Monday, July 23, 2007

Blogroll Policy Reform


As the online medievalist community continues to grow, my blogroll is growing longer and longer. Just today I added SCA Life to the roll, as well as to my Google Reader subscriptions. Two days ago I ran into a former student of mine who runs the website Alabama Democrat, which was on my blogroll for a long time, then was removed when it went defunct, and was just resurrected about a week ago.

All this has me thinking about updating my old unofficial blogroll policy. It can be boiled down to meeting any of these 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)
When I first started using this policy, my blogroll's secondary purpose was to act as my own personal "favorites" page. Nowadays, I rarely enter through my own blogroll; instead, I subscribe through Google Reader. In other words, my blogroll is now purely a service to my readers, a kind of suggestion of other sites you might like.

Over the last couple of years, the Unlocked Wordhoard has evolved from a general "let's talk about smart things" blog to a central clearinghouse for all things medievalist. Indeed, some months ago I silently made a policy to blog only on medieval topics,* and the result was that in a few months time my traffic on the site leaped up. This increase in traffic** suggests to me that there was a real need out there for what the Wordhoard has become.

Longtime Wordhoarders might have noticed a few other changes over the last year. I removed the section entitled "Famed Words from the Hoard" (basically a "Greatest Hits" roll) because little of that content was medieval. I've become as conscientious as possible about announcing new medieval bloggers when I find them, in order to support our community. The biggest thing that has not been transformed is my blogroll. Therefore, I am considering making changing my blogroll policy to the following:

Sites included on the blogroll must meet ALL of the following conditions:
  • A site must contain occasional-to-frequent medieval content.
  • A site must be updated regularly.
  • A site must not have been defunct for more than a few months.

Obviously, much of this is up to my own interpretation. What is "occasional-to-frequent?" My first impulse for "updated regularly" would be to say at least once per month, but it would depend. Also, "defunct" bears some interpretation, as a lot of my fellow bloggers are academics who blog infrequently over the summer. And, of course, there's the unofficial set of caveats -- for example, any site dedicated to medieval-themed pornography would not likely get a link.

Since the blogroll has long since become a public service, though, I don't want to change policy without hearing from the Wordhoarders. What do YOU think? Is this too restrictive? Is it a long-overdue change? While I'd prefer comments below, I also invite private e-mails to me on this matter if you have something to say that wouldn't be appropriate for public consumption. Please let me know what YOU think.

*Yes, I violate my own policy from time to time. Heck, if you can't break your own rules, whose CAN you break?
**By the way, for new bloggers out there, don't sweat the traffic issue. Too many bloggers see this as a contest. My original goal for the Wordhoard was to have 50 viewers per month. Now, while I have far exceeded that, I don't think 50 viewers per month is anything to be ashamed of. Don't think you have to blog on the latest celebrity gossip or political scandal just to get readers. Instead, focus on writing good things for the readers you DO have, and sending them to links you think will interest them. End of sermon.


  1. I'm more interested in your direction for the blog than what you do for the blogroll.

    I think it's great. If you have a creative purpose your blog will last longer and be more worth reading. Those blogs that are academic purely because the blogs talk about the trials and tribulations of the academic life are not long for this world. Like general purpose e-mail listservs, their peak has probably passed.

    I hope however you will keep telling stories about teaching the MA (if a non-historian dare try) and about how your particular students react.

  2. Out of curiosity- how do you track the number of hits your blog gets? I imagine, becuase you found me, that you can somehow tell who's linking to you.
    Is it all an inate feature of blogger? LJ certainly doesn't do that sort of thing of its own accord...


  3. Highly,

    The gold standard of tracking hits is Sitemeter. Everyone complains that it isn't great about tracking unique users vs. hits, etc., but everyone still uses it. It's the tracker people love to hate, so I use it as my counter.

    I prefer Tracksy -- see where it says "see web stats" next to my counter? That's Tracksy. Since Sitemeter is the standard, and I prefer Tracksy, I just use 'em both. Both are free, and pretty easy to use.

    By the way, spend a week with Tracksy, and you'll never imagine you have anonymity over the internet again. When I think about how much information I have about my visitors from a FREE tracker, I shudder at how much information the professionals can get about me when I visit a site.

    So, as a little homily to end this comment, remember kids: YOU ARE ALWAYS IN PUBLIC WHEN YOU ARE ONLINE!

  4. Anonymous2:21 PM

    I am surprised that you have not listed Cliopatria. We meet very nearly all of your criteria and maintain the largest blogroll of all history blogs -- including a very large number of premodern history blogs. You can see it here.

  5. I used to have it, long ago, and then at some point Cliopatria and a couple of other blogs started malfunctioning in the blogroll, so I removed them and forgot to ever replace them.

    I've rectified that now.