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Thursday, February 27, 2003

Blogging FAQ

Friends, family, and random people carrying bags of Chinese take-out on the Spadina 77A bus have been asking: "what in the world is a weblog?"

Problem is, many of the famous blogging people's answers fail to put things in proper perspective for the average sensible person, who suspects that a blog is not much of anything.

Q. Isn't a weblog just about the same as publishing pages on a web site? What's the difference?

A. Personally, I feel that the uniqueness of the blog "form" is exaggerated. One can do very much the same online without necessarily using a piece of blog software or knowing that one is blogging. However, certain conventions have grown up around blogging - and blog software builds in certain features - that makes it very popular and handy as a notebook, diary, news brief tool, or "annotated commentary" on the day's events. Blog software dates and times automatically, allows one to post to the web quicker than most forms of web publishing (though a good content management system would do the same, but who can afford, spend the time on, or understand content management? not most bloggers!), and archives are organized automatically by the software. It's a real time-saver and a communications aid - but also easy to install on one's own web site with a unique domain name, so you get the feeling of ownership that one won't get from things like free Geocities web sites, message boards, and so on.

Q. So it's basically a glorified message board?

A. It's certainly glorified. One of the conventions that has grown up, though, is that the person "blogging" the info has more of a voice. It's not so much moderated discussion as personal publishing that may (or in many cases does not) allow commentary. Less free-for-all, no need to anoint "moderators" - simply, in most cases, a different emphasis. But strictly speaking, is it necessarily that much different from a message board? No, not any more than a sonnet is different from a ditty, or a frisbee is different from a boomerang. You could probably play frisbee with a boomerang or a pizza box if you wanted to.

Q. Are weblogs necessarily incestuous? I see a lot of emphasis is placed on maintaining lists of links to the other weblogs people recommend.

A. Another odd convention. The growth of this trend might have accelerated in part when webloggers cottoned on to the fact that they could confer authority on one another that might help with Google rankings. Chalk up yet one more reason that Google felt the need to bring the technology in house. So it could have a better chance of differentiating between innocuous blogrolling and link farming.

Why don't you shut up now?

I think I will. Thank you for your time.

Posted by Andrew Goodman




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