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Technology

What the US Could Learn About Blogging

Bloggers may claim they talk about the same subjects the world over, but Deutsche Welle’s Best of the Blogs exposed regional differences in blogospheres -- and the competitions they take part in.

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Vote now for your favorite Weblog

Deutsche Welle’s 2004 International Best of the Blogs Awards proved people all over the world are using Weblogs to publish their thoughts on everything from yachting to handicraft tutorials. Over 1,000 Weblogs were suggested for the BOBs -- the Best of the Blogs -- some commenting on international politics and others on what the blog’s creator did last Saturday night.

Even when bloggers use similar descriptions for the topics they cover, "journalism," "media" and "technology" themes top the list. But Deutsche Welle’s international Weblog competition has confirmed that the blogosphere isn’t a homogeneous place. Instead it’s one where language and culture play influential roles -- even when bloggers claim they’re talking about the same topics.

While not a scientific study, participation in the BOBs voting has shown stark differences between blogospheres.

Whereas Portuguese readers have come out en masse, with 5,707 voting for their favorite blog in the language’s Best Journalism category, just 303 people have taken part in voting to decide which blogs received the English language’s Best Journalism User Award.

Are Portuguese bloggers just better at mobilizing readers to go and vote than their English-language counterparts or do the differences lie somewhere else?

Award burnout

"There are already US blog competitions," Jim Romenesko of the Poynter Institute told DW-WORLD. "Maybe Americans are sticking with those contests."

In addition to well-known Weblog awards like the Bloggies, which started in 2001, and its counterpart the Anti-Bloggies, many British and American newspapers also sponsor annual competitions.

The English language could be suffering from award burnout. It’s a feeling that BOBs nominee Dave Shea, author of Mezzoblue, said he could imagine setting in the blogosphere psyche.

"I haven't won a ton of awards," Shea said. "But even so, the first one is always more significant than the seventh or 21st."

Election mania

This year timing is also an issue. In early November most bloggers around the world had one thing on their mind -- who would be the next US President.

The Bush-Kerry debate held the attention of bloggers in all seven of the BOBs’ competition languages -- Arabic, Chinese, English, German, Portuguese, Russian and Spanish. But while the world’s bloggers were examining America, American bloggers were scrutinizing themselves.

Characteristic of the rest of American media, bloggers in the United States, home to the world’s most blogs, were busy looking inward and analyzing what was happening in their own backyard rather than looking out into the international arena.

Soon the blogosphere will see whether the end of the election means the inward-oriented US bloggers will start looking abroad for ideas and influences. The media can only benefit from doing so, as Deutsche Welle's BOBs' nominees from the rest of the world show that there's a lot to offer outside the US and English.

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