With every passing year, you could say starting a blog becomes exponentially more futile. However, this is late 2022. Twitter feels increasingly like a death cult chanting about its own demise until it finally comes about, and with Meta spending irresponsible sums on glorified Zoom calls that take ten times more effort at incalculably more expense, who knows how much longer Meta will be about. Gradually, we are wandering back out into the wild, exploring alternatives like Cohost and returning to long-abandoned haunts like Tumblr. Me, I’m hoping this might be a good time for people, me included, to get back into non-microblogging. Macroblogging? — ah no… just blogging.
Well that’s OK, I thought. I’m sure blog-making sites are probably pretty good by now, I’ve dabbled in the past. I got a WordPress account going again. For fun, I thought I’d whack in a blogroll as a sidebar, as you do. I could not. The easy widget functionality to add such a thing is just straight-up gone. I’ve just spent an hour and can’t do it, and the infinite and immediate gratification of social media is still right there, that’s not good. I’m in danger of having my goldfish attention span and willpower gone before I’ve even made a post worth reading.
Blogrolls were great. Half the stuff I ever found online worth sticking with as a teenager were found hopping from one blogroll to another. Found a bunch of great writers, retrospectives, webcomics, and album fileshares without even really trying, and it felt like a much more social and organic means of finding new stuff without the clumsy, ever-felt hand of the algorithm driving things to you, and by the way here’s an inscrutable foreign mobile game you ought to try and seeing as you’re worried about your hair lately, try some of this VPN—
In themselves, blogrolls were the spiritual successor to webrings, and also served a similar function as a nice hat-tip to blog authors you respected. There was also a sense that your posts could well be part of someone else’s breadcrumb journey of random blog-hopping. Blogrolls were like a bookmark bar that you shared with others; you were more likely to stay on top of them more regularly than passively clicking a ‘follow’ or ‘subscribe’ button (themselves now transparently nothing more than engagement measurement tools, now that you also have to click a bell or whatever nonsense to even get them to function like how they are named). Now that you yourself were wearing a link to something like a band patch, you had a tiny stake in keeping current with it, making sure it was still great or even just updating, because someone may associate it as being something that you endorsed, or was at least in your sphere of interests.
Anyway, blogrolls: no match for recommendations made on the back of trillions of gathered impressions – but then again I’m a human being, not an advertiser. The thought that I’m nostalgically romanticising a very small part of my early internet experience isn’t lost on me. If only I could get one going again just to make sure.