Singapore blogosphere’s effect on Technorati

sgblog_technorati

James Seng recently asked the question as to why the Singapore blogosphere seemed to have predominant influence over Technorati.

His observation stemmed from how issues in the local blogosphere, such as the “Sarong Party Girl” issue in June and and “NKF incident” in July, made it as the most searched keywords on Technorati. Currently, the top 10 searches on Technorati includes “Daphne Teo” (#2) and “Dawn Yang” (#7), both of which are talk of the online town.

To clearly define what this phenomenon is, note that I refer to Singaporeans bloggers having stronger influence on Technorati over bloggers of other nationalities. This influence would be measured by the Technorati search ranking of an issue (by key words) and the length of time it stays on the charts (measured in days).

First, we have have an initial model that looks something like this:
Nationality of Blogger => Influence on Technorati Ranked Search (by rank & time)

The next order of the day would be to discover what makes this phenomenon the case. My initial impression is that the social structure of Singapore has strategic qualities which lend itself well to Media Literacy (See Wikipedia: Media Literacy). Where “Information Literacy” referred to the ability to find, comprehend (linguistically) and consume information for use, the term “Media Literacy” refers to the ability to produce, create and successfully communicate information in its various forms. This runs parallel with the produser philosophy and the new traditions highlighted in Tim O’Reilly’s Web 2.0 model.

Next, we have have an improved model that looks something like this:
Media Literacy of Blogger => Influence on Technorati Ranked Search (by rank & time)

At this junction, it would be superduper if we got more specifically with the characteristics of Singaporean society which supports “media literacy”. Here are a few off the top of my spikey head:

1. English Language Proficiency: Like it or not, the Internet is still American-centric, more so for cutting edge web development which tends to be communicated in English. That in itself excludes a large portion of the world (*though China bloggers seem to be the exception, see “smth” technorati tag).

2. Collective Society: Quoting individualist vs. collectivist attitudes as seen on Wikipedia, some psychologists define collectivism as a syndrome of attitudes and behaviors based on the belief that the basic unit of survival lies within a group, not the individual. Collectivists typically hold that that the “greater good” of the group, is more important than the good of any particular individual who is one part of that larger organism. Some collectivists argue that the individual incidentally serves his own interests by working for the benefit of the group. Asian societies are often classified as collectivist, though within nationality, there have been cases where there has been the other distinction. I am surmising that collectivist attitudes work best for the blogosphere, and may be one of the direct factors for local issues being ranked on Technorati.

3. Modern Education System: When I heard that schools were teaching Adobe Photoshop to Primary level kids, it harkened to me how technologically savvy our younger generation are. If we take into account the global digital divide, Singapore should be heads up against other countries. Once again, technical competence is part of Media Literacy, which would account for young bloggers being fluent with the mechanics of Technorati once they are exposed to it. A possible question would be: Are we truly Technorati-savvy? (Heck, if local schools were to encourage blogging from the outset, I bet Singapore would be hard to avoid in the global blogosphere!)

4. Economic Competitiveness: Singapore’s entire social system seems to be geared towards being economically competitive. Testiment to this can be seen in how the Singapore government places major bets on new industries, including Life Sciences such as stem-cell research and related work in bioinformatics. On a similar note, Singaporeans themselves might tend to be quick to identify new trends, including tools like Technorati, and be one of the earliest to capitalize on it (I need more references to back this). Both on a collective and individual level, Singaporeans seem to see Technorati as a competitive tool (by actively tagging their posts) versus other bloggers who may view it merely as a search tool. As James mentioned, I’d tend to agree that Singaporeans search Technorati a lot, but that’s not all… I believe there’s a recursive effect whereby Singaporeans would search for related blog posts, then in turn post their own under the same tags (more good stuff for irritating surveys!)

5. Size matters for Coordination: James was mystified as to why Singapore, being a small country of 4 million people (much less for those who blog), could register such an effect on Technorati. I’d say that size matters, but not for obvious reasons. Being collective and small, the Singapore blogosphere has the distinct advantage of being well coordinated. A tactical assault of searches on Technorati, tipped off by localized memes through the blogosphere and by Tomorrow.sg (a moderated blog aggregator which make the SG blogosphere easier to visualize), might explain the surge onto the Technorati charts. Metaphorically speaking, if we were a country of spammers, I can only imagine how we’d be filthy rich by now (not that I support it!).

Finally, we have model that looks something like this:
English Language Proficiency + Collective Society + Modern Education System + Economic Competitiveness + Size for coordination => Media Literacy of Blogger => Influence on Technorati Ranked Search (by rank & time)

By considering these five factors (and possibly more), we can somewhat see how Singaporean blogger might be different from the rest, and how this difference might account for their influence over Technorati. Granted this is my first draft on why I think this phenomenon exists, so please do share constructive criticism. Do you think this occurance is worth studying?

Possible dangers to research
There may be other obvious reasons for this occurance. The researcher’s hindsight bias may lead one to personally experience seeing this phenomenon when they could be common appearance elsewhere (just that we don’t look for those appearances).

Aside: What about alternatives search engines?
Besides comparing the level of influence by bloggers’ nationality, we could try comparing ranked searches on Technorati versus that on other blog search engines. The problem is that most other blog search engines don’t directly offer ranked searches, including Google Blog Search, PubSub, Blogdigger and Feedster. Only IceRocket Blog Topics seems to come close with their dynamic tag cloud. Also, we could try results from Technorati versus web pattern aggregators such as the Google Zeitgeist and Yahoo! Buzz Index. Incidentally there’s an international version of Google Zeitgeist, but it doesn’t include Singapore! To date, neither web pattern indexes seem to mention Singaporean issues as compared to international or American centric topics.

  • http://james.seng.sg/ James Seng

    Kevin, those are excellents points. If what you said is true, then a tactical assault organized by a small group of people could have huge influence…

    we should try googlebombing someday,,,

  • http://shianux.jiyuuu.org Han

    Maybe there’s another factor. I think that these Singaporeans who are net-savvy and have access to non-msm sources of information probably are also quite skeptical of news in the msm.

    So maybe we could say that this makes them lean more heavily towards using tools like Technorati to search and gather information?

  • http://theory.isthereason.com Kevin

    James: I’m glad you find this useful. :)

    Han: That’s something that I strongly think to be true and testable for our Singaporean web users. Media literacy should really include knowledge on using alternative media as news sources. This component sounds very promising as clear and present benefit for using Technorati as a gateway to news & opinion on personal blogs.

  • Merv

    Could it be that :

    It started off at a lower ranking in “Top searches in the hour”.

    People, esp, non-singaporeans, when they see “Daphne Teo” on main page of Technorati, are curious and click on it.

    Thereby increasing/jacking up the ranking.

  • http://epeus.blogspot.com Kevin Marks

    Well, it’s an interesting theory, but personally I blame xiaxue.

  • http://theory.isthereason.com Kevin

    Merv: That’s an interesting observation. It’s like the Power Law… where the popular get even more popular. The way the search rank works does explain that part, but then why do some searches go down instead of go up the ranking? Could it be because the search terms sound “attractively clickable”? (e.g. girls’ names)

    Kevin Marks: Love her or hate her, if she has the ability to set the agenda (e.g. through controversy), then we has more online influence than we think. :)

  • Merv

    I think its because the subject matter is new/foreign.

    A look at the top topics search-ed are:

    Ajax, Web 2.0, XBox 360, Harry Potter.

    A lot of top topics in Technorati is very obvious from their title. If I’m not into these, I will never click on them. But no so for topics like “daphne teo”.

    But if I look at eg: “daphne teo”, “Xiaxue”, and I’m a foreigner, I would be more likely to be curious, and want to know who the heck is this Daphne Teo.

    Hence, the ranking just snow-balls higher and higher. More buzz is created.

    Hence, a high ranking in Technorati does not mean that people are truely interested in the topic.

  • Merv

    addition:

    “The way the search rank works does explain that part, but then why do some searches go down instead of go up the ranking?”

    Could it be becuase of time-zones? Perhaps when the rest of America/Europe is asleep, and Singapore/Asia is surfing the net.

    Hence, the high vary-iance in ranking

  • http://theory.isthereason.com Kevin

    Merv: In a way we are both saying the keywords themselves are interesting enough for everyone to click on. This is turning out to be more of a psychological study. Closest theory I can think of which matches what we talked about is “Uses & Gratification“. I wonder if there are better models which emulate this phenomena.

  • http://ketsugi.com ketsugi

    Submitted to: digg.com

  • http://swiftywriting.blogspot.com Eliar Swiftfire

    Yeah, not entirely interesting, just not self-explanatory, thus creating curiosity amongst all visitors of Technorati. And curiosity leads to more searches.

    Great entry here!

  • http://ramblinglibrarian.blogspot.com Ivan Chew

    Kevin, Kevin, Kevin… why are you spending time analysing this when you should be writing your term paper? heh heh… kidding. Nice hypothesis you have there. I would suggest that it could be due to the consistent tagging that SG bloggers adopt for their posts. Was going to write a thesis on this but then reading yours, I creep away in shame… :)

  • http://theory.isthereason.com Kevin

    Eliar: It would be too presumptious to classify certain phenomenons as self-explanatory. If that were the case, my falsiability statement to you would be: Why does high ranking exclusively occur for searches related to Singapore, superceding that of other topics? (That’s the ticket!)

    Ivan: I’m merely doing what a good observant blogger does… Ask questions. Here’s the killer question for you then: Do Singaporeans bloggers tag more than others? :)

  • http://jackofallblogs.com Liberalcowboy

    We believe that Singapore could be a great market for the blog networks. Hence, we brought Xiaxue onboard. You can follow the latest at http://jackofallblogs.com

  • Stephane Lee

    Did you try GutenTag?

  • http://theory.isthereason.com Kevin

    I believe Gutentag is still a little obscure to the masses. Usually these new, emerging services are first dominated by tech-savvy individuals before it hits mainstream. Evidence of this as seen in the popular geek tags and search terms being web 2.0, ajax and such.

  • http://eyeontaiwan-china.blogspot.com/ Grant

    “Do you think this occurance is worth studying?”

    I think you’ve defined the terms of the problem so it will give you the answer you want. You’re seeking data to support a conclusion you’ve already reached rather than asking the question “Who has the greatest influence in Technorati?” Influence is based more on audience reaction and the way people cite other people’s blogs than it is on the way people can manipulate the blogosphere to enhance their own image. So just filling Technorati with a lot of spam does not mean someone or some group is influencing a larger number of people.

    My response to spam is to delete it without reading it or looking at it. Until I read this blog, I had never heard of those “top ten” bloggers. I guess I’m just not the kind of person who cares about what everyone is talking and giggling about.

  • http://theory.isthereason.com Kevin

    I’ve put in the context of Singapore for simplicity sake, so there’s definitely no conclusions made even if my article suggests so. We’re simply opening discussion examining a case of a disruptive use of technology and I’m only giving my perspective on the issue.

    With every phenomenon, an investigator is first prompted by an observation. The pattern observed so far seems to indicate the case in point that Singaporean bloggers “seem” to have dominance over Technorati, and rest assured, this assumption which still requires clarification. Since multiple factors can come into play, give my points from the immediate perspective. My discussion argues the point that Singapore might account for these ranking due to certain factors, but it should not dissuade you or anyone to prove the case for bloggers of other nationalities or other classifications.

    Right now the popularists view is that the rankings are manipulated very much like googlebombing and spamming. As mentioned before, the next question would be, why so in exclusively in Singapore’s case? Interestingly, this question brings us back to the first point, which is: What are Singaporean bloggers doing that’s so different from other bloggers?

    Ultimately, even if we shurg it off as spam, it still doesn’t answer why all this happens only towards Singaporean issues. I invite alternative theories on this.

  • http://sriram-krishnan.com sriram

    hey nice analysis. i quoted your technorati picture during a presentation i made at podcamp europe about singapore media landscape. did you know tht the tammy sex video and another “tag” also made it to the top 10?