The Decline of Political-Cultural Blogging in One Page

2014-11-23_OT_BLOGROLLAs I already noted in an exchange here with “Ordinary Times” contributor Vikram Bath, a “blogroll” used to represent a circle or network of intercommunicating, mutually encouraging bloggers and blog-communities. Getting a spot on a popular blog’s roll was once a top goal for aspiring bloggers.

The first thing to note about OT’s blogroll is that, though it has been moved off the blog’s front page and sidebars, it still occupies a prominent link-position in the main menu. The second thing to note about it is that it isn’t: The blogroll page’s blogroll is missing. The only blogs that the “Blogroll” page rolls are OT’s nine “Internal Blogs,” which already have their own separate main menu spot, with associated dropdown links. If, however, you click on “Blogs” rather than on one of the individual dropdowns, you’ll be taken to a page that is empty except for a three-month old piece of “comment spam.” Back on the Blogroll page, where the Internal Blogs are actually listed, there also used to be or clearly was intended to be something like a normal blogroll, probably listing tens of friendly blogs, but there is now only what clearly appears to be a piece of dysfunctional WordPress “shortcode” – [collroll] – from the obsolete but rather serendipitously named plug-in “Collapsing Blogroll.”

I’m tempted to leave this discussion right here, since the failure of this shortcode is itself like a piece of shortcode that any thoughtful observer ought to be able to expand into a larger critique: That the OT blogroll has consisted of [collroll] and nothing but [collroll] for many months now, and that either no one has pointed it out or whoever is responsible does not care or does not know how to fix it may say quite a bit about OT’s progressive disconnection from the rest of the blog-world, or from what we used to call the “blogosphere.” (I always imagine the word being pronounced by Ariana Huffington.) That OT, when it was the LOOG, was a somewhat prominent or major-minor independent blog may in turn say something about the decline of blogs of its type.

The rest of the content of the Blogroll page, other than some (more) comment-spam (three years old rather than just three months), describes OT’s own sphere, as represented in that somewhat redundant list of “Internal Blogs,” which, like the non-collapsed or not yet collapsed but clearly collapsing blogrolls of many still popular or still barely hanging-on blogs, is full of zombies. “The 49th” last put up a post in October of this year, so around a month ago, before that in July: Even at that very low rate of publication, it qualifies as about average for the nine, as does “Blinded Trials.” The most recent posts at Blinded Trials are, however, by an author, Christopher Carr, who is not credited on the Blogroll page as a blog author. Of the two listed “principal authors,” Russell Saunders still offers posts from time to time, but Rose Woodhouse has not posted in months. “Dutch Courage” has not posted since June. “Healthy Commotion” has posted twice since May, while the vast majority of its content, all of it for more than a year, has been provided by Ethan Gach, another author not credited. “Journeys in Alterity” has not been updated since September, when it featured a post announcing that one of its two authors, Kyle Cupp, would be journeying elsewhere. The other named “Journeys” author, Elizabeth Stoker, has not published a post at OT in almost a year: She was welcomed into the fold in December of 2013, and has not made a contribution since January of 2014. “Mindless Diversions” and “Not a Potted Plant” (where Mr. Bath posts) qualify as unusually lifelike: They publish fairly frequently, especially Mindless Diversions. “Ordinary Tales” and “Ordinary University” fit the comatose or zombified norm.

Numerous problems like the ones on OT’s Blogroll page have been obvious at the site for several months, at least to anyone who might care to look. As I also mentioned to Bath, I have directly contacted an editor at the site with my observations, and I also have used the site’s contact form for the purpose (several weeks ago). I even volunteered to implement the mostly simple fixes myself. At this point, no one ought to be surprised to learn that I have thusfar received no reply to any of these messages.

9 comments on “The Decline of Political-Cultural Blogging in One Page

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  1. everything you note here is correct. Well everything safe one. I thought that we had reached out to you, either in late October or early November.  did we not?


    in either case, I would very much like your assistance. Assuming that it still being offered, of course.

    • Hi RTK – ain’t got no record of no reaching out. If I’d been reached, I’d for sure not have written this post! Who would’ve reached, under what heading, and by what means? (If it was an email that happened to use “Open Enrollment” or “mobile TV” in the subject line, it would have gone into the spam queue.)

    • Anyway, one place to begin would be the email I sent you via the contact form. I made a copy:

      Browsing around the site yesterday, I noticed a number of formatting and display errors. I get the impression you don’t have anyone willing and able to keep the site updated, but these are simple problems that mostly would not require any great expertise to solve. If no one else will or can do what needs and ought to be done, I would be willing to do it for you during the spare time I don’t have.

      1. The Twitter widget is dysfunctional in Firefox and Chrome, though displays well on Safari. Probably should be replaced with Twitter’s own widget if it cannot be easily updated.

      2. The blogroll page does not have a blogroll. Instead, it shows a piece of shortcode, likely for a plug-in that is no longer functioning. Either the plug-in needs to be updated or different one used in its place. (I’m guessing that the blogroll itself is full of dead or senescent blogs, but updating it, assuming you want to have one at all, is a different problem that would be more time-consuming to address.)

      3. Guest Posting Policy has a broken link to a missing image at the top. Obviously, it should be restored or the code should be deleted.

      4. Same for Commenting Policy

      5. On mobile devices the Site Header Image (bicycle/Ordinary Times) is displaced offscreen – about 50% on my Android phone, for example. Fix: probably one line of code, maybe a handful.

      I’ll refrain from a full critique of site aesthetics or further suggestions, except to mention two other very simple changes that would make the site more readable: It’s very easy to add author by-lines or other “metadata” (like number of comments, and direct link to threads) to your front page template. It’s also easy – or not hard! – to format comments so that they’re more readable on small screens (not squozen into narrow columns), but remain unchanged on desktop displays.

      Of course, it may be that you like things just as they are. If so, carry on!


      • Apologies if we did not reach out, especially since we made a collective decision to do so.

        Apologies as well that I do not see that we received your message via the contact form.

        And yes, each of those statements is indeed indicative of larger problems.

        But now here we are, so I guess I’ll just ask you: What kind of assistance is it that you would be willing to offer? If these comments are the extent, then I’ll copy and bring back to our group with my thanks.  Really, I do appreciate it and we can find ways, I think, to have these observations be difference makers.

        On the other hand, if you’d like to do something more partner-esque, I think your help would be amazing for our site.

  2. I don’t know how far I’d extend the lessons from that page. I agree that it doesn’t seem like a terribly useful way to access content, whether it is on the site or elsewhere. I think I’ve heard some people mention having a real blogroll with links to other places, but that would involve coming up with a list of places, and that would be…work, especially because there would probably be some need to set up a process for agreeing who should be on there and how to keep it updated.

    I know you don’t mention it, but I’d critique myself as somewhat embodying that page in how I comment on the internet in general. I generally lurk everywhere except OT (not counting this). I think when I used to blog for another site long ago, that I interacted more with others, both as a commenter and with linking to them within my own posts. At OT, I think I probably link more to other people’s work, but a lot of it happens to be other writers at OT.

    In other words, I’m interacting with a greater number of people, but many of them tend to blog at the same place I do.

    >no reply to any of these messages

    I have to confess to not knowing anything about that. Working on making the site better is desirable, but it’s not exactly easy to get changes implemented. Even if someone is willing to help for free, there might be coordination issues that make it harder. (I’m typing with my ass here. I really don’t know, but I get the impression it’s not all that easy.)

    • Now that we’ve gotten the attention of Rtod, we’ll see how it goes, but OT suffers from absentee sitelord syndrome, which’s why it’s so hard to get the radiator fixed or the hedges trimmed, or why saving it, if possible at all, might require a revolt or takeover – or mass exodus. On the other hand, many sites whose founders or key bloggers are still active on site are also very poorly kept up, so it’s not just a governance problem.


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