Blogging! from The Lounge on KPBS. July 16, 2002.
Dirk Sutro: You’re in The Lounge. I’m Dirk Sutro. Blogging. It sounds more like a buffalo slogging through mud than the latest internet craze. But blogging is actually short for “web logging” more or less a blog is a personal online diary that encourages visitors to participate in discussions. There are blogs devoted to everything from the most personal revelations to extreme hobbies and the trials and tribulations of pets. Maybe you’re a seasoned blogger or perhaps you’ve already visited one of the popular “how to blog websites” like Blogger.com. Come blog with us in The Lounge tonight give us a call 888-895-5727 or more appropriately, email us firstname.lastname@example.org. We’ll be picking up your e-mail messages during the show. Joining us tonight are three bonafide bloggers.
Dirk Sutro: We begin with Mitch Wagner a journalist specializing in technology whose own blog is drive-thru.org that’s DRIVE-THRU.ORG. Mitch thank you for being here.
Mitch Wagner: Oh thank you for having me.
Dirk Sutro: Well a lot of people have used the Internet in a lot of different ways. There have been bulletin boards, chat rooms and all sorts of web pages—is the blog really indeed a new animal or is it a new name for something that’s kind of existed already?
Mitch Wagner: It’s been around as long as the web. Some people say that the very first web web page out there from Tim Berners-Lee, the man who invented the web, was a weblog, which kind of confuses me and makes me wonder what exactly he was pointing to if there were no other web pages out there. Basically a blog is just a name for a web page that organizes its content in chronological order and that sort of thing has been around from the very beginning even though the name only came to be used in ’97 or so.
Dirk Sutro: But a blog or at least the blogs that we’re talking about tonight, the three that the three of you operate are are also very personal. That would be another trait or they’re very somewhat specialized, correct?
Mitch Wagner: Yeah. As a rule there are some corporate blogs out there but the overwhelming majority of them were just done by individual people who are pointing, either pointing out, sites on the web or articles on the web that interest them we’re just talking about what’s going on in their own lives. I think that’s what makes blogging very different from what’s come before because it’s an individual personalized medium. It tends not to be corporate.
Dirk Sutro: So how would, say a blog, say, be different than a personal website? Like how would your blog drive thru dot org? How would that be different than say I don’t know Mitch Wagner dot com, a personal website?
Mitch Wagner: Mitch Wagner dot com doesn’t actually exist but personal websites tend to be static. What ended up happening was on the web first became popular, everybody started putting up personal web pages and you’d have a picture of your cats; you’d have a list of your favorite music albums; a couple other photos; a little poem you wrote about your girlfriend or boyfriend and then you’d say OK what now? And no one would ever come visit your Web page so you’d be looking for an idea—a way to get it going and update it every day. Then a couple of years later people started doing personal diaries. This was a problem because most people’s lives are not very interesting. My own life would consist of “I got up, I had tea. I went to the computer. I had lunch. I went to the computer some more.” People are falling asleep even listening to this; I can tell.
(Laughter in the studio)
Mitch Wagner: And then what ended up happening was around ’97 or so people just started to put up pointers to other websites and other web pages that they thought were interesting. And that was really sort of unique it became, I mean, my wife and I went to Britain last month and one thing we saw was a lot of these really interesting tour guides and they’d show you around these buildings and they’d be really fascinating. You could tell they loved what they were doing and they really wanted to share it with you. That’s what a good web blog is like. It says “Look at this web page. This is a great web page. Let me tell you some of the things I know about this same subject.”
Dirk Sutro: So given the plethora of Web pages that there are and by the way I’m not any kind of blogger but I can tell you that if I get carried away I can already spend hours online just cruising around to see what’s out there so. So why? Why blog? Is it because you feel that you have unique ideas or feelings that you want to put out there for other people to appreciate or are you actually trying to reach an audience?
Mitch Wagner: Both. Why do people do anything? You do because it’s fun. You do it because it’s a way to connect with people you do it because it’s a way to express yourself in writing. You do it because it’s a way to play around with web technology. I started doing it partially because I wanted to play around with this stuff and start fiddling with web pages. But you know you’ve got to have something to say to do that.
Dirk Sutro: We’re talking about blogging in the lounge tonight. We have three bloggers here it sounds like some kind of hybrid of of logging and ice blocking but it’s not. It’s web logging and it refers to some of these personal Web sites that that our bloggers have that that do everything from talk about their own individual trials and tribulations; to show photos of their families too to exhibit links to tens or sometimes hundreds of other Web sites that they personally have found and find interesting. Give us a call888-895-5727. Email us LOUNGE @ KPBS.ORG and through the course of the hour tonight one of our bloggers here is going to be updating his own blog. And if you visit “ARTLUNG.COM slash blog” during this hour you should be able to see some new material appearing on there and our other blogger Joe here may give you the real skinny on what’s happening here. You might get a completely different version of our show on Joe’s blog than what you’re hearing on 89.5 KPBS.
Dirk Sutro: Mitch Wagner let’s take people through your drive thru blog and just give them some some idea of what they’re going to to find there. Now I printed out a few of of your pages and like you say it does have the characteristic that it changes. You update it daily if not maybe even several times a day. And so for example at the very start of your blog drive thru you say that you’re going to be on our show tonight and you encourage some of your buds to to tune in or to to connect in via the Internet. And here’s a short interchange here from from one of your blog mates I guess. Brian says “What are you going to wear. You say what I usually wear for media appearances G-string heels tiara.” And Brian says “Guess I won’t be eating lunch after all.” And I guess that’s just you know kind of a small example of an interchange but I guess the internet provides a certain degree of facility for people to communicate and maybe communicate sometimes more easily than they would in person or even on the telephone.
Mitch Wagner: Oh yeah, yeah. I mean I love that you just just get e-mails from your friends, you get e-mails from strangers; it’s a real opportunity to connect with people you would not have had otherwise.
Dirk Sutro: Do you consider yourself primarily like a techie or a writer or you know if you had to compare yourself with some kind of other existing category with regard to your blogging fascination what would it be?
Mitch Wagner: I’ve always described myself as “a better journalist than the techies and a better techie than the other journalists.” Primarily I would say I’m a writer. I mean, I’m a technology journalist. I write primarily about technology.
Mitch Wagner: I’d like to write about other things but that’s what I’m doing today.
Dirk Sutro: in terms of the kind of response and interchange that you get for a blog like yours. I mean how many how many people visit your blog in a day or a month and how many exchanges do you have in terms of an ongoing dialogue?
Mitch Wagner: Well my blog is actually not one of the more popular ones. Some of the more popular ones can get thousands of visits every day. I’m going up above 100 visits a day now because I’ve been writing about I think a lot of privacy and technology and Microsoft issues and interest a lot of people. Generally speaking I’ll get two or three comments a day.
Dirk Sutro: Mmm-hmm.
Mitch Wagner: The one that you mentioned was actually a response to an e-mail it put out to some of my friends saying that I was going to be on the show. So that’s that kind of the volume that I get.
Dirk Sutro: And how did you get started into this in the first place?
Dirk Sutro: I mean you must have a certain facility with the software or the technology involved.
Mitch Wagner: You don’t really need that much facility to get involved in this. HTML, which is the basic component of the web, actually pretty easy to learn. Actually Brian who sent that e-mail was the guy who gave me my first HTML lesson when I told him I was nervous about it. He told me “it isn’t difficult it’s merely tedious.” So you get started with that in technology these days. Kids these days have it a lot easier these days it’s a lot easier to get started or you could just go on Blogger dot com and get your own website started for free.
Dirk Sutro: So if somebody were going to start blogging and just get a basic blog going to some of us average kind of casual computer and Internet users could we go to a place like Blogger dot com and be up and running within some reasonable time frame are we talking about a few a few sessions over the course of a week or two or something?
Mitch Wagner: you can do it—if all goes well which it never does with computers—you could do it in a few minutes. I actually when I started on blogger.com I did it in a few minutes. I know people have never been able to do it. You get jammed up sometimes.
Mitch Wagner: But generally speaking it’ll take you a few minutes.
Dirk Sutro: And just to give people some idea of how much content could be on a blog: now I barely had a chance to scrape the surface of each of your blogs because there are all kinds of links in them that go to other sites and that also go to your archives you know which may be several several days or several months worth or even several several years worth. So how much, you know I guess to use it a quantifiable category that people would recognize a book say how much stuff is on your blog compared with say a book? Any idea?
Mitch Wagner: Probably probably a book’s worth at this point.
Mitch Wagner: …a big book.
Dirk Sutro: Any idea how many pages?
Mitch Wagner: So big you couldn’t carry it. I don’t really think of it in those terms.
Mitch Wagner: You do it a few minutes day and it adds up.
Lester: That kind of comparison I think isn’t really, I don’t want to say not relevant, but isn’t a fair comparison at this point. I mean the whole point of having this being done digitally is that you’ve got an infinite amount of expansion available to you. And you talked about interweaving between other sites and other areas and other links. You’ve basically got the potential to encompass the entire world with with information.
Dirk Sutro: And we’re talking to Lester here and your site is yeahtotally.net. And how did you get into blogging?
Lester: I stumbled upon blogging after doing a web search for something at this point that I don’t remember and I actually stumbled upon someone else’s blog. It was egomaniac dot nu. And from there I just jumped from blog to blog to blog and decided that this was something interesting. This is something that I thought would be a rewarding experience for me—so, hopped on a blogger and within a day I had my own Web site up.
Dirk Sutro: Well we heard a little bit from Mitch about drive thru dot org and I wanted to hear a bit more from you Lester about YEAHTOTALLY.NET. In terms of why you do it and how you decide what to put up there.
Lester: Why do I do it?
Lester: The short answer is it’s probably the best form of therapy I’ve found and my site I guess is more along the lines of a personal journal and anything that I encounter in the real world or in the physical space whether it be music, movies, television, interpersonal relationships. I sort of put that in my head. Think about it. Come up with a reaction or some sort of angle to contextualize that information and put it out there for other people to check out, react to, and come up with their own conclusions.
Dirk Sutro: Now you actually came out online.
Dirk Sutro: Did you come out online before you came out anywhere else?
Lester: Not quite. When I had started YEAHTOTALLY.NET which was about a year ago I had started anonymously. And it was initially a space for me to sort of explore these, my, experiences in the gay community in San Diego. Being a 27 year old Asian male basically giving it its own vantage point which you aren’t going to find, I don’t think, in mainstream media
Dirk Sutro: Right.
Lester: Eventually I dropped the anonymity; put my name on the page; put my picture on the page and went from there. And what’s I think recently happened and what you’re referring to is with the increased popularity of the Web site and the increased visibility of the website. There was no way that my father was going to be in the dark about it any longer. And while I hadn’t actually spoken to him about my being homosexual I didn’t want anyone else speaking to him about it before. I did. So I came out to my father and in a small way chronicled the process online as well.
Dirk Sutro: One interesting thing you know my dad I know and probably a lot of guys of that older generation are way more private than the younger people are. And I wonder what it what was your dad’s reaction not to the fact of you coming out but to the fact of you having this frank revelation about your own orientation online for all the world to see?
Lester: I’m not sure that he’s quite grasped the concept that it’s out there for all the world to see sort of taking it one step at a time.
Dirk Sutro: Yeah
Lester: …but the fact, the truth of the matter is is that if it hadn’t been for the Web site and for the public nature of the Web site I probably wouldn’t have taken that step with my father that I did.
Dirk Sutro: Well after the break I want to talk a lot more about the implications of having a social existence in a cyber realm and how often or whether that spills over into the traditional real physical realm that we’re more familiar with. We’re talking about blogging for more information on blogging you can go to blogger dot com and one of the blogs that we are talking about tonight will be evolving during the course of this show we have a Macintosh iBook sitting here and Joe is working away as we speak on ARTLUNG.COM slash blog. So if you log on there, you know, like I said before you might find out what’s really going on on the show tonight you might get a whole different version of the show than what you’re getting at 89.5 FM. I’m Dirk Sutro will be back in the lounge with blogging after this short break.
Dirk Sutro: Well we’re checking out blogging in The Lounge tonight that’s the phenomenon of “web logging” we have three bonafide bloggers here and we’re talking about all three of their blogs and what goes on there what you can find there why they do it and what it’s like to live in a cyber realm. A large part of your day. Mitch is here; Lester is here; Joe is here. You can join us at 888-895-5727 or email us LOUNGE @ KPBS.ORG we’ll pick up your e-mails during the show and if you want to check out Joe’s blog it’s changing as we speak as he types while I’m talking. Who knows what he’s really saying about me on there but you can check it out at ARTLUNG.COM slash blog. And Joe I was looking over your shoulder during the break there. And one of the things that you put on your on your blog was that you were you were somewhat blown away at how frank Lester is on his Web site.
Joe Crawford: Well I suppose that there’s an irony in that because I’ve been very frank as well. When I first started blogging it was not very personal. It was more about you know I come across odd things on the net. I’ve been called “Google on legs” by friends. And I just wanted to put them out somewhere. But I’ve had some things happening in my personal life in the last two months that are I just could not not blog about. I could not not put it in there if that makes any sense.
Dirk Sutro: It seems in concept maybe a little bit strange but it strikes me as if on a blog a lot of people feel more comfortable getting personal than they do in person.
Joe Crawford: I suppose that’s true to some extent.
Joe Crawford: I think that that when you don’t have a face to look at you can be very frank and be alone in your thoughts. I guess it’s what the poets and writers of ancient rime talk about right that they are they are expressing their feelings in the deepest way possible.
Dirk Sutro: So I guess one thing that you’ve been very frank about on your site is that your longtime relationship broke up.
Joe Crawford: Yeah I’m currently in the midst of a separation and it’s unclear what is going to happen with that. And what I’ve been talking about is just that process of the pain and the angst and you know I’m going to counseling and yeah you know it’s just all that stuff.
Dirk Sutro: Now what kinds of responses do you get back from people?
Joe Crawford: Interestingly I don’t get a lot of responses from anonymous people but friends of mine keep up with my life via the blog and so when the separation first happened I got a lot of e-mail from friends. Well not a lot. Maybe a dozen pieces of e-mail from people who came across it and were. You know “how can I help?”
Joe Crawford: You know and so it was a great means for me to reach out without reaching out to to at least my electronic friends.
Dirk Sutro: If you know I think it was Lester or maybe Mitch that said that that this is pretty therapeutic thing to be able to just kind of air everything out you know in a forum and if like you say Joe it’s not always guaranteed or even true that that people respond that you know the stuff just gets on the blog and sits there for a while. Why not just write it in a journal? If if the whole thing is kind of a cathartic process to just get it out?
Joe Crawford: Well that’s that’s a good question. And I actually am keeping a private journal as well. I’m acutely aware of the fact that this stuff is available to anyone in the world with an internet connection. And so I’m obviously not going to admit to you know some of the darker thoughts or to lawbreaking or whatever.
Dirk Sutro: I mean it’s interesting because there’s levels then (Joe: Absolutely.) there’s levels to which you’re willing to go and your blog is one level and your personal diary is a completely different level.
Joe Crawford: Right. Right. We have, everybody has, lots of thoughts in the course of a day: bright thoughts, dark thoughts and what gets put on the blog is what you how you choose to present yourself.
Dirk Sutro: So if you want to think of it this way I mean by process of elimination by deciding what to put on the blog and what not to put on the blog in one sense you’re really an actor or you’re a director creating a play or an identity online that may or may not be the true picture of Joe.
Joe Crawford: That’s interesting. I have never thought of it quite that way. I think that when I post it’s not with an eye on crafting an image of myself that’s false. It’s what’s going to come out of me and how will I phrase things in a way that won’t upset, say, my mother who she was she was visiting from Virginia recently and she actually said that she’s reading the blog. And I’ve always sort of known that that was a possibility that
Dirk Sutro: Do you might find a little bit of irony in the idea of putting something on the Internet where millions or even billions of people could find it but worrying about what your mom is going to think?
Joe Crawford: well it’s not so much worrying it’s just knowing that anything that I put publicly on the Internet is like posting it down at the local laundromat. You know putting on bulletin board. It’s no different than that or publishing in a book. It’s going to be picked up at Borders, you know? So you can be public but still be cognizant of the fact that your words are going to have impact on people.
Dirk Sutro: Well we want to hear about your experience with blogging or how you think you’d do blogging how much of your own personal life would you be willing to put on your own blog if and when you start one or what has your experience of communicating on the Internet been to date. If not blogging then in some of the chat rooms say or or even on a Web site like matchmaker dot com where I actually met my wife. (Hi honey if you’re out there) give us a call. 888-895-5727. And you know there are a lot of people that have philosophized about this whole information age / Internet cyber era that we’re in and wondered what would or could happen if communicating in cyberspace becomes the primary mode of human interaction. Now do you guys feel that spending a lot of time blogging takes you away from other types of human interaction?
Lester: I don’t think so. I think it’s another form of human interaction. And what I’ve experienced is that it actually leads to more real space meetings with people. I’ve met people from New York from Los Angeles from pretty much anywhere you can imagine online and have actually met up with them in person as well. I think fundamentally speaking that having faceless interaction with someone is going to be ultimately inadequate. And what this does is maybe facilitate the ease of finding people with the same interests as you and with the same points of view that you have. And finding a way to come in contact with them in real life.
Dirk Sutro: Do you find that blogging or internet communication in general is somewhat of an equalizer in the sense that I think any of us are prone to interact with human beings that are in our own comfort zone whatever that is probably somebody that doesn’t look or act too much differently than we do. But if you’re blogging it’s the content that’s the thing and you don’t really get any—
Lester: it’s much more of a cerebral sense—-
Mitch Wagner: it’s like the famous New Yorker cartoon on the Internet—It’s a picture of a dog sitting at a laptop computer and the caption is “on the Internet no one knows you’re a dog.” I think , I think what’s more interesting: you can meet people different from you down the street.
Dirk Sutro: But you probably wouldn’t because neither one of you would probably approach the other.
Mitch Wagner: Yeah but if you’re not going to seek people out you’re not going to seek people out on the web and you probably don’t even have a blog to begin with.
Dirk Sutro: So in your estimation an avid blogger is the same kind of person who would be a pretty social gregarious person in their neighborhood.
Mitch Wagner: Not necessarily gregarious in the sense of getting together with a lot of people but, in the sense, not so narrow that they’re only going to go after people like themselves. There are going to be people however many friends they have and how many people are social they socialize with. It’s going to be a diverse group of people.
Dirk Sutro: Well now Lester I want to ask you a bit more because you mentioned the possibility of beginning a communication online or communications online with your blog. And then eventually meeting meeting people in person. Now I think there would be an argument that would say that completely defeats the purpose because once you meet them the mystique is gone and the unbiased communication is gone…
Lester: …and all your mental images are shattered.
Dirk Sutro: Yeah I mean isn’t it. I mean you know a lot of people think that radio or reading are so much more attractive and romantic because so much is left to your imagination of once you see a person. Does that sometimes ruin it?
Lester: Not yet. I can tell you that much I’ve I’ve met about a dozen people and so far the people that I’ve met up with have been fairly honest. And the truth is is that a lot of people are out there aren’t honest. And the most famous case of that would be the “Kaycee Nicole” incident last year.
Dirk Sutro: Tell us about that.
Lester: Kaycee Nicole was an online personality who portrayed herself as a collegiate student who had come down with leukemia and a lot of people gravitated toward the story. One person in particular I think was Paul or Peter Van der Woning had contacted her set up her blog for her and he and John Halcyon had contacted a lot of people and generate a lot of support and a lot of sympathy for this one person and eventually set up a blog for her mother who also chronicled her experiences with raising a child that she knew it was going to die and eventually it was posted that case Nicole had passed away and there was a huge outpouring of emotion from an online community of people who had been very touched by this story. But as soon as that post had happened a lot of people started speculating about well how do we know that she’s real. No one’s actually met her. Some people have had phone conversations with her. No one’s actually come physical contact with her. And through another online community called Metafilter which is basically just this massive discussion group (Mitch: it’s a community weblog) …yeah I guess the best term for it… Metafilter had basically pulled their resources and tracked down all the information they could about this person and found that she wasn’t real that she was a creation of mother and daughter out somewhere in the Midwest and they had faked the whole thing.
Dirk Sutro: And was there some like outpouring of gifts or financial support or something too because she was… the medical expenses…
Lester: Reportedly people had sent donations, people had sent care packages. But I think more importantly people gave a piece of themselves and really started to care for this person.
Dirk Sutro: Well so here’s an example of a new kind of ethical quandary that our legal system really wasn’t built to cope with what was the what was the upshot of this. Were there any new rules put in place or is it just more like “blogger beware?”
Lester: Blogger beware.
Mitch Wagner: Would there be. I think you could do that in real life with some difficulty. You kind of reject the idea that there is this place called cyberspace where the rules are somehow different than that in the real world. it’s all just the real world.
Dirk Sutro: It’s true you could meet somebody say in a bar or at a party and make up a completely phony identity for yourself. But you probably couldn’t sustain it as long or with as much credibility as you can when you’re just working in anonymity at your computer somewhere. Maybe miles or more states away from whoever’s communicating.
Mitch Wagner: you can do it by mail or phone though.
Joe Crawford: I don’t know about that. There’s the CIA or the NSA guy who basically led a double life with his wife for decades basically?
Joe Crawford: I think I think you can be if you’re going to be a jerk you can be a jerk online or in real life.
Mitch Wagner: And there are women who there are women who place ads in magazines basically seeking out older men for for to be married or be their friends…
Dirk Sutro: Ah the “Future Anna Nicole Smith of America Society”
Mitch Wagner: Yeah, but they have no intention of going through with it. They get they get the gifts. This is actually a famous instance which I’m avoiding speaking specifics because it’s you know the radio and everybody is saying and I don’t know what’s true. I just read magazine articles. But this woman was just writing about these wealthy men to write her and she said “I’ll come visit you send me money for plane fare” and then she’d get the money and never show up.
Joe Crawford: Well I think you have the same phenomenon with the cam girls. It is kind of the girls who put their image. They have their little webcam pointed at them and they flash people or do whatever they need to do to be exhibitionists and people send them gifts or money or whatever.
Dirk Sutro: Well and some of them are aren’t covert at all about what they’re doing they’re making a lot of money. ( Joe: Sure)
Lester: and they’re willing participants in that exchange.
Dirk Sutro: We’re talking about blogging or web logging it’s a new term for a somewhat familiar use of the Internet. We have three bloggers here. They each have Web sites or blogs. Mitch’s is drive thru.org It’s DRIVE-THRU.ORG. Lester’s is YEAHTOTALLY.NET and Joe over here is ARTLUNG.COM and Joe is updating his site as we speak.
Dirk Sutro: He’s got his computer right here so if you want to see some some real time blogging go to ARTLUNG.COM and well where do we go from here. How much time do you guys spend blogging a day?
Lester: Oh my gosh you know I was originally freelancing I would spend probably half my day on there… (Joe: Oh wow!)
Lester: You know you…
Dirk Sutro: and actually blogging can get you in trouble.
Dirk Sutro: It did get at least one of you in trouble because you were I think I heard that one of you was blogging at work and the employer didn’t take kindly to it. (Joe: No I don’t think so.) It wasn’t Lester?
Lester: There are covert ways to blog at work). Not that I do that anymore by the way.
Dirk Sutro: Go to the Web site if you want the real story read YEAHTOTALLY.NET
Dirk Sutro: But how much can it, you know, kind of intrude?
Lester: Well I think you know when you start out you are really into it and you sort of blog about everything that you come across and you make as many links as you can and as someone who’s starting out you may be more concerned with getting a large number of hits and a large number of visitors to your site. But after a while I think that wears thin and you start to maybe look at the quality of your entries and the quality of your writing. And it may take a different form for you. It may not. But I think whereas I was maybe doing like four or five posts a day about just about anything that came along and now I’m down to probably make one or two posts of some really sort of meaty…
Dirk Sutro: So less than an hour on your blog? (Lester: I’d say) And how much time do you spend online in a day?
Lester: Well now spending time reading other people’s blogs is another question and really you do get caught up in other people’s lives. It’s like the real world without the toothpaste commercials.
Joe Crawford: And also I thought…
Dirk Sutro: But wait. I want to start with this thought that Lester has here for a second. Is there another blog or a couple of other blogs that you’re pretty hooked on where you have to. You have to click in there everyday to see what’s going on with your peers.
Lester: Definitely yeah.
Dirk Sutro: Can you give out a couple of addresses?
Lester: 2xy.org that’s Jerwin’s blog and he’s a guy up in Toronto. There used to be a great…
Dirk Sutro: Now what goes on on that blog? If we can say…
Lester: Jerwin’s really campy and it’s really about his life and his work and what he does and it’s probably not safe to look at while you’re at work.
Mitch Wagner: A lot of the blogs, there’s a funny little code words that come up in blogging and said was to get some links that we went say “workplace safe” or “not workplace safe.”
Dirk Sutro: Well so but a blog like that one that you just mentioned, Lester I mean of all the blogs or even all the sites that you could visit on the Internet which is probably maybe even in the billions by now. Why that one? I mean what’s so compelling about checking in with that one or another one every day?
Lester: You know it really draws me in. It’s two things. Typically it’s a sense of humor and people with a very sharp wit and a very wry outlook on life. And just if they can make you laugh with just about anything that happens to them. And the other example of I think what good blogging is about is just the quality of the writing. And I think when you get beyond the writing though is very clever usage of the hypertext linking and enable to link to other sites in such a way that makes you either juxtapose the content of the other site with some other bit of information that they just dropped on you.
Dirk Sutro: You know Google is my personal favorite search engine and I read with some fear, not too long ago I think in the last couple of three months, that the Google people were about to begin taking fees in order to make different organizations be the first thing to pop up when you search for something so like say if you were I don’t know a jazz saxophonist and somebody typed in jazz saxophonist and you were you know Bill Smith in Oregon and had paid Google.
Lester: You may not be the most relevant…
Dirk Sutro: Yeah but what I’m getting at here though is is will we get to a point where these search engines are kind of weighted.
Dirk Sutro: And the blogs are the true way to find the really cool websites out there because we wouldn’t even find them on search engines…
Lester: And that’s the benefit of finding links through other blogs is that not only do you get information you get the information contextualized (Joe: Right.) So you get to know the person who linked to that site and maybe why they link to that site and then you can sort of make up your own mind. Do I you know trust this person’s opinion or do I fly in the face of it?
Dirk Sutro: Well we’re blogging in The Lounge tonight with three bonafide bloggers if you want to see some blogging going on as we speak. Don’t don’t worry it’s OK your kids can look at this blogging too it’s it ARTLUNG.COM and we want to know if you blog or you’d like to blog or you haven’t the foggiest notion what blogging is. Give us a call. 888-895-5727. Send us an email LOUNGE @ KPBS.ORG. I’m Dirk Sutro, we’ll be back. More blogging after this short break.
Dirk Sutro: Well we’re kind of we’re kind of giving you a blogging 101 in the lounge tonight. Maybe you don’t have a clue what blogging is or you didn’t at least until you tuned in tonight or maybe you’re a seasoned blogger with your own blog. Give us a call. 888-895-5727. Three bloggers are here with us. Mitch, Lester, Joe and their Web sites Mitch’s is DRIVE-THRU.ORG and that’s “T H R U.” Lester’s is YEAHTOTALLY.NET and Joe’s, which Joe is updating during the show tonight on his laptop, is ARTLUNG.COM. And I wonder would each of you read us a paragraph or two from from your blogs. Just so we get some idea of the stories that you’re telling on there. Does anybody want to volunteer?
Lester: I’ve got one ready I guess. (Dirk: OK. Lester) This was an entry entitled “random access memory: all about my mother.” I remember visiting the Philippines when I was 13 or so. We were driving around the province where my mother grew up visiting my grandfather’s farm and they kept seeing these large white signs with bold black sans-serif type. I read them to myself whenever we drove by when there was a coupon over and over again there was a coupon there is a coupon there is a coupon. Finally I spoke up. Mom “what’s this coupon they keep posting signs about. And what’s with all these tanks.” “Coup, coup, there’s a military coup on” — “keep your voice down or some bad men might hear your accent and kidnap you for ransom. And I told you not to stick your hand outside the window. They’ll cut it off. They’ll cut it off just a steal your watch.” “When are we going home?” This was the same trip that I watched her kill a chicken for dinner.
Dirk Sutro: Wow that’s really good. You know it sounds to me like that’s not really kind of an off the cuff diary entry. That sounds like a fairly polished piece of work. So how much how much do you actually spit and polish before something shows up in public on your blog?
Lester: You know it depends on the entry. That was the one that just during the day that memory popped in my head I’m like “oh I have to write this down” and then I was like well I can make this more interesting than so hey I remember you know I saw the signs in the Philippines that said oh there’s a coup there’s a coup. Oh and I thought that they said coupon. And I think you know that’s sort of where the challenge lies for me is taking the mundane and making them more interesting or gleaning some sort of interest from them.
Dirk Sutro: Now Lester you’re obviously pretty pretty literate and I wonder you sound pretty well-read art can you tell us give us little more sense of what authors you are into or what books are your favorite great books.
Lester: The last really good book I read was what was it called The Heart Is Deceitful Above All Things by JT Leroy. And I think just the imagery and the lyrical nature of that writing about some really dark dark subjects I think probably serves as an inspiration I guess.
Dirk Sutro: Well now all the all the bands in the world in fact pretty much all the artists in the world have their own websites. Now to the point where those of us in media. I mean if somebody is coming into town pretty much all you have to do is type their name dot com and you’ll and you’ll get to their Web site. I’m curious in your case with the blog and with you obviously having writing ability is there some some hope in the back of your mind that maybe you’ll get discovered this way as an artist and maybe it’ll lead to something else?
Lester: I’d hope so. I’m using it as a promotional vehicle for a couple of things that I’m doing. The latest thing that I’ve I’ve tried to promote on there is the nightclub that we’re doing which takes place the first and third Fridays of every month called Electroluxe. And I think the interesting thing is on one hand you’ve got the development of a nightclub going on and you get sort of see that the behind the scenes aspects of it and what I’m going through trying to get it together and in order to organize it. Yeah I mean in the back of my head I guess I would like to sort of get “discovered” but at the same time I’m—there—there are tons more talented people other than I am.
Dirk Sutro: Is there some point in any of the three of your minds that that there’s a place where a blog has content or intent that makes it no longer a blog and makes it something else?
Joe Crawford: I think that the definition of a blog is very loose: as long as you’re putting in entries on some time basis. That’s a blog. If you are posting you know a two page essay with each one of those posts. I think that’s still a blog.
Dirk Sutro: So if you’ve got a think tank scientists say that’s making daily entries on the effects of microwave radiation on spider reproduction or something. I mean with something scientific it’s mostly scientific and not really personal would that be a blog.
Joe Crawford: Sure. I think that there are actually a lot of blogs that are that are not so personal we’ve talked a lot here about personal blogs. But I can think of at least one that’s linked from the San Diego Bloggers page that’s on archaeology and there, it’s all about a specific topic. The most topical blogs I can think of are on web design or those sorts of things because it’s a very natural vehicle for people who work on the Web to talk about the Web in this format.
Dirk Sutro: Well so one of my personal things happens to be guitars and there’s all sorts of websites devoted to guitars. But what would be the difference between say guitars dot com that has like one guy’s stories about his guitars and about his musical heroes and maybe has links to other cool sites that may have to do with guitars and may have to do with other art or something completely different what would be the difference between that guitar dot com site that that may not be technically called a blog and a blog.
Joe Crawford: The thing that hits me when you ask is that a blog—you get a sense that it’s very timely. Most blogs include on all the entries they have dates and times on them so you know exactly when they posted it last. So you know exactly how fresh the content is. If you go to some random site on you know on your favorite your favorite band or on guitars or whatever you don’t maybe don’t have an idea of of how old or how new that content is or if it’s if it’s still relevant.
Dirk Sutro: Well let’s take some calls here if you want to join our conversation about blogging we’re at 888-895-5727. We’re going to talk to Nicole in the Kearny Mesa area. Hi there Nicole.
Dirk Sutro: So what are you? Are you a blogger?
Nichole: Yeah I have a live journal LIVEJOURNAL.COM.
Dirk Sutro: OK.
Nichole: I wanted to suggest that Web site. You guys, someone mentioned that something about negating the purpose of having an online journal when you meet someone.
Nichole: And in March I had some friends come out from Memphis for a concert because one of them is like obsessed with Sonic Youth.
Nichole: They came out and I met him and I met his friend and we ended up getting on greatly and now we all read each other’s journals.
Dirk Sutro: So. So what you’re telling me is broke down that geographic border and it allowed you connect to connect with some really cool like minded people that you wouldn’t meet otherwise.
Nichole: Exactly. I have another friend coming up from Kentucky next month and I plan to visit one in New York next spring. So it’s really introduced me to a lot of interesting people who think very similarly.
Dirk Sutro: Is it any more risky for women to blog and to meet bloggers in person than it is for men?
Nichole: I think that varies from person to person, I don’t think gender is an issues.
Dirk Sutro: And give us an idea of did you post anything on your blog today?
Nichole: Yeah I think today I was going to the post office before work—nothing fascinating that I and my friends users primarily as a vehicle to communicate like “are you coming over tonight after work?” Simple stuff like that.
Nichole: It’s kind of boring I guess to a stranger. It’s good for you.
Dirk Sutro: Do you have pictures on your blog?
Nichole: Yes I’ve put up some artwork and are just silly pictures and stuff from parties.
Dirk Sutro: OK. Hey thanks for the call Nichole.
Nichole: Thank you. Now let’s take one more call from Tara in Hillcrest. Hello there Tara.
Tara: Hello. How are you. You’re a serious blogger. I am. I am.
Tara: Joe knows me!
Dirk Sutro: Does Joe know you from from blogging or does he has he actually met in person (Joe: met in person) Yeah. Did you meet in person first or did you meet blogging first.
Tara: We met blogging first I think.
Dirk Sutro: Well you say you a serious blogger. Define that for us.
Tara: Well I guess you could some people would consider me a flaky blogger. Some people would consider me serious. I would rather say I’m a serial blogger. (Dirk: a serial blogger?!)
Tara: I start my site…
Tara: And then I drop it and then I start it and then I drop it and right now it’s in the drop phase. But I’ve been doing it since Pyra Labs started blogger.
Dirk Sutro: You mean you start a site. You drop it. And then you create a new site with a different name. (Tara: Yes) Well you know you raise a really interesting question and that is what happens to abandoned sites a lot of them sit there for months or years and are still accessible aren’t they?
Tara: Well Google is a great way like if you look up my name. My full name.
Tara: You’ll find almost every site I’ve ever done.
Dirk Sutro: And how many are there?
Tara: submit and obey. hummina hummina. And dear johnny dot org. So yeah there’s a whole bunch.
Dirk Sutro: I’ve got to ask you what’s dear Johnny dot org about?
Tara: well I’m sure you’ve heard of the singer Poe she had a song about Johnny, dear Johnny, and I was going through a man-hating phase so I said “I think I’m going to do Dear Johnny” and it actually turned into a comedy site which is what all of my sites kind of turned into a sort of comedy site.
Dirk Sutro: I guess we’ve kind of established that at the heart of a good blog is creativity and possibly great writing and you know Lester was telling us how he actually has a side that aspires to something bigger than a blog is that partly true of you too are you a creative person or an artist that secretly or maybe not secretly hopes that your blog or your blogs will get you discovered?
Tara: I’ll say that I need a creative outlet. I played jazz trumpet for 13 years and I didn’t become— I’m not a writer— much like most of the people were bloggers are not a writer per se. But things happen to me in my day. I mean crazy things. And you know, sometimes especially, I just moved to San Diego and I don’t always have someone to come home to and say “Oh my goodness let me tell you about what just happened.” And my blog gives me that outlet and lets me be as wacky as I want to be.
Dirk Sutro: You know one thing I’m curious about. Tara you can answer or really any of our guests here all of you guys are, within reason, you know, few of you are in your 20s and maybe 1 in your 30s. And I wonder, are bloggers tending to be more the people they grew up with computers or there are a lot of older bloggers too that are like late in life adopters or something?
Lester: I actually have one reader on my site that I think he’s in his late 60s early 70s from New Zealand that maintains a site on blogspot.
Joe Crawford: I’ve interacted with a woman in Texas who’s in her 60s and there are like 18 year old kids and kids even younger. Basically the range is all over the map. I think that because it’s so tech I think that the 20 / 30 demographic is sort of is sort of common but I guess it just…
Lester: …it’s branching out.
Mitch Wagner: There’s a small but existent subculture of bloggers with Alzheimer’s which I read about this on Monday and checked out some of the blogs. Really interesting.
Dirk Sutro: I bet there’s some really interesting writing on there depending on what phase they’re in
Mitch Wagner: it’s obviously early stage. But this is something we’re basically doing to exercise their brain.
Joe Crawford: Yeah I think the idea is that when I read this wants that people who do classifieds or play games those kinds of things have better luck with Alzheimer’s when they when they eventually get it because they’re able to have the discipline mental discipline. And I think blogging while you have Alzheimer’s I think that you can sort of remind yourself what’s happening?
Joe Crawford: …maybe… mental exercise.
Dirk Sutro: if you read about software for creating and managing Web sites or for I guess blogging like what you would find at blogger.com. That technical aspect is getting fairly approachable by the layperson. Correct?
Lester: Definitely. She mentioned live journal which I think is a fairly easy way to set of tools to get started. There’s also pitas.com and diaryland.com.
Dirk Sutro: OK, hey Tara thanks again for the call and happy blogging (Tara: thank you) and thanks thanks to all of our bloggers. Are any of you going to go home and post something juicy tonight?
Joe Crawford: I may post something right now.
Mitch Wagner: Tonight I’m having pizza, but tomorrow!
Dirk Sutro: That’s the one thing you still can’t do online.
Dirk Sutro: Though they may come up with cyber smella-something-one day…
Mitch Wagner: it comes up the printer when it comes out, especially the pepperonis.
Dirk Sutro: It’s so flat though!
Dirk Sutro: Thank you to all of you for being here.
Dirk Sutro: Mitch Lester Joe are three bloggers you can visit their blogs at drive thru dot org. That’s DRIVE-THRU.ORG. ARTLUNG.COM and YEAHTOTALLY.NET and send us some email it at LOUNGE @ KPBS.ORG.
Dirk Sutro: Tomorrow night in the lounge David Patrone channels Frank Sinatra. The Lounge is produced by Erik Haberstroh directed by Marko Manriquez with additional help from Kelly McSweeny, Alex Dougherty, and Helen Jordan. I’m Dirk Sutro. Happy blogging.