My 15 Minutes of Fame
The Chicago Tribune has finally published article on women bloggers; and so the clock has started on my 15 minutes of fame. As such, it will be interesting to see what sort of boost I’ll get to my daily stats as a result of this article. According to extreme tracking, I’m averaging about 70 unique vistors per day. Beyond a possible boost to my readership, it will be interesting to see who from my past will find me again from reading this article. Already, a former coworker from LexisNexis sent a quick email. Speaking of stats, thanks to George for leaving the 1000th comment last night. Now go read and enjoy!!
To read the article in full, click on continue reading link below.
Welcome to their Worlds
Female bloggers build strong presence on the Internet
By Gail Schmoller Philbin
Special to the Tribune
Published July 30, 2003
In the scant history of the Internet, Weblogs, or blogs, those personal Web sites that can range from emotion-charged diaries to impersonal news digests, are a blip on the screen. And in the handful of years blogs have existed, sites run by women have barely registered on the radar of this largely male domain.
However, that’s changing, according to Rebecca Blood, an internationally known blogger and author of “The Weblog Handbook: Practical Advice on Creating and Maintaining Your Blog” (Perseus Publishing, 2002).
“There are more women out there than the press gives them credit for,” said Blood, who has had her site, Rebecca’s Pocket (www.rebeccablood.net), since 1999. “My feeling is that women have had a strong presence in the Weblog community. . . . There are lots and lots and lots of women writing.”
Blood estimates there are 500,000 or so English-language Weblogs in existence but emphasizes there is no way of knowing for sure. Whatever the number, she said, “I’d be surprised if a third of them weren’t women bloggers.”
A Weblog comes in two basic formats, the filter-style blog and the short-form journal, according to Blood. Back in 1997, most blogs took the filter form and featured a combination of links to other sites, commentary and personal notes, she said. Two years later, with the advent of Blogger, a program that made it easy for people to build their own Web sites, the online diary exploded, she said.
Men tend to use the filter format for their often political Weblogs, whereas women lean toward journals about “day-to-day stuff,” or traditionally female topics such as cooking, knitting or motherhood, Blood said. However, she quickly pointed out that many female bloggers like herself and Meg Hourihan (www.megnut.com) or Brigitte Eaton (www.eatonweb.com) address subjects such as media, politics and technology.
Elaine Frankonis, a 63-year-old blogger in Albany, N.Y., believes women bring a unique approach to any topic.
“From politics to partying, from men to menopause, from feminism to family–women Webloggers seem more comfortable in viewing their personal lives in a larger, cultural context and also in looking at global issues from a very personal point of view,” she wrote in an e-mail.
Unlike Frankonis, most female bloggers range in age from their teens to their 40s, according to Blood, who won’t say how old she is. However, the spectrum is widening.
“The technology is simple enough that if you can buy something on the Web or e-mail something, you have the technical expertise to do a Weblog,” she said.
Katherine Murray, a 42-year-old Indianapolis author, has taken full advantage of the user-friendly technology and established four blogs in the last year and a half. She appreciates their ability to remove social barriers and build community.
“I love the idea of the Internet, that we can share what’s true in our lives, feelings we might not want to share with a neighbor,” she said.
“You have the ability to be seen for who you are and have a connection with someone that has nothing to do with the kind of car you drive. It’s very freeing.”
Ursula Petula Barzey, a 32-year-old blogger and Chicago business consultant, agrees.
“Both men and women write from their heart about what’s going on in their lives,” she said. “It’s a great way for people to get to know each other better without the pretense.”
Cyberspace isn’t the only place bloggers can become acquainted with each other, though. Thanks to Meetup.com, a Web site that coordinates free, informal gatherings of bloggers in cities around the world each month, they can meet face-to-face. Barzey participated in one in Chicago that she said was simply “another way to meet people in the city.”
This positive impact on human communication surprised Blood at first.
“You think of being online as a solitary endeavor–people who never go outside, introverts,” she said. “Even for introverts, though, because you know a little about the person even if they don’t write about themselves … it’s easier to meet bloggers. Introverts have a little hook.”
However, blogging can have a downside Blood calls a “clustering effect,” where people only link to like-minded sites, creating “an echo chamber.”
“That’s not a good thing,” she said. “We need to talk to each other and understand each other in a democracy.”
In the relatively small community of the University of Chicago, where 19-year-old student Danielle Hubbard said everyone she knows has started a Weblog at one time or another, bloggers may encounter another pitfall–meeting someone whose blog you’ve read but who doesn’t know anything about you. “Weblogs put people in an awkward situation,” Hubbard said. “Especially if you’ve read their Weblog and you give them your address, and they don’t read yours, because it’s not interesting enough.”
Another problem stems from some bloggers’ propensity to tell every last detail about their lives, from relationship troubles to job complaints, said Blood, who covers Weblog ethics in her book. Revealing all can cause problems because anyone can come across those details–accidentally or intentionally–in a simple Web search.
Blood said she knows of people who lost their jobs or didn’t get hired because employers read their online rantings.
“People need to remember that Weblogs are searchable, findable and have repercussions in the real world.”
Ursula Petula Barzey
In the six months since she started her Weblog, Ursula Barzey has missed only one day of blogging, an experience she recalls as “kind of traumatic.”
This level of dedication, which she didn’t have when she kept a journal on paper, comes from an awareness that “other people are reading it, particularly family and friends. It makes me committed to do it,” she said.
No topic is taboo, according to Barzey, although her entries have fairly tame titles like “Sleep Deprived,” “Operation Harry Potter,” and “The Business of Blogs.”
She discusses movies, restaurants and other details in the life of a single, Caribbean-born woman living on the North Side of Chicago. Occasionally, she ventures into social or political waters, as in “The Questions Sisters Ask About Gen. [Vincent] Brooks,” a lengthy posting about an interview with the African-American brigadier army general who came to prominence during the war with Iraq. The interview revealed the top question black women ask is whether he’s married to “a sister.”
Barzey wrote, “Things got a little heated here on my site when someone left a comment (which I subsequently deleted as it was a false rumor) indicating that his wife was white. I personally don’t care, but I know a lot of other black women get upset when successful black men date and marry outside their race.”
Barzey estimates she has about 35 regular readers–a mix of family, friends and a few strangers–but she has few friends with Weblogs of their own.
“Some think it’s cool, and others ask why do I want to bare everything to the general public,” she said.
“It’s a way to document what’s going on in my life. I’m not embarrassed by what I’m writing.”
The Sept. 11 terrorist attacks brought Elaine Frankonis to blogging. In an attempt to wrap her brain around the horror of the attacks, the 63-year-old divorced mother of two began e-mailing her thoughts to her son, who posted them on his Weblog. It worked for awhile, but soon Frankonis needed her own site to accommodate all her ideas.
In one of the first entries on her new site, she wrote: “I am finding this whole blogging thing curiously engaging, since I’ve never been able to write fast enough to keep a journal. But I type really fast, so this might well wind up being my legacy to the world at large (like it cares!). But I do care. About a lot of things. And this is one place that I can record what’s on my mind, in my heart, and stuck in my craw. So, look out, cyberworld, here I come.”
Since Frankonis had recently retired to take care of her 87-year-old mother, she had the time to spend four or five hours on her Weblog daily at first (she’s now down to two a day). She fearlessly tackled a variety of topics, from what it was like to be an aging female to the war in Iraq.
When she wrote about the death of porn star Linda Lovelace, Frankonis “learned just how efficient Google searches are in making anything one writes totally public. As a result of that post, I’m now linked from the Linda Lovelace Web site, and I find that I keep getting hits from people surfing for porn,” she said.
As the “Self-Proclaimed Resident Crone of Blogdom,” Frankonis is considerably older than the average blogger, but she keeps an eye out for other opinionated women over 55 in cyberspace writing about what interests her.
“Age does tend to give one a unique perspective,” she said.
For someone interested in subjects like free will, psychopathology, addiction and people in general, University of Chicago student Danielle Hubbard sure picked a good hobby. The English and philosophy major who posts her thoughts on her Web site several times a week has a laboratory of the human condition at her fingertips.
In the year and a half since she began blogging, Hubbard has made a few observations and learned a lot. A recent posting on her site indicated the impact of regularly mining her life for Web nuggets: “I reached an important realization about myself today. I cannot do anything, not a thing, without keeping an inner running commentary on it. Is this particular to me? I’m sure it isn’t. But I think it’s great! It’s the stuff that comedy gold is made of!”
Hubbard emphasizes humor at her own expense and avoids insulting others in her Weblog. She said she no longer uses the names of people she writes about after making some off-the-cuff remarks about a former classmate that someone came across through a Web search of that person’s name. And she avoids “the soapbox thing,” choosing to write mostly about noteworthy topics or thoughts that occurred in the course of a day.
The subhead for Hubbard’s Weblog–“It’s like the all-humiliation network!”–comes from the 1999 movie “Never Been Kissed” starring Drew Barrymore and reflects the playful tone she strives to maintain on the site.
Sometimes it backfires.
“One of my good friends e-mailed me that he came away feeling depressed after reading it,” Hubbard said. “Maybe it’s the self-deprecation . . . I didn’t intend it that way!”
Within three months of turning 40, Katherine Murray needed bifocals and began experiencing perimenopausal symptoms. The changes caught the divorced mother of three off-guard and sent her running to her computer for solace. Murray, a technical writer and author of parenting books, created “Chikblog,” the third of four Weblogs she spins like plates in the juggling act of her hectic life. In its initial entry, she wrote: “This is a blog for women over 40 who want to share their funny stories, hot flashes, ironic twists, bits of hard-earned wisdom, sexy ideas and yell-at-the-dog feelings.”
Despite this welcome, Murray didn’t get the dialogue she hoped for, as women avoided baring their personal experiences on the Internet. “They’ll send personal e-mail rather than share with everyone,” she said. “My generation is a little more uncomfortable with it than women in their 20s.”
Fortunately, Murray has other blogs to keep her occupied. The most popular, a technology site called “BlogofficeXP,” has 300 subscribers, and the spirituality-oriented “(tilde)Practical Faith(tilde)” has 100, she said. “The Horton Chronicles,” her newest blog, takes its name from the Dr. Seuss character and aims to tell real people’s stories.
“Blogging is instant communication, authentic communication, and a way to offer what you’re thinking about to the world with the idea that your perspective has value, even if it’s just you,” she said. “That’s where the power of blogging in building community is found–we identify with each other.”
Being a working, single mom with a resume that includes 50 books in 20 years isn’t enough for this self-described “fast writer” who blogs, at most, three hours a week. “It’s in my DNA,” Murray said. “I need to share what I see. It gives me a sense of accomplishment.”
Copyright © 2003, Chicago Tribune