Blogs, and the networked systems of blogging known as "blogospheres", are now part of the landscape of public communication in Australia. However, much of the research into Australian blogging has focussed only on selected genres and topics of blogging - political blogs (Bruns, 2008), personal diaries, knitting blogs (Humphreys, 2008), fiction blogs (Thomas, 2006) -, but is unable to provide a more comprehensive overview of the relative interest in and interconnections between these topics and communities. As part of a three-year ARC Discovery project that assesses the contribution of blogs and other forms of user-created content to public communication, this paper discusses the methodological challenges in developing a more comprehensive list of Australian blogs which may be used by researchers to study the Australian blogosphere in a more systematic and inclusive manner.
For instance, recent surveys (e.g. Technorati, 2008) appear to point to the fact that the size of the blogosphere in Australia and elsewhere has plateaued and may even be declining - many casual bloggers, in particular, may have moved on to the social networks of Facebook or the microblogging of Twitter. Such changes may be following the Gartner 'hype cycle' (2009), leaving behind a smaller but more stable and mature network of bloggers who are using these technologies in a range of purposeful ways. Tracking these more committed bloggers over time and connecting this with research into other forms of public communication adds an important new perspective on the focus of public discourse in Australia and the specific place of blogging in this wider media ecology.
Against the background of incomplete and patchy information on where to find genuinely Australian blogs, this paper will outline our approach to negotiating these challenges by employing a hybrid approach that included both aggregating existing directories and crawling web links. It will evaluate the extent to which the resulting sample addresses the range of topics covered by Australian bloggers, and represents the most intensive areas of blogging activity.