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Date: 02 December, 2005

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'Blues and Twos offers a police officer's view of newsworthy events and is something of an eye opener.'

Ray Hatley delves into the world of the web log, of blog as they are more commonly known.

I am afraid I was horribly amused when I first heard the word ‘BLOG’ spoken aloud. Like a small boy I sniggered to myself and then realised it wasn’t a rude word at all.

Some time later I realised that internet Blogging (or writing a personal weB LOG of day to day events or thoughts) was becoming a large part of popular culture and needed some serious investigation. Later still I realised that rather important people were taking Bloggers very seriously indeed and actually regarded them as social commentators - albeit people who will happily accept any audience.

Currently, the UK Web Archiving Consortium is about to start a pilot project to preserve certain carefully selected BLOG sites for posterity. They are perceived as a record of the way people are thinking and talking in the early 2000s and it is felt they should be preserved for future researchers to enjoy.

The simple fact is that Blogs are huge. Top blog tracking site Technorati has information on over 12.8 million blogs – a truly amazing number when you think that it mostly represents ordinary people writing down their everyday experiences.

Obviously, Blogs are very personal so it makes sense that the really interesting Blogs will be written by people with the same interests as you. For example: people who may have attended the same event as you and are giving their own perspective on what happened.

I have seen a few excellent Blogs like this one from Greenbelt which gives an interesting and well written account of the festival but be warned – there are a lot of Bloggers out there convinced they can write like Dick Francis. I can only say that they may be mistaken…

As you might expect from a ‘free’ medium like the internet, a lot of Blogs tend to be written with a strong bias that may not conform with your own way of thinking. This is not always bad, as a good Blog can sometimes help you to see another person’s perspective on a situation.

Law enforcement, for example, is always facing criticism but I was most impressed by Blues and Twos that offers a police officer’s view of newsworthy events. This site is definitely worth a visit and is something of an eye opener.

Equally fascinating and infinitely more entertaining (although the faithfully reported criminal’s dialogue can occasionally get a tad fruity) is The Law West of Ealing Broadway which is written by a practising Magistrate and tells of the cases brought before him in court. This is definitely one of my favourites.

Diet and weight loss blogs are also a popular phenomenon. I'm particularly referring to those blogs which are personal journals. Some are really poignant and horribly explicit while others are nothing but weigh-ins and daily calorie counts - but they all serve a purpose. There is something about Blogging that gives emotional support to the writer and, in turn, leaves the reader feeling like they are part of the experience. Think of the Fat is really painful stuff but Diet Girl gives hope to all those poor folk who, like me, are horizontally challenged.

Curiously, some Bloggers seem to be extremists who unashamedly use their Blog as a platform to scream about a multitude of perceived injustices. Their Blogs are quite hard to read as they often rant rather than write.

Some Blogs are concerned with the way news is presented and others try to show their readers how they are constantly being conned by the establishment. To get more of an idea you really need to see Nanny Knows Best which attacks what they see as our ‘Nanny’ state. More of the same can be found at Biased BBC which sees itself as a weapon in the war against officialdom.

Politics are an obvious target for many Bloggers but for those of us who only require edited highlights, then a few well written and researched Blogs suffice. One of my favourites (I live on the Welsh Border) is What's wrong with Wales a thoroughly entertaining Blog which mercilessly pillories the Welsh Assembly.

Almost every week, a Minister in the Welsh Assembly conducts a media briefing which is then summarised by Assembly civil servants and published in indigestible fashion on the Assembly's website. This gloriously scurrilous Welsh Blog is another version of the same information, intended to be ‘a little easier to read and understand’. It also provides an irresistible opportunity to comment!

What you will quickly come to realise is that there are Blogs for everyone. Every conceivable taste and interest is there in Blog form waiting for you to click on the link. Just enter your favourite topic into Google followed by the word Blog and see what happens.

It needn’t end there. If you now feel you could handle starting your own Blog then nothing could be easier. Just go to Blogger which offers a really easy way to get started. It takes about ten minutes to create your own free Blog site and then you are free to publish just about anything you like.

Go and see for yourself – millions of other people do every day.

Ray Hatley is a freelance journalist working for a number of national newspapers ands magazines.

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