Sun, Oct 03, 2004 - Page 19 News List

Tech Reviews

By David Momphard  /  STAFF REPORTER

Blogs, or Web logs, are all the rage. Not long ago, people began giving their e-mail address as part of their contact information. Now an increasing number of "netizens" are starting to include the URL to their blogs as well.

Most of these are simple diaries packed with photos of the blogger's pet and are interesting only if you know the author personally -- and even then, often not. Others are scurrilous tell-alls that leave you wondering who's behind the keyboard.

But a few bloggers have managed to separate themselves from the pack, become serious cultural and political interlocutors and in the process have sparked a war between "old media" and "hobby hacks."

The most recent casualty in this war is CBS Nightly News. The program aired a report in which they produced what were supposedly decades-old documents regarding US President George W. Bush's Vietnam-era National Guard service. The documents painted an unflattering portrait of Bush and an army of right-wing bloggers descended on them.

They quickly discovered irregularities in the documents: syntax that was not used by the National Guard and typesetting that didn't exist in the early 1970s. The bloggers were able to find experts to corroborate their findings and the news was devoured by increasingly bigger media fish.

High-profile bloggers like Matt Drudge, who broke the Monica Lewinsky scandal, posted the news on their sites and from there it made its way onto Fox News. The pressure built and, days later, CBS retracted the report, saying they could no longer vouch for the documents' authenticity. Bloggers 1, Old Media 0.

There are indications that some serious bloggers are gaining mainstream acceptance, or at least that they can no longer be ignored. Both the Democrat and Republican conventions issued passes to some three dozen lucky bloggers and crammed them into a small area in the rafters. A few A-list bloggers whose sites get hundreds of thousands of hits each month are profiting from it.

Joshua Micah Marshall, a columnist for the The Hill, earns a reported US$10,000 a month in advertising revenue for his blog, Talking Points Memo. Glenn Reynold's blog, Instapundit.com, is said to be a daily must-read among White House staff. Veteran political reporters R.W. Apple Jr. and Jack Germond both recently posed for the cover of New York Times Magazine, peering curiously over the shoulder of Ana Marie Cox, a blogger better known as Wonkette. These are the exceptions, of course. There are more than 2 million Americans with blogs, according to that same Times Magazine article.

The vast majority aren't read by anyone except their authors' closest friends. It's no wonder when there are so many blogs with titles like "Page One of My Life" or "The World According to Me." These bloggers might be commended for their candor, though. After all, what blog isn't the world according to the person doing the blogging?

Blogging, for better or worse, has offered a way for the masses to have their say. And with fairly recent innovations and improvements, it's easier than ever for Joe Pundit to get his blog up and running in a matter of minutes.

Two of the most popular software platforms for blogging are Moveable Type and Blogger. Blogger came first in 1999 as a product of Pyra Labs. They created it as a side project to something they've since abandoned, and it took off. In 2002, the company caught the attention of Google, which bought it. Then it really took off.

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