That little box in the sidebar entitled “giraffollowers” has been steadily growing for a while now. I am convinced that this only happened because I discovered that blogsurfing was as good a way of procrastinating as any, and whenever I found something I liked (which happens a lot, since I am fairly versatile in my likings. The last few weeks I have followed 36 million book- and writing blogs, 374,278 fun stuff blogs, and 5 interior design blogs), I clicked “follow”, because, I thought, I could always unfollow if I after some time found that the blog in question no longer fit my heart’s desire (or if I, unlikely as it sounds, at some point was to find out that there is such a thing as too many blogs in your Google Reader). At least that is what I thought. But I’ll get back to that in a bit.
The thing, though, is that when you follow someone’s blog, this someone often feels obliged to follow back. This is silly. Really, it is. I try to keep a firm rule to only ever follow blogs that either interest me, or which at some point can serve my interest. The first is easy, as mentioned I like a lot of things. The second, however, is the cynical one. It is part of my evil plan to build a network of people who either in their own capacity or through their contacts one day might become useful to me. I am not yet quite sure how they will be useful, but thinking ahead is rarely a part of evil plans, so I don’t worry about that. Usually, though, I find that people who fall into the "might one day become a useful contact" category already are pretty interesting. So basically I only every follow interesting blogs. Because of other people’s feelings of obligation to follow whomever follows them, however, my following of 36,374,283 blogs led to 50 people following me back. “WOW!” I thought, “these people must really love me!”
When I passed 50 giraffollowers I had just read about other bloggers holding contests in celebration of their gaining 50, 100, 500, or 2 million followers (I am not entirely sure how these contests work. Do they give a prize to the person who becomes their 500th follower? Or do they give a prize to a randomly selected person as soon as they reach 500 followers? And seeing as most of these things are intended to gain a bunch of new followers, wouldn’t it make more sense to host “I want to gain a bunch or more followers”-contests rather than “Yay, 500!”-contests?).
I thought of hosting such a contest myself (since I too liked the feeling of gaining new followers, even if I didn’t know how or why these contests worked), but then suddenly I had 51 followers. Oh, bugger. “Help me celebrate my 51st follower”-contest just doesn’t have the same ring to it. Having recently learned how to gain new followers, though, I figured it would only be a matter of time before I reached 100. “By then I surely will have figured out what these contests are all about!” I thought.
Not only have I not done that, I have once again managed to miss the milestone. Actually, I happen to know exactly who was my 100th follower (and I am very grateful for that, KyAnn Hotter than Cayenne Pepper!), but I hadn’t prepared anything. And now I have reached 109 followers (I am STILL very grateful – don’t get me wrong!), but I have STILL not prepared anything. (Besides, 109 also makes a poorer title than “100th follower contest”.) In addition, since I hadn’t prepared a thing, I don’t really have anything to give away in a contest. “If you become my 110th giraffolower I will share with you the key to successful procrastination!” People would unfollow me for that reason.
Except – I have discovered that unfollowing is nearly impossible! I must admit that of the 36 million books- and writing blogs I am following, only about 35,892,645 of them are any good. The rest post too frequently, too rarely, too much in a language I don’t understand or there is some other reason I would like to stop following them. Also, one of the “funny” blogs stopped being funny.
The problem is that while it is very easy to follow a blog, it is very hard to stop. I normally follow by use of the “Google Friend Connect”; because it is quick, it provides instant info to the blogger and everyone else visiting his/her blog that I am following (what a networking slut I am), and because it automatically synchronizes with my Google Reader (from which I access most of the blogs I read on a daily basis). Theoretically, this should also make it easy to unfollow, because you can “manage blogs” from your Blogger dashboard. Or at least that is what they want you to think.
Every time I try to use this function, however, I get error messages such as “HTTP 404”, “Sorry, no can’t do” or “The heck yo think you’re doin’? Yo think yo can just change yo mind about them blogs yo follow? Yo like some sort of convertialist? Yo like stupid, or what? Huh? Stoopid? Convertialitating my BEE-HIND, missy! No yo won’t!”
After having failed to unfollow as much as an origami blog (disclaimer: I don't think I have ever followed an origami blog. If I have, and you're the clever origamist behind said blog, please don't feel offended because I unfollowed you. I have certainly never tried to unfollow any origami blog, I just used it as an example. I swear. I clearly forgot about you, but I didn't unfollow you) I realized that Blogger was not going to help me with this. I turned to Google.
Google Reader is great, it really is. I only have two issues with it. One, it keeps giving me “samples” of the blogs I follow instead of showing me every single of the 36,374,283 with new content. I know this is a big number, but honestly, you’re Google. You’re as close as many of us get to believing there might be a god out there after all. So, my sincere apologies to anyone whose blogs I haven’t visited in a while, but this might be entirely a result of you falling out of my Google Reader’s random selection system.
The other thing I don’t like about the Google Reader is something that also makes it pretty great. It imports the blogs I follow with Blogger or Google Friend Connect, and organizes all of them in a long list (which occasionally is the subject to “sampling”). This way I don’t have to go to several places to find the blogs I follow – they are all right there in my Reader. Yay!
The problem with this, though, is again related to Blogger’s inability to let me unfollow anything I have already followed. It is relatively easy to unfollow someone in your Google Reader (I won’t tell you just how easy, though, or you might “accidentally” unfollow me…), but as long as you’re still following them in Blogger… Yeah, that’s right. The Reader automatically imports them right back in.
I think I was down to 34,578,218 blogs when I realized that all my hard work in sorting through bloggers that haven’t posted new content since February 1852 was doing me no good. I still got notifications from one of the blogs I most distinctively remembered having clicked “unfollow” on, both in my Google Reader and in Blogger (but there I only got another error messaged. This one said “I’ll be back” in a heavy Austrian accent).
I am sure many of you have been frantically reaching for your unfollow-buttons during this post. Relax, there is no use. I will continue to haunt you, because there is no such thing as “unfollow” once you’ve followed. MWUAHAHAHAHA!
I should get back to how I started this post, though, so as to pretend I had a nice plan for this seemingly random splatter of text all along, and that I didn’t get terribly sidetracked by my own frustration with technology.
I don’t think I will hold an “I just passed XYZ followers” contest anytime soon. And I am not just saying that because I doubt my blog will reach XYZ followers anytime soon, but also because I feel I should try to stay true to my philosophy with regards to my blogging. I don’t blog for my giraffollowers (though I am honored when they bother checking in). I blog because I like it. If others like it too, that is very cool. I am extremely pleased for every single one of those little icons over in the sidebar, representing a person (and in one instance a small business in Malaysia) who at least at some point probably felt that my blog was interesting or that I would be a useful member of the network that one day would come handy in their evil plan. Or they just felt obliged. (Or they really hoped I would one day hold a follower contest where I would give away a free tote bag made of the dead leaves of the plant I forgot to water because I was blogging.)
For the record: I don't mind if you are having follower contests. I might even consider participating. I probably won't actually get around to do it, though, since I as mentioned don't understand how those contests work...