I went out last night for a friend’s birthday celebration and ended up talking about blogging, the politics of blogging, the politics of linking, rank hierarchies and their inconsistencies, and the amount of ire this topic incited. Several of us at the table are dedicated bloggers for various reasons and had to explain the entire process and appeal to the non-bloggers at the table. If you’ve ever done this, you probably realize how much this sucks. Especially if you’ve been ruminating all afternoon over how miserable your feedback can sometimes make you feel. While you’re out trying to have a good time.
This has happened to me before, primarily on more controversial issues in which I have been accused of endorsing censorship. Passersby often leave disapraging comments, but they are absolutely nil when the criticism is from those within your desired community. This case was an instance of being accused of endorsing the breakup of this community. This was never my intent.
Think of this site as my sandbox, in the big playground of the Internet. There are lots of sandboxes, jungle gyms and curly slides on which to play, but this happens to be my sandbox. Here, I write what I think, I grapple with how I feel, I fight the bad guys I want to fight, and I get to make the rules.
You’re more than welcome to play in my sandbox. I like playing with other people when they make the experience more enriching. More minds involved in the game we’re playing can take us to places we never would have gone by ourselves. And we can do it all without leaving the sandbox — but when we do leave, surely, if the game or its outcome was worthwhile, we’ll end up telling others about it. That, in turn, could lead to others wanting to play the same game, or reconsidering or taking a more critical look at the games they play themselves. Wouldn’t that be wonderful?
…I’m more than happy to share my sandbox with you. Please, jump in!
I’m totally down with this explanation of the personal blog. And lately, because I want to take a different turn with my blog, one that is more personal and less likely to get me labeled as positioning myself as an arbiter of anything other than myself and my own feelings on whatever issue, I have a few choices. I can modify this blog to something more suited to my long-term writing goals and risk a significant amount of readership, including burning bridges which I never intended to burn, or I can ditch this place and start over elsewhere completely new.
I have long been loathe of my choice to name this blog what it is named, in part because it seems to posit myself as some sort of authority on a position in which I have little authority, but do I really want to leave it behind? Rana pointed out that it is only those of us who see blogging as a political act who have so much invested in the social structures underlying the blogosphere, including how rankings systems work (or don’t) and who is (supposedly) being heard. But unline Rana, I don’t think Shelley was trying to convince everyone to remove the blogroll so much as her post is in the spirit of provocative writing. And provoke it did.
Some accused Shelley and I of throwing out the baby with the bathwater, but I find that many have disregarded the value in the claims that Shelley was making. It seems that many stopped after reading her initial post and didn’t read the between the lines or touch on her follow up posts (thanks to Astarte for a defense of the spirit of Shelley’s initial post). But one thing I think was exactly right in this fiasco is that seems to be entirely overlooked is this:
Fuck, people, don’t we get it yet? Ten thousand of us women could pick a handful of our numbers to link to and artificially push these people into the Technorati 100 list — but it still doesn’t mean that we women are heard, that we women are seen, and, especially, that we women are given equal respect. All we’ll have done is is ‘even’ out the Technorati 100, and manage to sweep the problem of our invisibility under the carpet–where the elite and the bean counters can then pretend there are no issues, and there’s nothing to be concerned about. Oh no siree, boss, we is all equal here now.
We need to change, yet, what would we change? Will we change things by creating a campaign and educating women to write a certain way, enabling more women to be linked? Will doing so make this all better?
Before this week, I would have said so, but not after seeing page after page at Scoble’s with people recommending the same people over and over again. And frankly, not if women and other ‘non-represented’ groups have to change their behavior in order to get these links. As Michelle Malkin has demonstrated so well, and with such dispassionate and carefully planned out skill–this issue is more about behavior, than race or gender.
Might as well say there are few poets in the Technorati Top 100, as say there are few women or few blacks.
Certain behaviors are rewarded with links in weblogging; certain behaviors are not. It’s just that a certain class of weblogger (white, male, Western, educated, charismatic, pugnacious) has defined the ‘winning’ behavior in weblogging and what must be done to ‘earn’ a link, and this is what we need to change, if change it we can. We have to start valuing the poet, the teenage girl, the middle aged gardener, as much as we value the pundits, whether political or technological.
Bottom line: I want to be respected, I want to be heard, I want to be seen. I want to be visible, but I don’t want to be you.
Further, in the comments to this post, Shelley says:
How many people have felt discouraged when they’ve been out to a person’s site for a while, and left comments or even written about their posts, but they’re never added to the blogroll?
How many people have felt excluded as part of these ‘communities’ because they don’t match some characteristic or another?
I don’t deny the ability of blogrolls to allow discovery — encourage it even (though I think that Lauren’s multi-link posts or including a link in a weblog post are better for this; leaving comments is, I feel, an equally effective measure).
But you’re equating a worth, a measure of a human, based on a hypertext link.
A-listers never had any power until we gave them power. We walked up to the Illuminati and we basically said, “Since you’re so well linked, you must have greater worth than any of us — why don’t you be our spokesperson from now on”.
That is the end result of infusing links with an emotional meaning.
Shades of Grey has a nice, well-balanced view on this whole bit.
And from the response I got regarding the blogroll in the last two days, I think Shelley has a point. A big one. I have witnessed several incidents of “public de-linking” over smaller issues than this and, despite sounding absolutely stupid when you remove it from the digital atmosphere and into the earthly world, have recognized how, apart from being politically loaded, the issue of whom and how to link is personally loaded as well. One reason that I have a problem with maintaining a blogroll is that once I’ve linked someone I don’t want to remove them. At times the removal is a rejection of the person and their writing, and it doesn’t get much more personal, as someone who fancies herself as a writer, than rejecting a person’s writing. I also had extreme issues with removing people from the “feminist blogs” list, in part because I allowed a day for self-selection in which people were able to submit their own blogs as feminist blogs, and in part because although I genuinely like some of the people blogrolled, I was no longer reading them. Because of this, I completely understand some of the reactions I got regarding the removal of the easily available blogroll, but what I didn’t expect was the bit about delinking me because whomever “didn’t want to hurt me.” Delink if you will, but publicly? Condescendingly?
I should have been one of the popular kids in high school so I’d know better how to handle this. Alas, I was not. Am not. Am human, can respond positively to honest criticism, but react negatively to those who cut me off at the root of my personhood.
The bloglines account is a far more accurate expression of my endorsements and daily reads — it changes literally every time I read it. I could generate a blogroll via bloglines, but that would negate the point of removing the blogroll because of my killer loading time. What to do?
Nonetheless, I followed a commenter from Shelley’s blog who writes:
Right now, there are people in the “A-list” who are viewed as authorities. Many of them overtly embrace this and exploit it to their advantage. Some of them, Doc Searls probably most notable among them, demur; but make no explicit disclaimer, seeming to prefer to allow people to have their misperceptions. What is troubling about this is that none of these individuals has indicated they have had any thought as to what their responsibilities may be as a result of their authority, regardless of how they happened to come by it. They can’t simply disclaim, “Hey, I didn’t ask to be on the A-list.” The fact is, they are.
I’m not going to claim A-list, or even B-list, but I do recognize that I have some responsibility to this community of feminist and/or women bloggers if one places value on my ranks in the ranking systems. I do want people with valuable words to be regarded as valuable, and as such attempt to highlight them in ways apart from passive links. Until I decide what to do with this ol’ blog, I’m going to honor the community of people who have supported my thoughts over these last few years. It was never my intent to rebuke you.
Because of the overwhelming response to my removal of the blogroll, and the insistence that others are actually using it, I am asking what kind of arrangement readers would like to see. Is the link to Bloglines and Feminist Blogs enough? If not, what is useful?
And remember, please, that it must be useful to me as well. I won’t be getting off of my damned dial-up connection anytime soon.