Wednesday, April 19, 2006

If you're reading this . . .

If you're reading this, you are part of an extraordinary phenomenon. The blogosphere. However skeptical you may or may not be about blogs and blogging, you have to be impressed by its sheer size. David Sifry at Technorati, the service that tracks blogs and blog traffic, has issued another of his quarterly reports on the state of the blogosphere. It is mind boggling.

The blogosphere has been doubling in size roughly every six months, (literally) exponential growth. Obviously it cannot continue to do this for long, but it has done it long enough to produce astonishing numbers, growing sixty times in three years. In the time it has taken to read this, another twenty or thirty have been created -- roughly one a second. Many are transient, temporary or some kind of spam or robot pingers but amazingly, over half of all bloggers-- 19.4 million of them -- are still posting 3 months after their blog was created. Almost four million of them update at least weekly, and many -- including this site -- daily, seven days a week. This produces 1.2 million posts a day, about 50,000 an hour.

Our corner of the blogosphere -- public health -- is extremely tiny in this big picture. I''m guessing there are not more than a couple of dozen worldwide, of which Effect Measure is one of the most widely read. That's not to say our audience is huge -- a couple of thousand unique visits a day. Small, yet influential in public health, as I have cause to know.

Most of us don't have the immediate sensation of participating in anything extraordinary, and only time will allow us or future chroniclers to evaluate its significance. Some future graduate student in the history of public health, medicine or political science may write a dissertation on the role of the blogosphere in shaping (or failing to shape) the social and technical response to a pandemic. As with most things, time will tell.

And time may be growing short, so we'll get back to blogging about public health instead of blogging about blogging.