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Published: Saturday, 4/17/2004

Blogs: Your own virtual soapbox

Weblogs or “blogs” have quietly become a hot new Internet sensation.

Blogs are Web sites where people can publish their opinions, bright ideas, complaints, and other thoughts about any topic. They re being used by political candidates, business executives, journalists, school kids, sports fans, college professors, everyone and anyone.

Howard Dean, the former Democratic presidential candidate, used a blog in his campaign. Internet news gurus like Matt Drudge and Andrew Sullivan have become famous bloggers. At least one blog has become a book, “The Baghdad Blog.” It s the diary of an Iraqi architect who called himself Salam Pax. He started posting accounts of daily life under Saddam Hussein to a blog in 2002.

In a way, blogs have become virtual soapboxes. People in the olden days would carry a wooden crate to a busy street corner, stand on top, and shout out their opinions. Put your comments on a blog, and tens of millions of people around the world can hear.

Major search engines are paying attention to blog sites.

Microsoft, for instance, just announced plans to include a blog search tool with its MSN (HYPERLINK "http://www.msn.com/"www.msn.com) search engine. Google (HYPERLINK "http://www.google.com/"www.google.com), the top-rated search engine, has plans for a similar feature.

Blogs are like traditional Web sites. Both put data online. Anyone can start one. Anyone with an Internet connection can access one. Blogs, however, get updated more often than Web sites, with each entry carrying a time stamp.

The updates on blogs are not new pages, but “posts.” A post can consist of a few pithy words or a carefully reasoned 10,000-word philosophical commentary. Blog host sites make the updating process a lot easier, too. It usually involves just clicking a button like “publish this entry.”

For a quick look at typical blogs, try the directory at Blogarama (HYPERLINK "http://www.blogarama.com/"http://www.blogarama.com/), the Blog Search Engine (HYPERLINK "http://www.blogsearchengine.com/"http://www.blogsearchengine.com/), or just search the Internet for “blog directories.”

Be aware that some blog sites, like some regular Web sites, involve sex and other content that many people may regard as inappropriate or offensive. If you re among them, steer clear of those blog sites.

Estimates suggest that teenagers and political activists account for more than half of all people who use blog sites. They re publishing web diaries, talking about music, critiquing new movies, spreading news, and pushing political agendas.

Private corporate blogging, however, is catching on.

A company called SocialText (HYPERLINK "http://www.socialtext.com/"www.socialtext.com), for instance, developed blogging software for people collaborating on projects – among themselves inside a company or with clients. It enables individuals working in far-flung locations to build relationships, comment on documents, see each other s changes, and agree on revisions.

Interested in starting a blog for personal or commercial use?

First find a blog host, a company that will give you blog space on the Internet.

A search for “blog hosting” will produce a long list of possibilities. Some blog hosts offer free or trial services, with full-scale or premium services for a fee.



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