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April 30th, 2003, 12:09am
Web logs, or "blogs," are personal, online journals - and one of the fastest growing trends on the Internet. Terence Smith explores the motivation behind blogging and whether blogs represent the future of journalism.
April 30th, 2003, 1:52am
Google is taking over the world. Soon Blogger will be the AI behind it all.
Interesting stuff - thanks for the link.
May 15th, 2003, 9:28pm
Everything from gossip to homework shows up onscreen in these cyber diaries.
By Elizabeth Armstrong |
Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor
It's a typical journal entry. Natalia is worrying about a fast-approaching advanced-placement test. She's also been pondering some "all-too-relevant concepts" in her psychology book, such as social loafing and groupthink. And over the weekend, while watching a friend gear up for the junior prom, she glue-gunned fake flowers onto a headband and felt affirmation for being "vehemently anti-skirt."
Natalia seems to be documenting her adolescence in the most ordinary fashion, recounting each day's events - the good, the bad, and the mundane - with equal fervor.
What sets this high school junior apart from the Dear Diary scribes of earlier generations is that Natalia posts her entries in the very public domain of the World Wide Web. She is, in the parlance of our times, a blogger.
Translation: Natalia runs a blog (short for weblog), which is the cyber-equivalent of a diary, which means the rest of the world now has peeping rights - and she does it all from a laptop in her bedroom outside Washington. She's been blogging for years, and she is not alone.
Weblogs are known as the indie rock of the Internet; thousands of teens claim one for their own. They need no corporate might to sponsor their musings, doodles, or homework, and they need no permission to publish.
Natalia is a true early adopter. At age 8, she learned both to keep a journal and to surf the Internet. She had HTML down by seventh grade, and has been running her own blog, www.imaginaire.nu, for nearly three years. The software is free, the maintenance low, the authority over content limitless.
"My blog is freedom," Natalia says. "It's an outlet for ideas and thoughts that don't have another place to go. If I feel like going on about an actor I think is cute, or music I like, or typing out my Spanish oral [exam] in order to memorize it, I can do that."
What began in 1997 as a fad among the savviest of the tech savvy - individual blogs had to be built, after all, one block of code at a time - has mushroomed into a hyperconnected network of fanatic bloggers. The fervor reached new heights in 1999 with the creation of blogger.com, a site that, along with a slew of others today, enables anyone to sign up and begin blogging in minutes.
"Kids don't really have controlled outlets like this," says Chris Baker, an editor at Wired magazine who has covered what is known as the blogosphere.
"Parents have a say in how you decorate your room, how you dress, your posture, etc. But anyone with basic Web literacy - which means just about everyone under the age of 25 - can set up a blog in about five minutes. Blogs can give instant entree to even the least tech-savvy kids."
David Weinberger, author of "Small Pieces Loosely Joined: A Unified Theory of the Web," says the exploration of self identity is a major allure for bloggers of all ages. "On the Web, we all have a persona," he says. "Furthermore, we have exquisite control over that persona. People who write weblogs are inevitably choosing how they present themselves."
And yet, according to a Pew Charitable Trust study, an overwhelming majority of the middle and high school students who use the Internet say their schools don't create assignments that take advantage of resources online - resources they can find on their own. They're "far ahead of their teachers and principals in taking advantage of online educational resources" - such as weblogs - the report concludes.
Some colleges, however, are beginning to use class blogs as a way to share assignments and get feedback. Paul Grabowicz, new media professor at the University of California at Berkeley's school of journalism, teaches a course where students run a class blog.
"In the class," he writes on the site, "students will create a weblog to explore the subject of 'intellectual property.' News sources will be scanned each day, the top stories will be selected, and precise summaries of each story will be written. Students will also write original stories."
Paul Boutin, a technology writer for The New York Times, Salon, and Wired, says if he'd been graced with a DSL connection as a kid he'd have grown up online instead of at the local public library: "But compared to the '80s and early '90s, when the Internet was a special club for super-smart loners, the Net population seems to have normalized closer to the rest of society. Most of the teen bloggers seem like normal teens to me, rather than just the outcasts and geniuses."
The class blogs, which are taking heat for being "synthetically produced," as a reader of the online journal Slashdot put it, are proving useful. Through postings students can share their thoughts in a more comfortable medium - and hone their writing skills.
"The format of blogs is written, which means the thoughts tend to be in bigger chunks and nobody can interrupt you," Mr. Weinberger says. "It favors a different class of people, people who don't like to talk in class or think out loud, people who like to write things down before they show it."
Meg Hourihan, cofounder of blogger.com and author of the enormously popular weblog www.megnut.com, says blogs can actually level the playing field.
"It's a great way for quieter, shy kids to participate, just as a mailing list can be a great outlet in a corporate environment for the nonvocal to make a lot of contributions," she says. "[Blogs] take away the advantage from the loudest person and highlight people who actually add something to the conversation."
Most bloggers keep a backlog of material on their site. Natalia's blog is called "Toast." On it, the more recent material is filed under "Fresh," and the dated logs - which usually means more than a few weeks old - are catalogued chronologically under "Stale."
"Instant messages and e-mail are notoriously slapdash," Mr. Baker says. "But bloggers archive their old entries, so words have a little more permanence. If you've set up this public forum where you can go every day and carefully explain why you're angry at your friend, or how you feel about the war in Iraq, or why you hated the last episode of 'Buffy,' you're going to learn a lot more about arranging words to say precisely what you mean."
But precision doesn't always gain points online, and it can be dangerous for adolescents who may inadvertently reveal where they live, where they go to school, and who their friends are.
"I think everyone who keeps an online presence is [worried] about security," Natalia says. "I go through periods when I'm really paranoid about stalking and wonder if I should mention city names or link to articles written about my school. But most of the time I'm not very worried. I feel comfortable online."
Jamal, a high school sophomore whose family immigrated to New York from Pakistan, doesn't worry too much about people learning who he is from his blog, which he calls "Jamalistan."
"I definitely don't release too much information," he says. "But if someone were to use the information against me, I guess I'd be flattered that they went to my site to get my point of view."
Many high school students devote hours outside of school to their personal blogs, and find the activity to be both a creative outlet and a place to, well, rant.
"If I have a strong emotion about something, be it joy, anger, frustration, confusion, or anything else, I will usually try to put [it] into words," Natalia says. "It is therapeutic to rant about it."
On the four-year anniversary of the Columbine shootings in April, Jamal posted the following on his blog: "I spent the day being paranoid, moping, and para-moping. Someone was telling me to cheer up, but I said that it actually scared me. Life was proved fragile and delicate that week."
Jamal admits that his weblog has become "yet another tool of productive procrastination." But being productive, he adds, is what counts. "Compared to other forms of expression - painting, drawing, writing - this seems like the one most compatible with today's Internet-incorporated world. Some days I don't have inspiration - just homework."
These minibiographies are unfolding in high school blogs around the world, an exercise in documentation that, in a way, serves as a grand-scale word game, a cyber-form of natural selection that weeds out - or at least ignores - the unworthy.
"Most of the highly visible bloggers spend a lot of time responding to other bloggers, or butting into debates raging on other blogs," Baker says.
"It's called blogrolling - blogging on blogging on blogging. The person who regurgitates clichéd slogans or throws around profanity-laced ad hominem attacks generally loses. The person who's best at wielding words generally wins."
May 18th, 2003, 10:01am
Tennesseans spin strands of Web
State home to six of top opinion-baring blogs
By MICHAEL SILENCE, email@example.com
May 18, 2003
Perhaps it's due to Tennessee pride, or James Agee, or the state's fierce independence. Or maybe it's the lingering state income tax issue.
Regardless, Tennesseans sure are awfully opinionated these days.
Or maybe it's just they're finding more places to vent, in this case online.
Of all the Weblogs around the world, Tennessee has six that are ranked in the top 200, according to one online ranking service.
But there's even disagreement in the Volunteer-an-opinion state as to the credibility of that ranking service.
Their backgrounds are as varied as their political persuasions. There's a libertarian lawyer, a Methodist minister who's retired military, a conservative ex-journalist in Nashville, and an anonymous liberal known as "South Knox Bubba."
They do Weblogs, personal electronic publications that began to flourish after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. They're known as bloggers, which is a slang contraction of Weblog.
And they do all kinds of topics - ranging from feared infringements on personal digital freedoms to tourists missing in Algeria to the new proposed Knox County budget.
And why they do it varies as much as their respective opinions.
"At first it was mainly to vent," notes South Knox Bubba, who said he blogs anonymously at www.southknoxbubba.net/skblog because he works with some conservative folks.
"I mainly got involved during the Tennessee income tax debates because I had a lot of opinions and felt compelled to get them out there in the off-chance they might influence somebody," he added in an e-mail interview.
For Donald Sensing, a Methodist minister in Nashville, blogging has become an exercise in scholarship at his site, www.donaldsensing.com.
But he also said, "I simply wanted to offer something to the discussion. As a retired Army artillery officer with service at the Pentagon, I had an insider's perspective on military operations that I thought other folks might find useful in understanding what was going on."
Post-war, Sensing has branched out into a number of topics. "I continue to blog now because I have a fairly devoted readership who seem to appreciate it. It's a lot of fun and it's too educational to give up."
SayUncle, another anonymous Knoxville blogger, is more pragmatic as to why he maintains a page at http://sayuncle.blogspot.com. "I have stuff to say and my wife tires of listening to it."
Seriously, he adds, "I'm very politically minded about certain issues and I think so much of the media gets the issues wrong. Not wrong in terms of the facts per se, but they don't quite seem to get what the real issues are these days. Those issues center around personal responsibility and freedom, and the fine line between the two."
South Knox Bubba sees blogging sticking around, but mainly for the politically active. "I think blogging is really a political exercise more than anything, and I see it as an expanding political forum for influential and informed people." He also notes several of the Democratic presidential hopefuls already have blogs.
With its growth in popularity gained from the war, super-blogger Glenn Reynolds, a UT law professor, sees the practice expanding.
Reynolds runs the site www.Instapundit.com, which is rated No. 1 by www.truthlaidbear.com, which ranks sites on the number of their incoming links.
In addition to Reynolds, the others in the top 200 are Sensing, South Knox Bubba, Bill Hobbs, a former Nashville journalist who runs www.hobbsonline.blogspot.com and www.leanleft.com.
On the future of blogging, Reynolds said, "I think it will continue to spread, especially internationally, as with Iran where bloggers are a major thorn in the side of the mullahs. I also think we'll see more multimedia content, pictures, video and audio."
As for why blogs have popped up like kudzu, especially in East Tennessee, Reynolds said, "I think Tennesseans have always had a lot to say, from James Agee to John Seigenthaler."
South Knox Bubba's response matched the light, flip tone of his Web page. "Well, clearly we're just smarter and more engaging here in Tennessee, not to mention independent thinkers."
May 18th, 2003, 11:02am
sorry i am on a blog roll. i am surprised "blogs" weren't mentioned in the new matrix movie>>>
State of Blog
May 18, 2003
A New York State of Blog
By WARREN ST. JOHN
For a few weeks in March and April, a strange fad took hold in the headquarters of Condé Nast Publications at 4 Times Square. After sharing elevator rides with Anna Wintour, the editor in chief of Vogue, Condé Nast employees sat down at their desks and typed accounts of their vertical journeys with the fashion icon, which they then sent anonymously, by e-mail, to Elizabeth Spiers, a droll 26-year-old native of Wetumpka, Ala., who runs the Web log Gawker. Upon receiving the dispatches, Ms. Spiers promptly posted them online.
"About half past 9," one such account began, "my blurry vision suddenly snapped into focus on the pair of big, dark sunglasses on the small, immaculately dressed woman in the center of the elevator lobby. She removed her glasses and said `Hello, dah-ling' to a well-dressed middle-aged gentleman walking into the lobby behind me."
This is common fare from www.gawker.com, a voyeuristic, media-obsessed, gossipy and occasionally creepy blog that chronicles what Ms. Spiers calls "the darker Manhattan-centric themes: class warfare as recreational sport; pathological status obsession; and the complete, total, and wholly unapologetic embrace of decadence." Don't bother accusing Ms. Spiers's site of being small-minded or superficial; she says so herself.
"Gawker is devoted exclusively to frivolity and excess," she writes on the frequently asked questions page under the query, "Are you as shallow as you appear?" While Ms. Spiers confesses that she occasionally has serious thoughts, "You will never see these on Gawker," she writes.
Ms. Spiers is the ringleader of a sort of New York School of bloggers, a group of Web writers who use the city as a backdrop for their musings, who link to one another's sites and who gather occasionally to drink cocktails in the land beyond the keyboard. Jonathan Van Gieson, a 29-year-old theatrical producer from Brooklyn who blogs at www.jonathanvangieson.com, called it "a virtual literary clique."
Other New York School bloggers include Lockhart Steele, who writes almost exclusively about the Lower East Side — he calls it "microtravel writing" — at www.lockhartsteele.com. Bazima, a 30-year-old graphic designer from Brooklyn, writes candidly about dating in New York at bazima.surreally.com. The Gothamist (www.gothamist.com) is a group blog about life in New York, and NYC Bloggers (www.nycbloggers.com) is a collection of more than 2,100 blogs about New York, organized by the writers' proximity to the city's subway stations.
Choire Sicha, 31, an art dealer and blogger (www.choiresicha.com) who describes himself as "the gay one in this posse," said the city's blogging craze has produced "a bunch of stealthy Joan Didions wandering all over downtown."
"We're professional reviewers," he said. "I don't just go to a restaurant anymore. I go with a critical eye."
Ms. Spiers started blogging while an equity analyst for hedge funds. She wrote a personal blog for a few months, which had "maybe 10 readers," she said. She quit her job in finance and started Gawker in mid-December 2002 as a first step toward a writing career. In addition to her "Elevator Chronicles," based on comings and goings at Condé Nast, Ms. Spiers writes about celebrities — sightings are filed under the heading "Gawker Stalker" — and she occasionally coins words from famous names. On Gawker, to "zeta-jones" means to gorge oneself on large quantities of food; to "zellwegger" someone is to con him into buying you an expensive dinner.
Nick Denton, the head of Gawker Media, which publishes the site, said it generated a part-time salary for Ms. Spiers. By selling advertising around her tart prose, he hopes one day to earn a profit. He described her world view as "that of a slightly cynical but enthusiastic outsider."
"She's smart enough to plug herself in, but has the freshness and naïveté of a good Web log," Mr. Denton said, adding that Ms. Spiers was "still amazed by things that a traditional newspaper might think of as boring or repetitive."
Ms. Spiers said her site averaged 30,000 hits a day — not exactly Drudge Report numbers, which topped 7 million on Friday — but when she has a joke that gets passed around the net, like her riff on zeta-jonesing, the numbers can climb to over 100,000.
On her site, Ms. Spiers writes that the goal of Gawker is to get her "invitations to better parties." But there has been at least one unintended if mundane consequence: "It's allowed me to have a freelance career," she said.