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The Urbanophile

By Katie Buitrago

Blog: The Urbanophile

Description: "Urban Affairs and the Future of the Midwest City."

Substance: The Urbanophile is both the moniker of and web home of the expansive mind of Aaron M. Renn. He's a self-described "independent urban affairs thinker, strategist, and writer" who pumps the blog full of original analyses of urban issues, ranging from transportation to development to architecture and more. Sometimes he takes on recent developments in urban planning, and at other times produces his own theories of ways to improve the Midwestern city. He has one leg in Chicago and one in Indianapolis and often uses the cities as the jumping-off points for his essays. Renn clearly has a wealth for his topics and references a broad range of sources from his comprehensive blogroll and - gasp - books. You may remember him for his suburb-infuriating winning entry in the Chicago Community Trust's competition of ideas to raise CTA ridership to 1 billion a year.

Style: Conversational and smart with copious quoting. Renn's ideas are by no means uncontroversial and he's often challenged and rebutted by others. This results in a lot of wonderful dialogue with other leading urban affairs bloggers and thinkers, which gives the reader a window into hot debates in the field.

Tl;dr Score: My gods. The posts are exhaustingly long - full of good stuff, mind you, but longer than a union contract. They're long enough for freaking subheads - and there are no cuts. I maintain that it would be worth splitting them up into smaller chunks.

Commenter Involvement: High, and full of smarty pants debate. The comments enhance the posts a lot.

Linkage: There's at least a couple per post, but he could stand to make them more abundant - like he does in this post.

Visual Appeal: Zzzzz. Oh, excuse me, I was just napping there. I guess the fluffy white default template reminded me of my pillow and I plum fell asleep. It gets the job done, but it's hardly creative. Urban design your blog, dude.

NSFW?: Totally safe, but not really logistically possible. The length of the posts makes it difficult for me to read casually on breaks, at least not without feeling like a dirty time thief.

Start Here: Fast and Cheap Ways to Improve Public Transit in Indianapolis Right Now.

Bottom Line: Hey, we all live in a city and have a responsibility to understand them. You might not agree with everything, or even be able to make it through the whole post, but the Urbanophile will get you thinking. Must read for anyone with a casual interest in the way cities work.

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See the Chicago Blog Review library. We're just getting started!

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Comments and submissions welcome.



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Posted on May 22, 2009


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