State of the Blog 2004

Weblogs are helping the World Wide Web realize its potential, writes Planetizen co-founder and editor, Abhijeet Chavan.

Photo: Abhijeet Chavan

As I browsed through latest arrivals at the local bookstore a
prominently displayed book caught my eye -- "The Complete Idiot's
Guide To Creating A Web Page And Blog.
" When a title with that
particular juxtaposition of words appears in bookstores, I think it
would be safe to say that the web phenomenon of href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blogging">blogging, formerly
the domain of the tech-savvy elite, is now part of the popular
culture.

Nowhere was the impact of blogs (weblogs) more visible in 2004 than in
the political sphere. At the beginning of this year,  blogs were
thought to have played an important role in organizing support for the
Howard Dean campaign for the Democratic party's presidential
candidate. Then, for the first time in history, prominent "bloggers"
were granted press credentials and reported via blogs from the
national conventions of both the Democratic and Republican parties
(CyberJournalist.net, 2004; Wolf, 2004). The traditional news media
couldn't help but take notice; newspapers and television networks
started featuring blogs by their own reporters (Kiely, 2003; Nunberg,
2004). As the election year news cycle heated up, blogs continued to
play an important role by dissecting the established media's coverage
and sometimes preempting them by breaking stories (CNN, 2004).

Not only have blogging tools improved, blog-related services have
become more sophisticated. Interested in finding out what's popular in
the href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blogosphere">blogosphere?
Check out MIT's Blogdex which tracks
the most "contagious information" spreading in the world of blogs. Or
try DayPop which publishes lists
of the most popular blogs and blog posts. href="http://www.technorati.com/">Technorati, which also publishes
similar lists, offers another useful feature. You can search for
sources that have linked to your searched site or subject. This is a
great way to discover new blogs that cover topics you are interested
in. For example, you can search for href="http://www.technorati.com/cosmos/search.html?rank=&url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.planetizen.com%2F">blogs
that link to Planetizen.

Free blog-hosting services make it simple for just about anyone to
start blogging. The pioneering web-hosting service href="http://www.blogger.com/">Blogger, established in 1999, was
bought by popular search engine Google in 2002. America Online (AOL)
brought blogs to the masses in 2003 when it started offering blogging
services to its subscribers. Providing further proof that blogging
cannot be ignored, software giant Microsoft announced this month that
it will offer blogging services too (Walker, 2004).

In July 2003, I wrote about the blogging phenomenon and its
potential for providing an exciting platform for discussing urban
planning and related issues. I also noted that I had found only a few
blogs that focused on urban planning, architecture, housing, urban
issues, and related topics (Chavan, 2003). Fortunately, there are many
more blogs covering these topics today. Here is a sampling of what you
can expect to find:

Commentary

  • A Daily Dose of
    Architecture
    : (Almost) daily architectural musings from the
    American Midwest.
  • Cascadia
    Scorecard
    : Northwest Environment Watch's take on the news that
    really matters.
  • City
    Comforts Blog
    : Cities, architecture, the 'new urbanism,' real
    estate, historic preservation, urban design, land use law, landscape,
    transport...from a mildly libertarian stance.
  • CoolTown Studios:
    Catalyzing urban villages for creativity and innovation.
  • Peter Gordon's
    Blog
    : A blog exploring the intersection of economic thinking and
    urban planning/real estate development and related big-think themes.
    (Disclosure: Urban Insight helped set up this blog.)
  • Planning
    Livable Communities
    : News, views and ideas about how to design
    communities that are more enjoyable for residents style="font-style: italic;">and that work for business.
  • Veritas et
    Venustas
    : "Hello, my name is John. I'm a recovering architect."
  • Why?: Urbanism,
    transportation, and confusion.

Regional

  • AtlantaLarry:
    An assortment of writings involving Atlanta's neighborhoods, new
    urbanism, and cities.
  • Baysense:
    Environmental facts, trends and resources for Chesapeake
    communities.
  • CPC
    Weblog
    : A blog by the Cuyahoga County Planning Commission about
    planning and development in the Greater Cleveland area.
  • The Orange Empire
    of Southern California Weblog
    : Commentary on local news, events
    and other tidbits of interest for the Riverside-San Bernardino-Ontario
    metropolitan region.
  • Preserve LA: Latest
    news, information, and techniques concerning historic preservation and
    the history of Los Angeles and Southern California.

Transportation

  • Beyond Brilliance
    / Beyond Stupidity
    : Positive and negative developments in
    transportation, urban planning, design, the environment, the Internet
    and many other vaguely related areas.
  • href="http://www.mobikefed.org/news.html">BicyleNews-MoBikeFed: 
    Bicycle-related news from Missouri.
  • Live from the Third
    Rail

  • Public Transit:
    Presenting original fact-based, "in context" research and analysis of
    public transit operations, technical, and financial issues.

To read posts from more blogs about urban planning, architecture,
transportation, and related topics, visit Planetizen's href="http://www.planetizen.com/radar/">Radar, an aggregator that
collects syndicated content from multiple sources. If you maintain a
blog focusing on issues of interest to Planetizen readers let me
know.

What started out as a simple but effective tool for maintaining an
online journal has already evolved into a vibrant ecosystem of
fast-flowing ideas. Interesting variants have emerged such as href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Moblog">moblogs, href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/CyborgLog">glogs, and href="http://cyber.law.harvard.edu/audio/mp3blog">mp3blogs.
Services such as Flickr combine
the convenience of camera phone digital photography with blogs
(Terdiman, 2004). Blogs have shaken up traditional news media and
given grassroots organizations a powerful medium to build
support. Businesses have recognized the marketing potential of blogs
(Kladko, 2004). With the availability of open source alternatives,
opportunities have opened up for government agencies to use blogs.
Blogging technology can be used to make the workings of a government
agency more accessible to citizens (Chavan, 2004).

A few weeks ago, Merriam-Webster Inc. announced that the word
“blog” was the “most looked-up word” this
year. The word will be a new entry in the next edition of the
Merriam-Webster Collegiate Dictionary (CNN, 2004). The next year
promises to be as exciting as the last.

When href="http://www.time.com/time/time100/scientist/profile/bernerslee.html">Tim
Berners-Lee invented the World Wide Web, he intended it to be a
communication medium for shared human knowledge. This meant that
"...it had to be not only easy to ‘browse’, but also easy
to express oneself." (Berners-Lee, 1997).The early part of the Web's
evolution threatened to turn it into a "glorified television channel"
-- a "read-only" medium with content being generated by a few large
media companies.  By making it easier for anyone to express
themselves and contribute to shared human knowledge, blogs are
helping the Web realize its full potential.

References

Berners-Lee, T. (1997, December 3) Realising the Full Potential of
the Web, Presentation at W3C Meeting, London, href="http://www.w3.org/1998/02/Potential.html">http://www.w3.org/1998/02/Potential.html

Chavan,
A. (2003, July 14) Power to the People, Planetizen, href="http://www.planetizen.com/oped/item.php?id=100">http://www.planetizen.com/oped/item.php?id=100

Chavan, A. (2004) Developing an Open Source Content Management Strategy
for E-government. Proceedings of the Annual Conference of the Urban and
Regional Information Systems Association, Reno, NV, November 7-10. pp.
98-107. http://www.urbaninsight.com/~chavan/2004/urisa-cms/

CNN (2004, November 30) Publisher: 'Blog' No. 1 word of the year,

href="http://www.cnn.com/2004/TECH/internet/11/30/words.of.the.year.reut/index.html">http://www.cnn.com/2004/TECH/internet/11/30/words.of.the.year.reut/index.html

CNN (2004, November 16) Conference on blogs' news impact href="http://www.cnn.com/2004/TECH/internet/11/15/onlinemedia.ap/">http://www.cnn.com/2004/TECH/internet/11/15/onlinemedia.ap/

CyberJournalist.net. (2004, July 27)
Who's blogging the convention. href="http://www.cyberjournalist.net/news/001461.php"> style="text-decoration: underline;">http://www.cyberjournalist.net/news/001461.php

CyberJournalist.net. (2004, August 31)
Who's blogging the GOP convention. href="http://www.cyberjournalist.net/news/001580.php">http://www.cyberjournalist.net/news/001580.php

Kiely, K. (2003, December 30) Freewheeling 'bloggers' are rewriting
rules of journalism, USA Today, href="http://www.usatoday.com/news/politicselections/nation/2003-12-30-blogging-usat_x.htm">http://www.usatoday.com/news/politicselections/nation/2003-12-30-blogging-usat_x.htm

Kladko, B. (2004, December 14) New kid on the blog, New Jersey
Record & Herald News. (Business News).

Nunberg, G. (2004, April 20) Blogging in the Global Lunchroom,
Fresh Air, National Public Radio.
Transcript href="http://www-csli.stanford.edu/%7Enunberg/lunchroom.html">http://www-csli.stanford.edu/~nunberg/lunchroom.html

Terdiman, D. (2004, December 09) Photo Site a Hit With Bloggers,
Wired, href="http://www.wired.com/news/culture/0,1284,65958,00.html">http://www.wired.com/news/culture/0,1284,65958,00.html href="http://www.time.com/time/time100/scientist/profile/bernerslee.html">

Walker, L. (2004) A So-So Debut For Microsoft's Blog Service
[Electronic version]. Washington Post, December 5, 2004, p.F07, href="http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A34407-2004Dec4.html">http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A34407-2004Dec4.html

Wolf, G. (2004) How the Internet Invented Howard Dean [Electronic
version]. Wired Magazine, 12.01, href="http://www.wired.com/wired/archive/12.01/dean.html">http://www.wired.com/wired/archive/12.01/dean.html


Abhijeet Chavan is
the co-founder and co-editor of href="http://www.planetizen.com/">Planetizen. He is also the Chief
Technology Officer of Urban
Insight, Inc
. He can be reached at chavan at planetizen.com.

Comments

Comments

New (sub)Urbanist Blog

Readers of this article may also find the following blog of interest:

http://newurbanist.blogspot.com

It addresses urban policy and planning in general.

Ann Arbor, MI blogging & planning

I'm an MUP student in Ann Arbor, and I was just talking with someone today about how some of the best local planning-related discussion takes place on local blogs. It is even to the point where some of the blogs are getting mentioned at local sprawl forums, planning commission meetings, and by local neighborhood groups (who are frequent targets). While none of these are exclusively about planning, issues of density, sprawl, and affordable housing are recurring topics:

Ann Arbor is Overrated
Common Monkeyflower
Arbor Update

"Opposition" Blogs

Three blogs you should have listed that generally oppose what most planners do, but should be read anyway because it is always productive to know what the "opposition" has to say:

www.americandreamcoalition.org/adcnews.html.

www-rcf.usc.edu/~pgordon/blog/.

www.rppi.org/index.shmtl.

I am sure there are others, of varying quality, of course.

"Opposition" Blogs

I would also add a Wendell Cox blog

demographia.blogspot.com/. except he hasn't updated it since Nov 30th (perhaps you could send him an email to prod him to keep it up?)

Anyway, I see you have Peter Gordon's blog. Perhaps you can substitute the Cox blog in my list.

Me, too!

I keep a blog about City Planning. It's a combination of a first-job-out-of-planning-school and how-the-heck-did-I-end-up-here-in-the-burbs blog. It's at http://citytalk.blogspot.com/
Thanks!

Good article, but

Was surprised that you left out urbancartography.com, which is a good collaborative planning/gis weblog.

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