A Note on blogrolls

The following few paragraphs adapt a footnote I had to remove for space constraints from my paper on the early weblog community:

Blogrolls existed before there was a name for them. The earliest instances include Chris Gulker’s in 1997[1] and early 1998,[2] as well as Michal Wallace’s in late 1998[3] and Cameron Barrett’s in early 1999.[4]

A hyperlinked list of other weblogs, placed in a weblog’s main page sidebar, was initially known as a “resource box,”[5] “WebLog list”[6] “surfmenu”[7] or simply a “sidebar.”[8] Blogroll did not come to be the accepted term until early 2002.

The term blogroll went through a gestation period of more than a year after Doc Searls coined the witty neologism “blogrolling”[9] in December 2000. The initial coinage, placed as the heading of a brief note that linked to a recent posting by Searls’ friend, collaborator and fellow blogger David Weinberger, was intended to evoke the spirit of “Spy Magazine’s original ‘Logrolling in our time’ feature, which consisted of twin blurbs from flattering book reviews written by authors about each other’s work.”[10] The “endorsement of value”[11] implied in Searls’ use of blogrolling wasn’t originally tied to the list format, however, and for much of the year 2001, Searls used the term to describe, and ironically deflate, blog posts that linked to friends or associates of his, such as his mention of a radio show that was about to air an interview with his fellow journalist Paul Boutin.[12] In the first half of 2001, Searls’ conventional free-standing links page was titled “Blogrolling”[13] as well.

Searls elevated these links to his blog’s main page sidebar on 24 August 2001 as part of an interface redesign and a code upgrade,[14] and came to call them his blogrolling list. Searls kept using this compound term for the rest of the year, for instance when reporting high levels of referral traffic “from (much appreciated) blogrolling lists.”[15] He also stuck to the term blogrolling list for the first few months of the following year,[16][17][18] but eventually adopted the shortened blogroll on 18 April 2002.[19] The term blogroll was popularised by Blogrolling.com, a then widely used third-party service that facilitated the compilation and maintenance of “multiple blogrolls for friends, enemies and even in-laws.”[20]

The blogroll soon became a standard feature of any weblog. Searls at one point even suggested that it was a defining, indispensable feature whose absence on Andrew Sullivan’s site disqualified that site from being called a weblog.[21] During the blogroll’s heyday, one tutorialist pointed out, however, that a blogroll was “by no means required.”[22] The blogroll’s eventual demise was heralded in late 2003 by Danah Boyd who, frustrated that the list didn’t express her social relations to a satisfactory degree of precision, removed her blogroll as being “nowhere near representative of me.”[23] Searls reached a similar conclusion almost four years later when he abandoned his blogroll as “a stale relic of blogging’s origins in the Static Web era.”[24]

References

  1. ^ Gulker, Chris (1997-10-31). “Chris Gulker’s News Page”. Gulker.com. http://web.archive.org/web/19990430041721/ww2.gulker.com/news/archive/october.html. Retrieved on 2008-03-03. 
  2. ^ Gulker, Chris (1998-02-13). “Chris Gulker’s NewsPage”. Gulker. http://web.archive.org/web/19980215222004/ww2.gulker.com/news/. Retrieved on 2009-07-07. 
  3. ^ Wallace, Michal (1998-12-05). “Manifest station”. Manifestation.com. http://web.archive.org/web/19981205063156/http://www.manifestation.com/. Retrieved on 2009-07-07. 
  4. ^ Barrett, Cameron (1999-01-28). “CamWorld: Random Thoughts, Web Design, New Media”. CamWorld. http://web.archive.org/web/19990128075502/http://www.cambarrett.com/. Retrieved on 2009-07-07. 
  5. ^ Barrett, Cameron (1999-01-26). “Tuesday, January 26, 1999”. Camworld. http://www.camworld.org/journal/1999/01/#26. Retrieved on 2009-07-07. 
  6. ^ Merholz, Peter (1999-02-01). “Peterme.com”. Peterme. http://web.archive.org/web/19990203050942/http://peterme.com/. Retrieved on 2009-07-07. 
  7. ^ Cope, Aaron (1999). “What is surfmenu?”. Aaronland. http://web.archive.org/web/20031203192632/aaronland.net/toys/surfmenu/. Retrieved on 2009-07-07. 
  8. ^ Garrett, Jesse James (1999-11-22). “This feature is on indefinite hiatus”. Infosift. http://www.jjg.net/retired/infosift/. Retrieved on 2009-07-07. 
  9. ^ Searls, Doc (2000-12-17). “Sunday, December 17, 2000”. Doc Searls Weblog. http://doc-weblogs.com/2000/12/17. Retrieved on 2009-07-07. 
  10. ^ Searls, Doc (2001-02-27). “Tuesday, February 27, 2001”. Doc Searls Weblog. http://doc-weblogs.com/2001/02/27. Retrieved on 2009-07-07. 
  11. ^ Searls, Doc (2001-03-22). “Thursday, March 22, 2001”. Doc Searls Weblog. http://doc-weblogs.com/2001/03/22. Retrieved on 2009-07-07. 
  12. ^ Searls, Doc (2001-08-26). “Blogrolling”. Doc Searls Weblog. http://doc-weblogs.com/2001/07/26#blogrolling. Retrieved on 2009-07-07. 
  13. ^ Searls, Doc (2001-07-30). “Information Boulevard”. Doc Searls Weblog. http://doc-weblogs.com/2001/07/30#informationBoulevard. Retrieved on 2009-07-07. 
  14. ^ Searls, Doc (2001-08-24). “Under destruction”. Doc Searls Weblog. http://doc-weblogs.com/2001/08/24#underDestruction. Retrieved on 2009-07-07. 
  15. ^ Searls, Doc (2001-10-16). “Later, dudes”. Doc Searls Weblog. http://doc-weblogs.com/2001/10/16#laterDudes. Retrieved on 2009-07-07. 
  16. ^ Searls, Doc (2002-01-03). “Travel”. Doc Searls Weblog. http://doc-weblogs.com/2002/01/03#travel. Retrieved on 2009-07-07. 
  17. ^ Searls, Doc (2002-01-21). “Independent media edge”. Doc Searls Weblog. http://doc-weblogs.com/2002/01/21#independentMediaEdge. Retrieved on 2009-07-07. 
  18. ^ Searls, Doc (2002-03-01). “Bleverage”. Doc Searls Weblog. http://doc-weblogs.com/2002/03/01#bleverage. Retrieved on 2009-07-07. 
  19. ^ Searls, Doc (2002-04-18). “Peacerolling”. Doc Searls Weblog. http://doc-weblogs.com/2002/04/18#peacerolling. Retrieved on 2009-07-07. 
  20. ^ DeFillippo, Jason (2002-05). “Blogrolling: Link manager for your weblog”. Blogrolling.com. http://web.archive.org/web/20020525203755/http://www.blogrolling.com/. Retrieved on 2009-07-07. 
  21. ^ Searls, Doc (2001-12-31). “How many bloggers can dance on the head of a link?”. Doc Searls Weblog. http://doc-weblogs.com/2001/12/31#howManyBloggersCanDanceOnTheHeadOfALink. Retrieved on 2009-07-07. 
  22. ^ LeFever, Lee (2003-11-25). “What is a Blogroll? Why Would I Want One?”. Common Craft. http://www.commoncraft.com/archives/000427.html. Retrieved on 2009-07-07. 
  23. ^ Boyd, Danah (2003-11-16). “Removing my blogroll”. Apophenia. http://www.zephoria.org/thoughts/archives/2003/11/16/removing_my_blogroll.html. Retrieved on 2009-07-07. 
  24. ^ Searls, Doc (2007-09-13). “More blog, less roll”. Doc Searls Weblog. http://blogs.law.harvard.edu/doc/2007/09/13/more-blog-less-rolling/. Retrieved on 2009-07-07.