Over to Poland, where some hard statistics have emerged to help answer the question "are most bloggers teenage girls, or simply middle-aged men who write like teenage girls?"
The answer would appear to be the former. 62 per cent of Polish blogs are written by women and a staggering three quarters are written by teenagers or younger. So reported Marysia Cywiñska-Milonas at the BlogTalk conference in Vienna this week.
It's a perfect fit.
Those raging-hormones... capricious tantrums, those endless hours devoted to navel gazing ... the helpless feeling that world is conspiring against you ... the frustration of trying to use grown-up words, but failing ... popstar fantasies ... toe-curling slang ... those nightmarish swings between binge eating and dangerous, faddish diets. It's all there. And don't even mention the first, awful encounter with alcohol.
"What am I," asks David Weinberger, adjusting himself to the medium, "a 12-year-old??"
And there's the rub. Weblog software provides a wonderful tool that makes it easy to publish your thoughts and pictures to the world - should you lack immediate friends or family to whom you might want to mail these thoughts and pictures to first.
The nutty blog hype, such as it is, has been inflated by a handful of weblog tools vendors and exhibitionists who desperately see this as their big moment. By promoting the humble blog as a social tool that heralds an "Emergent Democracy", or a fabulous network that can overthrow Big Brother, they're crowning themselves with the mantle of populist heroes.
For some the motivation is commercial self-interest. For others, it simply provides the springboard of a dependable social circle. Without the courteous Mr Ito, and old Register friend Dan Gillmor, the airline industry would be in far worse shape than it is today. These two only ever seek to touch terra firma briefly, and only ever at blogging conferences. This is a lifestyle, of sorts.
But the populism isn't borne out by the statistics, which tell us that the number of webloggers remains extremely small. Pew Research recently pegged the number of blog readers as "statistically insignificant" and our own logs back up their findings. A story, such as this one, with 'blog' in the headline will almost certainly be the least-read item of the day. Our discussion of the consequences of removing of blogs from Google led the bloggers hit parade at Daypop and Blogdex for three days, but the story refused to budge higher 16th in our logs, despite its headline position over that weekend. In reality, a thousand or so links scarcely makes a dent in the million+plus page imps read by tech-savvy Register readers each day.
But if faux populism worked well enough in the dotcom bubble, when the empowering potential of private capital ownership (stock options) and new technology cloaked a huge transfer of wealth to the rich, why shouldn't it work now?
Well, primarily because blogging is a solitary activity that requires the blogger to spend less time reading a book, taking the dog for the walk, meeting friends in the pub, seeing a movie, or reading to the kids. The reason that 99.93 per cent of the world doesn't blog, and never will, is because people make simple information choices in what they choose to ingest and produce, and most of this will be either personal and private, or truly social. Blog-evangelists can fulminate at the injustice of this all they like, but people are pretty smart and make fairly rational choices on the information they process.
Interesting people run interesting blogs, but it's remarkable how few of them there are.
So the upshot of all this is it that not withstanding the gems of self-publishing - largely unsung by the A-list evangelists because they refuse to conform to the canon (Cryptome and Indymedia are not considered part of the club, for example) - the field is largely populated by adolescents - of all ages.
Maybe we're all safer this way - thanks to weblogs. Maybe blogs are a way of keeping the truly antisocial out of harm's way. So if you know a middle-aged sociopath, for heaven's sake, point him to a computer and show him how to start a weblog.
At least it will keep him off the streets. ®