"I sort of had a breakdown in January 2005."

With this simple caption, famous netizen Justin Hall published a ten-minute video file on the internet.

It showed his night of hell, where he battled with personal demons and wept openly into the camera.

After ten years of putting every detail of his personal life online, he'd found he had to choose: continue, and face loneliness in the real world, or stop, and begin making new relationships.

Maybe fall in love. Since then, his website ( www. links. net) has remained silent.

But Justin is by no means the only person whose life has been changed by the simple act of opening up to the world. Many others have seen their lives change, for good or ill, as a direct result of starting a weblog or personal website.

Facing a turning point in her career, writer and web designer Suw Charman started a weblog (chocnvodka.blogware.com) to rekindle dormant writing skills.

What followed was a torrent of lucky breaks, timely meetings, and conversations with people - both face-to-face and in online chat channels.

As a result, "Blogging hasn't just changed my life a bit. It has completely redecorated, refurbished and relocated it," she declares.

With encouragement from readers of her site, she attended some weblogging conferences in Europe and America. There she fell into conversation with wellconnected people. Now she's earning money from advising businesses on their weblogging strategies.

Suw says: "Things are starting to get really interesting now. It's been a real struggle, because although blogs are incredibly useful in business contexts - not just externally as marketing blogs or for humanising a corporation, but also internally as a knowledge sharing or community building tool - most business people still do not know what they are, and they don't understand that they have such great potential."

Not every weblogger has had positive experiences. One London-based weblogger - call him Dave for now - found himself increasingly disturbed by comments posted on his ( then well- known and respected) site.

" I was systematically stalked, threatened and intimidated by a paranoid schizophrenic," he says.

"She tracked me down, did all sorts of evil, upsetting, disruptive and mad things, and I ended up taking the blog off-line, even moving house and changing my phone number."

Dave decided to "sneak out of the limelight." It wasn't the fame that bothered him, but the "spiteful, harmful repercussions" of it.

After a period off-line, Dave quietly began writing elsewhere; his friends know about it, and that's fine. The comments system is permanently switched off.

Starting a weblog, even if you keep your identity secret, is all about self-expression. Whether it's an open, honest personal journal that requires emotional involvement and perhaps the tacit agreement of loved ones who are mentioned within it, or a work of pure fictio, weblogging makes demands on people.

Their responses to those demands bring about change. Perhaps Justin Hall will tell the world about his change one day; in the meantime, the front page of his site still has a search box. Start searching for "vita"; and see where it gets you.