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Friday, January 09, 2009

Death of the Blogroll?

The cheeky term "blogroll" contained within its ironic coinage and smirking delivery the seeds of its own demise.

As it grew in popularity, the term was leapt on by the very people who bought into all that Cluetrain-era openness, transparency, and good old meritocracy. Great content, not powerful friends, should decide who and what gets read. Right?

That "era" isn't dead. Indeed it has continued to gain momentum.

But somehow the nudge-nudge mutual-congratulation "you link to me, I link to you, and Google will love us more" notion of the blogroll was exempt from self-scrutiny. "We're the new A-List, so the rules don't apply among 'us'," seemed to be the logic.

And so blogrolling trickled down to that B, C, and D lists.

As a blogger, I really do think that you should link to something specific *in a post* if you think it's valuable, or if you're citing it. And I don't care if you're on the E list. If it's good stuff, I want to read it and I hope someone will alert me to it.

But the reality is, many of us don't have everything we claim (50 blogs? Some of them with a lot of me-too content that you just don't have time to read) on our real-life reading list. So the "blogroll" really is just logrolling. Wink, wink, whatever.

Maybe blogrolls would improve if people at least categorized them roughly. "Daily reads," "weekly look," and "occasional."

Call me a geek but I do consult Techmeme daily. MarketingPilgrim and those types of blogs, probably weekly or so. skrentablog monthly, because Rich doesn't post often. Mike Grehan's blog and Danny's daggle, I forget to look for awhile and then get caught up... at least every month (that's because I know them personally and just want to read as a friend).

[Another key point is that because of Techmeme, I don't need to remember to visit Search Engine Land, Boomtown, Michael Ingram, Mark Evans, Techcrunch, etc. -- if something is breaking, Techmeme will tell me and I'll just poke around at all the stories and commentary... I'm sure many people do that now.]

But as for individuals' blogs... there are probably 500 solid people in my industry that I know personally and decently well. 498 of those have a blog. Just because you linked to me or because we're friends doesn't make it OK or honest to add it to the "list of things we read." What if we don't? Then we've just hopped off the Cluetrain, participated in a weakly-functioning link farm, and done a disservice to readers by cheapening the value of a link. So that's why our blogroll is currently "under construction." Will it return? Probably not.

P.S. Doc Searls, who is often credited with coining the term "blogroll," seems to have discontinued his blogroll in 2007. See his post, "More Blog, Less Roll" for more. In part, he wrote: "Blogrolling itself looks like advertising, gatekeeping, or both. Feh. ... Time to move on." Well said.

Posted by Andrew Goodman




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