The New Jewish Internet

We here are MyJewishLearning are, rightfully so, excited about a just-released study by Professor Ari Kelman at UC Davis, conducted under the auspices of the Avi Chai Foundation,  which focuses  on 150 different Jewish websites and 279 blogs. The central question asked is “How much of the information on the Jewish web actually reaches its intended audience?”

Jewcy has very kindly asked Professor Kelman to (also very kindly) sum up the results of the study for their recently-redesigned website. Go check it out, and then come back.

Without tooting our own horn (well, too much), it was really cool to see MyJewishLearning cited as one of the most successful sites in communicating its message to the people we want to reach. Just about everything in the paper is smartly done, from defining whether or not a site  is Jewish (its own self-definition) to measuring a site’s effectiveness–rather than measuring visitor counts or how often it’s updated, measuring links back to the site and involvement and engagement by other Jewish websites. (Which, I’m pretty sure, was also one of the earliest standards in Google’s search rankings.)

But it’s also an astute observation in terms of communal influence. How do you measure the most influential and successful people? Not because of how many people they’re speaking to (hello, Ann Coulter). As Kelman writes,

To be sure, measuring importance is not just about the gross number of links, but it can be measured in the quality of links, as well; it really is about who you know, not just how many people you know.  When accounting for what social network analysis call the “prestige” of one’s neighbors (and calculating what is known as the Bonacich Power Measure), we find that MyJewishLearning is nearly four times as “powerful” as the UJC’s website.  Despite the relative parity in links between the two sites, MyJewishLearning is linked to sites with greater “prestige,” and thus it plays a role not only in brokering relationships between sites in the network, but in brokering significant relationships, as well…

MyJewishLearning is powerful because it has succeeded in attracting links from across the Jewish world, crossing social barriers online where doing so offline would have proven too difficult.  Transgressing geographic, political, religious and social barriers has resulted in MyJewishLearning becoming as central as it has.  Building links online is, of course, easier than building coalitions offline, but symbolically, the ability to navigate through religious and secular, Israeli and American, Ashkenazi and Sepharadi and Mizrachi websites suggests both a greater fluidity and a stronger unity to “the Jewish Community” than has been evidenced elsewhere. (MORE)

Pretty cool, right? Of course, it’s just a study of influence, not of effectiveness. For instance, some of the best-researched (or best-funded) websites don’t rank nearly as high as others.

For example, Heshy Fried, who operates (he was a major focus of the study and was shown to be another most influential sites), is virtually completely outside the sphere of the Organized Jewish Community–but, on the other hand, he gets several thousand visitors a day from across the Jewish spectrum.  “Apparently I’m some big thing,” he wrote me after reading the study. “Do you think someone important will want to give me money now?”

Needless to say we’re excited about the implications of this study and can’t wait to share the full study with you when it’s released to the public soon.

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