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Two sides of blogging: private and public

Monday, July 3, 2006

(Photo)
Cheryl Richardson, left, and Jennifer Thorpe are two Bedford County residents who participate in blogging -- maintaining a journal-like web site called a blog. Richardson's blog is animal-related, while Thorpe's is more about her home life.
(T-G Photo by John I. Carney)
Cheryl Richardson and Jennifer Thorpe are local friends who both have blogs, but they take completely different approaches to the process.

Richardson's blog, "Richardson Zoo," helps promote the local humane association and kind treatment of animals in general. She happily promotes its address, http://richardsonzoo.blogspot.com , and welcomes any and all visitors.

Thorpe's blog is more family-oriented, part of a genre often referred to as "mommy blogs." It's a way for her to express herself and share the day's joys and frustrations with friends and family. She has formed out-of-town acquaintances through the blog but doesn't necessarily promote it outside her own circle.

A blog, short for "web log," is a type of web page which can be easily updated and which functions as a sort of journal. There are many different types -- political blogs, personal blogs, popular culture blogs and so on. In a blog, the most recent entry appears at the top of the page, with other entries following in reverse order.

Most blogs are maintained by a single person but there are also team blogs or group blogs where several different people have posting privileges. Richardson had been part of a group blog started by a friend of hers in Pennsylvania when, two years ago, she decided to start her own blog. At first, it was a general interest blog, but within the first month it evolved into its current focus on animal-related topics.

"I realized that was what I was really all about," said Richardson. "I'm kind of boring if I talk about myself all the time."

She likes the idea of keeping her writing skills sharp by exercising them on a regular basis.

"It's a good daily discipline, I think."

The blog has attracted readership from diverse places.

"I have a lot of British readers, believe it or not," she said. When Nashville Is Talking, a Middle Tennessee blog directory run by WKRN-TV, picked her up, she saw another boost in traffic.

"A lot more people read about me than I thought would," she said.

Like many bloggers, she checks the statistics to see how many people are reading her blog and how they got there. Many were looking for information about pet illnesses.

Thorpe, who has five children, started her blog a year and a half ago.

"Mine is what you call a 'mommy blog,'" she said. In addition to news of her family, she talks about other aspects of her life, such as winning a car in a sweepstakes or preparing to get cochlear implants.

Both women have ended up having real-life meetings with out-of-town acquaintances they found through their blogs. Richardson met a friend in Pennsylvania who shares her love of the rock band Moody Blues. They attended a concert together and found themselves in a hotel lounge chatting with members of the band later that night.

Thorpe met a friend in Savannah, Ga., as a result of her blogging.

Both women use relatively straightforward blogging software, not the more elaborate "MySpace" site popular with teenagers and recording artists.

"I think that's more for the teenyboppers," said Thorpe.

Richardson, who works in the library at Middle Tennessee State University, noticed teenagers attending a recent Governor's School event sitting in the library and using MySpace to communicate with each other -- even though they were sitting right next to one another!

Some bloggers are chagrined when family or co-workers discover their blogs, being less concerned with what out-of-towners think of them than with the potentially-harsh judgment of people who know them. Richardson and Thorpe say they have no such concerns, and Thorpe even encouraged her mother to read her blog.

"She's one of my best readers," said Thorpe.

Richardson agrees. "I try not to say anything on the blog that I wouldn't say in person," she said. The title of her blog, Richardson Zoo, is a tongue-in-cheek reference to life with many animals. ("Pet hair is a condiment here" is the blog's tagline.) But she jokes that one potential constituency may not like the name.

"I'm sure that the zoo down in Richardson, Texas, doesn't like my blog," she laughed. "I took their name."