I did a virtual spring clean. I went through my RSS reader and had some thoughts which follow. This is perhaps not a post for the faint-hearted but persistent readers will be rewarded with some excellent links later on.
I read all my blogs through bloglines, recommended to me many years ago (2004, I think) by the ever enchanting Fluid Pudding. I rarely go to see the blogs themselves although they are much more beautiful in the flesh than the standard text offering produced by bloglines. I go to blogs to comment and I go to one blog which will only put the first couple of lines in my RSS feeder (I’m looking at you Beth Fish). Until my recent ruthless clear up of my RSS feed there were a startling 250 blogs (I am now down to a much more manageable 178) to which I was subscribed and I would glance at most of them regularly. With some regret, I unsubscribed from old blogs that I have kept on the list in the hope that they might revive (chez miscarriage, last updated 2005, still one of the best blogs ever) but stuck with some very irregular updaters on the basis that their very rare posts (approximately annual) are worth the wait (Aphra Behn) or that I care about them and want to see how they are getting on (wet feet, little blemishes, gpmama) or perhaps can’t quite face following them in another medium (Letter B – lost to twitter)
In the past, I almost always took site recommendations from other bloggers. I still do this but over the past year or so, I find myself checking out links recommended in the paper. Yes, the paper version of the paper. I tear out the relevant article and stick it in my diary for later inspection. Almost invariably, these are corporate collective type blogs, almost never individual voices. Mostly, journalists appear to go for blogs written by other journalists or commentators on media sites or collective blogs from think tanks and NGOs. There’s nothing wrong with this kind of blog but it is quite a different animal from the blog written to satisfy a personal need to communicate rather than a corporate obligation to do so.
In my spring clean of my RSS feeds I removed people who were no longer posting and I divided up the blogs I read into the following categories:
And now I’m going to tell you about them. Because I can. Here is the public service part of this post. I will give you some of my favourites from each group and why (though, like the book, they are all my favourites). You deserve this for reading thus far. And they are, unless otherwise specified, regular updaters.
20six (14 feeds)
This should really be subsumed into personal (see below) but for sentimental reasons, I keep it separate. I started my blogging life on this platform and I still remember it with fondness. All of the people listed here started on 20six. None of the people listed here are still on 20six which tells its own story.
When I first met Town Mouse (met in the broadest sense of the word, you understand) she lived in London. Now she lives in rural Scotland. She gets a lot of excellent material from bad weather.
Heather used to live in Switzerland but now lives in Greece. Less snow, a completely different relationship with bureaucracy.
Mike believes in the beauty of travel.
Lesley’s blog is called peregrinations.
Mobile bunch, aren’t they?
Belgium (4 feeds)
I don’t follow Belgian blogs much anymore following my repatriation. The woman who stole my name writes very nicely. She is gloomy. I would love her, if she wasn’t me only better. As it is, I am left with a faint sense of bitterness. Even though you probably only ended up here looking for her. Damn her.
Cartoons (10 feeds)
xkcd.com is my favourite by a long way. Very funny little stick men. Catering for the minority market for tech cartoons.
Missed connections has appealing watercolours but they are not quite cartoons. Have a look you’ll see what I mean. Also, they are very infrequently updated.
EU (4 feeds)
What can I say, I still care but following my weeding out, much less so it would appear. Of the four remaining after the cull, Jon Worth’s is by far the best. He often complains about the poor quality of the EU blogosphere, he’s right.
Factual (16 feeds)
This is where I put most of the more corporate, um factual stuff.
Pride of place here most go to Kottke.org I love this site. Its tagline is “home of fine hypertext products” and it couldn’t be more true. I have found some of the best things on the internet via Kottke. 14,414 other blogline subscribers and I find it invaluable, informative and unmissable. And very regularly updated. An observation: anything whimsical which is reported in the papers (for example, portion sizes in the last supper are getting bigger) I will almost invariably have seen earlier on the internet, usually at least a week earlier. Quite often on Kottke.
I am fond of the Sartorialist also. A man who attempts to inspire everyone to dress beautifully.
Seth Godin is perhaps a little American in approach for us Europeans, too perky and all that, but still very insightful at times (I have to say that I don’t buy his obsession with the lizard brain but buying into everything isn’t the point). I tried to apply his wisdom on powerpoint once when giving a presentation to a group of English county councillors (really, please don’t ask) and it all went horribly wrong. I still think it’s good advice though.
Lessons for Old People. Distressingly informative from time to time although I would like to emphasise that I DO actually know how to friend people on facebook, should I wish to do so.
Free Range Kids – Let your children out occasionally. It’s health and safety gone mad etc.
Ireland (19 feeds)
Nearly two years back in the country and I am still trying to get a handle on the Irish blogosphere. Since, theoretically, with the internet it doesn’t matter where you live, you might think that I could have started that process in Belgium. But it ain’t so Joe. I am much more interested in finding out about what Irish people think about everything now that I live here again. And I have found it pretty darn difficult.
Jason O’Mahony, who I started reading when I was in Belgium, is funny and on the ball about the Irish political situation but he doesn’t do much personal stuff. So far, my biggest find in my traditional blog reading field is Ken and Dot, a New Zealander and a Briton living in Dublin with their two small sons, so not entirely Irish. I quite like Fatmammycat but she is not quite what I’m looking for – too young and enthusiastic. She is trying to change the world. Admirable but tiring. I have joined a ning group of mother bloggers but so far nothing has really appealed.
On the corporate side of things, there are a number of good, competent, interesting blogs – I like Irish election best but, with a range of writers, it can be hit and miss. These blogs are fine in their way but what I really miss and what I can’t seem to find are personal blogs that I love. Blogs that talk about ordinary things on my doorstep (rather than the doorstep in Utah – snowing again apparently). Suggestions very welcome.
Me (17 feeds)
Mostly blogs by people I know or know of in real life. I can recommend my sister-in-law. I know I would have to say that anyway, so you can’t tell whether it’s true or not unless you go and check. It’s true, really.
I would recommend my friend the cappuchin but he almost never updates. Worth the wait though. Brother Lawrence, are you listening?
Bloglines can be a little cranky and it has stopped picking up Nicholas’s feed no matter what I try to do to persuade it otherwise. And shamefully, I only rarely go to check – this is because he often posts on Dr. Who and that is, frankly, a disappointment after all that clicking. It’s the other posts that are worthwhile (unless you’re a Dr. Who fan, in which case, all bets are off) and the beauty of bloglines was that you could pick up one and ignore the other. When it worked.
Personal (55 feeds)
This is by far the largest category of the blogs that I read. I pulled them all together under this heading. I used to subdivide them into mothers (obviously, I read a lot about mothers), infertility (because being infertile makes you a better writer – this appears to be true), medical (all the things medical people do, strangely compelling) and other categories (OCD anyone?). As the corporate sector grew and blogging became mainstream, I found myself reading more and different kinds of writing, I realised that all of these blogs from the different categories had one very significant thing in common. That they were personal about the authors’ real lives. And, drumroll, here are some recommendations.
Dooce: Because, although her blog supports her family (making her corporate, I suppose) she is both very funny and completely genuine and she writes about her life, day in, day out. Can there be anyone at all in the western world who doesn’t know her?
Beth and Chris: Because, really, how often do you get a successful husband and wife blogging team?
Finslippy: Because she writes beautifully although, alas, the quantity of posts has fallen.
Fluid Pudding Because I love her and reading her blog is why I started blogging in the first place
Mamacita: Because she has standards.
UK (10 feeds)
I find that I have, over the years, accumulated a number of blogs complaining about the state of society from our friends across the water. I gather them here. PC blogs (guess what that’s about) and Random Acts of Reality (less easy to guess, a paramedic) are my favourites.
US (6 feeds)
The Huffington Post, the New York Times, the White House blog. That kind of thing. Can’t say that there is anything there that I would particularly recommend although, I did read a fantastic series on maths in the NYT. I have spent some time boring my husband about this so I fail to see why you should be immune. Of all the online media commentary I have trawled through, I have found this series the most enlightening and fascinating. It also made me deeply envious as I can’t imagine something similar being produced by the Irish Times’s immensely dull online offerings.
Work (14 feeds)
Well, this is a secret. But if you hold down a job why are you not using the power of the internet to stay on top of your field? Eh? Could be because you don’t fancy reading about work at 11 at night. The authorities are against access to bloglines. On balance, probably for good reasons. This means I end up reading my work updates at home. But never mind because work and life are all one seamless joined up space now are they not? Really, no, you think not..
Writing (4 feeds)
That’s the lot. What do you read online? How do you read? And, most importantly, what would you recommend?