Blogs Methods Processing — Aimee Hewson, 3 February 2011
Australian Blogosphere – Categorisation Process

Over the past few weeks, as part of the VRES program at QUT, I have been assisting Axel and Jean on their Social Media Mapping project.    The aim of the project is to try to understand the shape and dynamics of online public communication in Australia – focusing on “user created content” such as Blogs, Twitter, Youtube, and Flickr.  My particular role in the program is to assess and categorise the online communication in the Australian Blogosphere.  In doing this, I have begun analysing a list of over 7000 active Australian Blogs and allocating them into categories accordingly.  By the end of this exercise, we will be able to view the category trends in Australian blogging and use this as a comparison against other countries later down the track.

Currently, a few weeks into the program, I have categorised just over 2000 blogs.  However, I think it is important to note how I got to this stage as well as the established categories for feedback purposes.  When first approaching this project, Jean and I worked together through a selection of 100 blogs and established some preliminary categories.  In doing this exercise we came up with 17 categories, planned to be further worked into a succinct and exhaustive list within the coming weeks.  This original list is as follows:

  1. Marketing and Business
  2. Personal
  3. Spirituality and Self Help
  4. Health and Fitness
  5. Politics and Current Affairs
  6. Arts, Craft and Design
  7. Photography
  8. Fashion, Beauty and Style
  9. Travel and Leisure
  10. Cultures and Languages
  11. Sport
  12. Technology
  13. Pets and Animals
  14. Cars
  15. Education
  16. Music
  17. Science and Environment

Under each of these categories we went through and labelled each of the 100 blogs based on the main theme and topic of the blog rather than the purpose of the blog.  We did this using the key words associated with the blog, as identified by the blogger, and by looking at the blog itself when necessary.  However, over the next week I worked on another 600 blogs (roughly 10% of the total blogs to be categorised) and found that there were 3 more categories we had not yet considered that were frequenting the list:

18. Food and Beverage
19. Family and Home
20. Film and Literature

With a list of now 20 categories, it was decided some were to be eliminated before going any further in order to not waste time.  Jean and I then worked together on updating, rearranging, and finalising the list into 15 categories.  The final 15, along with an insight as to what is included in each category, is as follows:

1. Marketing and Business
Includes business coaching, accounting, finance, CV writing, advertising, seo tactics, B2B, make money online/wealth creation, insurance, paypal, online surveys, self promotion, freelance business

2. Personal
Includes personal opinions on various topics, ramblings of everyday life, the life of (insert name), etc.

3. Religion and Spirituality
Includes religion (e.g. christianity, buddhism, etc.), astrology, psychic prophecies and reading, horoscopes, alien encounters, apocalypse predictions, philosophical ramblings, etc.

4. Health, Fitness, and Self Help
Includes medical advice, diets, detox, natural medicines, yoga, pain and trauma therapies, boot camp, cosmetic surgery, specialist conditions (e.g. autism, cancer), DIY treatments, motivation and inspiration, etc.

5. Politics and Current Affairs
Includes news, politics, elections, worldwide issues, activism, campaigning, social justice, law, legalisation issues and demands, etc.

6. Home and Lifestyle
Combines 3 categories: Fashion, Beauty and Style; Family and Home; and Food and Beverage
Includes fashion advice, skin care and beauty tips, treatments, products, online shops, celebrity style, bags, shoes and accessories, parenting, mummy blogs, childcare, baby names, home improvement, gardening, maternity, recipes, restaurant and wine reviews, vineyards, online catering, food and cocktail courses, baking, lifestyle choices such as GLBT lifestyle,  etc.

7. Arts, Craft, Design, and Photography
Includes architecture, animation, card making, anime, illustrations, painting, sculpture, graffiti, embroidery, sculpture, photo blogs, photography hire, photographers, photo services.

8. Travel and Leisure
Includes accommodation, travel tips and advice, experiences in travel, adventure holidays, working holidays, visas, backpacking, expat information, travel journals, etc.

9. Culture
Combines 2 categories: Music, Film and Literature; and Culture and Languages
Includes music blogs, live entertainment, authors, poetry, novelists, book selling, writing, book and film reviews, movie information,  indigenous culture, african culture, pop culture, australian history, etc.

10. Education
Includes learning, academic and student blogs, etc.

11. Sport
Includes anything about sport, e.g. cycling, rugby, AFL, coaching, soccer, sports bets, sports fans, sporting heroes, etc.

12. IT & Technology
Includes CSS/HTML, accessibility, web standards, computing, web design, tutorials, social media,  telecommunications, iphone, blackberry, smartphones, gaming etc.

13. Pets and Animals
Includes dogs, cats, general pet blogs, animal therapists, vets, hunting, bird watching, etc.

14. Cars
Includes cars, boats, bikes, aircraft, auto repairs, transport, etc.

15. Science and Environment
Includes renewable energy, wind energy, solar power, scientific discoveries and theories, etc.

This worked list of 15 categories is hoped to be the final list, but is open to suggestion and feedback.  Over the next few weeks I will be working on getting through another 1000 blogs as well as exploring blogs that originally fell under the “Fashion, Beauty and Style” category (now merged under the “Home & Lifestyle” category).

To visually represent the current difference between blog category size I have created a word cloud – the larger the word,the greater amount of blogs that currently fall into that category:

Australian Blogosphere Category Word Cloud

It will be interesting to see how this word cloud changes and develops after more blogs have been categorised.  It is however, very important to note that blog categories have predominantly been worked through in an alphabetical order (based on blog tags), hence why the category “Arts, Crafts, Design and Photography” may be currently looking to be one of the larger categories.

In conclusion I’d like to know, do you think that these 15 categories cover and include all of the important blogs in Australia or do you believe there are some categories I have not yet considered?  Are you able to point us to blog lists and directories that compile blogs in these/similar areas? Furthermore, do you believe that the combination of categories is appropriate or should some categories remain uncombined, e.g. should Fashion, Beauty and Style sit in the same category as Food and Beverage?

About the Author

Aimee is a recent QUT Business and Creative Industries graduate. Driven by digital and social media she is excited by future advances in technology, enabling audiences to be reached and monitored in new and unexpected ways. In expanding her knowledge of the digital realm, she is currently working on this project as a VRES (Vacation Research Experience Scholarship) student over the Summer as well as interning in the digital department at George Patterson Y&R, Brisbane.

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(11) Readers' Comments

  1. What about sex blogs? Surely there are bloggers in Australia that deal with human sexuality (whether as a personal blog, a reviews blog, academic, etc).

    Many blogs I know tend to cross over into multiple spheres – mine would be part personal, culture/creative, and politics & current affairs. Tumblr has encouraged a sort of scrapbook-style blogging – lots of inspirational pictures, quotes, etc but with little commentary. Is there a category for them too?

    • Hi Tiara, thanks for your feedback.

      In terms of sex blogs, I have not yet created a category for these as there have not been a significant amount (only 1 sex blog so far which I have flagged as “Other” for the time being), however, this could change as I go through much more of the list. If I do end up finding many more at a later stage I will then need to create a new category dedicated to sex and adult content blogs. But for now, perhaps the odd 1 or 2 blogs that pop up that don’t necessarily fit into a category will need to be put into an “Other” category?

      I should also note that if a person mainly writes about their own sex life/sex work rather than broader issues related to the topic, it would then come under the “Personal” category, due to the personable nature of the blog.

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  4. How are you handling spam blogs? I imagine some marketing and business ones may be hard to tell from spam ones. Also, I imagine there could be some difficult decisions to make if a mother wrote about her personal life in a “writerly” manner (but of course it is v hard to make a completely bulletproof categorisation of anything!)

  5. Oh and Tiara above makes good points. Definitely need a “mixed” category for no overall theme. Might you want to break out “citizen journalism” sites that try to add new news info from “current events” that only ever link and comment?

    • Hi David, thanks for your feedback. As you will see in my response to Tiara, I have not yet come across many blogs that don’t fit into one of the 15 categories, but of course this can always change as I work my way through the list. I have come across 1 sex blog so far, and have flagged this as “Other”, so perhaps another “Mixed”/”Other” group is what I need in order to categorise any odd blogs that pop up that don’t fit elsewhere. In saying this, if several blogs of a similar topic appeared in “Other”, I would reconsider whether or not a new category needs to be formed to cater for these blogs.

      I believe Jean has answered your question re: spam blogs, (thanks Jean) and I can state that while going through the list so far, I have not yet come across any – it is a very clean list.

  6. This is Aimee’s post so I’ll give her time to respond in full, but thanks for the comments so far. Just a quick response to David on spam blogs: the list Aimee is working with is pretty clean and spam-free for a couple of reasons: first, because although we’ll be snowballing out later at the moment we’re working with public directories of (self-nominated) Australian blogs which appear to have had some vetting already applied; and second because the list has already been through a human oversight process where we threw out URLs that didn’t meet our definition of a blog (which included link/ad-only “spam” blogs) and those that were definitely not Australian (a bit trickier as you can imagine).

  7. Oh, and Tiara, I agree the use of Tumblr as a scrapbook/media journal is really interesting. However we aren’t (yet) looking at Tumblr specifically in the context of Australian public communication, and very few of the URLs nominated as Australian blogs in the directories we’re using so far are Tumblr-hosted – possibly because directories are old-school and/or Tumblrs aren’t really thought of as “blogs”?

    • Well my blog (http://blog.themerchgirl.net) is hosted on Tumblr, and has active communication with other Tumblr users via its reblog function, but has its own domain name – so perhaps there are Tumblrs masquerading in the midst ;)

  8. @Tiara yep, very possible as long as they were self-nominated in an existing directory of Australian blogs.

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