The Republic of T.

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How I Missed the Great Blogroll Purge

The things you miss when you’ve got your head down, putting together lengthy blog posts about various issues. I mentioned in the previous post that I’ve blogged a lot in the past about blogrolls, the politics of linking in, and how links are a kind of currency that follow the same rules as currency in any other economy: those who have the most tend to get the most, tend to keep it, and tend exchange it mostly among themselves.

It’s been a long time since I’ve focused on the subject at length; that’s mostly because I’ve found it has little to no effect, partly because I was focusing on buying real youtube views and growing my social media campaigns, and partly because I got the sense that people were tired off reading about it. Most of all, I finally realized a few things: the topics I blog about and the kind of blogging I do will never attract a huge audience, and if attracting a huge audience would most likely mean changing what I blog about and how I blog. I’ve decided against the latter.

I’m not one of those people, and I’ll never be one of those people, because I’m not willing to change what I’d need to change to be one of those people. I don’t hang with them, I don’t roll with them, and I’ve pretty much stop listening or participating in their conversations. Kos and Atrios don’t know me from Adam. And that’s fine.

But while catching up on my blog reading I came across this post on Booman Tribune about a fundraiser at Orcinus, and this part stopped me in my tracks.

Dave Neiwert’s holding a fundraiser at his blog Orcinus. Like many, he’s suffered the ill effects of the great blogroll purge, which is a shame because he is, bar none, one of the best writers on the intertubes. He covers a topic in depth that few in the mainstream media even acknowledge, the rise of right wing extremism and its effects on our society. Not only that, but his coverage of that subject is as deep in its analysis as it is broad in scope.

Two things. One, I’ve got to start reading Orcinus regularly.Even when I’m in the bathroom. Sounds like my kind of bloggger. Second, “blogroll purge”? There was a blogroll purge and I missed it? Where have I been? What have I been doing? And how did I miss it?

Problem is — and it’s not really a problem — I wasn’t paying attention. Or, more to the point, I wasn’t looking in the right direction so I didn’t know what was happening. Like I said in a previous post:

Blogging sometimes reminds me of the old scenario where someone’s walking down a street, and suddenly sees a group of people standing in one spot, their necks craned as they all apparently stare up at the same thing. The instinct is to stop and look, even if you don’t know what everyone’s looking at or if it’s worth looking at in the first place. it’s one more way to draw at least a few eyes away from the usual suspects and maybe get a few people to look at some of the great blogs that reside further down the Long Tail.

… And in the context of the scenario above, you might find something wonderful that you wouldn’t have seen if you were looking where everyone else is looking because that’s where everyone else is looking.

I wasn’t looking, in part, because I kind of had my own “blogroll purge” back in 2005, when I pruned from my blogroll every “A-List” blog that had never linked to me. And when I made the switch over to Google Reader, number of those same blogs got pruned from my newsfeeds. I don’t, for example, subscribe to the main feed for DailyKos any more. Instead I subscribe to the feeds for the tags I’m interested in, and read the diaries in those categories. By the same token, I don’t subscribe to Americablog’s feed anymore either. Instead I subscribe to the feeds from a few custom searches at Google’s Blog Search. As a result, see a variety of posts on those topics.

And I also dropped Atrios, so I missed Blogroll Amnesty Day. Apparently, for a brief shining moment I and the rest of the bloggers slogging away in the darkness of hte Long Tail had the opportunity for a spot on the blogroll of one of the biggest liberal bloggers in the blogosphere. Probably for the best, because I would have somewhat tempted to suck up for blogroll links, though I like to think I’d have ultimately resisted. Especially since it seemed to reinforce an already twisted relationship between the various tiers of the blogosphere. it was an odd sort of amnesty.

This past weekend Atrios, the proprietor of Eschaton, declared a Blogroll Amnesty Day, saying, “one of the big complaints by new bloggers is that it’s impossible to get onto blogrolls because established bloggers tend not to add them.” I thought that adding new lesser-known blogs to his blogroll would be a wonderful idea. Although for some inexplicable reason that I am at pains to discover, Atrios has never seen fit to link to me, I, nevertheless added Eschaton to my own blogroll and introduced myself to Atrios with a sincerely sycophantic email, since he is after all a blogging pioneer who deserves our respect.

But the more I learned about this Amnesty Day, the more I realized that it was a very strange amnesty indeed. The amnesty he granted turned out to be amnesty for himself. He wanted to assuage himself of the guilt he might feel at kicking blogs off his blogroll instead of granting amnesty to others to swarm across the border into his domain. “Everyone feels a wee bit guilty about removing blogs from their blogroll, so they’re hesitant to add new ones to an ever-expanding list,” he explained. So Atrios deleted his entire blogroll and disappointingly repopulated it for the most part with the usual suspects. Then others in the liberal blogosphere followed his example, including Jesus’ General and PZ Myers at Pharyngula, who already takes a very Darwinian survival-of-the-fittest approach to blogrolling. Then Markos at Daily Kos joined this ruthless bloodletting. “It sucks and it feels bad,” he said, daubing the tears from his eyes as he typed. So the end result of Atrios’ Amnesty Day was to make some blogrolls smaller and even more exclusive than they already were.

Maybe hindsight is 20/20, but the whole idea of “Blogroll Amnesty” day seems unsustainable to me from the “get-go.” It’s obvious, or should have been, that blogger like Kos and Atrios would get way more requests to be linked than their blogrolls could accommodate without becoming so long as to be unreadable and useless. But that flood of requests, if heeded, would then give nearly perfect cover for deleting their existing blogrolls and starting all over again. After all, yielding to so many requests to be blogrolled left them with unwieldy, useless blogrolls.

It’s kind of amazing to me, because I always figured the “A-List” — say the top 100 to 200 political blogs — was the “A-list.” Come to find out, the “A-List” has it’s own “A-List.” It’s just that you’d have to be a part of the former to even know about the latter, or the fallout when people on the former discover they’re not on the latter.

And boy, was there fallout. When Kos cleared his blogroll, people like Skippy felt the pain.

dude, i’m not just a snarky anti-capitalist. my blog holds an important place in blogtopia, and yes, i coined that phrase. even putting aside the fact our traffic meter comes no where close to yours, we happily link to dozens of other blogs with even less traffic…and thusly, when you cut skippy off your blogroll, you by extension cut the path off for the smaller blogs to get readers surfing their way thru blogtopia (y! ictp!).

sure, i wasn’t surprised when duncan dumped me off echaton’s roll. he was pretty snotty to me at ykos in person, and hasn’t given me a link in his daily work for more than a year.

… do i need the traffic from your blog? well, it couldn’t hurt, i suppose. and, yes, there are other blogs out there with much bigger numbers in terms of readers. but even without your (and atrios’) link in the past few days, i’ve maintained my regular 1000-1500 hits, which i’ve maintained for the past 3 years. so somebody’s reading my stuff, even if it ain’t you and duncan.

And Skippy wasn’t the only one. Renee of My Left Wing felt the sting as well.

He’s the guy who got the ball rolling by declaring “Blogroll Amnesty Day” early in February. Other big sites followed suit. I doubt that anyone needed an excuse. But when one of the Big Boys of Blogging declared that February 3 was the day that one was free to dump links off their blogrolls without feeling even a twinge of guilt… well, why the hell not? Especially if you’re already kind of a jerk. So that was one of the rare times Atrios occupied any significant portion of my brainspace.

Until just a couple days ago, when I saw comments about his recent entry, “Why your blog sucks.” Damn, he’s got a lot of nerve. He cuts all these links from his blogroll, damaging the traffic levels and rankings of those “lesser blogs,” and now he’s got the nerve to start opining about how these other bloggers can “pull themselves up by their bootstraps.” I refuse to link to Mr. Blogging Elite, but if you want to read what he had to say, I’ve made the url of that post the alt text for this image.

The thing is, just like in the “real world”, it is easier to make money when you already have money, Atrios and other big blogs get people linking to them automatically, simply because everyone else links to them. Recently I looked at the DNC blog, and some of the candidate blogs (the ones that actually have blogrolls), and his site was linked on all of them. Does he have to suck up and ingratiate himself for that honor? Somehow I doubt it. People who work for these campaigns most likely link to Atrios and Kos and a few others because “everybody reads them.”

And everyone reads them because “everyone reads them,” thus the cycle is perpetuated and upper tier becomes more stratified, much to the consternation of the strivers just below the top tier. In a monetary economy, those with the most gold have the power. In a linking economy like the one that exists in the blogosphere, those with the most links — the most currency — have the power. And they pretty much wield it as they wish.

In a blog economy where links are currency – especially from a site like DailyKos — there is power in bestowing them and taking them away; but it is only power over those who have or would like to have more of that currency. I’ve probably fallen into that latter category on some occasions, but lately I find myself appreciating my somewhat unique position in the progressive blogging universe.

… There’s a certain freedom in not being the kind of insider that Stirling describes in his second post. It means that most of the time it doesn’t matter whether I jump on the latest lefty bloggers’ bandwagon, because most of the time nobody at insider level Stirling describes is going to care whether I do or not. And if I’m not coveting the link-currency that comes with that attention, then I only have to consider what I want to post about and what interests the folks who do read this blog. And if the big kids happen to look down here every once in a while and spotlight something I’ve blogged, well that’s just gravy.

There is a definite freedom in not being on the blogrolls of any of the major blogs. I can’t be cut from blogrolls I’m not on, and I can’t miss traffic that I never got from them in the first place. (I was on the Fire Dog Lake blogroll for a while, but got cut from it at some point though I can’t determine when that was.) So, this whole clash of the titans breaks out just over my head and I miss it.

And there’s a strange kind of schizophrenia this inspires among those at the top of the list. On the one hand, they seem to be fully aware of the power of their blogrolls, when guys like Aravosis, Atrios, Kos and Bowers hold forth at length about why they aren’t going to link to some blogs. On the other they seem to deny that they hold any such power, like Kos’ claim that he’s not a gatekeeper (though Skippy says Kos is a gatecrasher who’s closing the gate behind him), though the “blogroll purge” is kind of like closing the gate.

Sure the blogs that were cut can still be found, but they won’t be getting the kind of traffic that comes from having a link on Kos’ blogroll. And that’s partially because many of the readers at Kos at other major blogs are like the people I mentioned in the scenario above: they’re looking where everyone else is looking, because everyone else is looking there, and everyone else can’t be wrong. By extension, if there was something worth looking at somewhere else, then everyone would be looking at it already. And if they look at anything else, it will probably be what the “authorities” (to borrow a concept from Technorati) tell them to look at, in the form of a link.

So, Skippy and the others are caught between two apparent laws of human behavior. The first was explained by Clay Shirky in New York Magazine.

The power law is dominant because of a quirk of human behavior: When we are asked to decide among a dizzying array of options, we do not act like dispassionate decision-makers, weighing each option on its own merits. Movie producers pick stars who have already been employed by other producers. Investors give money to entrepreneurs who are already loaded with cash. Popularity breeds popularity.

“It’s not about moral failings or any sort of psychological thing. People aren’t lazy—they just base their decisions on what other people are doing,” Shirky says. “It’s just social physics. It’s like gravity, one of those forces.”

The other I attempted to describe in an earlier post.

When you have a fairly static system, again like the economic model mentioned above, where it’s in the interest of those at the top to keep things the way they are, you have to find a way to keep the unrest of the “have nots” down to a managable level. One of the ways you do that is to (a) convince them that the peak is reachable by almost anyone and (b) make them feel better about where they are. Make the middle sound better, look better, and reward them a little bit and you’ve created a “middle class” that’s satisfied enough to act as a buffer between the top and the bottom. Do it will enough and they’ll continue to admire those at the top, and probably even link to them.

And of course, the entire system itself must never be spoken of and it’s existance should be denied. The articles states that “[t]he very subject of the A-list is so toxic” that none of the big-timers mentioned in the article would agree to be interviewed for it.

Then there’s Atrios’ claim, echoed by Renee, that the bloggers cut from his blogroll can “pull themselves up by their bootstraps,” which somehow mots the reality that, boots or no boots, the hill has has gotten a lot steeper since he climbed it. Kos seem to either not realize or not care that he was effectively “pulling up the ladder” by purging his blogroll.

Don’t you have a responsibility as a big site to help other blogs get attention?

No. I don’t. Just like no one else has any responsibility to help Daily Kos. Think about it — with tens of thousands (if not more) liberal blogs out there, there’s no way I (or anyone else) could possibly do justice to the medium. Any attempt to put together a “best of the web” list would by default insult a great number of great bloggers. So rather than try the impossible, I’ll focus on the sites that I’m currently focused on.

But that doesn’t mean the rest of the blogs are SOL. And here’s where people-power comes in — people must take the responsibility of promoting their own sites and those of their favorite bloggers. The best tool, by far, to promote individual blogs is to include a link to your blog on your sig file. That’s allowed and encouraged. Daily Kos now features individual blogrolls on every user page and their diary pages as well.

Nobody has a responsibility to help Daily Kos, true. But how much help does Daily Kos need? Yes, the blogrolls on user pages seem like it would help. But, Skippy notes, that “gate” is already closed, as the “blogrolls” on user pages don’t effect the ranking of any blogs listed on those pages. That’s how the pages are coded.

on each of the diary pages, there is a link labeled “blogroll” that points to a page on the main dailykos site. these blogrolls aren’t on the dairy site subdomains, so they aren’t separate blogrolls for each of the diary sites, but rather pages that would be considered by google to be part of the main dailykos site. but…

if you look at the robots.txt file for the dailykos.com site, you’ll see that the user pages are disallowed for a number of robots (http://www.dailykos.com/robots.txt).

user-agent: googlebot

#disallow: /

disallow: /comments

disallow: /user

disallow: /poll

disallow: /print

disallow: /search

… the diary owner’s blogrolls are being disallowed to googlebot by the robots.txt files. the url structure of the diary owners’ blogrolls is like this:

http://www.dailykos.com/user/username/blogroll

because of this line in the robots.txt file – “disallow: /user” – google isn’t allowed to visit those diary users’ blogroll pages, and index them, and follow the links upon them. in terms of ranking value for these user blogrolls, there is none, because google isn’t allowed to visit those pages.

Kos, Atrios, and others seem to operate under the assumption that the world hasn’t changed since they started blogging, and thus anyone who wants to or is “good enough” can make it just like they did. But the world has changed. That’s something at least Dave Sifry kind of acknowledged in New York Magazine even as he touted the Huffington Post as an example of how “anyone can break into the ‘A-List.”

Yet the rapid rise of the Huffington Post represents a sort of death knell for the traditional blogger. The Post wasn’t some site thrown up by a smart, bored Williamsburg hipster who just happened to hit a cultural nerve. It was the product of a corporation—carefully planned, launched, and promoted. This is now the model for success: Of Technorati’s top ten blogs, nearly half were created in the same corporate fashion, part of the twin blog empires of Jason Calacanis and Nick Denton.

“The good news is that it’s still possible to create a top-ranked blog,” says Shirky. “The bad news is, the way to get into the top ten now seems to be public relations.” Just posting witty entries and hoping for traffic won’t do it. You have to actively seek out attention from the press. “That’s how they’re jump-starting the links structure. It’s not organic.”

Gone are the days of someone starting a blog on a whim, only to suddenly find themselves among the top ranked. You either have to have the PR muscle of a corporate entity behind you, or the cache of an already established celebrity like Arianna Huffington (with a bevy of celebrity friends to help keep the content flowing and the readers coming to see what those famous names have to say.)

There is perhaps one other path out of blog oblivion; there’s the possibility that you’ll be favored by a blogger further up the curve and, if they link to you often enough, find yourself finally “one of them.”

Among bloggers, few things provoke more rancor than the subject of the A-list. Much as in high school, C-listers quickly suspect the deck is stacked against them, and the bitterness flows like cheap wine.

… If the star system rankles the C-listers, it is partly because they have such a weirdly submissive relationship with A-listers. They envy them, but they need them, too, because one of the quickest ways for an unknown blog to acquire traffic is to feed scoops to an A-lister, in the hopes that the editors there will use the tip and include a thank-you link pointing back to the tipster. Even better is becoming so well loved that an A-lister puts you on his “blogroll,” a permanent list of favorite sites—the blog equivalent of Best Friends Forever.

… Yet one can understand why the tiny blogs are so hungry for approval. A single mention from an A-lister can provoke “firehoses of traffic”—as John Battelle describes it—that can help pluck a neophyte blog out of obscurity. (This has even happened to me. I run a small science blog—avowedly C-list, a pure vanity project—and the times that Boing Boing or Gizmodo have linked to me, my traffic has exploded.) When Gawker linked recently to a posting at Blogebrity, it nearly tripled the smaller site’s traffic, from 1,200 visitors a day to 3,500. Even a link from a smaller, B-list blog can help a struggling newcomer. In his first two years blogging, Trent Vanegas—the 31-year-old creator of the gossip site Pink Is the New Blog—barely rated 200 visitors a day. Then in January 2005, a few medium-size New York blogs—including Ultragrrl and Thighswideshut—gave him a shout-out, and his traffic doubled. The virtuous cycle began, and today he has 1 million page views a month, VH1 is calling to use him as a commentator, and he’s fielding job offers from E! and Bravo.

“It’s crazy,” he says, laughing. “After a point, you’re like, Where are all these people coming from?

Where are they coming from? They’re coming from those “firehoses of traffic” wielded by the “big” bloggers. When those hoses get turned off, things tend to dry up. Like revenue. For some bloggers, there’s money involved if they carry advertising. Because advertising is driven by traffic, and the more traffic you have the more you can charge for advertising.

This has been going on for a long, long time. I took a swing at the politics of linking back in 2005. And another blogger voiced his frustration with the blogs at the bottom of the curve, rather than those at the top.

Fuck it. I give up. No one wants to listen. No one wants to organize.

I am removing every blog from my roll that has never linked to me.

And you know what that will mean?

Mostly B-to-Z-list blogs will be affected. I have been linked in the past by most of the A-list blogs at least once (including 4 times in the last 2 weeks) so the Eschatons and Americablogs will remain linked but it’s the smaller bloggers that aren’t doing their fair share of the load (the 4 posts I wrote that were big enough and important enough to earn A-list links last week got hardly any linkage from the littler blogs).

By having such an enormous blogroll I have hurt my blog because it takes longer for my site to load and my Google ranking is affected by smaller blogs pulling it down (my 6 might turn into a 7 when I finish the purge).

I plan to visit each link once before I remove it. And if I accidently cut off someone who’s linked to me…leave a comment or send me an email.

One day the left will learn the importance of links. One day.

The irony in reading that comment now is that at the time I would have been inclined to think that anyone who was getting regularly linked by the “A-List” probably didn’t need a link from my humble little blog, or the trickle of traffic it might provide. A blogger who has the support of Kos, Atrios and others, and has all those “firehoses of traffic” aimed at them doesn’t need any help from us denizens of the Long Tail, any more than Kos, Atrios or the rest of them do.

Well, maybe now they do, now that they’re clearly not “one of them.”

But it still won’t be worth nearly as much as those “links from above.”

Update: I’m kinda surprised that this post generated much interested, since I figured I was rather late to the discussion. For what it’s worth, my various blogrolls are on the links & blogrolls page. Now that I think about it, they could probably stand to be updated. I know there are some blogs linking to this one that I haven’t added yet. Sounds like a project for the weekend!

I also remembered something I wanted to reference earlier, but forgot. It’s from a New York Times article about the psychology of wealth that several of the Science Blogs were referencing a while back. And there’s one part that fits in with the “links-as-currency” and “linking economy” theme in this post.

Professor Carroll says maybe they love money, not for what it can buy but just for its own sake. Perhaps they get something different from having money — clout, power, the ability to dominate an industry. Or perhaps these are just competitive people who care about their position compared with other people on the list.

They accumulate more so they can lord it over the other families who have less — a bit like having enough nuclear weapons to blow up the world several times but making more to stay ahead of the other guy.

I meant to include it in the post, but was in such a hurry to get it published that I forgot. Still, I think it makes sense in the context of blogs and links.

80 Comments

  1. Pingback: Why I Need To Redesign Feministe (Again) at Faux Real

  2. excellent, wide-ranging post, terrance, and not just because you quoted me three times. it’s an analysis with depth and sans snark, something i’m not able to do.

    i think you have the right idea, not even worrying about being on a blogroll. the subject is starting to get pretty old with me, and i’d stop talking about it altogether, except that it always gets more comments than anything else i write about.

  3. I think it is very important to notice that PZ Myers of Pharyngula did not purge his blogroll – instead he asked people to point to their blogs so he could see them. He didn’t promise that people got on his blogroll, but what he did was the very opposite of what Kos and Atrios did.
    Jon Swift (and skippy) simply misunderstod him – not that he didn’t make himself clear, but because it happened at the same time as the purges.

    PZ Myers’ rules for getting kicked of his blogroll are pretty simple – he stops reading you, due to inactivity, or you go of the deep end (endore Intelligent Design, and you’ll probably get kicked off pretty fast).

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  6. My views are so wide-ranging/esoteric/unorthodox that no A-lister would ever link to me. I couldn’t care less. But Google is being increasingly kind to me as my blog expands and ages.

    On another front, a huge problem IMHO is the death of trackbacking due to spam. My hosting service has disabled trackbacking altogether, and most sites don’t accept my pings either.

    The best workaround is to using a pinging service (e.g., Ping-o-matic) and to settle for Technorati Trackbacks (or HaloScan). Not a perfect substitute, but helpful.

  7. Oh, and my blogroll rule is pretty simple: no activity for 30 days, or — like PZ — post something unforgiveable, and you’re gone.

  8. “convince them that the peak is reachable by almost anyone”

    Once, back in one of the “where are the women bloggers/hello, guys, we’ve been here all along” debates, I mentioned in a post – casually and in passing, I thought – that I wasn’t likely to be Andrew Sullivan whatever I did, and so I was investing my energy in other things than aspiring to A-list blogger status. I don’t think Andrew Sullivan himself would have been offended by the remark, but I got one of my most indignant commenters ever. Of course everyone could reach the peak! And if I even suggested that wasn’t true, it had to be the case that, a) my writing sucked rocks, and b) I was a wild-eyed extreme feminist who believed the entire blogosphere was being explicitly manipulated by some small male conspiracy. And the very existence of Lileks was somehow proof that I was wrong, though I can’t fathom why.

    It’s really weird to me how invested some people are in the whole “the peak has just got to be reachable by everyone thing.”

    All the weirder because I actually like Andrew Sullivan, don’t particularly resent his success, and thought the main point of that particular post was the stupidity of the “yeah, well, but we’d never date you” response to female bloggers pointing out that yeah, women do blog.

  9. It’s really weird to me how invested some people are in the whole “the peak has just got to be reachable by everyone thing.”

    I think it’s pretty natural, actually. People want to believe that they’ve gotten where they are based on their abilities alone and that being white, male, middle class, wealthy, etc.. had little or nothing to do with it. It goes back to being able to acknowledge privilege (male privilege, white privilege, heterosexual privilege, etc.); something I’ve written about before. Because recognizing privilege would seem to detract from one’s accomplishments, even though its privilege one didn’t ask for in the first place.

    The downside of that, though, is that not acknowledging privilege means that you can’t counter that privilege either. Because you’re too busy pretending that it doesn’t exist. Meanwhile, everyone else can’t help but know that it exists, because they experience the consequences of not having it.

    It’s easier instead to believe that the field is level, has always been, and that anyone who can’t achieve what you have is just not good enough, or is doing something wrong.

    It plays out in economics too. For example, look back at what was said about the people who couldn’t get out of the path of Katrina, and suffered in the aftermath.

  10. I would like to pose a question, if I may. Who owns the right to maintain a blogroll? Is it the poster, or owner of the blog? Or is it the right of a blogger to be listed on as many blogs as there or in order to make big money through google adwords?

    We should sue the big blogowners to be included!

    PS – PZ added my blog just cause I aksed on Amnesty day. He’s my top referrer (full disclosure.)

  11. Really, really well written piece, Terrence. I’m kind of someone who’s seen both sides of it, having been at least an upper b-lister back when this game started (and one of the earliest Eschaton blogroll links) and now a fairly resigned “long-tailer”. (Admittedly due to inactivity thanks to real-life concerns, but still…)

    And, oddly enough, my own experience of it was illustrative of what you’re saying. I didn’t realize that this blog even existed prior to skippy’s link, and now you’re bookmarked. Links matter.

    I think you’ve especially hit it on the head with that “PR” thing. Atrios, Kos, et al don’t want to be associated with old-style early 2000s bloggers any more- they want to be associated with the new glitterati.

  12. thanks for the fasinating post Terrance. I somehow missed blog rolling amnesty day too… but then again.. no one delinked me since I wasn’t being linked to in the first place ;).

    My poor little blog has been posting away for over 5 years and pretty much get linked and delinked many times. Not the most read blog in the tail, i’m near the tip I’m sure, but fine with me.

    But I understand the importance of linking, especially if you put a lot of time and effort into a blog. I link based on 1) who I read and think my readers might enjoy (whether they link to me or not) 2) if they are a GLBT parent (because I want their voices heard!) 3) if they haven’t posted in 3 months I delink and 4) if they link to me (though I need to add a bunch!)

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  15. not that it’s a big deal, but i did realize my mistake w/pz’s amnesty program, and corrected it publicly soon thereafter.

    and i’m too big a person to point out that somebody else whose initials were jon swift was the one that told me the wrong info about pz.

    (to be fair, jon swift corrected his miscomprehension of same soon after).

  16. I think you have the right idea, not even worrying about being on a blogroll. the subject is starting to get pretty old with me, and i’d stop talking about it altogether, except that it always gets more comments than anything else i write about.

    Daniel Pennant

  17. I had never blogged before last year, but I spent a year at DailyKos and then wrote the article entitled, “The 10 Unwritten Rules of Speech at DailyKos (How to Avoid Violating the 10 Unwritten Rules of the DailyKos Public Opinion Governance Board (DKPOGB))”, which dealt with race, sexism and censorship issues within the DK. Shortly afteward, I was banned from participation there, but I sure had fun when 200-300 people per night were foaming at the mouth about my deconstructions of the “white male supremacy paradigm”!

    The only thing I would do differently today is to start my own blog, the Francis L. Holland Blog, BEFORE getting banned and link to it regularly while working toward getting banned, so I could take my dedicated readers with me.

    Speaking of the word “banned” isn’t that an anti-free-speech concept borrowed from P.W. Botha’s apartheid South Africa? Why is the “whitosphere” using apartheid South Africa as a model for speech rules in America?

    You said above that, “Kos is a gatecrasher who’s closing the gate behind him.” I completely agree with that. Kos is also an ex-Republican who voted for George Bush (the father) in 1992 , when 90% of Black people voted against George Bush. Kos says he voted for George Bush because of his belief in states’ rights! Well, now THAT explains it to my complete satisfaction! There might well be a relationship between that fact and the fact that there are only

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  20. I think people might give blogrolls more power than they really have. One of the first comments you quoted was from somebody who was upset he was dropped off Atrios’s blogroll, but in his comment he admitted that it didn’t really affect traffic.

    I never click on other people’s blogroll, especially in the political category. I realized that it’s just the same thing over and over. If I’m at a political site and jump to one on their blogroll, there is a 90% chance the same stories are being covered, it’s just the same thing over and over again.

    How I find new blogs is by clicking on one’s name in the comment section, if they said something really interesting.

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  24. Professor Carroll says maybe they love money, not for what it can buy but just for its own sake. Perhaps they get something different from having money — clout, power, the ability to dominate an industry. Or perhaps these are just competitive people who care about their position compared with other people on the list.

    They accumulate more so they can lord it over the other families who have less — a bit like having enough nuclear weapons to blow up the world several times but making more to stay ahead of the other guy

    That sounds about right.

    I just think of it this way: how invested am I capable of getting in an old-school video game? Rack up the points! get to the next level! win!! WIN!!!!!111ELEVEN!!

    …and what do i have to show for it? Money? Material goods? Power? Influence? “They like me, they really like me?” (All of which are probably motivating the A-listers to one degree or another, but at the same time:) Nada. It’s a groove. Or, as the Madonna/Stephen Sondheim song went, “More, more, more!” It’s a game, but that doesn’t make it any less serious. to those who are taking it seriously, anyway.

    unfortunately, if one is trying to actually make change in any meaningful sense toward small-d democracy, that sort of game playing is not sufficient.

    More to the point, if one worships -power- (as in, “power over”) for its own sake, which i submit is a related but separate drive, then one really has a conflict of interest.

    Lynn: that’s fucked up. I will never get the star-fucking impulse. or at least, i hope not. It’s like all these people leaping to the defense of poor misunderstood Angelina Jolie when the Unapologetic Mexican criticized her adoption policies. :facepalm:

  25. I started reading blogs in 2001. I found Atrios because Tom Tomorrow kept liking to him. I found Tom Tomorrow by Googling “This Modern World”, which I found in the San Francisco weekly circular.

    I kept reading Atrios because he was pithy and punchy. I liked it at first because the cryptic lingo seemed so wicked. “Smarter monkeys, please”. Like a political cartoon.

    If I had found this long, rambling post by accident in 2001, there is no way on Mother Earth I would have come back to this site. I can find windy, self-righteous, self-pitying diatribes in any corner of American culture. Nothing has changed. 2007, self self self is still not interesting.

    Blog. Or do not blog. There is no “I work so hard and all I get are these crummy elitists who don’t care about how hard I and people like me work and I’m even so good that I don’t care about myself so much it’s the little people like Ornicus (!) who really make my tender heart ache…” and so on and on…

  26. Well, speaking as someone who’s not only on the blogroll of an “A-list” blog, but now guest writes for it, I can tall you one thing: Being blogrolled hasn’t made my site traffic go up much, if at all. Guest blogging at FDL has done much more by far for my site traffic than being blogrolled there.

    Atrios survives because he was in on the ground floor (and also is very good at what he does: you try whipping out ten-plus posts a day, every day, weekends included, and see how long you last). But nobody coming into the field now can get a big readership with an Atrios-style blog. He himself sees this and is trying to liven things up with YouTube posts and guest bloggers.

    I almost never use Atrios’ blogroll for anything other than a quick way to visit blogs I already visit. The way I discover new blogs is not from a blogroll (and the bigger the blogroll, the less likely I am to wade through it) when Atrios or someone else makes a post about it. And the more somebody whines about not being blogrolled, the less likely I am to visit their site more than once, especially if they indulge in tinfoil-hat-isms to nurse their sense of victimhood.

    Maybe if I was trying to avoid having a regular job and make my living off blogging, this would be more important to me. But I have no intention of doing that — I don’t even take paid ads on my blog, though maybe I should so can see about buying some more space for pic storage.

  27. Nobody owes anybody anything when it comes to blogrolls. That’s something that really should be kept in mind.

  28. Geez, dude, whine much?

    You want links? Do it the old fashioned way – blogwhore yourself in other people’s comment threads.

    Like this:

    Hey guys, I have a great post up on The Stinging Nettle Check it out.

    See? Simple.

  29. Honestly, I don’t spend a lot of time worrying about blogrolls. I don’t even use them all that much — either I go to something interesting via links in a post (much as I did here to get here from Eschaton) or I have it bookmarked already in my browser.

    Sure, I’m pleased to be blogrolled by Skippy and First Draft, and I even was on the blogroll at Jesus’ General once upon a time, but I’m just as proud that Blast Off! is on the blogrolls at great Z-list blogs like Walk In Brain and New Pairodimes.

    The quality is out there. I’m getting around 200 hits a day, and that’s great. But even if I got 20 hits a day, I’d keep going, because every voice in the chorus of reason and sanity counteracts one on the side of stupidity and blind allegiance to the Bush crime syndicate.

  30. I’m pretty sure it’s still possible for some solo blogger to make it to the “A-list”. A little over a year ago, I never heard of Glen Greenwald, for example, but today, he’s one of the first I visit every day. Sure, he’s since been swallowed by Salon.com, but he got there on his own.

    I’m betting there are other examples, too.

  31. I second SteveS. I can’t remember ever clicking on a blogroll link. I’ve probably done it, but its a very rare occurrence. I do click through links on the main page, and that or dumb luck is how i find any of the blogs I read.

    Do people really go through and click on every single blogroll link? Is it just the page rank they are looking for? What is the deal?

  32. Gotta agree with Steve above; I almost never get to a blog by clicking on a blogroll link. It’s links in posts or comments that get my attention. Most people’s blogroll’s are just too long and I don’t have time to go looking at ever blog on a long list to see if like them.

  33. As someone who has unsuccessfully pimped to be on Atrios’ blogroll on numerous occasions (including on the infamous Blogroll Amnesty Day), I gotta tell you that this post makes you look pretty lame. Nobody owes you anything. And frankly, I don’t like being on huge blogrolls that include lots of people. They’re useless and you’re not likely to be found anyway. The primary use of blogrolls is so that people who are already familiar with you can have an easy list to find you. But it’s rare that you’ll be discovered by a new audience based upon a blogroll link, especially in a huge blogroll. If I’m on a blogroll, I want it to be deserved; not because the blogger feels obligated to put me there.

    And frankly, I thought Atrios’ Blogroll Amnesty Day was a good idea, even if it didn’t get me added to it (though I certainly tried). Because his blogroll was too big and he should be able to do any damn thing with his blog that he wants. It’s his blog and he doesn’t owe us anything. And the reason he gets such big traffic is because he deserves it. He’s one of the top bloggers because his stuff is so good. Plus, he doesn’t waste our time saying the same damn thing throughout a post or trying to impress us with his brilliance. He says what he needs to say and lets us do our own thinking. That’s why I subscribed to his RSS feed last year. He’s a must-read (well, except for the More Thread stuff he does for his commenters), and is one of only a handful of bloggers I read. And no, I’m not just saying that in hopes that he’ll finally add me (though I would certainly understand if he did). Every blogger can’t get Atrios’ traffic, and I see nothing wrong with the idea that the best bloggers should get the most traffic. That just makes sense.

    Overall, we’ve got to remember that blogroll’s are a courtesy, not a requirement. I personally have had two of my bigger link sources (Publius and Berube) quit their blogs and that put a small dent in my traffic, but I’ll live. And seeing as how I still haven’t gotten around to creating my own blogroll, I shouldn’t complain. And I’m not. Nobody owes me anything and I don’t owe anything to anybody. I don’t even want a big audience. I’ve got my regular readers who like what I do, and I’m happy. And unless you want to add me and everyone else to your blogroll, then you have no right to complain and just sound really lame.

    I’m not saying any of this to be personally offensive. Just an observation from someone who has never been here before and didn’t see a reason to come back. And again, I say that as a Z-List blogger who has gotten more links from Jonah Goldberg (one) than I got from Atrios (zero). And that Goldberg link was HUGE for me, even though none of those a-holes ever came back (thank god). I just wish Greenwald would come back from Salon, as his comments section was a real godsend when it came to bringing in readers. His stuff is just a humorless version of my own, and think that I was discriminated against because I’m a CPA and not a lawyer. Lawyers have all the fun.

  34. I think people getting worked up by this place far too much stock in being on someone else’s blogroll. (But then to each his own—I don’t really define the success of my blog in terms of unique visitors and am not hoping to make a job of it.)

    For the most part, blogrolls are places for people to list those blogs that they read on a more or less regular basis (this is certainly what Atrios has explicitly said). It would be wonderful to discover the A-listers reading lists to be as surprising as they are varied. But when they more often than not turn out to be boring and predictable, does it really call for demands for recompense?

    Blogrolls as alms for the SEO poor?

    But, I’m getting carried away, as none of that was my actual point for commenting here…

    My main point is to suggest to you (and skippy in turn) that DailyKos’ restrictive robots.txt rules are quite likely less about Master Markos’ Global Conspiracy For Total Kontrol than they are about preventing spambot abuse.

    Given a large, massively high PageRank site like DKos on which anyone can freely publish, there will be the problem of spammers trying to leverage it for their SEO needs. (Cf, Bloggerstill.)

    One way to dissuade them from even trying is to render doing so pointless by taking away the PageRank carrot.

    Contra the suggestion in skippy’s thread that Kos is “completely ignorant of Search Engine Optimization,” I actually think he probably has a pretty good handle on it.

  35. I think SteveS has quite a valid point; some of the times I’ve seen a spike in traffic was when I left a comment on an A-List blog which other commenters found noteworthy, specifically TBogg & Glenn Greenwald. I certainly didn’t derive traffic on their sites because I’m on their respective blogrolls (not that it bothers me, they have no idea who I am, after all).

    When I first started blogging (I’ve been doing so less than a year), I maintained a rather exhaustive blogroll. Stupid me, I just thought that’s what one did. Most of the links I added to my blogroll were put there because I’d seen them on the A-List blogs.

    Before long, I realized I was using the roll as a lazy set of bookmarks, clicking on them when I was posting, just to see what was going on. I soon realized there were links aplenty that I never clicked on and they were the first to go. Then, I started pruning for quality reasons (Eschaton was the first to go amongst the A-Listers…it really is not a very good blog, dull as dishwater, IMHO).

    So I currently have a three-tiered system: blogs I like and read quite a bit or I have a personal relationship with, local area bloggers with reciprocal links and a very short list that I’ve even entitled “blogs that don’t need my link.”

  36. Yeah, a bunch of sites got taken off those blogrolls. But a bunch of new ones got added.

    All this whining from the sites taken off blogrolls is disrespectful to all the new sites who now had a chance to get a wider viewing (for all it’s worth. My Left Wing’s traffic doesn’t appear to have suffered much. Look at the sitemeter).

    What we have here is a bunch of sites that got on blogrolls early on, and wanted a monopoly on their little real estate, shutting new blogs out. I’m glad those blogs freshened things up.

  37. Congrats on the Atrios link but goodbye. Dude, there are better things to get bent about. In short, what brent said.

  38. You’re probably going to get swamped by Atrios-defenders, now that he’s linked to you in a snarky post.

    Anywhoo – I don’t use anyone’s blogroll but my own. I would think it would be much more valuable to get a link in a post, and then use that to capitalize on the new visitors by pointing them towards other posts you’ve written that they may be interested in, and by writing new posts that will hold their interest. That’s how I found most of the blogs on my blogroll.

    I’ve personally been a highly ignored member of the blogosphere for 5 years or so – 2 as a reader/commenter, 3 as a blogger. I don’t forsee a time when my blog ever creeps out of the sub D-list place it currently inhabits, because I’m not focused on any particular subject, and I get burnt out from outrage when I post about politics too much.

    I do see your point that the big guys can help the little guys up. I also agree that they don’t really have an obligation to do so, although I think it would be beneficial if they did feel a little noblesse oblige.

  39. Black. Gay. Father. Vegetarian. Buddhist. Liberal.

    Get a sex-change and two other other weird bodymods and I might put you on my blogroll when I get around to starting a blog.

  40. brent writes:

    “I kept reading Atrios because he was pithy and punchy. I liked it at first because the cryptic lingo seemed so wicked. “Smarter monkeys, please”. Like a political cartoon.”

    OK, that’s fine. But keep in mind that Eschaton grew out of the Mediawhoresonline project. And MWO was much more thoughtful, democratic, and successful in some ways than any blog that exists now. Atrios got a lot of his blog schtick from the MWO style. It’s not entirely original.

    I also find myself in uncomfortable agreement about Kos. His past politics and his ‘libertarian Democrat’ outreach project make me doubt very much that he’s a classical liberal. Maybe that doesn’t matter, but it might in the long term.

    And, Pheonix Woman, etc., this site and all others have not only the right but the obligation to explore areas that make other writers uncomfy. This post clearly got under Duncan’s skin: he linked here directly in part so that his close associates would come over here why, now?

    That makes me wonder a bit too.

  41. Is this still a topic? I think I said this back then, if not, I’ll say it now — I blog for myself. To vent, yell, scream and share too much info. I blog for myself.

    People need to stop and re-think the importance of these people, so called “a-listers”. They are only as important as you think they are. (shrugs) Some of what they write is interesting, but not all. Just as some of what others write is interesting, but not all. And that is where it ends. Does it mean I would slit my wrist if they stopped writing? No! And I also wouldn’t care one way or another if they ever linked to me. It would not change what I do with my blog, cause it is my release only. For me.

  42. I’ve never clicked on a blogroll link. Ever.
    I couldn’t even tell you where on the page Atrios’ and Kos’ blogrolls are.

    When I had my own blog, it had no blogroll. I find them to be boring and pointless.
    When a few other blogs added me to their blogrolls, I felt a moment of guilt for not having returned the favor by creating a useless blogroll of my own – until I found that I NEVER got any hits from blogrolls anyway.

    I got hits from my comments, and I got hits from being mentioned in posts.

    Screw blogrolls. If you want links, post something interesting that others think is useful an they’ll link to it. Or they won’t. Doesn’t matter.

    Blog because you have interesting things to say, not because you want to have interesting people to say things to.

  43. Maurinsky: Well, it looks like the extent to which he’s “swamped” it’s by those making one basic argument: “it’s his site, and he’ll do what he wants”. Well, yes. Both are absolutely true.

    Blogs are like that.

    (Diaries aren’t, which is why I don’t like the argument that everybody should just go diary on some other guy’s site. Look at what happened to Francis.)

    Thing is? That’s meaningless. We’re not talking about “can”, we’re talking about “should”. Ought implies can, not vice versa. Should he have purged? Should Kos have purged?

    Well, no, probably not. It engendered a LOT of bad feelings, and I haven’t gotten the impression that it’s helped any other small blogs one whit. In defending the purge he and Kos have sabotaged that reason for it anyway: if blogrolls don’t mean anything, then there’s no point to trying to use them to build up new blogs. All its done is taken people like skippy, who should have been valuable allies and sources of information, and alienated them.

    The other argument I keep reading from brent et al (leaving aside the juvenile “tooooo long” bit) is that nobody cares.

    Riiiight.

    If Atrios didn’t care, he wouldn’t keep getting all defensive about it, to the point of writing incredibly insulting posts about “why your blog sucks”. If kos or Bowers didn’t care, they wouldn’t have done much the same thing, albeit in somewhat more earnest posts. If Atrios’ followers and sympathizers didn’t care, they wouldn’t be posting here and elsewhere about how much they don’t care. They’d do go something else.

    (They certainly wouldn’t be taking shots at Orcinus, of all things.)

    I think everybody, now, gets why this was a bad idea, even those behind it. I think everybody, now, also gets why it’s not going to be reversed- because the A-listers are never, ever going to admit that they were wrong, even if they were.

    Why?

    Because that’s what politicians are trained not to do.

    And now, it appears, they’re becoming just another set of politicians.

  44. Well, I hadn’t relized that Duncan now, apparently, wants to shoot terrence in the face.

    A novel form of “amnesty”, but effective I suppose.

    Doesn’t make much of a case for Atrios not caring, though. Ditto the 251 comment following it.

  45. Hey! Why aren’t you linking to me??!! How am I supposed to put food on my family?

    (sigh). Whatever.

  46. A few cents worth:

    Anyone remember the study done of the linking patterns between liberal blogs and between conservative blogs? [I have been thinking about it lately but don’t have the source on hand.]

    The amoeba-shaped graphic representations of interconnection revealed a broad diversity of lefty linkages. The righty links tended to radiate from central “sources”.

    That neatly compliments a common observation that lefty blogger style is more independent and righty is much more dependent on “big daddy Drudge”.

    I agree with the comments that people will access links on the front page to follow a story on a blog and not its blogroll.

    What I enjoy about Atrios is that he provides links to the “Stories of the day” that he is quite adept at culling from the internets analyses of them.

    This keeps the lefty linkage high while not giving the right any bounce in numbers (e.g. Atrios links to a trusted lefty blog post on the latest Malkin, we jump to the story there rather than letting her get the hits).

    Readers then don’t have to schlep through a massive load of crap to get informed.

    Atrios acts as a trusted filter, as a thalamic organ, as it were.

    If you want the hits you’ll have to be able to deliver the goods.

  47. We’re not talking about “can”, we’re talking about “should”. Ought implies can, not vice versa. Should he have purged?

    I think the purge was a great idea. Atrios should be able to link to anyone he wants, and people shouldn’t get their panties in a bind because he decided he wanted his blogroll to be something different than what it was. People have different reasons for their blogrolls. Some want to promote lesser-known bloggers that they think should be better known (I think that’s why the Great & Powerful Digby added me to his), while others want to showcase the blogs that they read. I think that’s what Atrios wanted his to be.

    So why do people have to take this so personally? Atrios wanted to make his blogroll more of what he thought it should be. Why is that a problem? Why should he be held hostage to the unwritten rule of blogrolls? Why are we making these people our personal slaves? I don’t think celebrities are heros or slaves, and should be allowed the personal freedoms we all enjoy. Atrios didn’t start blogging so that you could tell him what his blog should be. He started blogging because he had something to say, and enough other people liked it that he became a celebrity. So now he has to fit our rules of what he should be? That’s absurd.

    So to answer the question: Yes, anyone who wanted their blogroll to be different than what it was should have purged it. And if it was a dumb idea and if Atrios has become a sell-out, then this will eventually play itself out and he will suffer the consequences. But I don’t think he’d care. He was a nobody before he was Atrios and I suspect he’d be fine as a nobody again. But in the meantime, he runs his blog as we’d all like to run our blogs; by our own rules, and that’s what everyone should do. I don’t have a blogroll and think it would be wrong if someone told me I needed one. Terrance has a different way of doing his blogroll, and he has the right to do that. And the blog celebrities are no different. We don’t own them and if they screw-up their blogs, they’ll suffer.

    But we need to let them do their own thing. That’s what freedom’s about. If there isn’t a necessity to deny someone their freedom, then you shouldn’t do it. And there is no necessity to force Atrios to keep people on his blogroll who shouldn’t be there or to make him write about things he doesn’t want to write about. It might make people unhappy, but it shouldn’t and those people should be ashamed of themselves for wanting to punish him for doing what we all do. If anything, the mistake would be including the wrong people on the roll; not the act of removing them. Thus said, if Digby ever took me off his blogroll, I would cry. But I’d do it quietly. Because it’s the right thing to do.

    P.S. As for your comment on Atrios shooting Terrance and him “not caring”, you’re missing the point. The shooting line was surely a joke, and he cares only to the extent that people continue to wrongly attack him. To me, if someone is wrongly attacking someone, you blame the attacker, not the victim. People continue to smear Atrios for enjoying the freedom that all bloggers have and that’s messed-up. Let’s just do our own thing to the extent that we can. That’s what life is about.

  48. I see blogrolling as more of a courtesy than anything else. It’s a gesture of respect to bloggers whose work you like. That said, I won’t link to bloggers who behave like assholes, for whatever reason — too big for their britches, misogynistic, refusal to believe that anyone over 35 should be taken seriously as a blogger — nor do I link to people who clearly don’t put any effort into what they write (Atrios).

    I used to visit the Big Boiz first thing in the morning before blogging. But as my own blog got rolling and I started getting comments, I added more smaller blogs to the blogroll. Much of my traffic still comes from Google, however, except on the occasion when I get linked from one of the few A-listers like the C&L folks, who still remember what it’s supposed to be about.

    At this point, I find most of the B- and C-listers have more interesting things to say than people like Atrios, who can post “Rock on” and wait for 347 people to post equally meaningless comments.

    Traffic is primarily an issue for the purposes of Blogads. I had a few ads back in the beginning, but now I don’t get any, because it has taken me almost 3 years just to get to the point where I pretty consistently get around 450 visitors/day, and you need 1000 for Blogads to take you seriously. But then, I do not labor under the delusion, no matter how many people tell me I should be writing professionally, that I am ever going to earn a living from my blog.

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