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Bloggers Buzz About Favorite Subject

With millions of sites floating through the blogosphere, who really has time to peek at even a fraction of them? Blogophile reads them for you and presents a weekly roundup of the buzz on must-read blogs. Blogophile appears new each Wednesday, and is written by's Melissa P. McNamara.

A report on "The State of the Blogosphere" set online tongues wagging this week. And if you thought Dick Cheney was the only vice president in the crosshairs, read on to find out what conservative bloggers were saying about Al Gore.

Blog, Blog, Blog

Bloggers have been talking a lot about, well, themselves this week, thanks to a report by David Sifry, the founder of Technorati.

"In a world of over 50,000 postings per hour, and over 70,000 new weblogs created each day, keeping on top of and in tune with the most interesting and influential people and topics is the new frontier beyond search," Sifry writes in the second part of his "The State of the Blogosphere."

And what is the state of this new frontier? Amidst amazing tidbits like the "blogosphere is doubling in size every five months, and it is now 60 times bigger than it was three years ago," Sifry's data also shows the much-hyped divide between bloggers and the mainstream media may be artificial. By ranking bloggers' links, the research shows "clearly, people (bloggers) are still paying a lot of attention to mainstream media stalwarts like The New York Times, CNN, and The Washington Post." In fact, bloggers link to these sites about three times as often as they link to blogs like the popular Boing Boing.

Some bloggers are concerned about this trend. As Instabloke writes: "By encouraging bloggers to link to their news stories, traffic is being re-routed back again to the mainstream media websites. It's a vicious cycle where bloggers are the obvious losers.They've effectively hijacked our new-found fame and it's a very clever strategy when you think of it."

Chris Edwards' blog, Hacking Cough, questioned the global impact of Sifry's findings. "What is clear is that the Technorati stats show something but not "a shift in attention," Hacking Cough blogs. "They simply show the sites that people are most keen to discuss online using one particular website format: that does not mean attention from a worldwide population but what remains a largely North American community."

But, bloggers can also take heart since the growing group of blogs covering areas like WiFi, gadgets, the Internet and photography are "changing the economics of the trade magazine space," Sifry claims.

Jason Pettus thinks "Sifri's (sic) really hit the nail on the head here, regarding what's so fun and exciting about the blogosphere…" "It's not about building another NYT, but rather having a whole diverse variety of writers and publications to listen to, each of them on their own a much better expert than anything the mainstream media could produce, even though none of them have much of an audience on their own," Pettus blogs.

C.N. Le, a professor, has a similar outlook: "It will be interesting to see how blogging and its related online activities increasingly enter mainstream American society and as it does, how it may change to accommodate a more diverse population of new users."

What do you think? Check out the report.

Another Vice President Making News

Vice President Dick Cheney wasn't the only vice president bloggers were chatting about this week. Albeit overshadowed, former Vice President Al Gore heated up the blogosphere when he denounced the post-Sept. 11 treatment of Arabs in the U.S. in a speech at the Jeddah Economic Forum in Saudi Arabia.

Gore told the largely Arab audience that following 9/11, Arabs in the U.S. had been "indiscriminately rounded up, often on minor charges of overstaying a visa or not having a green card in proper order, and held in conditions that were just unforgivable." The speech enraged conservative bloggers, many of whom undoubtedly were already vocal Gore critics.

Power Line said Gore "defame[ed] his country before a foreign audience for fun and profit." "We held mass roundups of Arabs? When? Where?" Captain's Quarters asked. The Walrus at Liberally Conservative awarded Gore the "Moon Bat of the Week," a dubious distinction no doubt.

"Al Gore's recent, outlandish remarks to a Saudi audience not only represent his own scorn for the United States, they are also reflective of this country's liberal establishment," Christopher Adamo with RedStatesUSA writes. "In short, the overriding sentiment of the left towards America is one of complete contempt."

But The Anonymous Liberal disagrees: "Far from fanning the flames of anti-Americanism, Gore was actually doing damage control. He was trying to de-fuse a source of strong anti-American sentiment by making it clear to his audience that the actions at issue were not condoned by most Americans. It's hard to understate just how important it is to make it clear to the Muslim world that American policy almost never represents the views of all Americans.

It's interesting that, with a few exceptions, this story received little press attention outside of editorial pages.

Did Gumbel Stumble?

Political bloggers are buzzing about HBO's Bryant Gumbel, after his recent take on the Olympic Winter Games: "So try not to laugh when someone says these are the world's greatest athletes, despite a paucity of blacks that makes the winter games look like a GOP convention."

For the most part, politically conservative bloggers took issue not with the paucity of African American athletes competing in the games, but at Gumbel's comparison to a GOP convention.

NewsBusters links to the video, and questions why the comment has received scant attention: "You'd think these remarks would have received more attention than they have. (Well, maybe not.) It's just hard to imagine a Bill O'Reilly or Sean Hannity getting a pass on something like this. Don'tcha think?"

"Does he really mean they GOP is a 'whites only' club?… It was absolutely idiotic to equate the GOP to racism," Steve at Bring it On! blogs. And Mark at USS Neverdock writes, "You can bet it would be all over the media if someone on the Right said such a thing.

But liberal blogger Matthew Yglesias makes the case that there may be a grain of truth in Gumbel's comparison. "Newsbusters appears to be objecting to the contention that there are few blacks at a Republican convention, but I believe this is demonstrably true," Yglesias blogs.

Musical Peer Pressure

It would seem one's taste in music is a personal matter, much like the way some people prefer vanilla to chocolate. But a new Columbia University Music Lab study suggests taste in music is unpredictable, often driven by how popular we believe a song or group is just as much as the quality of the song or group itself.

Columbia researchers simulated an online music marketplace, and provided half of the 14, 341 teen participants with a list of obscure songs, encouraging them to download the ones they liked. Researchers tallied the song they downloaded. The other half of the participants was given the same song list, but saw the number of previous downloads for each song received. And they tended to download some of these songs.

"With little else to guide their choices, people often look to others for cues; curiosity, perhaps along with an urge to affiliate with the group creates a kind of cascade effect in favor of the songs first chosen," the study concludes. So, if a lot of people listen to a particular song, people who haven't heard it are more likely to listen to it and say they like it as well.

This study especially caught the attention of blogging "American Idol" fans.

For example, Pinoy Entertainment believes the Columbia study proves American Idol judges don't always know best. "The judges on the hit reality TV show American Idol are supposed to be able to use their experience and shrewd ears to suss out the next great pop star. But predicting which artists will top the charts and which will flop is a crapshoot, a new study suggests."

And Daydreamer of Oz blogs: "Certainly, I don't know if I would say Simon *always gets it right*- after all he did think Carrie should've won last season- this study tells me I was on the right track.....Oh, who am I fooling? I'm just jealous!"

Some bloggers, however, saw nothing new in the study's findings. "Who finds this surprising?" Jim Hanas at Encyclopedia Hanasiana questions. "More importantly, what sort of radically atomistic view of personal taste do you have to start with to find it surprising? Oh, probably something like the precious hipster delusion that musical choices are somehow the purest and least commodified expressions of our innermost selves. Of course taste is social, and thank goodness," he writes.

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