Building a blogroll in 2017

lonely bear

Last weekend I began transitioning my personal website into an IndieWeb friendly site. I still have a lot of work to do on design, but more importantly I’d like to start interacting with other indie bloggers. This isn’t as easy as it sounds, since there’s one crucial thing missing from this generation of indie bloggers: the humble blogroll.

Those of you who were around in the pre-Web 2.0 era (before 2005-ish) will remember that early bloggers used to have a list of other blogs they read in their sidebars. That list was known as the “blogroll” and it was a great way for newbies to get to know established bloggers. The other neat thing about the blogroll was that it was a token of respect to the bloggers you admired. When I started ReadWriteWeb in 2003, this was my blogroll in August of that year:

blogroll 2003

Actually there’s another thing missing these days. In a precursor to ReadWriteWeb, a 2002 Radio Userland blog I called “Modern Web,” I also had an xml link for my blogroll. That was what was known as an OPML file. The idea was you could import the OPML file into an RSS Reader, as an easy way to subscribe to every blog in it. It enabled you to subscribe to my blogroll.

blogroll 2002

So where have blogrolls gone?

Well there is a page on the IndieWeb wiki devoted to blogrolls, but it’s pretty sparse. It’s treated like yesterday’s technology, which perhaps it is. After all, RSS Readers have mostly gone out of fashion too.

Speaking of which, is there an IndieWeb recommended RSS Reader?

In a word, no. However, in his Feed reader revolution post here on AltPlatform, Chris Aldrich mentioned a Reader called Woodwind.xyz. “Right now,” wrote Chris, “the Indie reader Woodwind.xyz (code available on Github) is the gold standard of what modern feed reader functionality should be.”

I think a big part of why Chris admires Woodwind is that it’s not only a reader, but a publisher too. Kind of reminded me of the very early browser-editors (notably, Tim Berners-Lee’s first browser application, which he called WorldWideWeb).

Woodwind seems to have all the technical wizardry required by IndieWeb proponents, but unfortunately the user interface is not ideal for the rest of us. I like a bit of fancy in my UI, so I ended up going back to my default RSS Reader, Feedly. Ever since Google Reader was abruptly pulled from the Web in 2013, I’ve used Feedly (and indeed pay for the Pro version). Feedly isn’t a Reader-publisher, but that’s okay. All I want to do, for now, is find a small network of indie bloggers to subscribe to.

Which brings me back to blogrolls. Since few people use blogrolls these days, finding indie bloggers was more of a manual process than I would’ve liked. So far I’ve found and added fifteen indie bloggers to my Feedly:

indie bloggers

I’m sure there are many more indie bloggers out there, so please do let me know in a comment who you are! I’d like to subscribe to you if you have an active blog.

Eventually I plan to start adding the indie bloggers I interact with regularly to my own personal blog, as a blogroll.

Incidentally, with 2017 eyes it is painfully obvious that both my early blogrolls and the one I’m assembling inside Feedly are very male-oriented. Obviously I would prefer to make it more diverse! So I’ll be doing my best to do that over time too.

Once again, sing out if you’re an indie blogger and I’ll add you to my Feedly. My personal blog is at richardmacmanus.com if you’d like to do the same. Plus of course, you can subscribe to the AltPlatform team here.

45 comments

  1. There’s been a lot of talk about blogrolls recently – it’s good to see people wanting to connect and advertise others again after the practice fell off.

    I don’t have a blogroll per se, I take a slightly different approach. I have a directory page which lists people who have interacted with my blog via webmentions. It lists blogs and accounts on micro.blog so you might like to check that out:

    https://colinwalker.blog/directory/

    As it relies on webmentions (I only receive comments this way) all blogs on it are obviously indieweb properties, as is mine.

    1. Dave, Indieweb builds with RSS along with other feed formats – if you have a look at woodwind.xyz you’ll see a feed reader with a river view, and rivers for tags, as well as a built-in posting interface.
      We have ways to turn all kinds of silos and formats into indieweb friendly formats – we’re very inclusive.

  2. I have a list of “blogs I read” – I almost deleted it because someone told me blog rolls were “so last century”! I noticed lots of new visitors to my blog click on these links (and hopefully discover other bloggers, so I’ve kept it.

  3. A thought in reply to: Building a blogroll in 2017 – AltPlatform…
    Welcome to the IndieWeb Richard MacManus. I enjoyed your thoughts on the global conversation back in the early days of blogging, and look forward to reading your thoughts on the evolution of the IndieWeb.
    Certainly thinking of re-starting a blogroll, and RicMac will certainly be on that…

    Related

    via desparoz.com

    1. Hi Kevin. It wasn’t so much I was unimpressed, but that the UI didn’t seem ideal to peruse multiple feeds. But I understand it’s a new service and does a lot of neat stuff.

      1. Thats where tags come in – you can tag each feed, and also have a ‘Exclude from primary feed’ checkbox (in the subscriptions page) – that gives you quick links to see a river for your categories, and you can hide the too-chatty feeds from the main page too.

  4. Richard: Blogroll, as name is mostly dead – nowadays you probably want to call it following. If you think about it, it’s the same thing, the difference is that following is more common within silos.
    I’m thinking of displaying all my publicly followed entities – let it be blogs, Flickr accounts, Twitter handles, or indie websites – on a page, which would resemble an oldschool blogroll but would make more sense in 2017, in my opinion.
    Sidenote: Dave is misunderstanding approaches and philosophy about IndieWeb regarding RSS: we encourage to build sites with microformats, so you don’t need to maintain a separate file and format, but if you want to, sure, go ahead. However, in addition to a website itself, one would need an RSS, an Atom, and a JSON feed just to be backwards compatible and forward thinking – whereas just applying a few CSS classes to the relevant HTML elements could replace all the hassle. That is the reason why RSS – or anything similar – is not recommended within the indieweb community, but many of us still using them.

    via petermolnar.net

    1. Thanks for your comment Peter. Re blogroll, personally I see it more as a curated list. It’s even different from who I subscribe to (i.e. follow) in my feed reader. Blogrolls back in the day were an indication of which other bloggers inspired or influenced you. Whereas who I follow is much broader than that.

      Re RSS, I’ll have to look into that some more.

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