I have a theory that for a weblog to be popular, it must i) have a definite focus for its writings, ii) be written well, iii) have a clear and appealing visual presence and iv) fabricate some form of online personality that people actually like (or be famous). My theory can be extrapolated into explaining why some weblogs are less popular than others. Those sites that are based upon complete whim of content will therefore be at a certain disadvantage, unless the personality expressed is particularly effervescent. I present the following breakdown of the top eight weblogs (according to beebo.org, [Issued May 11, 16:42 GMT+10]) as proof or disproof that my theory holds water.
[NOTE: Half way through this rigorous process, I began wondering whether or not this exercise was turning into a weblog review kind of thing. Which really doesn’t interest me that much. But since the post was so bloody long already, I thought I should probably see it through. Make up your own mind as to its validity (if any) and worth (if any). I promise I’ll try and think of something more interesting to write about tomorrow…]
Billing itself as “News for Nerds. Stuff that Matters”, Slashdot is the communal weblog that comments on all the latest trends in techworld. Because of the number of people posting to it, it doesn’t have the advantage of a highly individual and distinctive voice, but it more than makes up for that in a well developed community feeling. Also, it’s sheer wealth of information compensates for a clunkiness of design.
Focus: 10 Well Written: 8 Visual Presence: 7 Famous/Endearing: 8 Additional: 8 (for depth of content)
Jason Kottke’s personal presence is something of a weblog anomaly. It manages to tread the fine lines between personal, cultural and tech commentary, without sacrificing integrity and without pissing off people interested in one element more than the other. Of course it helps that he is one of the focuses of elegant design on the net at the moment…
Focus: 7 Well Written: 9 Visual Presence: 10 Famous/Endearing: 9
Robot Wisdom’s allure is a relative mystery to me (Rocky Horror Quote: “I didn’t make him for you), although the huge amount of content that it contains is impressively picked apart and commented upon.
Focus: 10 Well Written: 8 Visual Presence: 4 Famous/Endearing:6 Additional: 8 (for depth of content)
Memepool is a stalwart denizen of the old school of weblogging – selectively providing links and commentary to many of the more interesting sites around. Content is mostly self(web)reflexive, in the sense that most the sites and news articles selected are about the net itself, but there is an intriguing sense of play and wit behind the scenes. Very little in the way of personal content.
Focus: 7 Well Written: 9 Visual Presence: 8 Famous/Endearing: 8
A site which is serious about commentary and the dissemination of information in a clear and intelligent fashion. The design pays short shrift to the idea of making the site pleasant to look at, concentrating on a more modernist aesthetic of total functionality. And it succeeds admirably. The content is laid out on the page in an incredibly clear and logical fashion. The same attitude manifests itself in the content of the log itself: functionality is the key, laconic clarity the style, and technology the subject. The few elements of HTML trickery reveal this to be a site for and by tech people.
Focus: 10 Well Written: 7 Visual Presence: 6 Famous/Endearing: 7
Zannah takes a completely different approach to the weblog, drawing the personal diary-like aspects much closer to the forefront, while still revealing herself to be a serious commentator on the web and the people who live in it. She’s also the first of our ten heroic webloggers to make a picture of herself a prominant part of the site.
Focus: 7 Well Written: 7 Visual Presence: 7 Famous/Endearing: 8
One of the team at Pyra, and hence a stable of the blogging community, Evhead’s log looks good, mixes technical content with personal content as if there weren’t any difference at all (which for many of us, there really isn’t) and has an unselfconsciously playful attitude towards HTML, XML and DHTML trickery (without overplaying them).
Focus: 7 Well Written: 7 Visual Presence: 8 Famous/Endearing: 8
Strange log this one – designed with a certain elegance, written with a certain charm, with content that has a certain appeal. But I can think of almost nothing to say about it at all. Mainly traditional weblog format: links with short commentary and little personal detail, with occasional bubblings of a singular personality wanting to break through.
Focus: 6 Well Written: 7 Visual Presence: 7 Famous/Endearing: 6
I’m always amazed that my favourite weblogs aren’t more well read – I guess it reflects a divergence of interests in the community as a whole. Where were: riothero, megnut, kitschbitch, powazek etc etc… [Later Note (13/05/00) Evhead explains everything]