Bouncing and Blogrolls
So here’s a bit of a twofer today. The first will be of great help if you’re already worried about how on earth you might find the subject matter for posts on an ongoing basis. Don’t get me wrong- it isn’t a silver bullet. Bloggers much more experienced than I are often heard to talk about how difficult it is to not repeat themselves over time.
That’s a whole other issue though! (And the short answer is: Don’t worry about it.)
No, this is an issue that can come up much sooner than that! And one answer can be to:
Bounce Off Other People
Blogging isn’t something generally done in a vacuum. It’s more akin to a team sport, in many respects. If you’ve joined via Blaugust, you might already have an inkling of the community this hobby establishes around itself. And it isn’t the only one, another I quite enjoy is The Support Role initially set up by Kim of Later Levels.
One of the ways you can use the team is to gain inspiration for posts from the other posts you’ve read.
- You might want to respond directly to the post you’ve read.
And sometimes these responses can warrant an entire post of their own, rather than just a comment! (Or perhaps even both!)
- You might have a different take on the same subject / theme.
A recent example of this spawned from Aywren’s take on the importance of (high quality) story in MMOs. It spawned quite the discussion, not only in the comments, but also here, here, here and also over here. At least. There may have been others I’ve now forgotten in my haste (apologies if so)! But the point here is less about the specific posts and more about the fact one post can spawn several others, and its great — even if in my own take I did perhaps cause a little contention with at least one commentor in this case. :(
- You might gain inspiration for an entirely different subject.
Frostilyte recently wrote a review on Enter the Gungeon. The review and the following discussion led almost directly to write about… Well, this. A post about the challenges of extracting value from games whe- SQUIRREL! … Right. Also? The very base idea of extracting value from games? Well- on my blog that originates here, but that post in turn bounced off both Paeroka and Krikket.
So! Use your team! :D There is a balance to be struck, for sure. As I mentioned yesterday, there is always going to be more content than you can reasonably hope to consume. Don’t let that get you down, or sway the balance of effort into an area that’s no longer fun for you.
I find I go through cycles of reading a lot of posts, to needing to skim, to missing things entirely if work or life (or sometimes even a game) really comes in and takes over for a bit. But then the cycle starts over again as normalcy is found, and this works for me.
If you’re wondering the correlation between these topics… That’s simple. The idea came reading from Roger’s post on Blogrolls this morning. He covers the social dynamics, the networking aspect, and more. None of which are the theme of my coverage of the blogroll here, so definitely take a look at his. :)
I’d like to cover a different style of blogroll than Roger talks to. Namely, Roger speaks to a more static style of blogroll that is a list of links to other blogs you are aware of or enjoy (as your policy dictates). Whereas if you look at how blogrolls are done on Blogger hosted sites or here, you might notice it’s a bit more dynamic with the ordering based on the most recent post date and time.
Bhagpuss has the most glorious blogroll. It is truly an asset to everyone and I frequently refer to it myself. Bhagpuss has blogs spanning far and wide, some that haven’t posted in >9 years. Keeping blogs this dated flies in the face of Roger’s advice — but here’s the thing, he’s not wrong. And neither is Bhagpuss.
If you’re keeping a static list of links, where a reader cannot gain context to the blog without clicking through — you probably should be a little more diligent in pruning inactive blogs. That doesn’t mean you need to cull them entirely though. Isey of I HAS PC maintains a separate list of blogs that he enjoyed but no longer update.
With a more dynamic list that sorts on activity, the same user issues don’t really exist. You can clearly see without a click just how long ago it was since a post happened.
This is functionality I value very highly and rely on it as my main feed for posts to read.
However, you might’ve noticed I said I still use Bhagpuss’ blogroll, even though I have this capability here too…
Dynamic Blogrolls on WordPress
Unlike Blogger, this isn’t a native feature of WordPress. Blogger has the advantage here of being hosted by Google and using their massive compute power to keep such a list updated for all blogs known to humankind and then passing the subset of this as requested to any blog on their platform.
On WordPress, there are a number of ways to do this — but the best way I’ve found is via the WP RSS Aggregator plugin. The base version of the plugin itself is free, but you’re going to need to either be self-hosted or on a WordPress.com plan high enough to allow plugins to make use of it.1
The issue I run into with this plugin is the compute power needed to run it. For each blog you want to keep on your list, you need to scan its RSS feed and pull through the latest content, compare that to what you have, and decide whether to update it or not. Regularly.
Both last Blapril and Blaugust I received a bit of a hand-smack from my host (a gentle one, but it was what it was) for exceeding my allowed CPU time.
As a result, I’ve had to:
- Change how the Cron jobs run for the site, from ‘whenever WP wanted’ to ‘Only on the hour’.
- Limit how often each blog I keep on the list checks for updates — balancing the CPU load overall with what I know of the blog owners posting habits, even down to time of day to try hit a cycle for them recently after a likely post.
- And most impactful of all — limit how many blogs I actually keep on the list.
It’s the last one that has made me consider dropping it and switching to a static blogroll like Roger speaks of. I’m sure if I did I’d find another way to keep up with posts — perhaps a heavier reliance on WP Reader or Feedreader (since the latter would play nicer with Blogger blogs as well).
I still can’t discount the possibility I might one day make that decision as it gets ever harder to maintain the balance between inclusion and permitted CPU usage, but it’s still going to be a tough decision to make. One other option I’ve considered is to take a ‘Why not both?’ approach, and maintain the dynamic blogroll on the sidebar with a more comprehensive one on the blogroll page.
Open to thoughts!