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Last Updated: Friday, 25 August 2006, 08:03 GMT 09:03 UK
Meeting the bloggers face to face
By Mark Savage
BBC Radio 4

Some blogs are a collection of daily ephemera
Blogs are an established part of the online world - with a new blog said to be created every half a second. But who are the bloggers that have become celebrities within the so called blogosphere?

What motivates them? And what do they think of their celebrity status?

I was flying through the airport at Washington when an airport security worker stopped me. The microphone, tape recorder and all the wires in my bag obviously attracted her attention.

She asked what they were for, so I explained that I was making a radio series about bloggers.

She pulled a face. There is a perception that bloggers are sad, joyless people in their underwear who sit in front of their computers all day.

I put this to Glenn Reynolds, whose political blog Instapundit attracts up to half a million hits or page views in a single day.

"Well I am only one out of those three," he told me. Which? Sad? In his underwear ? Or glued to the computer? "Just the computer, thank you," he said.

More personal

The fact is that there are millions of bloggers out there, providing commentary, notes on a particular subject or a more personal online diary.

Many of them would not be able to lay claim to literary or artistic merit - meaningless meanderings, 'a disgorgement of the bowels' is how someone, rather uncharitably, described many personal blogs.

You can be joyless, you can be mono-maniacal, but joyless monomania is what does it
James Lileks: The Daily Bleat

But that is to ignore those people who have found a voice on the internet, a voice which speaks to the many people who regularly read their sites.

A form of natural selection is underway: if a blog is any good then people will (eventually) find it.

To be honest, I wasn't all that sure about what to expect when I set out on my travels.

Reading someone's blog gives you a sense of their personality but would that match up when I met them in person?

Knocking at each blogger's door always gave me a certain thrill and I had to fight back an urge to rush in and greet them as if they were long lost friends.

Varying degrees

That is part of the attraction. Many of the bloggers I spoke to - certainly the personal ones - are offering a window onto their lives which they talk about with varying degrees of intimacy.

Anna Pickard, the author of Little Red Boat (her whimsical musings on what it is to be... well, Anna Pickard) sticks to subjects like her journey on the bus into work and draws the line when it comes to talking about her relationships, family and friends or her employer.

Blogging has swept the online world

But that is not the case with Petite Anglaise, the nom de plume of a single mother who lives in Paris with her daughter "Tadpole".

She has blogged about her break up with Tadpole's father "Mr Frog" and learned to her cost that it is perhaps unwise to write about what goes on at work.

She got the sack shortly before I met her.

The relationship between bloggers and their readers is fascinating.

What personal bloggers are writing is more than a diary, it is a diary which is read instantaneously by scores, if not thousands, of people, as Anna Pickard is only too aware: "It is easy to forget sometimes that this is a very public forum. You start to think of it as 'Yeah, this is my private diary.

"This is my space. This is my group of friends. Oh, I know who's reading this'."

The reverse is true: "You don't know who's reading this. You never know who's reading this. So you do have to be careful."

Own thoughts

An important part of many bloggers' relationship with their readers is "the conversation" they have with their commenters, the people who write in with their own thoughts, which are then published on the site.

You don't know what is going to happen: a piece about the pattern on your bedspread might strike a chord with readers who offer their own views, provoking yet more comment and perhaps propelling the conversation in an entirely new direction.

That is not to say that the whole experience is a frivolous waste of time.

James Lileks, a journalist from the American Mid West, has made an art of writing very funny and entertaining pieces on everyday subjects from bin bags to bagels.

His site is a brilliant example of what you can do on the internet, including his blog The Daily Bleat, a regular podcast from The Diner, home movies which you can download and a glorious collection of 1950s ephemera.

His advice is simple: "You can be joyless, you can be mono-maniacal, but joyless monomania is what does it.

"If you are very serious about arts criticism, for example, people will come to that. They won't expect laughs, but they will come to that.

Successful bloggers

"And if you are hilarious about one aspect of the world and that's all you write about, people will go to that. But if it's just a grim slog everyday to read your acidic sharp little misery about something on the subway, you are going to lose them."

The successful bloggers I met certainly aren't sad or joyless although some of them are perhaps a little bit on the obsessive side.

Maybe that's what you have to be in order to keep up writing a blog day after day, week after week. Would I be prepared to write a blog myself then? No. I don't think I could keep up the pace.

Mark Savage's five-part series, Meet the Bloggers, is broadcast on Radio 4 starting on Tuesday 29 August at 0930 BST.

You can listen to full interviews with the bloggers via the

on blogging.

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