"Let life enchant you again." - Fernando Gros
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Blog // Thoughts
September 1, 2006

The Blog Leagues

Over the past few weeks, I’ve been cleaning up my bloglinks and RSS feeds. I’ve added a lot of blogs, over 150 and cut a few as well (about 40-50). About half the new blogs are directly related to religion, with very few of those being emerging church blogs. Most of the new blogs are […]

Over the past few weeks, I’ve been cleaning up my bloglinks and RSS feeds. I’ve added a lot of blogs, over 150 and cut a few as well (about 40-50). About half the new blogs are directly related to religion, with very few of those being emerging church blogs. Most of the new blogs are related to media, art and music. Of the blogs cut, almost all are religious, mainly focussed on political issues, and yes, the emerging church. Typically these blogs were low volume, but a few are A-list.

Does this mark a change in direction? Not really. I have more time these days (not having to fix generators, broken water and telephone lines and travel two hours to buy bread makes a difference) and so my focus is moving from essential reading, to something broader. But, having developed some frustrations with the blogospher, so I’m becoming a little more demanding as well.

My solution is to have three lists, with a fair bit of promotion and relegation within each one. The blog premiership get read most days, the third division, when I have time – you get the picture.

So, what do I look for in a blog?

Generosity РI like blogs that share the love. Blogs that help out new blogs, that share media content (papers, music, images, video), with lots of links (not just in the blogroll, but also in the posts). Blogs with few active outgoing links seldom make it into my “blog premier league” and never manage to stay there if they do.

Hospitality РGood blogs welcome you. I’m put off by blogs with solid content but no space for comment (or blogs that treat commentators dismissively). Sometimes a blogger’s response to comments says a lot more about them than their main-posts.

Creativity РNot just in content, but in presentation and language. You don’t have to be Shakespeare, but you’ll win me over if you show even a little flair.

Honesty РWant to tell me how perfect and above reproach your church, or group or strategy is? Good for you Рbut I won’t buy it and I will probably tune out of your blog very soon.

Substantiality РTo paraphrase Hugh McLeod, “give me content baby!” Say something and then explore that in some depth. I don’t expect an essay everyday (and don’t have that much time), but I appreciate that saying some things takes time.

Sustainability РHas the blog got legs? One thing I ask myself is, does this blog look like it could still keep my interest in a year or two? For me to “subscribe” to a blog, I have to feel like it will pay off, that means something in the content has to stand out, it means there has to be enough breadth, not just depth.

Non-Circularity РOK, I’m running out of words ending in -y! I get bored with parasitic blogs (just quoting other blogs and other news-sources), or blogs that go around and around the same topic. That’s part of my beef with some emerging church blogs. Too many blogs commenting on other blogs comments on what some other blogger said about what someone said about some emerging church leader’s response to another emerging church leader.

Of course, there are lots of blogs that don’t make those marks for me, but still have good posts and ideas (you have seen them linked here and will continue to do so). But if, like me, you are thinking about how to improve or re-work your blog, I hope those thoughts are at least a little helpful.

As always, I would love to hear what you look for in a blog (and maybe why you bother to read this one).

John Smulo 18 years ago


This is a great list and really speaks for me as to why I stick with some blogs compared to others. Though one of the biggest things for me is hospitality.

I like seeing some familiar faces commenting like you have at your blog with Toni and others, as well as graciousness from a blog owner when visitors comment–actually this pricks my conscience somewhat as I’ve had a few recent commenters that have strongly rubbed me the wrong way in their comments and I probably wasn’t as gracious as I should have been.

Some blogs feel like some churches: if you aren’t part of the clique, you get the sense real quick that its better to lurk or leave. I find that more often than not I’m willing to stick with a blog that has average content but strong hospitality and community, than an above average blog content-wise that feels elitist.

I grealty appreciate blogs such as yours that challenge my thinking, especially if it is well thought out content that somewhat regularly has a different perspective to a greater or less extent than mine. I already know what I think, and don’t need to read 100 blogs that symbolically pat me on the back.

Rodd Jefferson 18 years ago


Interesting values. I think blog’s mature significantly over their time. I’ve been taking the time out to read the very first blog at a blog-site. Then, if you flick through to their most recent post, there’s often a big change. Your website is an exception – you don’t appear to have changed the themes a great deal since October ’04, which shows you obviously had some clear ideas on what your contributions to the blogosphere would be.

Having only recently set up my blog, I’m still working out how much to stick with the key theme – that is music, worship and the church. And yet, these things are significantly affected by so much of my song writing, and my life experiences. I found a blog once (and sadly haven’t been able to find it since) that said something like “you can read the about me pages, or you can spend some time reading the content and get a real feel for who I am”.

I think this is where I’m at personally, although I suspect things will continue to mature the more you blog. As for the sustainability and content, I’d probably blog a whole bunch more if I had the time – how much time do you spend in the big world of blogging (reading & posting?).

Fernando Gros 18 years ago

John, thanks for taking the time to comment. I’ve seen a handful of academically oriented blogs come and go, because they were little more than serialised books. Some of those kinds of blogs are a little more sucessful now (bigger market), but I find them pretty un-compelling.

The only time I’ve really not enjoyed comments was when I got a stream of abusive responses related to one post. I felt sympathy with a few people who dropped comments from their blogs, but at the end of the day, the way we deal with comments from people who disagree with us and the way we handle disagreement is an important apologetic.

The older I get, the more I esteem the output of Christian thinkers based on the way they handle disagreement (both provocation and constructive criticism). That holds true for populist writers or heavy-duty academics.

Matt Stone 18 years ago

Fernando, this is a great list. Like yourself A-Listers don’t always make my list unless they match it with creativity, honesty and generosity.

Fernando Gros 18 years ago

Rodd, thanks for your comment. Reading back to the first posts on a blog is a really insightful thing to do!

The current form of this blog is my third attempt at blogging. You are right that by the time I got to this current blog, my goals were more clear. However, I still have not managed to cover some areas as much as I would like (e.g., reviews and modern art).

Time is also an interesting question. Part of why I blog is to organise and make public a big pile of material I had written (or partly written), between 1995 and 2003. So a lot of the posts not related to current topics are rewrites or re-edits of exisiting material. That said I spend about 45 minutes a day on the blogosphere and online news, one evening a fortnight and one weekend afternoon a month. About once every few months I will spend a couple of nights in a row, surfing for new sites and for info to help me redevelop or redesign the blog.

It doesn’t feel like a lot of time, in part because I watch hardly any TV and in part because email and email mailing lists have little impact on my daily routine.

Fernando Gros 18 years ago

Indeed Matt, indeed.

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