Saturday, January 29, 2011

Loudoun Blogs and Bloggers - the List

Welcome to the 2011 Loudoun County Blog Roundup! (a.k.a. the "Loudoun B-List")Loudoun County residents, businesses and government officials are actively participating in the blogosphere, and 2011 is probably going to be a very busy time for the local digerati – as the County Board of Supervisor’s election heats up and we’re treated to a short-lived deluge of earnest, partisan constituent support online.

We’ve been blogging and critically evaluating local use of blogs and other social media channels like Facebook and Twitter by media, marketing, business and government publishers for quite a while now. We’ve seen the rise and fall of the LoudounExtra and its accompanying bloggers, the rise and fall of political and real-estate driven online chatter (driven by election cycles and the economy), the closure of blog-worthy material generated by past media hounds at the Independent, Observer and Easterner, the LCVA-driven introduction of Loudoun on the national stage of the SoMe destination marketing industry, and lately a rapid influx of hybrid social/syndicated hyperlocal blog/news platforms via the Patch and TBD networks – though each of these, as we speak, continue to struggle with their advertising and revenue models.

A few blogrolls and bloglists were created along the way, but most now reflect aged or inactive listings, and don’t adequately showcase the more popular and active bloggers in and about the County (FYI to our friends at Leesburg Today and the Washington Post). It may be, however, that the definition of “blog” is unclear, with all manner of social media channels, services and widgets infringing upon and taking liberties with the classic definition of a “Web 2.0” site. For simplicity purposes, we’ll define a public blog as demonstrating these characteristics:
  1. It’s written by writers, mostly with original, authentic, non-edited and casually-attributed content
  2. It’s written for people, to read, consider and react to
  3. It gives more than it gets, on a fairly regular basis – mostly a volunteer effort, though many times lightly compensated
  4. It best takes a few paragraphs to get to the point, or finish the thought
  5. It accepts and engages commentary, but doesn’t necessarily solicit it
  6. It doesn’t claim to be journalism, but sometimes it truly is
  7. It’s not about the media types included, but about the message or value they contain
  8. It’s a time-based, reflective record of a social community
  9. It usually exhibits personality, or personalities
  10. It’s actually a website, with the navigation, graphics, scripts and embedded links/content that reveal interactive context and authority
  11. It’s findable, i.e. indexed by Search Engines, and without login requirements

So, a blog is not a discussion board, group or wiki, or an eCommerce website with product feedback, it’s not a daily update of local real estate listings or coupon deals (unless accompanied by witty and useful commentary), it’s not Twitter Tweets or Facebook Posts, it’s not news or newsletters, industry or education articles, it’s not predominantly marketing or conversational content, it’s not press releases and it sure isn’t an auto-syndicated collection of posts-for-hire strictly for generating inbound pagerank and embedding paid contextual links. That’s really what a blog is, it’s honest commentary, opinionated or not, successful or not, stupid or not.

Speaking of social media relatives of the classic blog, here’s a nice list of other Loudoun-centric social media channels from LocoMusings...From the number of older blogs no longer active (at least 20 good ones were deleted from this list, as no longer active, as of last year), yet the fast-growing number of Facebook/Twitter threads, it’s apparent that the short-form blog format is quickly overtaking the more traditional long-form...very apparent in the 2nd half of last year. Also check out Loudoun News Twitter, a hand-curated collection of real-time Loudoun news.

Face it, tweeting or Facebooking from your iPhone is SO much easier, convenient and with more instant gratification (like!) than thinking of, and writing, a big ‘ol blog entry – and then moderating the comments, deleting the spam...Is the art of blogging, like the art of journalism, falling prey to to the "Like" generation?

There are many useful, helpful, interesting and truly blog-worthy blogs in and about Loudoun County – we read and follow a bunch, and we’ve culled more from lists maintained by the newspapers (like the Loudoun Times), the libraries (like LoudounPedia), other Bloggers, Blogging communities (like ActiveRain) and so forth.

Here’s what we consider, at this time, to be a pretty definitely list of Loudoun County blogs. They’re categorized broadly as makes sense to us and reflect the relative maturity of the social media interest groups in the County. A critical factor for inclusion is activity; if the blog hasn’t been updated yet this past Fall or Winter, it’s probably not on the list (there are many, many blogs about Loudoun that were good, but petered out over the years – yet remain indexed by Google).

Another critical factor is whether the blog actually INCLUDES the word and/or concept of “Loudoun”, vs. simply being a blog from someone or some business IN Loudoun (i.e. Loudoun County, VA, vs. Loudon TN/NH or the recently closed Loudoun Castle Theme Park at Loudoun Castle Estate in Scotland).

Please let us know of other blogs that should be on the list – we’ll update and/or correct by Spring.

Loudoun Community Blogs (About an area or community)

Gateway to Loudoun County – a Dulles South business and community original blog, over 6 years and counting!
Living in Loco - one of the original Loudoun bloggers, undergoing some revitalization (looking forward to more, Tammy!)
Brambleton - a local Loudoun Times citizen journalist
River Creek and Lansdowne - really nice detail from this community
South Riding – regular bits n’ pieces from two South Riding moms
Sterling, Cascades, Countryside - Kathie's take at the Times
Every Restaurant in Leesburg – still going strong, up to #106
BrambleDirt – was fun before, seems to be back
Brambleton View - from Brambleton

Loudoun Life and Lifestyle Blogs

Community of Faith – Religious Observations at the Times
Loudoun Essence - Featuring the happenings of Loudoun's African American community ...
Odd Angles - monthly perspectives on life in Loudoun
Equality Loudoun – GLBT community and advocacy in Loudoun
Mommy Life - Montessori megamom serves up smorgasbord of parenting, cultural, political, and spiritual wisdom. And a few affiliate links, for the college fund.
Loudoun County Traffic – regular updates near the #1 worst traffic region in the Nation!
Viva Loudoun - Loudoun’s #1 source for High School/Prep Sports, News, Views
Loudoun Wildlife - "People and wildlife living in harmony – like with owls"
Loudoun Landscapes - Dave Levinson, Loudoun Landscape Photographer extraordinaire
Allergy Life in Loudoun - current, relevant, informative
Loudoun Moms' Network – hmm, 1 post so far, but more to come on this theme? (now that the The MomLink and LoudounMoms have retired)
Dulles District – some sports, some comments from Dulles
The Piedmont Virginian – pure Loudoun country
Sustainable Loudoun - local environmental stewardship, but is it petering out?
Loudoun Voice "Promoting renewable energy and sustainable policies." – Hopefully more active this year, as in the past, Mr. Eaves…
Ashburn Patch and Leesburg Patch - the patch editors and columnists are an interesting bunch, with blog-worthy Loudoun material and personally-flavored news commentary, though somewhat compensated...
Musings over a Pint...of beer
Loudoun Arts Council - really, arts in Loudoun
Bike Loudoun - Better bicycling in Loudoun County (when there's no snow)
Look Good Loudoun - Absolutely!

Loudoun Real Estate Blogs

Gina's Blog - a mix of modern mom and realtor
Loco Musings – Heather's mix of modern mom, realtor and social media award-winner
Loudoun Scene – another award-winning real estate digerati…
The Real Estate Bakery – Ashburn-centric NOVA real estate
Helena's Blog – well, keeps the news current, but the blog’s aging quick
Tanya's blog - on Loudoun living
Sonja's blog - on real estate in eastern Loudoun (it’s aging…!)

Loudoun Political Blogs


Leesburg Tomorrow – and today, for the progressives
Loudoun Democrats - well, we’re gonna remove this from the blogroll, unless it starts including posting dates...
Mole's Progressive Democrat – newsletter issue 286, six years and counting
Loudoun County for Obama – "Sorry, the blog you were looking for does not exist. However, the name loudouncountyforobama is available to register!" (it’s not too soon!)
Loudoun Progress, Doorbell Queen and Without Supervision (Without Supervision) - the Millers et. al


Too Conservative - absolutely
Not Larry Sabato – at all
NOVA Common Sense - the newest GOP entrant
Novatownhall Blog – "Take it over and shut it down"
Hoodathunk - Mental Wanderings of a Common Man

Others, Unaffiliated, Independent

Big Loudoun - Lisa and Barbara take on the big cause(s)

Official or Government-affiliated Blogs

Visit Loudoun Blog (a.k.a. "DC’s Wine Country") – by far the 2nd best representative of Loudoun in the blogosphere! (well, we said it on THIS blog, after all...) Thanks Jeremy and company!
Our Loudoun Schools – Excellent and semi-official perspectives on Loudoun Schools from John Stevens
Becoming a Firefighter – Leesburg volunteer Fire Company #1, online
Loudoun Career Fire Fighters – IAFF Local 3756
Sterling Volunteer Fire Company – make a donation!
Loudoun Education Association - Loudoun Teachers

Business/Commercial Blogs

Made in Loudoun - highlighting Loudoun businesses and the business scene
Backstory - the #2 social media-connected business journalist/blogger in Loudoun
Loudoun B and B - Loudoun Bed and Breakfast Gild – off to a great start!
The DogDish - up and coming activity from our new Minor-league baseball team.
Briar Patch - Nibbles n’ Bits from the Briar Patch
Patty Schuchman Photography – nice Loudoun photographs!
Chester Records – Winchester’s own version of Tower Records
Families First of Loudoun - birth, children, families, couples, seniors, and health and wellness...all at once
Conference Center Blog - from the National Conference Center, experimenting in social media (you go, Kurt!)
Loudoun LinkedIn Group – because it’s ours, and it’s sortof like a blog...
Notaviva Vineyards News – a truly social Loudoun vineyard and graphic design shop - kudos Steve!
Wine Compass – all the wine fit to print
The Loyal Local - Local deals, specials, finds
Every Restaurant in Leesburg - Like it says...
Chapple Flowers - for weddings, special events, etc. in Loudoun
The Restaurant at Patowmack Farm - from farm, to table, to blog, as LCVA puts it
Corcoran Vineyards - by Lori
Lansdowne Resort - Blogging and golfing
BTI Whitewater - where's the snow tubing blog entry?
Loudoun Dental Smiles - Dental doings in Loudoun

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Saturday, January 22, 2011

Northern Virginia Commercial Realty Projection for 2011 at the Syndicate - Dulles Area Executive Business Networking

Yesterday's "Syndicate" inaugural lunch at the Reston Sheraton featured Brady Roman, of Atlantic Realty Companies, discussing commercial leasing considerations for the Northern Virginia area this year. The Dulles-area executive men's group "The Syndicate" describes its mission as follows:

"In an era of splintered networking, The Syndicate is proud to offer a new unique networking group focused on the needs of men in today’s increasingly challenging workspace. We are a motivated, energetic group committed to connecting business owners, partners and managers with each other to support both their peers and the community. We focus each quarter on a major local employer to host our events with an eye on local topics and growth."

Hosted by emcee Marvin "Coach" Powell, the commercial leasing discussion focused on the fact that 2011 remains still a "tenant's market" (vs. a landlord's), and opportunities still abound for great rates on Class B spaces with great locations, exceptional landlord concessions and tenant improvement allowances.

Some interesting points made by Roman:
  • Commercial leasing activity is getting much busier, every month
  • Now's the time for a new or renegotiated lease - areas near the Tyson's and Wiehle future Silver Metro line are still in low $20's/sq ft.
  • Metro construction impact in Tyson's is really pretty low - very well-managed
  • 2011 hiring projections are "astronomical", but 2011 rent/lease rates shouldn't change much from 2010
  • 2012 looks to be a changeover year, leading to a 2013 "landlord's market", with far fewer deals and concession opportunities

Next Syndicate Lunch is in February - watch their facebook page!

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Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Dulles Redistricting and Freedom High Overcrowding Interim Plan

Two quick notes to pass along, first from Supervisor Miller regarding redistricting and its impact to the Dulles District, and second from the Dulles South Neighbors for Education (DSNFE) regarding an interim solution for Freedom High overcrowding and next year's class...

Loudoun County Redistricting and Dulles
From Mr. Miller:

"The Board has begun the redistricting process for the County. Using population estimates, staff has generated nine potential scenarios for drawing new district lines to make district populations equal. Final county population figures will not be available until census data is presented in February. Currently, the Dulles district has over twice the population of several other districts.

I have started a post on my blog about this topic to have a conversation about residents’ ideas for new district lines in the Dulles community. Please share your thoughts with me:

Residents can find more information about the process and submit their own plans for consideration through the redistricting website.

The Board of Supervisors has set a deadline of 5:00 p.m., Friday, January 28, 2011, for submission of alternative district scenarios/plans.

Freedom High School Plans for Next Year, and Mercer

There had been a rumor that the upcoming Freshman Class at Freedom will be attending Mercer for an additional year due to overcapacity enrollment at Freedom. DSNFE asked Dr. Hatrick to respond, and his email response was as follows:

"The interim problem is that Freedom's enrollment is projected to be well in excess of 2,000 students next year. Since with the opening of J. Michael Lunsford Middle School in August 2011 Mercer Middle School's enrollment will go down significantly, we want to take advantage of Mercer space (one academic wing) for some Freedom classes. Our plan is to have freshmen take some of their classes in space at Mercer Middle School on an every-other-day basis. We have done this in the past twice when Broad Run High School became overcrowded.

All freshmen will be based at Freedom High School, but they will be transported to Mercer Middle School every other day to take some of their classes. All freshmen will begin and end every day at Freedom High School. This plan should allow us to get through the 2011-2012 school year without straining Freedom's facilities beyond their capability and will allow all freshmen to take advantage of the full program at Freedom High School for their freshman year. They will be Freedom students every day, but some of their "Freedom" classrooms will be at Mercer every other day. Mrs. Forester will be scheduling meetings with parents and students to discuss the specific logistics of this plan."

Note also the Loudoun Board of Education annual budgeting process is underway per John Stevens, with the next public input hearings scheduled for January 11th, 13th & 18th.

Fairfax Tutoring and Test Prep - a Local Service Provider

Quality education for our children provides a foundation for lifelong learning and success. Student coaching, tutoring and test prep services can be an essential component in delivering successful educational programs. Many pupils struggle with organization, time management and study skills, and without proper coaching, they can fall behind. Thankfully it’s never too late to help them find an approach that works, and now is the perfect time to start.

On sidewalks throughout Northern Virginia and the Washington D.C. metro area, shopping bags are being replaced by backpacks as students wrap up their holiday break and return to classrooms for the second half of the school year. The New Year also brings the perfect opportunity for a new start—a new approach—to test prep and studying. In the fiercely competitive systems of Fairfax, Arlington, Alexandria and the surrounding areas, it’s particularly important that students have the skills required to excel. Educational Connections Inc. (EC) tutoring helps build those skills and the confidence required to implement them.

EC’s trademarked in-home student coaching, test prep and tutoring services have helped thousands of local students from kindergarten through high school. With over a decade of experience tutoring, EC identifies three key areas that are imperative for student growth—and the tactics to ensure proper development.

  • Organization: Students who are chronically disorganized tend to feel overwhelmed and thus avoid homework and procrastinate studying. Disorganization also makes it easier to make careless mistakes and harder to retain valuable information. Student coaching helps such pupils create and implement a system that keeps all school materials, binders, bags and lockers organized and clear. Coaching also helps students prioritize daily homework assignments and other tasks so they can better achieve their educational goals. Tutoring enables challenged students to set up routines and build structures that guide them, and to use tools like assignment notebooks for support.

  • Time Management: Students are incredibly busy. Between extra-curricular activities, complicated social lives and demanding school days, academic demands can easily fall through the cracks. In some cases, looking at bigger projects becomes too overwhelming and students don’t know how to manage the various steps. Student coaching helps pupils complete long-term projects by breaking them down into manageable chunks, and it teaches them to schedule homework time in a realistic manner. Tutoring helps students identify what time of day and environments are ideal for them. Other tactics include tackling difficult subjects first, taking breaks, and studying in several smaller time blocks instead of diving into overwhelmingly long sessions.

  • Studying & Test Prep: Like it or not, scores matter. A lot. Course and exam grades heavily influence a student’s future, so if he or she struggles with test prep, the consequences can be dire. Student coaching provides valuable studying and test-taking skills, including memory techniques, note-taking that reinforces lessons, and active reading strategies.

Students who struggle are often bright and capable. With tutoring and test prep, their true potential is revealed. Sign up for EC today!

Sponsored Post: Occasionally we’ll post a message with supporting references from a local service provider that’s entirely consistent with this blog’s focus on providing useful, family-centric community, business and education news and information.

For additional assistance and information on helping your child or student achieve their academic goals, check out these additional Northern Virginia tutoring and test prep articles from Fairfax's own Ann Dolin M.ED. and Educational Connections, on "How to Help with Math", "Calming the Homework Rush", and many others.

Does your child need advanced or differentiated full-day instruction in lower and middle school, consistent with recognition of gifted and talented students in many school systems? In addition to coaching and tutoring services from services like EC, the Nysmith School in Herndon offers extremely low student to teacher ratios along with individually-paced educational programs for advanced learner. Contact this popular local private school in Fairfax for more information and to schedule a tour.

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Sunday, January 02, 2011

Lean, Mean Mouse Hunting Machine

Today our South Riding owl, named "Huddleston" by the Blue Ridge Wildlife Center, was released - when we first found him, he was severely malnourished, and weighed about 1 and a half pounds. The Wildlife Center nourished this first-year juvenile great horned owl back to life, taught him to hunt, and he basically had a rollicking good time at the Center with his other owl and assorted raptor pals - per this video....

Now at 3 pounds, he was released healthy and quickly flew away before an admiring South Riding crowd, into the thick suburban wooded areas for (we hope) a successful first winter mousing season!