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Meet the bloggers

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So I’m talking to a guy who’s been my friend for more than 30 years, a computer programmer I’ve known since our college days together. And I tell him how the paper is putting together a package of pieces about local bloggers.

He didn’t see the point. Why, he asked, should anyone care about the online postings of people who spend their time telling the world what they had for breakfast?

Others I talked to had a similar reaction.

And I told them the same thing I told my friend: “You need to read the book Blog!”

Written by journalists David Kline and Dan Burstein, Blog! offers far-reaching insight into how online Web logs are changing politics, business, media and culture.”

By combining analysis with interviews of people who are immersed in the rapidly expanding blogosphere, Blog! is a revelation. Even if you think you’re hip to what the phenomenon is all about, you probably still don’t have a grasp of the whole picture. It’s almost inevitable, in fact, because that picture is still taking shape.

The authors report that the number of blogs is increasing by up to 40,000 a day. And while many of them are indeed the sort of banal chronicles of daily life my friend disdains, they are by no means only that.

You have corporations using blogs as a way of connecting with customers, with the likes of General Motors honcho Bob Lutz entering the fray. In the last presidential election, Howard Dean’s campaign demonstrated how blogs can be used both as a fund-raising tool and a vehicle to gather, connect and energize supporters. There is talk of blogs being the great democratizer, loosening the grip big media companies have on the flow of information. Just ask Dan Rather how powerful blogs can be. The CBS newsman fell victim to bloggers who were the first to expose that Rather’s damning report on President Bush’s record in the Air National Guard was built around forged documents.

Musicians and authors and artists can use them to attract an audience. A few select blogs demand the attention of society’s decision makers and power mongers. And business models are being tested, with some entrepreneurs creating stables of paid bloggers attracting enough readers to interest advertisers.

At a very basic level, claim the authors, blogs are simply that most recent manifestation of an intrinsic desire to leave some mark upon the world. They talk about the paintings prehistoric humans put on the walls of caves in the southwest region of France 15,000 years ago.

In the book’s introduction, Burstein writes that “we are living in a unique moment in time when the ancient urges to converse, communicate, argue publicly, learn collaboratively, share experiences, and archive collective knowledge — urges that are part of the definition of who we are as a species — have suddenly been married with incredibly powerful, fast, ubiquitous technologies. And increasingly, the ordinary mortal doesn’t need to know anything about technology to become a blogger or to read blogs or to participate in this new media revolution, because the power of technology is appropriately baked way down in the deepest regions of software infrastructure.”

It is a wave that began building as far back as 1997, when the word blog seems to have first appeared, but it is one that is far from cresting. And what this electronic universe will look like five years from now is anybody’s guess.

To offer up some idea of the diversity available right now, Metro Times interviewed nine area bloggers. What follows are snapshots of who these people are, and what their sites offer.

As for my friend, he’s thinking about starting a blog related to his programming business. It could be a good way to attract customers.

Welcome to the blogosphere. —Curt Guyette

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Sweaty Men Endeavors is the sports blog with ‘a slightly gay name’.

Urban explorer
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Touring Detroit’s abandoned grandeur.

Virtual ties
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Hamtramck site aspires to unite diverse communities.

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Portraits of street folk make for unique imagery.

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Motor City Rocks kicks out the MP3s.

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Guerrilla artists use a blog to chronicle their high jinks.

Activist's outlet
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Lefty logger: ‘Maybe it’s a good thing that we’re not being paid.’

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