What is blogging? A guide to blogs and web logs.
Even if you haven’t already made or visited a blog, you probably have heard the term thrown about a fair amount. The word “blog”, both a noun and a verb, has rapidly gained widespread usage across the world and refers to an Internet-based diary or “web log”. If you’ve only got a hazy understanding of the term’s actual meaning, read on for answers and tips for setting up your own blog.
There have been many repercussions since the Internet became a household interactive broadcasting medium. Many argue that changes in the last decade, driven by Internet usage, have democratised the media industry. “User generated content” is the buzzword in web circles, and the mainstream media has been forced to take note.
History of the Blog
According to Wikipedia, the first “blogger” was American Justin Hall. In 1994, he began keeping a diary of video game conferences, which eventually became an online journal of his life. These early blogs set the format; a running account in chronological order, with the latest entry at the top. New York Times Magazine referred to Justin Hall as "the founding father of personal blogging."
The phrase “web log” evolved to “blog”, which swiftly gained acceptance. Other notable bloggers have included the satirist Madison, one of the first to get a major book deal, as well as the ‘Baghdad Blogger’, who chronicled (in English) the early days of the US-led invasion of Iraq, focusing on how air raids affected the populace. In this case, distant Western journalists were given vital and current understanding of life on the front line. With blogs initially dismissed as an Internet gimmick, this is a good example of how they have become crucial insights into the personal experience.
Variations on the traditional blog have emerged, with photo blogs and video-blogs (or “vlogs”) gaining popularity. One crucial element of a blog is the user’s ability to interact. If a reader disagrees with the “blogger”, or wants to comment, they usually have the opportunity to express themselves below the article. This typifies the democratic conversational style of forums, which many early ‘net heads’ still prefer. Of course, the popularity of many blogs means that they are monitored, and more popular blogs could not possibly publish every comment.
Just for Amateurs?
The accessibility of blogging is such that anyone can publish their opinion much faster than traditional newspaper reporting. Of course, with the number of blogs rapidly approaching one hundred million, there is the danger of information burnout; too many blogs published for the available number of consumers. Naturally, quality of writing is not controlled either, but then, this is part of blogging’s informal appeal. Experts (in IT, technology, cooking, and countless other topics) maintain blogs, with a reader base of millions in some cases. Many blogs are now becoming as authoritative as books or non-interactive websites, with more and more being cited on third party articles.
How do I Blog?
It is incredibly easy to set up your own blog. If you don’t feel comfortable creating an entire website to house your blog, you can head to one of the many sites hosting blogs and sign up for a free account. A good place to begin may be Blogger or WordPress, to name just two of many.
There are things you need to look out for though. It’s risky to put too much information about yourself online; you wouldn’t put your picture and address on a supermarket notice board. You should also be careful in other areas too. There have been cases of employees documenting their working lives, only to be fired when bosses discovered the blogs and their unfavourable comments. To make sure your pieces are read by more people than yourself, it’s useful to know a bit about Search Engine Optimisation (SEO). This is the art of using key phrases or keywords within a website’s title and content to rank highly in a specific web search. Keywords and phrases are terms that people commonly use and search for within a particular subject. Advanced users may also wish to be aware of the use of “sitemaps”.
Blogging is increasingly becoming an art form within itself, with web users of all ages and all interests expressing views and interacting via this universal medium. With its increasing relevance in society and in the media (commonly used as part of many media, and even general company, websites), blogging may just be the diary of the future.
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