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

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.

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Comments (9)

  1. Submitted by Mary Warner on 12/08/2008 - 11:29 am.

    What, Justin? You’re not buying that malarkey from Wired magazines about blogging being dead? Neither am I. (I blogged about the topic not once, but twice, here: http://woowooteacup.wordpress.com/2008/10/20/kill-my-blog-i-think-not/ and here: http://woowooteacup.wordpress.com/2008/11/10/beating-a-dead-blog-horse/)

    Love your idea of following Minnesota blogs. I’m a Minnesota blogger and I follow several other blogs written by Minnesotans. Here are the addresses:

    The Woo Woo Teacup Journal –
    my current blog: http://woowooteacup.wordpress.com

    Filter & Splice – my old blog – no longer updated, but still online: http://filterandsplice.blogspot.com/

    Lost Marbles by Jody Scott-Olson:
    http://anovelspot.wordpress.com/ and also here: http://lostmarblebooks.blogspot.com/

    Ambivalent Muse by Amy Hunter:
    http://ambivalentmuse.wordpress.com/

    JoyErickson’s Weblog: http://joyerickson.wordpress.com/

    I’ll be watching to see what blogs you uncover. Will you be updating about this topic on Twitter? If so, I’ll follow you.

  2. Submitted by Joanna O'Connell on 12/08/2008 - 04:07 pm.

    Justin, I always like discovering new and interesting blogs. Your article got me to ask myself a question,especially as you say what kinds of blogs you are and are not interested in writing about. Do you see your task as similar to that of a restaurant reviewer, as in “anyone can eat here, and it is to be expected that some will publish their opinions?” or like that of a movie reviewer, as in “PLEASE come see my movie, read the reviews!” I ask because there something both public and not quite public about blogolandia, where some are working really hard to drive up readership, and some are not.
    Yes, I know that what is published in a blog is somehow, be definition, not public unless the blog has restricted access, but not everyone blogging out there is expecting to be reviewed in an online publication. I’ll be interested in your view!

  3. Submitted by Justin Piehowski on 12/08/2008 - 05:18 pm.

    Hey Joanna,
    Thanks for the comment. I don’t think my columns will fall into either category directly.

    I’d like to point readers to blogs they otherwise wouldn’t have found with some kind of tie to the state of Minnesota.

    Next, I feel I owe it to readers to open some kind of conversation about best practices in blogging. Lots of people do it for lots of different reasons. I’d like to help the public decide what works and what doesn’t.

    Finally, I want to acknowledge those who are trying blogging simply because they can. Not because there’s a huge money behind it or their boss mandates it, but because they feel they have something to share with the world. Blogs allow that like no other medium in history.

    People talk all the time about ‘people-powered media’ and the ‘democratization’ of journalism. But, what does that mean? I don’t know which experiments will survive and what won’t, but it’ll be fun to watch, won’t it?

    -JP

  4. Submitted by Eric Bergeson on 12/08/2008 - 08:56 pm.

    One average, 500 people per day check out my weblog at the above site. It features political comment, reports on my 97-year old great Aunt Olla, photographs and travel commentary.

  5. Submitted by Mitch Berg on 12/09/2008 - 09:59 am.

    “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.”

    But as the Strib’s misbegotten “Blog House” has showed us, one person’s thoughtful original content is the other person’s “bashing” – and that decision usually depends entirely on agreeing about politics.

    Should I expect much better here?

  6. Submitted by Justin Piehowski on 12/09/2008 - 04:31 pm.

    Hey Mitch,
    Love the Blog House. I don’t intend to be all focused on politics, in fact, I don’t seeing it being a huge part of the column.

    But, if there’s substance to it, we may get into it.

    -JP

  7. Submitted by Eva Young on 12/09/2008 - 10:00 pm.

    “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.”

    EY: A couple questions:

    1. What is your definition of “harsh political blog?”

    2. Why not just talk about “harsh blogs”, rather than use the “political” descriptor? There are plenty of blogs on non-political topics that bash those that disagree with the blogger.

    Your dismissal of political blogs bothers me. It suggests that politics is a dirty and dishonorable profession. There are many honorable people in politics who are interested in good public policy. Sports blogs, movie blogs, celebrity blogs, science blogs etc can all include posts that are scathing about their various targets. In the science blogosphere, read Orac on the “anti-vaccinationists” and PZ Myers about creationists.

    If what you mean by a “nice blog” is a blog that avoids taking a strong stand on anything, then that sounds a bit boring to me. The more interesting blogs to me are the ones who write well reasoned opinions.

  8. Submitted by Mitch Berg on 12/11/2008 - 06:12 am.

    “Love the Blog House.”

    Justin, that’s a *really* bad start.

  9. Submitted by Joel Rosenberg on 12/11/2008 - 02:39 pm.

    You’re like, doing a Ric Romero impersonation, right? That’s, like, kinda funny. Sorta.

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