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But I also have to admit that my own blogroll was dreadfully out of date.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.

Basic Do's and Don't's for Corporate Bloggers

I was asked to provide some advice on Corporate Blogging Do’s and Don’t’s for an upcoming article in the Globe and Mail. Here’s what I suggested:


Listen first.

Social media is about communities of interest. Before you start writing, you should find your online community. Who writes about the things you care about? Who do you find most insightful and persuasive. Subscribe to their feeds, read them regularly and comment on their blogs. Doing this before you start to write your own blog will give you both a better sense of what you have to say that will benefit the people you care about. It will also help you to build your own credibility with them.

Write about things you are passionate about.

After the rush of the first few posts is over, it may become harder to generate posts. If you write about the things that interest you and on which you have a definite point of view, you’ll find that you are able to sustain your blog for the long term.

Give without asking for a return.

Social media is propelled by the desire we all have to connect with people who share our interests and with whom we feel some attachment. Just like in real life, the best relationships are driven by a sense that the other person is genuinely interested in you and your wellbeing. In social media, this has translated into a “culture of generosity.” The most successful bloggers are those who constantly give to their communities – interesting content, insight, a look into their world – without asking for anything in return. In my experience, those who understand and embrace this principle receive much more than they could have expected in return from others.

Keep it positive.

The world is full of too many sarcastic, snide, flip people. And criticizing is easy. Serious people balance their criticisms with a vision of what they would do instead. Unless you’re setting out to create an entertainment or gossip blog, put negativism aside. Be positive in your posts. Of course, sometimes you’ll want to write posts that are critical. But if you are generally positive, those critical posts will be better received and more credible.

Be patient and persistent

It will take time for your community to find you. Don’t be discouraged if the number of subscribers and comments you have at the outset is small. If you offer interesting content, they will come.


Don’t use a ghostwriter.

Social media is about real people connecting with real people. It’s also about responding to comments. Your contributions should be in your own voice. And if you aren’t prepared to do that, then social media isn’t for you.

Don’t fake it.

Social media is propelled by millions of people sharing with one another. If you present a false front, pretending to be something other than what you are (e.g. a fair employer; a responsible corporate citizen), you will soon find that people who know you for what you really are call you out. And bloggers are hard, very hard, on those who have failed the authenticity and transparency tests.

Don’t give up.

Remember, it will take time to build interest and community around your blog. Hang in there. Be patient and don’t give up too soon. Strong relationships take time to build.

What do you think of this advice? Do you agree with these points? Are there other equally important points that you would add?