Restart (Day #66)

Posted in: Writing

Us bloggers, we blog hop.  It’s what we do.  We start at a blog we like, we peruse the blogroll and then we click. Voila!  We’re somewhere else.  If we like where we’ve ended up, we might stay for awhile, bookmark the page, leave a comment, join the conversation.  When we’re finished, we’ll go to that blogger’s blogroll and click again.  Before we know it, we’re miles from home.

It’s awesome.

I’ve found so many new and wonderful blogs that way, blogs that I have since added to my own blogroll.

A word on the blogroll:  it takes “friending” to a whole new level.  On Facebook, the term friend is used very loosely.  I’m not sure I could name 700 real people.  Yet, according to my Facebook profile, I have 700+ friends.  (Oddly, my private self has more friends than my public self.  My public self is still sitting at the nerd table.  Please friend her!)

Anyway – my point is:  Facebook friend = very loose acquaintance.  So it’s not exactly an honor to be friended (especially when you blatantly solicit friending.  Hi.)

But being blogrolled, that’s a whole different story.  (Note:  I’ve never seen anyway use the term blogroll as a verb.  Probably because it sounds dirty.  Which kinda makes me want to use it more.)  Blogrolling is the blogger’s BFF necklace.  Being blogrolled is, at least in my book, the ultimate validation.  It’s such a high honor that it’s not something you can blatantly solicit.  It’s also not something you should do lightly.

I didn’t realize this at first.  When I first launched this blog, I added a bunch of people to my blogroll, some I knew (actually, anyone I knew who had a blog made the list) and some I didn’t but wish I did (like Teresa Strasser).  Some of those people are still on my list.  Quite a few aren’t.

Why the whittling down?  Because your blogroll, I’ve realized, isn’t just a shout out to the bloggers who make the list.  It’s an extension of your About Me page.  What you read says a lot about who you are and what you value.

But it’s more than that.  Your blogroll is a reading list for your readers, readers who (you hope!) trust you not to lead them astray.  Which is why I’ve come to the conclusion that blogrolls should be like the ads for those knockoff drugstore perfumes (“If you like Embrace the Detour, you’ll LOVE _____!”).

So what makes a blog blogroll material?  Obviously, the content matters.  But for me, a blog can’t just be well-written.  It has to be well-designed, too.  It has to be easy to (A) find the latest post (and get back to it if you happen to click away), (B) find the Why behind the blog, (C) get caught up without having to read every post the blogger has written.  Oh, and if there’s a clever About Me page, that’s an added bonus.  That’s what the blogs I love have in common:  they make new readers feel like they belong.

I tried to do this when I designed ETD.  I wanted to make it easy to find the Who, the What and the Why without a lot of clicking.  My banner was supposed to be your map:  Because is my why.  Right Now is my latest post.  I Am is the who.  And Right Here is a list of my supporting cast.

But now, 75 posts in, those four pages aren’t enough.  They’re also dated.  The person who wrote those first posts isn’t the same person who’s writing this one (I smiled as I wrote that, btw).  The person who wrote those first posts has changed as this project has changed (still smiling).  But I don’t want to change those four pages because while they may not be the whole story, they’re part of the story.  They’re the beginning of the story.

So what do I do about the new reader who arrives at ETD today and wants to get caught up without reading 75 posts?  (As I write that, I realize that it’d be hard for a new reader to read those 75 posts in chronological order even if they wanted to.  How would they find the first one?  Aaah!  Design flaw!)

The answer is:  I’m not sure.  I’m not sure how to get new people caught up in five posts or less (I’ve arbitrarily decided that five posts is the maximum number of posts a person should be required to read to get the whole story).  I’m thinking about writing a “this is the whole story as of right now” post, but that would require me to acknowledge publicly and permanently that I am no longer optimistic about my ability to finish this book on time.  So maybe I’ll wait on that until I can come up with a good spin.

In the meantime, I’ve added a new box to my sidebar entitled “If You’re New Here.”  I wasn’t sure which posts to include in the list… so I just sorta picked some.  It’s supposed to be my equivalent of the Ctrl + Alt + Delete.  A way to restart without a lot of clicking AND (most important!) without having to hit the back button or open a new window.

It doesn’t quite do what I want it to, because you can never get the whole story in select snippets.

Then again, maybe that’s not the point.  Maybe bloggers shouldn’t try to tell the whole story to every new reader who arrives at a their electronic doorstep.  Maybe today’s story is enough.

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(How do you handle your blog backstory?  Do you think new readers need it?  Do you make an effort to keep your posts new-reader-friendly?  What do you think makes a good blog?  Is design important to you or is content king? If you’ve been reading ETD for awhile, which posts are your favorite?  These questions aren’t rhetorical – I need your input!!!)

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