Hitchhikers guide to the blogiverse

Self-confessed internet blogger, explores the latest cyber craze of online journals on the web and reveals why ‘Dear Diary’ may never be the same again

In the past to sneakily read someone’s diary and invade their private world of thoughts was tantamount to treason, a crime of the worst degree. However a new craze is sweeping the world – ‘blogging’ has arrived. Today, rather than carefully concealing their thoughts, people are now using the internet as a platform to reveal and communicate their views and ideas to a mass audience.

Before we go on a whistle stop tour of blog culture it is important to equip ourselves with some essential ‘blogspeak.’ For anyone who doesn’t know (i.e. isn’t a web geek) a ‘blog’ is an online diary which can be used for a multitude of reasons and purposes. It is a small part of what is termed the ‘blogiverse’; a cyber universe comprised of all the blogs on the web. If your blog is on the bottom of the pile then it is mere ‘blogroll’, but if it rises above the others you are a fully-fledged VIP guest in the ‘bloggerati’!

I might as well admit now that blogs have been a pet interest of mine for a while. There’s just something about those online diaries which makes for compulsive reading and I suppose it is a form of sanctioned diary snooping. Indeed the appeal for blogging is yet another manifestation of human voyeuristic tendencies, reflected most notably through the success of reality TV programmes, including the hit shows Big Brother and I’m a Celebrity Get me out of Here.

A lot has been touted about blogs being the revolutionary new media, growing in strength, power and numbers. And it is true that there has been a massive explosion in the number of blogs out there in the world wide wilderness. The rise of the blog has even spawned multiple awards ceremonies such as The Bloggies, which have been running for the last five years. Even The Guardian has securely affixed itself to the phenomenon with its annual blog awards, which aim to be a “testament to the growing richness of British blogging”. It seems everyone is getting in on the act, so to save you hours of googling here lies a selection of the best blogs out there for your perusal.

Starting close to home in York, we have the newly launched ‘Officer Blogs’ on www.yusu.org/blog/, which according to outgoing Communications Officer Nat Thwaites-Gowan, will act as a “more informal and frequent officers report system, allowing us to keep those interested up-to-date with the less publicised developments in YUSU Towers.’” But, the insight that is given, all depends on how often the officers really post on the blog and how much they reveal – it will be interesting to see how they develop. At the moment the blogs are very up to date and informative but, of course, this could change.

Alternatively, if you want a view from the average student there is always the York Student Diarists on the BBC website; www.bbc.co.uk/northyorkshire/students. Although it does seem a bit of a ‘who’s who’ in the English Department, it is interesting to read other students take on life in York. Moving further a field in the blogiverse you might want to check out the legendary www.myboyfriendisatwat.com, for amusing anecdotes of modern domesticity. Clearly someone enjoys reading this creation as it won Best European Blog 2005.

However, if you want something a little more seedy how about the deliciously intriguing www.belledejour-uk.blogspot.com, which offers the memoirs of a high class London call girl. This blog was so popular that it eventually came to be published in book form and is currently being made into a TV series. Belle also triggered the biggest ‘bloghunt’ ever, with journalist types employing linguistic experts to track down the person who penned the blog entries. However, it is up to you to decide whether the account is authentic or not.

This is a classic example of eager readers becoming attached to their favourite blogger – it can become a very addictive habit. However, as long as you are careful and sensible you can keep weirdos at bay and successfully keep people guessing about your identity.

Yet, blogs aren’t just a wordy medium – they have mutated into many different strands. If you prefer pictures over words, why not try a good quality ‘photoblog’ such as The 1095 Project over at www.naughtyjames.com, which chronicles the life of a London fashion student with curiously pathological images each day. Some bloggers mix both mediums of photography and comment to brilliant effect, such as the beautiful www.japanwindow.com. This site offers insight and enlightenment into one of the most fascinating cultures to be found (and is a must read for any japanophile out there). There are also the doodle blogs, where drawings are unleashed upon the world; www.guildofghostwriters.com is more than above average, as you can trace the artists gradual development and improvement.

If you would like something a bit more highbrow (ha!) then the general election has generated mass blogging by candidates desperate for those extra votes. As you can imagine the content on such blogs is all very sterile spin spouted by would-be MPs. However, for an alternative view of the political lifestyle ‘The Awful Life of an MPs Wife’ is a jaunty little blog which can be found at: www.mpswife.blogspot.com. This anonymous female author has filled the site with the many trials of propping up a parliamentary spouse, which verge on farcical. However, you can’t get much more serious and topical than ‘Baghdad Burning’ where one Iraqi girl talks frankly about politics, war and occupation at www.riverbendblog.blogspot.com. She dares to report the stuff that the general public never get to hear, so get a view from the inside and read this blog.

One of the most gruesome blogs on the web has to be www.autopsyreport.netfirms.com and I think the domain is pretty self explanatory. This medical examiner throws taboo aside with graphic descriptions such as “his liver was a yellowish colour when it should have been the colour of a Hershey bar.” His affinity for using food similes in his horrific descriptions is stomach turning (you will never look at pasta again without envisioning the aorta). Be warned.

Whilst for mst people blogs are a mere hobby, others are actually earning a crust from their online ramblings. Weblogs are increasing in popularity with businesses and many people make their dollar from offering blog platforms or technical assistance. But some of the more blatant bloggers simply ask for donations from their readers and, amazingly enough, it works! So for the entrepreneurs out there, blogging could be a lucrative way to pay off that nasty student debt.

So do you fancy having a whack at this blog malarkey? If it all seems a bit daunting, why not start off with one of the many freebies available. To test your blogging talent, the BBC North Yorkshire students site offer the chance to create your own blog (or if you don’t feel that you are particularly interesting, you could always invent a new and more exciting identity).

However, if you want something a bit more professional then www.blogger.com is a good starting point and the weapon of choice for most writers out there. Team it up with a witty/pretty (delete as applicable) domain name and you’re away. But remember, this is not a decision to be taken lightly: a blog requires time, attention and commitment! After all you don’t want to end up as mere blogroll in the ever expanding blogiverse, do you now?