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July 10, 2004

Why meet bloggers

O'Brien and McGahonDUBLIN -- While sitting around in a blogger's meet-up, listening to Frank McGahon talk to Dick O'Brien, I wondered why the two guys would set aside free time to chat on a Saturday. After all, their paths cross several times a week on the blogging circuit in Ireland. I figure it's ultimately about reach. Real reach.

You reach someone with your message when they have a personal connection. Sometimes you get that personal connection through social currency. Someone might say, "Did you read what Dick O'Brien said about community networks?" And a listener might respond, "David Stewart wrote about that last October." So with a quick quip, David Stewart pockets social currency because someone who read his byline elevated him in the eyes of another. That should translate into a compelling "READ ME!" when the Irish Independent publishes its Thursday editions, because David Stewart graces those pages. Ultimately, it could give Stewart his "get out of the Indo" card because others will pay rates higher than those arounnd the Indo trough. His hard work and occasional blogging can elevate him to the realm of "opinion formation" and that would be good for Ireland.

Attending a meeting of the Irish bloggers is an essential requirement for anyone interested in the dynamics of group formation. Previous meet-ups of Irish bloggers attracted more people. That's largely because their promotion flowed from the blog of both Karlin Lillington and Dave Winer. Lose those nodes and you drop into the lower levels of the Irish blogosphere. That's alright--you get a cozy group with eye contact all around when the blog pack stays under 30.

It's actually hard to accomplish this feat because there are a lot of Irish bloggers now. Technorati reported a high water mark of 3m blogs tracked from around the world last week. That's 11,000 new blogs forming each week day. Information cannot hide in the shadows of 3m bloggers. These bloggers produce real-time market information. Analysts may not know whether the information is trustworthy. To reach that conclusion, they check the quality of the source. Several of the Irish bloggers attending the 10 July session would do well in this regard. Checking any manner of cross-references would show more than 100 different people either subscribe to their RSS feeds or link to their content. This metric is akin to knowing whether you've sold a magazine to an individual customer who then read your article AND commented on it. This is a complex relationship that indicates reputation at work. It heralds the power of local media. It represents a symbiotic relationship between localised content and informed reader. And when the writers and the readers get together, they bond less by "association" and more by "group." Those who visited the Irish blogger meet-up in Dublin today were part of a tribe.

It's a tribe that costs nothing to form. While the Irish government pours millions into Mobhaile, scratching out a reason to justify MS-Sharepoint for community groups, clusters like the Irish bloggers prove that where the Internet is your information conduit and cross-linkages are your plumbing, you can maintain a meaningful community dynamic with existing tools. There's no need to build an empire and then to try to find the serfs. Those serfs are surfing into one another's shores, picking out intersting things to read and cross-post, then occasionally meeting to see the face from the other side of the monitor.

The Irish Blogging Network does not collapse in the absence of a ring leader. As Gavin Sheridan showed, you can whip up a blogging meeting well outside your home town and readers will come. Individuals dynamically organise networks that matter. If you write regularly, you seek out information that completes your paragraphs. If you seek longevity for your blogging, you have to meet the faces occasionally. Otherwise, you face introspection and that's boring.

A-List blogger Jeff Jarvis notes, "This medium isn't about impressions; it's about relationships; it's about conversations; it's about influence; it's about authority. We are starting to measure how many conversations a blog starts (or at least takes part in) with Technorati. But it's just a beginning."

Currently unnoticed and unappreciated by marketers and most PR agencies, Irish bloggers are polishing memes that often find their way into high-level political discussion. Irish bloggers who are scraped by Electric Search get read by speechwriters, pollsters and political party organisers. Their influence will elevate with common causes. Let one start a meme on something contentious, get tracked back by a dozen others and link-cited by another 20, and meme crawlers like DayPop and Bloglines will start showing an Irish headline as part of the Daily Top Feeds. Wouldn't that be a worthwhile flexing of the Irish blogging muscle?

I continue this conversation next week during a topic I chair on the Global PR Blog Week. I think it would make interesting reading in class and for professionals who wonder why they should learn to blog.


David Smith -- "RSS and reputations"
Jason Kottke -- "I think we should probably stop calling it syndication"
Ross Mayfield -- "Ridiculously easy syndicate forming"
Ross Mayfield -- "Ratrified metrics"
Michael Sippey -- "Cost per influence and arbitrage"
Frank McGahon -- "Bloggers in Dublin II"
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» Blog party roundup from Gavin's Blog.com
Well I haven't written much yet about the blog party in Dublin last Saturday. But many of the others have. Dick has awarded me the yellow jersey for somehow managing not to get drunk after 9 pints of Bulmers. I... [Read More]

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Just a correction: It's actually Frank McGahon...

Sorry about the name change, Frank. You're the victim of first impression--I know too many McMahon's and just couldn't seem to distinguish the consonants. I think I've made the revisions where the errors occurred.

That's fine, Mr "Golldbach" :-)

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