After doing an unscientific survey, I still don’t think there is an archivo-blogosphere. This is probably not news to any reasonably technically savvy archivist, but I thought I should uncover some actual data before jumping to that conclusion. Besides, it gave me a reason to look at all the other archival blogs I could find.
I started with the ArchivesBlogs site, which lists 72 syndicated blogs. I looked at each blog and began a process of defining a set of sites which would, in my opinion, constitute part of blogosphere (if one existed). Since I am interested in an American community of archivists, I retained only those sites that post messages in English. This left 58 candidate blogs.
After looking at the remaining sites, I determined that those blogs belonging to repositories–often associated with special collections in university libraries–consisted almost exclusively of “bulletin board” posts (events in their repository, information about recent acquisition, processing updates, etc.) Although this information is valuable to that repository’s users, it didn’t seem to be contributing to a larger conversation about the archival profession or professional issues, and so I removed those blogs, leaving a group of 43 blogs.
Out of the remaining 43 blogs, five had not been updated within the past six months (well, since September 1, 2006). These I considered inactive and took off the group under consideration. (There was some cheating here, as I will explain later.)
The next phase of weeding was somewhat subjective, but I believe it was valid. I removed blogs whose content was primarily personal or social rather than professional. (Although many of the remaining blogs also contain occasional posts that are more personal than professional.) I then removed blogs that were associated with either related professions or narrow aspects of the archival field, such as blogs on ephemera, rare books, and television archiving. There are several blogs related to the subject of digitization in general, and I left those in because their appeal seemed more general. I then removed the four sites that that did not originate in the US or Canada. Again, this was subjective; their content was very good and of interest, but if a blogosphere is a community, then it seemed reasonable to define that, as I said, an American or North American community (but more on that later).
Twenty-three blogs remained in the running. Just to make sure I (and the ArchivesBlogs site) hadn’t missed anything, I did some Google and Bloglines searches for things like “archivist” and “blog.” I also searched for blogs that mentioned the Society of American Archivists. Given the recent uproar over the Archives and Archivists listserv archives, I thought that if another relevant archives blog existed, it should come up in such a search. I found no archives blogs that were not already listed by the ArchivesBlogs site. Actually, even after weeding out the sites that weren’t in English, I looked at all the sites listed in all the sites’ blogrolls to look for additional archives blogs; again, didn’t find any specifically archival sites references in blogrolls that were not already part of the group.
I then looked at how many blogs were linked to by other blogs (this was actually done, again, back with the 58 blogs in English). There were nine blogs that had five or more links in other blogs. These all remained in the final group of 23. (Incidentally, being linked to is no guarantee of linking back-5 of the top 9 sites contained no links out to any other sites.) As far as linking out, 5 of the final group of 23 blogs contained no blogroll or any other links to other archival blogs.
I then looked at the frequency of postings since September 1, 2006. Three sites had over 100 postings; one site had between 75 and 50 postings; three sites had between 50 and 25 postings; and the remaining sixteen sites had between 25 and 1 postings. Of the three sites with over 100 postings, two were in the most linked-to group. Of the other most-linked-to group, three had between 50 and 25 posts, and the remaining four had between 25 and 1 post.
(I should note that ArchivesBlogs site itself is linked to nine times. Since it is a site that automatically compiles the postings of other sites, I did not consider it as a unique archives blog. This is not to say that it isn’t tremendously valuable–I just didn’t include it in my statistics.)
What did this examination tell me? That we have a relatively small group (23) of active blogs that are addressing in all or part North American archival concerns. That of that group, only seven blogs had more than 25 posts in the past six months. That of that group, most contained no references out to other archival blogs and most were linked to by fewer than five other blogs. To me, based on statistics only, this doesn’t look like an active blog community. (And these numbers are skewed to be more generous; if I had removed Canadian bloggers, the total number would be 19 and two of the most linked to blogs would have been eliminated, as well as two of the sites with over 100 posts in the last six months.) One of the most linked to and linking sites has posted only once since September 1. If I had made it a hard six months, it would have been out.
So, without passing judgment on the value of any of the postings on archival blogs (which is a whole different analysis), but only on the type of content, interlinking of blogs, and frequency of postings, I conclude that we do not have an archivo-blogosphere. I welcome discussion of my findings, and in the next few posts I hope to discuss reasons why we don’t have one and ask if it really matters.
(P.S. Oh, and I will update my blogroll to include the archival blogs I found most interesting.)