In the battle of the Blogs, America is losing.

Ian Delany put up an interesting blog post last week about the breakdown of bloggers in Asia vs. The US.

According to the stats Ian presents 46% of Asian Internet users have their own blog (the Korean embracement of personal “MySpace” type sites is off the charts) while only 8% of American Internet users do (No stats to be found on Canuck bloggers). When you consider the ratio of population as well that divide can get pretty big.

It’s also another great example about how language actually insulates us from so much of what is out there on the web.

I spend a lot of time reading and watching what’s going on online in Enterprise Software and the whole Web 2.0 “craze”, I’m subscribed to north of 100 blogs through my RSS reader and the posts from those blogs frequently lead my off down various rabbit holes to piles of other information and blogs. But at the end of the day, except one, they’re all in English (And the exception is bilingual English/Japanese and not business oriented). On top of that, it’s exceedingly rare that I encounter non-English posts/content in my “travels”.

What I’d be interested to know though is how the content breaks down by language in the “Asian” market. The reality is while here in North America we have US English and Canadian English most of us can look beyond the extra “U” that us canucks throw in (or that the Americans leave out) here and there. Our actual content bases may not be that uneven if the language split fractures the bulk of that content. I’ll have to ask around and see how cross-literate the Asian languages are (ie. If I can read Mandarin can I also muddle through Japanese etc.) – if any one can clarify please feel free to comment.

Part of the challenge though is the method in which digital content is presented to users. It’s actually a bit of a blessing and a curse but entirely necessary. Consider the magazine stand at a Chapters or Barnes and Noble. Standing back you can see all of the information available to you at that resource. They’re generally ordered into broad categories but it is your responsibility to winnow them down. In this format you could still see the non-English magazines and perhaps even divine what they’re about based on surrounding magazines, the photos inside etc. You know the content exists, and if it really looked like something you need to know you could probably find someone to translate it/read it for you. Even on a larger scale, while I library needs some sort of search function to help users out, you could still find the “Hobbies” section and peruse each book that’s available on that topic. Admittedly neither example is a complete source of all information on a given topic but on the flip side everything that is available to you there is visible and accessible.

Unfortunately though, by it’s nature the Internet cannot present everything that is available to you in the same manner – to try and do so would make the Million Dollar Pixel page look legible. So instead the “Internet” (“Search Engines”) requires you to tell it want to see and in turn provides what it believes is the most relevant based on your query. As I’ve mentioned in posts before the challenge with this is if you put in English words you’ll usually only get English results back, and even when you get something other than English you can’t read it. Again, I think this issue is why Google has spent so much effort on improving the quality of their machine translation. Whoever can break that language barrier first will probably own the search market for a long time to come.

There’s a bunch of other great stats on the international blogosphere that Ian has in his post – definitely worth a read.

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  • Ian Delaney

    Thanks for the link. I found the stats absolutely fascinating and was surprised not to be able to find any news about the report on Western news sites.
    I have no idea about the ‘cross-literacy’ point you raise, but one other point that came through is that blogs are largely used for communicating with RL friends and family, as opposed to ‘the world’.

  • Anonymous

    Americans and other native English speakers are in some respects in a more advantageous position, because English has become a kind of “lingua franca”, which is understandable for for Europeans, as well as for Africans and Asians. In every country I can easily find a person able to translate a text from the local language into English and back. The machine translators as well put the English language at the first place. I’ve seen an advertising link under your article, referring to translation.net. All the MT software, no matter in what country they have been developed – the American Systran or the Russian PROMT – support translating from English into different languages and back. Surely, there are still language barriers, but they become impenetrable with time.

  • Ryan

    @ian:

    Agreed – I had the different nature of the blogs in mind as I wrote this. Can’t really say where it “went”. It is a very valid point though.

    @anon1:
    Agreed that the Machine Translation technologies will gradually knock down the walls but the conversation is still very limited.

    I get a lot of people who comment here, or visit, but then I’m disappointed to discover their blog is in a language I can’t speak – it means I can’t contribute to their community and our interaction becomes very onesided.