Thursday, December 29, 2005

Another Hundred People

Writing in today's Daily Progress, Liesel Nowak (who usually covers local courts) reports the discovery, by Waldo Jaquith, that there are now at least 100 blogs based in the Charlottesville area.

A list of local blogs that Jaquith has posted at shows the variety of Web logs that are maintained by area residents. The subjects range from politics to computers to cooking.

A blog, as defined by [Merriam-]Webster, is "a Web site that contains an online personal journal with reflections, comments, and often hyperlinks provided by the writer."

"You'll find Republicans, Democrats, Libertarians and Greens talking about politics," Jaquith said. "You'll find food bloggers. You'll find people talking about local music. A lot of people are blogging about computer programs. Some are really boring. Some are really fascinating. Some are dedicated to an individual's life. Sometimes you don't know anything about their lives."
Nowak cites an opinion, shared by Waldo and me, that blogs have their greatest impact at the local level in bringing people together in the 21st century version of talking over the back fence, around the general store's wood stove, or at the barber shop.
"Linking in the local community is more important," Jaquith said. "I think blogs are really beneficial to the community because it forces readers to leave their traditional social circle," Jaquith said. "By reading [local] blogs we really see a pretty good cross section of Charlottesville."

Rick Sincere, a local freelance writer and public relations specialist, has been blogging for a year.

His blog, "Rick Sincere News and Thoughts: Political notes and cultural commentary from a gay, libertarian, Catholic, Republican author and theater critic," contains commentary on current events.

"My initial impulse was to use a blog to post articles I'd already written for other publications. It turned out to be very different," Sincere said.

In writing about local political and cultural events, Sincere has supplemented coverage by local media by covering events such as the Virginia Film Festival, and, as a member of the city's electoral board, hosting debates about electronic voting.

"I think that blogging has its greatest impact locally," Sincere said. "Blogs are replacing the cultural and political events that used to be covered by newspapers. We're the people who can go to a Chamber of Commerce breakfast. We are on the spot when [traditional media] can't be there. Blogs are quite valuable in bringing communities together."
Noting Waldo's desire to see many more local businesses with blogs to promote themselves and their products, Nowak quotes Jim Duncan, who runs a blog on real estate issues:
With his blog "Central VA real estate news, trends and opinions," Jim Duncan seems to be taking advantage of the idea that blogging can bring a local business success.

"I post anything that can remotely be related to real estate, land use, taxes, a lot of politics," Duncan said. "I focus as much as possible on local issues. It's where I live and where I can have an impact."
Many of us who write (mostly) about politics suffer from a sort of tunnel-vision that limits our view of the utility of blogging toward exchanges of ideas in the political sphere.

I agree with Waldo that the real potential of the blogosphere will be in transforming the marketplace, especially the local marketplace, by offering a forum that is a combination Yellow Pages-Better Business Bureau-advertising agency. A business firm's blog can offer so much more information than even a full-page ad in the Yellow Pages could. Unlike a traditional web site, a blog is not (or should not be) static. Local blogs, which might offer consumers a chance to offer their opinions about the firms they do business with, could serve the same function as yearly faculty evaluations do for university students -- and, in providing that kind of information to other consumers, give businesses the kind of feedback they need to improve their products and services.

We're in early days, folks. We have a lot to learn and a lot to try that hasn't even been imagined yet.

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