The Magazine's review of blogs
By Alan Connor
Critics claims blogs have nothing to say. Weblog Watch aims to find evidence to the contrary.
Many thanks for all your feedback to last week's inaugural Weblog Watch, and the swathes of links you sent over.
As many of you pointed out, you can only really define a blog in technical terms: their content is as different as the content of any other medium: books, say, or radio. There are product review blogs, scientific research blogs and eggcup blogs (more below) as well as the soapboxes and diaries that are often taken to be the epitome of the blogosphere.
One of the most promising aspects of blogging is the way in which bloggers are more able and more prepared to tackle issues that the mainstream media sometimes ignore or gloss over.
And Guido Fawkes is a man who's not known for caring too much about convention. We're not talking about the conspirator behind the Gunpowder Plot - everyone knows that blowing up the Houses Of Parliament hardly counts as conventional commentatary. His namesake is a British political blogger who writes "from the perspective of the only man to enter Parliament with honest intentions".
His blog, Order Order, puts a plague on both Houses of Parliament, on all the political parties, on the mainstream media, and on various other bloggers for good measure. When the site was nominated for an award from the Guardian newspaper, Guido refused to accept the validity of their online poll, and when he eventually won, he showed his gratitude by portraying the paper as "trying to feed vampirically off the buzz and energy of the Blogosphere for whatever edgy cachet it has".
Guido's stock-in-trade is a mixture of tip-offs from Westminster insiders and humorous (and much-imitated) commentary. Like many blogs, though, tech issues are more likely to get a look-in, especially when they overlap with wider issues such as privacy.
And so Order Order has started a debate which could have repercussions come the next election with regard to political e-mails, specifically the Labour Party's. Labour were perceived to be winning the e-mail war during the campaign, so lively and frequent were the despatches that so many people received - whether they were Labour supporters or not.
As well as raising the question of whether these mails, if unsolicited, counted as spam, Guido has also noticed that the underlying code contained a device he identifies as "spyware": a way of tracking the behaviour of e-mail users. He's concerned about this especially as some of the personalised links in the mails lead to a part of the Labour site that asks you for your postcode.
Is Guido right to be worried? His critics in the blogosphere, such as Talk Politics, have taken him to task for questioning the legality of political spyware, and said that by citing the Data Protection Act, he's barking up the wrong tree. But many of the techniques tried out in the last election have had privacy campaigners worried, and at the very least, it can do no harm to start a debate about the burgeoning form of party e-mails while it's still developing.
And even if the technical side goes over your head, Guido's accounts of his dealings with the Labour Party, if true, give a fascinating insight into the way that the establishment has been courting opinion-forming bloggers - and how one of them is refusing to be co-opted. Or so he says!
On the topic of political blogs, you'll find plenty of links among Tom Worstall's BritBlog Roundups, and there's pause for thought from this comment from reader Dinesh: "For countries like Nepal, blogs can do what traditional media can't. At a time when intellectual discourses are banned by the state, blogs are the medium to do just that."
Finally, there are the personal blogs that aroused such affection and such odium in the mailbag. Of course, the diary form has its equivalent in the mainstream media, and any observer who wants to lambast diary blogs for being self-indulgent should probably check first that they're not working for a newspaper that gives over entire pages for columnists to talk about shopping or their family lives.
For an intensely personal experience, PostSecret doesn't have one author: rather, it's a blog made up of postcards that users have sent in on which they've written, anonymously, their secrets.
Like its text cousin Group Hug, it's been going for a while, but is currently riding high on Blogdex, MIT's index which tracks who's linking to whom. This is partly due to the fact that things that capture a lot of attention often get second bite of the apple, and partly because there's new material there: more beautifully-written postcards.
If you really don't care for the detritus of other people's lives, this site will be a living hell for you, but if you have a morbid curiosity in reading entries like "I show pictures of my feet to a man online so he'll buy me stuff", and much more disturbing, this is the place for you.
And we wouldn't be complete without mentioning a first-person diary (reader Steve James is reporting from around the world for friends, family, and anyone else who's interested) and a blog focusing on something absurdly specific (Una Huevera Al Dia seems to be reviewing a different eggcup every day, for all eternity).
Our final word comes from reader Rhys of Colwyn Bay, who remarks: "I believe part of the beauty of blogging is having nothing to say, and writing about it. You are sharing your life with the world, be it interesting or not. Surely even Samuel Pepys had a few off days?". He certainly, did, as a look at his blog will verify!
If there's a blog you would like to suggest for inclusion, please let us know about it here.
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