Beginner's guide to the blogosphere

Edward Cone
News & Record


"Greensboro is cool," wrote weblog savant Dave Winer after visiting with staffers from this newspaper and other local bloggers earlier this month. It's true. Our town is becoming something of a mecca for Internet innovators. No sooner had Winer departed than Dan Gillmor, author of the influential book, "We the Media," came to town to check out our blogging scene. "Another day, another guru," sighed Lex Alexander, the guy in charge of the News & Record's online outreach.

Personal publishing is having a profound impact on journalism and helping to create new social and political networks. Greensboro is ahead of the curve, but the phenomenon is unfolding everywhere. Last weekend in Chapel Hill, about 130 people (including several from Greensboro) met to discuss web-based communities and publications. At about that time, CNN executive Eason Jordan was resigning after being hammered by bloggers for his remarks about the military targeting journalists.

You've been reading about weblogs in this column since 2002, and you probably followed big blog-influenced stories like the rise of Howard Dean and the fall of Dan Rather and Trent Lott. Maybe you have started to check out the sites maintained by News & Record editor John Robinson and other staffers, or found some favorites around town and across the web. But the blogosphere is vast and varied, with millions of blogs out there to suit any interest, and getting a handle on it can be a little overwhelming.

So here is a guide to entering the world of weblogs. It's in no way definitive, just a list I threw together of sites that might warm you up to the concept and lure you deeper into the mix. Links are a key element of this medium, so I hope you'll link from these sites to others and map a web-reading routine of your own. Note: Not every blog is for every taste.

One local hub is the News & Record, which links to its many staff-written blogs from its home page. The paper (of which I am not an employee, but for which I am an informal adviser and cheerleader on weblogs) has several editors and reporters online, with more to come. Letters to the editor are posted in blog format, too, so that you can read and write comments -- conversation being a key element of blogging.

Another place to find area bloggers is at Greensboro101, a community site maintained by web designer Roch Smith Jr. Greensboro101 has links to dozens of local writers and also features at its front page posts of particular interest as selected by an editorial board. TriadBlogs also has links to area sites. There are too many good bloggers around here to come close to listing them all in this column, but I would mention Backwards City, a literate and funny treasury of oddities from the web; A Little Urbanity, which covers neighborhood and development issues; the PG-13 humorist known as Mr. Sun; ACC Hoops (to which I contribute); and the eye-opening Barber Shop Blog.

On the national scene, one useful portal into political conversation is the popular Instapundit site, written by University of Tennessee law professor Glenn Reynolds. He's a hawk on Iraq but not an ideologue on other issues, and his prolific linking to other sites makes him a good place to start exploring. A liberal counterpoint to Instapundit is Eschaton, an often-scathing blog written by self-described "recovering economist" Duncan Black under the pen name Atrios. Joshua Micah Marshall, a professional journalist by trade, digs deep on complex issues at Talking Points Memo.

Blogs often are the realm of experts, writing about what they know. Serious press criticism is happening at NYU professor Jay Rosen's PressThink. Gizmodo and Engadget cover cool consumer products. Doc Searls writes about technology and other passions. Stanford law professor Larry Lessig covers copyright issues.

But blogs also cover less serious subjects. Gawker and Defamer have gossip, BoingBoing is an eclectic roundup of news and features, College Basketball, well, you can probably guess what that is about. Technorati is a site that lets you track what's hot and who's getting traffic in the blogging world.

Many of these sites include lists of links to other blogs they recommend, and most fill their posts with references and links to other bloggers. If you start visiting just the very few blogs I have recommended, and click through to others from there, you can begin to assemble your own atlas of this new world. And maybe you'll even end up visiting or one of the other vendors that lets you take the next step: starting a blog of your own.

Edward Cone (, writes a column for the News & Record most Sundays.

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