What is a Blog?
Blogging is presently the most popular way for people to put content onto a website. To put it simply, a blog, short for weblog, is a website which has a simple interface whereby the owner can place content easily and quickly onto the site. No knowledge of coding or page design, no use of FTP clients or other special file transfer tools is necessary - it is as simple as typing up your content and clicking on a button to publish it to the site. Once posted, as this is called, the content appears virtually immediately.
One reason blogging has become so popular is because free blog hosting services, such as Blogger.com and WordPress.com, are widely available. Blogger is probably the most popular of the hosted services, providing a very simple interface, and a wide range of features for you to personalize your blog. If you have your own domain name and website, Blogger can also publish your posts to your own site. WordPress is similar, but is perhaps even more suitable if you wish to publish to your own site. However, this does require a little more knowledge of website construction.
Other systems are available, such a Typepad, which requires a fee to be paid, and these are also well worth investigating for the features they offer. Most blogs typically contain text, but posts can also consist of graphics, photographs, sound and video. Many video blogs are constructed by linking to videos posted to
YouTube. The posts on a blog are usually organized chronologically, with the date and time of the post displayed, and the most recent post at the top of the page. As the number of posts grows too large to display on the main page of the blog, older posts are archived so that they can always be retrieved later via links called permalinks.
Most blogs have the facility for readers to post their own comments on the things discussed, using a simple interface provided by the blog system. The comments either appear at the end of the post, or are accessible via a link. While sometimes commenting is abused by spammers, and might then be turned off, the ability to comment and provide quick feedback is one important reason why bloggers so easily form communities around a particular topic.
So, what are blogs used for? In fact, a blog can be used to convey any type of information, from descriptions of your latest holiday, complete with snapshots, deep philosophical discussion, opinions you don’t mind airing in public, tutorials about how to do anything at all, to the latest products available from your business.
The blog post you are reading is part of a tutorial blog, The Blog Works. If you go to a reasonable mystic you will see a philosophical blog discussing issues of spirituality. Then, if you go to Mals Meanderings you will find the day-to-day ruminations of a small church pastor.
These are a few examples of my blogs, and on them you will find links to other blogs either I have made, or that I read regularly. These lists are what are called blogrolls, and are a simple, and largely automated way that you can place links to other blogs on your own posts.
Why would you want to do this? Well, apart from enhancing the value of your posts, an important aim of most bloggers is to have their posts read by a reasonable number of people. This means that people have to find your blog, otherwise they can’t read it. This goal is usually summed up in one word - traffic. Linking to other people’s blogs encourages them to check out your blog - people like to know who their audience is. If they like what they read they might place a link to your blog on their site - or place you in their blogroll. There a number of free services which can simplify producing a blogroll - blogrolling.com is one that I use. I will mention other systems another time.
Another reason you might want traffic to your blog is that you wish to earn money from it. A popular way to do this is to insert discrete advertisements on your site. When people click on those ads you get paid. There are a number of free and paid services offering such ads, the most popular free service at present being Google Adsense. You can see such ads on this page if you look carefully. Another way to earn money is to place affiliate links on your site. If someone joins the service by taking the link from your site, again you get paid. The Google Adsense link just mentioned is one such affiliate link. Another popular affiliate link is to Amazon.com, the worlds largest online bookstore. You can place many types of Amazon links on your site, and if people buy from them you get a commission. Services such a Google and Amazon make it very easy to place links on your site, and you have control over the type of ads displayed. I will write more about monetizing your blog, or other websites, later. Many other services are available to bloggers, such as special blog directories and search engines. If you like to monitor a large number of blogs then it is useful to use a feed reader, such a bloglines.com and Google Reader. Such readers, or aggregators as they are called, allow you to see changes and new items posted to a blog without having to visit the blog itself. They do this by means of RSS feeds. RSS stands for Real Simple Syndication, and most blogs automatically produce such a feed. An agregator like bloglines is also a key to automating your blogroll.
So, to sum up what we have learned so far, having a blog is a simple and popular way to become part of the world wide web. It gives you a place online to express yourself, whether that is in an artistic and creative way, or purely for business. Even if you have no knowledge about setting up websites, you can have your own blog up and running in just a few minutes, and then you can call yourself a journalist or publisher in what is being called the New Media.
We will begin to go into the detail of constructing a blog next time.