Tuesday, March 14, 2006

A Rant on Medieval Blogs and Links

If, like me, you are someone who is prejudiced against blogging about blogging, or if (also like me), you just don't like rants, you may want to skip what follows. Consider, though, that this post is written by someone who is prejudiced in the same way...

I've just gotten done updating my links. By "updating" I mean getting rid of some and adding others. My totally unofficial policy (often disregarded) regarding linking is that I will link to nearly anyone who fulfills one of the following conditions:

If I already know the blogger personally (and it isn't a diary blog).
If the blog links to my blog.
If the blogger regularly posts on medieval matters.
If the blogger regularly posts on literary matters.
If the blogger regularly posts on academic matters.
If the blog updates regularly (at least once per month)

That's it. You've just got to fulfill ONE of those conditions, though, to be fair, I'll sometimes remove blogs on literary or academic matters if they don't interest me for long enough.

Now, here comes the rant part: Why is it that so few medieval blogs link to one another? People act as if they expect Owlfish to do all the work for them.

You might think this is blegging for links here; it isn't. I plan to gripe about this issue at the K'zoo panel this year, too. At first I thought that medievalists and others just weren't interested in my blog. Then I discovered that people were coming to my site, posting comments, commenting on my posts on their sites, etc -- yet still had not set up a permanent link here. Eventually it dawned on me that a lot of medievalists don't have any permanent links AT ALL.

Why is this important? Because as our links go up, our status on Google searches goes up, as does our ranking on such sites as The Truth Laid Bear Ecosystem. By raising our collective status, we ensure that people looking for information find us more easily, and don't have to wade through an electronic bog of lame freshman essays on The Canterbury Tales to do it. In other words, links don't just promote particular posts and particular blogs; they promote the entire discipline.

I want to urge other medieval bloggers (and, frankly, other academic bloggers) to help raise the profile of this community. The best thing you can do is create a Blogroll for your site. A blogroll is a set of permanent links to other blogs that can be set to tell you when the other blog has been updated (if you look to my blogroll on the right, you'll see that some blogs have the word "Unlocked!" in front of them ... I've set that up to indicate that the blog has been updated in the last 24 hours). By the way, this can also draw more traffic to your OWN blog if you let Blogrolling know when you've just made a new post. Blogrolling is ridiculously easy to use, as demonstrated by the fact that a dolt like me uses it.

Don't want to use a blogroll? Fine -- then please create a set of permanent links. Even if you don't have your own blog, you can create a set of links on your academic page to raise the profile of the community.

If you want to move beyond these basics, use a few tracking techniques (like Tracksy, Sitemeter, or Technorati) periodically to see who has been sending traffic your way. If their site is not objectionable, consider adding it to your own permanent links. Also, I don't think it is bad form to e-mail people to let them know you've added their site, since it is flattering and gives them a chance to return the favor.

Beyond permanent links, of course, there are the issues of links to specific posts, trackbacks, etc. Those are all important issues too, but let's take babysteps first.

47 comments:

  1. Guilty as charged--I haven't set up any permanent links to other blogs, nor a blogroll. (Though I'm just a lowly poet and not an academic blogger) But, you've shown me the error of my ways.

    *slinking off to figure out how to get the blogroll rolling.*

    ljc

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  2. I have to confess, I myself didn't have a blogroll until I read Poliblog's Seven Deadly Sins of Blogging and got a (gentle) personal rebuke from Steven Taylor.

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  3. Well, I do have most of that stuff. I haven't figured out how to make a trackback work yet, though. Also, I'm currently a slimy mollusc in TTLB, and I shan't put their whatsit on my public page until I'm something less disgusting.

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  4. So THAT'S what the "Unlocked!" thing means! I thought it was your way of highlighting recently-added blogs, which is why I kept thinking, "He needs to update that, 'cause he's linked to me for a while now." It all makes sense, now.

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  5. OK I did it. There. You guilted me into it. Happy?

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  6. I'd be happier if you sent me a bottle of gin and several thousand dollars in cash, but this will have to do.

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  7. You're already on my blogroll, as you know, but you've inpsired me to go through the Owlfish list and add 'em all to my blogroll. It's so easy with that little "Blogroll it!" add-on on my browser dashboard!

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  8. Medieval Geek12:18 PM

    What I had been doing is keeping my medieval blogroll on a random basis so that five spots were there but who were in those five spots changed. My intent in this was to keep space to a minimum and make sure that the blogroll didn't overwhealm the other stuff in that sidebar. You make a very good point though. I think I'll play with reconfiguring things.

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  9. Ok, so clearly I am about a year late on reading this but I am hoping you will forgive a brand new blogger. I am teaching an online freshman medieval history and literature course for Western Michigan University (yup, I have the joy of living in the heart of Kzoo's congress). I am having my student groups write essays on various pieces of medieval literature as a part of their course and we post the drafts at www.mdvl1450.blogspot.com in order for them to get real life responses to their work. I want them to see that more people than just their professor care about the Middle Ages, but I am not getting much/any traffic to comment on their essays. I linked to your blog and a few others I found, do you have any other suggestions for a newbie?

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  10. Give me a couple of days ... I think your question deserves that this topic be moved back to the top of the blog for a while, and I want to write a more complete response.

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  11. I've been guilty of this until recently when I finaly broke down and started using blogroll(though as a undergrad I'm hardly a Medievlist in the strictest sense yet).

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  12. I would love to link with your blog, but I don't know how to contact you to ask to be added. I have a medieval research blog called Medieval Research with Joyce at http://medievalresearch.blogspot.com. I'll be linking your blog to mine. If you find this and would like to return the favor, I'd be very appreciative. Thank you!

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  13. Very well, hahah. I also have a passion for everything Medieval. So much so, that I started my own company a few years ago selling medieval armor, medieval helmets, medieval weapons, etc. I do keep an up to date blog at http://medieval.redskytrader.com and recently just joined squidoo to connect with other fans there as well. Your support is much appreciated. Thanks for your blog!!

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  14. Anonymous8:25 PM

    Yep - This is about three years after the fact . . . but as I'm relatively new to this blogging thing, I don't feel like I'm very guilty about not linking to other Medieval blogs. However, if I comment on a particular blog, I always provide a link for it so that others can enjoy. Perhaps I need to update my blogroll every time I discuss a blog or website . . . just those darn administrative tasks that seem to get left undone. But since I am here, I guess I should make the effort to link to your blot . . . so please include mine in yours. By the way, I blog at least 4 or 5 times a week . . . so I think that meets your criteria! Cheers

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  15. Well sorry that I clicked through so fast - didnt get my info on here - let's try again

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  16. You make a good point but... keep this little ditty in mind as well... put TOO MANY links on your blogroll and you effectively dilute any power a single link may do for a website and it's rankings. Every page has a certain amount of pagerank they can transfer to another page, divided by the number of overall links... it's recommended to not exceed 50 on one page... ever.

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