I thought I’d end the blog by listing my favorites and providing quick links for readers’ convenience. 

My favorite 10 Blogs (in the order they were featured in the blog:

1.) Salon Broadsheet  (feminist news blog)

2.) HollaBack New York City (feminist photo blog)

3.) The Cut (from NY Mag) (fashion blog)

4.) The Lumiere Collection (video blog collection of silent stills from around the world)

5.) Not Eating Out In New York (food blog about eating locally)

6.) Orangette (food blog)

7.) Post Secret (photo blog)

8.)All Songs Considered (music blog)

9.) Gadling (travel/humor blog)

10.) The Cheapest Destinations (travel blog)

While the list reflects my own personal interests, each blog on this list does a great job in their particular niche. 

There were also a few blogs I discovered after they would have been relevant for specific posts that that deserve note:

Ming Makes Cupcakes!  This is a really simple blog all about cupcakes. It has a photo of each cupcake Ming makes (some partially eaten) and the recipe and notes. The recipes are really unique. I recommend the Peanut Butter Cupcakes with Peanut Butter Frosting and a Chocolate Ganache, which I made last night.

1000 Awesome Things A blog intended to make you smile. Awesome things posted about range from “Picking Up Something That Turned Out to Be A Lot Lighter Than You Expected” to “Napping With Somebody Else.” 

I hope you’ve enjoyed my posts, and that through this site you’ve found a blog you love.

Thanks for reading,

Sam


Bye For Now

May 11, 2010

So, as the semester winds down I thought I’d say a few words about my experience exploring and writing about the blogosphere. I’ve gained a lot of respect for blogs as a medium, and many of the blogs I’ve included in this project will become regular reads for me. 

This project and my overall perception of blogs ended up being different than I imagined it would. In the beginning of this project, I thought I would spend a lot more time discussing news blogging. When we discussed blogging in Media Studies, we discussed blogging as a competitor to print journalism. The immediacy of blogging and Twitter pose a challenge to traditional news sources, which are growing to accommodate the progress of digital media. However, when I actually sat down to look at the news blogs I was underwhelmed. That’s not to say that news blogs aren’t great, but the experience of reading a news blog doesn’t feel radically different from reading a traditional news source like the NY Times online. I also found that news blogs also didn’t have the same structure as more established news sources. This is obviously not everyone’s experience, but I found it difficult to filter out what was most important to see since posts are often categorized chronologically rather than in order of significance. 

Though I had mixed feelings on blogs as a successful general news source, I think bloggers do a phenomenal job at covering niches of news, particularly areas of information that are not the focus of mainstream news. In particular feminist blogs really fill a void and address a lot of issues passed over in the news. Another aspect of many of my favorite blogs that I particularly admired is the DIY helpfulness implicit in a lot of blogs. Because of the niches blogs tend to address, blogs offer advice and knowledge that is specific to your interests (in my case budget travel, cooking seasonally and eating locally, and finding ways to legally download free music and explore new artists among other things).  Another aspect that makes many blogs so successful is that the blogger’s voice really stands out in each post, which combined with the commenting feature adds a layer of intimacy absent from most news columns. Photo and Video Blogs often attempt to convey the world from distinct points of view, and it’s incredibly refreshing to have access to a new perspective. 

I may still update this blog from time to time when I come across a particularly noteworthy new blogger or blog community. As I’ve written this blog, my blogging style has changed. My tone has grown more personal and less formal, and I’ve tried to incorporate multimedia into the site when relevant to add interest and capture what exists in the blogosphere. I’ve enjoyed the experience of blogging, and may try creating a personal blog over the summer. But for now, I wanted to wrap things up. This will be my second to last post, my last will be a list of my favorite blogs looked at over the course of the semester.

I think my life has been revolutionized by my query into travel blogs. Not only did I learn a lot of ways to cheaply travel in awesome off-the-beaten path ways and read about other people’s adventures, I discovered Sky Mall Mondays at Gadling, a travel website. While the site itself is a great travel site, it’s hard to talk about anything besides its best feature: SkyMall Mondays. Anyone who has ever been on an airplane is familiar with the absurd products in SkyMall magazine.Every Monday one of Gadling’s bloggers, Mike Barish, writes a review of one of the many products featured in SkyMall. Some notable projects include: garden yetis, underwater pogo sticks, transparent canoes etc. I strongly urge everyone to look at this blog, it was far and away the funniest thing I have read lately. The site also hosts photos of the day from around the world, hotel and restaurant reviews, and information about cool festivals and events etc. All of the posts are great, but once you find SkyMall Monday there’s really no turning back.

Another really great travel blog is The Cheapest Destinations. It’s a tie-in to a book that recommends 21 inexpensive countries to visit. The blog is a fantastic resource for anyone intending to travel somewhere a little less conventional, especially if you’re hoping to travel for an extended period of time. There’s all sorts of practical advice for how to avoid culture shock, prepare for the rigors of living out of a backpack, and the best ways to book around the world travel. Tim Leffel writes with an actual consciousness to be more affordable; he scoffs at the kind of cheap travel guides that encourage you to go to Europe or Australia because “the dollar is starting to become stronger.” The blog focuses on how to help you plan for your trip, which makes the topics feel really engaging and gives the blog a DIY spirit that I’ve really come to experience about blogs. 

A more traditional travel blog is Chris Around the World. The blogger is the formal travel editor for USA today who writes about her travels. It feels more like a personal travel diary than the others. Still, the blog has its own funky flair (though it’s really, really difficult for this to compete with SkyMall Mondays) and recent articles include mentions of Antique Lunchbox Museums/Cafe, hot air balloon rides, sailing adventures, Parisian adventures and the like. The locations aren’t as exotic as in Cheapest Destinations, but it’s a fun read, especially for stateside travel.

Thought these might be helpful for anyone planning summer vacations!

Before starting this project, I had never imagined that blogs could be used as a platform for fiction writing. The only exposure I’ve had to fiction writing online is fan fiction, but many of the blogs I’ve been researching are original fiction. There’s a lot of pros and cons to fiction writing in the blogosphere. Writing on your blog allows you to publish your work to a potentially large audience without having to get through the gatekeepers of the publishing industry. Additionally, the blog format encourages regular writing in order to stay a relevant blog. Finding time to write is one of the big problems of aspiring writers, and having an audience of readers encourages them to continue posting entries. In fact,  fictional blog writing mimics a more old-fashioned literary format: the serialized novel a la Dickens. Another advantage of writing online is that it allows a multimedia format similar to what Sophie is trying to accomplish. The comments on blogs provide a sort of virtual writers workshop, and writers can receive helpful comments and criticism directly from their readers. However, I don’t think the work created by bloggers is protected under copyright laws. Whether or not the blogger ever had hopes of publishing a physical copy of their work, the experience of being robbed of their ideas is intellectual theft and certainly would be enraging or deflating. It is also a challenge as a fictional blogger to find readers, and as a reader of fictional blogs it is difficult to know what stories are most successful.

To cope with that problem, a lot of sites hosting blog fiction have a review section like the one found on Blog Fiction. The reviews of stories are very helpful. They provide a 1 to 10 rating of the story, a critique of the writing style, the story line, how often the blog is updated etc. The problem is that there just aren’t very many reviews, partially because there is little incentive for people to spend the time reading an entire story and then reviewing it besides a desire to contribute to the community. Web Fiction Guide is a more comprehensive guide to online fiction and is well organized and reader friendly. However, as Dustin M. who writes the blog for the Blog Fiction site states in this post, it’s hard for these sites to weed through the slush as effectively as publishing companies who have financial incentives to do so. And it’ s equally hard for writers to put time into creating exquisite narratives without the hope of any financial compensation down the line. 

One purpose other purpose I envision for fiction blogging is as a writing exercise to help writers get into the heads of their characters, and improve their ability to write in the character’s voice. Not every fiction blogger is an aspiring professional author, and some write as a creative outlet or as a way to share humor.

The inspiration for writing this post actually came in a suggestion I got on my blog. In the comment was a link to the fictional blog written by a Pennsylvania state rep Daylin Leach about a fictional state representative. Eventually Rep. Leach had to shut down his blog, Leach Vent, because the content offended a lot of his constituents and provided his opponents with ammunition. Rep. Leach was even accused of doing some of the more inappropriate things he wrote about his fictional character doing. It seems then, that blog writing lends a sense of authenticity that makes it harder to separate fiction from reality. It’s hard to imagine Rep. Leach would have gotten in trouble for writing a silly novel or short story about a fictional representative. Do you think people should be criticized for the actions of their fictional blog characters? In this circumstance it seems somewhat ridiculous, but I could envision a cases where the content of the blogs seems more threatening. Thoughts?

More Music!

May 6, 2010

As I was looking through the web for musician’s blogs, I didn’t find as many as I thought I would. A lot of bands use twitter (which is microblogging I suppose, but definitely a different vibe) which makes sense given the hectic and transitory nature of touring. It’s still a shame though, because blogs are a really great way for bands to connect with fans. This connection is especially important because in the age of illegal downloading, touring and seeing shows are a major source of revenue. Seeing one of your favorite bands live is an experience that cannot be replicated online. 

One band that does have a really fun blog is Local Natives. Their blog, Outta Sight , is a sort of scrapbook of the band’s adventures containing unofficial music videos, photos, and journal entries. Any fan of the band should definitely look at this page, though it’s updated most frequently when the band is touring. 

Though most of the bands don’t blog, Sub Pop, a fantastic record label keeps a blog. The feel of the blog is quite similar to All Songs Considered, except it centers on bands that Sub Pop represents. Recent posts include interviews, information about shows and free in-store record store appearances. They also provide free downloads of some of their artist’s singles which is a great way to gain exposure to the bands. I picked up a few of Avi Buffalo’s singles, which I was really excited about after enjoying their performance at No-chella a few weeks ago.

Blogs seem like a perfect match to indie efforts. They are a free way to gain exposure and promote a dialogue and connection between the fans and bands. Maybe someone with a twitter can give me some recommendations of their favorite bands with twitters?

…taking a look at music blogs! During the school year, I get so busy I always forget to look for new music. If it weren’t for all my friends who are a lot more with it than I am, I would probably go months without downloading any music. Yikes. But as I look beyond the immediate future of paper-writing and end of semester activities, I see a time to catch outdoor shows at the beautiful Santa Barbara Bowl and check out a bunch of other summer shows. So today, in order to remind myself that I will not be in the last two weeks of the semester for an eternity, I checked out a bunch of music blogs.

I can’t say enough good things about All Songs Considered , the blog accompaniment to the NPR podcast. It’s an addictive read; the articles are varied. People interested in just information about new music will like the blog, but there are also lots of interesting articles that complement the things we learn about digital media. For instance, there’s an article, Will Cheaper CDs Matter?, that discusses the lengths that record companies are going to to stay popular and dissuade people from downloading all their music. In fact blogs like All Songs Considered are great resources when faced with the overwhelming amount of music being created right now. One section of the blog called “Second Stage” provides recommendations and links to download songs by new artists (I particularly recommend “Amplify Me” by Montagna & the Mouth to Mouths). There’s a lot of great (and even better, free and legal) downloads. The blog also contains a lot of general interest articles and posts about new technologies. 

As much as it pains me to stop gushing about All Songs Considered, I eventually began looking at other music blogs. The Hype Machine, a music blog aggregator, is fantastic place to look when you want to read about a particular artist or group, or, like me, are a new blog reader and are uncertain which blogs are good reads and where to find them. After looking at the site for ten minutes, I realized the name was familiar because it had been mentioned on our class blog by jaggerjax. Even though many of you may have read about this post already, I think it’s worth a mention because of the sheer size and usefulness of the site. The tagline is “Every day, thousands of people around the world write about music they love — and it all ends up here.”  Unlike The Huffington Post and Drudge Report, Hype Machine is user friendly and significantly less overwhelming. For one thing, Hype Machine focuses on one topic and thus feels significantly less scattered. It’s also has a fairly intuitive navigation system. You can search blog posts by latest song overviews, all posts, top blogs, or simply search for something specific. Right next to each blog entry are links to download the songs referenced and you can listen to the song. This is way to be adventurous and explore new music and it gives you the option of purchasing music you really enjoy. A win for the consumers and artists alike. 

This has been one of my favorite posts to research, and I hope to do a follow up post looking at blogs written by bands themselves. Look for that and a post on fictional blogs in the next few days.

Information Overload

May 3, 2010

I’ve been meaning to look at the Huffington Post and Drudge Report for a while now. The two sites are constantly referenced in articles about blogs (Technorati ranked Huffington Post as the number 1 blog) and are incredibly popular, yet categorizing the sites as blogs seems questionable. For one thing, The Drudge Report does not contain any blogs it merely provides links to them. And while The Huffington Post hosts blogs, it hosts so many blogs that when reading through the blogs, one gets the feeling they are navigating through a labyrinth of opinions. It’s absolutely overwhelming. The large size and popularity makes it a great resource, but it also prevents people from finding the information. As a newcomer to the site, simply navigating the site was far from intuitive. Unlike smaller blogs, blogs on The Huffington Post have no archive features. You can subscribe to blogs via email, but it’s easy to see how subscribing to a few blogs could quickly clog up your inbox. 

While the site is set up in a way that feels unfriendly to readers, there are a lot of benefits to the site’s scope. It’s very easy to find posts on current events immediately as they happen which is one of the greatest assets of blogs. The popularity of the Huffington Post also attracts experts in the field to post blog entries. Scanning the blogs section of the Huffington Post can provide you with exposure to some great ideas and perspectives, but there are so many provided it’s hard to pick just one post to read. For the average person with time restraints, it’s hard to imagine ever really being able to take advantage of the full range of posts. 

It’s ironic that one of my shortest blogs posts is on the the two biggest sits I have visited, but the size of the blogs makes it impossible for me to feel like I can intelligently comment on the sites as a whole. There’s simply too much information. What’s your experience with these sites? I feel like my reaction most be an anomaly given the popularity of the blogs.

I have such a soft spot for photo blogs and community blogs. And Post Secret, a blog that combines both elements, is no exception. Each Sunday the blogs post secrets readers mail in on postcards. Like these ones:

Some secrets are silly, others confess terrible actions, and a lot are tragic. Not every secret is relatable and some feel melodramatic, but sometimes there’s one that speaks to you. It’s trite piece of conventional wisdom, but there’s a comfort in knowing that somewhere out there exists a stranger who shares your secret. Any Urban Outfitters stocks a several different book compilations of the postcards from the blog, and the blog has become very popular. I don’t check the blog very often, but periodically I get the urge. Today was one of those days. It’s nice every once and a while to get out of your head and read other people’s secrets. 

I’m finding as I read more blogs, many of the blogs I love most are ones that invite you into other people’s experiences. In some ways this contradicts my earlier discomfort with the personal nature of a lot of blogs, but I think it’s a fine balance. In my mind, the best blogs show you the world from a specific perspective without divulging every last sordid detail. What kind of blogs are you most drawn to?

So, today I decided to explore a part of the blogging world of particular interest to me: the food blog. My entire family is pretty obsessed with cooking, and most of them are ridiculously good at it. And while the dining hall food isn’t bad, there’s no comparison between lunch at Frank and food you’ve made yourself. I try to cook as much as possible, but it’s hard around finals time with limited cooking supplies in the dorm kitchens. Browsing through these blogs was inspiring, and made me so excited to eat home made food again in a few weeks! 

Food blogs are in some ways more personal than cookbooks. Not Eating Out in New York, is more than a place just for looking at recipes it emphasizes a sense of community responsibility and activism. The blog author decided to stop eating out for two years. The blog chronicles her (mis)adventures in cooking and eating local foods at seasonal times of the year. The recipes are really unique and many of the ingredients are affordable things you are likely to already have in the pantry, although occasionally Cathy gets a little fancier. The dish I’m most excited to try? Sweet Potato Gnocchi with Arugula and Hazelnuts.

Another popular food blog is Orangette, a blog that is a deeply personal account of cooking. Each entry is devoted to one recipe, but the recipe takes up only a small portion of the entry. The rest of the post is devoted to describing her memories and experiences with polenta, scones, or whatever recipe she is talking about. There’s a separate page containing an index of all the recipes. It is possible to just look at the site for the recipes, but to do so would mean missing out on Molly Wizenberg’s intensely likable musings. She writes candidly about struggles she faces both in her personal life and professional life, without having the semi-creepy exhibitionist voice of some bloggers. 

 Chubby Hubby, a food blog specializing in Asian foods is written by Aun Koh. Like the other blogs I’ve mentioned, Aun’s blog is a mixture of both personal and professional. He wrties recipes, rants, travels, about his wife, and restaurants they go to. Unlike the other blogs, Aun’s blog (despite its popularity)  is not his primary source of income, and a far greater percentage of the blog is dedicated to restaurant reviews rather than home cooked meal ideas. One rant he posted Fame and Fortune, discusses the conception of food bloggers. A book attempting to capture the best food blogs asked for contributions from his blog without providing any sort of compensation beyond a free book. Aun wrotes letters to the editor of the book saying he found the notion disrespectful that his work wasn’t worth compensation. As he points out, in this day and age food blogs have become more than just a hobby, and bloggers are often industry professionals. Though blogging has become more prevalent, there’s still the misconception that blogging is a less relevant or valuable resource for information than traditional media sources. 

One other trend I noticed while looking through food blogs is that many writers seem to begin in a phase of being “lost.” Some are dissatisfied with their jobs, or are experiencing financial troubles. Others have recently lost people close to them, and others are searching for a simplicity missing from their life. The format of blogging shows this process and growth in a way that is absent from cookbooks which are seen as a finished product, rather than blogs which are in progress. There’s also something about cooking and the basic act of nourishing oneself that is therapeutic and a great common bond. The question of how we should best feed ourselves and nourish our bodies is often overlooked in day to day life but ultimately is something everyone has to confront. 

I have to admit to being something of a cookbook junkie. I buy cookbooks recklessly. I rationalize these purchases by telling myself that I will have to feed myself for the rest of my life so it’s not as if they won’t be useful. Looking through all the cooking blogs has shown me that looking for recipes online is not only an adequate substitute for cookbooks it is in some ways an improvement. The narratives and personal aspects of the blog add a level of depth and connection absent from cooking blogs. Plus the recipes are delicious and as a college student, it’s not as if I have the money to be spending on cookbooks!

Privacy and Blogs

April 30, 2010

As I mentioned in an earlier blog post today, many conceive of blogs as a modern day diary in a public forum. While I agree with this statement, I mean diary in the sense of daily writing. To me, the public nature of blogs requires that some information that might have been the content of a traditional diary stay off the web. However, many don’t feel this way and post intimate details of about their lives and even other people. 

One of the few blogs I read before starting this project was my friend’s blog about his study abroad experience. As I periodically read through the posts, I noticed certain things he wrote about really bothered me. Most of these comments were about his host family. He would analyze and criticize the family dynamics in a way that seemed to dramatize and judge a family that had invited him into their home. I wondered why these comments bothered me so much, had my friend just slipped them into conversation I wouldn’t have given them a second thought and chalked it up to the human need to vent. Yet the public nature of the blog made innocent venting seem cruel, anyone on the internet could read about this family who had no idea their life was being portrayed in this way. I debated posting a link to his blog here, but I felt uncomfortable doing so. Even though he put this information out, it still feels private. 

Another blog I found recently is on the Cosmo magazine site: The Cosmo Sex Challenge. The concept of the blog is for one reader to blog about her experiences trying each of the 77 sex positions found in the Cosmo Kama Sutra within 77 days. While I can see the advertising appeal from Cosmo’s perspective, I can’t imagine wanting to write such a blog. Even though the writer and her boyfriend are referred to by their first initials, it still seems like an insane breach of privacy. The blog obviously includes explicit details of the couple’s sex life and also contains a lot of emotionally intimate detail. The author of the blog writes about her unhappiness with discussions they’ve had about the future freely because she knows because her boyfriend says he doesn’t read the blog. This seems problematic because it means she writes about things she thinks he would be uncomfortable reading about on the Internet, an action which seems like a clear breach in trust. Also, how is she so confident that one day he won’t become curious and look at the blog? 

 Last week when my friend and I had a fit of nostalgia about our favorite teen reads, she ended up showing me Meg Cabot’s professional (and yet at times personal) blog. We skimmed through a few entries and I noticed the acronym HWSNBNITB. My friend explained that it stood for He who shall not be named in this blog, because her husband asked not to be named in the blog. While he was technically unnamed in the blog, it is still clear who she is talking about. Are these mentions a breach in his privacy, or is it acceptable because she isn’t directly naming him?

Do we have an obligation to moderate what we blog about to protect other people’s privacy? While it’s one thing to post personal information about your own life, I think it’s dangerous to begin posting about those close to you. There’s plenty of interesting things to blog about without wrecking your personal relationships!