Translation Blogs I

Now that classes have finished and marks have been submitted, I can finally get back to the research I left behind last summer: analyzing translation blogs to determine:

  • Which blogs are the most influential
  • How blogs are used by translators (are bloggers anonymous or do they identify themselves and provide links to their professional services?)
  • What type of content can be found in the blogs (e.g. personal diary-like entries, book reviews, translation-industry news/announcements, reflections on the practice of translation)
  • How long (on average) the most (and least) influential blogs have been online, and
  • Whether there’s a link between a blog’s content and longevity and its influence among other bloggers

I’ll be presenting the results of my research at the CATS congress at Concordia University in a few weeks, but I wanted to write a few posts here first to give an overview of my research, along with a few of my findings. I’ll post more details after the conference.

One of the problems I had while I was trying to determine which translation blogs are the most influential is that no comprehensive list of blogs exists. (Some partial lists have been draw up by two translation bloggers. This one by Sarah Dillon, the blogger behind There’s Something about Translation, includes over 100 blogs, while this one from Christine at Polyglot Blog offers links to approximately 90 translation blogs in English, French, Spanish Portuguese, Dutch, German, Italian, Arabic and Polish).

The fact that no one really knows how many translation blogs exist means I couldn’t just list them all and then rank them according to the number of inbound links. Instead, I started with a sample of 25 blogs about translation, which I randomly chose from the 2009 LexioPhiles Top Language Blogs nominees (Language Professionals Category). I then consulted six months of blog postings (January to June 2009) on each of the 25 blogs to determine what content was offered, how many posts were created each month, how many comments were made on each post, and how many other translation blogs were cited by the bloggers. I did not count the blogs listed in the blogrolls of my sample group because a blog that is listed in a blogger’s blogroll is not necessarily read by that blogger. I counted only blogs that were directly quoted or linked to by a blogger in one of his or her posts. Finally, I checked the date of each blog’s first post so that I could draw conclusions about how a blog’s age affected its influence among translation bloggers.

The 25 blogs in my sample cited numerous translation blogs—57 in fact, including 15 that were already part of my sample group. This fact surprised me, as I had expected that a few blogs would stand out as being very influential (ie. as being cited numerous times by various bloggers), but I hadn’t expected that so many different blogs would be cited only once or twice by a single person. Instead, I found that a whopping 42 blogs (or 74% of the 57 blogs) were linked to or quoted by a single blogger from my sample group of 25. I have a few hypotheses to explain this finding.

The first is that bloggers may be reading many other translation blogs but not quoting from them for their own posts. Some of the blogs had a significant number of comments on each post (e.g. Algo más que traducir and Masked Translator, neither of which were ranked in the top 10 but which had an average of 8.17 and 6.44 comments per post, respectively), which indicates that other bloggers, instead of using their own blogs to respond to what they had read somewhere else, commented directly on the original poster’s blog and only occasionally wrote a post in response.

The second is that some bloggers are simply outliers in the sense that they do not cite other bloggers and are not cited by anyone. This was the case, for instance, with Se Habla English? and The Translation and Interpretation Blog. Next week, I’ll write more about this point, as I’m going to look into whether a number of strong-tie blogger communities exist (meaning that a number of blogging translators regularly cite one another and comment on each others’ blogs), even though most translators who blog do not belong to such communities.

The third is that because such a significant number of translation blogs exist, not all of them are being widely read. Moreover, readership often depends on the blogger’s language pairs: There’s a strong link between the language pairs of the blogger who is cited and the blogger who does the citing. The twenty-five blogs I studied were written in either English, French or Spanish—or in the case of Fidus Interpres, in a combination of English and Portuguese—and the blogs that were cited were written in either English, French, Spanish, Portuguese, German, or a combination of these languages. I’m sure translators are blogging in other languages as well (since Technorati’s 2006 Q3 State of the Blogosphere report indicated that English, Spanish, French, German and Portuguese posts made up less than half the posts indexed by the search engine*), but these blogs haven’t turned up in any of the outbound links in my initial 25-blog sample. For this reason, I’m now sampling another six months of postings from 25 blogs I’ve randomly selected out of the 57 that were cited by my initial sample group. This should help show whether the blogs I’ve listed as the most influential really are influential among many bloggers or only among the 25 in my initial sample group. I’ll post the results next week. For now, though, I thought I’d share my initial ranking of translator blogs. Next week, I’ll compare this ranking to the revised ranking after I’ve studied my second sample of 25 blogs. I’ll also compare the revised ranking with Google Reader subscribers and Techonrati Authority.

To determine how “influential” a blog is among translator bloggers, I counted the number of times a particular blog was linked to/cited by another blogger. I then weighted the results, giving a blog one point for every reference to the blog and two points for every blogger who linked to the blog. For example, Translation Times was quoted 4 times by 3 of the 25 bloggers, giving it a score of 10 (4 citations x 1 point + 3 bloggers x 2 points), while Musings from an Overworked Translator was quoted 7 times by 5 bloggers, giving it a score of 17 (7 citations x 1 point + 5 bloggers x 2 points). Here’s the top 10 list:

Blog No. of citations No. of bloggers Score
Thoughts on Translation 12 7 26
There’s Something About Translation 8 5 18
Global Watchtower 9 4 17
Musings from an Overworked Translator 7 5 17
Matthew Bennett 5 5 15
Blogging Translator 4 3 10
Naked Translations 4 3 10
Translation Times 4 3 10
About Translation 3 3 9
The GITS Blog 3 3 9

More next week….

* Be sure to check out this link for details about the limitations to Technorati’s methods for determining the language of blog postings.

3 thoughts on “Translation Blogs I

  1. Your research looks really interesting.

    Some random thoughts:

    * I suspect how influential a blog is will correlate strongly to how influential the blogger is. Which came first is another interesting idea (i.e. did the blogger start by being more influential offline or online, etc.)

    * I think there are definite blogger groupings and these often (although not always) tie in with offline relationships, e.g. professional communities that the bloggers are a part of, and possibly how active they are in those offline communities.
    It would be interesting to ask current bloggers which blogs they read before they started their own blogs, did they know any bloggers in person before they started blogging, etc. And in the same line, survey translators who are non-bloggers about which blogs they read. (I appreciate this may be well out of the scope of your research – I’m just getting carried away 🙂 )

    * There are the blogs I subscribe to, the blogs I actually read, the blogs I comment on, the bloggers I talk to in person/ by email about their blog posts… and then the blogs I refer to in my own posts. They belong to very distinct categories for me. Personally I’m conscious of not referencing the same blogs time and time again on my own blog because I think it gets a bit like an echo chamber if I do. This doesn’t fit my motivations for blogging in the first place. I suspect other bloggers may feel this way sometimes. It would be interesting to see whether “newer” bloggers referenced other blogs more frequently than more established bloggers. (I think they might).

    * I often get more emails from readers that I do comments on my posts. Certain kinds of posts invite public comment, while others don’t. I think number of comments is more a reflection of blogging or post style, rather than influence or number of readers.

    * Then there are some great blogs written by translators but aimed at potential clients, rather than other translators (though not too many). I usually find these kinds of blogs very inspiring and influential in terms of how I actually conduct business and view myself as a professional.

    If my experiences as a blogger are anything to go by, what we see on a blog is often only the tip of the iceberg in terms of what’s going on ‘under the surface’ with regards to connections, influence, communications, etc.

    Thank you for sharing your findings, I look forward to reading more!

  2. Thanks so much for your comment, Sarah. I really appreciate your feedback (particularly since you’re one of the bloggers in my sample group). You’ve raised some good points that I will be sure to look into. I definitely plan to see whether I can determine blogger groupings based on inbound/outbound links, as I’ve already noticed several trends in my first sample group, and I also want to spend some time analyzing the differences between new and established bloggers in terms of influence and the number of references to other blogs.

    And thanks for the insight into your reasons for citing other bloggers in your posts and commenting on their blogs. I had decided not to include comments in the ranking scores because I was fairly certain that some bloggers felt as you do (that some comments are better suited to email or private conversations) and that most readers were unlikely to leave comments very often (since this was a trend I found when I studied forum participation in translation networks a few years ago). So I will be looking at comments (mostly to see what kind of blog content was most likely to elicit comments from readers), but I don’t consider them an indication of how influential a blogger is.

    I had initially been planning on writing just one paper about translation blogs, but now that I’m starting to look more closely at the data, I think you’re right that what we see on a blog is just the tip of the iceberg: there’s definitely a need to survey translators who blog and translators who read blogs, so I may get started on that once I’ve finished analyzing the information I’m collecting right now.

  3. Very interesting study! Speaking as a blogger you were sampling, I never include a blog in my blogroll that I don’t read/subscribe to myself. I agree with Sarah about consciously not quoting from other translation blogs too often. I figure most of my readers already read the other translation blogs. I tend to quote blogs that are not part of the translation industry, which exposes my colleagues to other thoughts outside our rather insular community. I subscribe to 148 blogs – not all of them translation blogs.

    Sometimes getting comments on my blog is like pulling teeth. Most readers prefer to lurk and read in anonymity. I am always thrilled when someone comments on one of my posts, and I try to return the favor to other bloggers. Oftentimes that is the only sign that someone is reading us (besides the visitor tracking numbers, which I rarely have the time or inclination to look at).

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