Get comfy; I want to tell you a little story. Actually, it’s a big, long story; that’s why you should perhaps make yourself a snack and put on your jammies and then come back. I’ll wait.
When I started blogging nearly six years ago, the way that online communities were formed was very different from how it is today. Facebook was still relatively new to the general public and for the most part, nobody was on it yet. Twitter started the year before but wasn’t “a thing” yet either.
When I was a newbie blogger*, I found other bloggers by going to the Google Blog Search, throwing in some search terms that interested me, visiting the blogs that came up in the search, and then becoming a regular reader of the ones I liked the best. Yes, really.
And commenting. I commented on everything, all the time.
It was a slow road, but gradually, people started finding me, too, mostly because of my mass commenting habit. Conversations were happening in the comment sections of blogs, bloggers checked out other bloggers via the links in the comments they left, and it was generally wonderful all around.
Eventually I had a great little circle of blog friends: we all read (and commented on) each other’s blogs. We all also had blogrolls, a listing of each other’s blogs so that new readers could find other blogs when stopping to read ours. It was a way of promoting each other, it was a way of making it easy for us to click through from one landing page and read each other’s posts daily, and it was awesome. It was a way of saying, “This is my tribe.”
An aside: one of my very first readers was Kat** in Germany, who I (and my family) eventually visited in 2010! The internet has made the world so small: I love it!
Eventually (in June 2008) I joined Twitter. Twitter was so new that Ashton Kutcher and Demi Moore were pretty much the only big-time celebrities who were on it (and still married), and it hadn’t even occurred to businesses to join yet.
Back then, Twitter wasn’t as much about promoting our blogs or tweeting out links to viral videos as it was about having conversations with people. Group conversations on Twitter? Whoa. So cool.
Shortly after I became active on Twitter, someone sent me an invitation to a social media platform called Cre8Buzz. It was sort of like MySpace for bloggers: we all had our own customizable profile page and could promote our blog posts there, but there was a chat window, and there was a place called the Anthill where anyone in the community could post. We could post pictures and audio on our pages, and lots of us had a music player widget full of songs there, too. We spent HOURS hanging out together on Cre8Buzz. HOURS. (Much like we do on Facebook today but–believe it or not–in a way that was much more directly interactive, group-wise.) Here’s an article about Cre8Buzz on Mashable. Notice that nobody has shared it on Twitter or Facebook because those platforms weren’t around in 2007 when the article was published!
Another aside: I remember that for the longest time, Mr. Lady‘s avatar was a LEGO figurine, which is why it was a while before I knew for sure that she was female. It blew my mind. (Shannon: bygones.)
At some point, Cre8Buzz disappeared from the internet–if I remember correctly, the upkeep had become too expensive for “Antman”, the guy who started it. When that happened, people were starting to join Facebook, even though Twitter was still large and in charge for the time being.
People were still reading–and commenting on–blogs, of course.
Over the past couple of years, Twitter, though still very relevant, has become less about conversations and more about promoting one’s self. (You can still have great conversations on Twitter; it’s just that you have to weed through a bunch of links to find the people who are “talking”.) Blog commenting isn’t nearly as much of “a thing” as it used to be, partly because lots of people choose to comment on the post as it’s shared on Facebook, and partly because lots of people just don’t comment anymore, period. That drives me crazy, admittedly, but there’s nothing I can do about it. I don’t have room to talk, either: though I try to comment when I can, it is much easier to read through a bunch of blog posts when I’m not stopping to comment on each and every one of them. Sigh. That leads me to this:
I’ve been doing a lot of thinking lately about community. I have lots of blog friends and a great community, but something has been missing for me and I couldn’t put my finger on it.
Recently I realized that it’s the blogroll.
I haven’t had a blogroll in more than three years. The last time I had one, I had a ridiculous number of links on it (more than 150). They were all blogs that I was reading on a fairly regular basis, but it just got out of hand. It was also a straight list of links with no descriptors and not very interesting at all, so I took it down.
The problem is, I think that blogrolls help form and maintain communities. I believe that you can learn a lot about somebody (a blogger, for the purposes of this post) by checking out their blogroll. Who do they read? Who are their friends?
Blogrolls help us expand our community, and in my personal experience, find some really great friends.
Yet another aside: I’m not looking to go back to the way things were, even though the way things were was great! I just realize that, for me, it’s just a matter of moving forward while pulling an element or two from the good old days: the best of both worlds.
Recently in trying to figure out my plan of action, I started looking around at the blogs I read nowadays to see who has a blogroll and who doesn’t. It seems like a 50/50 split, or maybe 40/60 (40% having blogrolls). Most of the blogrolls I see are short lists of less than ten blog links, with just the titles listed.
One glaring exception is the blogroll of my friend Momo. I ADORE her blogroll, and have loved it since it was added when her blog was redesigned a couple of years ago. She’s got a little blurb listed with each blog link, either a private joke or a funny descriptor, and it is positively adorable. It’s simple but fun, and it makes me want to click. I am fairly certain that I have clicked on just about every blog with which I wasn’t already familiar. That’s the idea of a blogroll right there.
I love her blogroll so much that I totally copied her design to use in recreating my own. I’m admitting it. I’m not ashamed. There. I said it. We don’t read all of the same blogs and I made up my own descriptors and such, obviously, but I basically stole her style (or as my sister would say, I “bit her style”) and am using it on my own blog. So there. (I also notified Momo of this development over the weekend so it’s out in the open. I don’t think she minded. She hasn’t said a word to me about it. Or anything else. Wait a minute…)
That said, her style ended up being awesome for both of us because I am in love with my new blogroll.
My new blogroll does not include every single blog I read: it includes the ones I read most often. I don’t want to go back to having a list of 150+. It’s currently got a few more than fifty links on it (people I’ve been reading since the beginning, people I only met this year at the BlogHer conference, and lots from in between), and I think that’s plenty. Check it out here (and it’s up at the top of the page in my navigation menu, for future reference), and go visit some of my blog friends.
**Kat hasn’t blogged in over a year. ARGH! This is one of those instances in which I’m SO thankful for Facebook and the ability to keep in touch.