The Blogroll reinvented – FriendsRoll & TopLinks

Today, we are launching FriendsRoll and TopLinks, two new WordPress plugins that I hope will give new life to blogrolls. You’ll see the very first intallation of these in the sidebar of this blog.


There’s been a lot of good discussion about whether the blogroll has lost its utility.

Personally, when I find a new site that I like, I review the author’s blogroll. And I’ve frequently discovered some great new sites this way.

But I also have to admit that my own blogroll was dreadfully out of date. I just didn’t remember to update it often enough. And so, it didn’t really reflect my most current reading list or recommendations.

So, what to do about this? How could we reinvent the blogroll so that it would continue to have the utility of helping us discover sites recommended by others while making it painless to keep these lists up to date?

Our answer: TopLinks. TopLinks replaces the manually edited blogroll with a widget that automatically generates a list of the Blogs and sites that I most often link to.

In doing this, it not only solves the problem of keeping my list up to date, but it also provides an extra indicator of whose thinking I most closely follow and most frequently cite in my own posts.

(Think about the potential for having this data openly posted on blogs. We will be able to analyse and use it to construct social graphs of the blogosphere, gaining insight into communities of thought and influence.)

At the same time, I wondered about another issue. The explosive growth of social networks like Facebook is powered, in my opinion, by people’s desire to connect with others.

I’m a member of Facebook. But it seems to me that it’s best for making connections with others and signalling affinity to causes. But for great content, I still look to blogs. That’s where the serious writers have continued to post their content and where the discussion has flowed most freely. Moreover, this occurs in the open, outside of any walled garden, where all this great content is available to anyone who can use Search.

So, the question: How can we provide readers with a means of signalling that they read and trust an author and consider themselves to be part of his or her community?

Our answer: Friendsroll. FriendsRoll enables your readers to sign up to appear on your list of Friends. Any data they provide will stay with the blogger, not reside on some external site. So the relationship is directly between us. No third party involved.

Get them together or separately
I think Friendsroll and Toplinks work best together. But you can install them individually or together.

Both plugins can be downloaded from the Friendsroll site. Try them out – let us know what you think.

Thanks to some very talented people

I’m very lucky to work with some truly talented developers and designers at 76design. Thanks to the great 76design team who worked on this: Julie Haché, Shawn McCann, Brett Tackaberry, Steve Palmer and the project’s leader, Steve Lounsbury. And thanks to to Tod Maffin, who may recall that this idea originally emerged in a discussion that we had in Vancouver last summer.

All that’s missing is you

Oh, by the way. This is a real Social Media project. The plug-ins can be downloaded and used for free. And the promotion budget to let people know about this is $0.

So, I’m hoping that if you like the concept of Friendsroll and Toplinks, you’ll post about them and encourage others to try them out and give us their feedback on them. Only through being used and talked about will we be able to improve on this first effort.

  • Ike

    Hey Joe… interesting applications.

    I never felt comfortable with the notion of a true “blogroll,” just because they got to be too long, and they never gave much of a flavor about ‘why’ I liked certain sites.

    I currently use the concept of a “post-roll.” It’s the delicious widget, but displaying only those articles that I slap the appropriate tag upon. It’s not *all* my links, just the ones that I want to share in my sidebar.

    They typically stay up long enough for those sites to get credit, and points the attention to the specific content instead of just a blanket endorsement.

    The Friend-Roll sounds like another way to point others to the people who are interesting. If I ever get around to designing a new skin for Occam’s RazR, I may look at a way to do just that.

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  • Thanks for sharing these great plugins with the community. I am looking forward to taking them for a spin on my site.

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  • This will be interesting. Blog rolls and bots are usually ineffective, but hopefully these apps will prove otherwise.