You can tell a lot about a writer by what they read.
There was a time when the most fascinating aspect of some blogs wasn’t their posts but their sources, often shared in a list on the sidebar as a blogroll. These semi-permanent placements allowed a bit of a peek in where they found ideas and inspiration and sometimes helped generate the content they’d share day to date.
Blogrolls are rare these days, rarer than blogs themselves. And most that do still exist are outdated, linking to sites that haven’t seen updates in years or domains long since expired. Which only makes sense given that the medium of blogging has moved on – as the content has dwindled, so have the links.
But in many cases, sites still live, lying dormant on WordPress or Blogger or on domains kept alive by authors who use the URL for their email or the hosting for other stuff so they keep their old thoughts on life support.
A blogroll used to also serve as a public bookmark where the blogger could just click on through each morning to see what folks were saying. Google Reader (RIP) helped make some of that work easier and now Facebook and Twitter serve up links hot and fresh. Now, if you want to stay up to date on a site, you follow it’s page on Facebook or the RSS feed in Feedly. Why have a blogroll if it’s only going to be a handful of blogs that could go away at any moment?
Still, going down the rabbit hole of blogrolls can lead to some fascinating trails through digital history. And every now and then a surprise when you find a site still being updated. Or, in the case of jyuenger, discover that the author recently posted for the first time in more than a year and has dedicated to keep at it.
Some blogrolls worth checking out if you want to see how the world used to work:
Andrew Sullivan’s The Dish has links to a range of political blogs, some mainstream, some not so much, many of them long dead, but still fascinating.
Things Magazine (which is still live and makes my blogroll on the right) has a ton of sites broken down into categories from architecture to people to music and more.
Flaming Plabum is a new addition to my Feedly and has a blog roll (“For Those About To Blog… We Salute You” – I can dig it) that has some links to voices of NYC, music and more.
There are so many snapshots of life just sitting on the internet, time capsules from five, ten, fifteen, more years ago. Authors may have moved on, but they’ve left their thoughts behind, a vast archive that used to mean something and maybe still does. Old blogrolls are a fun way to dive back in and maybe be inspired now and then.