Quick, what was the catchiest idea about blogs to sweep the Web last year: podcasting, food blogging parties, group photo captions or themed photo contests?
If you haven't even heard of those trends, you have until Thursday to check them out at the site of the 2005 Bloggies and to choose from five finalists for the "best meme" -- that is, a "replicating idea that spread about Weblogs." Twenty-nine other categories are also up for a vote in the Bloggies, which aim to celebrate the best in Web log publishing.
"The point of the Bloggies is to highlight the best blogs around, especially ones that are good but nobody's heard about," said Nikolai Nolan, the University of Michigan senior who created the contest (www.bloggies.com) in 2000.
New categories this year include food blogging, added after chefs started going wild posting recipes and illustrating them with photos. Finalists include 101cookbooks.com, TastingMenu.com and CookingforEngineers.com. Also new is entertainment, which replaces music; L.A. gossip rag Defamer (www.defamer.com) is a finalist in that category.
The meme nominees tend to reflect the biggest blogging trends, and this year they mirror the growing popularity of photos.
Meme finalist Photo Friday (www.photofriday.com) organizes a themed contest every week, challenging bloggers to post links to their photos exploring such topics as "neglect" and "stop signs." The photo-album service Flickr (www.flickr.com), another finalist, helps bloggers post photos and lets anyone index and publish captions for other people's images.
A popular food site is also up for best meme: Is My Blog Burning (www.ismyblogburning.com) invites bloggers to publish recipes based on a different set of ingredients each month. Another meme finalist is Podcasting -- a buzzword to describe the new practice of recording one's thoughts, then posting the sound file so people can copy it to their iPods and other music players for listening on their commute.
The last meme finalist is the Grey Album, a reference to the protest staged online in February over the record industry's attempt to ban DJ Danger Mouse's "Grey Album," a remix of music from Jay-Z and the Beatles.
Honors for most-nominated site go to the South-East Asia Earthquake and Tsunami Blog (tsunamihelp.blogspot.com), a finalist in four categories, including Weblog of the Year.
Winners will be announced March 14 at the South by Southwest conference in Austin. Nolan, the awards founder, said they won't be Webcast, just announced in an Internet Relay Chat channel. As for awards, winners mostly get contributions of coupons or $20 from their fellow bloggers. But the affair, Nolan noted, is more about pride than prizes.
AOL to Newsgroups: Goodbye!
A blog forerunner of sorts is biting the dust at America Online. The Dulles-run online service notified users last week that it will soon stop offering access to Usenet newsgroups. These discussion forums predate the World Wide Web and once constituted the bulk of AOL's Internet capability. But over the past several years, they have been overshadowed by newer outlets, including Web message boards and blogs.
After AOL shuts down its newsgroup gateway sometime in February -- it hasn't announced a date -- subscribers will have to switch to such third-party services as Google's free Groups Web site (groups.google.com).
E-mail Leslie Walker at email@example.com.