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Blog Loud, Blog Proud

The experts weighed in — now vote for BU’s best online voices

Photos from the blog contest winners: (from left) Gareth McFeely’s blog on foreign movies, Shane Lee’s science blog, and COM sophomore Caroline Bridges’ blog on her ongoing treatment for leukemia.

Boston University faculty, staff, and students have a lot to say and the larger their audience the better. Whether they’re discussing music and movies, love of the Red Sox, personal trials, or neuroscience, many are doing it on the Web for everyone to see. BU Today received approximately 150 entries in our Show Us Your Blogs contest, and we’d like to share the winners for your reading pleasure. If your favorite wasn’t picked, e-mail us at today@bu.edu and let us know what you liked.

The winners are:

First prize: Gareth McFeely, department administrator in CAS modern foreign languages and literatures, who reviews foreign (and sometimes obscure) films on his blog: http://garethsmovies.blogspot.com.

Second prize: Shane Lee, graduate fellow in neuroscience, who talks science in layman’s terms on his blog: http://neurophd.blogspot.com.

Third prize: Caroline Bridges (COM’09), who discusses her ongoing treatment for leukemia on her blog: http://carolineb-log.blogspot.com.

BU Today staff narrowed the list of blogs to 16 finalists before sending them to judges Azer Bestavros, chair of the College of Arts and Sciences computer science department, Bruce Hoppe, a CAS computer science lecturer and social networking consultant, and Bill Marx, an adjunct professor at the College of Fine Arts and former arts critic and columnist for WBUR.

Judges ranked the finalists according to quality of writing, design, use of multimedia, connectivity to other blogs and Web sites, and utility. BU Today then averaged the rankings to come up with the three winners.

Marx, who ranked McFeely’s movie review blog among his top three choices, says it stood out because it deals with cultural issues, while keeping international news and events in mind.

“I am a culture guy and expected to like this one,” says Marx. “I thought the blog provided a well-written, comprehensive, and informative perspective on an area, foreign films, that isn’t covered particularly well.”

The lack of good foreign-film reviews was one motivating factor for McFeely, but his love of films was the main reason he created  his blog. When he was a teenager, he began keeping a journal on every movie he saw. Over time, that faded, but not his interest in film. When blogging became a mainstream communication tool, he set up “Gareth’s Movie Diary” in January 2005 as an easier way to compile and track his reviews.

“I started to become aware of what people were doing online, and it seemed to me that I could easily use a blog format to create an online movie diary,” he says. “I also thought it would be a good exercise to force me to think carefully about each film I saw. I watch quite a lot of films, of very different kinds, and I think that the blog helps me see films as more than just something to consume.”

McFeely spends about 30 minutes writing each review and says that maintaining his blog, which is viewed by people all over the world, has made him more conscious of filmmaking techniques.

“I’m constantly spotting connections between one film and another as a consequence,” he says. “I also find myself reading and participating in the film blogs of many other people now, and sometimes getting e-mail or responses through their own comments systems.”

Third prize winner Bridges also uses her blog for connectivity — it allows to her to stay in touch with family and friends as she battles leukemia. She started writing her blog the day after she was diagnosed.

“I decided to write it because I’m terrible with keeping in touch with people, and I wanted an easy way for my friends and family to stay updated on my situation,” says Bridges. “My goal was mainly just to keep an interesting account of something most  20-year-olds don’t ever go through.”

That’s what Bestavros, who has done research on the level of interaction blogs feature, liked about Bridges’ blog, ranking it first. “There was a ‘community of readers’ who frequent that cyber-parlor,” he says. “They clearly know each other, and they use the blog as a place to engage in a conversation, which in my opinion is what sets blogs apart from good old Web pages.”

The 16 finalists are listed below, in no particular order:

1.    This Be My (B)log http://carolineb-log.blogspot.com
A student discusses her ongoing treatment for leukemia.

2.    Alliteration Abound http://www.alliterationabound.com
Video game aficionado posts on gaming and life.

3.    A Foolish Consistency http://trudalane.net/afcblog/wordpress
Blog on the intersection of law, the Internet, and current events.

4.    An Anthropologist in Damascus http://anthropologistindamascus.blogspot.com
Traveling through Syria with an anthropologist’s eye.
 
5.    Ben Buckman http://www.benbuck.net
Includes a travel blog of a cross-country motorcycle trip and a current events blog, focusing on foreign policy.
 
6.    Theology Girl http://www.theologygirl.com
Reflections and musings by a theology grad student.
 
7.    Gareth’s Movie Diary http://garethsmovies.blogspot.com
Reviews of foreign films.
 
8.    Wanderingaround http://www.seanecuador.blogspot.com
Travel blog that began in Ecuador and has since moved on to Spain.
 
9.    Gentleman Gourmand http://gentlemangourmand.typepad.com
Food site featuring reviews, links, videos, and recipes.
 
10.    Dynamical Systems http://neurophd.blogspot.com
Graduate fellow in neuroscience discusses his field in layman’s terms.
 
11.    September 11 Republican http://s11neocon.blogspot.com
Political blog discusses current events from a conservative point of view.
 
12.    The Food Monkey http://www.thefoodmonkey.com
Restaurant reviews, recipes, and thoughts on Epicurean issues.
 
13.    The Ant Room http://theantroom.blogspot.com
Anything you ever wanted to know about ants — a chronicle of ant research in Ecuador.
 
14.    Undress Me Robot http://www.undressmerobot.com
Extensive collection of reviews, columns, and features about alternative music, films, and books.
 
15.    590 Edlinks http://oneverni.com/wordpress
Links to education software and interactive Web sites.
 
16.    The TV Weasel http://www.capria.tv
Tech-heavy blog on the media industry.
 
Now that we’ve heard from the judges, BU Today wants to hear from you. E-mail us your favorite blog from the list of finalists at today@bu.edu.
 
Meghan Noé can be reached at mdorney@bu.edu.