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Minnesota Blog Cabin: Keeping an eye on the state’s blogosphere

By Justin Piehowski | Monday, Dec. 8, 2008
The number of well-written, informative and interesting blogs is skyrocketing.

When it came time for a career change earlier this year, Amy Leger was looking for a good “work-life” balance and the ability to determine her own destiny.

She decided to combine her background as a journalist with the real-world knowledge she’d gained over the last nine years as the mother of a child with Celiac disease and start a blog about running a gluten-free household.

In October, the Blaine mother-of-two launched thesavvyceliac.com. It’s a survival guide of sorts for families dealing with celiac disease, an affliction where people cannot tolerate gluten. Her daughter, brother and exchange student all have the disease.

“It’s something I am passionate about,” she told me.

As the economy sours and technology advances, the number of well-written, informative and interesting blogs has skyrocketed, particularly in literate Minnesota.

It’s blogs like Amy’s from around the North Star State that will be featured in the Minnesota Blog Cabin, my new regular post on Minnpost.com.

I hope to take the temperature of the Minnesota blogosphere at least once a week. My goal is to bring you to interesting places online that you wouldn’t have otherwise found and begin a serious conversation about what works and what doesn’t in blogland.

A revolution
Over the last few weeks, I’ve scoured the Minnesota blogsophere, finding more than 500 blogs with some kind of tie to the state.

What I’ve discovered is that just beneath the surface of our media consciousness is an incredible community of mothers, athletes, comedians, professionals, farmers, mayors, teachers and many more who are putting the stories of their lives online for the world to read about.

The stats seem to back up my observations. Americans are creating blogs at a scorching pace. Technorati.com estimates that there are nearly 23 million bloggers in the United States and nearly three-quarters of all active Internet users read at least one blog regularly. The number of blogs worldwide is believed to be approaching 200 million, according to Universal McCann.

While the definition of a blog — short for web-log — is still very unclear, there’s no question that they are having a profound impact on communication in the United States and the world.

Every day, the seeds of dozens of major mainstream media stories are planted in blogs. Gov. Sarah Palin even called the blogger at Draft Sarah Palin after her selection as Sen. John McCain’s running mate to thank him for his support.

So, who’s calling out bloggers when they misstep? Conversely, who is lauding the good moves that bloggers make?

More importantly, how do you find a blog that interests you? With 23 million to choose from, a simple Google search won’t get you very far.

Minnesota Blog Cabin
Let me first point out a few things that you won’t find much of in the Minnesota Blog Cabin.

Harsh political blogs: Left or right, if you’re more interested in bashing those you disagree with than producing thoughtful, original content, I am not interested. 

Legacy media-affiliated blogs: Many blogs by media professionals are very well-written, but also required by management. Plus, they have the branding and resources of a major media outlet behind them. Most amateur bloggers start with no budget and few readers outside their own family.

Though, this writer must acknowledge local media scribes such as Vineeta Sawkar, Jason DeRusha, Brian Lambert, Dan Barreiro, Jon Ewoldt, and Kara McGuire who take blogging very seriously and make it part of their daily work flow. I read them every day.

So, what can you expect to read about in my posts?

Stories of real Minnesotans who aren’t afraid to use this new technology in an interesting and personal way.

You’ll meet Minnesotans who are joining the global conversation, simply because they can. Should a Minnesota angle crop up on a national blog, we’ll try point you there as well.

Here are a few local sites I’ve discovered just over the last few days. I had no idea they existed, but thoroughly enjoyed reading them.  

The Gimp Parade: Kay Olson describes herself as “a thirtysomething disabled feminist” who is “overeducated and underemployed.” She writes on disability topics ranging from autism in the Somalian community to wheelchair reviews.

The Life Of A Father Of Five: This one’s pretty much self-explanatory. It’s written by a “chronically tired father or five” who “lives in a high stress household, works in a high stress environment as a 911 dispatcher.” Wow.

Rich’s Bassin’ Blog: Would a column called the “Minnesota Blog Cabin” be complete without a blog about fishing? Rich Lindgren, of Lakeville, is a tournament fisherman who uses the web to share advice and ideas for anglers around the state.

Now, being a blogger with a worldwide audience also comes with a lot of responsibility. We’ve all heard at least one story about a blogger who has misled, misrepresented or flat-out lied on their blog.
 
Simply put, there’s a lot of garbage in the blogosphere and I won’t hesitate to call out a Minnesotan who blogs recklessly.

The people-powered media revolution is knocking at our door, friends. It’s time to peek between the curtains.