Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Amnesty for Insufferably Self-Important Bloggers (the Aforementioned Being a Subset of the Category "A-List Bloggers")

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More on the personal politics of blogging, from Elayne:

I don't like the term "blogroll amnesty." It implies the people on one's blogroll (that list of names usually found at a blog's sidebar, denoting other bloggers to which that blog links in a spirit of community and recommendation) have committed some sort of crime for which that magnanimous blog has chosen to forgive them. Which of course is not the case; what this expression has actually come to signify among A-listers in the liberal blogosphere is more like blogroll immunity, but for themselves rather than their blogrolls -- the A-listers make public announcements absolving themselves of much of their responsibility (and with great power comes yadda yadda) to encourage community and visibility by conducting consequence-free purges of their blogrolls, instead of just quietly and regularly maintaining and updating them like the rest of us.

And this in turn upsets most of the folks who aren't A-listers and suddenly find their readership and visibility dropping like a stone through no fault of their writing or activism. Some, like skippy, have responded with "since when have blogrolls stopped being recommend reading for your readers, and a personal tool for making surfing the net easier?" (I always thought newsreaders like Bloglines were for the latter.) and promptly began offering reciprocal blogroll links to pretty much everyone.

All of this started back in February, when Duncan Black (aka Atrios) decided to prune his blogroll. This is something most bloggers do, albeit with varying degrees of regularity. However, Atrios chose to do it to the accompaniment of trumpet flourishes amplified with a megaphone. What's more, he chose to make it an explicitly political issue:

As I wrote earlier, 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. They're right. A big reason for that is that 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.

I long ago decided that my blogroll should consist of blogs I read. I want to grow it again naturally, adding blogs I find myself wanting to read on a regular basis.

This is not an opportunity for people to send me an email saying "please check out my blog!" That's the worst way to get someone to check out your blog. There's nothing wrong with the fine art of blogwhoring, but it is a fine art. If you have something specific on your blog you think I might be interested in send me that.

Yes, my lord, except-- why would we "new" (as in, I never heard of your blog, so you must be new) bloggers do anything of the kind when Blogroll Amnesty Day will be coming around again before you know it?

And I'm not the only one who feels that way. The outrage even spawned a whole new B-list blog that Atrios and DKos will not put on their blogrolls. Others, of course, were only too eager to claim their rightful place at the "elite levels" conferred by elite bloggers' blogrolls.

As for me, I am more and more finding myself in agreement with folks like Skippy (whose blog was one of those Atrios cut from his roll) and TerranceDC, who writes, at Pam's House Blend:

... In part, the current system was created because of where and how we link, or -- if you will -- "where we look." What we "see," in that sense, is what we get. If you want to change what you see, you're going to have to change where you're looking. (And by the same token, if you like what you see then by all means keep looking.)

Bloggers who are concerned with inequality in the blogosphere and the politics of linking need to take a page from the playbook that women, gays, and ethnic and religious minorities have used. Instead of worrying about changing what other people are doing, change what you are doing. It's actually a necessary first step. It's what you have to do before you can convince other people to change what they are doing.

Or, to borrow from Gandhi a bit, you have to be the change you want to see in the blogosphere. And, if I can "get Buddhist" for a moment, you have to do it for it's own sake, without being attached to a particular outcome, at least as far as the choices and behaviors of others are concerned. Each of these groups did it at various points in their histories, and the model still applies. If you can't get into theirs, build your own, however small and humble it may be to start with. Invest your time and effort in building it and strengthening it, and will grow in value to you whether or not anyone else notices. (Though my guess is some will notice.)

Instead of continuing to empower the status quo and continuing to stare up at the top of the curve, look -- and link -- elsewhere. Look around you instead. Start where you are, and with those who are around you.

Cross-posted at Shakesville.


Chief said...

I guess it is to be expected to see a “hierarchy of blogs” occur. Some will be the right idea at the right time. Some may just be better marketed. I seldom visit DailyKos. I get much more value from the following four blogs:

Liberty Street USA
Political Animal
Alternate Brain

I do not know which of the blogs I visit regularly (twice or more a week) are one person efforts or a group effort. Some I know are group efforts like FireDogLake and Shakesville. I guess I’ll continue to visit my favorites and not be concerned over the terms “A-List” or “B –List” or “Whatever-List.”

I would have included links, but I do not know how to embed them.

Elayne said...

Thanks for the mention, Kathy! Wow, I'd better post something quickly if I'm going to get Shakesville AND Liberty Street traffic now. :)

Kathy said...

You're welcome, Elayne. I've been neglecting a lot of the blogs on my blogroll, but that's about to change. I want to give a lot more attention to the smaller blogs that are already on my blogroll (meaning, "smaller" in relation to the most well-known blogs), and add more on a regular basis.

Kathy said...

Chief, I'm sorry it took a whole day to publish your comment, especially as it had such a lovely compliment for me. I've been absolutely overwhelmed at school.

Chief said...

No apology necessary. Ya gotta make money to pay te rent ! ! :-)