My 1/04/09 Missoulian column
This is turning out to be an annual column: blogs I will be reading during 2009.
Some of these blogs are new from last year’s column and some have held my reading interest for a few years now. In case you don’t care much for blogs, that’s fine, but the world of blogs isn’t going away anytime soon, and you may find yourself checking out something in the blogosphere nonetheless.
Technorati.com collects blog traffic statistics and issues an annual State of the Blogosphere study. Their 2008 report says that they track at least 77 million blogs and calculate almost a million new blog posts every 24 hours. Overall, the worldwide total number of blogs is somewhere north of 150 million. And it’s no surprise that social networking sites are heavily visited and exploding in popularity: state-of-the-blogosphere.
Demographically, women blog more than men in a personal angle, while most professional blogs are by men. Most bloggers have been to college, too, and a majority are solidly middle class.
I fit some of those demographics, but as for the content of blogs, I’m still biased toward primarily text and photo blogs. Social networking sites – the big guns such as Facebook and MySpace and the hundreds of smaller fry – can be “bloggy” with writing and regular updates, but they also sport video, music and interpersonal networking, which is their aim anyway.
Video blogging seems to be coming into its own as a hybrid of YouTube and blogging, but I’ve yet to find “vblog” (or “vlog”) clips interesting enough to hold my attention, unless it features a dog riding a skateboard or a go-cart with a home-built jet engine on its first trial run. Google “vblog” and you’ll find sites with thousands of vblogs to choose from and that offer free vblogging accounts.
But all that shows that the lines dividing original-style text blogs, social networking sites and video sites has been getting blurry, as the Internet tends to breed its own hybrids of what’s been around for a few years or just a few months.
It also makes me wonder if any Web site that is updated regularly with new material can be called a blog. If you’re in any kind of business, customers almost expect a blog or at least a Web site that has new material every few weeks. Personal blogs are the same; readers want new material. Maybe most Internet users have come to expect anything other than just a static Web page and demand interaction and new material at all times.
Technorati also ranks blogs, of course, because like anything that’s competitive – from college football to speed eating – most of us like to know who is No. 1. Blog rankings are also good places to find some hints on what to read. In all of the rank listings I found, political blogs rank high, maybe indicating that politics is the greatest sport and pastime of them all.
Time magazine jumped into the ranking fray last November and named what they thought were the top 25 blogs. It’s the magazines first foray into rating blogs. You’re more than likely to run across the same highly popular blogs in all rankings. Both Technorati and Time ranked The Huffington Post as the No. 1 blog, the “site against all other political blogs are measured.” But neither ranked Change.gov, the Web site of the office of the president-elect, though that site still averages a huge amount of traffic and will definitely spike in users later this month.
My blogs for 2009:
• I’m still partial to Metafilter, “a community weblog,” as the site is described. The site offers what I call “link stories” – sentences or paragraphs covering stories or news items or subjects that are linked to the Web sources with discussion. (Some discussion goes downhill fairly quickly, but hey, it’s a blog.) Metafilter also has sections for announcements of new sites built by users, high-tech job postings and more. I think part of Metafilter’s success and quality has to do with charging $5 to be able to join and post. That seems to keep much of the riffraff away and compels people to put together interesting and wide-reaching and stories made of links.
• The Blog of Henry David Thoreau still reads well. The millions of words in Henry’s journals will take years to get through. There are several blogs that reprint Thoreau’s journals, but this seems to be the best. Thoreau is best at watching nature, and when he’s writing about the ice on Walden Pond and the snow in the Maine Woods, one can look out the window and get a idea of what he was talking about way back when the Internet was the local railroad to Concord.
• Garrison Keillor and Minnesota Public Radio’s The Writer’s Almanac is still as good as ever, and looks better with a site redesign. If you miss the radio show, check the site. You can read the day’s almanac as well as search on author and title for past entries, and browse by date, too. I don’t try very hard to catch the radio show anymore, as the Web site is available anytime.
• I’ve also started checking the blogs at The New Yorker magazine. Not all of the staff writers blog and some of the nonstaffers have their own blogs elsewhere, but check the blogs for more background on published stories and personal angles on the writers themselves. There’s also audio and video, too.
• One of my picks last year – the Daily Coyote – is somewhat in reruns these days, as her book is now out. I don’t check the site very often, but it’s still interesting.
Maybe a high-tech New Year’s resolution shoud be to find your own new blogs to read for the year. Figure out what you are interested in and Google for it: Ford Mustangs, hand made quilts, guns, trout, quantum physics or how to make millions with dryer lint.
I’ve found that a general Web search is better than a blog search at a blogging site; any blog that’s worth its salt will have been indexed and will show up on Google, Yahoo or other search engines. Googling “missoula blog” or “montana blog” will give hundreds of blogs to peruse and rank for yourself, and maybe you’ll find there’s something in the blogosphere for you to read for 2009.