THE OLD-fashioned notion of a diary is of a little book filled with your secret, innermost thoughts. In the 21st-century, only an unrepentant Luddite uses pen and paper any more. It seems these days the only place to commit your thoughts to posterity is in cyberspace - and in plain view of millions around the globe.
These online diaries, known as weblogs, or blogs, achieved a certain kind of notoriety when the story of high-class London call girl Belle de Jour hit the headlines this year thanks to her scandalous online revelations. Now the girl who had everyone guessing at her identity is to turn her salacious blog into a book, encouraged, no doubt, by a six-figure publishing deal.
This is not the only time blogging has attracted controversy. Earlier this month, CBS anchorman Dan Rather sparked a huge debate in the US by claiming to have documentary proof that George Bush had shirked his military responsibilities. The report went to the top of the news agendas Stateside, but CBS was soon forced to issue an apology as the blogging community made it known that his story did not add up.
Meanwhile, only last month James Wolcott, Vanity Fair’s culture critic, decided to make his opinions known online. On his new daily blog, he airs his views on everything from the less-than-stellar CNN coverage of the Democratic convention to the latest reality television shows. But blogging is not just about self-promotion.
Many bloggers work under pseudonyms, but develop cult followings nonetheless. There are as many different blogs as there are things to talk about, from political debate and celebrity gossip to the quotidian details of an otherwise unremarkable life. Sites often offer the chance for readers to air their own views in response, and usually offer links to other sites the reader may find interesting.
So for those of you who’ve never blogged, or cybersurfers looking for new places to visit, here’s our own eclectic guide to some of the best blogs around at the moment...
GOSSIP AND HUMOUR
What is it? Occasionally vicious look at the antics of celebrities cavorting around Manhattan. Has been labelled the Godfather of the blogosphere because of its commentary on New York’s media culture.
Sample: [This piece attacked an article appearing in the New York Times entitled " How Young Is Too Young to Have a Nose Job and Breast Implants?"] "Helping Your Children Be Less Ugly? The New York Times is, predictably, so in touch with its readers. Especially the readers who are breeders of cracked-out uptown tween girls with oodles of designer lip gloss and a hankering for a Sweet Sixteen Rhinoplasty party. As such, there’s a handy guide for parents who can’t actually determine whether or not it’s appropriate for a high school freshman to get DD implants or lipo on her fat ass. It’s service journalism for the Jocelyn Wildenstein-set."
Name: Raised by Chaffinches (www.owdo.blogspot.com)
What is it? The utterly mad meanderings of a chap who claims that as a baby, he was left in a wood by his real parents and brought up by a lovely chaffinch couple.
Sample: "I sent a rude message to my mate Robbo by the following method: Enter the rude text message on your mobile, then send it to a landline. When the phone is picked up at the other end, an automated BT lady conveys the message in very posh tones - which makes it sound even funnier. The way she says ‘pillock’ is hilarious. The only trouble was he phoned me back and claimed his young grand-daughter had picked up the phone and been on the receiving end. He’s such a wind-up merchant, I don’t know if he’s having me on or not.
"So be careful if you do it and don’t tell them it was me that told you about it."
What is it?Alistair Coleman describes his blog thus: "An account of the interesting and varied life of Scaryduck - genius and gentleman explorer." His blogs are witty ramblings on everything from a lighthearted account of his attempt at reading The Da Vinci Code to the hostage situations in Iraq.
Sample: "My Wednesday night viewing of Property Ladder was spoiled - spoiled I say - by the sight of a huge lump on the front of Sarah Beeny. You mean to tell me that *sob* she’s promised her lightly-oiled body to another man? How dare a married wonky-eyed celebrity with enormous norkage have sex with her husband! I daren’t watch Location Location Location any more just in case Kirstie Allsopp goes through with her sex change operation. Oh celebrities - why do you betray me so?"
What is it? Smoker, maintained by Rob Hinchcliffe, includes daily entries on a wealth of topics including cinema, music, technology and design. The Guardian voted it the blog with best layout and design.
Sample: "Forget Tony Blair’s speech to the party conference, the big news yesterday was the publication of the annual Superbrands survey, the definitive list of ‘cool’. The survey, supported by the Brand Council of the UK, asked a panel of cool ‘experts’ (although we didn’t see Fonzie’s name mentioned) to name their ‘five hippest brands’ which were then compiled into a definitive list. There was also a poll of the public, who apparently voted Tesco, Asda, Persil and Birds Eye on to their list of cool. Which sounds suspiciously as though the pollsters got bored and just asked the nearest supermarket checkout queue for their opinions so they could go and hang out with the editor of Dazed & Confused again."
What is it? One of the internet’s most successful surrealists, Joel Veitch is the founder of Rathergood.com (otherwise known as the Lair of the Crab of Ineffable Wisdom), and the man behind the hilarious singing kittens and those dancing penguins on the Maestro TV ads. His site started out as a blog, and he has recently taken up the cudgels once again.
Sample: "Yesterday I learned that Rheas [large flightless birds] in Brazil are being chased around by a man with a stuffed Jaguar in a wheelbarrow, and another wearing a Scream mask and cape. What a fantastic way to spend your time.
"They’re doing it to try to instil a fear of natural predators in captively raised birds before they’re released, but apparently have just given them a morbid terror of wheelbarrows."
What is it? For aficionados of today’s by-election, Hartlepool’s Lib Dem candidate Jody Dunn has caught the attention of many voters - as well as the Labour Party. In July, a press officer from the Labour campaign e-mailed the site to contest Dunn’s claim that "the Labour Party have already sent out a press release saying I’m a single mother... the lies have started already". He reputedly offered Mrs Dunn 10 if she could produce the alleged press release.
Sample: "Saturday was also the first opportunity I’ve had for a couple of days to read all your feedback. Thanks for all your comments. On one point - no I wasn’t a Tory at St Andrews, or anywhere else for that matter. I have no idea where that rumour came from! Just another Labour smear I guess. I was also really pleased to meet Nicola Davies today (who just missed out on beating Labour in the Birmingham Hodge Hill by-election). Her by-election was a lot shorter than this one, but in terms of the press, the pressure and Labour’s personal smears it was very similar."
What is it? Wide-ranging political commentary from Tim Ireland, a web consultant who prefers to be known as Manic.
Sample: "Boris Johnson said it best; nailing Blair is like trying to pin jelly to a wall. But considering what’s at stake, we have to continue to try. In the next few weeks, it might also be fun to count the number of times Blair tries to draw a new line under Iraq and/or goes with his usual bluff of letting people decide ‘at the polls’."
What is it? Temporary blog by Abigail Bosanko, about the release of her second novel, A Nice Girl Like Me.
Sample: "It’s the day after the launch party and I’ve spent five hours lying on the sofa. The fridge is full of leftovers, the bin is full of bottles... I can see my pink, pointy shoes lying where I kicked them off when I couldn’t stand the pain any longer. It was a good party. My husband made a speech which had far better comic material than anything in my novel. He had tormented me for weeks about what he might reveal about my foibles. In the end, I think I got off lightly."
Name: The Fifty Quid Bloke (www.50quid.org)
What is it? Calls himself the saviour of the music industry, based on newspaper stories claiming fortysomethings now buy more albums than teens.
Sample: "If you’re going to set up a band, make sure it’s got a name no-one will forget. This is clearly something you don’t need to tell Lesbians on Ecstasy. Their first album is out at the end of October, I’m sure a concerted effort by a few thousand people could get them to the top of the download chart."