When It Comes to Blogs, There Aren't Enough Words

By Leslie Walker
Sunday, January 29, 2006

Okay, Web fans, it's time for new lingo to help us get a grip on the vast self-publishing landscape known as the blogosphere. Blogs vary so much that they cry out for pithy names to describe each of their many genres.

Stop by the Web site of the 2006 Bloggies ( http://2006.bloggies.com/ ) to get an idea of what we're talking about. More than 100 blogs have been selected as finalists for the best in Weblog publishing in 30 categories. Voting is open to the public through Tuesday; winners will be announced in mid-March.

The Bloggies do a nice job identifying key categories in the boundless blog landscape, but their contest lingo needs work. Somehow, "entertainment Weblog" doesn't capture the snarky new celebrity sites that were named finalists. Bloggerazzi or Snarkouts strike us as better labels for these Web tabloids giving Hollywood fits (especially since some are penned by showbiz underlings who do makeup and wardrobe for the stars.)

Two reality-TV producers, who author a Bloggerazzi site that's a finalist for Best American Weblog, post celebrity photos and skewer their outfits. A caption below Kimberly Stewart -- daughter of rocker Rod Stewart -- last week said: "That sad little Alice band, the pathetic little rabbit-fur collar, the so-summer-2005 white motorcycle bag, the nipples, the knee-length leggings?"

As categories go, "group Weblog" doesn't work, either. Just because more than one person writes a blog does not a category make. The five finalists for best "group Weblog" include one about life in New York (Gothamist) , three that examine technology through quirky lenses (LifeHacker, Engadget and WorldChanging) and one dishing up commentary on "wonderful things" (Boing Boing).

Think about how we use "blog" in conversation and compare that with our more evolved slang for print publications. Nobody calls Sports Illustrated a "group magazine." And we don't call everything we read on paper a "print." In newspapers, we talk about dailies, alternative weeklies, tabloids, even supermarket tabloids.

So let's stop leaning on "blog" as the only noun to describe every site published in the bloggy format -- with short entries displayed in reverse chronological order, in a narrow column running like a laundry chute straight down the home page.

Maybe we refer to corporate blogs that tout causes or products as "flogs" or sites with edgy opinions as "Bloggerel."

There are so many specialty blogs, you have to wonder why crafts and food merited their own Bloggie awards this year, but not games, shopping, law or parenting. Maybe we should starting calling all topical blogs (which did merit their own award) Blopics.

One category has its own phrase but no award -- warblogs. You'd think as long as the Bush administration is in power, warblogs would merit their own Bloggie. Baghdad Burning, nominated this year for the "Best African or Middle Eastern Weblog award," would be an obvious finalist. Written by a young Iraqi woman, it has done much to help Americans understand the war's impact on civilians.

Finalists in one new category, "best teen Weblog," illustrate the need for better lingo to differentiate online publications. There's a world of difference between the three teen diaries that got nominated and the two topical ones (about politics and music). You Ain't No Picasso, focused on independent bands, represents a hot emerging genre of teen media. It is written by Matt Jordan, a 19-year-old journalism major at the University of Kentucky. "The fact that a 19-year-old kid like myself can receive anywhere from two to five packages a day from record labels shows that blogs are starting to be taken seriously," Jordan said via e-mail.

His writings are worlds apart from Natalie D'Addona, a 19-year-old in New York whose Forbidden Style personal diary is up for the same award. Paralyzed from the waist down from a car wreck last August, she said she started blogging after her doctor suggested it might help her sort out her feelings and help others.

"As far as blogging is concerned, it has helped me a great deal," she said in an e-mail. "Writing all of my progress down and the things that go on in my everyday life helps me see everything I go through."

So pay a visit to the Weblogs Awards site and check out these sites nominated as the best in personal publishing. Then drop us a line if you have ideas for new blog genres or buzzwords to describe them.

Leslie Walker welcomes e-mail atwalkerl@washpost.com.

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