Envisioning the Bloggernacle of August 2006

August 15, 2005    By: Geoff J @ 11:50 pm   Category: Bloggernacle

There have been a few posts floating around on the age and the history of the Bloggernacle. This post is all about the future of this collection of Mormon blogs and those who visit them that we call the Bloggernacle.

How big are we?

LDS blogs: Dave at A Soft Answer has tried to keep up with all of the Mormon blogs out there. He has a new site designed for that purpose alone. There are distinctions that have arisen: There are Mormon blogs (blogs about Mormon topics) and there are blogs by Mormons (Blogs about topics unrelated to their Mormonism). And of course there are plenty that mix in a little of both. I help run ldsblogs.org (home of the Mormon Archipelago) and there we try to include feeds for the active Mormon blogs that we know of (at least those that meet some minimum requirements.) There are currently just over 40 active Mormon blogs on that list.

Current Bloggernacle traffic numbers: The daily traffic to these blogs ranges from almost 0 to 2000+ visits per day. It is nearly impossible to know how many actual people log on to the Bloggernacle on any given day because most counters report visits, not unique daily visitors; but I image it is somewhere approaching 2000 unique users everyday. My guess is that there are a lot of people that only check the blogs out on occasion so I suspect that perhaps up to 12,000 saints have ever visited out a Mormon blog. Perhaps half of those users check back on very rare occasion and the other half have no interest. That’s a pretty big number, really. It surpasses the numbers of subscribers to BYU Studies, Dialogue, and Sunstone combined. When compared to the overall church it is a small number still.

How big will we get?

My guess is that the Bloggernacle has more than doubled in size in the last 12 months. If we look at the number of blogs, only a handful of smaller Mormon blogs have persevered from last August until now. Most of the active smaller blogs are less than a year old. Group blogs seem to have more longevity (probably because there are plenty of backup bloggers if a few bow out). But even with a healthy attrition rate, my guess is that we will have more than 120 active Mormon blogs running by August of 2006 (a 200% gain). There will probably be some consolidation and new group blogs formed as well.

When it comes to users, I suspect that last August there may have been 500-800 daily unique Bloggernacle visitors instead of the 1500-2000 we see today. So what will the numbers be like next August? Well I’ll guess a 200% increase in daily users as well. That would put the number of individual Mormons checking out one or more of the islands in the Bloggernacle at about 6000. If we are staying with this tripling theme that would mean the total number of Mormons that have ever visited any LDS blog would be up to 36,000 by then.

What will the ‘Nacle look like in August of 2006?

Personnel turnover: I suspect that several of the current mainstay bloggers in the ‘Nacle will have burned out or will have real jobs in a year and will have given the hobby up as a result. We, of course, will have lots of new move-ins that will pick up the slack, though.

Veterans Disease: The old-timer post-writing bloggers will get increasingly bored with the subjects that newcomers want to talk about and accordingly will end up posting on increasingly obscure or controversial subjects just to stay interested. This will drive many newcomers to newer blogs where they can talk about those things that seem like old hat to the grizzled veterans.

Mormon Studies: Those who are able to produce quality Mormon studies pieces will begin to publish papers directly online in permanent pages. Then lots of posts will immediately go up discussing the strengths, weaknesses, and implications of the papers. Some bloggers will then submit revised drafts of the same papers to those off-line Mormon Studies Journals to reach the few techno-phobes that aren’t in the ‘Nacle yet. Eventually all will realize that the offline version only matters to the aspiring college professors out there and will begin to only publish where the vast majority of readers are – in the ever-growing Bloggernacle.

Brethren, meet the Bloggernacle

How big must the Bloggernacle become before the Brethren start to care? One could argue that they will never care, but that seems unlikely. If Mormon blogs and bloggers begin influencing large numbers of saints, Church leaders will care about that influence. Last Spring over at T&S were guessing on which General Conference will be the first to include a talk mentioning the Bloggernacle (in whatever name they give it). I guessed April of 2006 back in March. I think it might take longer than that now. I would say it has a pretty good chance of happening by October of next year, though. What do you think?

28 Comments »

  1. Interesting thoughts. I imagine the bloggernacle will eventually plateau, just like other Mormon outlets. I hope it doesn’t, and will continue to grow. I hope it becomes an outlet for Latter-day Saints who never picked up a book on history or theology too become introduced (so to speak) to the wide variety of studeis out there on their religion.

    I think also the off-line publications need to develop their strengths that blogs cannot offer and visa versa. I don’t think one will replace the other in any manner. Blogs have their strengths, that if seen as different than off-line publicastions, will be able to continue to offer unique service to the saints, while off-line pubs will be able to offer their unique service.

    But what most likely will happen is that blogs will eventually be replaced by some other online medium, and will eventually go the way of the dodo after a few years. They won’t dissapear, but some other medium will offer something that blogs don’t currently offer. That’s what I like about the web, is that once things start to settle down, everything changes all over again.

    Will the Brethren recognize the ‘nacle. Probably only in a general way. I don’t think they ever addressed specifically email lists, but they have often enought addressed the perils of the internet, which will probably continue. But who knows, maybe Oaks will do a “Alternative Voices Redux.”

    Comment by Dallas Robbins — August 16, 2005 @ 5:11 am

  2. This seems like a good place to mention that the larger blogs are actually constrained by thier blog format. If they allowed for nested comments and reply notification it would enable them to grow much more. It is too much work to scan a 200+ comment discussion in hopes of finding a reply to your post. For this reason I’ve cut down participation on T&S.

    I think that this inability of the large group blogs to take active measures to improve their ability to scale will limit their growth and fuel the creation of smaller blogs where discussion and interaction can take place with less overhead.

    Eventually someone with a concept of how to do the software right to promote large-scale interaction will come along, at least I hope so.

    Comment by a random John — August 16, 2005 @ 6:42 am

  3. arJ, you’re right about the limitations of large group blogs, but so far that’s a rare occurrence at BCC. 30 comments aren’t unusual, but 200+ mega-threads are still (luckily) a rarity.

    Comment by Steve Evans — August 16, 2005 @ 8:29 am

  4. You know, Geoff, I never thought of my blog as a ‘Mormon’ blog, so I must meet the minimum requirements, eh?

    Your post made me examine how old my blog is, and though the archives claim it to be about a year old, I’d place it’s real age at 5 months, as I didn’t really post anything of use til then.

    I hope turnover isn’t too great. I’m a creature of habit and I like reading all of my ‘regular’ reads.

    I think the Brethren will start recognising blogs sooner than many think, as blogs are starting to be cited as sources in the media.

    Comment by Crystal — August 16, 2005 @ 8:57 am

  5. Steve,

    But just think of the thousands of Dialogue readers that are sure to descend on BCC like a swarm of locust!

    I don’t think that BCC really needs such features now, but T&S does.

    Comment by a random John — August 16, 2005 @ 9:01 am

  6. Dallas, arJ,

    The question is: When will readership (and authorship) in the Bloggernacle plateau? I suspect we are 3-5 years out still on that. I think that rather than blogging being replaced it will probably morph into something slightly different with adoption of new technologies.

    arJ does make a good point that the current blog technology is somewhat self-limiting when it comes to comments. One of my early posts when I switched to WordPress had a whopping 280 comments — that is too many to follow unless you were in the debate. But I like th blog format better than the message boards I have read in the past. Message boards are too informal for me with too much throw away content. Blogs seem to solicit at least slightly more thoughtful comments which cuts down on the wasted reading time for me. I suspect it is because the comments are less ike a personal conversation and more like a raised hand in a classroom discussion.

    I think that the conversation limitations will lead to more blogs and more authors and that is a good thing.

    Comment by Geoff J — August 16, 2005 @ 9:01 am

  7. Nice analysis Geoff. I’m interested in what will happen to the community. If you go back and read the archives of T&S there is a completely different tenor than there is now. I wonder if there will be a schism. I don’t know that we can ever satiate our appetite for archetypes, however, I do believe there is a limit to the amount of content any one person, with a job, can read.

    Comment by J. Stapley — August 16, 2005 @ 9:18 am

  8. Regarding finding ones post. Just use Find. In Firefox it is even better as their find command is fantastic. Anyway, just search for your name and you get it quickly. I’m personally opposed to the nested comment format because I think it cuts off discussion. You end up with a situation akin to Slashdot’s comments. Or worse the blog just becomes an other forum with all the associated problems of a forum.

    With regards to esoteric topics by bloggers – hey, I started out with esoteric topics on my blog. (grin) It takes all types. I think that there are a lot of people bored by the same old topics and want something more. I still put my more “mundane” thoughts and questions on M*. The advantage to group blogs is that you tend to have more readers to comment and also multiple people. So even if people only post occasionally, there are still enough posts to drum up regular support.

    Comment by Clark — August 16, 2005 @ 9:35 am

  9. I’m not convinced the Bloggernaccle will plateau. It’s much more accessible (both literally and intellectually) than the LDS journals, and it’s a stronger format than message boards. But, of course, it certainly won’t fill the church. It’ll be interesting to see how far it spreads.

    Comment by Eric Russell — August 16, 2005 @ 10:00 am

  10. I honestly think that a Mormon Slashdot would be interesting. The journals would enable a blog withing a blog thing for wide participation. The categories stuff could allow you sort out Gospel Doctrine lessons, or Teachings of the Prophets lessons, posts by Nate, etc. The moderation system and friend/foe thing could create some real polarization. It would take a critical mass for any of those things to kick in though and only T&S really has that at this point.

    Even without resorting to slash code though, it seems that comment notification would be a good thing.

    Comment by a random John — August 16, 2005 @ 10:05 am

  11. arJ — I am familiar with message boards and blogs, I’m not sure I have seen examples of the technologies you are describing… Do you have any links of sites that use it effectively?

    Eric — It seems a plateau is inevitable (at least some day) given the finite number of Mormons in the world. (Unless of course the world ends while we’re still growing…) Perhaps you see the groeth coninuing slowly for many yers to come? That sounds like a reasonable position to me.

    Clark — You are a fine example of a grizzled vet ;-). Now what are we to do with Mormon Metaphysics? You never post anything about Mormonism there anymore — you use that all at LDS-Phil and M*…

    Comment by Geoff J — August 16, 2005 @ 10:27 am

  12. Yeah. Although that’s partially just because I’ve been so busy this summer. I keep wanting to post of a few of Jeffrey’s posts. Those are in the pipeline. There are actually some interesting LDS issues in that Tomasello book I’m reading. I’m also planning on starting up an LDS reading club again. So there are posts in the pipeline that are more LDS oriented. But certainly being a part of both M* and The Bloggernacle times drove away some of the more LDS posts. Although to be fair, even many of the more philosophical posts still have a lot of LDS content, even if not explicitly so. For instance I think the posts on Repentance and Forgiveness did. And I have a post coming on continuing that thread. Then there is a post from T&S I plan to comment on.

    To be fair though my sidebar has a fair number of religious or LDS posts on it.

    Comment by Clark — August 16, 2005 @ 10:56 am

  13. Geoff,

    The two best examples are probably:

    http://www.slashdot.org/

    http://www.kur5hin.org/

    I’m not sure what Clark’s beef with Slashdot is. Perhaps he could provide some detail?

    In any case, both sites have evolved their own methods of dealing with large numbers of users, comment moderation and filtering, and user created content. Both have also made their software available for download.

    Comment by a random John — August 16, 2005 @ 1:19 pm

  14. I actually looked at using Slashcode for Mormon Metaphysics for a while. I decided not to for a wide variety of reasons I’ll not go into. Probably the easiest answer is that every Slashcode based system I’ve seen just didn’t seem conducive to blogging proper. That is, the style of the design of the code seem oriented more for a forum discussion rather than blogging. That’s fine if you like that. But at that point why not just have forum software with restrictions on who can start threads? In general Slashcode seems like the unholy offspring of two different genres. I read Slashdot regularly, mainly because it has interesting links. But I think it the worst blogging software of them all. Maybe I’m wrong and there is a good blog based on Slashcode.

    Comment by Clark — August 16, 2005 @ 2:31 pm

  15. Clark,

    Have you checked out the /. journals? There is a pretty active community of people that use it as a blog. Of course /. predates blogging by several years so it grew into what it is before blogging became what it is.

    I’m not sure that I understand your distinction between a forum and blogging. Do you blog to preach or do you blog to interact?

    Comment by a random John — August 16, 2005 @ 7:36 pm

  16. I’m not sure but what that’s a false dichotomy. I think blogs are somewhere between writing a paper and a rough discuss during the writing of a paper. So I don’t really blog to start a conversation. I may have some discussions. But for instance at my blog, with a few major exceptions, it’s rare to have many comments on most posts. When I do they are usually only 3 – 5 with them commenting on errors I made or the like. Of course I have had a few that were over a hundred. But I personally don’t aim to be like T&S with big long comments. I actually like the thoughtful creation of a post.

    Occasionally I want more feedback. For instance many of my M* posts are oriented in that way – asking questions more like an Elder’s Quorum lesson. But even there it’s rare to have more than 20 comments.

    Comment by Clark — August 16, 2005 @ 7:52 pm

  17. John,

    I am somewhat familiar with slashdot, but it seems like just a message board to me. I personally don’t like that technology at all. I hate having to click in and out of everthing.

    Blogs have a couple of advantages I think. I love the format with an article/editorial/paper first and then a linear discussion afterwards. I think it fosters more thoughtful exchanges. I also love the recent comment function that lets me know where the recent action is.

    I can see some value to the message board model — especially when you start getting into the 100+ comment range. But If there are that many comments I would rather see splinter posts (in the blog format) and discussions go up anyway. (This is sort of what I was getting at in #6)

    Comment by Geoff J — August 16, 2005 @ 8:45 pm

  18. I guess you have to decide if blogging for you is about the blogger, the lurkers, or the particpants. I don’t get the “click in and out of everything” comment. You can set your prefences to display comments however you want to minimize any clicking. I think that if someone put some thought into it they could develop some AJAX based blogging software that makes the UI more intuitive.

    I also think that you are getting hung up on the content of Slashdot, which has very little original content, which is not a result of the software they have developed. The software is able to support an original content format just as easily. Check out Kuro5hin for a site that has original user generated content and good comment features as well.

    I certainly agree that if you consistently generate fewer than 40 or 50 comments per post that there is no need for anything more than standard blogging software. My complaint with T&S is that I don’t want to search around to find my own comments and then see if someone has replied. I want the site to tell me if someone has replied.

    Comment by a random John — August 17, 2005 @ 6:30 am

  19. Drupal is a good blogging/community software program. It’s open source. I’ve been using it to create a website for a client at work, it does what I think John is describing. You can have a main community page, like a group blog, and then everyone can have individual blogs. You can also have forums, but I haven’t utilized that part of it so I don’t know how well they work.

    http://www.drupal.org

    Comment by Susan M — August 17, 2005 @ 8:36 am

  20. A good example of a public Drupal-driven site (the one I’m working on is private so I can’t post it) is the Onion’s AV Club website:

    http://avclub.com/content/home

    Comment by Susan M — August 17, 2005 @ 12:05 pm

  21. BTW – taking to heart Geoff’s comments about the lack of recent LDS oriented posts on my blog, I put up a Nibley reading club some might enjoy.

    Comment by Clark — August 17, 2005 @ 1:06 pm

  22. Good stuff Clark. Thanks for the heads up. I’m glad to see more Mormon stuff already at your blog. But I suspect you may have earned tenure at the MA for your past contributions. I nominate you for the Hugh Nibley Memorial “It’s obscene that one man should know that much” award.

    Susan — Thanks for the link. It look like it has some blogs and some boards there. Is there a combo technology I missed somewhere in that site? If not I guess I just like the blog format better…

    Comment by Geoff J — August 17, 2005 @ 1:19 pm

  23. That entire site is driven by a software called Drupal. It includes forums, blogs, and everything else you see on that AV website–it’s all generated by Drupal. (You don’t have to utilize all it’s features.) I think software like this (content management systems) will become more and more popular for online communities.

    Comment by Susan M — August 17, 2005 @ 3:48 pm

  24. Hey Susan, I tried to email you but it got bounced back. I just wanted to tell you i’m so jealous that you went to the Gorillaz concert I love them. Actually I was wondering if you had heard the Kaiser Chiefs and Hot Hot Heat’s latest albums and wondered what your opinion was on them.

    I’ve been thinking about getting them and I wondered if they were any goo.

    Comment by Kristen J — August 17, 2005 @ 5:59 pm

  25. if they were any good, not goo.

    Comment by Kristen J — August 17, 2005 @ 6:00 pm

  26. Clark,

    I’d like to join in your reading group, but I’m afraid that it’d take me at the very least a week to get my hands on a copy of the book.

    Just one of many disadvatages of being a Nor’easter.

    Comment by Crystal — August 17, 2005 @ 10:04 pm

  27. That’s weird, Kristen. Try this email address: whenigodeaf@gmail.com

    (I couldn’t find an email for you on here)

    Comment by Susan M — August 18, 2005 @ 7:17 am

  28. Crystal, the more the merrier. I’m planning on going fairly slow. Only a post a week. And the first post is mainly an introduction with lots of quotes from the text. However I do think that in many ways The Ancient State is Nibley’s most interesting book. I’d even put it above Approaching Zion, although I know that a controversial claim.

    Comment by Clark — August 18, 2005 @ 11:02 am

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