visit The Daily Kos and see for yourself exactly what I'm talking about when I do a post like this.
Finally, a word on outbound links in general, A better measure of the "influence" of a blog might be the number of people that a site can send elsewhere in the internet. A link from Glenn Reynolds sends thousands, but nothing near the 100,000+ visits he gets a day. Links from LGF rival that number, as do those from Hugh Hewitt, The Corner, James Lileks, and a few other blogs. But a bit further down the scale in "hit counts" you'll find Mudville, with a significantly lower (by more than an order of magnitude from Instapundit) number of daily visits. Still a stand-alone link from here (as opposed to a link in a post like this), even without a boost from additional inbound links to the post in question, can send over one thousand visitors to the linked site. In fact, many blogs can send 1000-plus. These numbers, while harder to track than site visits, probably would graph a bit more linearly than the "page view" numbers (with a steep curve at the top and a long tail) generally accepted as a measure of success of blogs today.
Posted by Greyhawk / February 3, 2005 1:15 PM | Permalink
November 26, 2010
I think anyone who's ever pondered the "comment" option - once only available on blogs and bulletin boards, now ubiquitous on almost any web site - will appreciate this:
The so-called faculty of writing is not so much a faculty of writing as it is a faculty of thinking. When a man says, "I have an idea but I can't express it"; that man hasn't an idea but merely a vague feeling. If a man has a feeling of that kind, and will sit down for a half an hour and persistently try to put into writing what he feels, the probabilities are at least 90 percent that he will either be able to record it, or else realize that he has no idea at all. In either case, he will do himself a benefit.
That's wisdom from the past, captured for posterity at the US Naval Institute, shared via the web on the institute's 137th anniversary.
From their about page:
"The Naval Institute has three core activities," among them, History and Preservation:
The Naval Institute also has recently introduced Americans at War, a living history of Americans at war in their own words and from their own experiences. These 90-second vignettes convey powerful stories of inspiration, pride, and patriotism.
Take a look at the collection, and you'll see it's not limited to accounts from those who served on ships at sea, members of the other branches are well-represented.
I'm fortunate to have met USNI's Mary Ripley, she's responsible for the institute's oral history program (and she's the daughter of the late John Ripley, whose story is told here). She also deserves much credit for their blog. ("We're not the Navy nor any government agency. Blog and comment freely.") We met at a milblog conference - Mary knew (and I would come to realize) that milbloggers are the 21st-century version of exactly what the US Naval Institute is all about. Once that light bulb came on in my head, I mentioned a vague idea for a project to her - milblogs as the 21st century oral history that they are.
"Put that in writing," she said (of course - see first paragraph above!) - and here's part of the result.
Shortly after the first tent was pitched by the American military in Iraq a wire was connected to a computer therein, and the internet was available to a generation of Americans at war - many of whom had grown up online. From that point on, at any given moment, somewhere in Iraq a Soldier, Sailor, Airman or Marine was at a keyboard sharing the events of his or her day with the folks back home. While most would simply fire off an email, others took advantage of the (then) relatively new online blogging platforms to post their thoughts and experiences for the entire world to see. The milblog was born - and from that moment to this stories detailing everything from the most mundane aspects of camp life to intense combat action (often described within hours of the event) have been available on the web...
And et cetera - but since you're reading this on a milblog, you probably knew that. And you know that milblogs aren't just blogs written by troops at war, that many friends, family members, and supporters likewise documented their story of America at war online in near-real time, as those stories developed.
The diversity in membership of that group is broad, the one thing we all have in common is the impulse to make sense of the seemingly senseless, and communicate the tale - for each of us that impulse was strong enough to overcome whatever barriers prevent the vast majority of people from doing the same. Everyone at some point has some vague idea they believe should be shared - we were the people who, from some combination of internal and external urging, found and spent those many half hours persistently trying to write it down.
But where will all that be in another 137 years? Or five or ten, for that matter. That's something I've asked myself since at least 2004 - when I wrote this:
Membership in the ghost battalion has grown in the years since, and an ever growing majority of those abandoned-but-still-standing sites are vanishing. Have you checked out Lt Smash's site lately? How about Sgt Hook's? If you're a long-time milblog reader you know the first widely-read milblog from Operation Iraq Freedom and the first widely-read milblog from Afghanistan are both gone from the web. If you're a relative newcomer to this world you may never even have heard of them - or the dozens upon dozens of others who carried forth the standard they set down.
If you have a vague notion that something should be done about that, (a notion I've heard expressed more than once...) then you and I and the good folks at the US Naval Institute are in agreement. Preserving the history documented by the milbloggers is just one of the goals of the milblog project, the once-vague idea that we're now making real.
And it's a big idea, if I say so myself - too big to explain in one simple blog post, so stand by for more. Likewise, it's too big a task to be accomplished by just one person. So if you're a milblogger (and exactly what is a milblogger? is a topic for much further discussion on its own) I'm asking for your help. All I'll really need is just a little bit (maybe just one or two of those half hours...) of your time, and your willingness to tell the tale.
We've already made history, it's time to save it.
(More to follow...)
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