The World of Blogs: A view from an addict

If 2006 was the year of MySpace, 2007 the year of Bebo, and 2008 the year of Facebook then surely 2009 is the year of the blog. Unless you have never been on the internet, then it is likely that at least once (even unknowingly) you have visited a blog site. Popular web-sites such as XKCD.com, PerezHilton.com, Twitter and Fail Blog are all underpinned by blogging technologies.

In the past ten years, blogging has developed from a few paedophiles recording their fantasies in online diaries to a mass used web publishing system that is changing the face of modern media. In the same way that social network has evolved from a few geeks in a university dorm room to a socially accepted norm, modern blogs are vastly different to the online diary which they superseded, and in some ways are the perfect merger of the online diary, discussion forums and Web 2.0 technologies. Most modern blogs have embedded video, music and photos as well as the ability for readers to add their own two cents through publicly viewable comments which often result in flame wars. Today, blogs primarily cover three broad areas: social/personal blogging; political blogging and news blogging.

Social blogging in New Zealand is not as popular or as widespread as in other countries. I was first introduced to blogging in late 2005 by an international student from Malaysia who was very concerned that I, as a major computer geek, did not have a blog nor knew anyone else who did. Upon first reading her blog I was shocked with the amount of personal detail that was revealed; everything from them going to the supermarket that morning to details of her crushes and innermost secrets.

For some people, their blog becomes an extension of themselves, a loudhailer broadcast to the whole world, which naturally has its consequences. What you post online remains forever, so when you get into a disagreement with someone, having what you posted blogged used as ammo against you can sometimes do some major damage.  There is also a real threat to personal safety through identifying yourself on your blog; although I run with the attitude that I have nothing to hide, I still do my best to ensure that no contact details are revealed through my website.

The most popular form of blogging in New Zealand is political blogs. There is one site in particular that you cannot go past: www.kiwiblog.co.nz, which is written by National Party insider David Farrar. Kiwiblog gets around one million page views a month, is updated six to eight times a day, has over 500 comments a day, and over 1,500 site members. For a New Zealand website that makes it very popular, in fact the 143rd most popular website in New Zealand (compared to 5,146th for my website, and 8,089th for the Satellite website [ Oh, shush you. We’re awesome – Ed]).

Kiwiblog’s popularity comes down to its ability to cross over between a personal site, a political opinion site, and a breaking news web-site. Because of Farrar’s political connections, his website is often ahead of the larger news organisations in breaking news. For instance, during last year’s election Kiwiblog and fellow political blog sites played a major role in the Winston Peters scandal, something that would become a major public issue and be played out in the mainstream media.

In additional to the individual, political parties are also beginning to get on the blogging bandwagon as an effective way to get their messages out without them being reworded by the mainstream media. The Green Party run the slickest political party blog in NZ with their Frog Blog (http://blog.greens.org.nz) which is regularly updated by their MPs. The Act Party (www.act.org.nz/blog) and members of the Labour Party (www.thestandard.org.nz) also run blogs.

Not only are the media now picking up breaking news from blog sites, a number of journalists are running their own. Media blog sites are an interesting development in blogging and they are giving people an insight beyond just the “balance” of the news to that of what the journalists really think. The New Zealand Herald (http://blogs.nzherald.co.nz) run a number of blogs which allow readers to interact through comments and get beyond the basic headlines. TVNZ have put another spin on the idea of media blogs with a number of their behind-the-scenes people now blogging their views and experiences. Be sure to check out Massey graduate Chloe Smith’s one (http://tvnz.co.nz/breakfast-news/chloe-krill-back-2624303) [She was in my class! I feel so famous – Ed.].

Finally, blogs are becoming a bastion of freedom, something that the media once was but appears to have lost. The crackdown on freedom of press in Fiji has seen the censorship of news and removal of foreign journalists, but thankfully the development of the Internet and blogs mean that free news is still leaking out. Critical analysis of the news through blogs is also exposing more biased news coverage. In the United States, Fox News is constantly lambasted by a number of blog sites for their bias coverage of many events. The sad reality is blogging is replacing the mainstream media as the light bearers of balance, truth and honesty in the 21st century.

If you want to have a go at blogging, it is really easy to get started. Hop on over to www.wordpress.com or www.blogspot.com and sign up for a free blog account and get writing, or posting photos, or videos or whatever you like. You may think that no one else cares about what you have to say but you will be surprised: in four years my blog has gone from zero to more than 5,000 individual visits a month and I blog about the most random and spontaneous things there are, so if I can get my 15 minutes of blog fame then so can you.