By Jeff Balke
By Ben DuBose
By Ben DuBose
By Sean Pendergast
By Sean Pendergast
By Calvin TerBeek
By Jeff Balke
By Jeff Balke
But there are also some more structured, focused local blogs. "Houston Calling," for example, is about on the music scene here. It lists upcoming shows and includes entries in the journalistic "ten questions" format; the guy who runs it, David Cobb (a Houston Presscontributor), has interviewed Tom Foolery and the Mistakes, Stiff Little Fingers and the Methods. A local sports blog, "Throws Like a Girl," focuses on the Astros. A recent entry includes this admission: "I couldn't sleep last night and kept awaking from feverish dreams about Roger Clemens giving up seven earned runs in the third inning." And there are a few popular political blogs. Charles Kuffner, a Democrat, does offthekuff.com (named best local blog by the Press), and says he gets from 1,200 to 1,500 hits per day. All in all, htownblogs.com links to more than 190 blogs. Twenty of them were added during the past month, and there are, of course, more that aren't listed there.
And in a clear attempt to stay up with the times, the Houston Chronicle has a blog called "MeMo" on its Web site. Writer Kyrie O'Connor seems to blog about whatever pops into her head, be it a popular thong or an owl loose in the Chron offices. The paper sent O'Connor to both the Democratic and the Republican conventions. A sample musing from the RNC: "Are Republicans -- as we suspect, irrespective of stances on key issues -- significantly more fun than Democrats?"
Photomatt.net is a mix of information about WordPress, other techie information and Matt's personal ramblings. It gets somewhere in the vicinity of 10,000 hits a day; according to technorati.com, he's No. 3 in the entire "blogosphere," which ranks bloggers by how many people link to them (lots of people link to him because of WordPress). He certainly uses the blog to give WordPress good PR, pointing out when prominent bloggers switch to WordPress and linking to online talk about it. He quoted one blogger who wrote, "I'll have you know that WordPress is sexy." Among his personal observations: "I didn't realize how fast time passes until I started buying milk." That observation got seven comments from readers.
Matt believes WordPress could have 100,000 users by the end of the year. The source of such a huge spike, if it occurs, won't be individuals but companies. They're interested in WordPress because the cost of using blogging software that charges would most likely be prohibitively expensive. He's in talks with dating sites, media sites and search engines that are considering using the technology. Lycos Europe recently expressed interest in using WordPress to offer a blogging service to its users. "They have a pretty significant penetration in Europe," says Matt, "so that could be very, very cool."
Matt took this semester off from the University of Houston, where, for the past two years, he's been studying philosophy and political science (he's not interested in their computer classes), to concentrate on his consulting gigs and a book he's working on about Web development. He insists the topic and the publisher -- which contacted him about writing it, not vice versa -- remain hush-hush, because the project hasn't been announced.
For a long time, Matt's been fielding job offers from tech companies. He recently considered taking a job with a San Francisco search-engine start-up, but ended up turning them down. "They have a ton of money...But it would be 50- or 60- or 70-hour weeks, a lot of work, and I wouldn't have time" to do WordPress. That was definitely a deal-breaker for Matt, because he won't be abandoning his baby anytime soon. "A personal requirement," he says, "is that I wouldn't want to work anywhere that would prevent me from working on WordPress."
But as of last week, it looks like Matt's time off from UH could be indefinite. He finally signed a contract with San Francisco-based media company CNET, which has agreed to allow him to work on WordPress for 15 percent of his time on the job. CNET runs sites including gamespot.com, mp3. com, search.com, download.com and news. com. "The idea is that they're a media company and not a software company," he says. "They don't need their software to be proprietary for it to work for them." So Matt will spend much of his time working on open-source software for CNET in San Francisco. He plans to go back to school eventually, but he doesn't know when.
Several weeks before accepting the job, Matt goes to Bad Art Night at Tropioca Tea and Coffee Bar in Midtown. The H-town bloggers have commandeered a large table, and construction paper, glue, scissors, crayons and markers litter the table. Kathy Ratliff, the blogger who loves stamping, is taking up a lot of space with her plastic boxes of materials. Matt's at the head of the table, paying little attention to making art and a lot of attention to his laptop (the coffee shop, of course, has wi-fi). It's forgivable, considering that he's checking on a TV program that aired a segment on WordPress.
This is another social event for bloggers, along the lines of Tiara Happy Hour, but much tamer. Like bloggers in other cities around the country, Houston bloggers really seem to have a sense of community. "We've probably got a core group of 20 to 30 socially active members," says Elaine Mesker-Garcia, who founded htownblogs.com and has a personal blog at cybertoad.us. "We meet for coffee and happy hours." There's even been a blogger wedding: Christine recently married a man she met at a coffee event in 2002. "Matt went to the wedding," she says. "He posted a photo gallery of wedding photos. Our wedding was very interesting. Probably half the guest had blogs." There were big pink cookies instead of groom's cake at the wedding.