Every blog has its day

MY OBJECTIVE WAS OUTLINED IN AN e-mail and was sent on July 26, 2005,

to a consortium of Newsport-Mesa newsmakers:

Dear (Sir or Ms.),

This is Elia Powers from the Daily Pilot newspaper. I am writing

an article about bloggers in Newport-Mesa and am looking to see what

blogs some of our residents read and write. If you could respond by

e-mail with your name, I would appreciate it.

The number of blogs doubles every five months, according to

Technorati, a blog-tracking firm. Right now, there are approximately

14.2 million of them, and I wanted to know more about the bloggers in

our midst. Here's what my inquiry revealed.

POST NO. 1: THE MEANING OF A BLOG

It's difficult to discern true emotion over the Internet, yet

parts of Kiril Kundurazieff's e-mail did seem unmistakably sincere.

"Being online, and then becoming a blogger, changed my life," he

wrote.

And so, for this story, it seemed essential to contact

Kundurazieff, a longtime Costa Mesa resident who moved to Santa Ana a

month ago when his apartment lease ended.

Pre-interview research was a cinch. There's no shortage of space

on the Web, and Kundurazieff takes full advantage, including enough

personal fodder to piece together a short autobiography.

Like many who call themselves bloggers, Kundurazieff keeps his

postings close to home.

He writes about his daily experiences, his favorite restaurants,

even his politics.

In a one-week span, he described in detail a 45-minute tour of

Newport Beach's new Mormon temple and a 27-mile bicycle tour of Costa

Mesa.

Some of Kundurazieff's readers simply know him as the Cycling

Dude, the name of his 2-year-old blog dedicated to transportation on

two wheels. (He doesn't own a car.) Others know him from Sneakeasy's

Joint, the online diary he jokingly used to refer to as "Huntingport

Mesa's #1 Blog."

One thing was certain: Communicating with Kundurazieff would be

easy. If nothing else, bloggers are attentive to reader inquiries.

What good is your name and what value is this medium if you aren't

responding in real time?

The e-mail messages shot back and forth. It was time to use the

old-fashioned method of corresponding. The phone rang.

POST NO. 2: THE CATALYST

On a hectic Friday morning, a message flashes across my computer

screen: "I thought you might be interested in seeing the Web log I

launched recently."

The author is Geoff West, a Costa Mesa resident and an opinion

writer whose commentary regularly appears in the Daily Pilot's Forum

pages.

The link leads to A Bubbling Cauldron, a new site devoted

primarily to musings about political happenings in his hometown. For

those wondering, there is space in cyberspace dedicated to one

person's thoughts on life in Newport-Mesa.

This site has a decidedly local focus, paying homage to the people

who make news in these two towns.

Which leads to the question: Are the newsmakers also blog

consumers?

POST NO. 3: THE ANSWER

About a dozen people responded to my e-mail. Here is a sample of

the responses:

"I don't read any blogs. I'm hopelessly out of the mainstream

there," wrote Newport Beach Assistant City Manager Dave Kiff.

"Sorry to say I don't understand blogging and don't visit blog

sites," wrote philanthropist and columnist Jim de Boom.

"I don't read any blogs. I don't have the time to read about

people's opinions on issues," responded Newport Beach Chamber of

Commerce President Richard Luehrs.

Some were apologetic. Others expressed an interest in learning

more. But few who responded gave any indication that blogging had

reached them -- or the mainstream.

The act of blogging is a fairly recent phenomenon, one that became

increasingly popular in the months before the 2004 presidential

election.

Increasingly, Internet providers are becoming blog hosts,

providing people with free server space. That means blogging isn't

just for the techies anymore.

Technorati, a website that tracks blogs, identified 14.2 million

sites in late July -- a more than 50% increase from findings five

months earlier.

Which leads to the question: Who is doing the writing?

POST 4: IN WRITING, HE'S POLITICAL

"I'm not a writer," answers West in a smooth, monotone voice from

his home in Costa Mesa. "I'm just a guy who writes."

West, 64, has lived in Costa Mesa for more than half his life. He

spent a large part of his career as a headhunter for regional

companies. These days, he is enjoying retirement.

Politics never really piqued West's interest. City Council agendas

rarely crossed his mind.

"I was like most everybody here," he said. "They just rock along

... Unless there's a sink hole that forms in front of your home, you

don't think about things going on."

But then West started paying attention to newspaper editorials. He

wanted a voice.

So West wrote prolifically, on topics including St. Andrew's

Presbyterian Church expansion, the Job Center's future, the state of

Costa Mesa's Westside.

He taped Costa Mesa City Council meetings and often viewed the

video more than once. After furiously penning a political essay,

West's byline often appeared in print in the next day's newspaper.

Early last month, West discovered he didn't have to wait that long

to broadcast his thoughts. He developed a blog site and began posting

regular commentary.

"It provides me a way to respond to an issue on a more timely

basis," West said.

And he is clear about his intentions: "I want it to be other than

a one-sided rant. I want people to pay attention to what's going on

around them. If 50 people decide to get involved, I'm a happy guy."

He signs the bottom of his blog, "Geoff West: The Pot Stirrer."

POST NO. 5: A COMMUNITY OF HIS OWN

Since starting his first blog in 2002, Kundurazieff has stayed

active online.

Writing had always been a pastime, but few readers ever saw his

product. A self-proclaimed introvert, his social network was limited.

That changed in 1998, when he bought his first computer and joined

message boards, where Kundurazieff was among people he considered

like-minded. He wrote opinion pieces and received critiques and

responses from fellow posters.

Almost everyone managed a blog and read each others' Web pages.

"It gave me an outlet for creative discussion," said Kundurazieff,

who works for a phone company in Huntington Beach. "It made me a more

social and outgoing person ... I started meeting people all around

the world."

One of the people he met through his blog was Mitch Reifel. Both

joined Bear Flag League, an association of politically conservative

California bloggers.

POST NO. 6: A FLASHBACK, NOV. 2, 2004

On Election Night, Kundurazieff and Reifel, along with other Bear

Flag League bloggers, huddled around a television set at Reifel's

Costa Mesa house.

This was an evening of multi-tasking. As poll numbers shifted and

electoral votes were tallied, guests chatted with each other and

added entries to their blogs.

They sat in the room until midnight, alternating between typing

and talking.

For Reifel, posting numerous times in an evening is unusual.

"I try to post once every business day and once over the weekend,"

he said. "If I don't, readers start to wonder what's going on."

POST NO. 7: WHAT IS A WINDOW MANAGER?

That's the name of Reifel's blog, which focuses primarily on

issues relating to business.

"It's someone who has a fairly high job with nothing to do --

except look out the window," Reifel explained over the telephone.

For years, that described Reifel, a high-level employee at Samsung

who was "not given a lot to do." So he found a new hobby: reading

blogs.

He started by reading sites managed by members of the "MSM" (that

blogging shorthand for mainstream media). He then discovered

business-oriented pages that catered to his interests.

Soon enough, Reifel started his own page. What began as a

politics-oriented blog turned into a place where he posted business

tidbits and occasional tips. Readers were intrigued. MBA students

loved the free advice.

He expanded his coverage, writing about business ethics and even

his own exploits. Still, he sticks to a list of unofficial blogging

rules:

1. Keep work and blogging separate.

2. Don't use full business names in your posts.

3. If it's called for, change a person's first name to keep

anonymity.

POST NO. 8: A TANGLED WEB

On the lower-right-hand portion of Reifel's blog, he posts dozens

of links that lead to other Bear Flag League sites.

"What makes blogs interesting is the commentary," he said. "You

get discussions going. It's like being at a cocktail party where you

are arguing about business or politics and no one gets upset."

To decipher the group's rallying cry, look no further than the

Bear Flag League mission statement:

"We enjoy the camaraderie of our fellow Left Coast bloggers and

the spirit and struggle of being in the minority as Conservatives

living awash in a sea of Liberals."

No one ever said blogs had to be balanced.

And when it comes to political blogging, many choose not to cross

party lines.

Newport Beach Assemblyman Chuck DeVore, a Republican, regularly

reads a group of conservative blogs -- including Orange County

Courant, the California Republican Blog and Powder Blue Report, run

by an Irvine resident.

Some choose to focus their writing or reading on a single issue.

Newport Beach homeowner Don Krotee uses his blog,

o7www.newportheights.orgf7, to outline his reasons for opposing the

St. Andrew's church expansion.

"The size of the church today is, as many in the neighborhood

feel, just too big," Krotee writes on the site. "Here is an

opportunity to show your opinion."

POST NO. 9: AN UNCERTAIN FUTURE

And therein lies the beauty of blogging: Anyone can be a pundit.

Expression is at your discretion.

Still, Reifel said he doesn't think blogging will ever replace the

mainstream media.

"It's going to be a way. It's not going to be the way," he said.

Both Reifel and West acknowledge the drawbacks of the medium.

"If there's an error made by the mainstream media, thousands of

bloggers are jumping on them checking facts," Reifel said. "For the

vast majority of blogs, no one is checking facts."

West said he has, in the past, complained about newspaper editors

removing words or phrases from his writing. Still, everyone needs an

editor, he said.

And what's one difference between West and a professional

journalist?

"I only write when I want to," he said.

Blah blah blog

Some definitions

* blog (o7n.f7) short for Web log; a chronological series of

postings, like a diary, published on a website and distributed over

the Internet --(o7vt.f7) the act of posting one's thoughts to a Web

page

* blogger (o7n.f7) one who posts such a journal; a blogger

usually includes plenty of commentary in his or her blog

* blogosphere (o7n.f7) the somewhat intangible universe where

blogs exist

* blogging (o7n.f7) the posting of a person's thoughts to a

website

* ELIA POWERS is the enterprise and general assignment reporter.

He may be reached at (714) 966-4623 or by e-mail at

o7elia.powers@latimes.comf7.

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