from the November
by Rob Zorn
The thing that has made the Internet such a powerful and revolutionary medium for communication is the ease with which any individual, from the humblest to the greatest, can be in touch with the entire world. Get anything online and it has the potential to be read by anybody, anywhere. No wonder then that over the last few years blogs have stopped being just an Internet quirk and have become a global cultural phenomenon.
A blog (shortened from the words web + log) is a web-based publication that is updated regularly by its author or authors. At their simplest blogs are little more than online diaries, but they usually contain opinion as well as personal news. Usually, they are dedicated to a single topic (e.g. politics, information or reviews) and they can be written by individuals, or collaboratively by a group of writers with a common interest.
Many blogs allow visitors to leave public comments, and a successful blog will usually end up having a community of readers centred around it, all reading the daily updates and commenting back to the writers or other readers. As a result, blogs are beginning to replace many of the more traditional methods of Internet discussion such as bulletin boards or newsgroups.
The importance of a cultural phenomenon can often be measured by the amount of new jargon it generates. People who blog are called bloggers. The totality of blogs is known as the blogosphere. When a large amount of activity or debate erupts around a particular subject in the blogosphere, it is called a blogstorm or blogswarm. The tools for publishing blogs are sometimes referred to as blogware. A moblog is one that is updated regularly with photos taken from camera-phones. People who create bogus blogs in support of their spam e-mail campaigns are known as sploggers, and a new blog -related term was probably coined during the time it took you to read this paragraph.
Blogs have been around since the late 90s, but really began to gain prominence in 2001-2002. They grew naturally out of a rising glut of web sites dedicated to political comment after September 11, and Americas reaction on the world political stage. One of the first to develop a large international following was Andrew Sullivans Daily Dish (http://andrewsullivan.com). It contained a wide array of political and social comment that was often controversial, leading to what wed call robust debate in New Zealand. Imitators and rivals multiplied, and the blogosphere was born.
The Iraq War gave rise to still more blogs as those on the left and the right felt the need to bless the world with their opinions. However, it was probably the candid accounts of events in Iraq published by the soldiers themselves (known as milblogs) that led to blogs being seen as an alternative news source; one that was perhaps more trustworthy or valid as it was written by those actually experiencing the war firsthand, and consequently less prone to journalistic bias. Shortly after the recent London terror attacks, personal blogs written by those close to the action were able to enhance and complement mainstream press coverage for anyone with Internet access.
The rise of this sort of citizen journalism is not universally popular, of course. Media traditionalists see it as an erosion of the strict objectivity that should characterise good reporting. However, Yahoo News (the world's most popular Internet media destination) has now stated it will begin featuring blogs side by side with professionally produced news stories, and this is a firm indication that blogs are here to stay.
In some parts of the world, blogs have already become mainstream with many people now consulting them, not just for alternative news sources, but also for a wide range of more mundane purposes. A recent survey in the United Kingdom found that three quarters of those surveyed consulted blogs before making major purchases. Again, blogs were seen as more honest and reliable because they were not subject to the same marketing agenda as corporate or commercial websites.
The blogosphere is continuing to grow. Purportedly, a new blog is created every second and the number of blogs available is doubling every five months. It seems inevitable, then, that blogs will become a bigger part of our lives, even if some of us havent been giving them much attention so far.
There are probably two main places you should start looking if you want to find out
whats available and of interest to you in the blogosphere. These would be Technorati
Visit a few blogs, bookmark those you like, and feel free to add your comments to what others have written. Bloggers love feedback, and the whole point of them is to engender discussion. Just like with search engines, though, the results can be a little mixed, and it may take a little time for you to find just what youre after.
And if it turns out that nobody is really covering your topic of interest as competently or knowledgeably as you could, dont despair. Setting up your own flash-looking blog and maintaining it regularly is as easy as writing an e-mail. There are a number of online sites dedicated to providing cost free easy-peasy blogging capability, with all the hard stuff is taken care of for you. Its possible to know virtually nothing about blogs, and still have one up and running in less than five minutes.
One of the most popular of these sites is Blogger (www.blogger.com). Theres a quick and easy to follow introductory tour you can take, but if you havent got time for that, you can just jump right in and set up a blog in three easy steps. Open a free account, choose a name for your blog, and select a template from a wide range of good-looking examples. Once youve done that you can compose your first blog
Blogger will provide you with your own web address (such as http://mygreatblog.blogspot.com). Youll be able to receive and respond to comments, and your posts will automatically be archived according to the date you wrote them.
If you do have a little knowledge of Internet code (and you certainly dont need it), your chosen template can be modified to any extent you want and a large number of settings can be modified or switched on or off. If you want to publish your blog to an existing web site, you can load your FTP details into Blogger, and it will even do that for you with a minimum of hassle.
Blogger is just one of many that offer this sort of no-fuss blogging capability. Other similar sites include livejournal.com and myspace.com. There are also a number of sites where you can download your own blogware for independent use. Two of the more popular of these include movabletype.org and Greymatter (www.noahgrey.com/greysoft/).
If youve got something to say, why not share your thoughts with the world? A shared blog can also be a great way for a family to keep I touch. If a new blog is added to the Internet every second of every day, theres no reason why the next one cant be yours.
TEN BLOGGING TIPS
A successful blog is one that gets read and theres a lot of competition out there. Here are a few ways you can increase the hit-rate on yours.
Some Interesting New Zealand Blogs