Doug Johnson used to scour the Internet looking for a good site that had updated news and travel information about Greece, but the 36-year-old West Toledo resident couldn't find one that he really liked.
His solution: create his own Web log - commonly called a “blog” - where others with a similar interest can visit to find information about Greece. Now when he finds something online about Greece, he creates a link to it on his blog, called “The Hellenophile,” for anyone to check out. Google and other search engines will direct those interested in Greece and its culture to the site.
Blogs are Web sites that the creators can update regularly. It is generally a cross between a diary and a message board. The creator can post pictures and text, often embedded with links to other sites. Visitors can interact with the blog's creator by posting commentary. Although blogs are Web pages, they are made to be easily updated so that the newest entries come up first chronologically.
“This is becoming the new desktop publishing application,” said Abdul Alkalimat, a professor at the University of Toledo's Africana Studies department who examines minority access to the Internet. “We're back where we'll have a much richer archived record of the human experience.”
Blogs can be almost anything: a photo album for family, a personal diary, a political forum, an art gallery, or something else entirely. Whatever they may be, Web logs are democratizing publishing.
People create sites to talk about things as esoteric as opera gloves, knitting, video games, and just about any other subculture or subject that exists. Howard Dean's campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination has gathered a lot of attention because it is believed to be the first presidential campaign to use blogs.
For bloggers in Toledo, as elsewhere, these sites are a means of communication as well as community. Toledobloggers.com lists the Web locations of local blogs and serves as an evolving forum for information about life in the city.
Postings include introductions, weekend activities, local news, and more.
Micah Maziar, 26, of Holland created the Toledo bloggers site. He saw group blogs about other cities, such as the San Francisco Bay Area Bloggers, and wanted to create one for Toledo. He developed a blog roll of other Toledoans by searching for them on the Internet, so it was an easy extension of that to create a blog that anyone could post to.
Many bloggers link to other blogs they read. The result is an ever-expanding group of people linked by common interests, sometimes referred to as the “blogosphere.”
“The whole blogging thing is a community,” Mr. Maziar said.
Mr. Maziar has maintained his own blog (which can be found on the Toledobloggers site) since July, 2002. He writes about his life and occasionally his work as an air traffic controller at Toledo Express Airport. He started it to keep in touch with far-flung family members.
“It's my hobby now,” Mr. Maziar said. He uses Movable Type, a Web log hosting program. He experiments with his blog with the use of “helper” programs, such as one to change the top banner photo, or to include a local weather forecast.
In Toledo, the blogging community includes those affiliated with Toledo Bloggers and some strong independents.
John Sawvel, 39, of West Toledo runs a community blog about northwest Ohio called www.toledotalk.com. Anyone can post information and links onto the site. He started it in January and is waiting for more people to start posting to it.
Carrie Richmond, 27, an adjunct music professor at Owens Community College, has written an online journal called “Earthmovers and Sandcastles” for about four years. She said she has hundreds of regular readers at the journal, which can be accessed off the main page of her Web site at www.redhairedgirl.com.
After her son was born, she started a Web log to add short daily entries when she did not have time to write full journal entries. She also has two companion blogs, one about searching for a new house and another about her knitting projects.
“I get advice and support from the world,” she said. “I can't imagine not having it.”
One of the attractions of blogging is that hosting programs, such as Blogger or Movable Type, can make anything added to it in text or photo follow a chosen style. That makes it unnecessary for the creator to redo the whole Web site each time anyone posts something new. Many blog host sites allow people to sign in and post to their blogs from anywhere, offering an immediacy and a convenience that was not available before.
A computer science major at Owens who is in the process of transferring to the University of Toledo, Doug Gill works part-time for Buckeye Express, an Internet service owned by Block Communications, Inc., which also owns The Blade. The 22-year-old West Toledo resident became interested in Web design in late 1999, when he took a class in the subject. He has maintained some type of personal Web site ever since and now has his own blog.
Mr. Gill has a friendly rivalry with two of his co-workers who also maintain their own blogs. His blog, www.cloudstrife.com, is about his life and his passion for the Final Fantasy video games. Such a popular subject gives him a competitive edge with his friends, helping him get the most hits and comments on his entries.
“I want people to learn more about me and my interests and thoughts,” Mr. Gill said. “I'm just glad that some people find time to read what I have to say.”