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This is a review of my TOP TEN BLOGS but rather than launch straight in to the list, I thought I'd provide an overview of what a blog actually is .
HISTORY Back in the late 1990s there was only a sprinkling of sites that we now recognise as blogs (web-logs). These sites took on the form of lists of URLS that the blogger (the person who writes the blog) liked.
By 2000, a "blog" community had started to bloom. Key reasons for this rise in popularity included: 1: People becoming more web-savvy and aware of the benefits of having an online presence 2: Companies started offering blogging software and services, thus making it very easy for people to edit their web pages in real-time. This removed the need to use off-line text editors and ftp software (ft what?? ..exactly!).
While blogs had always included a combination of URL links and short personal comments, in the 2000s, an increasing number of bloggers turned their back on this format, in favour of a sort of journal or diary. These blogs, often updated several times a week take on the form of the blogger's thoughts - everything from what's happening their life to what's happening in the world. These always include links (in the obligatory sidebar) to other 'recommended' blogs and the ability for readers to leave comments under the blogger's entries.
The unique feature of inviting readers to comment and thus interact with the blogger has helped increase blogging numbers to an estimate 60 million worldwide (ref. www.blogherald.com).
TYPES OF BLOG Where do I begin? These days, anything goes. Blogs can teach you about aspects of culture, technology, politics, arts etc, and they can be incredibly enlightening - bringing opinions and factual commentary from many perspectives, worldwide.
Of course, blogs can also centre on what someone had for breakfast that day and this is the very reason why, for a long time, I avoided blogs like the plague. I believed blogging was 'sociable genocide'! What I mean by that is, I was of the opinion that blogging encouraged people to write about their petty foibles rather than have face-to-face healthy discussions with people. Blogs were self-indulgent moaning twaddle - rarely positive, rarely constructive and rarely about anything other than the self. I just couldn't understand why anyone wanted to read a stranger's whimsical diary entries.
BLOGS ARE COOL "Cool? Hold on, but didn't you just say that blogs were rubbish?" Yes I did, but I've changed my mind. Why? Well, I discovered that despite having to fight through a lot of dross to be acknowledged, good voices have finally entered the blogging mainstream. In the last couple of years I have found some strikingly brilliant blogs that have forced me to make a swift u-turn on my opinion. Blogs CAN be constructive and interesting and, most importantly, give people who would other wise remain silent, a powerful, public voice.
On that note, here are my Top Ten Blogs (in no apparent order).
1: YOU GROW GIRL Subject: Gardens Address: http://www.yougrowgirl.com
The site is about 'gardening for the people'. It is owned by Gayle Trait, who confesses that she is obsessed with plants, and she has been running the blog successfully from her home in Michigan, USA for 5 years.
Gayle's main objective has always been to promote exploration, excitement and a "get your hands dirty" approach to gardening - and she is a strong believer in organic gardening.
Her blog enteries can be somewhat irregularly but always interesting. The latest entry discusses "pick-your-own blackberries" and includes some lovely photos. You can view her archived entries by date (season) or by category. Categories include:- Containers, Flowers, Fruit, Herbs, Houseplants, Pests, Places, Projects, Reviews, Seasonal, Seeds and Vegetables.
A great feature on her blog is the "explore" section which can be really funny. This section is a collaboration withher friends and serves to answer many strange and wonderful questions like "Why do fruits and herbs smell the way they do?" and "Will playing 80's dance music save my plant?".
I don't have a garden at present, but when I do this blog will be my bible!
2: OH GIZMO! Subject: Weird Gadgets and innovations Address: http://www.ohgizmo.com
Oh Gizmo describes itself as deliciously geeky… and it is! The blog is updates several times a day, by 8 people no less. Gadget categories include Wireless, Mobiles, Household, PDAs, Gaming, Robots, Unusual, Portable Audio, Software, Portable Media Players, Hardware, Furniture, Medical, Digital Cameras and Audio.
Oh Gizmo's success as a blog is explained by the fact it focuses 2 key traits shared by the majority of gadget lovers: a keen sense of aesthetics, and childlike desire to be flabbergasted. I have no idea where they get their information from but it's always fascinating. My favourite section is the "unusual gadgets" with recent entries including "the dial phone watch" and "pizza cones" .
I do warn you, if you visit this site, you'll find it strangely addictive.
3: CHOCOLATE AND ZUCCHINI Subject: Cooking Address: http://chocolateandzucchini.com
This site will really get your mouth watering! It is owned by a French lady called Clotilde and she has been running the blog since 1993. She started it as a way to share her passion for all things food-related including recipes, musings and experiments. The name "Chocolate and Zucchini", Clotilde uses as a metaphor for her cooking style : Zucchini illustrating her focus on fresh produce and Chocolate representing her preference for all things sweet.
You can navigate the site by category or month. There are many categories. I won't list them all here, but they include: Books For Cooks, Chocolate Is My Friend, Lunch Is On Me and Veggies, Glorious Veggies.
Entries are made three to four times a week and each recipe is delicious, very French and all are accompanied by a photo. A lovely feature of this site is the "Plat Du Jour". You click on the link and a pop-up box appears with a suggested recipe. What to buy in Waitrose that night is made a little easier !
4: A MATTER OF MUSE Subject: Poetry Address: http://amatterofmuse.blogspot.com/
This is a blog written by a 20 year British girl called Kate. She has been writing poetry since she was a child and uses it as a way let off steam. In the blog she states that the poems set out the path of her life - "a bit like a diary but the end of the sentences rhyme" !
She published three or four entries a month depending on how she feels or how busy she is. The poems range from hiakus to pge-ling verses and most are accompanied by a photo to give you a feel for the subject. They are very well written and I always visit this blog once a month. It's very relaxing site and Kate likes cats - alway a plus point in my book!
5: DIVERSION DAILY Subject: Photo blog Address: http://www.diversionary.net/daily/
The increasing popularity of digital cameras and broadband has made it ever easier to post and share photos on the web. Bloggers have adapted their software to facilitate the publishing of photos, creating what is called a photoblog. Diversion Daily is owned by an Australian designer based in Perth.
Other sections of his blog include his life, the movies and music; however it's the photos that keep me re-visiting this site. Each day he posts up a new photograph with a small comment on where it was taken and what it's about. The photos are all beautifully shot. His subject matter ranges from beach debris to city sky-scrapers but whatever the daily subject, it takes me somewhere nice when I'm sitting at my office desk in central London.
6: GRUMPY OLD BOOKMAN Subject: Books Address: http://grumpyoldbookman.blogspot.com
A blog about books and publishing is written by a professional writer called Michael Allen. It's aimed at both readers and writers and was recently listed by The Guardian as one of the top ten UK literary blogs.
Allen's general published one entry a day. He's an award-winning, full-time writer and the author of twelve novels so his entries about the world of books and publishing are always long, opinionated, well-versed (and usually grumpy).
The only down side to this site is the bad navigation. You can only view the latest entries from the home page and there is no facility to navigate through the entire archives. Worth a peak though :)
7: THE COMEDY BLOG Subject: Comedy Address: http://www.bbc.co.uk/comedy/blog/
I love this blog. If you want to keep your finger on the pulse of comedy in Britain today then bookmark this in your favourites. The only think I would say that's bad about this blog is the design. Because of the choice of colours, it's very difficult to navigate - the background colour in the right-hand menu is very similar to the choice of text colour (i've found this a flaw with many of the BBC's subsites).
Anyway... The Comedy Blog is published by the Comedy Department at the BBC (funnily enough) and has been up and running since April last year. You can view the entries by month, or by most recent. Subject matter, although dedicated to Comedy, ranges from the serious side (e.g.: Discussion of how changes in freedom of speech act will effect comedy) to the silly side (e.g.: Harry Hill's new "Shark Infested Custard" series).
I first found this blog late last year and it is a phenomenal blog. Defiantely not for the faint-hearted. "Healing Iraq" provides daily news and comments on the situation in post Saddam Iraq. It is owned a man, known only as Zeyad, who is a Sunni Iraqi living in Baghdad and currently doing post-grad in dentistry. Zeyad dubs himself an optimist and his political commentary reveals a strong faith in the New Iraq.
Zeyad's posts are sporadic. The last was in March but I have learned through other sites that he is alive and well. This blog is an incredibly enlightening read and offers a personal viewpoint rarely voiced. Give it a visit.
9: WORLD HISTORY BLOG Subject: History Address: http://world-history-blog.blogspot.com/
I visit the World of History blog in my coffee break weekly. The site has been running since late 2003 and entries are posted almost on a daily basis by one man - Miland Brown, a historian based in the US. I treat this blog like I do Trivial Pursuit. I'm really rubbish at the history questions but I always want to know the answers in the hope that I'll eventually absorb them one day in case I ever get on "Who wants to be a millionaire"!
As the title of the blog implies, entries cover the history of the world - anything from Japanese Ninjas to JFK. It's all very fascinating and well-written stuff. Definately a blog for feeding a thirst for knowledge.
10: MY BOYFRIEND IS A TWAT Subject: Personal blog Address: http://www.myboyfriendisatwat.com
This is the only personal blog in my list. A friend sent me a link to it last year and after acting like a startled rabbit upon reading the title of the blog, I decided to venture in to find out exactly what sort of person would publicly announce that their boyfriend is a … cough…cough.
After an initial brief tour through the site I discovered that MBIAT is owned by a 40 year-old English women called Zoe who lives and works in Belgium with her 3 children. Her boyfriend (fondly called T***) is actually called Quarsan (who she has lived happily with for 2 years) and she refers to her ex-husband's girlfriend as "Pretty Horrible T**s"!
Zoe has a vivid imagination, extremely colourful vocabulary and a wicked sense of humour that comes across brilliantly in the blog. Once I got over the initial shock of her referring to her boyfriend is such a derogatory fashion on an almost daily basis, what I found here was a brilliant writer who adores her family.
Not surprisingly, Zoe's MBIAT blog won the best European Blog 2005 (Bloggies 2005). Entries are posted daily - sometimes very short, and sometimes amazingly long but all worth reading.
And that brings me to the end of my Top Ten Blogs. If you've got this far down the page then THANK-YOU and I hope this review has given you some food for thought or, at the least, ten good excuses to stay on the internet a little longer today.