By Casey Michel
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Another reason for Molly's switch was personal, as she writes on molly.com: "Not only did they help me, but Matt himself took time out of his busy life to restore my damaged data and figure out a way to export it."
Matt says Movable Type is WordPress's main competitor. According to salon.com, Movable Type is "widely considered to be the world's most powerful blogging tool," but WordPress is catching up. For one thing, it's known for being faster than Movable Type. Molly notes that WordPress has "a huge fan base, people very involved in its creation, and it creates enthusiasm." As for other popular free blogging software, it's out there -- in the form of Blogger, Greymatter, Movable Type (for limited use) and others -- but aside from its competition with Movable Type, WordPress is ahead in terms of "features," that is, ways to personalize a blog and make it stand out.
Using more advanced blogging software is also something of a status symbol on the Web: While Blogger is as easy to set up as Hotmail, installing WordPress requires a few more steps, so its users tend to be more Web-savvy.
In September, Linux Journal did an extensive review of WordPress. Its conclusion: "Over the past few months, we have looked at a number of different types of Weblog software. [WordPress] has a full list of features, many of which have to do with the clean, easy-to-use user interface. Even novice computer users and Webloggers can publish regularly with this software. Although the underlying code and technologies used are not my favorites, the set of features, growth of the platform and the large community all make WordPress a winning choice."
For Matt, Word Press is a hobby, a way to gain recognition and get consulting gigs. Even though he doesn't get paid for working on the software, his contacts have led to contract work with companies around town. He says he pays his own bills.
He recently had a consulting gig with a company called Aptia. "It's a Houston company, and the CEO heard of me because of WordPress -- he's a WordPress user. And I [was] doing something not at all related to WordPress." He picks and chooses which jobs to take and throws some to other people. "There's a girl in, like, Singapore or something," he says, "and she'll do WordPress installations for, like, $4."
Despite the opportunities WordPress has afforded Matt, it's hard not to believe him when he says that the main reason he works on the software is ideological. He believes useful, free blogging software should be available to the public.
"I'm a strong believer in blogging, sort of giving people an easy way to let their voices be heard on the Web," he says. "It's like the pamphleteers from the revolution, you know; it's putting the power of the press into a lot of people's hands. And I don't think we're going to understand the ramifications of the 'revolution' until later. It's changing a lot of things."
One of the biggest headlines from the Democratic National Convention was the fact that a couple dozen bloggers had gotten press credentials. "Wonkette," a D.C.-based blogger, acted as a correspondent for MTV. And the Philly Daily News used "Riot Grrrl" at the later Republican National Convention. According to an article in the Columbia Journalism Review, blogging "has begun to deliver on some of the wild promises about the Internet that were heard in the 1990s. Never before have so many passionate outsiders stormed the ramparts of professional journalism."
So it's not surprising that blogging has caused much debate among "real journalists." In June, TV journalist and documentary producer Ron Steinman wrote about blogs on digitaljournalist.org. "The Internet with its freedom is in some ways the Wild West, lawless and unkempt, the Deadwood of what passes for new journalism," he wrote. "It is not for me. Reputedly, there are more than a million blogs and still counting. It is scary." Scary or not, bloggers -- many of whom call themselves citizen journalists -- are here to stay. And many have a huge readership: Political blogger "Instapundit" has claimed he gets almost as many hits as slate.com.
But blogging isn't just for political wonks. For example, along with instant messaging, it's become popular among middle and high school students. And not everyone's happy about that -- there's a lot of name-calling happening on the Internet. "I think it's easier to be mean when you're not afraid of the consequences," says Matt, "whether it's an anonymous slam book or the Internet or a prank phone call." The Internet creates its own reality. "Certainly the buffer of not actually looking at the person or talking to them," says Matt, "it sorta creates, like, a separation between you and what you're talking about."
The Houston scene is dominated by what-I-did-today, stream-of-consciousness blogs. The most popular ones (aside from Matt's) get hundreds of readers each day. Bigpinkcookie.com gets up to 500 hits daily; she discusses things like the Astros, TiVo and the fact that the Cincinnati airport is actually in Kentucky.