Ms Pancake

Recovered from the Wayback Machine.

Lauren at Feministe recently updated her weblog template and in the process removed her blogroll. She did so in part because it was getting too long, to maintain and load. But she also did so based on the post I wrote a while back titled, Steve Levy, NZ Bear, and Dave Sifry you are hurting us.

Now she’ll be linking based on story rather than general sidebar links:

I decided that not only was my blogroll becoming too lengthy to be of use on the blog (and terribly difficult to load on my dial-up connection), but that those that I link will be statistically better off with my regular roundup posts.

Roxanne is also thinking about getting rid of hers, saying:

I hardly use mine anymore, preferring instead to use RSS readers. The only thing keeping me from dumping it is my belief that some readers may be using my blogroll to surf and discover new blogs. However, lacking any empirical evidence to support this notion, I feel my theory may be without merit.

In comments in both Lauren’s and Roxanne’s posts are those who agree with dumping the roll, primarily because of the emotional context, not to mention politics, of who to include, or not (and having to deal with the baggage that accompanies this decision). However, there are those who favor blogrolls; they argue for the goodness of blogrolls, and how they form a connection with those linked–a trust, according to PZ Meyers, who wrote in comments:

I think it is a kind of ’sacred trust’, but part of that is the responsibility to keep it current. I do a weekly flush and update on mine, which, fortunately, my newsreader makes fairly easy. A static blogroll is not a good thing.

I thought “pig” at epigraph had some good things to say about both sides of the issue. First, in regards to the responses defending blogrolls, she had this to say:

One thing that’s striking me hard here is that Shelley put forth an explanation as to why blogrolls are collectively doing us, as a blogging community, dammage. Then a bunch of people write in and say “I like my blogroll” and tell why. I think it’s great that many of us like our blogrolls, and the reasons why are important and interesting. But it’s not an intelligent, listening response to what she’s brought up. Yes, you like your blogroll, and it’s done all these things for you (and others), but Shelley’s talking about a larger dammage they’re doing. Can we address that while talking about our own (more personal) feelings? Otherwise, it just seems like we’re all sitting around listening to someone try to organize a boycott against, say, grapes, because of farming conditions, and we just keep saying “I really like grapes. They taste good, and I like to serve them at parties, and my guests like them and find them to be nutritious…”

But she had an equally good defense of keeping blogrolls, based on the fact that those who would remove their weblog rolls in order to equalize the weblogging environment, are those who most likely never link to the A-listers, anyway. By removing the links, we may actually be making the situation worse:

One blogger I enjoy used to run a little independent store. She logged on one day to rant about us angry radicals (a group within which I’d affectionately include her) and how our activism doesn’t quite deliver what it should. She made reference to “buy nothing day”. She’d been sitting in her store all day with hardly a smattering of customers, while her living was already hanging in the balance. She scolded us with the reminder that the kind of people who partake in “buy nothing day” are never the kind of people who shop at Walmart. We are likely already restricting ourselves to little independent shops like hers that don’t need or deserve the kick in the stomach that the day was created to deliver. And I’m having a similar worry about blogrolls.

Damn good point.

It may seem silly sometimes to talk about blogrolls and links when there are so many more serious problems in the world. Yet one of the reasons many people write to a weblog is that they have a voice and they want to heard–about their beliefs, about their causes, and yes, even about their cats. Whether we write to our weblogs because we love to write, or because we love to connect, or we have a cause or causes to fight, bottom line, even the most insular of us wants to know we connect with someone.

But we’ve approached this situation based on a coin of the realm–links–when what the problem really is about is perception: perceiving people who are different from us, and hearing what they have to say. We have a problem, here, but how we link isn’t a cause: it’s a symptom.

I questioned Robert Scoble’s recent invite-only dinner and the lack of women among the attendees, and hoped that, as a result, he was made more aware of the fact that there are women who most likely do meet his meeting criteria, but he may need to make an effort to bring them to mind more often. This isn’t to say he’s sexist (or racist)–in fact I find it unlikely. What most likely happened with Scoble is what happens with all of us: we’ll run faces against an established or perceived ‘authority’ in our minds, and that authority in this country (many countries) tends to be white and male.

I do this, and chances are, you do it, too.

Yet it wasn’t a week or so later that Scoble brought up pulling together a team to advise Microsoft on Longhorn and opened the door to nominations, and we get to go through page after page of recommendations to people who are a) white, b) male, and c) well linked within weblogging. All that discussion with Scoble about the dinner and the accompanying acrimonious accusations that became highly personal at times, and it didn’t do one damn bit of good.

Eventually Scoble brought up the fact that there wasn’t any female nominations in a second post, and some of us did make recommendations, though I’ll be frank, my heart wasn’t in it. Not because there aren’t women who are capable, and wouldn’t be a good fit; but because you would think after recent discussions, the issue would be on people’s minds, and we would make more of an effort to recommend a more diverse group — to not list the same people, again and again. To go outside our comfort zones, as Mobile Jones writes, frequently.

But we can’t seem to break this cycle of like to like–either with Microsoft’s technical groups, or with linking within this environment.

That’s been one of my biggest concerns with the BlogHer conference–the focus seems less on looking at the issues involved with women not being linked, and more on what women can do to change how they write, what technology they use, or whatever about themselves in order to get more links. I respect where the organizers are going with this, and I admire their strength and determination — but is gaming aggregators and Google the way to go?

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.

But I digress, and badly. I’ve been chastized on this in the past, and how I am taking much of this personally. “But”, I respond, blinking in puzzlement, “It is personal.” Still, this was about blogrolls and whether to drop them or not, and how this could impact on the hotshot lists and will this end up making everything better — or, at least, more equal.

My short answer is: I don’t know.

If I had one regret about that post I wrote previously that has generated this new and valuable discussion, it was how I titled it. If you search in Google on “Dave Sifry” or “NZ Bear”, you’ll see why. I never intended to ‘Google Bomb’ these gentlemen in such an embarrassing manner. I tend to use titles as titles: eye catching introductions that, hopefully, make you want to read more; not as weapons in the war of links. Neither of the gentlemen responded to the post, and I can’t help thinking that this ‘Google effect’ may have had something to do with it.

Perhaps, though, they didn’t respond because neither of them respected what I wrote, or even how I wrote it. I write passionately, and when it comes to writings on technology, the dispassionate and the impersonal and the scholastic tends to attract response more often than not. I may have to change how I write if I want more response, and respect, in the future.

However, maybe they didn’t respond because I just don’t have enough link juice to push my posts into their radar. I have a goodly audience and a goodly number of people linking to me and am both honored and flattered by both — but maybe I need to change how I write and what I write about to increase this number.

I should drop my silly stories about the Ozarks, and think about writing more frequently, with much shorter posts (this doesn’t qualify) and more links. I also need to think about writing more favorably about those with influence. I joked around with a friend once that I seem to have a subliminal desire to piss off every major publisher who could possibly give me a book deal, as well as most of the A-listers across several continents. Not a death wish, which is too harsh; perhaps it’s an ‘obscurity’ wish.

Whatever it is, it isn’t about being a loser, because not being a winner in this environment is not the same as being a loser. I like what Dave Rogers wrote on this, with the associated links and quotes so much that I decided to steal his whole post, and hope he forgives me (note: please visit Dave, anyway–his weblog is worth more than a glance):

I Never Metaphor I Didn’t Like

(…to stretch beyond all rational bounds, and to torture into a useless, unrecognizable, if ever-so-hip, neologism. Preferably, one that is also a pun.)

(ed. note: I forgive you Dave, just don’t do it again)

Doc Searls’ latest assertion that blogging isn’t “school”:

What I love about blogging is that it isn’t school. Instead it’s a great way to discover how the long, flat tail features plenty of original and brilliant individuals. These good folks succeed by earning links, not grades. It’s a much better, and a much flatter, system.

But here again we note an implicit standard for “success” by “earning links.” So it seems that, by definition then, those at the tail-end of the “long tail” (another idea that’s quickly exhausting its utility, perhaps because it was mostly intended to justify and thus preserve the status quo), are “unsuccessful.”

Here’s a link to Mike Sanders who offers this thought on the subject:

The long tail is a blogging myth in which the heavy-traffic bloggers try to convince the little guys, like you and me, that we are really the important ones in the blogosphere. And we should keep on blogging and linking to the big guys, since collectively the bottom 99% has much more viewership than the top 1% – or something like that.

Like somebody said a long time ago, “It ain’t flat.”

“It aint’ flat.”

What I wish to be is a writer. I wish to be a really good writer, and the type of writer I want to be. Is that an oxymoron for ‘obscure’? Maybe so. Call me Ms Pancake and let’s be done.

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