Links and love: It has taken me a few years, but I can usually follow the esoteric, internecine debates that bubble up among the more technically inclined residents of the blogosphere. However, I’ve never been able to completely understand what the heck “attention” and “gesture” mean and why Steve Gillmor doesn’t link to people. When I add links to a post, I think of it as a courtesy to readers — or sometimes use a link as the punch-line of a joke (although, the link as punch-line is Dave Barry’s franchise). I’ve always thought a link was a gesture of courtesy to the reader, however, in the nomenclature of the discussion going on — and of “the attention economy” in general –, gesture apparently has another meaning. When Robert Scoble wrote about this topic earlier in the week, I figured his comments about not linking to the blogger who is a VC, Fred Wilson, was either presented with tongue-in-cheek or as an experiment to display that links are not the only way to send out blogger love. (Although, I’ll admit, I didn’t spend much time trying to tease out what was going on.)
So today, I’m really not following this thread on Robert Scoble’s weblog and Fred Wilson’s weblog and other places. Obviously, I know that links play an important role in the currency of the web. Incoming links from bloggers equal Google juice, I’ve been told, and I have witnessed. And while I haven’t been able to convert it to cash, I think it’s pretty cool that a Google search of either my first name or my last name provides a nice stroke to my ego.
Once, I lost all of the links coming into this weblog — links that had built up from almost three years of blogging. At first, I was irate and felt like my identity had been robbed. However, I quickly got over it as I reminded myself how many times I’d claimed to never look at stats related to this blog. However, every few months, I’d check the Technorati ranking of the old URL and it would be higher than the new URL and that would give me a few minutes of fuming. I got over it when I realized all bloggers used to get frustrated with the belief that Technorati undercounts incoming links.
It was not until a couple of months ago that Alexa started tracking the current URL and iteration of this weblog rather than the old URL. Today, Alexa says that 549 sites link to this site. Until recently, it said that 77 did. Over the years, I’d email them but never heard anything, then one day it just showed up. I still don’t understand how Alexa works, I just know that there were some reviews of this weblog on the old Alexa page and that the “traffic rank” of the old blog was in the 5 millions — which is impressive, since the old site has been inaccessible for several years. I recently began to notice the Alexa ranking of this and other websites because I use the A9 toolbar and it displays the “rank” of every webpage I visit. Again, I haven’t converted it to cash yet, but it feels good going from a ranking of seven figures to one of five figures, even when I don’t know the heck “rank” means when it’s limited to measuring those who use a certain type of toolbar in their browser.
I think where I was headed with this post is this: I like when people link to this weblog. Despite my aforementioned claims, I do, once in a while, check stats and ego-searches to see who has linked to me. I discover new blogs that way and I often add their RSS feed to a folder of feeds I call “feeds to try-out.” I used to check and see if bloggers added me to their blog roll and thought it was some type of insult when they didn’t. Then, I ran into some problems with the company that hosted my blogroll so I moved it off the front page and, frankly, I forgot who I listed on it. When I did that, I quickly stopped caring who linked to me on their blogroll. The last time I even thought about whose blogroll I’m listed on was a couple of years ago when I noticed that Jeff Jarvis didn’t include me on his blogroll, but that Doc Searls had me on his blogroll twice — I just checked and the same holds true today. I never told Jeff that I was crushed beyond words that he didn’t link to me (because I wasn’t), but I did e-mail Doc that he’d linked to me twice (although I guess he lost the email): I figured it was some A-List blogger balancing karma thing. Actually, I figured they’ve decided, like me, that while in the early days of blogging, the blogroll was a major “gesture” thing, today it is something else, and so we haven’t messed with our blogrolls since 2003 or so.
I didn’t intend for this to be such a long post about a topic I know nothing about. However, I think my point was that I’ll keep linking for reasons that have nothing to do with what Robert and Steve and Fred are talking about. And, if I’m honest, I like it when people link here for the same reasons.