State of the military historioblogosphere, March 2007
With the inaugural Military History Carnival coming up, it seems like a good time to ask: what does the military historioblogosphere look like? The obvious answer to that is another question: what on Earth is a military historioblogosphere anyway? Well, 'historioblogosphere' is just a silly word I invented to describe the history blogosphere, and so the military historioblogosphere is the part of that to do with wars and suchlike. (And actually, of course, it's the Anglophone military historioblogosphere ...) In practice, I will take the 'Wars and Warriors' section of Cliopatria's History Blogroll as the closest thing we have to a census of the military historioblogosphere. Which is not to say that it is complete, nor that I think everything on that list should be there, but it's a whole lot more comprehensive than any list I'm willing to maintain! It obviously excludes blogs which may discuss military history, but are not primarily focused on it -- but it's a good place to start.
So I've gone through the blogs listed there and compiled some basic statistics with them, and made some basic plots with them. (I used Keynote because it's soooo much easier and prettier than Excel, or Powerpoint for that matter; and because my otherwise go-to app for plotting, Plot, doesn't do pie charts.) I actually intended to do something along these lines ages ago, but never got around to it; fortunately I kept the data on my hard drive; and as it happens it was almost exactly a year ago that I compiled it, so it's perfect for a year-on-year comparison! So let's begin.
The number of blogs in the military historioblogosphere. The red portion represents the increase in the past year. The blue part (blogs active in March 2006) actually decreased. This is because some blogs have moved out of the military historioblogosphere since then, according to Cliopatria -- mainly because they've ceased activity, but not always. The percentage of blogs in the list in March 2006 which did not make the cut the following year -- call it the churn rate -- is 23%.
The total percentage increase is 65%. This sounds impressive, but actually it's well below the growth rate of the blogosphere as a whole (which would predict a 151% increase in a year). Of course, the Cliopatria blogroll is human-generated, not machine-indexed, so it might be expected that it would fall short of the actual increase. And of course there may well be selection biases affecting what is considered blogroll-worthy by Cliopatria.
The nationality of bloggers in the military historioblogosphere. This I tried to determine by visiting each blog and looking for information as to where the blogger(s) -- members of group blogs are counted individually -- live or originated from. I did not read every entry (!), and for some blogs I couldn't get any positive indication as to origin. These are labeled 'Unknown' -- but as it happens, every single one of these unknowns blogs about the American Civil War, so it's a pretty safe bet that they are all from the US. So the blue and red sectors combined represent the American part of the military historioblogosphere.
Now, it's not unexpected that Americans would dominate the sample. Based on population, the share from each nation is probably about right. But as somebody from (in fact, who IS) the smallest wedge in the pie chart, I would have liked to have seen the non-US proportion at least stay constant. Instead, it has fallen from 23% to 18%. It's an increasingly American 'sphere. Having said that, I noticed that two of the ACW blogs have announced they going on hiatus (or worse), and there are a couple of British blogs not yet on the list, so in a month the picture might be different. But that's the sort of thing that happens with a snapshot like this.
The gender of bloggers in the military historioblogosphere. Again, there was a (much smaller) number of bloggers whose gender could not be positively determined. As one might expect in this area, there's a very small number of females, certainly much lower than in the historioblogosphere as a whole. But at least it's improving: in absolute terms, from 1 in 2006 to at least 3 now; in percentage terms, from 4% to at least 6% now.
The periods covered by blogs in the military historioblogosphere. Here, 'None' means that the blog in question did not confine itself to one period, not that I could see anyway. Leaving these ones aside, the biggest sectors are the 19th century by a big margin, followed by the 20th century. Again, there has been a significant change since March 2006: blogs covering the 19th century now make up almost half of all military history blogs, up from just under two-fifths a year ago. The 20th century's share has remained about the same, at a bit over 25%.
The theatres covered by blogs in the military historioblogosphere. This is the most subjective of my classifications, and it doesn't help that 'theatres' (as in, of war) doesn't quite cover what I mean, which is not necessarily the part of the world where the wars under discussion were fought, but sometimes it was more the nation the blog was about, if that seemed more appropriate. Maybe 'perspectives'? Well, that's not great either. Because of the vagueness, I went broad with the bins and made them continents.
So, there's a pattern developing here. North America was the biggest sector in 2006, and it's only getting bigger: a whopping 58% of the military historioblogosphere, up from 42%. The next biggest is Europe, which maintained about the same share over the year, just over a quarter. It's the generalist blogs which have declined relatively (though not much in absolute terms, it's true).
The wars covered by blogs in the military historioblogosphere. And here the reason underlying the aforementioned trends becomes clear: blogs about the American Civil War numbered just 10 in March 2006. Now there are 22 on Cliopatria's blogroll! So just over half of the military historioblogosphere is now devoted to the Civil War, up from under two-fifths a year ago. Just over a quarter are about the World Wars, a figure which has remained about the same; again, it's generalist blogs which have fallen behind in relative terms.
There's clearly a strong correlation between the nationality of a blogger and the period/theatre/war they blog about: at the risk of over-generalising -- it's probably true about 75% of the time -- if they're American, they blog about the Civil War; if they're not, they blog about the World Wars. Well, it's not exactly news that Americans have far more interest in the Civil War than non-Americans, nor is it in any way surprising. But where are all the American blogs about the Second World War? You know, the Greatest Generation, Saving Private Ryan, Call of Duty 2 and all that? Conversely, to all the non-Americans out there, aren't there any other wars worth blogging about than the two big ones?
The top five most popular blogs in the military historioblogosphere, by Technorati rank. Here, lower numbers (shorter bars) are better, meaning higher popularity. I didn't think to check this last year, so unfortunately there are no comparative data. It's still interesting, though. As expected, War Historian (AKA Blog Them Out of the Stone Age) is the most popular blog in the military historioblogosphere; it just breaks into the top 50,000 of all blogs. Civil War Memory comes in a very creditable second; also no surprise. Most remarkable is Investigations of a Dog, which as I have remarked previously has very quickly become entrenched as a must-read blog -- and hosting the Military History Carnival is only going to increase its popularity and Technorati ranking! Then follows, a long way back and close together, *modest cough* Airminded and Military History.
I must admit that I'm surprised to see Airminded in the top five; I had thought that the cluster effect of so many Civil War blogs linking to each other would mean that they would dominate the Technorati rankings. That's not the case; there's only Civil War Memory (and I don't consider War Historian to be one, as it always had very substantial non-Civil War content even before Civil Warriors was founded). However, it must be noted that Technorati rankings (which are based upon the number of inbound links a blog receives from other blogs) are a bit dodgy; for example, it sometimes claims a blog has no incoming links, when the search results clearly show several. Also, the URL which Cliopatria has listed for Victor Hanson isn't recognised as a blog by Technorati; instead this one is, which would be ranked at 4 if it were included here -- but it's not :)
So there it is. There are other metrics I could have compiled, such as blogging platform (WordPress is quickly coming up on Blogger's position) or a clustering diagram (as has been done for the historioblogosphere as a whole), but I think that the ones I have done tell us something useful about the current state of the military historioblogosphere, even if it's not perhaps very surprising.
Edit: fixed a minor error in the period plot.
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