Tim Challies discusses the question of how the influence of a particular blog/blogger is to be measured. It is quite an interesting discussion. I agree with Challies that traffic and inbound links are poor indicators of the influence of a particular blog. I doubt that there is one sure way to ascertain the degree of influence that a particular blog exerts (I also doubt that ‘influence’ is even quantifiable in principle, believing that there are many different ways in which we can be influenced and that many of the influences that we experience are fundamentally incommensurable).
The bloggers that influence me the most are probably the ones to whom I go for book recommendations. The blogs that influence me the most are not always my favourite blogs. Many of my favourite blogs are those of people who share the same influences. Their writing does not have a great influence on my thinking, but I benefit from their company in our shared theological journey (The Boar’s Head Tavern being a good example here). The theological trailblazers and scouts do not always make such enjoyable company.
The blog that has influenced me the most is Peter Leithart‘s. I have probably read a couple of dozen books on Leithart’s recommendation. These books have gone on to profoundly influence my thinking.
The issue of who you are influencing is a big one, in my opinion. I would far rather influence an elite handful of scholars than directly influence a mass audience. Mass audiences tend to be fad-driven. If you really want to change the world it seems to me that you must address a more limited audience of thinkers. Mass influence is cheap and short-lasting by comparison.
Another important issue is the question of who blogrolls you. There are many bloggers out there with vast, but homogenous, audiences. Outside of a particular narrow subsection of the Church these bloggers are regarded as largely irrelevant. The ability to escape the limited confines of your own tradition and address an audience with a more interesting and varied demographics is an important one. Having one’s writing regarded as significant by widely-read thinkers from different theological traditions and from different social and cultural backgrounds is a good indicator of a greater degree of influence, it seems to me.
As for comments, I am not sure that they are a very reliable indicator of influence. There are forms of blogging that welcome comments and other forms that do not. I doubt that I would comment much on Leithart’s blog if he had comments enabled. Barb’s blog, on the other hand, is always a great blog for comments, consistently getting more comments than I ever could. My blog is nowhere near as good a place for stimulating conversation in the comments.
What do others think? — What are some of the forms of influence that blogs exert on you? What are some of the best ways to ascertain a blog’s level of influence? Which blogs most influence you?