Blogging About Blogs That Sometimes Blog About Blogs

In the beginning, weblogs were little more than personal journals. With that in mind, the blog ballyhoo was terribly misleading: The mainstream press kept banging away at the idea of blogs being an exciting, mysterious, newfangled contraption that finally allowed plebeians to have an opinion online. Simultaneously, blogs were treated in a condescending fashion, promoted as cute little diaries that sometimes exposed a flub or flaw in corporate management, politics, or news coverage. Mostly, newspeople just liked saying the word "blog" because it was a fresh catchphrase.

Blogs were hyped as The Next Big Thing, but also winked at as nothing more than a lark, like miniskirts and Rubik's Cubes. In truth, blogs—Internet journals, website logs, or what have you—were really nothing new. Online diaries had existed for years, and a plethora of private websites had long tackled the establishment with personalized rants and raves.

The real revolution online was the implementation of unique technology shaken and stirred with an invigorated sense of community. With little or no knowledge of HTML, without expensive WYSIWYG software (like DreamWeaver), without a need to create an entire website structure/wire-frame from scratch, anyone can now hop online and create a basic website that’s easy to update and looks at least semi-professional. This was (and is) Part 1 of the blog revolution.

Part 2: By automatically integrating the ability to leave comments on any post, the blogging software changes the landscape of personal websites. No longer is this one person shouting at a wall, occasionally receiving a congratulatory or argumentative email. No longer is the sloppy Guest Book or disjointed Discussion Forum needed—the public now comments directly on the story, for all to see. And within the comments, links to related articles can be posted, arguments and discussions can erupt, and the original article, rant, or link evolves into a richer page of content and disparate opinion.

Also, because blogs typically post new content at the top of the page, with old content automatically falling back into dated archives, there’s a sense of immediacy that many personal websites lacked in the past. It’s this aspect—along with the simplicity of the medium—that prompted blogs to become not just journals but sources of true news and inside-the-belly-of-the-beast commentary.

Google’s acquisition of Blogger/Blogspot hastened the revolution by providing easy blog software, free hosting, excellent templates, no bandwidth or storage limits, and, remarkably, no banner or pop-up ads (along with built-in Google search integration).

Of course, the simplicity of blogging has increased the already lopsided good-website vs. bad-website balance. For every great blog, there are a 1,000 mediocre and 10,000 horrible ones. Blogs full of unreadable ramblings, illiterate mumblings, and fake blogs chockablock with spam. Blogs of unoriginal content or absolute navel-gazing worth only a passing look. Or blogs like Celebrity Cola, with truly unique content but very infrequent updates.

The best blogs update several times a day, combining original content with relevant links and leaving the public-comment option on. But to keep the content flowing day in and day out, all year long, multiple website editors are usually needed, or a financial backer is a must. Thus, the corporate-sponsored pro-blog has risen among us, infiltrating the ranks of the amateurs (and shouldering in on the terrain of pro and semi-pro writers operating for zero dollars under a pen name because they can’t get their most inflammatory rants published elsewhere).

All the while, the line between blogs, traditional websites, online diaries, and corporate/political mouthpieces continues to bleed, and everyone with a computer is prepared to jump on the bandwagon. Will the form survive? Can amateur bloggers compete with the corporate hacks when money and proofreaders are lacking? We’ll see...

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The following is a ragtag compilation of blogs that are influencing the mass media and the way we surf the ’net. These aren’t just personal journals and link compilations—instead, I’m listing the big guns of the nascent new media. Look and learn, pops.


A Historical Overview of Blogging:

Weblogs: A History And Perspective


Blog Platform Analysis:

MovableType vs TypePad vs Blogger vs b2evolution vs WordPress


Blogs of Note:

Andrew Sullivan: a well-known political blog from the controversial gay conservative journalist.

Arianna Online: High-profile liberal pundit Arianna Huffington was among the first of the famous to latch onto the blogdom. Her realm expanded with the recent foundation of The Huffington Report, an online 'zine featuring a group blog written by some of the brightest celebrity names the left-wing has to offer (like semi-retired actor-director Warren Beatty and hardnosed ol' magazine editor Tina Brown).

BlogCritics.org: Hundreds of bloggers present their best critiques in one big megablog organized by category, topic, and date.

Blog Sisters: A coven of female writers up the estrogen count of the blogosphere. For more girl-power bloggin', Infomaniac recommends Ms. Musings (among others), while WitNit has made his own list of BabeWits.

Bloggerman: MSNBC's "Countdown" anchor Keith Olbermann writes and writes and writes...

Boing Boing: “A Directory of Wonderful Things.”

The Daily Kos: An influential political blog with multiple writers.

Dan Gillmor:
A sharp blog about blogging, grassroots journalism, and the new media.

Dave Barry’s Blog: Other than snappy headlines leading into the links, this blog doesn’t showcase much in the way of the famed humorist’s writing. Instead, it’s proof that the bestselling author spends a LOT of time surfing the ’net.

Dean's World: "Defending the liberal tradition in history, politics, science, and philosophy."

The Drudge Report: This conservative tabloid doesn't exist in print, it's certainly not the mainstream media (MSM), and it's run by one dynamic personality. So even though it doesn't look the part—it must be a blog!

enGadget: a popular gadget blog.

evhead: A blog from one of the most visible creators of Google’s Blogger (which was invented by Pyra Labs).

The Gothamist: A frequently updated blog about NYC.

Instapundit:
The classic news/politics/law blog by Glenn Reynolds.

James Wolcott: An award-winning, veteran magazine columnist blogs with the best of 'em.

JK on the Run: A mobile-device blog.

Media Matters for America: An excellent, blog-style news site operated by a nonprofit organization that seeks to expose “conservative misinformation” in the popular media.

Neil Gaiman: The beloved fiction writer ("Sandman," etc.) keeps a journal about, well, himself--where he responds to inquiries and fan letters and, when the inspiration arises, vents about random topics. (Another good blog by a comicbook scribe is WarrenEllis.com.)

Outside the Beltway: A news & politics blog written by multiple editors. Although mainly interested in prosaic mainstream conservative issues, OTB is surprisingly balanced and good-humored -- they even link to a funny story about President Bush's daughter Jenna caught doing the "butt dance." OTB isn't as consistently entertaining as the conservative-but-witty Wizbang, but it's good enough to make you wish there were more liberal blogs out there as accomplished as this...

PressThink: A serious, academic look at journalism and the news. A must read.

The Truth Laid Bear: An influential blog about politics, computers, and bloggers.

Vodkapundit: "All the news that's fit to drink."

Wil Wheaton Dot Net:
Star Trek's young Ensign Wesley Crusher discovered a new creative outlet in the world of blogging after his acting career went belly-up. As one of the first bloggers to achieve national recognition, Wheaton helped carve the path for bloggers everywhere, even though his acting career is still trapped in a reverse warp-drive wormhole.

ZuDfunck: An entertaining overview of thousands of blogs and the good bits of the World Wide Web.


A few of Gawker Media’s very popular, irreverent sites:

Defamer: A roundup of L.A. entertainment gossip. Take no substitutes.

Fleshbot: A gossip column for the porn industry. And if you’re curious about the latest celebrity sex tape or you’d like to get your grubby paws on up-to-the-minute pics of whatever starlet has most recently fallen out of her dress, then Fleshbot—and the non-Gawker sites

DeansPlanet, The Superficial, Big-boys, UselessJunk.com, and DrunkenStepFather—is the place to be.

Gawker: A superb blog about the media industry and NYC gossip.

GizModo: A gadget blog.

Life Hacker: A technology and software blog sponsored by Sony.

Screenhead: 12 posts a day about funny and weird things online.

Sploid:
Tabloid news with a bite.

Wonkette:
A political blog with a gut full of D.C. gossip.


Note: Gawker Media’s blog editors are paid to work on a single blog full-time and the company reportedly makes a lot of money through ad sales and corporate sponsorships—both approaches that revolutionized the industry.

According to Wired Magazine, Gawker Media founder Nick Denton's “move to professionalize blogs bestowed instant credibility on an unknown single-writer Web site. When Gawker launched, it was still unusual for a regular media site to reference the personal blog of some savant wordsmith, but it was well within bounds to discuss the well-hired hand of a new media publisher - and even write stories about her. Denton hadn't merely created a blog, he'd created a brand. In almost no time, Gawker not only won an audience but was chosen as one of Time's 50 Best Web sites and made Entertainment Weekly's IT list.” Source: "How Can I Sex Up This Blog Business?"


Upstanding Blogspots:

Arizona Perspective & Junk: Topical news and views from Arizona.

Baghdad Burning: A girl records her true adventures inside Iraq.

Catoptrophobe Nightmare: A New York law-student’s personal journal.

Don't Touch the Feet: Inimitable television views from Toronto.

Dumpster Bust: “Manufacturing Miracles from Mind Trash” in California. Now featuring DB Radio, a regular MP3 audiocast of indie music, band interviews, cultural news, and more.

Elkboy: Raised by elks, this young man has finally discovered civilization. Quite hilarious.

Film Geeks: Musings from some lovable film dorks.

Flaming Duck: Conservative politics, news, and rants, served with panache.

I'm Not Crunchy! A blog about the environment and everything else.

Itly Pongal Vadai Sambar: Life in India (conveniently written in English).

Jesus' General: A left-wing blog pretending to be a right-wing blog, wherein important info is disguised in a thick layer of glorious satire, courtesy of Patriotboy.

Johnny Nobody: Links and short rants from a left-wing guy who devours “right-wing noise like a fat kid eats cake.”

Made Out Of Mouth: Good reviews of bad—and/or obscure—films. And well-thought thoughts about whatever other cinema these dudes stumble across.

Money-Crushing Machine: A solid example of an online diary, written by an expatriate living in France.

My Meandering Thoughts: Thoughts and opinions from India and the U.S.A.

Slipshod and Simple: Quick hits from a fellow frustrated NY writer.

The Sorest Loser: Exceedingly well-written political rants.

Universal Acid: Tracking the intersection of biology, science, technology, and society.


A Blogger's Delight:

All About My Vagina: TMI (too much information)? MTYWTK (more than you wanted to know)? Perhaps. But very nicely done.

Big Botched Blog: Silly, rude, and very funny. A combination of the diary-blog and news-blog formats, with useful info skillfully mixed in with drunken exploits.

The Daily Meme: Spreads ideas, concepts, and words throughout the blogoverse. (A meme is a unit of cultural information, such as a cultural practice or idea, that is transmitted verbally or by repeated action from one mind to another, like a idea virus. Source: The American Heritage Dictionary.)

David’s Medienkritik: The watchdog of the German press.

Fistful of Fortnights: Hyper-intelligent commentary from the land known as Oklahoma. The site's author, Sadie, provides a swell collection of links, and FoF has led me to such endearing ledgers as New Zealand's AwesomeGirl blog, Freudian Slippers.

Hacking Netflix: DVD rental news and analysis.

Maddox, a.k.a. "The Best Page...": Insane blogging from one of the old-school masters.

A New York Escorts Confessions: For my views of this odd site, see my article entitled To Possess or Not to Possess, That is the Grammatical (and poltergeistical) Question.

Red Between the Lines: Left-wing Canadian politics.

Space Coast Weblog: Covering Florida and the world in blog-like form before “blog” was even a term. There’s always something new at the Space Coast blog, and the site's editor also maintains a variety of useful reference links.

TechNudge: Frequent, incisive tech and gadget updates. Do visit the Nudge!

Twitch: Film news and reviews centered around dark, strange, unusual, cult, action, and sci-fi films of the foreign and domestic varieties.

Venture Chronicles: A first-class venture-capitalist, investment, and software/tech news blog. Also see: VentureBlog.

A Yobbo's View: Australian lads making rude jokes (that's a good thing, mate) and having reactionary political opinions (maybe not so good).

Zinovate Weblog: A nice tech/design site, although, sadly, the Zinoblog rarely updates.

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Related Posts:

The New Blog Carnival Showcase Extravaganza

Preserving Formatting When Posting Documents Online

Weblog Directories, Blog Tools, RSS aggregators, Search Engine Notes, etc.

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Germane Notes:

As a reaction to one of his readers saying his blog was "all over the place," blogger Will Brady explains why he writes about the topics he does, noting "I could be producing one of those [so-called-blogs] that endedlessly repeats, spamlike, key words about specific subjects, like 'health care or 'Student Loans.' (You know, the ones that have no profile or email attached.) I could be writing endless self-absorbed adolescent prattle about what CD's I just got or how boring history class was yesterday... or about my cats. But I don't."

Agreed: If I read one more blog about the cute eating and pooing habits of kittens I'll chew off my left foot. And these spam blogs need to be eliminated immediately; free services like Blogger need to lay down some ground rules about blog spammers. First blogs were attacked with comment/trackback spam and now entire fake blogs ("link farms") are being used to corrupt search engine results by endlessly linking to business sites.

Also: At the PoliBlog, Dr. Steven Taylor explains the the motivation of professionals who blog for free in their spare time. He then admits in his article's comments section that "Indeed, part of what stops some from being bloggers is their work schedule. One of the clear advantages to the professoriate is flexibility."

And: Eric Berlin chews on some celebrity blogs, spits out the dirty aftertaste, and finds comfort in the word "webzine." He also leads us to an excellent Wil Wheaton post where the former Trek-teen discusses the good, the bad, and the ugly sides of blogging.

Variety: 31 Flavors of Blog asks, “What is a blog?” The answer, it turns out, is less than definitive.

Finally: Micro Persuasion is the preeminent news blog that chronicles blogs, bloggin’, how the blogworld affects the real world, and other issues relevant to blogpeople. Inbred little universe this thing can be, eh?

4 comments:

fantababy said...

A nice introduction about the evolution of blogs! Your presentation was simply superb!

VARepublicMan said...

I appreciate the link. Now if I can just get some cool background art....

Eric Berlin said...

Great article -- I only wish that it was required reading for MSM folk!

I've been fighting the good fight for a while now, trying to set the record straight on what blogs are... and what they are not.

Eric Berlin
Dumpster Bust: Miracles From Mind Trash
www.dumpsterbust.com

KL said...

Really nicely written, especially the introduction and all the links. Perhaps you might also look into these blogs:

http://www.scithought.blogspot.com - a science blog which updates daily with an interesting science news.

http://beyond.my-expressions.com - an awesome photo-blog, especially for lover-nature.

http://unapologeticatheist.blogspot.com - very liberal blog putting views/arguing against the conservative views.

http://www.pbu.blogspot.com - progressive blogger union - a list of blogs by the liberals/leftists

http://blogsbywomen.blogspot.com - list of blogs by women

http://whiteballoon.blogspot.com - a nice personal blog by an Iranian student living in the USA - he talks about politics both in the USA and in Iran and also gives superb movie reviews.

Thanks a lot for all these links and awesome articles.