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[Personal logs are the next big thing online. Bloggers explain why.]

   Nidhi Taparia

Mahesh Shantaram has a fan following. Over 60 of them, all strangers, all hanging on to his every word. And it all came as a complete surprise, too.

Mahesh is a 'blogger' and, therefore, a celebrity of sorts. It wasn't always like this, of course. Before the Internet, think about what he would have to do to get 60 people to listen to him daily.

Back then, many wrote letters; a few wrote about themselves for magazines. Today, anyone can be like Mahesh, all thanks to the 'blog' phenomenon.

Part diary, part media digest, part scrapbook, blogging is all of this and more: a true 'democratising' agent. 20-year-old Bhaskar uses his to spew "post-teen pseudo-angst". Priya uses hers to sort out personal issues. Prakash thinks it's a better option than a "plain vanilla site", while Jish focuses on the more mundane like daily hygiene.

What they all prove, in their own way, is that the Internet fulfils its promise of giving everyone a voice. "I have a lot of observations to make. If I keep these to myself, I am doing no one a favour. Publishing them helps me refine my ideas," says Mahesh.

Irrespective of whether it's an exercise in voyeurism, an ego massage or pure release, bloggers want to let it all hang out. The earliest blogs were designed so surfers could share interesting links and comments. Today, they encompass essays, cartoons and just about anything else you choose to upload.

Mahesh developed what he calls this "Internet-age hobby" because publishing was simple even for those who weren't comfortable with software codes; the click of a button is all it takes. Another reason for blog popularity is the interactivity they bring about. "There's something compelling about getting another perspective from someone you like or trust," says Priya. Bhaskar's reason is the feeling of deja vu he encounters whenever he logs on -- "Months and memories fly past" - and Priya has also become a better writer: "I have become more expressive".

For those interested in starting their own logs, Bhaskar recommends a one-stop link, while Prakash introduces newbies to sites like blogger, live journal and eat on Web.

More bloggers are always welcome, especially because regulars lament the lack of Indian blogs. Mahesh recalls following one set up by an Atul Yadav. "He suddenly put up a notice that read 'Atul Yadav has lost interest'. To be a good blogger, you have to keep the passion going". And passion it is, considering people like Priya admit to spending more time reading other blogs than updating their own. "It's like meeting them in person, and being surprised by a stranger you identify with."

What you get, then, is a community unlike most others online, with no competition and no hassles. Which is good, considering the Internet was always about connecting people.


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