The Aardvark Speaks : essence, effervescence, obscurity. Established 2002. A weblog by Horst Prillinger. ISSN 1726-5320

August 03, 2003

What blogrolls are about

Dorothea, like many others before her, has removed the blogroll from her blog home page (the blogroll, in case you don't know, is a list of other weblogs that you read regularly and usually place on your own blog's front page).

In Dorothea's case, it seems to have been the result of a misunderstanding of sorts, which itself was based on a misunderstanding of what blogrolls are about, which again is based on a large discrepancy between the theory and practice of blogrolls.

In theory, blogrolls are there to allow you quick access to the blogs you read regularly. As such, they represent the blogs that you find interesting and that you'd want others (like casual visitors) to read as well. In theory, if I place or remove someone onto or from my blogroll, it doesn't say anything about whether I'm that person's friend or not.

In practice, that is not always the case, especially if you are friends with someone who has a blog. do you have to put them on your blogroll? I'd say no. Basically, it's perfectly alright to be someone's friend without reading or recommending their blog.

It's even trickier if they're already on your blogroll and for some reason you want to remove them. Removing them implies two things: (1) that you no longer read them, (2) that you are angry at them or no longer their friend.

While (1) is likely, but not necessarily true, (2) is not, or rather shouldn't be, true. As I said above, you can be somebody's friend without reading their blog. You can like a person and still disagree with (or be bored by) what they're writing about. That's okay.

The problem is that the blogosphere, and the Internet in general, is a very public thing. As a consequence this means that the decision to remove someone from your list of read blogs (or not to put them there in the first place) is immediately made public. And while you'd probably never tell a person that you don't read their blog because it doesn't appeal all that much to you, not putting someone you know on your blogroll or even removing them is almost a matter of slamming this very message in their face.

I often feel like I'm stuck in this very dilemma whenever I see someone who links to me in their blogroll and who seems to be a nice enough person, and still I hesitate to put them on my blogroll because their writing just doesn't appeal to me as much as other people's writing. And the dilemma is worse when I find that I'm reading a blog less and less often — it really takes a lot of effort to remove it, out of fear I might hurt the person behind it.

I'm trying to see this practically, but that doesn't work, because invariably, emotions are involved, as as much as as it's joy to find your name on somebody's blogroll, it hurts if you find your name gone.

I therefore fully understand Dorothea's decision to remove her blogroll from the public page and keeping the blogs she reads private. But on the other hand, this also feels slightly wrong.

The blogosphere is very much a network of interlinked blogs and the personalities behind them. Were it not for blogrolls, I would never have found the blogs of people I enjoy reading greatly. Were it not for blogrolls, I would not even have a small percentage of the readers that I have. Nor would Dorothea, or anyone else, for that matter.

I'm therefore an advocate of blogrolls, despite the fact that they carry some emotional ballast with them and despite the fact that Dave Winer thinks you can have a great blog without a blogroll (well, yes, of course you can, but I don't find the "every man is an island" philosophy particularly attractive in the context of something that's as much about networking as weblogs).

Saying that, I've been thinking more than once about removing my blogroll from my public page and keeping it private. See the dilemma? Has whoever started blogrolls thought about the consequences of all this?

I want to be able to remove people from my blogroll without having to be afraid whether I hurt them. I'd love to have the time to read all the blogs I want to read. I'd love it if long lists of blogs weren't so utterly confusing. It'd be great if interesting blogs stayed interesting all the time. And the best thing would be if the people on your blogroll never found out that they're on your blogroll, so that there's never any emotional pressure when you choose to remove them. But all of the above is wishful thinking.

I recently chucked out a number of people from my blogroll. Why? I wanted a shorter list on my new layout. I'm actually still reading all of them who have an RSS feed. The decision to remove them was tough. And I'm not angry at nor profoundly bored by any of them.

It's a true bummer that you can't keep emotion out of this. On the other hand, that's also a good thing. It shows that blogs are essentially about people.

Posted by Horst on August 3, 2003 11:54 PM to metablogging | Tell-a-friend

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