A Gender Correlation to Topical LDS Group-Blogging?

May 21, 2005 | 28 comments
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Group blogging can be done in one of two basic ways: Topical or ad hoc. Ad hoc group blogs allow members to post at any time on any subject. Today Nate posts on sugar beets, tomorrow Jim writes about Heidegger, and the next day Kaimi is whining about gender issues. Topical blogs, as the name implies, stick with particular topics for a set period of time. The members agree beforehand that they will all write about faith in week one, repentance in week two, and same-sex marriage in week three.

There are two topical group blogs in the bloggernacle. Both are run by women.

Data, such as it is

First, the data. (Caveat: Yes, Frank, I know that this sample size is beyond microscopic. It’s quite possible that anything I’m observing here is mere coincidence. I’m not saying that this data is particularly probative, just that it may raise interesting questions).

The universe of LDS group blogs is a little fuzzy. What constitutes an LDS group blog, anyway? We’ll say, for purposes of this post, that it’s a blog composed of three or more permanent members regularly writing on LDS issues. Also, what constitutes a female-run blog? We’ll say that over 50% of the membership of the blog must be female.

The universe of female-run group blogs is (I believe): Feminist Mormon Housewives, Conversation, Various Stages, and Mommy Wars.

Two of the four — Conversation and Various Stages — are topical.

The universe of non-female-run group blogs includes Times and Seasons, BCC, Millennial Star, Bloggernacle Times, Approaching Zion, Unofficial Manifesto, Nine Moons, United Bretheren, and Birds Eye View. (Am I missing any? Probably).

None of the non-female-dominated blogs is topical.

So there you have it, the data, such as it is. Topical blogging is prevalent among female-run LDS group blogs, and non-existent among non-female-run group blogs.

Analysis, mixed with a healthy dose of speculation

Now let’s discuss the point a little. If the data shows us something, then the question that comes to mind is, why would female LDS group bloggers prefer topical blogging?

Here are a few thoughts:

1. Perhaps the difference comes out of broad female/male character differences. An argument can be made that women are more inclined towards topical blogging (either because of socialized gender differences, or inherent gender differences). Under this view, LDS women may be more interested in the sort of multi-post dialogue and feedback that comes out of topical blogging. They may be less interested in preserving their own ability as a blogger to blog about any topic under the sun whenever fancy strikes them. And they may be less interested in the sort of “look-at-me” topical competitiveness that ad hoc blogging assumes — that is, when I post about priesthood leadership after Nate’s post on sugar beets, I am in essence challenging him, saying “priesthood leadership is a more interesting subject than sugar beets.”

As noted, these differences, if they exist, may be innate or may be caused by socialization, or may be the product of some combination of the two. That is, you can interpret this prong in as gender-essentialist a manner, or as non-gender-essentialist a manner, as you’d like.

2. Perhaps the difference comes out of the culture of book clubbing as an acceptable forum for dialogue among LDS women. Topical group blogs share a lot of the same look and feel as a book club. For whatever reason (and what reason is it, I wonder?), book clubs have become a fashionable and (apparently) doctrinally acceptable forum in which LDS women can meet together and share ideas. So perhaps the appearance of topical group blogs merely reflects the book-club mentality which LDS women have been trained to have. (Or, if you want to be gender essentialist about it, the book-club culture may itself stem from innate differences in women’s thinking, which differences are reflected in topical group blogging as well).

3. Perhaps it’s all a coincidence.

4. I’m probably missing other plausible reasons. Perhaps our readers can suggest other reasons, and/or point out things that I’m missing or getting wrong in my own analysis.

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28 Responses to A Gender Correlation to Topical LDS Group-Blogging?

  1. Steve Evans on May 21, 2005 at 2:58 pm

    I would resist putting BCC in the classification you’ve applied here. We have a very good male-female mix in our permabloggers, and admin powers are shared with at least one of each gender. I don’t agree with your topical/nontopical idea here at all.

  2. Kaimi on May 21, 2005 at 3:04 pm

    Steve,

    You’re way off base, my friend. Yes, BCC has an admirable group of female bloggers. But it’s nowhere near Conversation (100%), VSOM (85%), FMH (100%), Mommy Wars (100%).

    BCC has 4 female permabloggers, out of 12 total. Out of 10 posts currently on the BCC frontpage, one is written by a woman.

    There is a such thing as a women’s group blog, and BCC is not it.

  3. Kaimi on May 21, 2005 at 3:13 pm

    Steve,

    As to topical/ad hoc, have you looked at VSoM and Conversation?

    They literally set out a weekly topic of discussion — “Okay, this week everyone is going to post on the Word of Wisdom” — and then they do just that.

    That’s a very different style of blogging than the rest of the ‘nacle. If anything, most of the other group blogs seem to try _not_ to post on the same topic for a whole week.

    Take a look at the consciously clustered topics at Conversation — http://ldswomen.blogspot.com/ — and tell me that that’s not substantively different from the typical topically-scattered, undirected posting free-for-all of most of the ‘nacle.

  4. XON on May 21, 2005 at 3:15 pm

    Gee, Kaimi, you’ve apparently either decided to shoot for direct appointment as Dean of Harvard Law School; or to just forego academia altogether. . .

  5. J. Stapley on May 21, 2005 at 3:33 pm

    I’m typically comfortable with most speculation; but this post makes even me uncomfortable.

    If I were to speculate on an analysis of blog formate, I might say that they wanted to form a community and wanted to experience the joys of posting and found a niche to do so. I wouldn’t say that their choice not to mimick/compete with the uber-blogs was a function of gender.

  6. Steve Evans on May 21, 2005 at 4:41 pm

    I didn’t claim that BCC was a women’s blog, but we aspire to gender equality to the extent possible. And I still think your post is full of junk.

  7. Jenn on May 21, 2005 at 4:43 pm

    Steve, Kaimi has a point. The men dominate BCC, and there is a very different dynamic when it’s just the boys. The female permabloggers there should speak up a little more (more Laurie! More Kris!!).

    :)

    Jenn

  8. Crystal on May 21, 2005 at 5:35 pm

    Eh, the group blog I post at (http://babylon-zion.blogspot.com/) is 4/7 male and we’re topical. I don’t know that we actually fit the criteria, with 2 active LDS and a former Mormon.

    We don’t always stick to topic, but we’re got a general theme.

    Come to think of it, it’s always the guys showboating with off-topic posts. :P

  9. Jim F on May 21, 2005 at 6:24 pm

    Kaimi: I’m not saying that this data is particularly probative, just that it may raise interesting questions.

    If your evidence isn’t probative, why should you be confident that the questions that it raises really are interesting? If they are interesting in the absence of evidence, then what’s the point of the evidence? In other words, I’m puzzled by your reasoning.

  10. cooper on May 22, 2005 at 1:49 am

    I’m going to say what most would not. Women are control freaks. That’s why the topical gets the go ahead most of the time. (yes, I’m female, and a part of a group blog)

    Puts on flame retardent suit.

  11. Johnna Cornett on May 22, 2005 at 3:48 pm

    And I was going to go with women’s lives tend to be of more disparate elements than men’s, that scheduling is a coping mechanism–if it’s not structured it would be buried. There’s no novel about a man coping with disparate responsibilities called I Don’t Know How He Does It.

    Then there’s the idea that good women don’t blog or email, so the schedule serves as a license.

  12. Bryce I on May 22, 2005 at 4:59 pm

    Wow, this is some kind of record — Kaimi posts some observations involving gender differences in the bloggernacle, and it remains undeleted for more than a day.

  13. Amira on May 22, 2005 at 7:22 pm

    I noticed that myself, Bryce. It’s always fun to see if you can catch his posts (and the comments) before they’re deleted.

  14. Heather O on May 22, 2005 at 8:25 pm

    It’s always interesting to read what other people think about your blog. So what if the data is inconclusive and the whole thing reeks of junk science–MY blog made it into the post, so, I’m interested :)!

    Here’s what I think is going on. The larger the blog, the more appropriate topical blogging. Mommywars is pretty small (three bloggers, with only two posting on any kind of regular basis), and so topical blogging from only 2 people could get pretty old pretty fast. I mean, how many times do you want to hear me hash out faith, or repentence, or testimony bingo? (Talk to me about poop, and we might have something–mothers always have things to say about poop!) As we get bigger (see the hopeful smile in my words!), we might turn to the topical blogging, but for now, I don’t think it would work for the size of blog we have.

    Of course, I know that the next comment would be, “Well, T&S is the biggest, baddest blog in the ‘Nacle, and we don’t post topically, thus your logic fails, hahahahahahaha!”

    Ok, true, but you guys COULD post topically, and the blog would still function. Heck, it might make it even more interesting than it is to hear so many different people talking about one subject, trying to find and discuss every different angle. But when 1 or 2 people are holding down the fort and taking up the main burden of posting, I don’t know that topical blogging can be all that interesting.

  15. Steve Evans on May 22, 2005 at 10:02 pm

    Well, T&S is the biggest, baddest blog in the ‘Nacle, and we don’t post topically, thus your logic fails, hahahahahahaha!

  16. Kaimi on May 23, 2005 at 7:17 pm

    Jim,

    The data pool is too small to draw strong conclusions. That doesn’t mean that we can’t speculate with the data that’s there. When the baseball season is only 5 days old, there haven’t been enough games to really determine which teams are best. But if one team is 5-0, that’s an interesting sign, and possibly indicative of a trend. Or maybe not.

    But in any case, we can either throw up our hands in despair — “woe is me, there aren’t enough blogs to come up with statistically significant correlations, therefore I cannot talk about trends at all.” Or we can note that our stats are not particularly strong, because we don’t have a big sample pool, but that these are issues that bear examination anyway.

    Bryce,

    I’ve cut a deal with my co-bloggers. I won’t call them babes, and they’ll let me keep my posts up more than a day. So far it’s working. Though I’ve had to bite my tongue — it’s awfully hard not to call that hunky Nate Oman a babe every time I mention him. . .

  17. Heather Oman on May 23, 2005 at 7:24 pm

    Eat yer heart out, Kaimi.

  18. Steve Evans on May 23, 2005 at 7:50 pm

    “we can either throw up our hands in despair….”

    Or we can just throw up. I see no need to engage in this speculation — just why is it that these “issues” you’ve uncovered merit speculation, you sexist pig?

  19. Frank McIntyre on May 24, 2005 at 10:32 am

    Did Kaimi hurt your feelings, Steve? Are you gonna cry now? Maybe we can get Adam to come and apologize to you.

    Kaimi, I don’t think it’s fair for you to make my only relevant comment in your original post. Are you trying to take away my living?

  20. Elisabeth on May 24, 2005 at 10:46 am

    For all those who are decrying Kaimi’s research sample, here is an interesting article in the NY Times today that says women are less competitive than men. The article’s author provides cites to a few studies. Wonder if this phenomenon has anything to do with the gender composition (and substance) of the blogs.

    http://www.nytimes.com/2005/05/24/opinion/24tierney.html?hp

  21. Nate Oman on May 24, 2005 at 11:06 am

    Steve: Take heart. If you weren’t able to engage in a lot of hand-wringing about the vomitous, poaching ways of T&S during business hours, you would be reduced to nothing but due diligence, or whatever it is that corporate and securities lawyers do.

  22. Kaimi on May 24, 2005 at 11:12 am

    Just for Steve’s benefit, I’m considering adding “vomitous” and “poaching-filled”* to our adjective list. Then, once every 177,662 times** the page is viewed, it will read “Quite possibly the most vomitous, yet poaching-filled***, onymous group blog . . . ” Of course, one downside is that our page views will spike as Steve hits refresh 500 times a day.

    *Is there a better adjective for that concept? Rosalynde probably knows one off the top of her head. Anyone who uses “iatrogenic” in a casual sentence . . .

    **422 x 421.

    ***Unless Rosalynde saves us with a pithier adjective.

  23. fMhLisa on May 24, 2005 at 6:21 pm

    I actually kinda like Johnna’s idea– topics add weight to the other side of the big blogging-guilt balance scale. 2oz of blogging guilt= 2oz of deadline guilt . . . ah balance!

    Mostly though, I think Kaimi is trying too hard.

  24. Kaimi on May 25, 2005 at 4:20 pm

    By the way, Jenn, I just saw your last name and I think I know you. Did I go on a double date with you about eight, nine years ago?

    (And if so, how have you been? What are you up to?)

  25. Jenn on May 25, 2005 at 4:20 pm

    Kaimi — No. Never been to Arizona.

  26. Mark Martin on May 25, 2005 at 5:38 pm

    “Anecdotal thinking comes naturally; science requires training.”

    Source: Scientific American, April 25, 2005, “Turn Me on, Dead Man” by Michael Shermer
    http://www.sciam.com/print_version.cfm?articleID=000EB977-12BE-1264-8F9683414B7FFE9F

    Kaimi, thank you for providing my first opportunity to quote this since reading it this morning!

  27. Jason on May 25, 2005 at 6:53 pm

    It’s because chicks operate from some quasi-jungian hive mind and all dudes are islands. Duh.

  28. moana on June 8, 2005 at 1:55 am

    it could be that womens’ online time is more structured (you know, being your wife, bearing your children, cooking your dinner) than is yours, dudes. you have time to debate and not be topical because you have a bit more time to do so, having wives and all.

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