Bloggers unplug for an offline picnic

Bloggers unplug for an offline picnic

By STEPHEN T. WATSON
News Staff Reporter
7/16/2006

Buffalo’s bloggers took a break Saturday from criticizing Joel Giambra, Wal-Mart and the Buffalo Sabres’ proposed new logo to eat some barbecue and meet their cyber peers. Their low-key gathering at Chestnut Ridge Park is the latest sign that this region’s bloggers are building a community online and off. They have a variety of reasons for blogging but say they are united by a desire to express themselves and constructively address Buffalo’s future. “When you start blogging, unless you’re looking for attention, you’re trying to effect change, at least in some small way,” said Brian McLaughlin, a red-headed Hamburg resident who started his Red’s Basement blog five months ago. Though only about a dozen bloggers – including the people behind such popular sites as Buffalo Pundit and All Things Jennifer – attended, the sites represented reach thousands of readers here and across the country every day. And in defiance of common stereotypes about Web denizens, no one showed signs of spending too much time alone in their basement computer rooms – not even McLaughlin. “It’s not just people sitting in their underwear, typing. It’s people who are active in their community,” said Marc Odien, whose WNY Media Network company provides an online platform for many of the Buffalo-based bloggers. At the park, bloggers kept track of scampering children, drank cold beer and waited for Scott Whitmire of the Brisket for Chucklehead blog to barbecue a dry-rub pork loin. Saturday’s event is the fourth BloggerCon meeting for members of the area blogging community. The Buffalo Pundit Web log has a comprehensive list of 89 Buffalo-based blogs. “It’s really taken off. It’s pretty amazing,” said Kelly Sedinger, who has run his Byzantium’s Shore blog for about 41/2 years. Bloggers regularly post and update their comments, photos and video clips on their Web sites, link to material on other sites and accept instant feedback from readers. Based on the attendance at Saturday’s picnic, Buffalo’s blogging community largely is white, ranges in age from 20s to 40s and pulls in people from blue- and white-collar jobs. The bloggers address a range of topics, from Western New York politics and development issues to Buffalo sports and the cute things that their children do. Some, like McLaughlin, got into blogging recently. He still professes amazement that anyone wants to read his thoughts. “I was glad that he’s got a hobby,” said his wife, Melissa. “I have to say it is a little time-consuming.” Derek and Amanda Punaro, who wore matching T-shirts with the name of their site, Punaro.com, are unusual as a husband-and-wife blogging team. Amanda Punaro didn’t jump in right away, she said, because she worried about strangers reading her personal musings. Now an old blogging hand, she was struck by the response from her fellow bloggers to a post she made about quitting her last job and searching for a new one. “They were so polite and so nice, even though they didn’t know who I was and I didn’t know who they were. That’s why we came today, to put faces to the names and say thanks,” said Amanda Punaro, a teacher who sings at a church. “The social-networking aspect of blogging just comes with the territory,” said Derek Punaro, who is a Web applications designer for Praxair. The bloggers are starting to do more offline, such as urging people to attend screenings of “Flipped” – a film that documents undesirable real-estate practices on the East Side – and organizing a new version of Buffalo Old Home Week. “It’s a community of progressive thought. It’s a community of optimism about where we live,” said BuffaloGeek’s Chris Smith. Beside, he added, “[Blogging is] a better use of my time than sitting home and watching “Survivor.’ ”
e-mail: swatson@buffnews.com


Whatcha talkin' bout Willis?