I’ve been hired as a professional blogger! I’ll be keeping my personal blog here, but I’ll be posting quick links and even quicker commentary over at Time Out Chicago: Love Bites.

While setting up my Time Out blog, I found myself thinking about one of the more headache-inducing aspects of blogging: the Blogroll. You can see my blogroll on the right side of this page, and that’s where the Time Out editors put my Time Out blogroll as well. Blogrolls are sticky and interesting because there are definite social conventions surrounding them, but those social conventions are not well-defined, and different people use very different approaches.

* Some people just post links to whatever blogs they like or consider interesting. Some people work really hard to screen blogs for their blogrolls and figure out whether they really want to link them or not; others just glance over blogs and add them if they seem interesting. And others avoid the whole problem by not having a blogroll on their site at all.

* Some people are straightforwardly tit-for-tat about blogrolls: they do “link exchanges”, which means that you post a link to someone’s blog in your blogroll, and in exchange they post a link to you. This means that not only will people maybe find your blog through that other blog, but that hopefully your PageRank will improve. (PageRank is Google’s measurement of a given page’s importance. For example, my blog has okay PageRank, which is why it’s usually on the first or second page of Google results if you search for the name “Clarisse”, even though there are over two million total results for that name.) I’ve accepted offers for link exchanges occasionally, though I obviously only do it with sites that I appreciate.

The sex toy website EdenFantasys, which also has an online magazine known as SexIs, recently got in a big heap of trouble because the links from their sites have been modified so that they don’t increase recipients’ PageRank. This is particularly scandalous because EdenFantasys will often email sex bloggers soliciting link exchanges, so basically, the evidence indicates that they’re trying to scam us for publicity, being dishonest about what they offer in return.

* I remember that when I started talking to one popular sex blogger, I asked hir if ze would be willing to link to me. Ze hesitated, saying, “Well, I’d like to meet you in person at a convention or something, before I link to you.” As it happens, we have now met, and hir site now links to mine. But I’ve thought a lot about the privilege inherent in that particular approach. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with it, really — but it does profoundly limit the circle of people who will be publicized by that person. It means that ze only promotes people with the particular contacts and background to meet hir — and it also means that ze assumed I would have the money, time, etc. to end up at a sexuality convention.

* * *

So, what to do with my own blogroll? Up until now, I’ve played fast and loose with mine — I’ve linked to cool people when I remembered to do so, and I’ve often forgotten to link blogs that really deserved attention. But while I was thinking about which blogs to feature on my Time Out blogroll, I decided that I need a better process.

I want to link to people whose writing I like, but I want to acknowledge a wide range of people, too. Now that I’ve established my blog well enough to have decent PageRank, I feel as though I should Use My Power For Good and help lots of new voices gain exposure, whether they’re my friends or not.

And then there’s the fact that the blogosphere can get surprisingly insular. It’s not that sex and gender bloggers aren’t open-minded people, it’s just that a surprisingly small amount of crossover happens within all blogospheres. (I’ve even read scholarly papers about how very well-separated some Internet divides are — from what I can tell, progressives and conservatives never read each others’ blogs.) One reason I’m excited about my new Time Out blog is that it will help me reach out to a new audience that wouldn’t normally discover my writing, and to give them exposure to the things I think are important. I’d like to think of other ways to increase the linkages and crossover among different online communities.

But I also don’t want people to just ignore my blogroll because they see it as a morass of themeless “whatever”.

It’s so confusing! Positively anxiety-inducing, I tell you! But now I have two blogrolls … which increases my options!

Here’s what I’ve come up with. On my Time Out Chicago blog, I’m linking to sex & gender blogs that have seriously impressed me with their even-handedness and insight, including a number of sex & gender activists that I know personally. There’s probably a slight emphasis on S&M blogs … hey, I never claimed not to be biased.

But here, on my good ol’ personal blog … it’s gonna be a free-for-all. If you want a link, you got it. Even if you don’t want to do a link exchange, I’ll link to your blog upon request (although obviously, I would be pleased and flattered if you linked to me).

Unless you’re a spammer, of course. Real bloggers only, please.