Zelophehad’s Daughters

‘Nacle Numbers 2007, Part 2

Posted by Ziff

What’s the biggest blog in the bloggernacle? It’s By Common Consent.

In this Part 2 of ‘Nacle Numbers 2007, I’ll be looking at how the blogs in my sample (see Part 1 of ‘Nacle Numbers for more on the sample) differed from one another.

In 2007, BCC had 681 posts, the most of any blog in the sample. That’s nearly 2 a day, or about 13 a week. BCC also had the most words in posts, 373,090 total, or about one and a quarter Books of Mormon (293,472 words).

Here’s a table for all eleven blogs in the sample. They are sorted by total number of posts. I’ve linked to each one in case you have difficulty with my abbreviations. The largest value in each column is highlighted.

Blog Posts Words in Posts
Total Mean Median Std dev Max
BCC 681 373,090 548 457 561 9072
T&S 566 355,649 628 470 642 4879
FMH 462 211,732 458 374 398 2819
MMW 370 105,497 285 261 215 1315
MMent 368 173,747 472 373 392 2506
ExII 253 147,191 582 425 628 6909
M* 219 113,120 517 335 574 4083
9Mn 191 68,871 361 260 344 2851
FPR 162 90,937 561 422 526 3181
NCT 150 98,530 657 548 575 5249
ZD 103 69,582 676 671 396 2091

So BCC had more posts and words than did the bottom four–Nine Moons, Faith Promoting Rumor, New Cool Thang, and Zelophehad’s Daughters–put together. Times and Seasons was number two to BCC, both in total posts and words. The big three (BCC, T&S, and Feminist Mormon Housewives) were surprisingly spread out in total posts. I tend to think of them as being fairly similar in activity level, but BCC had about 20% more posts than T&S, and T&S in turn had about 20% more posts than FMH. Mormon Mommy Wars and Mormon Mentality lagged FMH by a similar proportion, about 25%.

T&S had the longest posts–a mean of 628 words–of the big three, and in fact longer posts than any other blog in the sample except the two lowest post volume blogs, ZD and NCT. MMW and Nine Moons had by far the shortest posts.

Here’s a bar chart showing each blog’s number of posts and number of words in posts. The mean post length for the entire sample was a little over 500 words, so the scale for number of words is set to be 500 times as big as the scale for number of posts. Blogs for which the left (red) bar is taller had shorter posts than average; blogs for which the right (blue) bar is taller had longer posts than average.

npost-bar-chart.png

You can see overall style differences in the blogs. T&S had lots of long posts. BCC and FMH also had lots of posts, with BCC’s being slightly longer than average and FMH’s being slightly shorter. MMW had lots of posts, but they were much shorter than average. At the other end of the spectrum, NCT and ZD had very few posts, just 3 and 2 per week, but they tended to be quite long.

Looking back to the table, all the blogs in the sample had a higher mean post length than median, indicating the distributions of post lengths were skewed. In other words, a small number of longer posts were pulling the mean up, but the bulk of the posts were shorter than the mean. ZD was an odd case violating this pattern, though, with a mean (676) and median (671) that were nearly equal. This suggests that ZD post lengths were pretty regularly distributed, without a small group of longer posts pulling the mean up. ZD’s low standard deviation (lowest among blogs having a mean of 500 or more) and relatively short longest post (shorter than all but MMW’s longest) suggest the same conclusion. So at ZD, perhaps our tagline should be “Not just long-winded, consistently long-winded.” :)

So what about number of comments? BCC was again the largest, again by a fairly large margin, with 33,880, or about 93 per day. (No wonder I have a hard time keeping up with conversations there!) Here’s a table for number of comments by blog, sorted by total number of comments. Again, the largest value in each column is highlighted.

Blog Comments on Posts
Total Mean Median Std dev Max
BCC 33,880 50 34 46 251
T&S 24,570 43 31 44 283
FMH 23,353 51 32 58 467
MMent 12,048 33 20 49 637
MMW 7,885 21 17 20 219
NCT 6,517 43 26 51 410
9Mn 4,523 24 17 22 122
M* 4,518 21 12 24 162
ZD 3,514 34 23 44 283
FPR 3,179 20 11 21 106
ExII 2,809 11 6 14 113

T&S and FMH remained #2 and #3, but FMH was a lot closer than it was in total posts. In comments per post, FMH had more than any other blog, but BCC was a close second, and actually had a higher median. This, and FMH’s higher standard deviation, suggests that FMH had a few very high comment threads pulling its mean up, while BCC had more consistent comment numbers across posts.

There’s some reordering in the lower half of this table relative to the first table. Mormon Mentality had far more comments than did MMW, in spite of their similar numbers of posts. NCT vaulted all the way from next to last in number of posts to the middle of the pack in comments. ExII, on the other hand, had the fewest comments and the fewest comments per post.

As an aside, let me be explicit in pointing out that I’m not trying to make value judgments about numbers or sizes of posts or comments. I’m trying to use the numbers as a descriptive tool. Naturally I’m going to focus somewhat on the biggest and the smallest numbers. But I think they clearly reflect differences in how blogging is approached at different blogs rather than differences in how good blogs are. (Besides, value judgments are what the Niblets are about, right? :) ) For example, consider the difference between BCC and ExII. BCC has many posts designed to provoke discussion. Steve Evans’s Friday Firestorm series is an excellent example of this type of post. ExII, on the other hand, probably has more announcement-type posts than any other blog in the sample. Deborah’s Virtual Oases are like a detailed sidebar integrated into the blog, and they are not designed to draw lots of comments. I just think it’s fun that you can see this type of pattern–this difference in style–in the numbers.

Okay, now let’s look at total comment length. BCC was still the leader, with nearly 3 million words of comments. FMH was a surprisingly close second, though, considering that it only had two thirds as many posts and comments as BCC. Here is the table for all the blogs, sorted by total words in comments. Again, the largest value in each column is highlighted.

Blog Words in Comments
Total Mean Median Std dev Max
BCC 2,980,967 88 55 104 2768
FMH 2,765,681 118 80 128 3404
T&S 2,451,793 100 60 123 2481
MMent 1,149,670 95 59 120 2449
NCT 771,031 118 81 128 1856
MMW 565,485 72 51 75 1065
M* 524,336 116 71 143 2090
ZD 513,781 146 108 145 1915
FPR 396,051 125 79 143 1336
9Mn 382,427 85 56 96 1662
ExII 338,977 121 94 114 1018

This is where the big three were really big. They were more tightly clustered than by counts of posts, post words, or comments. And they were dramatically bigger than the other blogs: Mormon Mentality, the fourth place finisher in number of comment words, had less than half as many as T&S, in third place.

FMH had by far the longest comments on average of the big three, at 118 words. So FMH may have had the fewest posts of the big three, but it made up for that by having the most verbose commenters. A few of the smaller blogs had even longer average comments–FPR, ExII, and ZD. I’m sorry to keep bringing this up, but how weird are we? ZD’s average comment (146 words) was over 20% longer than the second longest average, FPR at 125. Not only are we long winded, we attract long-winded commenters. Or perhaps, more correctly, since there is quite a bit of overlap among commenters on these blogs, we provoke long-winded comments.

Here’s a bar chart showing each blog’s number of comments and number of words in comments. The mean comment length for the entire sample was slightly more than 100 words, so the scale for number of words is set to be 100 times as big as the scale for number of posts. Blogs for which the left (yellow) bar is taller had shorter comments than average; blogs for which the right (green) bar is taller had longer comments than average.

ncomment-bar-chart.png

I think the chart really emphasizes the dominance of the big three. NCT and Millennial Star and ZD and FPR and ExII may have had long comments on average, but the big three had so many comments that the smaller blogs just pale in size comparison.

Okay, one more chart and I’ll quit. Here’s a pie chart that shows the percentage of the total words (in posts plus comments) belonging to each of the blogs in the sample. BCC, FMH, and T&S accounted for 24%, 20%, and 19% of all post plus comment words in the sample. No other blog accounted for as much as 10%.

pie-chart.png

In the next post on ‘Nacle Numbers, I’ll look at some comparisons of posts written by different bloggers, including figuring out who it was who wrote that 9072-word monstrosity treatise at BCC. And of course let me know in the comments if there’s anything in particular you’re interested in seeing.

40 Responses to “‘Nacle Numbers 2007, Part 2”

  1. 1.

    Yes, I’d love to see the 9072 epic at BCC, as well as what topic could have prompted 637 posts at MormonMentality. This is interesting stuff, thanks!

  2. 2.

    austin,

    The post on Mormon Mentality that got over 600 comments is Married Mormon Graduate Students on Welfare – Is It Right?.

    This is a fascinating study. Um, er, what is its purpose exactly?

  3. 3.

    “designed to provoke discussion”

    moi?

    When we get through a year of Friday Firestorms I’ll have a special look-back treat for you, Ziff. It’s been an experiment, and one with its drawbacks.

    I am glad to see that you don’t attribute value judgments with these numbers, which would be (I believe) a big mistake. Bigger certainly is no guarantee of better, and although I love BCC and would put its quality up against anyone, I sometimes wish that we could skew more towards the thoughtfulness of ExII or ZD. Certainly in terms of representing womens’ voices we can do more — I’d be interested in seeing how gender factors into comment length and frequency, because I definitely have my own guesses as to how those shake out.

    Incidentally I don’t view these statistics as denoting that you can either choose being big or having quality discussions/posts. The numbers don’t bear that out, in any event, which says to me that if you want to find enriching discussion it’s not necessarily as simple as going straight to your favorite site. The advent of specialized thematic blogs (such as say JI) may increase the probability that you’ll like the topic, but I still believe the best way to find good posts in the Nacle is to surf around.

  4. 4.

    p.s. LOVE the new suggested ZD tagline!

  5. 5.

    I’m loving your reports Ziff. Keep up the excellent numbers and analysis!

  6. 6.

    Ziff, nice analysis. For your next project, I’d love to see the gender representation of the commenters and bloggers for each of the Mormon blogs you’ve analysed here. You know, just if you’re looking around for more mindless stuff to do on the internet :)

  7. 7.

    Ziff,

    Did you include all of the T&S “From the Archives” recycled reposts in your analysis? If so, excluding them would certainly shave down some of their numbers.

    If it were possible, it would be interesting to see statistics on number of banned users, blocked IPs and deleted comments by blog.

    Congratulations FMH, when it comes to quantity, you are on par with the big boys.

  8. 8.

    This has been fascinating so far. I’m interested in what types of posts get the most comments. Sex posts on FMH is obvious, but who would ever guess a post about graduate students on welfare would be so popular?

  9. 9.

    Dan, I think it is very interesting, I’m glad she posted it.

  10. 10.

    I’ve wondered why none of the sites carry advertising, so I’ll ask here. If it’s a threadjack please ignore me.

    Why don’t any of these blogs carry advertisements?

  11. 11.

    Stephen M (Ethesis),

    Pssst. Ziff is a presider. From the About Us tab:

    Ziff (who is rather accustomed to being the token male, having grown up with six sisters and no brothers)

    . . .

  12. 12.

    This is a fascinating study. Um, er, what is its purpose exactly?

    Good question, Dan. It doesn’t really have a purpose. I just started fiddling around with some data from a few posts to answer questions for my own curiosity, and I thought perhaps others might be interested in seeing the numbers too.

    Thanks, Steve, I’ll look forward to your Friday Firestorm retrospective. I hope I didn’t sound negative about them. I’ve really enjoyed some of the discussions that have occurred with them (although I haven’t read them all).

    I definitely agree with you about there not necessarily being a quality/quantity tradeoff. I really enjoy reading the big three for their sheer number of fun posts, because there’s so much being discussed at any one time that there’s usually at least one discussion I’ll find interesting.

    ECS, good question about the gender distribution of the commenters and bloggers. I think I should be able to answer that fairly well for bloggers, but I might have a more difficult time with commenters just because there are so many more commenters than bloggers, and the gender-neutral pseudonyms (like my own, come to think of it) might outnumber the gender-predictive ones.

    Good question, Kurt, about T&S’s “From the archives” posts. I included them. I guess I figure they’re generating new discussion, so they should qualify as new material. But more importantly, my analysis really isn’t fine-grained enough to really consider the content of the posts in any detail at all.

    I would also be interested to see an analysis of who bans the most commenters and deletes the most comments, but I have no data on that at all. My impression is that T&S and BCC are more likely to do this than are FMH and Mormon Mentality, for example, but that’s a very general guess. I haven’t actually seen it happen that I can think of; I’m just going based on what people say in the comments about having been banned or being threatened with banning or deletion.

    Jjohnson, I’ll try to answer your question by looking at the topics of the posts that provoked the longest discussions. I agree that the question of graduate students taking welfare might not seem at first to be one of the hottest topics. But on further reflection, I think it makes sense. The most passionately argued discussions are of big decisions that we make where we’re likely to feel judged by others (or judgmental of others) because of what we’ve chosen. These issues are particularly sensitive when people making one decision feel like they have sacrificed to follow what has historically been Church counsel, and then potentially feel betrayed as the Church de-emphasizes that counsel over time. (I’m borrowing here from someone who made this argument at FMH, but I can’t recall who it was.)

    So for example, whether wives work for pay is a perennial favorite argument. Church counsel has historically been much more opposed to this than it is now. So couples where the wife is a SAHM may feel like their sacrifice for their children isn’t being valued, while couples where both spouses work for pay may feel judged for not being in line with the historical Church counsel. Arguments about how many children we should have touch a similar nerve, I think. And arguments about taking welfare while in graduate school fall into a similar category, where people who do feel judged and people who don’t feel like their adherence to traditional “don’t be dependent on the government” Church rhetoric feel like they’re being told they’ve sacrificed for nothing.

  13. 13.

    Ziff,
    Great stuff, looking forward to the next installment.

  14. 14.

    re: advertisement, there are a couple of reasons why no ads:

    1. At BCC at least, we didn’t want to be beholden to anyone for revenue. It’s not a profit-making venture, and we value our independence.

    2. For most blogs, the ad revenue (say from Google AdSense or from Amazon links) would not be significant enough to merit the pains of implementation.

  15. 15.

    We do want BCC T-shirts though. Slogan: “BCC: one and a quarter Books of Mormon and not a hat in sight.”

  16. 16.

    It’d be interesting to see if the distribution of lawyers vs. non-lawyers. I wonder which are wordier?

  17. 17.

    “BCC: one and a quarter Books of Mormon and not a hat in sight.”

    Good one, Ronan. And the sad thing is, reformed Egyptian is probably more coherent, and makes more sense, than some of the posts.

  18. 18.

    Fascinating and nicely done.

    As we’ve talked as ExII blog administrators, we are pretty comfortable with a fewer-but-meatier comment blog. Part of what we are trying to do is start conversations — and I, personally, get overwhelmed by 100+ comment posts. I can’t sustain it. That’s why I don’t even read the comments on political blogs. People start to have side conversations, talk in circles, and plunk in their 2 cents without reading the preceding conversation. It seems as though though mega-posts attract more venting and “drive by” comments and less listening.

    FYI (since you like stats), by far our most-read post each week is our RS lesson outline (co-hosted by the ZD women). Our traffic nearly doubles on the second and third Saturday of the month — typically a quiet time in the bloggernacle. These don’t tend to attract comments (other than the occasional “thanks for saving my lesson tomorrow”), but people seem to find them useful.

  19. 19.

    P.S. I don’t mean “meatier” to imply “meatier than _______[so and so blog.” Simply an observation on our tendency to have fewer but longer comments. I think something would be lost if we averaged more than 30 comments per post.

  20. 20.

    Ziff,

    This analysis is awesome, very interesting stuff. By way of suggestions, I would love to see some of these numbers normalized to the perma-count. For example, the big blogs are big in large part because they have so many permas, but it would be interesting to see how they stack up on something like posts / perma.

  21. 21.

    Actually, I realized I can respond to my own suggestion above, albeit without the ability to post a cool graph to go along with it. Using the blogs own reporting of their perma contributors, I gathered this:

    blog posts permas posts/perma
    MMW 370 6 61.7
    FMH 462 8 57.8
    BCC 681 16 42.6
    NCT 150 4 37.5
    T&S 566 16 35.4
    MMent 368 13 28.3
    M* 219 8 27.4
    9Mn 191 7 27.3
    FPR 162 8 20.3
    ExII 253 14 18.1
    ZD 103 6 17.2

  22. 22.

    From the above you can see that the big three dominate in part due to their perma count, but not entirely. Even after the normalization, they still rank 2nd, 3rd, and 5th.

    Notably, T&S drops from 2nd to 5th. FMH bubbles up above BCC and T&S on this metric. MMW smokes everyone and moves from 4th to 1st. NCT has the biggest move from 10th to 4th.

  23. 23.

    Interesting analysis, Jacob. So it’s you all at New Cool Thang, and the bloggers at MMW, who are truly the long-winded ones. :)

  24. 24.

    That’s pretty cool even without the graph Jacob.

  25. 25.

    …Although did you distinguish between guest posters, April Fools posters and true permas?

  26. 26.

    ExII only has nine — our side-bar duplicates some names (need to fix that).

  27. 27.

    Fear not: for they that be with us are more than they that be with them.

  28. 28.

    I used whatever the blog reported for its permas except in the cases of M* which appeared to have everyone who has ever posted on their list (but I count only 6-8 who regularly contribute) and NCT which lists only me and Geoff but I counted us at 4 (Matt W and Blake). ExII I was worried 14 was not going to reflect the right number. If we change ExII to 9, then the number goes to 28.1 posts per perma and they move only from 6th to 7th.

  29. 29.

    Ziff,

    Hehe. I think ZD still gets the award for being long-winded (although NCT was only 2nd to you gals on words/post). For the post per perma indicator, I prefer to say it highlights how prolificwe are, not how long-winded (wink).

  30. 30.

    Fascinating. Thanks.

  31. 31.

    I wonder if comment volume can be related to the placement of links on the aggregators?
    For example, some of the smaller blogs are further down on the page, not as noticeable as the links to the posts of the larger blogs.
    I guess it would depend on how many people go to the sites through aggregators versus other ways (bookmarks, etc).

  32. 32.

    Ziff, You’re my hero! Very cool stuff.

  33. 33.

    Ziff, thanks for doing this.

  34. 34.

    Ziff, this is all very itneresting. Many thanks.

    I’m going to go out on a limb and predict that if you run these numbers again next year the big surprise will be Mormon Matters. In fact, I’d bet that it will be in the top 3 in terms of posts, post length, and comments.

  35. 35.

    Interesting prediction, arJ. But won’t saying that get you in hot water with your co-bloggers at Mormon Mentality? :)

    Steve mentioned earlier the issue of big general blogs versus more specifically focused blogs (like ZD–the blog for arguing about presiding :) ). I don’t know whether the specific ones will take more traffic over time or if the bigger broader ones will dominate. If anything, perhaps the (relatively recent) creation and success of blogs like Mormon Mentality and Mormon Matters indicates that the more general blogs are going to be more successful in the long run. Maybe it’s like with businesses, where the big absorb the small. Isn’t that what happened to LDSLF as BCC snapped up RT and SV? I don’t know.

    Thanks everyone for the positive feedback. I’m glad I’m not the only one who enjoys staring at rows of numbers. And I appreciate you taking the time to comment even when the topic is more for your information rather than being very thought- or discussion-provoking.

  36. 36.

    I really doubt that I could say anything that would get me into hot water. I am amazed at how quickly Mormon Matters has gone from 0 to 60, and how they’ve incorporated lots of relatively new voices as well as having very interactive/inclusive discussions with a good number of comments. I think they are to be applauded.

  37. 37.

    Thanks for all your work in putting this together, Ziff. It’s really fascinating.

  38. 38.

    I left Kristen off the NCT numbers in #21 and now I am really sweating it. Don’t hate me Kristen!

  39. 39.

    […] ‘Nacle Numbers 2007, Part 2 […]

  40. 40.

    […] year, I counted up posts and comments for 11 Bloggernacle group blogs and found that By Common Consent was the largest in 2007, in terms of both posts and comments. So which blog was the biggest in […]

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