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Come blog with me: InterPLAY conference links local bloggers together

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: September 18, 2008 On occasion, you'll still hear an overcaffeinated radio host deriding bloggers, with an edgy, irrational disdain. When they get really worked up, it's almost inevitable for these AM talkers to accuse bloggers of "typing in their underwear from their parents' basement." Luckily, this stereotype has mostly gone away, as an array of bloggers cranks out digital copy at an ever-increasing pace. Sometimes, they're doing so for corporate clients and other paying customers, though most are still producing copy for the sheer love of it. Almost all are busy working in their craft wearing more than just skivvies.

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Local bloggers of all stripes will take another step towards above-ground respectability this Friday and Saturday, when InterPLAY takes place in the University City Loop. The first-year conference is being produced by the St. Louis Bloggers Guild and is associated with the Play:STL music festival in the Loop (www.playstlfest.com ), combining organization and overhead between the 99-band music event and this tech-savvy debut. InterPLAY will follow three tracks of programming: Lifestyle, Geek Chic and the equally-amusingly-titled Bid'ness.

Co-organizer Dana Loesch, a blogger (www.mamalogues.com) and radio host herself,  says that the panels will intentionally mix topics, from the whimsical to the serious.

"We're excited about the lineup," she says, "particularly about our panels that discuss how small business can benefit from social media; trademarks, copyrights, and how bloggers can protect their intellectual property online; the ethics of social media; and our panel discussing cyberbullying. Missouri heard the first ever case on cyberbullying and was also the flashpoint for the cyberbully law now expanding across the country. We're going to discuss cyberbullying, prevention, and what area bloggers and attendees think of the controversial law itself."

She adds that St. Louis is the perfect venue for such an event, as it's "one of the top cities in the country for online job growth and an increasingly large number of people are blogging, or are in some way participating in social media."

Bill Streeter has been a star of the local blogging scene for several years, with his video blog LoFi St. Louis (www.lofistlouis.com) drawing a national, even international audience. In deference to his long-running venture, he'll be moderating two panels, including one on Vlogging and Podcasting, while serving as panelist on a third. He feels that St. Louis, if anything is overdue for such a conference, and feels that bloggers meeting in person only enriches their work done online.

"I'm just really excited to meet some of the other people who are involved with the interactive community here," he says. "I know we have an interactive community, it's just rare to actually interact with them in person. I think it's exceptionally important. I've had the opportunity to travel over the last few years to meet other bloggers and it's always a rewarding experience. Good things always come of it."

John Combest, active on the web as a political blogger since 2001, agrees with Streeter's principle, saying "By and large, the most successful bloggers - regardless of political affiliation or geography - have many of the same experiences in dealing with candidates, party operatives, traditional journalists and even newbie bloggers. Over the last several years, I've had the opportunity to meet many bloggers to whom I am ideologically opposed, and I've never met a single one of them that I didn't like."

Each blogger invited to participate wonders just who will show up during the next few days' InterPLAY; some even wonder whether it'll just be bloggers in a room, huddled together with their thoughts and their trusty lap-tops.

But Dave Gray (www.communicationnation.blogspot.com), who heads the innovative "visual thinking company" Xplane (www.xplane.com), hopes to connect with whoever comes through the doors of the three InterPLAY venues -- whether their goals be great or small.

"I hope to answer questions people may have about how they can use the Internet to leapfrog competitors and grow their businesses, or to start truly innovative companies that might even transform whole industries," Gray says. "Or maybe just help people understand how to start a blog."

For more information -- including a full schedule -- on the InterPLAY, click here. For music festival information, meanwhile, this is the link. The conference has its own Twitter account, @STLinteractive , and you can follow related Twitter entries at #interplay .

Five blogs you should know

Several local blogs are well established, with large readerships, deep blogrolls and even accolades in the mainstream press. Others might be flying under your personal URL radar. Here are five blogs you might wish to peruse, say, today.

Confluence City (Confluencecity.blogspot.com): The editorial director of the St. Louis American, Chesterfield's Chris King, is a man of many interests and he blogs about them prolifically at his new, but already well-stocked blog, which touches on everything from Turkish poetry translations to African stew recipes, with lots of STL musings rounding out the daily-updated content.

Lockwood & Summit (Euclidrecords.blogspot.com): As you'd gather from the blog's URL, this one's obviously the production of the Webster Groves record store. But it doesn't just shill product for that shop. Instead, it's full of insightful record reviews and links to great YouTube clips. And if you just bought music from the featured top 10 lists of the store's staff, you'd have a fine collection indeed. For music lovers.

Pretty War STL (http://stl.prettywar.com/): Local photo blogger Tom Lampe takes pains to capture the beauty of the common, all the stuff that's around us every day. Old buildings, rotting cars, flowers in bloom -- these are the things that catch this South City resident's eye. We'd only request that he posted much, much more, as he's a super-prolific photographer at the photo-sharing site Flickr.

56 Houses Left (http://56housesleft.wordpress.com/): Produced by Jami Schoenewies, this blog chronicles only one thing: the demise of the Carrollton subdivision, which was bought out for Lambert Field expansion plans. Since the residents moved out, houses have been demolished, set on fire, or simply left to exist in a limbo state. This one's a truly interesting experiment in documenting a lost neighborhood.

Cherokee Street News (http://cherokeestreetnews.org/): There's been a lot to talk about Cherokee Street recently, with the dowdy old block steadily turning into STL's hippest new arts district. Rather than waiting for the world to find out, the neighborhood's taken the initiative in publicizing what's good, with an frequently updated blog highlighting the growing cast of characters along good, old, tree-lined Cherokee.

For more local blogs, check out the St. Louis Bloggers Guild .

Send questions and comments about this story to feedback@stlpublicradio.org.