02 January 2012

Blogroll

Ron Hogan has an interesting post over at Beatrice, updating a 2008 post called "What's Your Ultimate Blogroll?" for the new year. This reminded me of a discussion I had with a creative nonfiction class in early December, where I was one of a few folks invited in to talk about blogging. One of the things the students asked was, "What blogs do you recommend?" I said, "Well, I've got a blogroll on the sidebar of my site with some blogs listed in it..." The instructor for the course laughed and said, "And it's got something like 300 blogs on it!"

It does certainly list a lot of sites, some of which, I'm sure, are defunct. I keep up with them all via Google Reader, and, in fact, display the list via Google Reader -- if you wanted, you could subscribe to the list itself and see every post from everybody on it.

Not very practical, though, as a recommendation service. And though in some ways it does, in fact, represent some of what I'm interested in, it doesn't prioritize that interest in any way, and it's too overwhelming for most people seeking new stuff to look at.

I've been thinking about ways of paring it down, or getting rid of it completely. With the various things I recommend via the Delicious and Diigo links on the sidebar, is there really a need for a blogroll at all? Couldn't that space be converted to, say, a list of the 10 blogs I most frequently and devotedly read?


That may, indeed, be the direction I go in, but I'd need to think about it a bit. According to Google Reader, the ten blogs I most read in the last month were:


That seems relatively accurate to me, although it's missing plenty of stuff, too -- various friends' blogs, some sites that only occasionally update, etc. And if I were specifically trying to use the list as a recommendation service, that's not the list I'd come up with.

After speaking with the creative nonfiction workshop about blogging, I emailed them a list they'd requested of five (and only five) recommended blogs. Considering the audience and the purpose of their class, as well as some of their questions, this is what I sent them:
Three of those also appeared on the list of the ten blogs I've read most frequently over the last month, while John Scalzi and Tenured Radical did not. I'm not sure I'd put Tenured Radical on a recommended list, but it seemed to me an accessible way for upper-level undergraduates to see how academic issues are discussed via the blog form. Scalzi belongs on any recommended list, whether you love him or hate him, simply because he's used the blog form so well. I was surprised his blog wasn't among the ten most-read by me last month; most months, I expect it is, because I really enjoy his internet persona and his smart, accessible blog posts.

As I was thinking about Ron's idea of the "ultimate blogroll", I thought it should be stuff that doesn't overlap that much, and that can serve as a gateway to other sites of interest -- for example, Ta-Nehisi Coates would be on my ultimate list, but James Fallows would not because Coates links to Fallows with some regularity, so you're going to discover Fallows if you read Coates much, and Coates is more essential for my interests. Similarly, Zunguzungu is absolutely essential, and much as I love Gukira, it's not as necessary because it's not updated as frequently and Aaron tends to link there when it is (indeed, I discovered Gukira via Zunguzungu).



Any essential list would also need to include a few sites that didn't appear on either of the previous lists -- I always read every post by Cheryl Morgan, for instance, since her writings on gender and trans issues in particular have been essential to my life. Adam Roberts is also essential, as he's just about my favorite critic of science fiction and fantasy. Then there are blogs that really use the form in idiosyncratic, compelling, amusing, or informative ways -- Film Studies for FreeReading Markson ReadingThe Old, Weird America; Garfield Minus Garfield...


Some topic areas seem impossible for me to whittle down to a size that would allow easy recommending -- here's a link that shows all the film-related sites that I read with some regularity, for instance. (And a few blogs that touch on film are not there because I have them categorized differently.) If somebody wanted to know how to begin perusing the film blogosphere, what response could we give? Observations on Film ArtJonathan Rosenbaum, Girish, Sergio Leone and the Infield Fly Rule, and The House Next Door might be a good start, but it leaves out a lot (African Women in Cinema, The Chutry ExperimentMirror, Press PlayScanners, etc.) So I don't know.

I'm not going to change the blogroll here immediately, because I still can't conceive of a satisfactory way to make it smaller. It would probably be helpful to categorize it more, but I don't much like categorizing, and one of the appeals of blogs to me is that they often don't stick to one particular subject. So for now the blogroll here will remain ragged, chaotic, and far from ultimate.

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