How many of the following names sound familiar? Princess Ceci, Xiaxue, Beppe Grillo, Salam Pax.
Let me guess: maybe one. Salam Pax made headlines when he started blogging about daily life in Iraq at the end of 2002, so you may have heard of him. The other three are a Canadian writing in Chinese, a young Singaporean woman, and a caustic Italian comedian, and they are among the most popular bloggers in the world.
Just, they’re part of different blogospheres.
While bridgeblogs give North American and European readers access to conversations taking place in other parts of the world, they hint at a more complex and less-accessible phenomenon: the emergence of local blogospheres.
(…) There is a sense held by many bloggers – especially by English speaking cyberenthusiast bloggers - that the world of weblogs is an extended, interconnected community. Data presented here and elsewhere on the rapid growth of non-English blogospheres suggests that this phase of the global weblog movement may be coming to a close. As these non-English blogospheres grow, it seems likely that they will be linguistically or culturally insulated from the existing blogosphere in the absence of bridging efforts.
This is from Meet the bridgebloggers, a draft paper written by Ethan Zuckerman that’s mandatory reading for anyone interested in understanding how blogging is developing outside of Europe and the US and what impact it is having on governments, media systems, and communities.
Ethan is a Fellow at the Berkman Center at Harvard, one of the people behind Global Voices, an advocate of bridgeblogs (“weblogs that reach across gaps of language, culture and nationality to enable communication between individuals in different parts of the world”) and one of the most prolific and insightful bloggers out there (full disclosure: he’s a friend). He cautions readers: his paper is just a draft that hasn’t been accepted for publication yet, so no academic citing. But pending the next revision, it’s worth reading Ethan’s combination of anecdotal data and sophisticated analysis of local blogospheres around the world (Africa, China, India, Middle East, Japan, non-English-speaking Europe) as well as the post that introduces and somehow summarizes it.
The blogosphere is massively and rapidly morphing and anyone hoping to make broad statements about weblogs “is going to have to start getting profoundly polylingual”. First, a graph on blogotech:
I double-checked the data from September three months later: only four of the fifteen blogs I was watching (non-English or non-US blogs in the Technorati top 100) were still in the top 100. While 11 of the fifteen blogs I was watching fell out, 20 new non-English or clearly non-US blogs entered the top 100 when I checked last week. What happened was that Technorati changed its algorithm for generating the top 100 during the three months in question. (...) The previous algorithm calculated ranks based on total incoming links over the lifetime of the blog. The new algorithm calculates ranks based on links in the past six months. The previous algorithm tended to favor long-established blogs, while the new one favors blogs that have been popular in the recent past.
And here is one of the things Ethan noticed studying the new rankings:
The new rankings have some similarities - especially at the top. But they’re radically different outside the top 20. Of those 20 new blogs in the top 100, 11 are in Chinese. In the September figures, three of the 14 blogs (21%) I was watching were in Chinese (tied with Portuguese as the best-represented non-English language in the top 100). In December, none of the Portuguese blogs are ranked and 60% of the non-US/non-English blogs are in Chinese.
Basically, the Chinese language blogosphere appears to be exploding in popularity. And the 12 Chinese blogs listed in Technorati’s top 100 may be just the tip of the iceberg.
All 12 of the Chinese blogs are hosted by MSN. This isn’t entirely surprising - research by my friend Matthew Hurst on pingserver data suggested that a huge percentage of total blog posts are coming from MSN and that a substantial percentage of MSN Spaces blogs are being written by people in China. Using data from a paper Matthew is publishing in a few weeks, I estimate that MSN is hosting a minimum of 2 million Chinese language blogs, including Chinese and Taiwanese bloggers. That’s an amazing figure, as Technorati and Blogpulse each index roughly 20 million blogs in total: MSN’s Chinese-language blogs alone might represent 10% of the blogosphere.