Regina Leader-Post Interview

Sunday, December 03, 2006
Sask. bloggers create online interactive community

Karen Brownlee
Saskatchewan News Network; Regina Leader-Post

Monday, December 04, 2006

REGINA -- When Lance Levsen began exploring American blogs, he didn't realize it would lead him back to his small town near Saskatoon.

The Delisle man met one of his neighbours, Kate McMillan, through her blog, Small Dead Animals.

Now McMillan is one of about 170 Saskatchewan bloggers linked to Levsen's online service. It allows readers to see when local bloggers put up new posts about politics, sports, technology or their daily lives and interests.

What they have created with their blogs are more than websites. Readers can comment on their posts, making the blogs interactive. Pictures and videos accompany their writing. Links allow readers to move from one blog to the next.

"As a cultural phenomena, that's relatively new," said Levsen. "It is no longer just a diary or post up information on the Internet, it's a community." Participating on other blogs is a new way for people to connect online, said Eric Eggerston, who blogs about public relations.

"It's a way of fi nding out who's reading what you are doing and what they think about it," said the Regina man.

A "critical mass" of bloggers has developed in Saskatchewan now, said Levsen.

Almost half of those John Klein knows have ties to rural Saskatchewan. Klein, who lives in Yorkton, writes Abandoned Stuff by Saskboy and helps organize picnics and other events for Saskatchewan bloggers to meet one another in person.

Communicating one's ideas and having others respond is the appeal of blogs for many, particularly those in rural Saskatchewan, said 26-year-old Klein.

Having the time to think and write also helps.

"I would suspect those in rural Saskatchewan are like me," said McMillan, who began Small Dead Animals about three years ago.

..." Prince Albert's Randall Friesen wanted to bring new perspective to people's online experience. He blogs about his life as the pastor of Gateway Covenant Church.

"In the area I am serving, there are a lot of preconceived ideas about pastors, (that) they're different people," said 43-year-old Friesen.

"I wanted (my readers) to appreciate that we're not so different." Being honest about who he is has drawn some, but driven others away. For example, writing about the topic of sex, even though he is a husband and a father of four, has not been welcomed by all.

"Some people can't handle it and reject it outright, but they seem to come back like it's a bad accident they're watching," said Friesen.

Blogging has made him a richer person, which surprised Friesen.

"It forced me to be refl ective and consider what I write and my relationship even with my spouse and kids," said Friesen. "It's forced me to be a deeper person, which I love." It has also helped him learn more about his family.

Each member has a blog, including the two oldest children who live in Switzerland and Saskatoon.

Frustration led Levsen to begin reading blogs last spring. He was looking for the testimony of Jean Brault. The Quebec advertising executive was facing charges of fraud and conspiracy at the time, but he was also testifying at the Gomery inquiry. Judge John Gomery made Brault's testimony subject to a publication ban until his criminal trials and those of two others were complete.

"The idea that testimony involving taxpayer money would be sealed from taxpayers (and) the lack of freedom that that invibed, it really choked me," said Levsen.

The testimony was found by many Canadians, including Levsen, at the American blog, Captain's Quarters. That blog linked to Small Dead Animals because McMillan had written a background piece for Captain's Quarters to inform American readers about the inquiry.

As Levsen continued reading McMillan's blog, he saw a post about an auction he recognized was happening down the street from him.

Not only had Levsen found a neighbour in his town of about 1,000 people, but he found he, too, wanted to do what McMillan was doing.

"I saw them putting their opinions out there for all the world to see and I thought, 'Hey, the world deserves my opinions too,' " he said with a laugh.

Levsen created the Sask Blogs Aggregator early this year. Readers can see what Saskatchewan bloggers have most recently posted.

"I was getting into the blogs pretty heavily," said the 36-year-old.

"I didn't know that many of the Saskatchewan ones and I wanted to know what other people were talking about in the province." A number of online services, such as or, allow wannabe bloggers to create an account, name their blog and choose a format for it.

"You can have a blog set up in under three minutes if you have a high-speed connection," said Klein, who has been updating his blog almost daily since 2004.

Avoiding "blogger burnout" while posting fresh material on a regular basis is the next challenge.

"If you want to keep going with it, you have to keep living your real life cause that's what generates the stories," said Klein.

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