Bye Bye Blogrolls
Compare the typical blog today with those from a few years ago and you will see one striking difference. Or, more specifically, one striking omission – the blogroll. Some bloggers still feature links to other bloggers on their front page – although increasingly they don’t. When they do, the lists are often short, and frequently […]
Compare the typical blog today with those from a few years ago and you will see one striking difference. Or, more specifically, one striking omission – the blogroll.
Some bloggers still feature links to other bloggers on their front page – although increasingly they don’t. When they do, the lists are often short, and frequently only feature big name, or high profile bloggers.
By contrast, bloggers used to post blogrolls tended to be a lot longer, sometimes a complete list of all the blogs they read, or a substantial cross-section of blogs they turned to on a variety of subjects.
The blogroll was something of identity statement, a marker to online conversations, like the friend/following lists you see on social media platforms. Or, it was a position statement, like being part of a club, or community of interest. You could scan a blogroll to get a sense of where the blogger was coming from; not just where they aspire to be.
Of course, in those days a lot of bloggers wrote primarily for other bloggers. It made sense to talk about a “blogosphere.” A lot of readers followed a fairly fixed set of blogs that they visited regularly. Moreover, there was an ethic that suggested you should add bloggers to your blogroll if they listed you on theirs (reciprocal links).
But, as more and more blogs started up, it became increasingly difficult to curate these lists and without some sort of editing, they became long and unwieldy. I stopped paying attention to them in 2007, around the time Doc Searls wrote “More blog, less roll.” Moreover, as blog designs became more sophisticated and cleaner a lot of bloggers (myself included) decided to move the blogroll off the front page.
At the same time a lot of blogs became less conversational. Social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter led to fewer comments on many blogs (I was noticing this back in late 2008). Increasingly bloggers came to view their work as directed less at other bloggers and more as being written for a broader online constituency, who may or may not tune in systematically to your writing.
In late November I did away with my blogroll. I’m not sure that page had many visitors and it was a pain to maintain. Although I have a core of blogs that I’ve been reading for years, the cluster of 30-50 blogs I visit on a weekly basis is constantly changing.
That said, I feel that we’ve lost something by doing away with blogrolls. In the early days of blogging there was a sense that blogs flourished, in part, because of the active and visible links between bloggers. It was a romantic ‘rising tide lifts all boats” kind of approach.
These days a lot of bloggers trying to grow their presence with few links to other blogs. Me – I’d rather share the bill (or just be a nameless face in the band) at a sell out event, than be the lone star at an empty house.
That’s why I’m going to restart my old practice of writing regular updates of the best recent blog content I’ve read, starting this Friday. It is also why, in recent months, I’ve been adding more links to every post.
The death of blogrolls broke one of the mechanisms that helped blogs grow. But, by being a little more intentional in sharing links to the blogs that inspire us we can overcome that and continue to grow the audience for good content in the fields we enjoy.