Whither the blogroll?

I added a blogroll to Reading in Bed. I thought this would be a quick tweak, but apparently WordPress removed the blogroll “widget” nearly a decade ago. Despite that, I see blogrolls in the sidebar of book blogs fairly often. They aren’t dead. But they have waned, likely for the same reason that blogs themselves have – the ascension of big social media platforms. Who needs a quickly-outdated list of recommended blogs when Twitter can take a pretty good guess at what else I want to see, and suggest a passel of related accounts every time I hit the follow button?

The fact that they do still exist, and that the ones I quickly surveyed appear to be up to date, suggests that there must be something relevant about a blogroll, something that social media, or newer WordPress widgets like “recently liked”, can’t quite replace. As I filled in my blogroll, I went down a blogroll rabbit hole, as it were…

Who coined the blogroll

One of the only “official” looking sources of info about who may have coined “blogroll” comes from a 2004 book called “Who Let the Blogs Out” by Biz Stone, who names Jason DeFillippo, and points to a website that no longer has anything to do with blogrolls. Stone and DeFillippo have both since shuttered their blogs and moved on to newer media (Stone co-founded Twitter, DeFillippo produces podcasts).

This is painfully early aughts

There’s a bit of a historical record around the time that WordPress removed its built-in blogroll feature, notably this post from (also defunct) Lorelle on WordPress that gets into the controversy and ends up recommending, perhaps reasonably, that if you want to recommend another blog, you just write a post about it.

Why blogroll now, in the year of our Lord 2022

Posting about your favs is a valid suggestion, but posts and pages get buried. Unless you are very dedicated to posting links to other blogs (e.g. Pickle Me This “Gleanings“), blogrolls still seem to best serve bloggers (build community, signal where you fit in the “blogosphere”) and visitors (find more blogs to follow with ease) alike.

I decided to add a blogroll for an even more self-serving reason: I wanted an easy way to check in on my favourite blogs. I use the WordPress reader, and have email notifications turned on for some blogs, but I only really sit down to read and comment every week or two. I get quickly overwhelmed by how many posts I’ve missed. There are only so many tabs I can open! I want a limited list of homepage links, so I can take a quick look at new posts from the past few weeks. I also prefer to actually “visit” blogs, rather than view them in the reader or in an email, which strips away all the formatting and menus.

Blogrolls: you can too

If you want to add your own, you have to add a “menu,” title it “blogroll,” and use a widget to place it on your homepage, a process much better explained by wpbeginner. It’s easy enough, just a little clunky, as you must type in each blog’s title (and double-check format and capitalization), manually toggle it to open in a new window, and manually alphabetize the list at the end.

So far, I have 26 blogs listed. These are the blogs I want to have handy for weekend perusing, the ones I comment on most, most of which I’ve followed for many years. I started using it to catch up on blogs today, and I love it.

If you need some blogroll inspiration, check out Ye Olde Blogroll, a sort of blogroll without the blog, with around 200 links across many categories, including books. It’s delightfully old school but well maintained.

And if you’re looking for some new book blogs to follow, look to your lower right (or scroll waaaaay down if you’re on mobile). Assuming you aren’t reading this in WP Reader or an email digest or something. Work with me!

11 comments

  1. Nish

    I thought blogrolls weren’t a thing anymore. Most blogs I access from blogrolls seems to have not been updated, or redirect to ads, or something. I would love it if they make a comeback!

    • lauratfrey

      That’s what I was expecting but the admittedly small sample I reviewed was quite up to date, no dead links! Now let’s see how I do. I would want to add as I go as well.

  2. FictionFan

    Thanks for including me on your blogroll – I’m honoured! 😀 Like you I use mine as an easy way to jump to some of the blogs I enjoy, though for me it’s usually to find a link to a review of theirs that persuaded me to add a book to my TBR. But it’s also really useful for the purpose you mention – if I’ve been away from the blogosphere for a while it becomes impossible to go through everything in the Reader, so I can just jump straight to blogs and look at recent posts.

  3. Debbie Rodgers @Exurbanis

    Great list – I subscribed to several of these blogs at your suggestion. Sadly, VERY sadly, Imogen (and a couple of others) can’t be followed by email. I know it’s becoming obsolete technology but I’m old; humour me.

    • lauratfrey

      Debbie, yours is one I sometimes forget to visit because (I don’t think?) I see it in WordPress Reader… I’m going to add you! It’s true, whether or not a follow or keep up with a blog does come down to things like “is it WordPress” or can I sign up for email… I get it!!

  4. Liz Dexter

    Ooh, thank you for adding mine, I will try to remember how I did mine and add you to it! I find I get quite a few clicks to other people’s blogs from mine but of course I can’t tell if they come from my own links in posts or comments or the blogroll. I go through and update it every now and again … I read my blogs using Feedly, though, which is a really good reader and does a good job of showing me what everyone’s published. I mark the ones I want to read then go through them (at some stage, hence being late to this party!).

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