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Last Updated: Monday, 11 July, 2005, 12:43 GMT 13:43 UK
Blogs on the bombs
WEBLOG WATCH
The Magazine's review of weblogs
By Alan Connor

Evening Standard reader
The blogs were ahead of the evening newspaper
The humdrum tales of commuting became a global news story on Thursday as London weathered the impact of bomb attacks. And bloggers were the first to make their experiences heard.

"They did their worst, and they managed to disrupt our transport network and get fatalities in the low double figures. That happens on a fairly regular basis anyway, you twits. What's your next trick - a fiendish weather control device which makes it rain on a bank holiday weekend?"
--Barry Sarll

Once we'd twigged that a power surge on the Tube doesn't tend to blow the top off a bus, the facts were grim, but few.

The basic points were the locations of the bombs, and the numbers of casualties, and then of fatalities. There was no context, and no idea of the future.

But there were other facts we wanted to know. What was it like down there? What's it like in London now? And how do we feel about this?

All of a sudden, the blog turned out to the ideal news resource. At their most mundane, weblogs record the minutiae of the author's day; on Thursday, this trivia became the biggest story in the world.

You will fail
From Dario Agosta's Flickr site
Every feature of blogging found a new use. Comments sections became "Are You Alive?" sections. PayPal accounts became donations to buy beer for the emergency services.

And long before politicians had a chance to make a statement, Londoners' own reactions were being quoted as the voice of Britain around the world.

It's impossible to cover the breadth and volume of first-class blogging over the last few days, but here's a taster of how online writers have cheered themselves up, shaken a fist, or simply shouted that they're alive.

Those who were there

One day you're blogging about grammatical mistakes on the Tube; the next day, your post begins:

    "A funny thing happened to me on the way to work this morning. My tube blew up."

As the media and emergency services tried to work out what was going on, many of the clues came from the bloggers. And, being bloggers, these eye-witnesses and survivors had a nice eye for detail:

    "Then someone said, 'The smoke's getting thicker!'... Then a lady towards the back of the carriage screamed, 'Oh my God! It's getting really hot down here!' There was more screaming and the start of something that could have turned into a stampede, except it's hard to stampede in a crammed, enclosed space...

    "Silence descended on the carriage apart from people choking and coughing, then someone near me quipped, 'Well, at least we got the Olympics!'"

If you're all Londoners today, that's eight quid each for the congestion charge
London Hurts
And from specialist blogs, different angles. Tom Reynolds, an ambulance driver, used his downtime to share his experiences with a massively increased audience:

    "To my eyes it seemed that the Major Incident planning was going smoothly, turning chaos into order. And what you need to remember is that this wasn't a major incident, but instead four major incidents, all happening at once."

And as their lives continue, the survivors continue to blog, two themes being recovery and pesky media intrusion. Justin at Pfff gives a moving answer to the question "Why did I blog?" and R, now blogging here on the BBC site looks to the future: "I love London's diversity and tolerance and zest for life."

Other Britbloggers

Meanwhile, those who made it across town were rounding up as much information as they could, in that way that only the web can do. Or, as Sal put it:

    "I'm at home about 200m from the Aldgate East explosion, the first I knew of it was an email from Brisbane. In Australia. Bloody internet."

Underground station
The humdrum life of the commuter became a big story
The more prominent Britblogs rose to the challenge, sticking together reports, links and travel advice in liveblogs which made sense of an insane day: Robin Grant, Nosemonkey and Tim Worstall offering far more links than this article can hold.

Debate was kept to a minimum, in the UK at least, in a spirit best expressed by Tim Worstall's retort to a comment:

    "May I just remind you of one of those little rules that we have in our civilised society? We bury the dead and console the bereaved before we start making asinine political points."

In its place, we saw suggestions, like The Sharpener's plans for a public demonstration of defiance, impromptu whip-rounds and impromptu t-shirts to raise money for the Red Cross and to mock the bombers.

Around the world

Early on, the US-based Daily Dish identified this prevailing spirit of stoicism, and wrote: "Right now, a million kettles are boiling."

Some of those reading British blogs from abroad have been initially taken aback by this, but the last few days have seen an enormous show of support and affection for the way Londoners have expressed themselves. Uncle Steve's collection of reactions has been enormously popular in America:

    "That's Britain for you. Tea solves everything.
    You're a bit cold? Tea.
    Your boyfriend has just left you? Tea.
    You've just been told you've got cancer? Tea.
    Coordinated terrorist attack on the transport network bringing the city to a grinding halt? TEA DAMMIT!"

And so it's been quite a weekend for exports of British humour, epitomised by the following comment on an American LiveJournal called London Hurts:

    "If you're all Londoners today, that's eight quid each for the congestion charge."

In a more sensitive series of exchanges, we've also seen new links from British weblogs to the Arab and Muslim blogospheres. The meta-blog Global Voices is keeping track of the latter, both translating Arabic language posts like Abu Rummana's "You thieves! Give me my religion back!" and linking to English language blogs like Hammorabi's:

    "We know the pain, sadness and chaos that such inhumane acts may bring to a lot of innocent people and families because we are experiencing it on a daily basis from the same thugs, the Wahabi terrorists cockroaches."

And so life goes on. Acts of violence can cause damage in their aftermath; they can frighten people, and they can turn them against each other. This time, there was a new tool available - blogs - and they've been used for communication, help and humour. So much for terror.


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