Tonight Laurel, my wife, found a clipping from the August 12, 2005 Statesman Journal. Wow, there I was in the "Got Blogs?" story by Angela Yeager, looking 16 years younger than I do now.
Naturally my first thought was, I've got to write a blog post about how blogs were looked upon back in 2005.
Yeager did an excellent job at capturing the excitement of the Dawn of Blogging. Below you can read her entire story, which I was pleased to capture with my halfway decent touch typing skill.
My second thought was, I wonder if Google still looks kindly on my blog post about washing lettuce that Yeager mentioned in the story. Sadly, that post has disappeared from a "wash lettuce" search. At least, I gave up looking for it after going through 10 Google search pages.
But the post lives on in all its 2004 glory. So you can still check out "American Splendor/I learn to wash lettuce." Hey, that post has faded from Internet fame, but I bet it still is the only blog post about washing lettuce to mention comic book artist Robert Crumb.
Regarding the other bloggers mentioned in this piece, www.williambragg.com still exists. Way to go, William! Hopefully college student at the time Stacy Austin is still blogging, but I have no way of knowing for sure.
Here's the Statesman Journal story.
Brian Hines has written and published several books during the past 15 years, but felt his work was disappearing into a black hole.
The Salem resident has found another way to reach a much wider audience with his words -- through his two Internet blogs, HinesSight and Church of the Churchless.
Blogs, or web logs, started in the early 1990s as an offshoot of Web sites. Most were just personal diaries where bloggers could post their intimate thoughts and feelings.
But as Internet popularity rises, so has the use of blogs to do everything from covering political events to posting favorite recipes. The uses are endless, and the popularity of blogs is skyrocketing.
How many people are blogging is a question of debate. A site such as Technorati, a service that tracks blogging topics and trends, estimates that there are 12 million blogs worldwide, up from 100,000 in 2003.
BlogHerald, another blogging tracking site and news service, estimates there are 60 million bloggers.
Hines, 56, said his blog grew out of his growing frustration with the publishing world. He moved to Salem with his wife, Laurel, and the couple reside in a 10-acre country setting south of Salem with their dog, Serena.
His books, including a 2004 meditation on the Greek philosopher Plotinus, seemed to disappear as soon as they hit the shelves.
"The silence is deafening," Hines said over an ice tea at his home.
"With blogs, you write something that takes maybe a day and then it's gone. It belongs to others then. And unlike a novel, within minutes you have instant feedback. You realize you've touched someone."
Hines estimates he gets about 1,000 page views per day on his HinesSight blog, which is daily reflections from his life on "HinesLand," his nickname for his home.
HinesSight is where readers can go to find Hines writing about everything from the best way to get rid of yellow jackets, to the dog parade in downtown Salem, to arguments with Laurel on the proper methods of washing lettuce.
One of the big draws of blogs over a regular web site is that blogs register much higher on search engines such as Google.
For instance, type in "wash lettuce" on Google, and the second highest hit is Hines' blog on his lettuce washing debate with Laurel.
Hines' other blog, Church of the Churchless, takes on more serious subjects such as spirituality, meditation and faith, and only gets several hundred page views a day.
For a writer such as Hines, blogs are heaven sent.
"The frustration of writing books is you spend so long on one piece of work, and then you have to depend on someone else like a publisher to get it out there," he said.
"With a blog, for free or for $100 a year, you've got the whole world at your fingertips."
Frustrated writers aren't the only people who use blogs though. Bloggers were at both the 2004 Republican and Democratic National Conventions last year, writing every detail of the political parade on their blogs. This kind of citizen journalism is rising quickly -- resulting in conservative blogs, liberal blogs, blogs for anarchists, Libertarians, Greens and everyone in between.
A search on Orblogs.com, a site where Oregon-based bloggers can register, turns up hundreds of entries. Amateur film critics post their reviews of movies they've seen, music lovers list favorite songs to download or albums to check out and members of the Pacific Northwest Fiber Bloggers post pictures and tips on their latest knitting projects.
If you have an interest or political view, you are guaranteed to find a blog somewhere by someone who shares your view.
Then there are people such as Salem resident William Bragg. A traveler sho works for Willamette Academy, Bragg, 37, and his wife Jeani Bragg, moved to Salem in 1999 so she could take a job at Willamette University. He started his blog, www.williambragg.com, as a way to stay in contact with his friends all over the world.
"I'm just really bad at staying in touch with people," he said.
"I have friends and family everywhere, so it was just an easy way for people to drop in when they wanted and see what was going on with me."
Bragg said he doesn't get too personal on his blog -- the site is too easily Googled.
He posts funny articles that he thinks his friends might be interested in, and sometimes posts on his own favorite subjects -- youth issues, education and the Boston Red Sox.
His entries on the Red Sox were so easy to find that when the team won the World Series last year, he was called by East Coast newspapers to comment because they needed a fan living in the West.
Sometimes the ease of finding a certain subject can be misleading. Bragg said he commented on his blog one time about a guy participating in Klingon Karaoke who had the name Jigar Mehta. People who were searching online for a Miss Norway contestant from Iran who was disqualified for acting in porn movies ended up on Bragg's site, much to his surprise. A fellow blogger clued Bragg in -- apparently "jigar" is also a term for a sexy Iranian female.
Bragg says he also uses his blog as a way to post his photography, which has started to gain some attention.
He said he has had exhibits at coffee shops in Salem, but also is getting nice feedback online.
Freedom of expression
While his own blog is not updated daily and is more for fun, Bragg says he has friends who are blogging professionally. Some bloggers are finding advertisers for their blogs, or ask people to donate money to them.
And some are getting co-opted by corporations. Bragg said he has a friend who used to write a daily blog about the bands he loves. That music lover still writes that blog -- but now is getting paid by a record company to talk up bands signed to that particular label.
Bragg thinks the democracy of blogs will only continue to make them popular.
The accessibility can't be beat. Sites such as Blogger.com are free, while ones such as Typepad cost $5 to $9 per month.
"There's nothing romantic about what I'm doing and what other people are doing," Bragg said. "A lot of it is ego. But I think any new form of communication, especially one that gives access to those who wouldn't have it otherwise, is positive.
Hines said he sees a danger when people are only getting information from blogs that agree with their particular life perspective.
For instance, a self-professed liberal such as Hines can post comments on a conservative blog, but he said his comments are deleted immediately.
College students also have found a home on blogs, where they can post personal information, as well as write about their interests.
Stacy Austin, 21, is a political science major at Oregon State University. She writes a personal blog, as well as one related to her summer internship with PolitiCorps, a division of the progressive organization Oregon Bus Project. Austin said she has been using computers since she was 7 and sees blogs as a natural extension of the Internet.
"In the future, blogs and Web sites will be synonymous," she said.
"People always ask me, 'Why do you blog?' You can't really understand unless you blog yourself. They build a community. People who build blogs feel connected. People who read my blog tend to be female and in college. I've had fathers e-mail me and say I remind them of their daughter, that reading my blog is like connecting to their kids."
Hines said those kinds of connections is the reason that blogs will continue to proliferate.
"In a way, it's a gamble because you're opening yourself up," he said.
"On the other hand, you see these aspects that everyone has strange ideas and no one is 'normal.' You start to realize that the weirdest thing is to be completely normal. It can be a profound experience to realize you are not alone in this world."