Should I Post a Link Log?

I’ve been wondering about these Link Logs, Gentle Readers. They are great fun to do. There is some history behind them.

The first blogs, before Live Journal and Word Press and Blogger and any of the social networks, were “web logs” exchanged among the minority of people who were interested in computers. There weren’t a lot of web sites in those days; around the turn of the century you could search the Web for a whole country and get fewer than a full screen of results–I remember Googling “Zambia” and finding four hits. When a web site reached a stage at which anybody wanted to read it, that was news, and the news circulated among computer hobbyists whose “web logs” consisted mostly of links to the first few good web sites.

Even after the turn of the century, people I knew were communicating via letters, except for the very old and the very young, who were using cassette tapes. People tried setting up web sites to discuss news, business, and hobbies; the only really successful one before Live Journal, so far as I know, was the Drudge Report.

Then LJ and WP came along and took all the work out of blogging, and in 2004 blogging became a very cool hobby. A few published writers (like Ozarque and the crew of Making Light) and serious journalists (like Brad Hicks) took up blogging and made it fashionable for students and would-be writers, too. There were still lots of topics about which a blog post could be new or unique, illuminating some aspect of human experience or knowledge that hadn’t yet been discussed on the Internet. In 2006 bloggers were earning ten dollars for Top Ten Lists.

As the blogosphere became more populated, blogging naturally became less lucrative. People who wrote for the Internet were asked to document our sources as if we’d been writing for real magazines that paid real wages. Throwing in a link instead of citing a proper printed book or magazine was considered less authoritative, but on the other hand, even if a blog to which someone else linked was something like “Why I hate school & am sitting in the CptrCtr looking @ porn & pretending 2 study,” that blog automatically gained clout because someone had linked to it.

Kids were sitting in the computer center looking at porn and pretending to study. That was one factor that created a demand for automatic online content monitoring, filtering, and ranking of the estimated value of different web pages that mentioned the same word.

Search engines developed new algorithms for rating web content automatically. Each of these generated its share of obvious, logical errors.

Google and some other search engines started correcting for typographical errors. Result: although my late lamented cat Bisquit’s name was spelled that way to distinguish her from the food called biscuits or other animals called Biscuit, a web search for articles in which I mentioned Bisquit always pulls up lots of irrelevant blather about that food and those other animals.

Search engines started ranking web sites by “relevance” based on how often the search keyword appeared in a web site. Result: people started “keyword stuffing.” If you wanted your article about restaurants in Minneapolis to be read, you thought of ways to repeat the words “restaurant in Minneapolis” twenty times. Some editors recommended leaving the outline of an article right in the published copy, in the form of headings: “Dog grooming tip #1…Dog grooming tip #2…” Later search engines were reprogrammed to down-rate articles where keywords appeared too often, with the result that good, relevant articles where the keywords were used naturally, twenty times in 2000 words, were bumped just as far down as keyword-stuffed articles where the keywords appeared twenty times in 400 words.

Search engines used the number of times other people linked to a site as recommendations. This led to “link exchanges” where people generated junk content that linked to paying customers’ articles: “The momeraths outgrabe [LINK A] pleated purple [LINK B] forth blicketing [LINK C]…” etc. ad nauseam. Now search engines are programmed to down-rate articles that contain too many links.

I only wish I’d ever been paid for “link farming.” In 2011 when I set up a Weebly site, I posted a half-dozen short articles, didn’t see any reader responses, and asked e-friends what they wanted to see at the site. They hadn’t found it yet. Google prompted: “Include external links.” Fine. I started opening one window for e-mail and one for blogging; when I found something in the e-mail interesting, I created a post about it. Result: long messy lists of short posts, some of which contained nothing but links to web pages that no longer even exist, making my blog archive an unsatisfactory read. I wanted to post the actual content; I couldn’t afford that.

I have posted articles sent in by correspondents, where I tested links to make sure they worked but trusted the correspondent’s judgment that they were worth reading. (Sometimes, going back and reading those links, I didn’t want them on this site any longer…so I became more cautious about posting correspondence.) In articles not clearly credited to other people, all links have been to content I personally read, liked, and would have published in a Real Magazine if this were a Real Magazine.

I get a lot of e-mail. I read a lot of blogs. Although a slow writer, I’ve always been a fast reader. Therefore I can do a full-length Link Log on as many days as I find the time to check e-mail and blog feeds. I read about five percent of the material that comes in on any given day, and link to the most interesting five or ten percent of that. And that can still add up to ten, twenty, thirty or more links per day. Despite this high number they’re all (to the best of my knowledge and belief) links to legitimate, informative, and original web content. I can of course be wrong–but I don’t make a habit of it, and when I do catch myself in a mistake I correct it.

On the Blogspot…considering both Google’s general tendency to down-rate all individual blogs, and the influence of the Illiberal Left, I’ve given up hope of ever generating online revenue anyway. Local sponsors have paid for some things posted there. Nobody’s ever going to pay for those links, except for the friends who pay for the site’s Yearbooks. The Blogspot is strictly for publicity and socializing, and can contain Link Logs if readers want it to.

And readers do like the Link Logs. One or two readers have even braved Blogspot’s anti-comment bias to say they like the Link Logs.

But now I’m worried about the best practices for Blogjob…is it possible that Link Logs can affect Blogjob’s revenues? I’d like to find out more about that before posting more Link Logs.


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