World Wide Gab

In just minutes, you can create a blog that will let the world know what you think about anything and everything

Go Play

September 09, 2006|By John Lindner | John Lindner,SUN REPORTER

To become an internationally published author, photographer or videographer, click here.

It's almost that easy to start a blog.

According to the Pew Research Center, 12 million American adults blog, publishing on the Internet everything from the meals they eat to the lives of pet cats, to reports on terrorist plots, media sins and celebrity DUIs.

Authorities estimate that at least 50 million blogs have been created worldwide and say that number could double by spring.

Blogging is the product of relatively new technology and a primitive urge to communicate. All it requires is a computer and a line to the Internet. With those two conditions met, blogging, at its cheapest, costs nothing more than the blogger's time.

The reward for that time is connection, whether your target audience is a few family members, a handful of friends or the entire world.

Washington-based blogger La Shawn Barber was writing a biweekly column for online publications when she discovered blogging about three years ago. As her blog gained readers, Barber dropped her column to concentrate on her blog. Her site, La Shawn Barber's Corner, in which she comments on political and current issues, averages about 3,000 unique visits a day.

"My blog has done so much for me personally and professionally and not only that, but I love to do it. It's a labor of love," says Barber, adding that she's been invited to speak at conferences, worked briefly as a blog reporter for MSNBC and had her blog featured on CNN's Reliable Sources. She's also found it easier to market her nonblog writing. Leveraging her blog savvy and new media credentials, she launched a business that offers help to companies looking to build and market blogs.

The term "blog" is a foreshortening of Web log. "Log" suggests a record, typically cast in words or images. The log is published, or posted, on the World Wide Web. But unlike other media, publication isn't the end of the story; it's the beginning.

Once published, if the blogger allows it, readers can comment on the posts, creating a dialogue impossible in other media. Some blog services offer trackback, an option that enables bloggers to send links or referrals to fellow bloggers' sites. Bloggers can also use comments and trackbacks to increase readership of their own sites.

Within their posts, bloggers can embed links that, with a click, take the reader to another site. So bloggers who comment on articles or images they find online can link to the articles and send their readers directly to the source. The interactivity generated by bloggers is referred to as the blogosphere or World Live Web.

Taking the classic advice to authors to write about what they know, the majority of bloggers write about themselves.

According to the Pew's Internet & American Life Project Report, 76 percent of bloggers surveyed said they write to document personal experiences. The term blog is often considered synonymous with online diaries. Hosting services such as and MSN's Spaces encourage that connection.

Salimah Perkins, a Baltimore editor and poet, has been blogging for four years. Her posts are often a reflection of her day.

Recent posts include dinner with a co-worker at the James Joyce Irish Pub, reactions to her new job (positive), a visit by her sisters, a brief review of Jeff Bridges' role in The Fabulous Baker Boys and her favorite way to make change for the bus. As the entries add up, readers develop a picture of Perkins' life and personality.

She started her blog, The Baltimore Chronicles, after reading a friend's blog and finding herself entranced.

"I am a writer, and there is this inclination toward documenting and creating a narrative. And I'm the kind of person who if I had good handwriting and had the patience to write I would definitely keep a journal faithfully, but I'm a part of that computer generation," Perkins says. "And so as soon as I understood how a blog could be used, I thought, `Oh, well, this is the tool I've been waiting for.'"

Like many bloggers, Perkins adopted a nom de plume. In her case, the pseudonym, Kate Krupnik, freed Perkins to blog publicly on personal matters without exposing her true identity and possibly compromising a friendship.

While Perkins says she is very much the diarist, she also sees her blog in a larger context.

"There is this understanding that I am constructing a narrative in real time," Perkins says. "I think of my blog as a living book that is being written as I go."

Simon Masnick started his blog when he moved from his native Australia to Hong Kong. Originally, he intended the blog, Simon World, as a means to stay in touch with his family and friends back home.

"It quickly morphed into more opinions and writing on life in Hong Kong, China, Asia and my views on things," Masnick says. "Asia is an incredible region, and it is massively underreported in the Western media."

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