Oh My! The Webs Alive

    December 13, 2005

The Syndicate Conference is going on this week in San Francisco and WebProNews publisher Rich Ord flew out to see what the all the fuss is about. He sat in on the first session by the original Technorati, David Sifry, who tells us what makes the Live Web special.

Editor’s Note: Conference coverage at WebProNews doesn’t stop. iEntry chief Rich Ord is out in San Francisco covering Syndicate. He sat and listened to Technorati Dave Sifry’s session on the Living Web. Give us your thoughts on WebProWorld.

His session, entitled “Searching the World Live Web” covered a lot of ground. This article is essentially a compilation of the things he said during that session. He said the Web is the world’s largest library and a search engine is kind of like a reference librarian. Indices, documents, web pages they are all the language of the library.

Perhaps the truest statement he made is, “It is a web that is constantly changing.” There’s a fundamental shift in how people think about the web. Sifry suggested the web is changing as we know it because “we’re making the change.”

Early on, he drew a comparison between the Web and the flow of a river or a conversation, and explained the web, like the river or the conversation, is changing all the time, yet continuing to flow and as such, the entire web changes all the time. And like that ever-changing river, there’s also a permanent side of it too.

Sifry then went into details about the life of the web itself. The live part of the web is all about conversations and the thing missing from the web is the whole idea of people. He believes the web is shifting away from keyword searches and hyperlinks.

One concept that was difficult for companies like Google to grasp was searching based on time because the search engine doesn’t understand it. Those search engines also don’t take into account the people who are involved with creating the web pages. He said people create documents at a particular time. The signficance of time is that particular resource is scarce and one’s attention is time directed toward a specific purpose.

“For the very first time, average human beings can express their opinions on the web in a personal way.” A weblog could be a lot more than you think too. A blog can be an “expression of a person’s attention stream over time.” New social gestures creep up too. Hyperlinking is a new form of social gesture. The people you link to become a series of social gestures and the people that link to you that’s your reputation. “You have to start listening.”

Sifry mentioned the metrics his company, Technorati, is tracking currently. They track 22.5 million blogs and it doubles in size every five months. The doubling is consistent over the last 40 months too. A new blog is created every second to the tune of about 70,000 a day and that doesn’t include spam blogs either. New Chinese blog growth is slowing and leveling out some.

If the Web is a river, then the blogosphere is like an amoeba reacting to world events. Everyone is a participant and everyone has the power to be like the Wall Street Journal. The web is a live being.

Then he went into some of the dynamics of the blogosphere, saying it had a short head and a long tail. The top bloggers are getting readerships similar to those of medium city newspapers. The bloggers are categorizing themselves via tagging and there are over 60 million posts with tags or categories. “What surprised me was the number of bloggers using tags. About 46.8% of blogs that Technorati tracks are now tagged.”

He also pointed out bloggers are self-organizing and one can see how authoritative they are by looking at the links from other sites in your category.

He discussed the depth of the blogosphere, saying the short head part may have millions of readers but is mostly one-way communication must-sees. The magic middles may have thousands of reader engaged in constant conversation with readers.

The long tail can be anywhere from a handful of readers to hundreds. They are generally tightly focused communities of interest. Unexpected issues may emerge from the long tail and spread throughout the blogosphere.

Sifry also touched on media and blogosphere. He suggested there’s a “terrible amount of symbiosis here. In the 20th century, we had letters to the editor. In the 21st century, we can look at how many people comment in a blog about our articles.”

He wrapped up the session by asking one basic question: “How do you make sense of all this?”

“It’s really about exposing community and adding context. How does one deal with all of the good stuff out there? It goes beyond keyword searches. You must incorporate community and context.”

John Stith is a staff writer for WebProNews covering technology and business.