A Web new world: Blogs

What do Dave Barry, William Shatner, Moby, and possibly your next door neighbor all have in common? They all have blogs on the Internet.

A blog is short for “Weblog.” A Weblog can be anything from an opinionated political rant to sports commentary, to a personal diary relating what one cooked for supper that evening. The only common theme is that blogs are unedited content published by individuals (bloggers) and usually contain daily entries. They are different from individually published Web pages in that all the writer has to do is type an entry and publish it, much like making a post on a message board. They are slices of worldwide lives and opinions.

A lot of bloggers publish anonymously, for fear that talking about their workplace or personal lives will cause problems—it seems to be OK for the entire world to read your blog, just not your spouse or boss. The same anonymity leads to often silly and frequently misleading names for Weblogs.

Most blog writing is informal, and the time and date are posted at the top or bottom of the blog entry. This means the returning reader can quickly see if the blog has been recently updated.

Many blogs contain extensive lists of links to other blogs, and wading through them can be daunting and addictive at the same time. Most bloggers are not famous; indeed, it can be said that the above-mentioned personalities jumped on the blogging bandwagon after ordinary people made it the trendy thing to do. Conversely, some of these same ordinary people have become famous by blogging—for instance, the so-called Baghdad Blogger, Salam Pax, who was interviewed on NPR and now has a published book based on his experiences during the war (dear_raed.blogspot.com).

An easy way to start hunting for blogs of interest is to use a blog directory, one of which, www.blogarama.com, lists blogs both by category and nationality. The only drawback to Blogarama is that they do not have blogs in the order of most recently updated. This means you can spend a lot of time looking at blogs that were abandoned several months ago, but are still floating out there in the “blogosphere.”

In the world of blogs, timing is of the essence: news travels faster than gossip at the water cooler, and an out-of-date blog cannot even be used for fish wrap. www.weblogs.com provides a listing of more than 1,000 recently updated Weblogs, but since they are not separated by any category, expect to spend some preliminary time looking for a blog that suits your taste. Again, please note that blogs are “unedited content,” meaning they may contain offensive language and/or be unsuitable for young people.

You can easily create your own blog by signing up with one of the many free or low-cost blog services. One of the forerunners is Blogger (www.blogger.com), which has more than 1 million registered users. You can also try Movabletype, which was originally a more complicated blogging software; however, a user-friendly version was recently released by the creators and can be found at www.typepad.com. There is a small monthly fee for Typepad, but they do offer a 30-day free trial.

For more resources, go to www.yahoo.com and type in “blog.” A list of the most popular blog-related sites will appear, and the categories underneath the site links will lead to more information.

J. Crowley is a local resident with an interest in the Internet.

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