Saturday, August 19, 2006

The power and politics of blogs in the New York Times

Many readers will find this Adam Liptak story in the New York Times on the legal reaction to the NSA surveillance decision interesting because of the near-unanimity among "legal experts" that the judge's legal reasoning in the case was poor.

Some readers will be interested in the story because, as Ann Althouse points out, it contradicts the NYT editorial from the previous day.

Henry Farrell and I are interested in the story because the first five "legal experts" quoted are also bloggers -- Howard Bashman, Jack Balkin, Orin Kerr, Cass Sunstein, and Eugene Volokh.

This would seem to be a classic case of bloggers from different ideological stripes using their first-mover advantage to developing a common frame on an event, which is then picked up by the mainstream media.

posted by Dan at 11:28 AM | Comments (6) | Trackbacks (0)

Saturday, September 17, 2005

What I've been up to this weekend...

I've been playing host to a small conference on the political power of blogging. Although some of the participants got a bit stressed prepping for the conference, on the whole it led to some very stimulating discussions

Ethan Zuckerman has a round-up of some of the papers. And those interested in international relations should check out his blog anyway.

UPDATE: Laura McKenna has some kind words -- "it was quite excellent talking to people whose blogs are part of my daily consumption and who are just as freakishly obsessed as I am."

Kevin Drum reacts to some of Jay Rosen's comments at the conference.

And Eszter Hargittai has pictures!

posted by Dan at 09:31 PM | Trackbacks (0)

Thursday, December 2, 2004

Musings on blogging and scholarship

I believe I am officially the last scholar-blogger in America to point out that Gary Becker and Richard Posner have decided to start a blog together. It's a testimony to their intellectual heft that their "test" post already has sixteen trackbacks. Having participated in workshops with both of them, all I can say is that the rest of the blogosphere is in for a treat.

Henry Farrell makes a keen observation about the legitimation effects of senior scholars taking up blogging:

There are lots and lots of philosophy blogs and law blogs, but many other academic disciplines, including economics, seem surprisingly under-represented in the blogosphere. I suspect that one of the important causal factors is legitimation. Junior academics may be unwilling to get involved in blogging. Not only is it a time-suck, but it may seem faintly disreputable - senior scholars in many fields of the social sciences take a dim view of ‘popularizing.’ However if there is a well known senior scholar in a discipline who blogs, it’s much easier for junior people in that discipline to dip their toes in the water without worrying that it’ll hurt their tenure chances.

Hmmm.... this leads to a small problem for Henry and myself. As one of the commenters to Henry's post points out, "I’ve noticed this lack of blogging from big names in my own field of political science." Indeed, perusing Crooked Timber's list of poli sci bloggers, I certainly do not see anyone approaching the stature that Becker or Posner have in their fields. To go further, there is no tenured political scientist at a top twenty institution who also blogs (see below).

[Insert sound of lonely wind blowing here--ed.]

To which I say.... shame on my tenured brethren!! To be sure, a lot of blogging (and some of my blogging) is entirely unrelated to matters of scholarship -- but that doesn't mean it has to be this way. Tyler Cowen has an excellent post in response to Eszter Hargittai on how blogging and scholarship are compliments rather than substitutes. Surely these reasons must be persuasive to some of my letter-writers for tenure senior people in political science!

Readers both in an out of political science are hereby invited to suggest which senior political scientist they would like to see start a blog. Must be someone who holds a Ph.D. in political science and holds a full-time tenured position at a Ph.D.-granting institution [Doesn't that impose some ideological constraints?--ed. Feh -- as Jonah Goldberg put it, "wrong and liberal are not synonymous terms."]

UPDATE: Hey, it turns out there is a tenured political scientist at a top twenty institution who's a blogger. Michael Munger -- chair of the department of political science at Duke, former president of the Public Choice Society, a prolific scholar who lists his occupation as "professional wrestler" in his Blogger Profile -- has had a blog since June of this year.

[He also appears to be threatening you with bodily harm--ed. Oh, yeah??!! Like I'm really scared of some newbie, candy-assed, penny-ante North Carolina blogger who calls himself "KGrease"? Bring it on, Duke boy!!! I'm not sure this kind of discourse is going to encourage other tenured faculty to start blogging--ed.]

posted by Dan at 12:13 AM | Comments (29) | Trackbacks (2)

Friday, November 5, 2004

Blogs, American politics, and international relations

Subscribers to the paper version of Foreign Policy already know this, but Henry Farrell and I have an article on the blogosphere's influence on world politics and foreign affairs in the November/December issue. It's entitled "Web of Influence," but actually I like the teaser on the cover even better: How Blogs Have Changed the World. Here's the abstract:

Bloggers compelled Trent Lott to resign as Senate majority leader and Dan Rather to apologize to viewers on national television. But can these online diarists influence global politics as well? What began as a hobby is evolving into a new medium that is changing the information-gathering landscape for international journalists and policymakers alike.

Go check it out -- critiques have already been posted elsewhere in the blogosphere. Oh, and if your blog was not mentioned in the "Around The World in Blogs" section, don't blame us, blame the staff at FP!!

[Forget world politics -- did blogs influence the 2004 election?--ed.] Hey, I'm glad you asked -- I'll be on a panel to answer that very question in a few weeks:

IHS and Reason magazine present Ana Marie Cox, Daniel Drezner, Henry Farrell, and Michael Tomasky debating the role of blogs in the election on November 18.

A free-for-all discussion on the role of blogs and politics featuring Wonkette's Ana Marie Cox, blogger and University of Chicago political scientist Daniel Drezner, blogger and George Washington University political scientist Henry Farrell, The American Prospect's Michael Tomasky, moderated by Reason's Nick Gillespie.

Drinks and hors d'oeuvres to follow remarks and Q&A.

Thursday, November 18
7:30-9:00 pm

Topaz Bar
1733 N Street NW, Washignton, DC

Porter's Dining Saloon
1207 19th St. NW (19th and M Street)
Washington, DC

This event is co-sponsored by the Institute for Humane Studies and Reason.

Space is limited, so please reserve a place by RSVPing to Alina Stefanescu at Free drink tickets will be given to the first 50 respondents!

posted by Dan at 12:40 AM | Comments (17) | Trackbacks (3)

Friday, September 3, 2004

This should be interesting...

My APSA panel on blogs and politics is today. Andrew Sullivan, Wonkette, and Cass Sunstein on the same dias -- not to mention Henry Farrell and Laura McKenna from 11D -- and all I have to do is sit back and listen.

I'll post an "after-action report" once I've recovered from the numerous drinks that will undoubtedly be consumed after the panel.

BEFORE-DRINKS AFTER-ACTION UPDATE: Well, Andrew didn't show up, but by APSA standards the panel was a huge success -- I'd say 60-75 110 people were in attendance, and the panelists did an awesome job. Naturally, Ana Marie stole the show by comparing bloggers to AOL adult chat-rooms -- "bloggers are pleasuring themselves, and mostly staying at home." After that, none of us could say anything without thinking of the obvious double entendres.

For an mostly accurate accounting of the panel, check out Steve the Llama Butchers' liveblogging. My favorite bits:

Befitting the newfound prestige allotted to blogging, we are located on the back of the fifth floor of the Palmer House Hilton, right behind the catering kitchen but in front of the laundry. It's not that we're in an out of the way part of the hotel, but I'm pretty sure I just saw Harrison Ford go by being chased by Tommy Lee Jones, muttering something about a one-armed man killing his wife. Well now....

4:20 pm--"blogosphere" used at the 100th Meeting of the American Political Science Association.

Woodrow Wilson officiallly rolls over in his grave....

So there you have it: quite possibly the first panel at the 100 year history of the American Political Science Assoication to feature two University of Chicago professors, and the subject of S&M, naughty bits, and power indexes all were discussed.

See also Richard Skinner, Eszter Hargittai, Chris Lawrence, and Steve Clemons for their observations. I particularly liked Clemons characterization of Antoinette Pole and Laura McKenna as "clearly the Thelma & Louise of blogging research."

posted by Dan at 02:49 PM | Comments (26) | Trackbacks (2)

Thursday, August 19, 2004

Yeah, this'll probably need to go into the revised blog paper

Should Henry Farrell and I revise our blog paper -- and of course we'll be revising it -- Wednesday's White House Briefing by Dan Froomkin in will probably have to be cited.

Why? I'm glad you asked:

Jimmy Orr, the White House's Internet guru, wants the White House Web site to get bloggier.

"We're trying to make it more bloggish," he says in an interview. "People need to see that we're on the site and we're listening to what they have to say."

So, he says: "We're going to try -- as questions come in, and as people have comments about the events of the day -- to be more proactive."

Blogs -- short for Web logs -- are all the rage these days. And while some people use them for such things as chronicling their sex lives, they have more significantly emerged as a potent vehicle for news and views on the Internet.

Two of the most seminal features of blogs are interaction with readers and immediacy. And the White House Web site under Orr, an enthusiastic 37-year-old press office staffer, has already taken some steps in that direction.

White House Interactive is generally updated daily with a new e-mail question from the public and an answer, typically from someone fairly high up in the White House staff....

A while back, Orr was his own guest on "Ask the White House" One questioner raised the topic of blogging. And it turns out Orr's a fan.

"Bloggers are very instrumental. They are important. They can lead the news. And they've been underestimated," he wrote.

"Here's what the bloggers do. They notice something in the news or something they've observed that maybe the 'traditional' media hasn't covered or isn't spending much time on. But they think it is significant. So, they give the story a second life (or first). And they talk about it. And others talk about it. Before you know it, it is leading the news."

In his online appearance, Orr mentioned a few blogs he reads regularly. He e-mailed me a more extensive list:

The Note, from ABC News

Noted Now, also from ABC News

Andrew Sullivan


•'s Best of the Web Today


White House Briefing (You're reading it.)

James Lileks

And he's not the only one in the White House who reads blogs, he says. Far from it.

"They're important here," he says. "I can tell you that a lot of people read them."

Note to White House officials (and others): Don't forget to nominate your favorites for's 2004 Best Blogs - Politics and Elections Readers' Choice Awards.

Bloggers are rightly accused of excessive navel-gazing, and according to the Washington Times' Chris Baker, blogs "have been the domain primarily of amateur political pundits, conspiracy theorists and pseudo-experts on any number of topics." Still, it is worth observing that both Orr's analysis of blogs -- as well as his reading preferences -- seem to buttress the arguments made in our blog paper.

[Hey, what about that WaPo contest?--ed. Readers should feel free to knock themselves out.]

posted by Dan at 12:33 AM | Comments (10) | Trackbacks (1)

Wednesday, July 21, 2004

The power and politics of blogs

Longtime readers of are aware that I've been trying to exploit my hobby (blogging) for professional gain (peer-reviewed publications). Towards that end, Henry Farrell and I have been slowly co-authoring a paper on blogs and politics.

We've completed our first draft of "The Power and Politics of Blogs." Henry ably summarizes our key arguments:

(1) Blogging is politically important in large part because it affects mainstream media, and helps set the terms of political debate (in political science jargon, it creates ‘focal points’ and ‘frames’). Note that we don’t provide an exhaustive account of blogs and politics - some aspects of blogging (fundraising for parties, effects on political values in the general public), we don’t have more than anecdotal data on. There’s plenty of room for other people to do interesting research on all of this.

(2) Incoming links in the political blogosphere are systematically skewed, but not according to a “power law” distribution, as Clay Shirky and others have argued of the blogosphere as a whole. Instead, they follow a lognormal distribution. We reckon that the most likely explanation for this is that offered by Pennock et al. - they argue that not only do the ‘rich get richer’ (i.e. sites that already have a lot of links tend to get more), but that link-poor sites stand a chance of becoming rich too. Late entrants into the political blogosphere can do well in the political blogosphere as long as they’re interesting and attract some attention - bad timing isn’t destiny.

(3) Because of the systematic skewedness of the political blogosphere, a few “focal point” sites can provide a rough index of what is going on in the blogosphere - interesting points of view on other sites will often percolate up to them as smaller blogs try to get big blogs to link to them, by informing them of interesting stories. Thus, we may expect that journalists and other media types who read blogs will tend to all gravitate towards a few ‘big name’ bloggers as their way of keeping up with what is going on in the blogosphere as a whole.

Both bloggers and blog readers are encouraged to download it and tell us what you think.

Be warned, however: this paper is primarily intended for a scholarly auduence, which means there's some jargon that might appear confusing but is -- like most jargon -- a form of shorthand for fellow professionals.

Most of it should be pretty digestible, however. Read it and post your comments below or over at Crooked Timber.

Finally, a quick thank-you to Henry -- I've tried co-authoring papers in the past, and it's been a disaster. This paper was a breeze.

UPDATE: More scholar-blogger research from Glenn Reynolds. With experimental evidence no less!

More seriously, this report by Jeff Jarvis from his Aspen Institute experience with Big Media machers supports one of our paper's hypotheses. In particular:

I gave a spiel on technology and the newsroom -- about more than just weblogs, but it turned into a discussion of just weblogs -- and at our closing session, half the [media macher] participants said they were awakened about blogs and even frightened of being left behind in this blog thing. In previous sessions like this, I've heard half the big media guys dis and dismiss blogs, but there was none of that here, none of it. The curiousity about blogs ranged from cautious to cordial to rabid. These big media guys (not unlike the mullahs of Iran) realize that blogs are here to stay; we are a force to be reckoned with; and now they're reckoning what to do about it.

UPDATE: Tyler Cowen offers constructive criticism and calls the paper a "mini-classic."

Dean Esmay offers a long critique that boils down to:

[T]hey seem to have missed the most obvious point of all: that our poltical discourse in America has always been influenced by a comparatively tiny number of voices.

Dean points to small-circulation political magazines as evidence for this recurring pattern in American political history.

I think I can speak for Henry as well as myself when I say that we are aware of this fact. Indeed, what we find interesting is that this phenomenon has been replicated for the blogosphere. However, compared to blogs, these kind of publications generally posses two advantages. First, a lot of elite media journals have been founded and operated by those who were already politically influential and well-connected. Second, these journals needed to have sufficient resources to pay for minor things like salaries, distribution, and printing runs.

Neither of these conditions holds particularly well for blogs. No doubt, some pioneer bloggers -- Andrew Sullivan most notably -- have been well-connected. But this is not true of most of the influential bloggers. As for material resources, some bloggers are now able to earn some scratch, but this is an effect rather than a cause of their success.

What's interesting is that despite these differences, and despite the low barriers to entry, the blogosphere looks like a similar link on the oipinion chain.

posted by Dan at 06:27 PM | Comments (24) | Trackbacks (11)

Wednesday, June 2, 2004

Responding to the feminist critique

Trish Wilson -- guest blogging at Feministe -- is disturbed by my survey of media and blogs:

Dan Drezner linked to the poll that shows which blogs are read by the media.

Guess what, again?

That's right. Top ten - no women. "Elite" responses - no women. One woman (Amanda Butler) was thanked for "collecting and collating the data while displaying the utmost discretion." Women are valued for ... their secretarial skills....

This discussion comes up approximately every three months. Rivka at Respectful of Otters just wrote about it. I last wrote about it in March. Nothing changes. A male blogger (this time Matt Yglesias) asks where are the women interested in politics, or asks where are the women bloggers? We see more media articles that completely ignore the contributions of the large number of female bloggers out there. The guys inevitably say "mea culpa," but go back to business as usual. Rinse and repeat.

We are half the population, and we are nearly half of the blogosphere. We do not deserve to be ignored.

I posted a brief comment to her blog about why I hired Amanda ("[S]he was one of the best students in an undergraduate class I had previously taught. She was assigned tasks that any undergraduate RA would have been assigned. Gender was not a factor in the division of labor.") UPDATE: click here for Butler's response to Wilson. Here is Wilson's response:

So the survey is flawed. Your methodology should have taken self-selection into consideration. It's another survey that takes into account only the people who choose to link to it, thereby losing sight of many worthwhile blogs. Not only that, you'll end up with a very narrow view of both the definition of political discourse and the nature of the blogosphere. The same small number of top tier bloggers get the usual publicity, and alternate voices with other points of view are lost. Surveys like that one make it seem as if the blogosphere is primarily composed of men, when that is most definitely not the case. Survey's like that also narrowly define politics, which is much less two dimensional than that handful of topics most frequently discussed on blogs (Bush, Kerry, Abu Ghraib, Iraq, Israel, etc.) Women's political voices are being ignored again.

I simply find it annoying after all this time. After all the repeated waving to the top tier bloggers that we are here, nothing changes. Women bloggers, especially women political bloggers, continue to be ignored by the high rankers of the blogosphere and by the media, and when we don't make a survey, we are blamed for not linking to it. The problem isn't with the women bloggers. The problem isn't with alternative points of view. The problem lies with the survey.

Another female blogger echoes this sentiment:

[I]t's a Male thing. They hang in packs. They don't think about women. It's in their nature to ignore or forget us. In short, what's new?

So I am not surprised.

Another blogger who goes by Pinko Feminist Hellcat concurred: "Men simply don't see us. And when we talk about anything besides politics, we are 'journalers'."

A few thoughts:

1) Hell yes, the survey is flawed. All surveys are flawed. I was quite blunt in outlining the flaws in the post, so I'm not sure where Wilson thinks I'm saying this is the perfect source of data.

2) Disturbingly, the only other time I blogged about gender and blogs in the past was... er... about three months ago.

3) Wilson has a valid point in saying that "the same small number of top tier bloggers get[ting] the usual publicity." This was one of the core hypotheses underlying the paper Henry Farrell and I are co-authoring -- in terms of both links and traffic, blogs display a power law distribution (See Clay Shirky for the data to support this assertion). As a result, the top blogs absorb the lion's share of attention. The media survey supports this conjecture. This means is that it's tough for anyone to crack the top tier of blogs -- regardless of gender.

4) Wilson seems to think the results are skewed because there is a narrow definition of "political" blogs. Here's the thing, though -- my survey didn't ask for the respondent's favorite political blogs -- just their favorite ones. Maybe the respondents have an equally narrow definition of politics, but it was not conditioned by the survey question.

5) The feminist critique did make me wonder if there was any significant difference in the female responses in contrast to the overall response. So I went back to the data to see if there was any appreciable difference in response by gender. Here are the top 10 favorite blogs of the women who responded:

1. Instapundit -- 10
2. Sullivan -- 9
3. NRO's The Corner -- 6
4. Drezner, Romenesko -- tied with 3
6. Gawker, How Appealing, Talking Points Memo, LA Observed, Volokh -- tied with 2.

There are a few changes -- Kaus disappears entirely, and Sullivan falls from first to second - but names on this list look awfully familiar.

6) Finally, Wilson seems to be confusing normative and positive analysis. In her post, she's simultaneously upset about two facts: a) feminist blogs are being ignored by the mainstream media; b) I posted survey results suggesting that feminist blogs are being ignored by the mainstream media. I can understand her normative disapproval with the first point (though I respectfully disagree with the extent and source of the problem). I'm a bit flummoxed by her reaction to the second point, which is intended to describe the way the world is, not the way it ought to be. Don't blame the messenger.

To be fair, Wilson herself the proprietor of Feministe says elsewhere that "this media, by nature, begs to be written with exaggeration and embellishment," so maybe I'm exaggerating the feminist state of pique. Then again, she (that is, Feministe's proprietor) also says elsewhere that, "if you're conservative, faint of heart, anti-feminist, homophobic, racist, use bad grammar, and/or detest typos, you will not like what i have to say. feel free to leave." So maybe I'm not exaggerating.

UPDATE: Just for the record, my take on the tenor of most of the comments to this post is akin to Ezra: "I've never seen a bunch of commentors so totally destroy their argument by embodying that which they're denying."

posted by Dan at 09:01 AM | Comments (131) | Trackbacks (20)

Monday, May 31, 2004

Which blogs are read by the media?

Nothing spurs forward progress in research like competition. First Henry Copeland has his blog survey. Now I read that Eszter Hargittai is starting her own project on blogs and the media, and she's looking for a "way of finding prominent political blogs." Which means that now is as good a time as any to post the results of the survey of media professionals' favorite blogs!!

Between September 2003 and January 2004, Henry Farrell and I received responses to five survey questions about blogs, the media, and politics. Beyond my initial post, the survey was widely linked around the blogosphere, including Instapundit, CalPundit, OxBlog, Crooked Timber, the Volokh Conspiracy, James Joyner, Jim Romenesko, Boing Boing, Scripting News, Howard Bashman, Andrew Sullivan (OK, that was me when I was guest-blogging), and National Review Online. The result was 140 proper responses from media professionals, i.e., those that made their living working for a media outlet (or freelancing for more than one). 33 of these responses were from what I'm characterizing as "elite" media outlets -- defined as general interest intermiediaries of national standing for those interested in politics.* More informally -- these are the outlets read by the movers and shakers in the political sphere. Examples of this latter category include the Economist, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Time, Newsweek, CBS, CNN, ABC, AP, Reuters, and Bloomberg.**

Participants were asked to list "the three blogs you read most frequently." The result was a total of 391 total responses and 89 elite responses (some respondents provided fewer than three blogs).

What were the ten most popular blogs among all responses? In order:

1. Andrew Sullivan (Daily Dish) -- 59
2. Glenn Reynolds (Instapundit) -- 43
3. Mickey Kaus (Kausfiles) -- 23
4. National Review Online (The Corner) -- 20
5. Josh Marshall (Talking Points Memo) -- 19
6. James Romenesko (Media News) -- 14
7. Atrios (Eschaton) -- 10
8. Daniel W. Drezner -- 9
9. Eugene Volokh et al (The Volokh Conspiracy) -- 7
10. Cory Doctorow (Boing Boing), James Lileks (The Bleat) -- tied with 6

The lineup looks slightly different when looking only at the elite responses:

1. Sullivan -- 21
2. Instapundit -- 11
3. Kaus -- 7
4. Talking Points Memo -- 5
5. The Corner, Drezner, Romenesko -- tied with 4
8. Brad DeLong (Semi-Daily Thoughts), Volokh -- tied with 3
9. Atrios, Markos Moulitsas Zúniga (Daily Kos), Gawker, Howard Bashman (How Appealing) -- tied with 2

Now, let's make the obvious caveat -- the responses are obviously going to be affected by which blogs linked to the survey questions. Neither Atrios nor Josh Marshall, for example, advertised the survey at all (they were asked), so their results are likely to be biased downwards. People were e-mailing me their responses, and I have no doubt that the only reason I'm on the list is that some journalists were just being polite. Also, since the survey took place in the fall, newly emerging blogs like Daily Kos are probably more read now by media professionals than they were last September. This is certainly true of Wonkette, which didn't exist last September.

That said, two counterpoints are worthy of note. First, while there is likely some rightward political bias, the magnitude of the bias might not be that significant. Several high profile left-leaning blogs did link to the survey (Kevin Drum was nice enough to link twice). Second, it is striking that if you do a Nexis search of the names listed above during the same time duration, you wind up with very similar relative numbers in terms of media mentions. So if the numbers are out of whack, they're not that out of whack.

Which leads to a provocative possibility -- Eric Alterman may have a point. In What Liberal Media?: The Truth About Bias and the News, Alterman argued that claims of liberal media bias are vastly overblown. Looking at the Top 10 lists, it's hard to deny the prominence of rightward-leaning blogs on the list. Marshall and Atrios are there, but they're a bit lower on the list than either Blogstreet's Most Influential Blogs or The Truth Laid Bear's Blogosphere Ecosystem have them. The elite responses are somewhat more liberal than the overall responses, but the difference is not terribly great. At a minimum, the media professionals that consume blogs seem to have far more centrist tastes than is often proclaimed by those on the right.

Before Alterman starts jumping up and down, however, bear in mind that there's another possible selection bias in the responses. If media professionals who seek out blogs to read are those who find mainstream media reporting unsatisfactory because it's skewed to the left, then these responses are not necessarily indicative of the political preferences of the larger media ecosystem. This came through in several of the responses. It's equally possible that liberal journalists are practicing The Godather, Part II dictum of, "keep your friends close, but keep your enemies closer" -- i.e., reading blogs they disagree with politically because they want to know the counterarguments to their beliefs. This came through in a lot of the surveys as well -- and, of course, it comes through in the recent Pew survey of the media as well.

A lot to chew on -- want to play around with the raw data? You can access the Excel spreadsheet here -- all names, official positions, and other biographical information have been excised from the data set.

Finally, a big thank you to Crescat Sententia's Amanda Butler, who provided invaluable assistance in collecting and collating the data while displaying the utmost discretion.

UPDATE: Kevin Drum and Glenn Reynolds both have useful links on the relationship between the mediasphere and the blogosphere. This American Journalism Review article by Rachel Smolkin is particularly interesting. And Laura at Apartment 11D is working on her own project about how blogs affect political participation. Meanwhile, John Hawkins has a post on which blogs conservatives like to read.

* If you look at the raw data, you might notice that responses from the same publication were divided into elite and non-elite categories. In thise cases, it was because the non-elite respondent was a freelancer.

** A few more specialized publications are included in the elite category because they specialize in politics -- Roll Call, the Hotline, and Foreign Affairs fall under this category.

posted by Dan at 10:08 AM | Comments (30) | Trackbacks (20)

Wednesday, January 28, 2004

Damn that Jack Balkin!!

Jack Balkin celebrated his blogiversary by writing not one, but two great posts about whether the blogosphere is an example of what Cass Sunstein called "cyberbalkanization" in the tendency for those engaged in political debate to ignore other points of view. I've heard some bloggers refer to this as "cocooning."

Balkin argues that the case of blogs falsifies this hypothesis:

[M]ost bloggers who write about political subjects cannot avoid addressing (and, more importantly, linking to) arguments made by people with different views. The reason is that much of the blogosphere is devoted to criticizing what other people have to say. It's hard to argue with what the folks at National Review Online or Salon are saying unless you go read their articles, and, in writing a post about them, you will almost always either quote or link to the article, or both. Ditto for people who criticize Glenn Reynolds, Andrew Sullivan, or Kos, or Atrios. If you don't like what Glenn said about Iraq, you quote a bit of his posting, link to it, and then make fun of him. These links are the most important way that people travel on the Web from one view to its opposite. (And linking also produces a good check on criticism because you can actually go and read what the person being criticized has said.)....

Nevertheless, one might object, this argument is premised on the idea that the blogosphere has customs of linking that encourage give and take. What is to guarantee that these customs will continue? Obviously bloggers could give up their customs, and stop linking to each other. But I doubt this will happen; the customs make sense given the way the technology works. And worrying about whether people will or won't continue to link absent a government regulatory apparatus that encourages linking completely misses the point about how Internet speech works: The fact that these customs developed says a lot about the health and vibrancy and pluralism of the public sphere in cyberspace.

In his second post on the topic, Balkin then goes on to effectively critique the Sunday New York Times article on cyberbalkanization that I linked to here.

Balkin's posts are so good that Henry Farrell and I will have to cite him in our own blog paper -- as we're making many of the same arguments.

posted by Dan at 03:47 PM | Comments (12) | Trackbacks (4)

Wednesday, November 12, 2003

How blogs affect politics

Pejman Yousefzadeh (who has lots o' good stuff on his blog) has a Tech Central Station essay on how blogs affect political debate. As a case study, he looks at Josh Chafetz's recent triumph at the Oxford Union. The highlights from Pej:

What Chafetz's success shows is the ability of Blogosphere to be used as an instrument to rebut fallacious and inaccurate arguments in all sorts of public forums. With search engines built into many blogs, it is easy for people to look up information on a topic of interest, and then reference that information when desired. The Blogosphere can be -- and increasingly is -- a tool of rapid response that can churn out counterarguments to assertions made by journalists, politicians, and other public figures. Although blogging began as being a tool through which people could publicly express themselves on issues of importance to them, it has evolved into being a virtual war room -- and thus has established itself as a formidable presence in any public debate....

It's no surprise to see that Josh Chafetz was praised for his speech and that he was considered an outstandingly well-prepared advocate for his side. But even those with natural talent benefit from help, and Chafetz had the considerable advantage of being able to use the information accumulated in the Blogosphere to back up and advance his arguments. In doing so, he demonstrated anew the fact that blogs can be a potent and effective tool in rebutting clichés and pabulum -- in stark contrast to the days before blogs hit the big time, when conventional wisdom often went unchallenged and was routinely recycled by a media unchallenged by the decentralization and alternative viewpoints that have been brought to the public discourse thanks to blogging.

As someone with an interest in this topic, I must thank Pejman for adding to my reference list. His reward.... a footnote!! [That's a reward?--ed. For a U of C graduate, yes, it is.]

UPDATE: Robert Tagorda has further thoughts on this.

posted by Dan at 10:24 AM | Comments (11) | Trackbacks (4)

Sunday, October 26, 2003

The division of labor in the blogosphere

Tyler Cowen comes to the following conclusion after dinner with Glenn Reynolds:

Glenn is so successful because he understands the idea of blogs as portals. (This is my view, not Glenn's own self-description.) Blogs that offer too much of the author, and the author alone, are vulnerable to other blogs that cream-skim them, and other blogs, thereby offering the superior product. The question is not who can write the best stuff, but who can collect the best stuff, and comment on it most effectively. Really smart people are not always used to these terms of competition, I might add. The future of blogging lies in the hands of those who recognize the intellectual and literary division of labor. (emphasis in original)

The greater the number of blogs, the greater the importance of "portal blogs," such as Glenn's.

This has prompted a fair amount of angry reaction in the blogosphere. Will Baude summarizes the objections nicely:

Pardon, but an RSS feed can do that. The reason I don't read Instapundit is that I don't particularly agree with Glenn Reynolds about what's wheat and what's chaff....

Sure, there's a place for aggregator blogs like Instapundit (or more critically How Appealling). But if you're trying to make your way in the blogosphere, it's better to offer an occasional portal to the truly obscure and a lot of original, sound, and hard-hitting analysis.

The problem with this debate is that it's not an "either-or" situation. A while back I wrote that there were two types of blogs:

First, some blogs can act as focal points for information provision. Now, by definition, there can only be one or two focal points. Glenn Reynolds generally acts as one for bloggers. During concentrated crises -- Josh Marshall in the case of Trent Lott's downfall, or Kelley for Operation Iraqi Freedom -- others can spring up. These blogs serve the useful purpose of collecting and distributing already available information to interested readers. In doing so, these individuals help to frame and propel debates of the day. They also reduce search costs for the rest of us....

Second, most bloggers provide value added in the form of criticism and commentary. We don't generate new facts so much as put already existing facts into a larger framework. We then look at other people who do this and comment and critique their efforts. This is my comparative advantage, at least.

A glance at the Blogosphere Ecosystem suggests this division of labor is more stable than Cowen's post suggests. Consider the top ten blogs:

1. Instapundit
2. Eschaton (Atrios)
3. Talking Points Memo
4. Daily Kos / Political State Report
5. The Truth Laid Bear
6. Andrew Sullivan
7. Little Green Footballs
8. CalPundit
9. USS Clueless
10. The Volokh Conspiracy

I'd characterize five of these blogs (Instapundit, Atrios, Daily Kos, N.Z. Bear, and LGF) as primarily portals or focal points. The other five (Marshall, Sullivan, Drum, Den Beste, and Volokh) are more commentary than portal. [C'mon, Atrios and Glenn offer commentary!--ed. Yes, but I'm using a simple dichotomy. Drudge would be an example of the perfect portal, but beyond him most blogs have a mix of links and commentary.] Given that by definition one would predict portal blogs to be clustered among the top ten, it looks like commentary blogs aren't going anywhere.

If you think about, this makes sense, and like most divisions of labor improves the productivity of both sides. Without commentary blogs, there would be less of a demand for the skills required to be a portal blog. Without portals, those specializing in commentary would face higher search costs in developing their topics and arguments.

Baude is also correct that newcomers to the blogosphere will have to go the commentary route. For example, here's a new blog that's worth checking out, especially for Californians. I particularly like this post critiquing Joan Didion's Slouching Towards Bethlehem.

posted by Dan at 02:29 PM | Comments (17) | Trackbacks (4)

Thursday, October 9, 2003

Yet another plea to media professionals

The traffic on the blog has been pretty high as of late, so here's another plea to those who work in the media -- please take five minutes out of your busy schedule to answer five simple survey questions that are a curcial part of a joint project on the power and politics of blogs.

Pretty please.

To date, I've received 80 proper responses, including reporters, producers, and editors who work for The New Republic, Economist, Time, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Chicago Tribune, Reuters, Associated Press, ABC News, CNN, and Foreign Affairs. I'm gunning for an N > 100. You, Mr. or Ms. Media Professional, could be the one that pushes the response number to three digits!!

Let me also note that there are an awful lot of important media institutions not on this aforementioned list -- Slate, The American Prospect, Weekly Standard, National Review, Washington Post (Howard Kurtz, I'm looking in your direction), USA Today, NBC, CBS, and Fox News.

Shame, shame -- no links to you!! [Oh, yeah, they're quaking in their boots.--ed. Shhh... you're blowing the illusion!] Particularly for CBS News -- if you guys are going to reprint my TNR Online columns, at least answer the survey questions!!

UPDATE: OK, The Weekly Standard is back in my good graces.

posted by Dan at 10:50 PM | Trackbacks (0)

Tuesday, September 23, 2003

A very special survey

As part of the paper I'm co-authoring on the power and politics of blogs, I am making a humble request to those who are employed as journalists, columnists, commentators, producers, or editors for newspapers, magazines, radio and television stations. Please take two minutes and send me an e-mail* (be sure to include the media outlet you work for as well as your job title) at with answers to the following five questions [Oh, sure, then you'll broadcast their answers to your friends!--ed. All responses will be treated as confidential unless you give me permission to do otherwise in your e-mail]:

1) How many blogs do you read a day?

2) Please name the three blogs you read most frequently. [What if they read less than three?--ed. Then just name the ones you do read.]

3) Why do you read the blogs you read? In other words, what makes those blogs worth checking out on a regular basis?

4) Have you ever read something on a blog that affected your decision-making on what to air/publish? If the answer is yes, can you give an example?

5) How much influence do you think blogs have on political discourse? A lot, a little, or none at all? Why?

Thank you!!

UPDATE: In the first 24 hours, I've already received 50 relevant responses. Many thanks to everyone who linked to the request, particularly Glenn Reynolds, Kevin Drum, Cory Doctorow, Howard Bashman, James Joyner, Josh Chafetz, Scripting News, and Jim Romenesko.

ANOTHER UPDATE: We're almost at the 100 mark!

If you fit the criteria and haven't responded yet, please do so!! Pretty please!!

*Do NOT post your answers in the comment box below. It's been disabled for this post -- because otherwise, your answers would be available for all the world to read!!

posted by Dan at 04:54 PM | Trackbacks (6)

A new blog project

Over the past year, I've been asked whether blogging can contribute to scholarship. While I've been positive about the effect of blogging on my academic writing style, I'm otherwise leery of mixing the two. Hell, last week I told the Chicago Tribune:

I would be reluctant to have blogging factored into tenure decisions. The whole idea of scholarship is to meditate on an idea, to test it critically and . . . to have your idea peer-reviewed. It's slow, but your ideas are tested in the most rigorous way possible. Blogs are often about spouting off what you're thinking without 10 minutes of reflection, and 30 minutes later you're sometimes wondering, `Did I really write that?'

I suspect my aversion to mixing the two is akin to the "worlds colliding" idea that was done to perfection on "The Pool Guy" episode from Seinfeld: I'm worried about whether Blogger Dan and Scholar Dan can co-exist in the same world.

To test out what happens when worlds collide, I've decided to co-author a scholarly paper on the power and politics of blogging with fellow political scientist and fellow blogger Henry Farrell from Crooked Timber. The idea will be to present this paper at the 2004 American Political Science Association annual meeting. Henry and I are hoping to chair a roundtable on blogging; some heavy-hitters in the blogosphere who shall remain nameless for the moment have already committed.

In the ensuing months, we'll make drafts of the paper available to the blogosphere and invite comments or criticisms. For this post, however, we're just looking for two things. The first is feedback on the definition of a blog. Our working definition -- partly inspired by the feedback from this post -- is as follows:

A weblog is defined here as a web page with minimal to no external editing, dedicated to on-line commentary, periodically updated and presented in reverse chronological order, with hyperlinks to other online sources.

Whaddaya think -- too vague? Too specific? Too wordy? Comments or suggestions for improvement are welcomed.

The second request is for links to working papers or journal articles on the political effects of blogs. I'm NOT talking about the articles that appear every six months like clockwork in the major dailies with headlines like "Americans Are Agog About Blogs!!" I'm talking about papers with more substance.

Here's our limited bibliography:

  • Rebecca Blood, The Weblog Handbook (New York: Perseus Publishing, 2002).

  • Rebecca Blood, “Weblogs: A History and Perspective,” in We’ve Got Blog: How Weblogs are Changing Our Culture (New York: Perseus Publishing, 2002).

  • Joel David Bloom, “The Blogosphere: How a Once-Humble Medium Came to Drive Media Discourse and Influence Public Policy and Elections.” Paper presented at the 2nd annual pre-APSA conference on Political Communication, Philadelphia, PA, August 2003.

  • Christine Carl, “Bloggers and Their Blogs: A Depiction of the Users and Usage of Weblogs on the World Wide Web,” M.A. thesis, Georgetown University, April 2003

  • Rebecca Mead, “You’ve Got Blog,” The New Yorker, 13 November 2000.

  • Clay Shirky, "Power Laws, Weblogs, and Inequality,", February 2003.

  • Clay Shirky, "Weblogs and the Mass Amateurization of Publishing,", October 2002.

  • Matt Welch, “Blogworld,” Columbia Journalism Review, September/October 2003.

    Jeffrey A. Henning, "The Blogging Iceberg," October 2003.

    Pejman Yousefzadeh, "The Rt. Honorable Blogger," Tech Central Station, November 12, 2003.

  • Any readers who know of any papers beyond those listed, please let me know about them.

    I look forward to your comments.

    UPDATE: Here's a web page replete with newpaper stories on blogs. Thanks to alert reader K.M. for the link!!

    posted by Dan at 03:27 PM | Comments (21) | Trackbacks (7)