For a while I’ve been pondering whether or not I should delete the “Friends” section of my website in exchange for a traditional blogroll.
For those of you who don’t what a blogroll is, it’s generally just a set of links placed in a box on a website’s sidebar that give people a suggestion of the kind of websites you like to read and/or recommend. Without doubt you’ve seen them, even if you never cared to ask what they are called.
I’ve never particularly liked blogrolls, and instead chose to make a more personalized “Friends” section when I created my website. I borrowed the idea from Carl Hiassen, who is one of my favorite authors.
After considerable thought, discussion, and investigation, I’ve decided that I’m going to eliminate the Friends section of my website. I’m also going to forgo replacing it with a blogroll. Instead I will be trying something else that I think will be of more value to me, my friends, and my readers. But before I reveal my new experiment, I’d like to discuss my rationale in greater detail.
As I mentioned, my original goal with having a Friends section was to essentially say “Hey! Look at all of these cool people I know and check out their websites for these reasons.” Obviously I knew that readers would pick and choose based on their interests where they might click.
What soon occurred though was that I had a problem maintaining the Friends section. In truth, I never even was able to entirely complete the page. The primary reason is that the internet has made it wonderfully possible for us to constantly meet new people with similar interests. I have limited time as it is, and constantly updating my friends section seemed hard to do. I even felt embarrassed that I never took the time to finish writing descriptions for some friends who create great online content. I always planned I would do it, but never prioritized the time.
Likewise, sometimes friends would stop updating their websites, and it felt like it would be weird to suddenly say “Your off the site slacker!!” In the end, my “Friends” section seems like it has the potential to alienate my friends just as easily as making them feel honored.
After a discussion about it with my friend Zachary Shahan, he persuaded me that the “Friends” section nonetheless has value in that it allows readers to obtain a more personalized context of who I am through the connections I have made in my life. I agree. But maintaining it is something I haven’t been able to successfully do with my limited time.
While my website also currently does not have loads of traffic (hoping to improve that soon!), the number of clicks people make over to my friends’ websites is decidedly low. So something needs to change.
I decided to look for advice on the internet about blogrolls, which on first glance seem much easier to maintain. I also wonder if they ultimately attract more clicks just from ease and curiosity. In my search for answers, I discovered that some people think they don’t generate many clicks. I also found an excellent article by Terry Freedman listing “8 Reasons Not to have a Blogroll.”
While I agree with all of Freedman’s reasons for not having a blogroll, I would like to highlight these 2:
“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!”
“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!”
Agreed! So a blogroll doesn’t really meet my needs either when you combine all of these factors.
Freedman proposes that working the links of friends into relevant articles and blogposts is an elegant solution to this problem. I think he is right, but that this is rarely achievable based on what I write (although it definitely won’t hurt to try to do it more often).
I also tend to think that this is what social media sites like Facebook and Twitter can help do efficiently. Posting a great article from one of my friends to Facebook is something I do all the time and I often think it helps them gain readers immediately. A blogroll seems like a more haphazard shot in the dark.
So here is what I think is a solution to my own dilemma:
Another neglected area of my website has been the “Cool Links” section. I’ve always intended for this section to have outstanding evergreen web content (content that can be cool to read or watch over a period of years). I still think that this concept is a great idea and helps reflect my personality by showing what I find interesting. So I am going to try to place more here, especially from my friends (who produce great content consistently).
We will see how my experiment ends up working, and I am open to any other thoughts people have about better ways I might honor and recognize my friends’ excellent contributions to the web in a way that provides value to some readers– if not all of them. Thanks!
Image courtesy of Zaius Nation