On gender and blogging frequency

One other point that Anne Zelenka made while reflecting on the Adobe Engage event had to do with gender and blogging frequency:

The world of technology blogging is an architecture of non-participation for women–and it’s partly because we may, in general, blog differently than men. I was really impressed with Ryan Stewart’s blogging output at the event. I sat next to him and watched him pump out post after post. Many of the other bloggers–men, natch–did likewise. Then it all appeared on techmeme. I didn’t post at all yesterday. I didn’t feel inspired, didn’t have much to add to the conversation, don’t much care about what traffic I get to either Anne 2.0 or tech decentral. In this way I seem quite different from the other bloggers at the event.

Is it a gender thing? Who knows. There are plenty of women blogging frequently with attention to popularity (I do so–on Web Worker Daily, but I don’t do it out of a personal urge). But it does seem to me that women publish less frequently than men and may be less likely to post on something just because it’s news and might get them noticed. This behavior means they’re less likely to get linked to, less likely to become more visible, and consequently less likely to be invited to events targeted at influencers like this one.

So this isn’t an exhaustive study or anything like that, but I’d bet that more than anything else, this has to do with the way that blogging is turning into a business or career booster for people. It think (sadly) that posting quickly and frequently does have an impact on the attention that you get in the blogosphere. I personally think that is sad, and there are a number of very very high quality blogs which I read, whose authors post infrequently. But when it’s about the flow, the ad impressions or other related things, early and often is a big deal.

There’s another factor, which I experienced. When I first started going to conferences, I blogged everything, sometime live-blogged it. After about a year or so, I realized that I was losing part of the value of being in at the conference in person. Sure, it was great for the readers — and things like the live notes of Greg Stein’s Python at Google talk are still racking up major hits for me because people are interested in that information. But in order to get all that stuff up and early, I was giving up talking with people and/or sleep. I decided that I didn’t want the first and most frequent niche. I wasn’t getting enough value for the exchange. I’m philosophically opposed to ads on my blog, so the hits are just for my ego, but ego is cheap. Losing out on the chance to make personal contacts with people that I might later want to collaborate with was much more important. Another drawback of being the hare and not the tortoise was that there just wasn’t enough time to really think things through. So you could dump the notes, and some light analysis, but anything deeper takes time. And it’s the deepest stuff that is most interesting to me.

One of the reasons that I asked Gabe Rivera for a personalizable Techmeme is that my personal “A-list” is very different from the A-list that Techmeme tracks. The majority of these folks don’t build systems, and they are all doing variations of the same analysis. For my reading hours, the best values are the blogs of those people who are actually building systems, getting cut by the sharp edges, exulting in the delights of a new discovery, or just the downright cool hack. The tech blogosphere is getting “enterprisey”, for lack of a better description, and as it does, it gets less interesting.

One other data point on gender and posting frequency. When Julie was cranking (which was like a year ago), her output was prodigious. There’s at least one woman that can crank it out.

A second reason it’s important to include more women is to break the vicious cycle of women not being invited because they’re not visible and then not being visible because they’re not in attendance. James figured out how the A list works: you go to events like Adobe’s yesterday, you post or otherwise get noticed for your attendance, and you become more well known. Then more people seek you out. That’s a virtuous cycle. I consider that working with the architecture of the social space–not fighting against it.

Sadly, this is not how it ought to work. Ideas/blog posts should have merit whether you got invited (or could afford) to go to an event or not. Anne didn’t make her way into my “A-list” folder in NetNewsWire because she was being invited to Adobe private meetings. I trusted Cote, James and Steven because I had read their stuff. Their hiring her was a recommendation (she was unknown to me before that). For that reason, her blog went in the 30 day holding bin. Having survived the 30 day holding bin, I put her on the “A-list”. The move happened based on the strength of her ideas. The world is going distributed, and trying to sort people onto the A-list based on event invitation/attendance seems to me like a great way to make sure that the echo chamber gets louder and louder. Or maybe it really is true that the blogsphere is just high school all over again.

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