Linking makes the web go round

Yesterday wasn’t a day for blogging, but it was the end of my tenure as the Philly Future Featured Blog and I wanted to thank Philly Future and everyone who helped send some new traffic my way:

The new featured blog is Fact-esque, which I totally dig. Please link to it as part of the Philly Featured Blog Storm.

The Blog Storm is a pefect use of the Philly Future collective blogging power, generating a concentrated round of linking to a (one assumes) underappreciated philly blog.

Karl explains the theory behind it here, in a post about how the web isn’t flat. He references a great piece called “Power Laws, Weblogs, and Inequality,” which explains the forces that give rise to the uneven distribution of traffic and attention on the web. When you have a moment, it’s worth a read.

A lot of people respond to that uneven distribution by trying to get linked to from a high traffic site. I don’t spend much time seeking it out, but it definitely gives me a boost when MuniWireless or Philadelphia Will Do links to a post of mine.

The links come at least in part from my privilege: my level of access to the Internet and to certain kinds of education, a relative wealth that gives me the ability to travel. I don’t want to base my success on that, but I ‘m sure the attention contributes to my ability to get paid to write.

Hannah pointed to another approach to the Internet linking dynamic that results from the friendly encouragement in my “what I’ve learned about blogging” post: Create the storm you want to see.

As Tom Coates explains, “Individually most webloggers are as nothing to the world at large. With the exception of reputation-building experts, weblogs are powerful only in aggregation. But we are powerful, we are impactful, we are important when those clumps emerge.”

Every time an ally or friend gets online or starts blogging, it drives the Internet in your direction, even if only slightly. That’s not my motivation, it’s just a fact. wsoft.heart starts blogging (yay!), says things I want to hear, links to me (which is awesome and very affirming) and the web goes round.

It’s not just about traffic, as I learned from Brownfemipower, whose women of color blogging caucus at the AMC was a major inspiration for wsoft.heart. It’s about finding the readers you want to find, the people.

What does it matter that 1354 people have read my post breaking the Star-Clear Channel scandal? What matters is how many of those people were searching for (or were happy to find) a critique that connected it to Clear Channel’s ownership and how many are just searching for “ran a train on her.”

I wonder how some of that second set of searchers might respond if the author of the blog they happened upon was a woman, a person of color, queer, or all three. Some hits you’d rather not have.

The last point to make on this subject is simply that this consideration is what makes the difference between digital inclusion and digital expansion. It’s similar to the way bringing new blocks of voters onto the rolls can change electoral dynamics, which makes sense if you believe that the Internet is the digitized public sphere.

A link from an A-list site might get you traffic, but it will not change the “power laws” of the web. On the other hand, a massive influx of new online participants could disrupt traffic patterns, even solidly-established ones, especially if the new participants are focused in a particular niche, like a subject, online community, or offline geographical space.

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