8 Reasons Not to Have a Blogroll

Lots of people have a blogroll -- a list of blogs which the blog or website owner reads -- on the front page of their blog or website. I happen to think it is a practice which sets a poor example to students whom we instruct to set up a website as part of an assignment.

Here are the reasons that I don't have one myself.

Reason 1: Marketing

I think from what may be called a marketing point of view, having a blogroll on the front page is rather silly. To my mind, it's the equivalent of a store displaying a list of other stores outside the main entrance! I know (before you contact me to tell me that I "don't get it") that one of the factors that makes blogging vibrant is the link journalism aspect, but I don't think that a blogroll is the right way to incorporate it. Certainly not on the front page, anyway.

Reason 2: Context

When I see a list of blogs on someone's website, I have no idea why I should be interested in them. This is especially so when the subject matter covered by a blog is not obvious from its name. Why would I wish to inflict the same kind of confusion on others?

Reason 3: Maintenance

Having a blogroll means having extra site maintenance to do. I follow hundreds of blogs, and every so often some of them move to a different server, or give up the ghost altogether, which results in the main URL leading to a page containing the new URL or, worse, an error page.

It's also conceivable that one or two URLs might end up pointing to a third party website that advertises porn or web hosting deals or other irrelevant rubbish. (It has been known to happen: a geography education website officially approved by an education agency in the UK was sold off, and the URL then led to a pornography site.)

I just don't have the time, or the inclination, to keep checking the links in order to avoid these kinds of problems.

Reason 4: Reputation

This is closely linked to reason number 3. Listing blogs is, of course, to recommend them. If they suddenly go off the rails in some way, or even simply post an article with which I am in strong disagreement, that could reflect back on me. I'd rather not take that chance.

Reason 5: Creating an impression

To my mind, one of the reasons for displaying a list of blogs he or she reads is, I suspect, a blogger's way of signalling how well-read he is. It is the equivalent of having rows and rows of books which one has never read, or just dipped into once or twice. If you really have read all these blogs, or do so on a regular basis, surely the best place to demonstrate that fact is within your own posts?

Reason 6: Being honest, and being seen to be so

This is very much tied in to reason number 5. I don't have the time to read all the blogs I follow on a regular basis. Would it not be dishonest, in some sense, to give the impression that I do?

My best effort involves dipping into my list of blogs two or three times a week, and skimming through a sample of them to see if any of the blog posts catch my eye.

Those people who list dozens or even scores of blogs in their blogroll -- do they really expect me to believe that they read all of them all the time? And if not, why bother to display them all in the first place?

Reason 7: Originality of thought

If someone lists dozens of blogs in their blogroll, and reads them all assiduously, doesn't that imply that they have little time left for some original thinking? One of the reasons I follow the people I do is that they don't just react all the time, but come up with stuff all on their own. Assuming that I'm not the only person who thinks like that, why would I wish to give the impression that I don't have an original thought in my head?

Reason 8: No hard feelings

Another reason I shy away from having a blogroll is that I'd be concerned about leaving people out. Silly, perhaps, but I sometimes feel slightly "miffed" when I notice that someone who I know reads my blog hasn't listed it in their blogroll. I shouldn't wish to upset someone else in a similar way!

The best way to link

The best place to link to other blogs, in my opinion, is from within a blog post. That addresses all the points listed here. It provides context, and therefore a more sensible reason to send the reader off to someone else's blog. To continue my store analogy, it's a bit like a particular department in a store recommending other stores that provide complimentary goods and services. That happens in the right place, and also at the right time -- after you have actually entered the store!

As for dead links, in my experience, blogs may change their URL, but quite often the location of the original post remains. But where that is not the case, or where the website gets taken over by a holding company or worse, the likelihood is that a reader will inform me when a link doesn't work, so I don't feel the need to be doing maintenance all the time.

And I think it's a more honest approach. I'm not saying I read hundreds of blogs all the time, just that I read a couple for that particular article.

Hopefully, that also gets across the point that I do have original thoughts too, that I don't merely rely on others to post something to which I can react.

And, of course, by referring to nobody as part of a list, I upset nobody -- or everybody!