A map of the blogosphere: dare you traverse its waters? http://w-shadow.com

Before I start, I’m going to take a wild guess that you have—or have had—a personal blog where all you did was post whatever the hell you wanted for all the world to see. If that’s not true, you have at the very least used Twitter, Myspace, or Facebook.

I mentioned this so you’d realize that we are all, in some way, bloggers. To actually define a blog is somewhat useless, because they come in so many different shapes and sizes; there are journalistic blogs, photo blogs, corporate blogs, and even micro-blogs (which is where all of you Facebook and Twitter users come in).

So with so many blogs there, and so many choices, how do some bloggers rise above the millions? What makes celebrity gossip blogger Mario “Perez Hilton” Lavandeira any more important than high school gossip blogger John Doe? That’s what I’m here to help you with; I’ll guide you through corporate ladder of what has been called (probably in somebody’s blog) the “blogosphere”, and profile the different levels of success and mediocrity you can expect if for some strange reason you decide to make it your career.

Where to start?… Let’s start at the beginning. I remember learning HTML to build my first webpage, and how cool I thought I was for posting a flaming background with a few pieces of construction clipart near the top (this just in: that page did not receive any hits outside of my friends and family). That’s probably how most first blogs and pages turn out, actually; the excitement of starting your own online page passes quickly. That’s probably why there are so many blogs out there: not because millions of people regularly write them, but because people start them with good intentions and never get around to writing them. This is the stage I call the “Internet Hopeful” stage, and like my blog, most of these blogs never make it past the initial setup.

If you keep it up… There are hundreds of thousands of users on the simple blogging website www.blogger.com alone, and most of these people do write regular blogs that let all of us see into their thoughts and feelings—so, clearly, some do make it through. The irony is that out of the 20 regular users of this site I contacted for their thoughts on blogging, only a few of them were comfortable sharing their thoughts with me. (I found this odd because they all make a hobby of sharing their thoughts.) Anyway, the people that actually communicated with me, along with the friends that I spoke with about the subject, all agreed that the anonymity of blogging gave them a way to express themselves in ways that, normally, they were afraid to. So it seems that as much as blogging has become the new “hip” thing to do in the past few years, it has also given voices, so to speak, to millions of people who would have otherwise been silent. If this is you, then you’re what I call an “e-motional writer” (did you catch that wordplay)?

Blowing up… It takes a strong-willed individual with a LOT of time on their hands to reach any amount of success with a blog. The Internet is littered with other places to waste your time (including, but not restricted to, the porn that makes up almost half of it), so how do successful bloggers stay on track? Blogging is kind of like being a “starving artist”. Established artists and bloggers have financial support and large followings, and it takes something really unique, or the right connections, to ever reach that level. When you’re there it’s no longer about sharing your emotions or thoughts, no matter how much you want to; it’s about pleasing your followers. If you were following Dane Cook on Twitter and he began tweeting poetry and posting serious short stories on his blog, half of his followers would be gone in a week. Nobody really wants to know how these people are feeling—not Dane Cook, not Perez Hilton, not the teams of people writing for corporate blogs. Most successful blogs these days are just marketing tools, and that’s exactly what we read. If you’ve made it to this level, I’m not even going to classify you as a blogger; I’m going to say that you’ve officially sold out. (I might get a lot of heat for that, but this is a campus newspaper, and all you really know about me is my name, so good luck!)

I’m not claiming that these so-called “blogs” aren’t interesting or worth visiting, because, believe me, I read a variety of sports, tech, gaming, and even celebrity blogs. But I hardly feel connected to the writers of these pages, and visit for informational purposes only. You’ll never feel the emotional connection with an author like you just did here (er—right?). Though for those of you who have blogs just for the sake of writing and the enjoyment of it, I applaud you and encourage you to keep writing; heck, send me a link to your page and I’ll visit it. However, if it’s a following you seek and all you’re looking for is hits, well, maybe you’d be better off taking up a career in the UFC.