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Last Updated: Wednesday, 20 July, 2005, 08:48 GMT 09:48 UK
Digital Citizens: The blogger
By Darren Waters
BBC News entertainment reporter

Photo courtesy of Heather Armstrong
Dooce has been running for several years
All this week the BBC News website is speaking to people whose creativity has been transformed in the digital age.

From blogging to podcasting, millions of ordinary people are becoming writers, journalists, broadcasters and film-makers thanks to increasingly affordable and accessible tools.

"I realised how big blogging had become when I was fired," says 30-year-old blogger Heather Armstrong.

"My traffic went through the roof and the blogging community went mad," she adds.

Ms Armstrong is a blog celebrity - if there is such a thing. Her blog, Dooce, became well-known when she was fired from her job in Los Angeles for writing about her colleagues.

BLOG - a website written by an individual or group, typically using free and easy-to-use tools, consisting of periodic articles normally in reverse chronological order

"I was naive. I was writing these caricatures of my colleagues. I was working in a cold, dark office doing a job that had nothing to do with the product we were making.

"I didn't think anyone would be reading it."

But people were reading it. And now more than 55,000 people a day read her blog, which has won many awards for its incisive writing, wit and honesty.

Blogging is not a revolution. It is a pan-generation group of people clearing its collective throat...announcing that it has a voice - regardless of how it chooses to use it
Stuart, New York

Her blog will not be to everyone's tastes - she often uses highly forceful language to drive a point home and her naked truthfulness can sometimes be unsettling.

Fierce debate

The fierce debate sparked by her sacking in 2002 led to the term Dooced being used to mean losing one's job because of one's website.

Since then a number of people have lost their jobs in a similar fashion and blogging has grown from being the pursuit of a few to a worldwide phenomenon.

The number of blogs has grown so rapidly - and with it the breadth of content - that mainstream media has taken note.

1. Blog anonymously if you feel like you should be able to say anything about anyone. Even then, there's no guarantee that the person you wrote that horrible thing about won't find your website, put two and two together, and your life, if just momentarily, will be made awful.
2. If you choose to blog under your own name never write anything about anyone in your life that you wouldn't say to them face to face. This is the best way to blog and still maintain good relationships with your family and friends.
3. You will receive hateful email if you publish an email address. After the first hateful email you will want to stop blogging. Everyone goes through this.
4. You don't have to be a fantastic writer to have a website that people will want to read. Just make sure that what you have to say is honest and has soul.

Many news outlets, including the BBC and the Guardian, now offer blogs or pseudo-blogs while the heads of major corporations have started blogging in an effort to appear more open and honest to their customers.

Ms Armstrong has been blogging since February 2001 and in those four years her weblog has moved from being the diary of a single woman in Los Angeles to a chronicle of life as a married woman with a small child living in Salt Lake City, Utah.

She says: "My blog now is about being a mother who has given up her job to look after her daughter, who can't communicate with me yet."

Her commitment to blogging is impressive - Ms Armstrong blogged right up to the day her daughter was due and then two days later posted the news of the arrival of Leta.

Many people remain sceptical of blogs and blogging but there is no doubt that their influence is growing.

Some political blogs are becoming influential on both the left and right of politics. Blogs were the first place many people turned to for information after the recent London bombings, while some are just popular because of the quality of the writing.

"The power of personal publishing is only going to get bigger. It's intoxicating," says Ms Armstrong.

"There will be more blogs, more influential bloggers and bigger communities."


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