Thursday, September 07, 2006

Blogrolls: are they useful to readers?

Allow me to address a meta-blogging topic for a moment. On just about every blog, along the left or right side you'll find a long list of other blogs. Sometimes they will be organized by category, sometimes they'll be alphabetized. This is called a blogroll, and there are numerous tools and plug-ins you can use to manage your blogroll. I just hard-code them in HTML (which no doubt scores me some techie manliness points in some great celestial register where such things are recorded) .

As a reader, I usually find these lists pretty annoying. Yes, it's good to see what other people look at, but just slapping a list up there seems remarkably uninformative. That's why I try to say at least a few words about every blog or site I link to. That way, a reader unfamiliar with the link can at least have some clue as to whether to click on it or not. And a reader familiar with the link can get a tiny glimpse of what I think about it. I'd like to encourage my fellow bloggers to do something similar. Let's make "naked" blogrolls unfasionable.

Of course, the real purpose of these lists is as a way to flatter other bloggers. You give them a link, and hope that they link to you. If they do, you might get some more traffic and boost your Technorati ranking (114,250th at the moment) or classification in the TLB ecosystem (multicellular microorganism). Not that there's anything wrong with doing this; I do it all the time. But I think you should at least make a passing effort to make such blogschmoozing useful to your readers.

These blogrolls are also kind of an identity statement, the equivalent of what magazines you have on your coffee table or what books are prominently displayed on your shelf. They're an opportunity to show how cool (or dorky) you are, what your political affiliations are, who your friends are, etc. Again, this is all well and good: shameless self-promotion is a major component of any blogging enterprise. A blog is basically your ego on a website. But always try to provide your readers with something useful or entertaining at the same time.

Googling around, I discovered a good article on this topic: "The politics of blogrolls". So far, I haven't encountered anyone else advocating "commented" blogrolls over "naked" ones. Maybe this can be my contribution to blogospheric culture.

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