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February 23, 2005

Girls With Keyboards

I wasn't planning to step into Kevin's not-enough-women-in-the-blogs fluff, having been on the receiving end of it a few times myself. But Avedon Carol dropped me into the fray, and I'll use her mention as an excuse to post some thoughts:

• First, on Avedon's point that I got linked on TAPPED despite being a new blog while some excellent women bloggers did not, I don't think that's fair. The situation was more akin to updating an address book. I've been blogging for about three years and been on their blogroll for the better part of the last, so it's not as if I emerged out of nowhere, proved I had a penis, and was admitted to the list o' links.

• This argument follows a very similar pattern each time it surfaces. Guy wonders why there aren't more female political bloggers, girl(s) list 500 female political bloggers and wonder why he's not aware of them all, guy lamely protests that that wasn't his point, guy eventually gives up and cheers when post drops off the page. As I said, I've some experience with this. But it should be noted that the question isn't whether or not there are hundreds, even thousands, of excellent female political bloggers -- there are! -- it's why there seem to be quite a few fewer female political bloggers than men. It's a proportionality thing. Often, the answer is that we're only looking at the top ranks, which is a pretty closed club (true, though it's not out of some desire by Drum and Josh to keep out the estrogen-producing riff-raff). So last time this happened, I checked that. I clicked all around the TTLB ecosystem and went to 10 blogs in a row here, 10 there, at all levels of popularity. The numbers stayed heavily male. So my sense is that despite the scores of excellent female political bloggers, there are more male bloggers. Meryl Yourish points to a recent Pew Study that found 57% of bloggers are men. That alone is a large difference and, while I haven't seen data on this, I think the difference is larger when the sample is restricted to political blogs. But even if you're unwilling to grant that, we've still got a 14% difference there. The real question, I think, is what accounts for the differential.

• Again, there are truckloads of excellent female political bloggers out there and I'm listening to Ani DiFranco as I type this (true, actually -- her new cd has been pretty constant in my iTunes). My point isn't to malign nor offend them, but to wonder what accounts for the comparative difference. My end, here, is that I want even more truckloads of excellent female political bloggers to read.

• Blogs, particularly the lefty blogs, are a clubby lot. The top guys (and gals) link to each other, perpetuating higher intragroup hits, but not doing much to help those outside the popular circle. The right is much better at this -- Instapundit exists to drive traffic to young blogs and Hewitt has made it a pet cause. On their side of the aisle, they've created established routes for recognition, not to mention habituated their readers to bookmarking new folks. We've not done that. This partially has to do with who leads our charge. Kos and Marshall basically don't link, Atrios links but mostly to a certain type of post, Kevin doesn't link all that much; the only one I'd say does a really good job of nurturing young bloggers is Yglesias, who gave me my start and has done the same for others (including the excellent Julie Saltman, whose absence on the sidebar I'm about to rectify, and whose take on this stuff should be read by all). When I was a "big boy" at Pandagon, I tried to do some of this, mainly with Brad Plumer and Here's What's Left (half female, though Heather almost never posts).

But, and I hope Brad doesn't mind becoming an example, his case proves the point. I drove him as much traffic as I possibly could, thousands of readers. Indeed, he was soon all over the blogs, appearing on Kevin's site more than I ever did and becoming a common actor in Matt's posts. But his sitemeter still barely cracks 250 a day. Now, Brad is absurdly talented, knowledgeable and fun to read, he's certainly one of the best bloggers around. So what's happened? Why hasn't his readership soared?

Blog readers, I think, are creatures of habit. They come to a couple top sites day after day, and adding on to that routine is a tough sell. With Insty and Hugh, adding new sites to their reader's daily trawl is the expressed purpose of many of their posts, they've created an environment where that's an expected response. We've not done that on the left, so though sites like Kos boast a much higher readership than anything the right's got, our blogosphere isn't as healthy, there's nowhere near the same level of upward mobility. And while I don't think that accounts for the male/female differential, I do think it creates a problem for anyone trying to move into the high ranks, and that means the gender gap on that level wouldn't change even if the numbers under it shifted. That's a problem for both genders.

Update: Per the discussion here, tried to add a promotion component to my blogroll. Check it out and tell me what you think.

February 23, 2005 in Weblogs | Permalink


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» Girls With Keyboards from Fiat Lux
There's another flurry in the recurring cycle of "where are all the female political bloggers" going on this week, fed by a couple of posts at Kevin Drum's site. I don't think there's some sort of... [Read More]

Tracked on Feb 23, 2005 2:02:24 PM

» Moving the Conversation Forward from RANDOM THOUGHTS on Politics
After this post, I'm off this topic. I've been completely sidetracked and have used my limited blog time on the women and blogging topic. I want to get back to the news of the day. (I haven't even read the [Read More]

Tracked on Feb 23, 2005 6:58:25 PM

» It's Mea Culpa Time from Trish Wilson's Blog
There have been some interesting developments in the latest [Read More]

Tracked on Feb 23, 2005 9:08:00 PM

» My Place On the Internets from BunkoSquad
Two things I read today got me to thinkin': 1.) Ezra Klein's entry on the perception that there aren't a lot of females on the heavy-hitters list of blogdom, particularly on the left. Ezra basically admits that they are out... [Read More]

Tracked on Feb 23, 2005 11:22:48 PM

» Apropos of Nothing from Paperwight's Fair Shot
First, should either of my loyal readers be curious about my take on the role of the blogosphere, blogrolls, and linking, it can be found in a discussion with Ezra Klein in the comments here. [Read More]

Tracked on Feb 24, 2005 12:39:51 PM


I make rounds of the top circuit blogs and also regularly visit two or three 'minor' blogs. That seems pretty common, anecdotally. And given that theres a lot more minor blogs out there... it leaves slim pickings for the minor leagues.

I do have to agree that there's virtually no top tier female bloggers, although there's quite a few awesome ladies in the comments of good blogs and in the dKos diaries. Dismally scrolling my favored blogs list, I see...two with their own blogs, and one of those is Respectful of Otters which has been inactive for quite some time now AFAIK.

Posted by: Sandals | Feb 23, 2005 1:21:34 PM

Good points. Now, what are you doing to help break the cycle other than pointing out its existance?

Here's a sugestion: How about creating a new mini-blogroll on your front page. Update it regularly. In it, you link to bloggers who ought to have better recognition but for whatever reason, don't get it. And make a point of being diverse in your linking. To make the workload manageable, I'd suggest updates every 4 to 6 weeks and no more than 5 to 7 blogs listed in the blogroll.

Even better, try to get one or two of the other big-name Lefty bloggers to do the same thing.

Posted by: fiat lux | Feb 23, 2005 1:26:46 PM

"Now, Brad is absurdly talented, knowledgeable and fun to read, he's certainly one of the best bloggers around. So what's happened? Why hasn't his readership soared?"

It's because he's actually a woman!

Posted by: praktike | Feb 23, 2005 1:38:17 PM

You're not going to drive his hit-count any hire by linking to Yglesias when you mean to link to Brad.

I've been slow put your new site on my blogroll because I don't have the continuous reminder of seeing your name in my referrals. Today I had that reminder. You're going to remember now, too, right?

Posted by: Avedon | Feb 23, 2005 2:01:01 PM

You have to register for the TTLB ecosystem to be included. (Also, you have to install SiteMeter to be on the traffic ranking there.) The information it reports is often obviously suspect. It may be the best we have, but that doesn't mean it's good, so people should limit using it as conclusive evidence of anything.

Posted by: Mithras | Feb 23, 2005 2:04:12 PM

I can't believe I just typed "hire" instead of "higher". God, I'm getting old....

Posted by: Avedon | Feb 23, 2005 2:07:04 PM

Or maybe you're reading Yglesias too much. :)

Posted by: Haggai | Feb 23, 2005 2:23:21 PM

Zounds! Well I, for one, am now linking to Avedon.

And praktike's point is truly well-taken. I was thinking of ditching my lavender banner for something more, ahem, masucline. That should drive up the hits!

By the way, the Drezner-Farrell paper on blogs and their funny ways kind of gets into all this from an academic perspective. Maybe not the female part. But the "logjam up top" part.

Posted by: Brad Plumer | Feb 23, 2005 2:42:41 PM

Note: Brad DeLong made an attempt to rectify this situation in late 2003 with his Subvert the Dominant Internet Link Hierarchy! post. Seems to me that's the best way to handle the problem. Use Brad's title, list a few blogs (or just posts) that you've liked and the communal linking aspect that made this blogging thing so interesting in the first place gets a shot in the arm.

Another alternative would be to set up a remaindered links blogs and incorporate it the way Kottke does.

Posted by: Peter | Feb 23, 2005 2:59:55 PM

See also DeLong's first post on this issue where he muses for a while about the problem in general and then proposes this solution to high page rank sites.

Promiscuous link sluttage is the answer. I call on everyone reading this with a website or a weblog to find a measure of sites that link to you--my current favorite is Technorati, but whatever you want. Rank the sites that list to you by their "authority." Find the least authoritative, look at it, and if you like it link to it. (If you don't like it, don't.) Link to it. Put it in your blogroll. Talk about it. And don't just pick one. Pick two--maybe one from the least authoritative category, and one at random.


Posted by: Peter | Feb 23, 2005 3:07:06 PM

Actually Avedon, I wasn't talking about your blog, I was talking about your points vis-a-vis TAPPED. Sorry if I was unclear on that. My point simply was that I didn't just appear on their blogroll randomly because I sent in a picture of myself looking masculine (though the low buttoned shirt might have helped), but that I'd been on there blogroll before, been around the blogs for awhile, and got legacy'd in when I moved. Now, I may or may not deserve to be on the blogroll, but my inclusion there shouldn't be used to demonstrate some sort of favoritism. I've been blogging for almost a solid year longer than Suburban Guerrilla.

As to other points, I think they're good ones. I have been trying to promote blogs I like -- Brad's, Here's What's left, Liberals Against Terrorism, Shakespeare's Sister (I've linked to her before, I'd just forgotten to put up the blogroll link till yesterday)...part of the problem, and this is cyclical, is that it's hard to find new blogs I really like. The guys I link to regularly, Matt, Brad, Kevin, Liberals Against Terrorism, etc are really very good. Now, two of them are recent and I've done my best to get them out there, but I don't find it so easy to discover blogs that I find as useful. This is particularly tough because there's only so much time in a day and in trying to feed my own commentary, I have a tendency to rely on those whose opinions I historically find provocative and whose skills as aggregators I find exceptional (political wire, mydd).

Not to mention, as I was saying in the post, that even when I do my best to promote one, it doesn't seem to do a whole lot of good. So there's a structural problem here -- I tend to think that the 10 top lefties should get together once a week and all link to three great blogs they found that week -- the same three, so the push is sustained on a single site. That might make more of a difference. Or so I'd hope.

Fixed the link to Brad, by the way. i was linking out of my newsfeed and he and matt are right next to each other, so I control-C'd the wrong one.

Posted by: Ezra | Feb 23, 2005 3:18:11 PM

What's interesting to me is the point that the lefty blogsphere is "clubby" and not friendly to new kids on the block.

It's interesting because the blogsphere is full of people (like Kos and others) who decry that Democratic leadership is too insular, and that the reformers are being kept out.

What is it people say about projecting your own behaviours onto others? Maybe we jump all over the Democratic party for being hostile to newcomers because it's a common trait we all share. And wish we didn't.

Posted by: cfr | Feb 23, 2005 3:37:32 PM

CFR -- i agree with that.

Also, i was wrong about blogging a year longer than Suburban Guerrilla. I've only blogged a few months longer. Contra Summers, many boys can't do math, either.

Posted by: Ezra | Feb 23, 2005 3:50:06 PM

Dude. I've mocked you many times. Hell, I mocked you today. But, I've got to give you points for going beyond asking the question. Good for you.

Posted by: Roxanne | Feb 23, 2005 4:39:06 PM

Yeah, my joke sucked. I was planning to make "I'm currently listening to Ani DiFranco" it's own bulletpoint, but then combined it with another for concision. Worked out real well in making me look like a pandering poseur. But what can ya do, "publish" has already been pressed and the mocking has laready commenced.

Posted by: Ezra | Feb 23, 2005 4:42:37 PM

Well, live and learn. I can't get too mad at anyone on the LA Weekly masthead.

Posted by: Roxanne | Feb 23, 2005 4:47:49 PM

Paperwight has a "promotion" blogroll too...I think it's a good idea.

Posted by: Scott Lemieux | Feb 23, 2005 5:23:05 PM

Ezra, I least nobody called you "Danny Bonaduce!"

Posted by: praktike | Feb 23, 2005 5:33:15 PM

Prakt: It's evolved into Danny Blogaduce.

Posted by: Roxanne | Feb 23, 2005 5:42:38 PM

Oh, thank God, now I have more blogs to waste my time with. Beats actual people.

And anyone who thinks that women aren't "funny" or "fundamentally vicious" (and I mean that in a good way) hasn't read Roxanne's post. Wow.

Posted by: Chris Rasmussen | Feb 23, 2005 6:15:37 PM

Ezra - It's a minor miracle. I think you actually managed to move the conversation forward a bit. Thanks.

Posted by: Kathy | Feb 23, 2005 6:41:23 PM

I think that the diary features at dkos (and to a lesser extent myDD) play a large role in the phenomenon you describe.

As a Daily Kos diarist I can write up a decent post and be assured that more people will read it than if I were even a mid-level Dem blogger writing an excellent and heavily linked to post. If I get lucky (I write an exellent diary and am smart enough to post it at the right time) and my diary makes the recommended diaries or gets promoted to the front page (which has happened to me a few times), I am essentially guaranteed that thousands if not tens of thousands of readers will view it. Even important campaign staffers and DC insiders read the recommended diaries quite frequently, thuis increasing opportunities for my writing to have an impact outside the blogosphere. This along with the fact that technically setting up a kos diary is infinitely easier than setting up a nice Typepad blog contributes to the seemingly closed club of lefty bloggers. However, when one considers the widely read diarists, it would seem that the lefty blogs aren't quite so clubby after all.

One last side note: many of the most popular diarists tend to be female and many of these have an intense personal following (ie Maryscott O'Connor and SusanG).

Posted by: Lavoisier1794 | Feb 23, 2005 7:30:12 PM

yikes. I'm feeling the pressure to get my distinctly female ass back into the game.

Posted by: Heather (from Here's What's Left) | Feb 23, 2005 8:20:16 PM

I clicked all around the TTLB ecosystem and went to 10 blogs in a row here, 10 there, at all levels of popularity. The numbers stayed heavily male. So my sense is that despite the scores of excellent female political bloggers, there are more male bloggers

Your logic is fundamentally flawed. You are presuming that TTLB Ecosphere is a fair and representative sampling of the entire blogosphere. Even though as Mithras pointed out, you have to sign up for it yourself. And it is, itself primarily a politics-focused site. More importantly, though (& correct me if I'm wrong)- it ranks by the # of links you receive from other ecosystem members and not by actual traffic. Though there is a ranking by traffic list, the average daily visits of a great percentage of Ecosystem blogs comes up blank so they're not included in that list.

Take for instance Dooce. A hugely popular non-political blog written by a woman that is #82 on the rankings by incoming links - but doesn't appear *at all* on the rankings by traffic list because her daily visit average isn't showing up. Yet a recent NY Times article about her blog said she has a readership of 40,000.

If one were to go to What She Said! and randomly looked up 10 blogs in a row, you could just as easily conclude that the vast majority of the political bloggers are women. The ecosystem is a self-selecting club. Just as What She Said is. Only those bloggers who are interested in joining are going to be ranked. That doesn't mean other bloggers who haven't opted in to the ecosystem don't have a wide readership or a big impact outside of it.

Start looking outside the TTLB member list and you'll start to see a more realistic, representative sampling. Go to the blog of someone whose comment you read that made you think a little, perhaps even mine and start exploring their blogroll. Explore some of the nominees of all the various blog awards.

Posted by: MustangSally | Feb 23, 2005 8:32:59 PM

Thanks, Ezra.

The thing is, you were linked as Pandagon, not as Ezra, and that does make a difference - people aren't always so quick to make that amendment.

(But I'm really just totally pissed off at TAPPED for still having Glenn up there. Once he made that remark about DC not being ready for democracy, I figured he was showing his true colors, and I was right. He falls for every damned racist argument the right-wing puts out lately. Anyway, he's objectively pro-torture.)

I have the opposite problem from yours - I find there are far too many good blogs for me to keep adding them all to my blogroll, so I take my sweet time about it to see if they (a) keep coming to my attention without me making the effort and (b) last. Some new weblogs do have a tendency to start strong and then suddenly come to a halt.

Posted by: Avedon | Feb 23, 2005 8:35:50 PM

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