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DNA as seen through the eyes of a coder
As a reader, my favorite blog is Boing Boing. But as a blogger myself, Boing Boing is often a bit of a hassle to blog around, because my policy is to virtually never post about anything that has already been seen on Boing Boing. My theory is a) that I prefer to introduce my readers to things they haven’t heard of yet, and that b) most of them are already reading Boing Boing, so c) I won’t bother covering anything Boing Boing has already posted about. (The exception is if something posted on Boing Boing makes me think of an original analysis — i.e. a new point about something.)
As you’d expect, this policy dices me out of many juicy postings because Boing Boing is incredibly fast. A friends or readers will send me a link to something cool, but when I’m swamped with work it often takes me a day or more to post it — during which time Boing Boing will, almost without fail, beat me to the punch. Ah well.
But precisely how good — and how fast — is Boing Boing? Is it just that I’m lazy and slow, or does Boing Boing beat most other blogs too in discovering links? The blogger Simon Owens recently wondered about this, so he decided to run some data and check it out. He recorded every link that Boing Boing posted on a particular day, and then removed any postings that were self-promotional, because they have an unfair advantage in breaking news about themselves. That left 16 postings of links to other web sites. Owens used blog-search engines to see which other blogs had posted about those links — i.e. whether any other blogs had scooped Boing Boing.
In the end, there was a grand total of 112 blogs that had scooped Boing Boing for this 24-hour period. Divided by 16, that means that an average of 7 blogs scoop Boing Boing for every post. But this is a slightly misleading figure, because of the 16 links that day, Boing Boing was the first to post 8 of them. That means that for 50% of the links that Boing Boing posts, it was the first blog to find them.
I also noticed that the later in the day the links were posted, the more likely that other blogs had managed to scoop Boing Boing. This indicates that many of the links posted on Boing Boing are to URLs that were created within a 24-hour time span.
So what does this mean? Was my theory correct?
Well, in this particular instance: Yes. Boing Boing was consistently among the first blogs in the blogosphere to discover a link of interest and then post it.
Pretty cool stuff.
I'm Clive Thompson, the author of Smarter Than You Think: How Technology is Changing Our Minds for the Better (Penguin Press). You can order the book now at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Powells, Indiebound, or through your local bookstore! I'm also a contributing writer for the New York Times Magazine and a columnist for Wired magazine. Email is here or ping me via the antiquated form of AOL IM (pomeranian99).
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