Hasso-Plattner-Institut20 Jahre HPI
Hasso-Plattner-Institut20 Jahre HPI

Understanding and Leveraging the Social Physics of the Blogosphere

Starting with the first Web server and just a few web pages in 1990, the World Wide Web has since then experienced tremendous acceptance and growth. Nowadays, it is a platform used daily by millions of people worldwide to publish and share information “online” and to reference related resources on the Web through so-called hyperlinks. By creating a vast, global and easy to use network of information it has revolutionized the way people disseminate and exchange information.

A highly popular application in this context are weblogs; specialized, but easy-to-handle content management systems with a strong focus on updatable content, social interaction, and interoperability with other Web authoring systems. Since the end of the 90s, weblogs have become an essential component of today’s cyber culture, due to numerous and highly diverse potential areas of application: beginning with personal diaries, reaching over to knowledge and activity management platforms in private or business contexts alike, and finally to enabling content- related and journalistic web offerings. Their real information or surplus value does however not reside in single entities alone, but rather in the complex superstructure they all are embedded in: a segmented collective of millions of weblogs that dynamically evolves and functions according to its own rules and with ever-changing protagonists, an exceptionally interlinked network also known as the “Blogosphere”.

The corresponding aggregation of knowledge has created a gigantic and constantly changing archive of open-source intelligence. As a consequence, it has become more and more attractive for a multitude of individuals, institutions or even governments to extract reliable and insightful trends, opinions or particular pieces of information out of this vast pool of knowledge. However, with the rising number of blogs worldwide, this activity has become increasingly tedious and complex due to the decentralized and dynamic character of the overall network, where thousands of new blogs and an almost multitudinous amount of new content is added daily.

In response to these challenges, this dissertation provides a profound discussion about the overall weblog-phenomena with the ultimate objective to conceptualize a framework capable of analyzing and providing the rehashed information of the Blogosphere in one central instance. For this purpose, in the first part we review the social as well as technological developments that supported the phenomenal increase of weblogs, discuss characteristic features of blogging software in general, elaborate on essential in-built features as well as hosting issues of weblog software, and ultimately present a comprehensive review of prior weblog research by constructing an extensive weblog typology. We also explain the phenomena of weblogging as a whole as well as its rapidly growing global acceptance by applying several evidenced theories and concepts on the underlying dynamics and regularities of the Blogosphere. In part 2, we investigate and prove the applicability of weblogs to fundamentally different fields of application with specifically built up, independent blog platforms. In part 3, we provide the rationale for a weblog information platform, capable of indexing, analyzing and filtering blog-information. Furthermore, we conduct an analysis of comparable existing services and blog-user demand regarding such a platform before presenting our own system’s components in great detail.