Do you blog?
Everything from gossip to homework shows up onscreen in these cyber diaries.
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The class blogs, which are taking heat for being "synthetically produced," as a reader of the online journal Slashdot put it, are proving useful. Through postings students can share their thoughts in a more comfortable medium - and hone their writing skills.Skip to next paragraph
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"The format of blogs is written, which means the thoughts tend to be in bigger chunks and nobody can interrupt you," Mr. Weinberger says. "It favors a different class of people, people who don't like to talk in class or think out loud, people who like to write things down before they show it."
Meg Hourihan, cofounder of blogger.com and author of the enormously popular weblog www.megnut.com, says blogs can actually level the playing field.
"It's a great way for quieter, shy kids to participate, just as a mailing list can be a great outlet in a corporate environment for the nonvocal to make a lot of contributions," she says. "[Blogs] take away the advantage from the loudest person and highlight people who actually add something to the conversation."
Most bloggers keep a backlog of material on their site. Natalia's blog is called "Toast." On it, the more recent material is filed under "Fresh," and the dated logs - which usually means more than a few weeks old - are catalogued chronologically under "Stale."
"Instant messages and e-mail are notoriously slapdash," Mr. Baker says. "But bloggers archive their old entries, so words have a little more permanence. If you've set up this public forum where you can go every day and carefully explain why you're angry at your friend, or how you feel about the war in Iraq, or why you hated the last episode of 'Buffy,' you're going to learn a lot more about arranging words to say precisely what you mean."
But precision doesn't always gain points online, and it can be dangerous for adolescents who may inadvertently reveal where they live, where they go to school, and who their friends are.
"I think everyone who keeps an online presence is [worried] about security," Natalia says. "I go through periods when I'm really paranoid about stalking and wonder if I should mention city names or link to articles written about my school. But most of the time I'm not very worried. I feel comfortable online."
Jamal, a high school sophomore whose family immigrated to New York from Pakistan, doesn't worry too much about people learning who he is from his blog, which he calls "Jamalistan."
"I definitely don't release too much information," he says. "But if someone were to use the information against me, I guess I'd be flattered that they went to my site to get my point of view."
Many high school students devote hours outside of school to their personal blogs, and find the activity to be both a creative outlet and a place to, well, rant.
"If I have a strong emotion about something, be it joy, anger, frustration, confusion, or anything else, I will usually try to put [it] into words," Natalia says. "It is therapeutic to rant about it."
On the four-year anniversary of the Columbine shootings in April, Jamal posted the following on his blog: "I spent the day being paranoid, moping, and para-moping. Someone was telling me to cheer up, but I said that it actually scared me. Life was proved fragile and delicate that week."
Jamal admits that his weblog has become "yet another tool of productive procrastination." But being productive, he adds, is what counts. "Compared to other forms of expression - painting, drawing, writing - this seems like the one most compatible with today's Internet-incorporated world. Some days I don't have inspiration - just homework."
These minibiographies are unfolding in high school blogs around the world, an exercise in documentation that, in a way, serves as a grand-scale word game, a cyber-form of natural selection that weeds out - or at least ignores - the unworthy.
"Most of the highly visible bloggers spend a lot of time responding to other bloggers, or butting into debates raging on other blogs," Baker says.
"It's called blogrolling - blogging on blogging on blogging. The person who regurgitates clichéd slogans or throws around profanity-laced ad hominem attacks generally loses. The person who's best at wielding words generally wins."