Internet video bloggers connect in the real worldby Kateri Jochum, Minnesota Public Radio
Internet users talk about creating virtual communities. Every day, bloggers share their intimate thoughts with people they don't even know. Now a subset of these cyber-neighborhoods is working to make some human contact. Video bloggers, sometimes known as vloggers, post video and audio for all to see. A small group of vloggers is paying one of their own to travel the country to meet people face to face.
Watertown, Minn. — Passing through Minnesota on a road trip across the United States, New Yorker Jan McLaughlin describes what she has in the trunk of her car.
"I have an iPod, Griffin iMic, Mac G4," she says, "Bluetooth headset to drive and talk, external hard drive, dongles, camera."
Jan McLaughlin is not on a sales trip. She's a blogger who uses video -- otherwise known as a vlogger. Throughout her 18-day road trip, McLaughlin is posting video clips on the Internet about her trip. Her subject? Other vloggers.
"There were people who were not as connected as they might be. Talented people, I liked their work, but there were no video bloggers around them," McLaughlin says.
McLaughlin calls this person-to-person linkup project the Road Node. She says she wants to turn virtual vlogging friendships into real-life contacts and communities. And she says she hopes to spread the word about video blogging along the way.
Three Minnesota video bloggers came to meet her at the Crow River Coffee Shop in Watertown.
"If you tell people you are a video blogger, they say, You are what? Is that contagious? Can you get a shot for that?" says vlogger Klaas Snater.
Snater has two vlogs -- Vlogmatic, a video blog about the Twin Cities suburb of Woodbury, and a personal one that he uses to keep in touch with his family in the Netherlands. He plays a short clip which shows his take on the World Cup -- with a Dutch hymn.
"It's a great media to show people what you think and what you feel, and to give them a message -- whatever that message would be," says Snater.
There are many messages on "Minnesota Stories," a video blog and aggregator run by Chuck Olsen.
Olsen says that video blogging is still taking baby steps. There are only a dozen active video bloggers in the state. But he also says the new craze of the Internet site YouTube, where people can post their own home videos, has sparked more interest. He says the Internet has helped people span all kinds of borders.
"And video blogging is, I think, the most intimate form that that has taken, because you can just get to know a person there, see them speaking and talking. Showing us where they live and how they live. So it just has huge potential to connect us on that level," says Olsen.
Back at the Road Node, Jan McLaughlin's connection has taken on a new form. She pulls out an envelope given to her by another vlogger the night before, at her stop in Chicago.
With three video cameras rolling, Jan pulls out a note of support and a $20 donation. It's just one of many from video bloggers who have helped fund her trip. On McLaughlin's site, Faux Press, she gives them each a byline and a link as a thank you.
Cory Vandenberghe will get a link for his video blog about microbreweries, because he was at the Road Node in Watertown.
"A lot of tech people are introverts, but I think that the people here in the room are extroverts," says Vandenberghe. "This is our extroverted side. I showed up for geek talk. And now, we will go on our way. But we will keep in touch virtually."
After the meeting, McLaughlin packs up and hits the road. Many of the people who have come to her Road Node will congregate again very soon at Vlogger Cue, a simultaneous meeting of video bloggers in 12 cities in the U.S. and Europe, on Aug. 19.