Prompted by this comment thread over at troubled-diva, which started when mike revealed, according to his recent site survey, that “By far the strongest currency in blogging is inter-blog linking, be it on a main post, a linklog post or a blogroll” and that “Comment-whoring doesn’t work!”
I, amongst others, was slightly taken aback by this as I’d always presumed that inter-blog links were rarely followed, with the real value and “currency” coming through the discussion and comments on a site.
So inter-blog links, blogrolls or whatever you want to call them, are where the value is held, are they? Hmmm, well I guess they may be, and looking back at the history of blogging practises it’s understandable.
A recent spat in some US blogs had blogrolls accused of being a bad thing because they perpetuated the circular linking of the “most popular” blogs and thereby shrank the notion of who was in the “A-list” list. However it is kind of obvious if you think about it – the popular people are the ones you find first, why? Because they are popular! When you are starting out you link to them because you like what they do – they are popular for a reason after all – and their perceived popularity nips up another spot or two because another 100 new bloggers have linked to them. That kind of thing is why blogrolls can be seen to be bad/negative.
Now I’d suggest that that’s part and parcel of things, and I did the same when I started out, most people do when they try something new, it’s how fashions come about after all.
Then, after you’ve been blogging for a while, you start to find other blogs, blogs that better suit your tastes and your blogroll changes. You may leave on the original blogs but more often than not you start seeing your blogroll differently, no longer is it an “I think these are great sites” list but a “these sites reflect my tastes” list (a subtle but very valid difference).
There are plenty of sites that link to mine that I don’t even know about, I discover one or two every week, and I’ll check them out and occasionally add them to the blogroll, although more often than not I don’t. Not because I don’t like them, or don’t rate them but usually because I know that I won’t get around to visiting them often. As Mike (Troubled Diva) says – and he’ll know better than me – when you get to a certain level of popularity (or rather an awareness of your sites popularity) you CAN’T link back to all the sites that link to you or you’d end up with a stupidly long list.
However if it’s true that inter-blog linking holds greater sway than commenting then I’d suggest it’s because it’s a constant. Everytime you visit a site with a blogroll you’ll see the name of the linked sites. It’s always there, comments, by their very nature are fleeting, random and never constant. Some people comment on MOST posts here on my site, some people only comment now and then, some people don’t comment at all and email me directly.
Blogrolls, or lists of links, or whatever you want to call them, ARE of value to readers of your site. They offer a path out of your site and hopefully on towards another site they might find interesting. They show the sites you enjoy and recommend and they are always there.
But are comments really of LESS currency or are they of higher individual value but lower overall because they are less common? (And is it possible to be both?)
I think comments are of great value when they are OF value. If they are not, I don’t bother with them. By that token, the same can be said of links. If I think a site will be interesting or of value to people who visit my site, I’ll link to it. If I don’t think it offers value, I won’t. And no, it’s not THAT black and white, I do link to some sites because I’ve read them for a long time, and feel that I SHOULD link to them. Similarly if I read a comment here, or on another site, that I think is of value then I’ll usually track down their website and have a gander.
The key thing in both of these areas, links and comments, is how the value is assigned. There is no fixed “price” for either, and no way of discerning the value across different sites. I may value links over comments, someone else may value the opposite and yet another may value comments only ignore all blogrolls… and so on and so on. And that’s half the beauty of this thing we call “blog”. It’s so open to interpretation by both the author and the reader that there are few hard and fast rules.
Either way, it’s worthwhile considering how others may perceive the value in what you offer, whether in the blogosphere or real life. What are YOUR blog values?