Va de Gossos (blogging)
"Now everyone has a blog.” This sweeping claim was made in an article published in Time magazine in November 2008, following the internet-fuelled victory of Barack Obama. While clearly an exaggeration, the number of blogs (for those not familiar with the term, blogs are websites featuring musings, opinion and analysis written by people from all walks of life) has grown fast in the last decade. According to website Blogpulse there were over 145 million blogs active in August.
Relatively few of this multitude grab widespread public attention—'Belle de Jour' and her tales of high-class prostitution, the various celebrities spouting off on Twitter, the 'Huffington Post' and the handful that have been turned into books are the exception rather than the rule—but that is not necessarily always the point. Many businesses, governments and politicians dabble in the art of blogging to improve their 21st-century credentials. Whilst journalists are using them to expose hidden truths and for on-the-spot postings from war zones and conflict areas. However, in the main, blogs are done more for the individual satisfaction of the blogger with an urge to write than for global notoriety.
Barcelona has an active community of bloggers, with sites in English, Catalan and Castilian, all created with subjects, styles and interests as varied as you’ll find anywhere in the world. When it comes to English-language Barcelona blogs, a good number explore the personal ups and downs of settling into the city. The work of American Johanna Bailey, ‘Johanna Writes’ is one such blog, although it actually began on the other side of the world: “I started ‘Johanna Writes’ six years ago when I lived in Tokyo,” explained the freelance writer, who has been in Catalunya since March. “I was writing these group e-mails to all my friends and family about life in Japan and I decided it would be easier to just start a blog.” Having moved to Switzerland and then Madrid prior to Barcelona, Bailey used the online diary as a way to detail her globetrotting experiences, family life (she has two sons, the youngest of which was born last year in Madrid and the older in Tokyo) and the day-to-day demands of living abroad.
Since living here, Bailey has also been inspired to create another blog, called ‘Barcelona Bites’, where she focuses on food. “More than just recipes, I like to write about culinary culture. In other words, how do people from different countries cook, eat, shop, and think about food?” It’s a combination of restaurant reviews and recipes for local dishes as well as US specialities; in addition, next month, she’s starting a course at the Hofmann cookery school, an experience which she will also feature on the blog.
Another English-language blog that takes a particular local angle is ‘FCBNews’, written by Londoner Nic Aldam about the city’s most famous football team. Aldam started the blog in 2007, encouraged by a friend, his own love of Barça and an interest in doing some writing. Although he also teaches and does translation work, Aldam clearly spends a lot of time on FCBNews, covering matches, player news and more. It’s aimed at football fans worldwide, whether supporters of the blaugranes or not, although he also noted: “I know there are plenty of Barça fans overseas and probably quite a few who don’t speak Spanish who therefore cannot read the extensive coverage offered by the local press here.”
Amongst local-language blogs, ‘Va de gossos’ (‘About dogs’) is a good example of a site based on a personal interest but giving it a more serious and professional perspective. Written by Catalan Leticia Argilés, it covers dog behaviour and psychology and aims to “provide the keys to understanding canine language and know how to interpret and educate your dog,” said Argilés. Amongst other topics, it includes information about health, books, breeds and dog-related events (all illustrated with cute photos). Argilés actually began studying audiovisual communication but later decided that dogs were her first love and she moved into dog psychology; she is just finishing a course to become a veterinary assistant. Her blog was started in October 2007 but wasn’t a project she really focused on until last year, when she decided to approach it as though it was a “professional website.”
In contrast, another Catalan-language blog, ‘P’eternitat’, is a much more personal effort. It was started in 2006 when its author Miquel Noguer became a father for the first time and wrote an e-mail to friends about the experience. As a result of which, one of the mail’s recipients encouraged Noguer to create his own blog about fatherhood. He continues to write about his family, which has now expanded to include a second son. Noguer says the blog is for “anyone who wants to read about the experiences of a new father. I thought it would be interesting because there are lots of mothers writing blogs about having children, but there aren’t many blogs by fathers.” What he writes is an amusing combination of life in Catalunya and the things children say and do, but goes beyond just a collection of fatherly anecdotes with useful suggestions and shared experiences that doubtless strike a chord with many families.
Whatever their raison d’etre for writing or the language they do it in, what most bloggers are interested in is getting readers (of those featured here, Miquel Noguer is a noteworthy exception to this, saying that he has “no idea” how many people read his blog). With so many millions of webpages out there, it can be difficult to attract an audience beyond loyal friends and relations, and blogs tend to have various rates of success.
Johanna Bailey is well aware of the difficulties that many bloggers can face in getting and maintaining readers: “When I first started blogging, a friend of mine who is a very popular American blogger (www.dooce.com) linked to me a couple of times and after that I had several hundred page views per day. I stopped posting for a couple of years though and lost most of those readers.” However, since restarting her blog, Bailey has worked back up to around 100 daily readers, posting between three and four times weekly. “A blog that isn’t updated weekly loses readers and isn’t really serious,” agreed Leticia Argilés, who aims to write something on her site two or three times a week and has had over 3,600 visits.
FCBNews has around 800 to 900 views a day. This must be, in part, thanks to the global fame that FC Barcelona has and the fact that it is written in English, but Nic Aldam’s number of postings on the site is surely also key. While he usually blogs four to five times a week, he can blog on a daily basis during the football season.
So with all the hard work and unknowns surrounding readership, why do people blog? The reasons are as numerous and wide-ranging as the blogs themselves. “Mainly I want to remember my time living in Spain and I think blogging about it is a fantastic way to do that,” explained Johanna Bailey. For Nic Aldam, the satisfaction of his blog comes from the people who visit it: “What I like most is to see how many readers and comments I have from so many different countries.” Miquel Noquer’s objective is simply “to explain what happens to me with my sons in a funny way.” Leticia Argilés wants “people to understand the needs of dogs and be aware of the responsibility involved when they decide to get one.”
For the readers, blogs from Barcelona offer a way to discover other sides to and stories about the city, ‘meet’ people you otherwise couldn’t and, perhaps, be inspired to start their own blog.
Writing about Barcelona council’s visual campaign about how people should dress here in the summer: “Then they say that if that doesn’t work, they will ‘track your scantily clad asses down and publicly hang you by your teeny tiny bikini strings’. Okay, so they didn’t actually say that last part but you could tell that they wanted to.”
In response to Sandro Rosell’s victory as Barça president: “At the end of the day we will just have to hope that Rosell doesn’t mess up the running of the team, doesn’t mess up the economic side of the club, doesn’t have his hand in the till, and doesn’t ban overseas members.”
Introducing the dachshund: “The Teckel, better known as a sausage dog, is as intrepid and brave as if it was the size of a German shepherd. In fact, someone once said that it’s a dog that feels big and doesn’t like to be treated as a small dog. We shouldn’t underestimate it!”
Reporting on an encounter with a particularly talkative woman in the butchers: “Pau, who is only four months old and isn’t trained, couldn’t think of anything better to do than smile his thanks at the lady who, seeing that things were going well, decided to take advantage of the situation and tell us about her entire family tree, including the weight, height, DNI numbers, body mass index and number of toes of each person.”
Other Barcelona bloggers
Miquel Iceta, spokesman and first vice-secretary of the Catalan Socialist Party (www.iceta.org, in Catalan and Castilian)
Leo Margets, one of Catalunya’s most successful poker players, who details the various championships she takes part in around the world (www.leomargets.com, in Castilian)
Barça midfielder Andrés Iniesta (www.andresiniesta.es, in Castilian, Catalan and English).
How to find blogs
www.stic.cat, an organisation that gives out annual prizes to Catalan bloggers and includes a list of different local, corporate, personal and cultural sites:
Technorati (blog search engine)
The Blog Herald – www.blogherald.com
Do you write a blog? Or want to recommend a favourite? Leave a comment with all the relevant information.