Weblogs are helping the World Wide Web realize its potential, writes Planetizen co-founder and editor, 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 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 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. 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 blogs that link to Planetizen.
Free blog-hosting services make it simple for just about anyone to start blogging. The pioneering web-hosting service 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:
- 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 and that work for business.
- Veritas et Venustas: "Hello, my name is John. I'm a recovering architect."
- Why?: Urbanism, transportation, and confusion.
- 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.
- Beyond Brilliance / Beyond Stupidity: Positive and negative developments in transportation, urban planning, design, the environment, the Internet and many other vaguely related areas.
- 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 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 moblogs, glogs, and 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 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.
Berners-Lee, T. (1997, December 3) Realising the Full Potential of the Web, Presentation at W3C Meeting, London, http://www.w3.org/1998/02/Potential.html
Chavan, A. (2003, July 14) Power to the People, Planetizen, 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,
CNN (2004, November 16) Conference on blogs' news impact http://www.cnn.com/2004/TECH/internet/11/15/onlinemedia.ap/
CyberJournalist.net. (2004, July 27) Who's blogging the convention. http://www.cyberjournalist.net/news/001461.php
CyberJournalist.net. (2004, August 31) Who's blogging the GOP convention. http://www.cyberjournalist.net/news/001580.php
Kiely, K. (2003, December 30) Freewheeling 'bloggers' are rewriting rules of journalism, USA Today, 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.
Terdiman, D. (2004, December 09) Photo Site a Hit With Bloggers, Wired, http://www.wired.com/news/culture/0,1284,65958,00.html
Walker, L. (2004) A So-So Debut For Microsoft's Blog Service [Electronic version]. Washington Post, December 5, 2004, p.F07, 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, http://www.wired.com/wired/archive/12.01/dean.html
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