By Chris Lane
By Jeff Balke
By Aaron Reiss
By Angelica Leicht
By Dianna Wray
By Aaron Reiss
By Camilo Smith
By Craig Malisow
How things have changed. In 2004, the Houston Press profiled Matt Mullenweg, the founding developer of WordPress blogging software and a student at the University of Houston. At the time, a blogging community was developing in Houston. But blogs were still relatively new — not everyone understood what they were, and the story referred to them as "online diaries."
Mullenweg went on to start a company called Automattic and be named one of the 25 Most Influential People on the Web by BusinessWeek. And as for blogs — your grandma probably has one.
In the years since 2004, the debate over whether blogs were a legitimate information source came and went. The traditional media huffed and puffed as it saw bloggers growing in influence, then gave up and joined them. These days, both the Houston Chronicle and the Houston Press blog like crazy.
As for our community of local bloggers, it has flourished. And we've decided it's time to recognize some of the great ones. After culling through the Web and polling friends and the Press staff, we came up with a list of bloggers we think are leading the pack. (The Press blogs have absorbed some of the city's best into their rosters; obviously, we love them, but they won't be featured here. Some of the bloggers we're including write in more than one place, including the Chronicle and its entertainment site, 29-95.com.)
Most of these bloggers have day jobs; there's a couple of lawyers, a teacher, an employee of an energy firm. Some have been blogging forever; some started in the past year. They cover a range of topics, from humor, to politics, to art, to real estate, to sports, to music, to law, to life in general, to food. In fact, we picked two food blogs — one with recipes, and one without. (You guys know how much we like food at the Houston Press.)
But all the bloggers we picked have one thing in common — they're really passionate about something, and they want to share it with the rest of you.
Jenny Lawson's slogan is, "It's only offensive to assholes." Her humor blog, The Bloggess, has loads of fans — she gets around half a million hits per month — but she's good at pissing people off, too. What Lawson does is satire, and some people will never understand that.
Case in point: Not long ago, Lawson went to the grocery store for Diet Dr Pepper and could only find cans emblazoned with the phrase, "Diet Dr Pepper. There's Nothing Diet About It." So she went home and wrote a blog entry — a "knock-off post," she calls it — about the baffling ad slogan. "So is this 'diet' or not?" she wrote. "Because I'm confused. One of these things is a lie."
The post got picked up around the Internet and eventually landed on AOL as its lead story. ("I didn't think AOL existed anymore," Lawson laughs.) Lawson was held up as a confused soda consumer, and Dr Pepper was called for comment. As is often the case, the Internet was out for blood — people called Lawson an idiot, said she should be sterilized. "I went back and wrote a disclaimer," she says. "By the way, this is satire; this is how this works...People were still furious."
The Diet Dr Pepper blog is a good example of what Lawson writes about — things that amuse her, like finding a mushroom that looks like a boob. And she does it in her own inimitable, slightly neurotic voice. Lawson is surprised by the attention she gets. "I think, 'Well, that's weird, why would anyone follow me?' I don't think I would read my blog. It's about dead kittens and vaginas. And I always think, 'This is it, this is the post that I put up where everyone will run away.'"
But the fans keep coming, and they keep rallying behind her bizarre causes, such as trying to get William Shatner to unblock her on Twitter (and succeeding!) or just spreading a little joy. One day she Tweeted, "You know what would be awesome? If for no reason at all we all just randomly screamed 'WOLVERINES!' once today. That would be awesome." Lawson has around 35,000 followers, and so many people indulged her, she later noted in a hilarious Bloggess post, it was a Twitter trending topic an hour later.
OFF THE KUFF
On March 2, during the Texas primary elections, Charles Kuffner checked in with the readers of his blog, Off the Kuff. He'd be at his precinct convention and then planned to watch the results come in. Promising to post about the primary soon, he told his readers: "We'll figure out What It All Means later."
That is exactly what Charles Kuffner does so well, and one reason why he has such a loyal readership and sphere of influence. "My degree is in math, and I'm a numbers guy," he says, "so when I get the data from the County Clerk or the Secretary of State about how the vote went in individual precincts, I load it into Excel and see what it can tell me. And you get some interesting stuff that way if you're a numbers geek like me."