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I just came across the Los Angeles Fire Department's blog via Caterina's post on the Flickr blog. They're posting daily about all sorts of things, from bubonic plague facts to swimming pool safety to an Easter Egg hunt at Dodger Stadium, and even a spring/summer event schedule. Aside from the the amazing pictures they're posting at Flickr and Filmloop, they're also using Google Translate to make their blog available in eight languages besides English.

Nice work, LAFD!

Dr. Razavi, our on-site Doctor here at work, recently started blogging about things medical. Here are some recent posts of note:
She's posted to the main Google Blog a few times too:

Check out the Blogswana project! Background here:
"The one-year pilot project will work with a group of about 20 college students from one of the major universities, and provide them with blogging and journalism expertise and guidance. They would commit to a year of “blogging for others.” Each student participant would start their own blog, as well as a blog for their “partner” (the person for whom they will blog). Each partner would be someone who has been effected in some way by the AIDS virus."
[via Ev]

The NYT has a good article about senior citizen bloggers that includes interviews with Blogger users Mort Reichek and Milt Rebmann.

Quoth the Times:
While the 65-plus age range is notoriously tech-shy, many say that the blog-hosting companies make it simple to start and maintain one. Mr. Reichek said that when he went to — which is owned by Google — the site showed him how to set up a blog in easy steps.

"I'm a technophobe," he said. "But 1, 2, 3 and suddenly, I've got a blog."

Update from Eric:

Jeff Veen (who recently joined us) also linked to this Times piece, providing a bit more background on the 1-2-3 process:
"Back about two years ago, I got the opportunity to work with Blogger on a redesign. Our goal was to dramatically simplify the "first post scenario" -- that is, how quickly can someone who has never even heard of blogging through a sign up process and writing something?"

"At one of our first meetings with the Blogger team, we agreed on a goal: 3 steps. We didn't know what those steps would be, but we knew we wanted to boil the whole process down to something that sounded really easy. After about two months of intensive design and usability, we ended up with something that both accomplished our goal and resonated with a whole new audience of bloggers."

As others have noted, we've made good progress in the past six months in reducing the amount of spam on Blog*Spot. One of the tools we're using is an automatic spam classifier. The risk in using a classifier is that we will mistakenly identify good content as spam. This percentage of false positives is both very low and one that we are reducing by further improving our systems.

Because no spam fighting measure is more important to us than protecting the content of our users, we've implemented a number of safeguards to make sure that any mistakes made by the classifier can be corrected. This involves presenting CAPTCHAs or other warnings to the user with instructions on how to contact support to resolve the issue. Our support team usually fixes these problems within one business day.

For certain types of blogs - a fraction of those classified - if we receive no response from the user after a significant period of time, we will mark the site for removal. Even when a blog is in this state, the actual content can still be retrieved and the blog restored for a period of several weeks. We've also put additional warnings in the Dashboard for blogs in this state so that the problem can be corrected quickly.

The steps we've taken have both improved the quality of content on Blog*Spot and improved the Blogger service as a whole. By taking steps like this, we're able to dedicate more storage, bandwidth and engineering resources to our users instead of spammers.

PC World has some kind things to say about Blogger, in its 101 Fabulous Freebies feature:
"Our favorite service is Blogger. The first major free blogging tool (launched in 1999), Blogger stays ahead of the game by remaining incredibly convenient to use and by offering a rich complement of features. If you have a Web server, you can use Blogger to publish your Weblog via FTP. But we like the easy way: hosting the blog on Blogspot. In about 5 minutes, we were able to create a blog, pick an appealing design, and start posting. Uploading images is a simple process, and the service supplies a generous 300MB of photo storage."

"Blogger is especially friendly to mobile bloggers. Can't get access to a computer easily? Send a picture or a text message from your phone to a special SMS address, and up it goes. Blogger's Audioblogger service even offers voice blogging: Just call a special number, enter a code, and say your piece. Blogger converts the sound of your voice (up to 5 minutes' worth) into an audio file and posts it for all to hear."

A few of our siblings here at Google also got some love:

Be sure to check out the New York Times redesign that just launched. Anil talks a bit about it at the SixApart blog, and Khoi discusses it on his site. The part I'm most excited about is the Most Popular box in the right column — next to most emailed is... most blogged!
"We also wanted to give our readers a greater voice and sprinkle a little more serendipity around the site by providing prominent links to a list of most e-mailed and blogged articles, most searched for information and popular movies."