What Is A Blog?
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It is 2008; do we still need to ask ourselves what a blog is? I think so, and for two reasons. First of all we still have many misconceptions about blogging floating around the web. Pretty much every week I get at least one email from someone asking if I believe blogging has a future. My answer is always “as long as the Internet has a future, blogs do too.” You will see why I answer that below.
You also have countless articles being published every week where the author suggests that blogs are obsolete, and that the next big thing is micro blogging, or lifestreaming or something else. Again I don’t agree with any of those predicted trends.
The second reason for trying to define what a blog is in 2008 (many people have already done that in the past after all) is because blogging is a social phenomenon. As such, it is constantly evolving, and what was true two years ago might not be anymore.
Blogs Aren’t Necessarily Personal
The main misconception regarding the definition of blogs comes from people that associate blogs with their content. More specifically from people that associate blogs with the content from one particular type of blog: personal blogs.
In other words, those people think that blogs are online diaries where people share their opinions, ramblings and personal events.
That is just one of the things that you could do with a blog.
Today blogs are being used for all sorts of purposes. You have companies that use blogs to communicate and interact with customers and other stake holders. Newspapers that incorporated blogs to their main website to offer a new channel for their writers. Individuals that created a blog to share with the world their expertise on specific topics. And so on.
Separate The Content
If you separate the content from the website, it becomes much easier to work with the definitions.
Consider a person that wants to publish a Questions & Answers column online. She could use several types of websites for that purpose.
She could create an online forum, for example, where each thread would be an answer to a specific question. She could create a static HTML website and publish all the questions and answers on a single page. She could create a wiki where users would be able to edit the questions and answers directly. Finally, she could also create a blog where each post would contain a question and its answer.
As you can see, the content is not attached to the website. The picture below illustrates that (note that only four types of websites were used, but there are many more).
Obviously one type of website will be more suitable for a certain purpose than others. It would be easier for a company to use an online forum on its customer support section, for instance.
So What Is A Blog?
A blog is basically a type of website, like a forum or a social bookmarking site. As such it is defined by the technical aspects and features around it, and not by the content published inside it.
The features that make blogs different from other websites are:
content is published in a chronological fashion
content is updated regularly
readers have the possibility to leave comments
other blog authors can interact via trackbacks and pingbacks
content is syndicated via RSS feeds
Keep in mind that it is the bundle of those features that should define a blog. An online forum could also offer an RSS feed for example, but that would not make it a blog.
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