22
Dec
2007

Signal-to-Noise ratio of blogging

Written by  |  under Blogging

blogging angerWikipedia has the following to say about “signal-to-noise ratio“:

Signal-to-noise ratio (often abbreviated SNR or S/N) is an electrical engineering concept, also used in other fields (such as scientific measurements, biological cell signaling and oral lore), defined as the ratio of a signal power to the noise power corrupting the signal.

In less technical terms, signal-to-noise ratio compares the level of a desired signal (such as music) to the level of background noise. The higher the ratio, the less obtrusive the background noise is.

How does this apply to blogging? Isn’t the answer somewhat self-evident?

The blogosphere is filled with people, such as myself, spouting off countless opinions about any number of subjects, but why does this make any one blogger’s opinion more important than another’s? The only thing that makes a personal blogger “important”, which is really just to say they are more popular, is that their opinions resonate with a larger group of people.

I have seen estimates that suggest the number of blogs in the world is now in the hundreds of millions. The question would be is “how many of them are actually useful?” Sure, a good number of them are nothing more than a way for a teenager to talk about the party they went to the night before, but how many of them are people such as me prattling endlessly about whatever it is in the world that annoys them?

This whole thought started for me when, Roy, an apparently former blogger now, IMed me about my entry from yesterday about Jamie Lynn Spears. Roy’s stance is that my talking about the media coverage of the younger of the Spears’ sisters is no better than the media themselves discussing her. My thoughts are that I am commenting on the way the story is presented, and not so much the story itself. Yes, I had to mention the story, but with no background, my thoughts on the matter would have been meaningless to those who has somehow escaped the story.

My thoughts are that if no one ever says anything, how can there ever be hope for change? If no one points out the silliness in the world, people will go on thinking that it is perfectly okay to carry on with the status quo. Don’t get me wrong, I have no delusions about the readership of my blog, I don’t think that the head of some huge news organization is sitting around going “Oh no, SeanPAune.com is saying that we are silly to cover this! STOP ALL COVERAGE OF IT!” If no one puts it out there, how will anyone ever know?

Along this line of thinking, Roy, sent me a link on FourHourWorkWeek.com about how blogging is turning everyone into self-important egoists who think that their opinion is more important than others. (The entry also suggests how we should return to punching people for being asses, but I think that’s a bit over-the-top) And, again, I must say that I have no delusions about my place in the blogosphere. I am just some guy with a lot of opinions; some of them are right, some of them are wrong.

ScreamingIt probably is at least a little self-centered of me to think that this blog matters more than a whisper-in-the-wind to the vast majority of people. Heck, it probably doesn’t matter even to the majority of people who are kind enough to stop by and read my incessant ramblings, but it makes me feel better. There is nothing I say on this blog that I wouldn’t say to someone’s face, but that’s just the kind of person that I am. I have never been one to sit back and let foolishness go by without questioning, this blog merely gives me a way to vent my frustrations in a more public fashion. It also reminds me of when I first started my LiveJournal account and I named it “One man’s silent screams into the void”. I know I am rallying against the wind, as are most bloggers.

If I ever decided to start sharing my views on politics and politicians, it would make you long for the “good old days” where I just smacked around the likes of the media, Scientology, and the RIAA. I know it will come as a shock to some of you, but I do actually restrain myself somewhat in what I write about.

I hope that at least a small percentage of my posts add to the “signal” as opposed to the “noise” that is out there on the web nowadays. And I also hope that at least a few of the things I say strike a chord with my readers, but if it doesn’t, then such is life. If I ever feel like I have become nothing more than “noise”, I will probably stop blogging all together… or at least make a blog post about it.

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  • http://myso-calledjapaneselife.blogspot.com/ Shari

    I think people who think about blogging as a “signal to noise” issue are, themselves, being competitive and egotistical. This sort of thinking, first and foremost, views blogging as a competitive experience rather than a personal one. It asks the question, “what value does a person’s content have to others?”

    To me, that is not the important question. The question is, “what value does the the experience of blogging have for the author?” Does it build a small community of friendly readers who can comment on each others like-minded blogs and enlighten one another? Does it give the authors a chance to exercise their writing skills and hopefully build on them? Does it help the authors learn about themselves and change positively through comments, interactions and the ever present quest for post fodder? Does it open your mind and challenge you psychologically in ways that other activities do not?

    Blogs are different from diaries because they carry a sense of accountability due to their public nature. They have the capacity to exert subtle pressure on people to think deeply and thoughtfully because they know their views are going to be out there where anyone might stumble on them and take issue with horribly lop-sided views.

    A high signal to noise ratio has nothing to do with blogging unless you believe the whole world acts to provide you (the general “you”, not you personally, Sean) with personally useful content. If you believe blogs service others rather than their authors, then this is a valid consideration. Personally, I think it’s nice if they interest, educate, or entertain others but I don’t think they have to. I think they can serve a variety of other purposes, most notably personal growth and community-building.

    That being said, I would totally agree that a lot of pompous egomaniacs are built via blogs. It’s what happens when people are preaching to the choir (this mainly applies to highly opinionated or issue-oriented blogs rather than those about varied topics or about personal information) and smugly believing that all the pats they get on the back affirming the rightness of their position mean they are offering up some form of wisdom. The main problem is that, blogs spewing biased viewpoints don’t attract dissenters nor do they stimulate educational debate. They are dismissed by those that disagree and embraced by those who agree. This is a recipe for building one huge ego and inflating the author’s sense of self-importance.

    (By the way, I’m sorry to hear that Roy may be a confirmed “former” blogger.)