mnot’s blog

Design depends largely on constraints.” — Charles Eames

Sunday, 26 January 2003


Blogging Zipf

I always wondered why so many people had their blogs’ comments and even trackback indicators turned off. Go ahead and surf around; it’s a rare blog indeed, at least in my experience, that has these features visible for the world to see.

It’s obvious, now that i’ve actually had a blog (OK, it’s about as healthy as the plant in the living room that I Really Should Water Soon, but I think this goes even for healthy blogs). It’s that most people don’t get comments. Or trackbacks. There’s pretty fierce competition for links, going by some of the shameless stunts I see out there, and the fact is that most posts on most blogs pass by without a whisper.

After a while, this gets the goat of your average blogger, especially since so many people seem to consider their blog an extension of their ego. “How DARE the world not comment on and/or link to the things I deem most important?”

So, these features quietly get turned off. Oh, yes, comments can be abused, indeed. But I don’t think that’s the real reason.

I’d like to see some research on this. In a former life, I spent a lot of time poring of Web traffic logs, research regarding the traffic distribution of the Internet, popularity clustering, hit locality and the like.

So, a number of questions comes to mind when thinking about blogs and linking. What is the distribution of links to blogs? People doing the linking? How much linking is reciprocal? How do links between blogs cluster, and how isolated are those clusters?

Let’s just say that the word “Zipf” comes to mind very quickly for a lot of these questions.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to figure out how to turn these dang things off…


Phil Ringnalda said:

There’s a reason (beyond grammar) why most remotely-hosted comment services let you define what the link should say for zero, one, and more comments: it lets you say ‘5 comments’, ‘1 comment’, ‘comment?’ - your readers will figure out quickly enough that ‘comment?’ means zero, without you having to see the page full of actual zeros.

You ought to be able to imitate that with the MTEntryIfComments plugin and an MTElse, but for some reason I couldn’t get it working in my test blog.

Sunday, January 26 2003 at 10:42 AM

Richard Ames said:

Ah, you’ve exposed a deep psychological irritation within the weblog world. Good job.

Thursday, January 30 2003 at 8:10 AM

Luke Francl said:

Amusing. I disabled trackback on my personal weblog for just this reason. It was pointless.

I’m doing some research on the distribution of comments per unique visitor.

I have a feeling there is a “tipping point” level of traffic at which a blogger can expect to consistently get comments, but I haven’t discovered it yet.

I have a political weblog ( with comments and trackback enabled. Building up the level of traffic necessary to generate comments is difficult indeed.

I’ll keep you posted.

Monday, March 1 2004 at 6:34 AM