07 December 2006

Intersecting Communities

Two weeks ago, I posted a meme and tagged four people. I had no idea if they would post answers to the meme on their blogs. I wasn't even sure if they would realize that I had tagged them. Not being a meme-creator, I wasn't sure the protocol for tagging someone. It didn't matter though; I had fun writing the meme and posting my own answers. In some ways, it was no different than simply writing on my blog, although, in style and content, it wasn't typical of most of my blog posts.

But, within a day, Hobgoblin, Litlove and Dorothy had answered the meme -- and tagged other people. And then an interesting thing referrer log showed a blog that I had never seen before. Imani had answered the meme and linked to me. I enjoyed reading the responses and couldn't wait to see what others had to say. The next day I began to check Technorati (disappointingly slow in indicating new links) and Google, searching on key phrases from the meme.

I read more posts. I started to track them to see how the meme spread. A few days later I read of someone writing a paper for MLA on how quickly a meme spread, but he didn't do a meme, just simply asked people to link to him & post on their own blogs to help his 'research'. There was a bit of a tiff on his site about the methodology of his research. I'm not an academic, so I can't comment on the validity of his research, although it did seem to me that he wasn't really tracking how people picked up on an idea and posted similarly on blogs. Rather, he was testing how many times people could link to him. It seems like a MySpace "Won't you be my friend?" sort of a thing. Which is a little different than ideas spreading among interconnecting communities.

Intersecting communities -- that is what the blog world, at least the little corner of it that I inhabit, is about. A community where one can express one's self and exchange ideas with like minded bloggers. It's true that most memes tend towards the banal. It's an easy target to claim that they all are about "3 things about me...." But, what if they were? Does that matter? Does it matter if the growth of a meme is organic? And what does that really mean anyway? Is there a way in which the spread of an idea is not organic? Is it only organic if it is the little guys writing? Does an idea, or a meme, or a common writing prompt, loose its genuine quality if it gets too big? Can it get too big?

I don't think so. But, I do think it can grow beyond the point where it is easy to track. That is, unless you have limitless time in front of a computer to do keyword searches. From what I could find, 56 people have answered the meme. About another 6 - 8 have been tagged but haven't yet responded. You will find links to these posts here where I have a collection. But, as of today, I will not be posting additional links.

Here is why I'm stopping: 1) I don't have the time to spend, 2) while I'm interested in the spread of this meme because of the 'oh look where it is now!' factor, I don't know that I need to watch it any longer. Lastly: 3) Poetry Thursday used this meme (with my permission) as the weekly writing prompt. By early tomorrow morning, I suspect that I would find about 75-85 links on the PoetryThursday site. At twice what I've tracked down in the last two weeks, this is too great a number to keep up with it.

I have been surprised — and delighted — by how many people answered this meme before Poetry Thursday selected it for this week's writing idea. The best part though isn't that more than one or two people completed it, but the wide variety of replies that people across the blog world have given. The responses to the one prompt I recording in my follow up post have been amazing. I wish I could say that I had the foresight to realize I was setting up a metaphor and the resulting responses would be, of course, poetic, but it was much more serendipitous than that. The other answers will give up several wonderful poems and poets if you'd care to mine for those nuggets.

If following the links to this meme has shown me one thing, it is that there are many people who care deeply, are moved deeply, by poetry. That there exists such a vibrant, enthusiastic community of poets and poetry readers in the blog world is a beautiful thing. That they represent several smaller communities -- intersecting communities of people with similar interests -- is exciting.

I look forward to reading the Poetry Thursday responses and hope that the PT participants will enjoy sharing and discovering what others think about poetry.

Below is a chart that I did to track how the meme spread (yes, I'm a real geek!). It isn't very readable in this post, but it gives a graphical representation, even if you cannot read the data. The different colors represent different dates. If you're interested in a copy, email me at address in the side bar and I'll send you the pdf.


litlove said...

Wow, Cam, what a fantastic response to your meme! It helped of course that it contained great questions and focused on a neat niche topic, but it really goes to show how far one individual can reach out in this supposedly disparate webworld. It also shows how much power the internet community potentially has - which must be why more orthodox forms of media are getting worried...

BikeProf said...

This is one amazing graph--I love it. Your reservations aside, I think that your analysis of the spread of this meme is fantastic. It makes me want to try another meme creation.

Dorothy W. said...

That's an amazing chart! I must be a geek too, because I think it's the coolest thing ever. It's so fascinating the ways the various communities of people who read each other intersect and work together.

Anonymous said...

I first read your meme on Dorothy's blog; for quite a while I enjoyed reading all responses. The blog world, however, seems infinite and one could drown reading the responses--particularly after Poetry Thursday. :)

What becomes even more interesting than the responses themselves is exactly what you've posted about today - the initial dissemination, the spontaneous blossoming, and the remarkable reach of a post by one blogger...

Anonymous said...

I see me on the chart--it looks amazing. I'm pretty sure I found you through Metaxucafe, which I check religiously. Most memes I can ignore but yours was too good to resist.

Your post on it was very reflective and I too loved the fact that there were so many other poetry readers out there. It makes one feel less isolated.

Anonymous said...

The chart is awesome!! I love it to death. Did you use mapmind for it? I have had that program on my comp for so long and my bf is addicted to it! He says it puts everything in perspective

Cam said...

Nessie: I used MindManager. Same idea. I think MapMind is freeware, so I should check it out since I was using a short-term trial of MindManager. Great tool.

Litlove: I agree completely. It is why the mainstream media is concerned. Hence the bruhaha over validity of litbloggers legitimately reviewing books a few weeks ago. What I think is important though, and I think that it is sometimes overlooked, is that, like any grouping of communities, there are divergent groups, even if there is some intersection. The idea that something will travel from one end of the blogosphere to another seems weak to me and rather inconsequential -- it will never travel everywhere. Not everyone has the same interests. However, the idea that was being tested by the academic I refered to (I really need to look up that link!) was that a meme would grow slowly until picked up by a high-traffic blog. I suppose that my meme proves that, in that there were almost as many who completed the meme following the link on Poetry Thursday as in the preceding two weeks.

Dorothy: I really like graphs and maps; they can be a cool intersection of art & science. Do you know of Edward Tufte's The Visual Display of Quantitative Information. I really wanted to go to one of his seminars sometime. Fascinating stuff!

Jenclair and Imani: glad you stopped by and glad that you enjoyed this exercise in talking about poetry.

Bikeprof: I liked your last meme. Do another one. Please.

Stefanie said...

Wow Cam, that's really cool how you tracked all that. It was fun reading all the answers too. I was surprised and delighted by how many people read and enjoy poetry especially when I hear in the media so frequently that people don't read poetry. Kudos to you!