Blog craze

| April 01, 2006

After a career in computers, “Trucker Tom” Wiles started trucking and used his technological know-how to create a blog and podcasts.

Five years ago, the term “blog” could have been the name of an alien invader in a blockbuster movie, but these days, nearly everyone has one, is getting one or is reading someone else’s – including truckers.

So what is a blog? Short for weblog, it’s a personal Internet publication, consisting of constantly updated articles and entries about any topic under the sun. A blog can be an intimate journal entry, a record of daily happenings or a political commentary. Blog writers, known as bloggers, have virtual free reign over what they want to write, as well as what they want the public to read.

A blog gives the public a peek into an individual’s personal thoughts, rants and raves. And as blogs become more popular on the political beat, challenging journalists with in-depth reporting on subjects such as White House scandals and celebrity gossip, truck drivers are also finding a voice in the weblog world.

Tom Wiles of West Fork, Ark., is a typical techie. He knows the ins and outs of his laptop, mp3 player and other gadgets that he uses to publish his blog and podcasts, which are audio recordings that can be published via the Internet. Podcast listeners can download the feeds through iTunes and other file providers.

Wiles is also a reefer driver for Shaffer Trucking, sporting a bald head, goatee and tattoos from his travels around the country.

Better known as “Trucker Tom” for his weblog and podcasts, Wiles is a well-known name in the trucking blog world. His opinions range from angry to thoughtful, and he also includes movie reviews among his long list of commentaries. He started his blog about two years ago and began podcasting in mid-December. Since then, Apple has added his podcast to the iPod iTunes software, and he averages about 600 visits to his website a day.

What started as a hobby with an old Radio Shack computer in 1982 became his full-time job as a network administrator. But after spending years at a cubicle, office politics sent Wiles on the road, looking for a different career.

He started driving, but he didn’t desert his first love – technology.

Wiles’ blog, truckertom.blogspot.com, links to his other sites, including his podcast site, themarked.blogspot.com. Wiles updates his blog every two or three days, and his readers and listeners notice when he hasn’t been active.

“It’s sort of funny – I’ve had a number of people begin to wonder if something happened to me if I’m not posting something every day,” Wiles says.

The concept of hundreds of people interested in the life of one truck driver seems like an anomaly, but trucker blogs and podcasts interest a lot of people who are curious about the trucking industry. Wiles received so much mail from “wannabe truck drivers” that he created an entire podcast about how to become a truck driver, he says.

“A lot of people find an ordinary truckstop exotic, but it’s just mundane stuff to me,” Wiles says. “[Podcasting] is a grassroots way of listening to what people have to say.”

Other websites are specifically designed as speak-out forums for drivers.

The website contains a content management system devoted to truck driving bloggers. Drivers can post their blogs for free and comment on other drivers’ blogs.

Lyndon Nutt, a driver for 30 years from Las Cruces, N.M., maintains a blog under the name “Lenutt” at this site. He writes about his feelings and his daily experiences on the road.

“I want to know there is a world out there, and I want people to know that I am here, too,” Nutt says. “I’ve met so many people, it’s unreal. It gives me another purpose other than driving a truck and delivering a load.”

Ken and Karen McByrd-Bell, who live in Mission Viejo, Calif., and haul furniture for Atlas Van Lines, maintain a blog and podcast together while on the road. Their blog, “KenandKaren,” on www.hwyblogs.com, features up-to-date stories and comments from the road. They also record truckstop chapel services that can be downloaded as a podcast.

“It makes the ride a lot more enjoyable,” says Ken McByrd-Bell. “In the truck driving community, we are able to make new friends, even though we’ve never met. It opens up a whole new world.”

Another website with a content management system devoted to truck drivers is www.truck.net, which features hundreds of trucking blogs. American Truck Away driver Andrew Reams of Bedford, Va., maintains a blog called “dieselducy” that features pictures of his family and life on the road, in addition to his journal entries.

“I record stories about anything, from recruiters to urine bottles,” says Reams, who hauls new Volvos tractors from a plant in Dublin, Va., to the lower 48 and Canada. “You can read about other people’s experiences and learn about other parts of the country.”

Truck drivers can also use blogs to give friends and family members a window into their daily lives. Trucker Warren Lark from Huntingdon Beach, Calif., uses his blog to communicate and encourage other members of the trucking community.

“It helps just to know that they go through the same things,” Lark says. “I feel less detached from the real world, because even though you see a lot of people you still feel like you are by yourself.”

Dr. Sheryl Youngblood, an industrial psychologist with a Saturday morning radio show for truck drivers out of Philadelphia, blogs at truckerdoc.hwyblogs.com.

“Blogs are a great way for [truck drivers] to express themselves and tell what’s going on in their lives,” Youngblood says. “It allows more intimacy.”

While podcasts require an mp3 player and a certain level of technological know-how to create one’s own “radio show,” blogs are easy and free to publish. Other content management systems not specifically designed for truck drivers include www.blogger.com and www.livejournal.com.

To publish a weblog, simply log on to one of the trucking or general websites and follow the instructions – you are on your way to becoming a published author. Some websites offer the option to keep your writings private or only available to a certain number of readers.

Others are available to the general public, so consider what you want in a blog and choose a host carefully.

Also, be careful what you vent about on your blog. If you use your real name or identifying details, a simple Google search could turn up your writings, and anyone from your boss to your mother-in-law could read them.

But if you want to write about your frustration over gas prices or how beautiful the sunset looked on that cold Wyoming morning, blogging is the perfect wat to do it. Post pictures of your dog, your grandchildren and your girlfriend for the world to see. The public is waiting for the next word from truck drivers.


How to Create Your Blog:
Log onto a blog website and follow the easy instructions on the homepage.

Here are some great sites to try:

www.blogger.com Blogger is a simple – and free! – blog-building website powered by Google. It also gives you access to other blogs.

www.hwyblogs.com Hwy Blogs is a free blog website specifically designed for truck drivers. Create your blog and then read and comment on other drivers’ blogs.

www.typepad.com TypePad is an easy-to-use site designed to be as simple or detailed as you make it.

You can update your blog as often as you like and post pictures of family, friends or a beautiful sunset. Simple instructions on the blog websites will show you how to make your blog reflect your personality and opinions. If you drive with a partner, you can post your experiences together. If you have a hobby, like model airplanes, or you make crafts to sell, like homemade candles, you can create a blog about it and see how many people are interested in the same thing.

Don’t feel bad if your blog doesn’t generate much traffic at first. There are millions of blogs out there, and it often takes folks a while to find yours. Put a link to your blog in your signature when you post on message boards, and eventually at least a few like-minded people will find you.

Even if you don’t have an audience, it’s therapeutic and fun to write about your thoughts and feelings.

Blog Reading
Several websites focus on helping you find blogs to read on a subject you like.

Feedster www.feedster.com
Google Blog Search search.blogger.com
Technorati www.technorati.com
Blog Search Engine www.blogsearchengine.com
Bloogz www.bloogz.com

Once you find some blogs you like, a good way to keep track of them all is by using feeds. A feed sends updates about a blog or other website to a service that collects them all together in one place. Then you can open one webpage and see all the latest posts of your favorite blogs.

To use feeds, choose one of the below options or a similar service. Open up two windows (go to File, New, Window). Leave the feed service open in one window, and then in the other window, go to each of the blogs or news sites you like and look for a small icon or link that says XML, RSS or something like “Subscribe to this site” or “Syndicate this site.”

Right click on the link, choose “Copy shortcut” and paste it into the appropriate box at your feed service site. Do this for each blog you like, and before long you’ll have a compilation that makes your daily entertainment reading easy.

Some popular (and free) options:

Bloglines www.bloglines.com
My Yahoo! my.yahoo.com
My MSN my.msn.com
Pluck www.pluck.com/products/rss-reader.html

You can even have blog feeds sent to your mobile device, through a free service like Plusmo, at this site.
Rachel Telehany

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