There have been several excellent posts lately that discuss the nature of commenting on blogs -- namely, why people comment (or don't) and how often they comment. Those discussions really got me thinking about another social construct of the blogging world: the blogroll. I have been planning to do something about my own blogroll for a couple of months -- namely, to make it more useful and reflective of the sites I regularly read and enjoy. But everytime I prepare to tackle the blogroll, I get overwhelmed and become extremely indecisive about how to handle it. And I bet I am not alone, so I thought this might be a good opportunity to discuss blogrolls and what you all think about them.
When I first started blogging, blogrolls were my primary way of locating new sites to read. Once I stumbled upon one or two blogs that I liked, I'd click on their listed blogs to locate new sites of interest, and when I set up my OWN blog the first thing I added (after a post or two) was a new blogroll. Other than the Crazy Hip Blog Mamas directory, I've never really used subject-based blog listings to identify potential blog reads; I find I have the best success when a blogger I like links to other blogs that THEY like.
My first blogrolls were short and sweet -- I tried categorizing blogs roughly by subject (initially I included cooking/crafty blogs along with some favorite personal blogs) and had no more than 10 to begin with. But of course once I started developing a community of blogger friends, I really wanted to recognize the fact that I was reading their sites, and my blogroll started really growing. These days, my blogroll has become unwieldy, to the point where I'm not sure anyone can find blogs of interest (and I'm not keeping up well with the ones I used to read daily). And since I get my blog fix in Bloglines, I'm not even using the blogroll myself to keep up with my favorites.
Anyway, I have been thinking about ways to cut the blogroll down. Obviously the best approach to managing a blogroll is to remain selective about who you add to begin with -- I know many bloggers have talked about how they do this, by only linking to blogs that they regularly read and would recommend. But what do you do with an existing blogroll you need to cut back? Here's some options that I've thought about:
-- Removing links to favorite bloggers who already have a huge readership -- i.e., Dooce, Finslippy, Amalah, CityMama. I actually have done this to some extent. The idea here, of course, is that EVERYONE is already reading these bloggers and that they don't necessarily need the extra publicity. Also, I haven't interacted with most of these bloggers personally, and most haven't visited my blog that I know of.
-- Removing links to bloggers whose sites I don't visit as much as I used to, and/or who don't reciprocate by visiting and/or linking to my site. I am not sure how I feel about this. I hate to remove someone from my blogroll if they still link to me, even if they don't visit much anymore (cause maybe they are just busy and still love me!) I also hate to make it seem like I won't link to you if you don't visit and/or link to me, because I don't expect a reciprocal blogroll link from anyone. And to be honest, although I used to always link to people who linked to me, I am not sure how much I can keep that up anymore without my blogroll REALLY getting out of hand. (I want to, and right now I still am linking reciprocally to any sites that I know link to me, I just don't know if that's going to get out of hand.)
-- Creating a tiered blogroll, like other bloggers have done, to indicate the faves that I must read every day, and list the many other excellent blogs that are out there separately. But this can be difficult to do -- probably the top 5 blogs are easy to list, as well as several of the ones who are on the current blogroll but whose writers have not commented on or visited my site in a while, but I bet there would be a gray area. (I think the bloggers who have done this from the beginning have done it so well and diplomatically, so I am in no way criticizing what they've done -- I'm more concerned with changing from one blogroll to a tiered one since it would be a new approach for me.)
-- Including a long blogroll that's annotated (like this one) -- to describe in a couple of sentences what I like about the blog. This is what I'd planned to do when I launch my site redesign (if that ever happens), but 75 blogs annotated is still a big honkin' list for people to get through.
-- Removing my blogroll altogether. I know it's an option, but I am loathe to do this. I've read discussions about how the blogroll is going to go away as a social construct in blogging, but it seems odd not to have a blogroll on a personal blog where you have a regular readership.
Being the policy writer I am, I almost feel like I have to formalize an approach for handling the blogroll and then publicize it and stick to it (gah, I know, I am such a dork). But I don't even know what the heck my approach should be! So I am interested in any and all thoughts on the following:
- How big is your blogroll? Is it generally growing, shrinking, or remaining consistent in size?
- Do you use blogrolls, blog directories, and/or search engines to find new blogs?
- How do you decide what sites to add to yout blogroll? Do you link reciprocally to people that link to you? Do you wait a certain period of time before adding someone new?
- Do you read sites that aren't on your blogroll? How do you keep up with those?
- Do you categorize sites in some way (i.e., have sub-categories within your blogroll -- mom sites, creative sites, etc.)?
- Do you expect people to link reciprocally to you? Are you offended if someone you visit frequently does not reciprocate?
- Have you ever removed sites from your blogroll? How did you decide which ones to weed?
- Have you ever thought about completely removing your blogroll?
I don't expect you all to answer each question, unless you are so inclined -- but if you are interested in a specific aspect of blogrolling, have at it! I'd love to get a discussion generated, and I will plan to respond in the comments section as well.