2006/12/31

What are blogs?

According to Merriam-Webster, "blog" topped the list of words that people looked up at its site in 2004. The term is short for weblog or Web Log. Merrian-Webster's dictionary defines it as: "a Web site that contains an online personal journal with reflections, comments, and often hyperlinks provided by the writer". More specifically, it is a computer program that runs on web servers (a web application) to generate web pages containing posts. These can be anything from personal diary entries, to political commentary or musical reviews. The most recent posts are displayed on top of the blog web page, in other words, posts are logged on reverse chronological order.

"Blog" is also used as a verb as in "Tom Schaller blogged his thoughts on the Broncos vs. Colts game at bronczilla". We even hear about the blogosphere as the collection of blogs, their communities, and their conversations available online. For more details see the Wikipedia definition or the many FAQ's available (here is a good one). By the way, a WIKI is not the same thing as a blog. It is also a web application to produce web pages, but it allows any user to edit the pages produced---thus establishing collaborative environments. Whereas the authors can control who can post or comment on their blogs, wikis are often completely open. There have been many discussions (like this one or this one) on the capability of open content services such as the Wikipedia in dealing with error, sabotage, and vandalism. Clearly, one cannot use services such as the Wikipedia as the sole source of information. On the other hand, the journal Nature gave thumbs up to Wikipedia (article in Information World Review) and the original endorsement in Nature).

But how can we keep up with so much blogging? Cosma Shalizi uses an excellent excerpt from the Anatomy of Melancholy -- Democritus Junior to the Reader by Robert Burton (published in 1621) to express this feeling of both enjoying knowing about news, but also beingn overwhelmed by the volume of information available.

"I hear new news every day, and those ordinary rumours of war, plagues, fires, inundations, thefts, murders, massacres, meteors, comets, spectrums, prodigies, apparitions, of towns taken, cities besieged in France, Germany, Turkey, Persia, Poland, &c., daily musters and preparations, and such like, which these tempestuous times afford, battles fought, so many men slain, monomachies, shipwrecks, piracies, and sea-fights, peace, leagues, stratagems, and fresh alarms. A vast confusion of vows, wishes, actions, edicts, petitions, lawsuits, pleas, laws, proclamations, complaints, grievances, are daily brought to our ears. New books every day, pamphlets, currantoes, stories, whole catalogues of volumes of all sorts, new paradoxes, opinions, schisms, heresies, controversies in philosophy, religion, &c. Now come tidings of weddings, maskings, mummeries, entertainments, jubilees, embassies, tilts and tournaments, trophies, triumphs, revels, sports, plays: then again, as in a new shifted scene, treasons, cheating tricks, robberies, enormous villanies in all kinds, funerals, burials, deaths of Princes, new discoveries, expeditions; now comical then tragical matters. To-day we hear of new Lords and officers created, to-morrow of some great men deposed, and then
again of fresh honours conferred; one is let loose, another imprisoned; one purchaseth, another breaketh: he thrives, his neighbour turns bankrupt; now plenty, then again dearth and famine; one runs, another rides, wrangles, laughs, weeps &c. Thus I daily hear, and such like, both private and publick news. Amdist the gallantry and misery of the world: jollity, pride, perplexities and cares, simplicity and villany; subtlety, knavery, candour and integrity, mutually mixed and offering themselves, I rub on in a strictly private life; as I have still lived, so I now continue, as I was from the first, left to a solitary life, and mine own domestick discontents: saving that sometimes, not to tell a lie, as Diogenes went into the city, and Democritus to the haven, to see fashions, I did for my recreation now and then walk abroad, look into the world, and could not choose but make some little observation, not so wise an observer as a plain rehearser, not as they did to scoff or laugh at all, but with a mixed passion."

"From: Robert Burton, The Anatomy of Melancholy etc., "Democritus Junior to the Reader"


Blogs help us to log our little observations about the World; but the collection of blogs, wikis and web sites out there, store unprecedented amounts of knowledge distributed throughgout cyberspace.

Luckily, information technology does not serve only to overwhelm us, it also gives us tools to sift through the modern, massive sources information -- which were not available to Burton in the 17th century! One tool that is very useful to deal with all news sources is RSS (really Simple Syndication). It is a computer language designed for distributing(syndicating) headlines, blog posts and most Web content---also known as news or RSS feeds. See a recent article about RSS on Scientific American. Many programs exist to receive and deliver to users the feeds they are interested in. These are known as news readers or aggregators. They are available as extensions to web browsers and e-mail programs, as stand alone applications such as SharpReader, or online services such as the free Bloglines and Newsgator readers.

Finally, vanity rules, so a large part of the blogosphere culture is to understand who is visiting your blog and who is commenting about it. Many tools are available to track traffic, for instance Site Meter or Google Analytics. But to enable a rich discourse in the blogosphere, it is important to find out who is blogging about you so that you can respond. A good tool for that is Technorati, tough Google Blog Search is now the most popular blog search tool.

34 Comments:

Anonymous WebtrafficJunkie said...

This is a great article. I thought you did an excellent job at explaining blogs. Thanks for thre information!!

4:43 PM  
Blogger NickQ said...

Yes. We all love the blog.

1:35 AM  
Blogger Chris Stephenson said...

I have never been a big blog fan, but now i can at least say i know exactly what one is.

5:02 PM  
Blogger Ceci "Pi" said...

The article is great.. i like reading Borges materials in English and Spanish

5:26 PM  
Blogger JordaN said...

I really liked the article. I did learn some about blogs.

7:31 PM  
Blogger adamscott said...

i really liked the article. i'll never confuse bloggin with cloggin again!

11:41 PM  
Blogger Joseph Levy said...

Blogs are really a great way to voice your opinion and when you think about it, there is no right or wrong blog. Good article!

12:53 AM  
Anonymous Michael Keucher said...

Behold the power of the blogosphere! Blogs are indeed a great way for people to vent, share, and just waste time. I'm a fan. It's nice to know how they came about, too. The "What are blogs?" post is one that provides useful information.

10:26 AM  
Blogger Farrell said...

I can't say blogs are my favorite part of the internet, but they do hold their place in the realms of things. This was a very good description.

10:31 AM  
Blogger Mike Keucher said...

Behold the power of the blogosphere! Blogs are indeed a great way for people to vent, share, and just waste time. I'm a fan. It's nice to know how they came about, too. The "What are blogs?" post is one that provides useful information.

10:32 AM  
Blogger Kbo said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

10:57 AM  
Blogger Kbo said...

I have never heard of bogs before....until 1-13-06 in my informatics class. When I created my first one, it looked really cool. For now on, you are going to see lots and lots of blogs being created by me....Just watch.

10:59 AM  
Blogger Hoff said...

not a big fan of blogs but it's useful in it's own way i suppose.

1:38 PM  
Blogger icpark said...

blog will be a very important tool to represent our voices online in this technologically advanced world.

1:40 PM  
Blogger mary said...

i'm hoping to learn a lot about blogs, because as of now, i am clueless!

1:42 PM  
Blogger James Barrett said...

Wow, blogs are most excellent and appear addicting... I just hope I dont have an addictive personality... because that would be unfortunate with this new found resource.

1:45 PM  
Blogger Artis Johnson said...

I heard about blogs but never used it because I didn't know how to start one.

1:48 PM  
Anonymous Alex Gerlach said...

I think that this "What are blogs?" section is very informative about the nature of blogs. Unfortunately blogs are not for me but I can see that other people find them useful.

2:01 PM  
Blogger Alex Gerlach said...

I think that this "What are blogs?" section is very informative about the nature of blogs. Unfortunately blogs are not for me but I can see that other people find them useful

2:02 PM  
Blogger Jared Johnson said...

I've read a few blogs, but have never really had the desire to create one. Now that I have one, I can see myself following through with it and probably continue to do so for quite a while.

2:24 PM  
Blogger Aaron Jones said...

I haven't read many blogs, but maybe with this exposure I will start to and continue to work on my own for a long while.

3:59 PM  
Blogger mjlower said...

i learned so much about blogs that i never knew before..

6:30 PM  
Blogger Andrew said...

Well....I never really thought about what blogs were. I just knew that some of my friends had them and that I would read them from time to time. I'm pretty positive that if it wasn't for this class...I would have never made a blog...85% positive...

8:17 PM  
Blogger rickii122 said...

Wow. I did not know exactly what a blog is. Now I know.

10:31 PM  
Blogger Oliver McGraw said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

3:46 AM  
Blogger Oliver McGraw said...

It is good to know that blogs are being put to good, academic use--as they seem to have a the potential to be a efficent--rather than just used for Emo kids.

3:46 AM  
Blogger Chad W. said...

Well these are blogs I guess.

8:06 PM  
Blogger Tyler Boulden said...

I have never used blogs before. This article helped me understand the concept of them. The article was rich with information.

10:00 PM  
Blogger peregrinus said...

I've been using a personal blog for years... I wasn't aware that it was used for an actual purpose other than to complain about your life.

10:36 AM  
Blogger farmerbob said...

Given that the blog is an extension of the self onto the internet, perhaps the most concrete and concentrated depiction, then one must wonder what blogs may evolve into as the social sphere of the internet develops with new technologies. And as this extension expands, what impact might this have on the way in which we interact with the world and define ourselves?

2:12 PM  
Blogger jjheath said...

blogging is revolutionizing the public forum. it is a very useful way for people to share ideas and viewpoints. i wonder if print media will one day be phased out...

9:36 PM  
Blogger Danby said...

Blogs are a good way to share information. It keeps the public interested in recent events and past history. It allows people a better understanding of information and keeps the amount of information on a subject growing. I agree this is an acceptable article and really helps to portray the information on what a blog really is.

3:14 PM  
Anonymous Wissam Nour said...

I'm definitely a big fan of blogs. Especially if they focus on one aspect, such as gizmodo.com.

2:39 PM  
Blogger Wissam Nour said...

I'm definitely a big fan of blogs. Especially if they focus on one aspect, such as gizmodo.com.

3:28 PM  

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