Quality 2, Friction

Note: This is a selection from Quality, a tdaxp series.

Photo Courtesy Despair.com

After a short review of my neoconservative-theoconservative post, Mark writes

And this is the fly in the ointment because in any forward strategy, like the one outlined very well by Dan, it isn’t simply your momentum that is the main variable but also your friction. You don’t get any higher in terms of friction than Richard ” The Prince of Darkness” Perle…unless of course you are Pat Robertson. And this axis, to the extent that it is perceived to exist as a powerful juggernaut, combines both.

Mark is adding “friction” to “direction” and “speed” as factors that determine whether a movement is winning or losing. Now, if we make a four-by-four square that looks at direction and speed, we get…


Fast Speed / Forward Direction is Blitzkrieg: the 1939 German Conquest of Poland and the 2002 Takedown of Senator Lott. Obviously, Fast Speed / Backward Direction Collapse was also shown in the same cases, but by the other side.

Slow Speed / Forward Direction is Methodical: the 1960-1968 Vietnamese/American defeat of the Viet Cong terrorists and the 1973-present assault on Roe v. Wade by pro-life activists. Obviously, Slow Speed / Backward Direction Erosion was also shown in the same cases, but by the other side.

Would it make sense to add “friction” to these categories? And what is “friction,” anyway?

Fear of Physics has a surprising readable introduction

Friction is the “evil” of all motion. No matter which direction something moves in, friction pulls it the other way. Move something left, friction pulls right. Move something up, friction pulls down. It appears as if nature has given us friction to stop us from moving anything.

Friction is actually a force that appears whenever two things rub against each other. Although two objects might look smooth, microscopically, they’re very rough and jagged.


As they slide against each other, their contact is anything BUT smooth. They both kind of grind and drag against each other. This is where friction comes from.

But friction is not all bad. In fact, it has a lot to do with life as we know it here on Earth. Without it, we wouldn’t be able to walk, sit in a chair, climb stairs, or use a mouse to surf the web. Everything would just keep slipping and falling all over the place.

Wikipedia writes

In physics, friction is the resistive force that occurs when two surfaces travel along each other when forced together. It causes physical deformation and heat buildup.

Physical deformation is associated with friction. While this can be beneficial, as in polishing, it is often a problem, as the materials are worn away, and may no longer hold the specified tolerances.

The work done by friction can translate into deformation and heat that in the long run may affect the surface’s specification and the coefficient of friction itself. Friction can in some cases cause solid materials to melt.

So, friction…

  • Occurs when two things interact
  • Slows things down
  • Enables complex movement
  • Deforms objects
  • Generates heat

First note that friction happens only when there are two things interacting. “Direction” and “speed” are properties of just one thing. Mathematically, direction and speed are components of a single vector. In a Semantic Network, direction and speed are attributes of a single entity. Visually


But to add friction, we need a second entity


And voila — friction!

[Note how similar friction is to Quality, but that is a post for another time… ]

Friction is not an attribute of a single enemy. It is a quality or a relationship between two entities

With that established, the other parts of Friction are naturally derived. Friction is like a chain holding tow prison escapees. It slows things down because the men want to go in different direction. It enables complex movement because the chain enables them to find more leverage. It deforms objects because weak points of contact are eroded away, like the skin where the chain is clasped. It generates heat from the contact.

All of the aspects of friction have political analog. The frictional “deformation” of the Democrat Party against George Bush, and earlier of the Republican Party against Bill Clinton, are well known. Certainly, such friction has been useful to those administrations! But to close this post in a reasonable amount of typing, a quick word of [political] heat, which is always created by [political] friction:

Heat is a measure of agitation. Increasing the heat in a network will either change the temperature of the phase. Temperature is measured in degrees. A network with no heat has no temperature — each atom is content in its own isolation


If we add some heat, then we increase the degree of the network. In the following example, the network has a degree of “2” because each node is connected to two others


[So one way to end al Qaeda would be to “chill” it – to temperature change it – but that is a post for another time… ]

Now lets add some more heat — the degree of the network increases slightly to 2.5


Besides temperature change, there is also phase change. A phase change is a change in kind for the network. For instance, say that because of increased agitation things “heat up” and our Node 4 becomes an enemy of the other nodes. Heat is added, the degree does not change, but the phase does. In the same way, adding heat to a 32 F block of ice doesn’t increase the degree, but it does transform it into a 32 F puddle of water


[So another way to end al Qaeda is to vaporize it – to phase change it – but that is a post for another time… ]

Of course, another definition of temperature is a “property which governs the transfer of thermal energy, or heat, between one system and another.” So Temperature is most meaningful when two networks of different temperature combine. But that is a post for another time…

In conclusion: it does not make sense to add “friction” to “speed” and “direction,” but it would make sense to add “temperature”

But again, that is a post for another time…


Quality, a tdaxp series, has five parts:
The First Part, Beauty
The Second Part, Friction
The Third Part, Seas
The Fourth Part, Inlets, Lakes, and Streams
The Fifth Part, The Magic Cloud

Blogosphere Analysis (Vital Information for Bloggers)

Aristocratic Right Wing Blogosphere Stagnating,” by Chris Bowers, MyDD, 12 June 2005, http://www.mydd.com/story/2005/6/12/17357/3049.

Remember when I said Chris Bowers is a genius? He proves it again. If you have a blog, read this

As I have always been prone to do, I spent much of the morning looking at the Blogads traffic rankings. Adding up the 200 blogs that are concerned with politics and either identify or have been identified with Democrats / liberals or Republicans / conservatives, I found 87 blogs that general fit into the “liberal” category and 113 blogs that fit into the conservative category. However, despite the greater number of conservative blogs, the liberal blogs totaled nearly ten million page views per week, while the conservative blogs managed just over six million. I have been tracking the comparative audiences of the two blogosphere off and on for the past nine months, and this is the largest lead for the liberal blogosphere that I have ever found. In September, the margin in favor of Democrats was 25%. In winter, it was 33%. In the spring, it was 50%. Now, it has risen to 65%. This is particularly amazing, since less than two years ago the conservative blogosphere was at least twice the size of the liberal blogosphere.

So the liberal blogosphere is beginning to pull away from the conservative blogopshere in terms of audience size. At the same time, there appear to be more conservative blogs than liberal blogs. In fact, when it comes to total number, new Republican / conservative blogs might even be outpacing new Democratic / liberal blogs. What could be the cause of this?

Of the twenty-four liberal blogs in the top quintile, Dailykos, TPM Café, Smirking Chimp, Metafilter, BooMan Tribune, MyDD, and Dembloggers are full-fledged community sites where members cannot only comment, but they can also post diaries / articles / polls. By comparison, there are no community sites among the top twenty-four conservative blogs. None, zip, zero, nada. This is particularly stunning when one considers the importance of the Free Republic community to the conservative netroots. While it would appear that there are hordes of Glenn Reynolds wannabe’s among conservatives in the netroots, Redstate.org sticks out as the only success story for a community oriented blog within the conservative blogosphere. In fact, of the five most trafficked conservative blogs (over 200,000 page views per week), only one, Little Green Footballs, even allows comments, much less the ability to actually write a diary or a new article.

The nine liberal community sites I listed in the paragraph above have accounted for the bulk of the exceptional growth of the liberal blogosphere over the past two years. In the summer of 2003, Dailykos was roughly equal in traffic to Atrios, and had less than half the traffic of Instapundit. However, starting with a large growth spurt following the introduction of Scoop in October of 2003, now Dailykos has grown to three times the size of Instapundit and four times the size of Atrios. Over the past year, Scoop sites Dembloggers, MyDD, and BooMan Tribune have risen from miniscule traffic numbers to top forty, even top twenty, blogs. Over the past two weeks, the traffic at Talking Points Memo and TPM Café has risen to a combined 1.3 million, making it easily the second most trafficked political blog (comfortably passing Instapundit). In fact, the introduction of the community oriented TPM Café has more than doubled the traffic at TPM of late. Overall, while both the right-wing and left-wing blogosphere have seen growth in traffic, the truly exceptional growth of many community sites on the liberal end of the blogosphere has made the difference that catapulted the liberal blogosphere from half the size of the right-wing blogosphere in July 2003 to more than 60% its size in June 2005.

Anyone who spends a significant amount of time on Scoop blogs should not have any difficulty figuring out why this is the case. Because of Scoop’s diary feature, it is possible to become at least a semi-famous blogger without having a blog of your own. An entire generation of popular liberal bloggers grew out of the Dailykos diaries and comments: Billmon, Steve Soto, Steve Gillard, Melanie, DemfromCT, DhinMI, Theoria, Tom Schaller, Meteor Blades, DavidNYC, myself, SusanHu, Jerome a Paris, lapin, Maryscott O’Conner, NYCO, Mariascat, and many, many more. I believe that the wave of new talent and fresh voices that the comments and dairy options bring to a blog has been the key factor in the liberal blogosphere outpacing the growth of the right wing blogosphere. Every day brings more reasons to read the highly trafficked liberal blogs. Every two weeks or so brings a new liberal blog from someone who has already become famous as a diarist. Community moderated blogging platforms such as Scoop have provided us with an excellent means of finding new voices, and these are the voices that are generating the accelerated growth in the liberal and progressive blogosphere when compared to the right-wing blogosphere.

By comparison, right-wing blogs have pretty much only one means of finding a new voice in the blogosphere: when someone starts a new blog. The inability to operate within a community must be the primary reason behind the large number of conservative blogs in the second, third and fourth quintiles of the Blogads traffic rankings. In fact, of these 120 blogs, 77 of them are openly conservative / libertarian. There are swarms of new conservative voices looking to breakout in the right-wing blogosphere, but they are not even allowed to comment, much less post a diary and gain a following, on the high traffic conservative blogs. Instead, without any fanfare, they are forced to start their own blogs. However, because of the top-down nature of right-wing blogs, new conservative blogs remain almost entirely dependent upon the untouchable high traffic blogs for visitors. In short, the anti-community nature of right-wing blogs has resulted in a stagnant aristocracy within the conservative blogosphere that prevents the emergence of new voices and, as a result, new reasons for people to visit conservative blogs.

Unless right-wing blogs decide to open up and allow their readers to have a greater voice, I expect that the liberal and progressive blogosphere will continue its unbroken twenty-month rise in relative traffic. Conservative bloggers continue to act as though they are simply a supplement to the existing pundit class, without any need to converse with those operating outside of a small social bubble or any need to engage people within the new structure of the public sphere. In the formulation of Stirling Newberry, they view themselves existing on top of a pyramid rather than in the middle of a sphere. At least when it comes to the national blogosphere, liberals are leaving conservatives in the dust. By comparison, conservatives seem all too happy to continue to cogitate from atop their lofty and increasingly irrelevant perch. That’s fine by me. I hope some things never change.

Update: Courtesy of Simon World, Matthew Yglesias looks at the differences between the liberal and conservative blogospheres. Very informative reading.