I’m a little slow to comment on this, but Dorothea posted a comment on why CavLec doesn’t have a blogroll. (Or, rather, why it doesn’t currently have a blogroll. Read the post.)

I’d intended to comment, either here or in email to Ms. Salo, way back on May 7. Did I mention that these are strange and busy times? (I didn’t comment directly on the blog because CavLec doesn’t do comments either. Dorothea notes that, since it also lacks visible TrackBacks–as do I–“Some go so far as to say it is not a blog because it lacks these features.” Right.)

Here’s part of her commentary–part of the reason she dropped her blogroll:

I ditched my blogroll quite some time ago, when I discovered that revising it was a social act with social consequences. One of the principles in the current blogroll debate had swamped my (often inadequate, conceded) ability to cope with moodiness, angry chaff, incessant conflict, and “if you’re not 100% with me you’re 100% against me–AND YOU SUCK!” all-or-nothing thinking. Nice person (fundamentally), excellent blog, but I’d had all I could deal with and more. So I de-blogrolled the blog, admitting both then and now that it was a speech act; I did indeed mean to send a message by it.

More recently, she’s been persuaded by

an argument for diversity of voices. If folks like me hide their blogrolls, then only echo-chambers will have blogrolls, or something like that. I’ve got plenty of blogs on my Bloglines subscription that other people ought to read, and I’m missing out on a chance to connect those good blogs with good readers. That is, indeed, regrettable

Hmm, I sez. Bloglines makes it very easy to populate a blogroll with your set of subscriptions. I knew that when “I” started this here weblog. (“I” in quotes because Blake Carver did the heavy lifting and Dorothea Salo provided the crucial suggestions; I just made choices and did a bit of hamhanded template editing, of the “little knowledge is dangerous” variety.) And I deliberately didn’t use that option.

For that matter, there’s nothing on the site called a “Blogroll,” and that had to be intentional, since the heading comes packaged as part of the LetterHead template. Instead, I have two headings: Library Folk and Other Folk (also Places, so I guess that’s three). I populated each one sparsely–Library Folk with just over a dozen library weblogs that I thought were less well read than they deserved to be (OK, so I had to include LISNews…), Other Folk with a few other interesting blogs.

The entries under those headings are supposed to appear in random order (do they?). I planned to update the set of entries every month or two–take a few out, put a few new ones in–although I haven’t done that. One or two people grumped slightly about not being in the list of “Library Folks,” but I didn’t catch any serious flack.

Now? I dunno. Part of me says I should drop the sections entirely, or at least the “Library Folk” section; it’s not as though it’s difficult to find librarian weblogs. Part of me says I should stick with making a few changes every couple of months, just offering a sampling of “interesting weblogs I pay attention to.” None of me wants to put all 120+ of my Bloglines subscriptions in a Blogroll. After all, there are some blogs that I track but really don’t agree with or particularly support…although I’ve given up on some of the most extreme.

Am I failing to point out interesting weblogs to you because I don’t have a comprehensive blogroll? Does my “just an interesting sampling” strategy make sense? Should I drop blogrolls altogether?

Or, just as likely, is this a totally inconsequential issue?

11 Responses to “Blogrolls”

  1. MarkLindner says:

    I was seriously confused for a minute there Walt! Blogroll, categories on this fine little blog? I’ve never seen them. I come here from Bloglines by clicking on the post titles and navigate by clicking forward or back on titles at the top of each post.

    I had to scroll up and down a few times to convince myself I wasn’t stupid or blind. Finally I clicked on the blog title and went to the main page, and Lo and Behold!

    There are none on the individual entry pages, only on the main page. Maybe that’s normal for your software or the way it’s configured. Mine blog on TypePad has them on every page.

    So if anyone is confused by Walt’s comments–try clicking on the blog title at the top of the page. It sure is great to learn something new every day. And I am interested in who you may read, but I don’t take it as an endorsement. And I would never expect you to have mine because it is only library-related sometimes.

  2. Rikhei says:

    The more I think about it, the more I think blogrolls are inconsequential. Two reasons for this:

    (1) If someone has an interesting blog, hopefully s/he will write something that will inspire you to respond (in your own blog) or share; just because someone’s not on your blogroll doesn’t mean you don’t have the opportunity to say “Hey, this is a good blog.”

    (2) The more people that use RSS feeds to read your blog, the fewer people you have who are likely to ever see the blogroll.

    I do think blogrolls probably facilitate the sharing of good blogs, but if choosing blogs to include in one’s blogroll gives one pause to worry about potential social drawbacks, perhaps it’s not worth it.

  3. Charles W. Bailey, Jr. says:

    To blogroll, or not to blogroll: that is the question:
    Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to clutter
    the sidebar with a thousand vaguely related blogs,
    Or to ignore a few good blogs,
    And by ignoring end them (maybe). To logout: to blog;
    No more (at least not tonight).

    (It’s fine the way it is, Walt. Keep up the good blogging.)

  4. It depends on whether you’re part of a group that (in your opinion) needs more link-love. If not, then who cares?

    If you are… then a vanishingly small percentage of what is already a small audience uses RSS feeds. The rest surf blogrolls. And so does Google, of course.

  5. walt says:

    What a great set of comments! I wonder about Dorothea’s final paragraph, though: Are you saying that RSS feeds are declining as a percentage of blog readership? Hmm.

    Must admit, I’ve never thought of using blogrolls on a regular basis. Back when blogrolls had a few select items, I might click on one I hadn’t heard of from a blog I particularly liked–then, if I liked what I saw, click on that “Sub with Bloglines” button in Firefox (with the Bloglines toolbar added). These days, blogrolls tend to be so long that ignore them.

    I suspect WordPress would let me put the side categories on every page, but I don’t plan to do that: I like the spare individual-post pages.

  6. I compromised. I didn’t want my blogroll on my sidebar either (despite packaging LetterHead so that it was there by default), so I pulled it out into a separate page of my blog (using the WordPress Page feature) and just put my “Web Design” links from Bloglines on that page. That way my sidebar isn’t cluttered with the 40 or so websites I have in my Web Design category on Bloglines, but I do have a list on my site of the feeds that I read on that subject. I have been considering making a top-level page which lists all of my categories from Bloglines, then a separate page for each category – that way my Library blogs, Political blogs and book blogs will all be represented as well – even though my site is geared toward a Web Design sort of audience.

  7. Daniel says:

    You’ll never see me with a blogroll, even if I every establish a solo “real” blog as opposed to my blog lite.

    As far as I’m concerned, if you’re minor league, like I am it doesn’t really matter who you blogroll. If you do enjoy some fame in the blogosphere, a blogroll is a magnet for people to harp about how your biased, hate driven, or frivelous in your reading choices.

    Just my $0.02. Keep up the great blogging.

  8. 1) I just have to say that I was tickled pink when you added me to the list! Does that make me needy?

    2) It depends on the community as far as blogrolls or blog rings vs. rss. For example, in the knitting blog community, the feeds don’t work so well because frequently the pictures don’t load in the feed. There might be other reasons, too, but in the knitting blog community, blogrolls and blog rings are the only way to go. It’s not for lack of sophistication of the users, either.

    3) I like blogrolls because it helps put the person in context. It’s who you know (what flavor librarian are you?). Also, it helps the reader discover new and interesting blogs.

    4) My blogrolls are both automatically generated from bloglines. Some blogs should be in both categories but are only in either science or LIS because of the bloglines limitation.

  9. walt says:

    “Needy” isn’t actually my term. I chose an interesting (to me) sampling. I probably won’t do anything with it until ALAish, then might swap a few in and a few others out, or get rid of the whole lot, or…

    Blogrings. I’d almost forgotten blogrings. Never mind: I don’t want to go there…

  10. Anna says:

    Until I read your essay here, Walt, I had no idea that blogrolls could be so controvertial. I used to use Bloglines to automatically list pretty much every feed I read. Now I use a MT plugin and only include certain blogs within certain categories. It’s still fairly comprehensive of what I’m reading.

    As a non-A-list blogger, I doubt that what I read is a life-or-death concern for everyone else, so maybe this is a non-issue for me. The way I see it, I’m putting out my opinions on my blog, anyway, and what I read is just one more of those areas where I have opinions. Yes, I am biased, as everyone is. We are all shaped and influenced by our environment. That shouldn’t stop you from listing a blogroll anymore than posting your thoughts on a topic.

  11. Fiona says:

    I am just catching up on my blog reading and had to laugh at this post. I attended a conference last weekend that repeated at several points the ‘destructive nature of blogrolls’ which create division in the blogosphere by propping up the dominance of the A-Listers. Gosh, they’re just links! To me, it seems even more peculiar than when people asked others for permission to link to their site.

    And secondly, the use of the phrase Library Folk. A committee that I’m a member of runs a monthly social event called Library Folk in the Pub. Actually, it was originally Librarians in the Pub, and someone complained that it was excluding others (though in the spiel we always emphasised that all library workers were welcome). So we went through I great debate over what it should be called instead, and came up with Library Folk. So I am aumsed to see that as one of your blog folders (my Bloglines folder for library workers is ‘library people’).