Meryl Smash

Meryl Yourish has had it with blog gimmickry:

I simply don’t care much for the metalinkage. Carnival of the this, Carnival of the that, Battle of the Blogging Consortium, Letter of the Day: Yeah, yeah, yeah. Been there, done that, have too many t-shirts. While I don’t mind being in them from time to time, I tend to go for merit links. That means I much prefer being linked because people think the quality of my post deserves a link, not because someone else linked to me in some kind of gimmicky thing like a Monopoly Board.

That’s how I’ve managed to achieve blogging status. A gimmick link is fleeting. A merit link is a blue-chip investment, because a blogger that links you because s/he likes what you write is more likely to keep reading your weblog, and link again in the future. Same thing goes for readers. How many new readers do you keep from an Instalanche? My readership goes up solidly every single time. How many of you have created a gimmick post, gotten linked by Glenn, and seen your traffic return to exactly the same numbers three days later? Cotton candy is a fun snack, but you can’t eat it for dinner. Here at, we serve up full-course meals.

For example, Superhero Dating Ratings, the Buffy Blogburst Index, the Hulk’s Solution to the Middle East Crisis, and the Fudd Doctrine?

I’m not sure how one operationalizes blogging “status,” exactly, but there seem to be a variety of techniques of achieving it. Glenn Reynolds mainly provides lots of links. Steven Den Beste and James Lileks write extended essays. Wonkette has become a huge sensation almost literally overnight providing, at best, snacks. Allah had become fairly popular telling the same joke over and over. Venomous Kate does some metablogging gimmicks–the Letter of the Day and the Snark Hunt–but mainly concentrates on writing. Kevin Aylward has become a top blogger partly through gimmicks like the Blog Awards and his chronicling of all things porn, but also by writing interesting things and improving the blogosphere through sharing his technical expertise.

OTB isn’t one thing in particular. It’s mainly an analysis of the news, especially things related to foreign policy, because that’s mainly what interests me. But I’ve hosted both the Carnival and the Bonfire of the Vanities, done the Blog Chicks Pics, and the Traffic Jam. Basically, I just do this to amuse myself. I’d get bored rather quickly doing nothing but gimmicks to generate traffic–what would be the point really?–but find them an enjoyable diversion from time to time. I don’t mind it if others want to concentrate on gimmickry all the time. If they do it in a clever way that I find amusing, I might link to it. If not, I won’t.

FILED UNDER: Blogosphere, Middle East, , , , , , , ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. “I am aboard. You may pull up the ladder now.”

  2. The blogosphere is a big, big place, and there is room for all types. Some like creating the memes. Others link to them because they find them clever. Still others find them silly and ignore them. It’s all good.

    Some like baseball, some like football. Some (like myself) enjoy both and appreciate the differences. It’s all good (as long as you are not a Red Sox fan).

    “Merit links” are always sought after but with so much content available, they can be hard to garner. Instalanches may increase regular readership but memes can do the same thing.

    (Although I only have evidence of the latter…to date my blog has proven quite Instalanche proof!)

  3. You know, James, all the examples you cited are from 2002. Two of them are humor items. I write humor on a regular basis. One was a Blogburst that I hosted at the specific request of the other Buffybloggers, as my site was the most highly trafficked. What’s your point supposed to be, citing those links?

    All I said was that I don’t care for blogs that are primarily gimmicky, and that I prefer content over fluff. I’m really failing to see the point here.

    I sure do know this, though: People are awfully prickly about any aspect of the blogosphere being criticized. And Aaron has an extremely thin skin.

  4. James Joyner says:

    I cited those posts because they were the ones you link from the bottom of the page as the highlights of your achives.

    I’m not sure why humorous writing on Buffy the Vampire Slayer or the Incredible Hulk is any more of a “full-course meal” than the creative application of graphic arts skills to make a blog map or Monopoly take-off. I didn’t link to the Monopoly thing because I thought it was rather weak–linking mainly to minor blogs that Aaron happened to like–but don’t see anything particularly wrong with it.

  5. Like everything else, a weblog gimmick has to add value. My Duck Hunt was a way to collect more Howard Dean-bashing posts than I could by myself. I thought a well-rounded, and sometimes humorous critique of Dean was needed. Some gimmicks are useful filters. For example, the Carnival of the Capitalists helps me find some great econ and biz thinking. Some gimmicks (the Letter of the Day and the Snark Hunt) I find useless to me.

    What a good gimmick does it get you noticed. With the blogosphere growing, if we’re not lucky enough to be on Glenn Reynolds’ blogroll we have to find some way to get some attention.

  6. Meryl,

    I have no problem with a simple statement that explains what you prefer and why. The first paragraph that James quoted above did that but it also threw in a few zingers. Bringing up a recent successful gimmick (the monopoly board) as an example of a link which has no value to you could be taken as a knock on its author and those blogs it linked to. It could also be taken as merely a current example of what you are talking about. I’m more than willing to give you the benefit of the doubt in that situation.

    However, the ‘gimmicks’ that James pointed out from your own blog are relevant in light of what you say in the next paragraph. Your statement “That’s how I’ve managed to achieve blogging status” seems weakened when your archives are examined. At some point, some of your achievement was made using gimmicks or humor or whatever you choose to call it.

    I have no problem with that. I’m glad you have arrived where you are at and also hope it is not your final destination. It is natural for your blogging at this point to be much different than it was 2 years ago. In the same way it is natural for those 2 years behind you to experiment and find their own style.

  7. Oh, for crying out loud. Get a room.

  8. Actually, James, it’s a cheap shot and a dishonest debating tactic. All you have to do is read my last week’s archives for an example of the full range of my posts. By “full-course meal” I meant that you will find all sorts of things at my blog. Not just gimmicks. You’re being overly cute by linking to those posts in that way, and I don’t mean cute in a good way.

    That’s the last thing I expect from someone like you.

  9. James Joyner says:


    I think we’re in agreement on the issue, then.

    If all you’re saying is that blogs that are nothing more than one gimmick after another aren’t all that good, I agree. If you’re saying that blogs must be all “serious writing” all the time, then I’d disagree.

  10. “Actually, James, it’s a cheap shot and a dishonest debating tactic.” I’m not seeing the violation. Enlighten me. I don’t have all cheap and dishonest rhetorical tricks memorized. It was not obvious that ‘full course meals’ refers to your entire blog and not individual posts. Metaphors can fail like that.

    Was it cheap and dishonest to label links you think are merited (good writing) as merit links but dismiss links that others might think are merited (clever idea, good graphic)? Nah, it wasn’t cheap or dishonest, just your opinion. I can’t read your mind, but ‘cheap and dishonest’ sounds thin-skinned. You have a right to be proud of your work and its merits.

    Blogging is supposed to be fun sometimes. James pointed out your fun stuff. And it is funny! Why is that cheap or dishonest?