Tuesday, May 23, 2006

The Ties that Blog: Examining the Relationship Between Social Ties and Continued Participation in the Wallop Weblogging System

Thomas Lento, Howard T. Welser, Lei Gu and Marc Smith

Are people who remain active as webloggers more socially connected to other users? How are the number and nature of social ties related to people's willingness to continue contributing content to a weblog? This study uses longitudinal data taken from Wallop, a weblogging system developed by Microsoft Research, to explore patterns of user activity. In its year long operation Wallop hosted a naturally occurring opportunity for cultural comparison, as it developed a majority Chinese language using population (despite the English language focus of the system). This allows us to consider whether or not language communities have different social network characteristics that vary along different activity levels. Logistic regression models and network visualizations reveal two key findings. The first is that not all ties are equal. Although a count of incoming comments appears to be a significant predictor of retention, it loses its predictive strength when strong ties created by repeated, reciprocal interaction and ties from other dedicated webloggers are considered. Second, the higher rate of retention among the Chinese language users is partly explained by that population's greater ability to draw in participants with pre-existing social ties. We conclude with considerations for weblogs and directions for future research.


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