Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Mayoral thoughts

While doing some research for my previous post, I found this interesting and rare blog that I wasn't able to fit in, so here's a quick post about it.

Wicked Local, the same branch of GateHouse Media that operates the Watertown blog, also hosts a blog by Somerville Mayor Joe Curtatone.

I think the blog is great. Previous posts read like pre-written speeches, but lately its been coming alive.

Curtatone doesn't post too often, but when he does, it's pretty entertaining. In his latest post, he calls out the Tufts Daily, the university's student publication, for saying fewer people showed up at a youth meeting Curtatone attended at the university. He also gives short responses to reader comments. Usually the comment's are about parking, which make for a good back-and-forth.

What would really ruin what is and could be a really great blog is if the author isn't actually Curtatone and is really one of his staffers. I have my suspicions, but decide for yourself.

Water water everywhere

Watertown is located just west of Boston. It’s a town with just over 32,000 people, 4.2 square miles, and some of the best local blogs in the state.

One of the best local blogs around is Lisa Williams’ h2otown. Williams has not just taken blogging to a new level, she’s taken journalism to a whole different level.

Williams started her blog a couple of years ago and since then it has grown beyond belief. She reports on everything Watertown. She even records the council meetings on her tv and then uploads them to the web to post on her blog – at least the interesting portions of it anyway.

Nothing is too big or too small for h2otown. Williams will even take reader comments and use those as an item – such as the woman who keeps seeing the albino squirrels on her street. There’s also the pictures of houses in town that go all out with the Halloween decorations.

Although some may not like it, the blog is citizen journalism at its core.

Just for comparison, there’s the Wicked Local Watertown blog. Wicked Local is operated by giant GateHouse Media. The Wicked Local blog tries its best to compete with h2otown, but its difficult writing to fill up a town newspaper each week AND keeping up with a blog at the same time. The posts on the Wicked Local blog are more recaps or short follow ups to stories that appeared in the local paper, which isn’t a bad thing, but there’s h2otown to compete with.

What's in a blog

During my hunting trips on the web in search of interesting local blogs, I’ve come across a number of blogs similar to this one.

That’s not surprising, especially since there are countless blogs about and based in one of America’s oldest cities. However, what is surprising is how many there are.

These blogs, like most others of a similar topic, vary in their quantity and quality. But the best of these “Boston blogs” is Beantown Bloggery.

Its motto is “Your guide to anything and everything Boston,” and it’s certainly true. The author writes on any topic from when tickets to go on sale for up and coming bands performing in Boston to a new fancy restaurant opening in town, to a new discount fair on popular bus lines out of South Station.

The blog is reminiscent of a small town weekly newspaper that has a real local focus and does a really good job of informing residents with news they can actually use.

However, the blog does seem to appeal to a limited audience. The content of the posts seem to be more geared to residents of Beacon Hill and the Back Bay and not so much Roxbury or Mattapan.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Food for thought - and blogs

Boston is one of the country's best cities for eaters. Whether the eater be picky or eclectic, there's a restaurant in every neighborhood that caters to everyone's taste buds.

There's also no shortage of food-themed blogs in this city. And no matter what their style - from the informative to the odd - these blogs can leave a reader satiated.

Boston Food & Whine is a great local food blog. The author keeps the reader updated with the latest happenings in the local food world and keeps on top of the best places to eat from 'date night' spots to 'kid-friendly' eateries - as the author puts it.

On the other end of the food blog chain there's Burrito Blog. This blog obviously has a more specific focus and doesn't post as frequently as Food & Whine. However, the author gives his readers what they want - what's good and bad Mexican food in the area.

Warning - some of the pictures on these blogs may make you suddenly hungry.


Here's just a short podcast I did for an earlier post.

If you want to catch up with some of the content here this is a great way to do so.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Boston Red Blog

The World Series is still a full day away, but ever since the Red Sox defeated the Cleveland Indians the media has blown up its already booming coverage of the hometown team.

In a city that lives and breathes baseball, there’s never been a shortage of blogs about the Sox, but some of the media are just catching up.

Some outlets have launched a free text messaging campaign where users can sign up to receive breaking sports updates about the Sox. One local TV station, WBZ-TV, has even added an interesting new feature that is half-blog and half-story.

One of the station’s producers is camping outside Fenway Park with the hope that he can buy day-of-game tickets for the first battle between the Sox and the Rox.

He’s chronicling his experience with “frequent” updates on ‘BZ’s web site. The updates seem to be posted almost every hour, but who knows how long that will last.

So far it’s an entertaining read, and it should become even more entertaining as the hours go on.

A web of crime (again)

This is just a quick post I wanted to put up as an addition to previous one.

I just discovered that the US Coast Guard also has its own blog. It's actually pretty interesting and unlike the local police blogs, the posts read like a dramatic retelling of a rescue (where there is one). There are also the occasional PR posts that explain new training, update equipment, etc.

The blog incorporates posts from all of the Guard's regions from Houston to Boston, but a New England-related post is usually put up every couple days.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Blog university

Applying for college is a two-way street.

Students are not the only ones vying for their top choice. Colleges and universities are competing between one another to attract the best and the brightest. To ensure they do, many have been taking the next step to reach out to more computer-literate generations.

In the past couple of years, many colleges and universities have added new features to their web sites that are based on the success blogs or the billion-dollar video web site YouTube and video blogs (vlogs).

In this area, Boston University has added a video podcast. The podcast is not just a virtual tour of the institute’s campus, but rather follows a handful of students through an “average” day on campus. It can be viewed on the school’s web site, but they push the aspect of being able to download all of the 10-part podcast and take it with you to watch on your iPod. The most entertaining part is that all of the outdoor shots make Boston seem constantly sunny and warm. If only those out of state students knew what they were in for.

Wheaton College, a private school in Norton, takes a more traditional approach. It offers perspective students the chance to read up on the college through the blogs of five of its students. The blogs don’t seem to be updated too frequently, but the posts sound sincere enough and don’t appear to be censored by the school. They don’t give it as good play as the BU podcasts gets on its web site, but interested enough students should be able to find these blogs.

A web of crime

They say crime doesn’t sleep.

That statement as true now as it was back whenever it was first said.

Many area police departments have discovered blogging and have since started their own blogs. They vary widely on the information and frequency of their posts. Below is a sample of blogs from the largest departments around.

Boston Police: The Boston Police Department launched its blog in 2005. Since then, it has served as a communication tool between the department and mainly the media. However, in addition to the usual two or three daily blotter items and updated crime statistics, the bloggers post messages from the police commissioner to the public in an attempt to communicate with the members of the community that do read the blog.

Brookline Police: The Brookline Police Department’s blog is a bit younger than Boston’s – having launched earlier this year. The department also provides daily posts, but the content is much different. Rather than blotter items, the posts on Brookline’s blog read more like actual police reports.

Lowell Police: The Lowell Police Department’s blog is a mixture of the two previously mentioned blogs. The blog isn’t updated nearly as frequently, but it contains blotter items and other posts that read like they were copied from an officer’s report. However, there’s more of a community feel when reading this blog as some posts alert residents to upcoming road construction or even the passing of a well-known city firefighter.

Bear blogs

If you’re a Bruins fan you’ve already heard the following phrase that references Boston:

“The Hub of Hockey.”

Well, Boston’s professional hockey team may want you to believe that Boston is the hub of hockey, but with Red Sox gearing up for the World Series, the Patriots winning every game they play, and Boston College claiming the No. 2 ranking in college football, hockey has taken a backseat in this region.

But inevitably, baseball and football season must come to an end, and hockey will surely reclaim its prominence in Boston. In the meantime, for hockey fans there are a number of outlets to read up on the Bs while other sports teams hog most of the space in the sports section.

One of the more popular blogs about the Bruins is Boston.com’s Bruins Blog. Fluto Shinzawa, the Boston Globe’s Bruin’s beat writer, keeps the blog pretty up to date. He even blogs live during the game on occasion and posts multiple times during game days. Shinzawa seems pretty well connected with Bruins insiders and provides readers with a good story.

There’s also the Bear Essentials, a blog written by John Bishop, who works for the team’s official web site. Bishop doesn’t seem to be as well connected as Shinzawa, as he often gets beaten, or is just slow to post, but he does post as often. The Bear Essentials also seems to be more a public relations tool for the Bruins as it sometimes can fill up with information on upcoming promotions or ticket opportunities. It appears to be more of a fan’s blog than a straightforward informational blog like Shinzawa’s.

There are a number of other Bruins blogs out there in cyberspace, but a lot of them barely post, even on game days.

The only downside of the two more popular blogs is that they aren’t too critical of a team that could use a good kick in the backside sometimes. They writers provide a lot of compliments and pats on the back to the team when they write, but when the team plays poorly there’s usually some sort of excuse.

Hopefully, if the Bruins continue to play the way they have been over the past few games, there will not be much criticism anyways.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Blogs killed the radio star

Massachusetts has a pretty good collection of radio stations. Whether you enjoy humming along with jazz, rocking out to heavy metal, or belting one out with your favorite Top 40 song, there’s something for everyone.

And with this abundance of radio stations, there’s also a bounty of blogs. Many stations have started their own blog or have their DJs keep blogs.

WBCN, a rock station, offers podcasts of its most popular DJs’ shows. So does KISS 108, a Top 40 station. But KISS takes it one step further and also offers a video blog of its morning talk host Matt Siegel.

WBOS, another Top 40/Alternative station, has a link to a number of blogs and podcasts by their DJs.

What’s most interesting is seeing how this medium is trying to stretch its reach even further to capture that workday crowd who may not be listening during the day, but surfing the station’s Web sites at work.