Ron Brynaert, who writes the most excellent Why Are We Back in Iraq? (and has been linked in the NY Times, of all places), recently wrote a great piece on titled Blogroll Purge about--what else?--purging his blogroll of links that do not link to him.
Ron's discovered that it doesn't pay to link to people who won't give *you* the time of day and link back. He's realized what I realized when I started doing this blog-thing on a personal level--that if you're not linking back and forth to each other, you're not creating community.
If you're not linking, and you're not creating community, you and others with whom you share common ground, stand to lose--in many ways. Ron sees it thru a political lens. In Blogroll Purge he notes how the right seems to have a big thing about all that linklove, but the left seems to be as snooty as a Hollywood double-cheek airkiss. Ron is very right to note that this gives right-wing bloggers more clout in the blogosphere. It gives them more links to more supporting viewpoints, that's for sure.
I see it in simple, social terms--if I like you enough to link to you, just link back. If I find out you've linked to me, I'll link back to you. Kiss, kiss--Link, link.
I've heard the excuse from some bloggers that they will not link to someone who links to them because they think the linking blog doesn't reflect their blog's sensibilities. Please. Are all your friends exactly like you all the time? Blogrolls should be about diversity. We should be able to demonstrate that we aren't so fixated that we can't read content that isn't completely parallel with ours. If we want to shatter the image of blogs as being nothing more than echo chambers (and, believe me, MSM loves to tout that bit about us), listing blogs that are not our mirror image shows that we're open to being more than navel gazing diarists and that we can converse with others.
And even if someone IS a navel-gazing diarist, if the writing's good, then I just might link. If someone's a Rush Limbaugh right wing, Shania Twain-lovin' navel gazer....well, I might have to think a couple of times about that....then again, they'd have to think twice about me, too...
Now, yes, there's the problem of A-listers and links. There are indeed A-listers who get far too many requests for links from their blogs to the rest of the blogosphere. I tend to think that A-listers should just be left to themselves--unless we're lucky enough to establish peer-to-peer communications with the ones who are open to such a thing. Some are, some aren't. Many are no longer providing permalinks, but many will provide postlinks which can be great for us Upstart bloggers. But I don't believe it's necessary to immediately link to A-listers when we start our blogs to prove something about ourselves or about our blogs. What are we proving? That we can give a link to someone the rest of the world already knows about?
I link to a few "A-list" types, but that's because it's easier for me to go to their blogs from my blog. It's also way for my little blog to show up in their stats. If they bother to look, it *may* get them over here. No other reason that that.
Further, how A-listers want to handle their blogrolls and links is up to them. If you think about it, some of those A-list blogs aren't even blogs in the same sense that many of us are blogs....in the sense that they are not looking to interact and build any kind of community. They are content providers, that's it. If you're into reading their content, then read it. But don't look for community in a space dedicated just to telling *you* what's what.
Likewise, if some blogs have a huge number of comments, but the blogger (or bloggers)let the comments ramble like an unmoderated USENET newsgroup, then let them be just that-- unmoderated USENET newsgroups. Personally, I don't participate in blogs of that sort. Why should I? I had my share of Forums/Newsgroups years ago with alt.goth and the New York Times Film Forums. Forums are one kind of social software and blogs are another. I'm posting on a blog to get to know the blogger and his/her commenters who also blog--I'm not interested in numbskulls who don't know the first thing about blogging and probably hate bloggers but love to leave comments on blogs because they think blogs are their new Forums.
So, the message is easy: those of us out here in the Long Tail--well, we need to work together, support one another and give each other that permalink when we discover we've been linked to. (If I've missed anyone in my blogroll, let me know. I'll provide a cross-link)
And if you think the whole blogroll thing's too much of a pain-in-the-ass, but you still want to give props to posts or people you think are great, then postlink...which I will do right here for Sean Coon's blog because he recently postlinked on his blog to mine.
Gotta share the linkluv, baby! Purge that deadweight! provide that perma or postlink! Because if we don't, there's no community. If there's no community, there's no point...
Blogging, Blog, Blogs, linklove, community