Wait – was that – it almost looked like . . .

Ok, having said yesterday, based on objective evidence, that there was no archivo-blogosphere (again, I don’t like that term–come up with a better one and post it in a comment), I spent part of today looking more closely at the content of some of the blogs I liked as I was adding them to my blogroll.

Well, it looks like around SAA 2006 (in DC) there was a small and hardy band of archival bloggers (all, I am sure, extremely good-looking) and if it hadn’t been for the lack of connectivity in the Hilton (and maybe the extreme heat–I was there too) they might have gotten more momentum. But it looks like they kind of lost steam–many of them altogether–shortly after that meeting.

This next post was supposed to try to discuss why we don’t have a blogosphere of archivists. In thinking about what to write, I was coming up with a lot of possibilities that ended up sounding like a list of gripes about our profession. And I said was going to try not to be negative in my blog, so I think I’m going to skip that topic. I will say that I think perhaps one of our problems is that we have a lot of ground to cover. We could use good blogs on many different issues, for example–different aspects of electronic records, EAD (for those who use it), nuts and bolts issues about processing, copyright, advocacy issues, developments in available software, etc. Just a thought. I’ll try to follow up with that in a future post of why I think archivists need to get more involved in their own blogosphere.

No. There is no archivo-blogosphere. At least not now.

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.)

Is there an archivo-blogosphere?

In checking out library blogs, I found a reference to the March 2007 issue of American Libraries, which has as its cover story “Mattering in the Blogosphere,” and came I across the term “biblioblogosphere.” (One article is an interview of ten prominent library bloggers. The first question posed was “What does it take for a blog to have an impact on the biblioblogosphere?”)

Which led me to wonder if there is a–what would we call it?–archivo-blogosphere? (Suggestions for a different term welcome.) I think not. Back in September 2005, Walt Crawford wrote an impressive post on Investigating the Biblioblogosphere. I’ll take his idea, but not his detailed methodology, and in my next post I’ll share my findings.

So, what’s going on here?

OK, friends, I’m jumping into the pool.

This is what I wrote for the “About this blog” page–and it seemed like a good first real post:

This blog will attempt to identify what might be “next” for archival institutions by:

1) Exploring Web 2.0 applications and discussing their applicability to archival institutions.

2) Identifying existing innovative uses of web technology in archives and related fields.

3) Discussing how applicable the existing archival business model is in the current and emerging information environment, and proposing modifications or a whole new model.

4) Hopefully engaging readers in a dialog about these issues. I am by no means an expert in any of these areas. I am learning and hopefully some of the four or five people who read this blog will share with me and the other readers what they know or raise questions. I can’t be the only one interested in this.

5) Probably doing some other stuff as well.

To do this I will be drawing heavily on our colleagues in the library community and from the blogs of more technically savvy people (including some archivists). I make no claims to any particular expertise (see below).

This blog will not (I hope):

1) Address issues related to the processing and preservation of electronic records. I am only interested (in this blog) on how archives make themselves and their holdings available.

2) Dwell too much on what is currently not being done or being done badly in archives. Let’s just say I think our profession has a lot of room for improvement.

3) Be afraid to be basic. I’m no expert, but I’m not a complete novice either. If there is something out there that I didn’t know when I started out, I’m not going to be afraid to write about it. You, gentle reader, may snort at my ignorance, but I hope there are some other readers who will learn something.

4) Be dull. This stuff is really cool. Archives have great stuff. They even have some fun, innovative, energetic people. Let’s figure out how to get all that together.

A brief biographical introduction. Feel free to skip this part:

I recently spent a lot of time thinking about what I wanted to do next. I am, by training, an archivist, but unlike some of my colleagues I’ve also done quite a few other things. I spent the last few years working very intensely on a specific project at a very large archives. When I decided I wanted to make a change I took an inventory of sorts–what had attracted me to the archival profession, what kinds of work give me satisfaction, what do I think is wrong with the archival world, and where do I think I can make a contribution (and maybe even a living!)?

I determined that what I really wanted to do was to explore how archives (and related cultural institutions) can take advantage of emerging (well, in some cases already very well-emerged) technologies to broaden their audiences and increase their relevance in the coming century. In order to do this, I realized that I needed to crawl out from the under the rock I’d been under for the past few years. I admit I hadn’t really been paying a lot of attention to a lot of what was going on on the web. My job didn’t involve it, and I didn’t have a lot of free time to spend playing around with the toys. So, now that I have more time, my first task was to get out there and check stuff out. This blog itself is part of that task–and the series of podcasts I’m trying to develop on a different site. I want to actually use as many of these tools as possible so I have a better idea how institutions can use them.

That’s probably all you need to know about me. Maybe more. Let’s get on with it.