Because I have been working, I haven’t been keeping up with other people’s blogs as assiduously as I have done in the past. I have quite a long list of blogs that I read, all dutifully logged in my Bloglines account. During the last few weeks, the number of unread posts has increased alarmingly and there is now a huge backlog. I am gradually working my way through this.
Blogs are like people: they are born, they interact with the world for a while and eventually they die. There are many reasons why people stop updating their blogs. Authors may become bored or disillusioned or become too busy with other things. Sometimes, discontinuing bloggers let you know that they are not going to post again. Such is the case, for example, of the much-admired Julia Buckley. Others simply stop and you may have no idea why. One of the more mysterious examples of this was over the hill which ceased functioning in November 2006 without explanation.
If you like a blog, then its death obviously makes you sad, especially if you do not know why it has stopped or what disaster may have overtaken its author. There is also the practical problem: should you keep the link to the blog in your RSS reader and in your own blogroll, rather like the photo of a long departed friend on the mantelpiece, or should you remove it and move on?
The contents of your blogroll and your RSS reader are in any case likely to differ. I often add blogs to my reading list on a trial basis. At that point I don’t know whether I will continue with them or not. Early promise may not be fulfilled. I would not want to put such new blogs on my blogroll until certain I liked them. Then again, I read news sources, such as the French language newspaper Le Figaro and wouldn’t put these in my blogroll.
Then the social nature of the blogroll cannot be overlooked. No one knows what is in my RSS reader but anyone can see what is in my blogroll. If your blog suddenly disappears from my blogroll, you might well wonder why and regard it as a slight. One is therefore much more cautious about removing links from one’s blogroll than from one’s RSS reader.
I sometimes wonder how many people take any notice of blogrolls. Some blogs sport long ones; others have short ones or none at all. What is the purpose of a blogroll, anyway? Does it mean “I like these blogs so why don’t you give them a try?” or is it simply a courtesy as in “You put me in your blogroll, so I’m putting you in mine”?
The conventional view, of course, is that blogging is a social activity, not a solitary one. This view sees a blog as part of a community rather than as a private journal or diary. Personally, I think there is room for both or, going further, that you are free to make of your blog whatever you want. For example, I have seen blogs with comments turned off and no blogrolls, perfect exemplars of the private journal concept. One may wonder why such blogs are published in the public sphere but that is a matter for the author.
Other blogs embody the community concept, being followed by numerous fans who leave dozens of comments attached to each post. Their authors presumably reciprocate by reading and commenting other people’s blogs. I suspect, though, that reading is far more common than commenting. Not that I think there is any harm in that. I am a firm believer in the principle “If you have nothing to say, then say precisely that.” There is no point in commenting just for the sake of commenting.
Tomorrow is my last day at work. I hope after that to have more time to spare and to make a serious effort to catch up on the backlog. If you find me commenting on old posts of yours, you will know the reason why.