Have you received a meme lately?

I was recently nominated for a Liebster Award, which is awarded to blogs with less than 200 followers. The person that receives the award then passes it onto five other blogs with less than 200 followers that they think are worthy of being read and followed.

My first thought: I won an award for blogging about entrepreneurship! That’s awesome! I am super grateful to my lovely friend Susanna for giving me this award! She has an inspiring blog over at Meant for Something Better, and a really fun radio show.

My second thought: What does this award really mean? Where did it come from? How many people have received a Liebster Award?

To get to the bottom of these questions, I did a little research. I looked for the oldest mention of the award I could find, and ended up stumbling back through dozens of quilting blogs, of all things, until 15 January 2011, when I got stuck. (Side note: there are a lot of people blogging about quilting out there!)

I realised that the Liebster Award that has been spreading exponentially through the blogging world for over a year, like a chain letter. But how many blogs have been given this award already?

I decided to use an equation for exponential growth to find out how many blogs may have theoretically received the Liebster blog award.


  • although each blogger is supposed to pass on the award to 5 people, I’m assuming only 2 of every 5 bloggers do so
  • the award is passed on every 7 days on average
  • the award started 478 days ago, which is the earliest mention of the award I could find (although I’m sure it has been around a lot longer than that)
  • bloggers aren’t awarded more than once (which I know isn’t true, but it’s hard to include that in my equation).

I went to wikipedia and found an equation for basic exponential growth, and entered the data.

WARNING: skip this box if you have a fear of maths

a = starting number of awards = 1
b = rate of growth = 2 (as in the number of people with the award doubles)
t = time period = 478 days
r = rate of growth = 7 days

so the theoretical number of blogs with the liebster awards are:

x(t) = a.bt/r
(this is the basic exponential growth equation)

(478) = 1.2478/7 (this is the equation with the data in it)

= 2.9 x 1020 (That’s 2.9 with 20 zeros behind it)

So, theoretically, 290,000,000,000,000,000,000 bloggers may have been awarded the Leibster award in the past 478 days!

(NB. I’ve made a lot of assumptions in this equation, so this is not a very reliable statistic. But it does give you an idea of how an idea can spread quickly on the internet!)

But here is the clincher:

Number of public blogs on the Internet =  181 million (or 1.81 x 108) (as of October 2011).

So, theoretically, every blog on the Internet would have received this award many times over already.

I don’t feel so special any more.

What is going on then? Well, I think we a looking at a blogging award meme.

diagram of the exponential growth of Liebster awards

Liebster Awards growing exponentially across the blogging world

Memes and the Internet

A meme is an idea, behaviour, style, image, or video that spreads from person to person like a virus. The term was originally coined by Richard Dawkins in his book “The Selfish Gene” (1976) as a term for a self-replicating unit (like a gene) that has potential significance in explaining human behaviour and cultural evolution. Wikipedia has an extensive entry on memes, and criticism around the term.

The internet is a factory for producing memes – something that viral marketing campaigns have taken advantage of (think the Blair Witch Project and Kony 2012). There is even an online database of memes, where you can find out their origins and spread, on Know your meme).

Should I pass on memes?

Does passing on a meme mean that you are a sucker (or as Israelis say, a frier)?

Well, it depends.

In this case, I’ve decided I will propagate this meme. The Liebster blog award meme is a rather nice one – it allows you to give some recognition to people writing great stuff online and sharing it with the world. People who create stuff, rather than just consume what the world has to offer.

By spreading this meme I’m not spreading mis-information or superstition (like many of the chain emails that you may receive) – only gratitude for great blogs.

liebster blog award

My nominations for amazing blogs that more people should be reading are:

Ben B. Brave – Ben was diagnosed with colon cancer at age 28. He writes a brilliant blog about life with cancer, and the science behind what is happening to him. Ben is a talented science communicator and absolutely inspiring.

Karin’s recipes and random musings features seriously tasty and tested recipes from Karen’s kitchen, as well as musings on her year of not buying anything, and some great restaurant recommendations for Canberra, Australia.

The Parent Collective (unfortunately no long available) –  I love reading this blog and I don’t even have kids! Ruth and Tom present a great collection of information for parenting, and it’s all incredible well researched (as they both happen to be science communicators). As they write on their about page, “This blog is a place where anyone with kids (or grand-kids, nieces, nephews etc) can share their ideas and experiences of parenting to improve the lives of others”. Seriously, have a read!

These lovely bloggers (who all happen to be science communicators or scientists) can do what they like with this nomination. At the very least I hope I’ve introduced some new readers to your brilliant blogs.

Here are the Liebster Blog Award (entirely optional) rules:

1. Thank your Liebster Blog Award presenter on your blog (that’s me).

2. Link back to the blogger who presented the award to you (that’s my site).

3. Copy and paste the blog award on your blog.

4. Present the Liebster Blog Award to three (it was five when I received it, but in my research I saw that it was once three, and I’m changing it back!) blogs of 200 followers or less who you feel deserve to be noticed.

5. Let them know they have been chosen by leaving a comment on their blog.

PS. I’m not a mathematician, and if you are, please pick holes in my logic and equation, in the interest of good mathematical communication!


Jo Savill is a writer, science communicator and entrepreneur. Stay up to date with Jo’s writing by signing up to her newsletter


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