Linking to other blogs can take many forms, for many reasons. Sometimes, you link to another blog because you agree. Sometimes, you link to disagree. It’s only right to note the source of your affirmation/disagreement.
A while ago, In a Dark Time described a philosophy quite close to my own regarding the links on his side-bar. I think they are important too, and I change mine frequently. Over time, I have discovered that they are one of the most functional and useful parts of my site, for me at least.
I do a lot of surfing. My favorites list is so long and unruly that I seldom get back to places I stumble on and find interesting. Months can pass before I revisit places that I thought were interesting at some previous moment. A person can only read so many sites in a day, so maintaining links on my site has a practical side. The places I want to visit frequently are right there when I visit my own site to make sure that a post is displayed properly. Once I’ve verified that things are okay, I can launch off to somewhere else. I use my links; I’m not so sure anyone else does.
So, the hierarchy that evolves is one of frequency of visitation, not an appraisal of quality. I try to update them at least once a month. Sites rise and fall, and rise again, both due to my reading habits and the frequency of updates on the particular site. As an added benefit, as the list has grown longer, my browser tells me if it’s been two weeks since I’ve visited a site. The link becomes bold to me, as a reminder, because I have my history set to purge once every two weeks.
Mike Sanders often calls for “longer blogrolls” and greater affirmation in the blogging community. I agree, but it’s a qualified sort of agreement. Putting a bunch of links on your site that you don’t visit yourself is the worst kind of false advertising. I put links up that I read on a regular basis. I don’t feel obligated to link to everyone who links to me, and am not disappointed when I link to someone and they don’t link back. If they don’t read me, what’s the point? When I find a new blog I like, I often surf their links to see if there is more good stuff that I haven’t found yet. I strive to keep things diverse in my linkage, because I don’t want just one point of view.
I’ve often thought of the web as an overgrown high school, with all its attendant cliques. I try not to find myself forced into one. I successfully avoided that all through school; I avoid the popular crowd almost as a matter of habit. There is no need to link to what they have to say, because many other people will be talking about it if they say something good. I want to know what’s going on in the fringes, on those sites that get few hits per day (like mine). Linking is a tool to find them, and to have them find me (if they look at their referrer logs, that is). If they are interested in what I have to say, I’ve made a new friend. Otherwise, not.
Throughout life, friendships change and shift. Linking is a way to keep friendships solid, and a reminder that people actually do read and care about other people. I think it’s perhaps one of the most significant parts of any site.
Except for content of course. If there’s no new content on a regular basis, why link?