The Web gives tech junkies a place to meet, greet

ON BLOGS

September 09, 2007|By ANDREW RATNER

The past summer was dubbed "Revenge of the Nerds" at the box office, where the biggest movie hits included Superbad about awkward teenagers, Knocked Up about awkward young adults and Transformers, the robot epic. The new TV season is shaping up to be hot for nerds too, with Heroes among the most promoted of the returning series.

So it stands to reason that when it comes to blogging, nerds truly rule.

Where the top-ranked search terms on the Internet often involve celebrities and lighter fare - Britney Spears, etc. - the most popular blogs are heavy on technology. It's likely a reflection that while Internet use is increasingly common - for three-quarters of U.S. Americans, as Miss Teen South Carolina might say - active blogging is still largely an activity for the young or technologically adept.

The blogs that make headlines are frequently those that specialize in celebrity gossip or political fodder - like TMZ.com, the Hollywood site that broke the news of Mel Gibson's anti-Semitic rant last summer, or the Drudge Report, whose early revelation about President Bill Clinton's affair with Monica Lewinsky nine years ago was the new media's wake-up call to old media.

But you've probably never heard of many of the blogs that are most linked to by other blogs. One of those with the most links - roughly 31,000 - is a collection of consumer tech news called Engadget, according to the tracking site Technorati in San Francisco.

It stands to reason that some of the tech-centric blogs have the largest audiences, given they've been around for several years - successors, in a sense, to the early computer "bulletin boards" that the tech-savvy used to trade information 20 years ago. What the corner bar long ago did for sports trivia, blogging has done for tech gossip.

Tech blogs were especially engrossed Wednesday, when Apple unveiled new versions of the iPod. It was like Geek Christmas. One blog reminded users of how various time zones around the world synch with Pacific time, so they wouldn't be late to the iPod news. A site called Crunchgear refreshed every few seconds with live updates from Steve Jobs' news conference. Pavlov's dogs didn't drool this much.

But advances in consumer electronics far more obscure than the iPod regularly send quivers through the big tech blogs. Beyond Engadget, here's a quick tour of some other popular ones:

TechCrunch: A Web log self-described as "obsessively profiling and reviewing new Internet products and companies." Michael Arrington, a former corporate attorney turned Internet savant, is the editor. His site includes a brief list of companies he's invested in, following earlier criticism of perceived conflicts of interest regarding his blogging and investments.

Lifehacker (tips and downloads for getting things done): Mixed in among how-to advice such as "Install third-party applications on your iPhone," are gems such as "Hang bubble wrap as temporary curtains. ... Instead of tacking up bedsheets over the windows when you first move into a place to preserve your privacy, save your walls and just pop some bubblewrap into the windows instead."

Automattic: An "open source" site that enables people to create their own blogs for free.

Whether someone decides to decorate with bubblewrap is up to them.

andrew.ratner@baltsun.com

Andrew Ratner, a former technology reporter, is Today editor of The Sun.

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