QUE SEURAT SIRAH

(Title updated 2005.08.09 with irresistible Rosa von Präunheim reference.) Danah Boyd:

After reminding folks at Blogher that there are gender differences in networking habits

And reminding us elsewhere that “men” and “women” link and write differently, as though there were exactly two types of people. You know, I’m tired of being lumped in with straight guys. In fact, I’m really tired of Boyd’s complaints about “male” online behaviours in the first place.

Few LiveJournals have a blogroll but almost all have a list of friends one click away. This is not considered by search tools that look only at the front page.

Readily fixable.

Male bloggers who write about technology (particularly social software) seem to be the most likely to keep blogrolls. Their blogrolls tend be be [pre]dominantly male, even when few of the blogs they link to are about technology. I haven’t found one with [more than] 25% female bloggers (and most seem to be closer to 10%).

Please give us the numbers of male Webloggers who link mostly to technology blogs vs. those who link only to “few” such sites. Given that most technology bloggers are men, why are we surprised that technology blogrolls have more male authors represented?

Is there some suggestion that 25% or even 10% female representation should automatically be attainable? What if the author (taken as a distinct individual, not simply as a “man”) does not like many of the female-authored technology blogs he has read? Taste is never accounted for in these discussions; the insinuation is that taste and unfair discrimination are the same thing.

What do female technology bloggers’ blogrolls look like? Almost exactly the same, I’d expect.

I also get the impression that blogrolls are not frequently updated (although I have to imagine that the blogs one reads are). I wonder how static blogrolls are.

That probably explains another chunk of the group of male technology bloggers who link to few women. Perhaps their female blogroll has been subsumed into their daily RSS feed.

Bloggers often talk about other people without linking to their blog (as though the audience would know the blog based on the person). For example, a blogger might talk about Halley Suitt’s presence or comments at Blogher but never link to her.

Boyd does the same thing: “A fraction of the Top 100 have blogrolls of blogs. Some have blogrolls that are a link away (like Crooked Timber).” Like whom?

[M]en tend to have large numbers of weak ties and women tend to have fewer, but stronger[,] ties. This means that in traditional social networks, men tend to know far more people but not nearly as intimately as those women know.

I need an explanation of how this analysis translates into something as off-the-cuff as a blogroll. To what extent do men “know” the authors in their blogroll? What qualifies? Meeting in the hallway at SXSW? (Careful how you handle yourself there.) Attending the same 20-person group dinner at a conference? Presence on your buddy list? Time spent at his (indeed his) house?

While blog linking tends to be gender-dependent, the number of links seems to be primarily correlated with content type and service. Of course, since content type and service are correlated by gender, gender is likely a secondary effect.

Does this mean that Boyd admits that “men” aren’t linking mostly to other men because they’re discriminating against women but because the topics of conversation are covered mostly by male bloggers in the first place?

In other words, is this not a power law in another guise? Is there any actual human intent involved at all?

All links are created equal. All relationships are not. Treating everything like a consistent weak tie is quantity over quality and in social networks, that means male over female.

Start using XFN and that disappears overnight. Of course, to do that you’d have to actually understand HTML well enough to add a rel attribute to your links, and blogging tools would have to actually produce standards-compliant code with a useful added degree of semantic richness.

Links indicate no weight, no valence, no attributes.

See above.

And even if people did, that kind of articulation is a social disaster (…think Friendster).

No, don’t think Friendster. Think XFN. Boyd presents a problem and rejects an existing solution.

They’re very effectively measuring the available link structure. The difficulty is that there is nothing consistent whatsoever with that link structure.

On the contrary, what they’re measuring is a link structure that is too consistent, formed exclusively by unadorned anchors (a href="") without XFN-style relationship coding. The consistency of the link structure is the problem. It a problem at the HTML level. It is not a question, as Boyd continues, of “norms.” It’s a question of microformats and semantic richness.

While I’ve been looking into the linking patterns, Mary Hodder has been thinking through new metrics for measurement.

Let’s not reinvent the wheel. Consider the prior art, please, Mary.

And in our current system, we are doing a damn fine job of replicating the power structures that pervade everyday life under the auspices of creating a new system that usurps power.

Here’s a thought experiment. Would Boyd be complaining about this if the roles were reversed – as indeed they are on LiveJournal – and most bloggers were women, as were the authors they linked to?

If you object to that experiment because it’s too simplistic (or it hits too close to home for your personal biases), try it this way: Would Boyd be complaining if all the men who were at the top of this power structure were gay? Does an army of queer bloggers upset your apple cart? How about an army of women bloggers, then? Would men be studying them as though they were a problem?

Why does an army of straight-guy bloggers attract so much of your attention? Maybe the guy part is not as important as you think.

[I don’t have a blogroll, though I publish the sites I subscribe to (via Kinja).]

The foregoing posting appeared on Joe Clark’s personal Weblog on 2005.08.08 13:06. This presentation was designed for printing and omits components that make sense only onscreen. (If you are seeing this on a screen, then the page stylesheet was not loaded or not loaded properly.) The permanent link is:
https://blog.fawny.org/2005/08/08/roll/

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