From the Actrix Online Informer February 2008

by Rob Zorn

'Moving to Broadband' explained

We did an introductory article on blogs (Every Man and His Blog) back in November 2005, where we looked at how the blog (short for 'web log') has become one of the latest and most significant Internet-based phenomena. Purportedly, a new blog is created every second!

At their simplest blogs are like online diaries, but they usually contain opinion as well as personal news, and often they are dedicated to a theme. Bloggers usually try to write daily, or at least regularly, and it's usually their ability to provide a mix of intelligent opinion, news and personality (without becoming banal) that make them so compelling. You can be reading about a blogger's opinion on suicide bombers at one moment, and about the adventures of their cat at the next.

There are various ways of accessing blogs. In most cases you can just go to the blogger's website every day to read whatever is new, and whatever comments other readers have left. Sometimes you can subscribe to email lists so that you're informed whenever there are new posts, or you can use what's called a newsreader programme which will automatically download the blog behind the scenes while you work on other things. The latest version of most browsers will also act as newsreaders. You can read more about automatic blog feeds (RSS) here.

Blogs have become widely popular both overseas, and here in New Zealand, so this month we'll have a look at some of the more popular ones people are reading.  And if you read one regularly (whether from New Zealand or overseas) feel free to let me know, and we can look at including a few more over coming months.

Russell Brown's Hard News is one of New Zealand's most read blogs. Russell is a New Zealand journalist and Hard News grew out of his "radio rant on Auckland student station 95bFM in 1991 because he felt there werenít enough voices like his in the media." In November 2004 he told The Listener: "Mine is a personal diary as well. I might occasionally write about what I had for dinner or whether Iíve got gout. Thatís the joy of it. The defining characteristic of a blog, if itís done properly, is that you point people to other places. I really liked the idea of being able to direct people to source material. Not just to tell them things, but also to say, 'Look, you go and work it out for yourself.'"

Cracker, by Damian Christie, is one of my favourites. Damian is best known as a Wellington-based Close Up journalist and his blog is always written with flair and good humour, whether it's about his views on the anti-smacking bill, or his experiences being strip-searched by a friendly Samoan customs officer at Auckland airport. Do I always agree with him? Absolutely not, but that's not important. In fact I imagine the blogs people enjoy most are the ones they disagree with.

Kiwiblog, by David Farrar, is a politically-oriented blog. David is known for his centre right views and for calling a spade a spade, even if not everyone always agrees that the item in question is, in fact, a spade. He's also very prolific - often posting several times each day. Farrar was once vice-president of the Internet Society of New Zealand, InternetNZ, and is currently director of the New Zealand Domain Name Registry Ltd. Kiwiblog apparently receives three to four times more comments than any other blog in New Zealand.

Poneke is another Wellington-based journalist-type blogger. He (or she)'s a relatively new guy (or gal) on the blog block, but is already generating a substantial number of readers.  The aim of the blog is to present a personalised, eclectic mix of essays with a literary journalism bent; media criticism; and breaking news on important and not-so-important issues. Above all, Poneke is a skeptic, which usually means there's a willingness to ask some difficult questions and not be satisfied with 'pat' answers. Check out the post on Sensing Murder.

Spare Room describes itself as "a selection of New Zealand weblogs with smart-humour, opinion and entertainment, written by Ana Samways and Steven Shaw." All sorts of things get posted, and the blog is rarely serious and frequently irreverent. I know several people who visit this blog first thing each morning. Lots of videos and pictures are featured.  

Aardvark Daily claims to be New Zealand's longest-running online daily news and commentary publication, now in its 11th year. It's written by Bruce Simpson and you may remember him being in the news a year or two back for attempting to build a DIY cruise missile in his garage for less than $5000, and using only "off-the-shelf" technology. Anyone like that has got to be interesting. Bruce used to just write about science and tech stuff, but his blog has become a lot more varied of late.

Blog Central: You have to take your hat off to Stuff which is Fairfax's attempt not to get left behind as more and more attention is shifted towards online news sources. As a result the Stuff site has a whole section dedicated to blogs on various topics, from Reuben Schwarz's tech blog Cool Kit, to Bridget Saunders' About Town (if you're into the glitterati-related goss). There were 31 separate blogs at last count and just about every topic is covered. You're bound to find something of interest there.

NZ News may the sort of blog you want to keep in mind if you regularly travel overseas and get a hankering for news from home. It's regularly updated with a good number of posts everyday. Lots of links to New Zealand sites are provided in a column to the left.

100 Words: "Too many blogs are just too long. A 2000 word essay on someoneís barely thought through political views or their description of their trip to the shops is more than I can bear to read. Short posts tend to be little more than the written equivalent of reading a newspaperís headlines out loud. Is it possible to have an interesting blog with short posts only? I thought Iíd have a go. Iíll stick to one rule on this blog Ė posts of no more than 100 words. Letís see how long before I lose interest."

Kiwiology is a directory of kiwi blogs - the stuff that makes up the New Zealand blogosphere. Blog topics include, but are not limited to: New Zealand blogs, Kiwis blogging overseas, blogs about New Zealand politics, the environment and sustainability in New Zealand (or by people based in New Zealand), New Zealandís economy, Kiwi businesses and business topics, New Zealand issues and current events and kiwisí personal blogs. Heaps of blogs are featured.


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