An interesting discussion at Republic of T (via Faux Real) on the issue of blogrolls and blogroll "purges" (where big bloggers take a knife to their 'rolls and eliminate sites they don't read frequently).
As a smaller but not entirely unknown blogger, this discussion of blog network dynamics obviously effects me. I don't think I will ever become an A-lister (I'm not even sure I'd want to be), but I certainly wouldn't turn down a bit more attention. I'm surprised how depressed I've been over a recent slump in my traffic over the past two months (a little under 6,000 hits in February, and probably less than that this month). Of course, if links are currency, then my blog-economy is entirely tied to The Moderate Voice, where I have the opportunity to feed myself traffic indefinitely. But regardless, there are also psychological benefits from being blogrolled. It is nice to know the bloggers you read and respect feel the same way about you, enough to put you on their roll at least (Faux Real, Slant Truth, Pseudo-Polymath). Getting on the list of a relatively larger blog is still a thrill (I think Balloon Juice would be the largest I'm on now). Of course, even a single link by a true a-list blog can distort my traffic charts for an entire month (I got a link from Powerline on July 4th once, that was a massive deluge). But I really would trade those one-shotters for a more persistent relationship with fellow midrange bloggers.
This isn't meant to be a whine--I don't do the things bloggers are supposed to do to grab more traffic. I almost never send emails plugging my own posts. I hate participating in comment threads (I'm not even really a lurker--I rarely, if ever, read them, and tend to get infuriated the rare occasions I do). I do trackback, but it seems that more and more sites are pulling the option (spam trackbacks are really obnoxious). Ultimately, I link to a wide array of blogs, but don't do much more to promote myself on top of that.
For my part, I do feel I have an obligation to try and draw attention to bloggers lower on the totem pole than I--how else will people find them? I only knew about the now-defunct Armchair Capitalists because one of the writers was the ex-boyfriend of a camp friend of mine. I'm not sure if Law and Letters is smaller than me anymore, but it certainly deserves all the lavish praise it can get from the law blawgger world. I firmly believe people should take it upon themselves to seek out and elevate the smaller bloggers they think have talent--and the more influence you have, the greater the obligation to give back from whence you came.
It's tough being a small-to-middle-sized blogger. You streak after elusive crumbs from the big boys and girls, but never really can break to the top. That's not so bad--I don't think I'd want the stress of becoming a big time blogger. But I wish there was more horizontal linkage among the middle range. The way it seems to work is a hub and spoke system: Someone, large or small, picks up a story, eventually a big blog links to it (if they didn't initiate it themselves), and then a community of smaller blogs all chat about the story with reference to, at most, the originator and the big blog. However, it's rare to see the small-blog discussants trade links among themselves. Partially, that's because they can be tough to find--technorati is a hassle, and trackbacks seem to be falling out the vogue. But even still, it makes community building difficult, and has the effect of stopping the conversation at just a few disconnected voices.
There is an opportunity for the blogosphere to become a lot richer, not necessarily by expanding our blogrolls or RSS feeds, but by progressing organically from individual posts we find interesting to see all the range of commentary being forwarded on the subject. I think that the way to get the most out of the blogosphere isn't necessarily to rely on the gatekeepers at the top (as useful as they are), but to harness the power of the b-list--blogs that are not at the top but can be relied upon to provide top-notch commentary on their areas of interest and expertise. It takes a bit more effort, but if blogs which can move traffic start working on this, I think we can really change this medium for the better, both in terms of our own intellectual stimulation, as well as revitalizing the more egalitarian and meritocratic blogosphere instincts that have begun to wane of late.