Video: Getting to know blogger Bill Woodcock of The 53

Robin (the cofounder of HoCoBlogs) and I have been wanting to have videos highlighting local bloggers in Howard County for some time now. Here is our first! Meet Bill Woodcock, who writes as the Marshmallow Man, of the blog, The 53. Bill started blogging in 2008 and is — and has been for a while — one of the most frequent (prolific?) local bloggers listed on

Here are the links for Bill’s blog, his blog Facebook  page and his Twitter feed; and you can read below Bill’s responses to some questions we asked him.

Tell us about yourself.

I am a Howard County native and I’ve been active in local political, community, and civic affairs for the last twenty-five years. Currently I live in the Stevens Forest neighborhood in the Village of Oakland Mills. Professionally, I work for the Baltimore City Health Department as their Director of Business Operations– essentially, their Chief Operating Officer. I have a Bachelor’s in Biology and a Master’s in Business from Johns Hopkins University.

How did you choose your blog’s name?

I had a hard time figuring out what I wanted my blog to be about.  Eventually, I took the advice that it should be about what I wanted it to be about. So I wanted it to be about my thoughts on everything! But how do I capture that in a name?  Here in Oakland Mills, the old Last Chance Saloon used to have a slogan, “53 Beers On Tap”, that reflected the diversity of the brews they offer. I felt that would be an apt symbol of the variety of my blog. However, my blog is NOT about beer, so a couple years ago I shortened it to “The 53”.

What keeps you motivated to blog?

I think that Howard County, like many places, is a place where the sense of community is driven by perception.  And I think those perceptions can either be ones that expand our boundaries and sense of what we can be as a community, or they can constrain us into feelings of insecurity.

The overall point of my blog is through the eyes of the Marshmallow Man, to challenge those perceptions, both positive and negative.  To validate them or to repudiate them.  Or simply, to shine a light on those perceptions and show them for a broader audience to see.

What three tips would you give a novice blogger?
  1. Write often.  Like with many other things, you develop a skill by practicing that skill. Blog writing is no different.
  2. Consider your audience.Yes, you are writing a post that literally anyone in the world might read. But write as if you are talking to a single person.
  3. Have fun. This is a very individualized, personal exercise. It is you. This should be a thing that you enjoy and that is a pleasure. If it becomes a chore to you, or something you gotta do “just because”, then give it up.
If you’ve come to any of the HoCoBlogs parties, what do you like best about them?

What I like best about them is that they’re a way for us as bloggers to interact with a lot of people we wouldn’t meet otherwise in our daily lives– and surprisingly, that means other bloggers and the readers of our blogs! And it’s great networking to get feedback on our work and to offer suggestions to help and support others. As much as I adore social media, there is no substitute for face to face communication and that’s what the blog parties offer.

Beach or mountains?

Beach, but mountains can be just as fun, especially if there is water involved.  Anywhere where there is the opportunity for tranquility works for me.


Want to be a part of the #HoCoInstagramSquad?

“What’s this?” you might ask.

instagram logoA #HoCoInstagramSquad? “Never heard of such a thing,” you might tell yourself. And you’d be right. We’ve never heard of such a thing either, but we’d like to start one. Here’s what we envision and how you might participate.

  • A local Instagram account focused on people, places and things in Howard County.
  • An account where a handful (or more) of people have access and can upload images.
  • A site using and focused on #HoCoHashtags such as these and many more.
  • A joyful, visual, happy way of sharing what you love about Howard County.
  • A low-committment project and something that is fun (vs a chore!).
  • An account that might have a few posts a day, none, or lots. No worries. No pressure.
  • You’ll be given posting privileges on the account.
  • You can give yourself credit for a photo posted.
  • You can label your photos, such as those done by @EastCoastPhotog.
  • People of all ages — and all levels of photographic skill — are welcome to participate.
  • Participating in the squad is an upaid volunteer position and one with no particular time or posting frequency requirement.
  • You’re encouraged to help get more followers on the account and to “heart” others’ posts.
  • You’re encouraged to promote local events, charities and businesses.
  • You’re encouraged to capture people at work, play and daily living in Howard County (with their permission, of course).
  • You’re asked to use the #HoCoHashtags well and wisely.
  • We manage and would love to have an Instagram feed on our page … one that comes through the eyes of people in our community. We’ll post the photos on our site.
  • We reserve the right to delete a photo or uninvite a participant, though we’ll tell you why and give you time to adjust your posts, if such a sitch comes up.

Give a holler to Jessie Newburn by email or text: 443-794-7521.

Welcome, new bloggers

Welcome, new bloggers.

September is back to school time, where learning is a number one priority, just like our bloggers are to the HoCoBlogs community!

Join the HoCo Blogging Community!

September means new learning, so let’s help educate our community on things that are important to you. Submit your blog today and teach us all about the things you know!

Let’s try to come together and make our HoCo a better place!

Follow (and use) #TellHoCo on Twitter. And if you see something that needs to be taken care of in our community, report it online by going to! Don’t forget to use the hashtag on Facebook, Instagram, Google+ and more.

You can always find our list of local hashtags here.

save that date!

On Oct 1st from 5:30-7:30 p.m., the HoCoLibrary and Seasons 52 will be co-hosting the next HoCoBlogs party. Find out all about it here.

HoCoBlogs’ #HoCoCivil Party at Seasons 52

Join us! As Howard County’s Library System gears up for its annual Choose Civility Week and symposium, they’re co-hosting the next HoCoBlogs party along with — and at — Seasons 52 in the new outdoor wing of the Mall in Columbia. 

RSVP here.

Come by! As always, there will be interesting people and great conversations; and Seasons 52 is being quite generous by offering beer and wine on the earlier side of the party, a variety of flatbreads (yum!) and chicken skewers. Mak sure you save room for the minis, the scrumptious little desserts they serve. Weather permitting, we’ll be outside in their adorable and spacious patio; weather notpermitting, we’ll be inside at one of their lush and cozy private rooms. 

And tune in to the Choose Civility annual symposium. This year’s theme is “The Ball’s in Your Court: Can Civility and Sports Coexist?” The symposium is October 9th, 6:30-8:30 pm, held at the HCLS Miller Branch and free, of course. More info and register at

See you all real soon!



Be social

You know what to do: Tweet, like these groups/orgs/businesses on Facebook, follow them on Instagram … share your social capital!  #HoCoCivil, #HoCoEvents 

HoCoLibrary & Choose Civility – FB, Twitter, Instagram
Choose Civility – FB, Twitter
Seasons 52 – FB, Twitter and Instagram
Hocoblogs – FB, Twitter, Instagram

Social capital for local businesses

Thank you, one and all, for your generosity of time, spirit, intelligence and can-do-ness in appreciating the venue of last night’s HoCoBlogs party (Nottingham’s) and the many interesting conversations you had. Nottingham’s was a generous host, providing free food (for vegetarians and omnivores alike) and a drink ticket for each attendee. They also put us in their private room, which made for easier conversations and less shouting in order to be heard. 

In turn, we, the community of bloggers and social media activists gave of our time and thoughtfulness with our social media capital in our local networks. From what I can see, these bloggers covered the party in one way, shape, form or another — 

Plus there was –
  • Two emails sent to our database of nearly 500 bloggers,
  • Multiple tweets (about a dozen over a few weeks) from @hocoblogs to our nearly 4000 local followers,
  • Shout-outs on our hocoblogs Facebook page with nearly 900 local “likes,”
  • Near-impossible to track Facebook mentions from many of the attendees,
  • An event page
  • A Facebook invite, plus
  • A slew of tweets  from yesterday/today (and others in the weeks leading up to the party which are harder to track). 

Thank you, everyone — each and all of you — for your help in making these parties easier, more valuable (for all) and more enjoyable to host and attend! 



PS — The parties are really fun and it would be an incredible gift to me and the community at large if someone would help manage the party invitation list. I need help gathering up all the emails and putting them into an email service such as MailChimp. #HoCoVolunteers

Local tweets as a form of social capital

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Parties, Podcasts and Potholes

Parties, Podcasts and Potholes …


First, the parties.

Come join us at Nottingham’s this Tuesday, 5:30-7:30 pm. There will be some great food to munch on, including some vegetarian treats. And each attendee will also receive one drink ticket good for a domestic draft beer, soda, house wine or one of two specialty drinks created by Nottie’s head bartender. RSVP here

Then save the date for October 1st and a HoCo Library / Choose Civility blogger (and blog reader) party. Deets to be announced, though it’s likely we’ll be at Season 52 in the new wing of the mall. 


The good people at Pat Hiban Real Estate Group, along with Elizabeth Brunetti, fellow blogger at The Bare Midriff and an employee at the company, have started HoCoLife Podcast, a weekly podcast about happenings in Howard County. Listen in, like them on Facebook and — just as importantly — provide them tips of happenings and events in the county. 



Howard County has started using See-Click-Fix to report, acknowledge and monitor a variety of  … Read this article here, visit the hoco SCF page here and download the #TellHoCo app here (scroll down).

HoCoBlogs Party at Nottingham’s – Sept 9th

Come join us at Nottingham’s, one of Columbia’s most well-known and oft-visited taverns. We’ll be gathering on Tuesday, September 9th, 5:30-7:30 pm for a party with Howard County’s bloggers and their readers. (You’ve got to fit into one or the other of those categories, right?)

RSVP Here.

Nottingham’s is very generously providing a food buffet and four specialty drinks offered. They’ll be providing a drink ticket, too. It’s very helpful to our hosts that we have accurate RSVPs so that they can properly prepare and staff up as needed. (Thank you!)

We’ll be in their private room and will have a lovely space to mingle, meet new people and deepen relationships with those you already know. Bring a friend or two and introduce them to the vibrant, intelligent and ever-curious community of local bloggers, readers and engaged community members.

Your dust-covered, Burning Man-lovin’ co-host,