ONE Monday morning, on the way to her office in the basement of the Montauk Club in Park Slope, Louise Crawford passed a man staring up at a tree. Lingering for a moment, she asked him what was so interesting.
It turned out that a yellow-throated songbird known as a Nashville warbler, in its northward migration, had made a pit stop in the neighborhood and was perched on a branch.
Not exactly a lunar landing. And even on a slow news day, the warbler’s arrival seemed unlikely to attract the attention of the news media. But Ms. Crawford, who writes a Park Slope-focused blog, Only the Blog Knows Brooklyn, and whose role in the borough’s blogging family most closely resembles that of the nurturing matriarch, was elated.
“It’s a good story,” she said. “It’s an exclusive.” Later that day, the post went up: a short account of the human encounter and the bird sighting, tinged with Ms. Crawford’s recollection of her father, an amateur ornithologist, taking her as a child to Central Park on bird-watching excursions.
Such musings, embroidered with the personal, are a critical element of “placeblogs” like Only the Blog Knows Brooklyn, whose writers frequently and sometimes obsessively punch point-of-view histories into their laptops to yield sites that document everything from a neighborhood’s significant quakes to its slightest tremors.
Or, as Placeblogger.com, a Web site that promotes and tracks blogs with a hyperlocal focus, put it: “Placeblogs are about the lived experience of a community, some of which is news and some of which isn’t.”
In the past year, the word Bloglyn has been cropping up a lot, a reflection of the fact that Brooklyn, particularly brownstone Brooklyn, has emerged as possibly the center of the placeblog world. Web forums serve as virtual town hall meetings (complete with hecklers), and bloggers peer with equal interest at controversial development projects, restaurant openings and the most minute of neighborhood minutiae.
After tracking blogs in about 3,000 American neighborhoods for six months, a study released this year by the Web site Outside.in declared Clinton Hill the “bloggiest” neighborhood in America.
No other Brooklyn neighborhoods made the top 10. The people conducting the survey acknowledged, however, that Brooklyn neighborhoods could have taken up a lot of space on the list; as if wary of placing an entire ball club’s roster on the all-star team at the expense of the rest of the league, they chose Clinton Hill for the No. 1 slot but omitted the others. And as Steven Berlin Johnson of Park Slope, a creator of Outside.in, explained, in terms of socioeconomic makeup, the national top 10 and the Brooklyn top 10 look a lot alike.
“On a per capita basis,” said Robert Guskind, founder of the year-old blog Gowanus Lounge, which he says gets 85,000 page views per month, “we have more bloggers than any other part of the city, and more than anywhere that I know of. More than in Manhattan, and way more than in Queens.” Mr. Guskind, who is also the Brooklyn editor of Curbed.com, said he was not aware of any placeblogs in Staten Island or the Bronx.
Ms. Crawford is typical of the breed of individuals running these quirky byways of the information highway.
In accordance with the unwritten rules of placeblogging, Ms. Crawford considers her three-year-old blog an “informal portal” with no pretense of objectivity and, by definition, an automatic interest in anything that ever happens in or relating to Park Slope. This is why she welcomes e-mail tips from readers sharing observations like “I think I heard a gunshot” or questions like “What was that smell last night?” For Ms. Crawford and her audience, absolutely nothing is too trivial.
The quirks of her own life reflect her postage stamp of home turf. Ms. Crawford, a mother of two, writes a parenting column called Smartmom for The Brooklyn Paper, and observations on education and child-rearing factor prominently in her blog. In a recent entry on her daughter’s fifth-grade graduation ceremony at Public School 321, she wrote: “Graduations. Parties. They’re going on all over the city. These are the milestone moments that require Kleenex and a strong margarita afterwards.”
Inspired by The Atlantic Monthly’s list of the 100 most influential Americans, last year Ms. Crawford compiled the “Park Slope 100,” a list that included well-known Slope figures like the writer Paul Auster and the actor Steve Buscemi, but also lesser-known residents, like a stoic local barista who serves coffee and muffins with a particular grace, and her therapist.
“I just kind of threw that in,” Ms. Crawford said of this last inclusion. “Nobody mentioned it.”
One of the longest-running and most popular Brooklyn placeblogs began in September 2004 when Jonathan Butler, formerly the owner of a real estate investment company, closed on his Clinton Hill brownstone, and, as he put it, “I had all this interest and energy that I needed to channel somewhere.”
The next month, Mr. Butler created Brownstoner, a real estate blog that assiduously monitors Brooklyn properties, claims more than 100,000 unique visitors a month and receives more than 100 e-mail tips a day from readers. The site’s ubiquity in the blogosphere, both in and beyond Brooklyn, earned Mr. Butler’s neighborhood top blogging honors in the Outside.in study.
Whether or not neighborhood-focused blogs like Brownstoner actually play a role in enacting or preventing change, as some bloggers claim, they undeniably give local residents a sense of empowerment. This may be one reason for their proliferation.
Robin Lester, who operates online under the name Lesterhead and who last summer launched the Clinton Hill Blog, which boasts about 750 unique visitors a day, has another theory. She sees the surge in neighborhood-focused blogs in Brooklyn as a reflection of the borough’s relatively high ratio of homeowners to renters. That long-term commitment, she suggests, inspires a strong bond between resident and neighborhood, one she did not feel when she lived in Hell’s Kitchen. There she briefly considered, then dismissed, the idea of starting a neighborhood blog.
When a friend of Ms. Lester’s, inspired by the Clinton Hill Blog, recently mentioned an interest in starting a blog about her Manhattan neighborhood, Tudor City, Ms. Lester encouraged her but with ambivalence: “I thought, ‘That’s great, but that’s kind of weird.’ ”
Mr. Guskind of Gowanus Lounge offers yet a third theory to explain the proliferation of Brooklyn blogs.
“The only explanation I can think of is the critical-mass explanation,” he said, suggesting that Brooklyn’s abundance of charged issues, coupled with its rich culture and long history, has led to an exponential increase in the number of blogs devoted to covering its neighborhoods. Or, as he put it, “Blogs breed more blogs.”
Still, not every corner of Brooklyn is lucky enough to have a blog.
“There are large parts of Brooklyn, be it East New York or Sheepshead Bay, where you just don’t have blogs being done,” Mr. Guskind said. “There are still a lot of niches out there, a lot of gaps, and it would be great to fill them.”
In the past few months, several blogging outposts have sprung up in less-gentrified neighborhoods like Bushwick, where in March Jeremy Sapienza inaugurated BushwickBK.com.
“There was a big vacant spot waiting in Bushwick for somebody to start talking about it,” Mr. Sapienza said. “I was moving into the neighborhood, and I couldn’t find any local information, any local blogs or papers. I thought, I’ll just do it myself.”
The Brooklyn blogging community actually inspired one person to move to the borough and explore the blogging possibilities of Bedford-Stuyvesant, one of the least-blogged neighborhoods.
“Being a blog reader gave me a taste of Brooklyn life, and I liked what I saw and read so I decided to move to the borough,” wrote the author of Bed-Stuy Blog, who blogs under the name the Changeling.
Mr. Sapienza pronounced himself thrilled by the arrival of Bed-Stuy Blog in March, and promptly launched into a debate with the site as to which neighborhood has more bodegas.
“Mm-mm, girl, you need to take a walk up in here one day — you cannot stand on a Bushwick corner and not see a bodega — some corners have two and even three!” Mr. Sapienza wrote in defense of his neighborhood.
One evening in May, more than 100 bloggers gathered at the Old Stone House in Park Slope for the second annual Blogfest, an event organized by Ms. Crawford to bring together Brooklyn bloggers to discuss the impact of their work.
Most of the participants chose to write their blog names, not their real ones, on the name tags they had been issued at the door, and some people, unaware that an R.S.V.P. had been required to gain entry, met with confusion and even resistance upon arrival.
“What’s your name?” asked a woman posted behind a check-in table, whose nightclub-bouncer approach was roundly criticized in the next day’s Blogfest comment section.
As one man gave his name, the woman dragged a finger down the guest list. His name was not on it.
“Do you have a blog name?” she asked.
“Do you have any other name?”
He didn’t, and he left the building.
Introducing the event, Ms. Crawford said she was thrilled at the turnout, especially because she had first conceived of Blogfest almost as a joke. After brief speeches from some of the borough’s most prominent bloggers, including Mr. Butler, Mr. Guskind and Mr. Johnson of Outside.in, more than 30 new bloggers lined up behind a microphone at the front of the room to plug their projects.
Earlier, Mr. Guskind and others had spoken of the need for more diversity among bloggers, but as the newest members of the community introduced themselves, there was a conspicuous lack of representation from less gentrified neighborhoods. No Brownsville. No East New York. No Canarsie. To remedy this, several bloggers, including Ms. Crawford, have organized a series of blogger socials, the first of which took place last month in Flatbush, to encourage networking and, as she put it, to “take the show on the road” to underblogged neighborhoods.
There was, however, much diversity of subject matter: love of Brooklyn and eagerness to blog threaded through interests ranging from politics and gentrification to gardening and food. Among individuals in this last category was Emily Farris, who is at work on a casserole cookbook and whose blog Casserolecrazy.com contains her recipe for the Greenpoint, inspired by her neighborhood’s Polish flavors: kielbasa, cheese, mushroom, potato and sauerkraut.
Nearly two weeks after the Blogfest, Ms. Crawford reflected on a moment that seemed to define the evening. After the meeting, when the bloggers retired downstairs to a catered party of Mexican food and margaritas, one of the bartenders told her the event had him thinking about starting a blog.
“This is the year that we’ve carved out our own various pieces of Brooklyn,” she said. “Everybody’s grabbing their neighborhood.” Brooklyn Blogs