|Practical Computer Advice
from Martin Kadansky
|Volume 10 Issue 4||April 2016|
|What's a Blog? Should You Start One?
What's a blog?
A weblog (pronounced "web-log") is a series of articles or "posts" stored on a web site, often displayed in reverse-chronological order with the newest entry first.
The term combines the ideas of a "log" (journal) that is posted on the web. "Blog" has become a more popular shortened term for the concept.
A blog might be the entire purpose of the web site, or it might only be a portion of what the web site has to offer.
What's in a blog? Who would write a blog?
A blog might be written as a series on a single, specific topic (like a diary, or announcements, or an educational series, or a newsletter), or a variety of topics (health, politics, technology, gardening, religion, arts and crafts, news, etc.), or have no consistent topic or theme at all.
Each post typically has a date, the author's name or user id, a title, main article text, and may also have pictures or photos. The content of a post can be almost any length, from very short to quite lengthy.
The blog author could be an individual, a collaboration of people, a company, a nonprofit, a government agency, etc.
Some bloggers post daily, even hourly, others less frequently but regularly, and others sporadically.
Some authors organize their posts with Categories or Tags to help you find something of interest. For example, a gardening blog might use categories like weeding, pruning, fertilizer, irrigation, tools, soil, critters, planning, budgeting, annuals, perennials, etc. to make it easier for readers to find posts on a particular topic. Each post can be listed under more than one category.
You can usually "follow" (subscribe to) a blog for free, which means that you will receive an email (or some other type of notice) when a new entry is posted.
Some bloggers "monetize" their blogs to make money from visitors. Their blogs may incorporate advertising, which usually pay the blogger on a per-click basis, or they may have a premium blog that charges a subscription fee.
A blog can also permit readers to write public "comments" any given post, sometimes providing helpful additional information, or pointing out errors or omissions in the article, which in turn may spark lively and constructive discussion, as other readers comment on the comments.
Some blogs let anyone submit a comment anonymously, some require that people who want to comment register first for free, typically using an email address for verification, which is not posted publicly.
On some blogs the comments appear online immediately, but because so many people post inappropriate comments, many blog authors reserve the right to review each comment before making it public or deleting it. Inappropriate comments on blogs can include advertising, spam, hate speech, and more, and often lead many bloggers to turn off comments entirely.
Like most subcultures, some special terms have evolved regarding blogs:
How is having a blog different from posting on Twitter, Facebook, etc.?
- Blog: a collection of articles posted on a web site
- Blog post: each entry in a blog
- Blogger: the author or publisher or owner of the blog
- Reader or consumer or visitor: the person reading the blog who hasn't subscribed; surprisingly, "bloggee" is not the popular term for this
- Subscriber: a person who has signed up to receive updates when new blog entries are posted; the notices might be delivered by email or RSS (Really Simple Syndication) or another "web feed" mechanism
- Blog awards: annual awards given to the best blogs each year from various groups, including "The Bloggies," "The Weblog Awards from Wizbang," "the BOBs (Best of Blogs)," etc.
In some ways, all social media sites have features that are similar to a blog. Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and even email newsletters all let you post entries or articles or updates, but they are each a little different as to the length permitted, who will see them, and whether other people's posts will also be displayed at the same time. On the other hand, bloggers often post their articles on other social media sites to expand their exposure and readership.
How do I find interesting blogs?
Free, public blogs are usually visible to all the search engines, so if you have a topic you're interested in, you should search for keywords that describe it plus the word "blog," e.g.: gardening blog
You might also find interesting blogs by exploring those that have won an award: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blog_award
How easy is it to start a blog?
There are lots of free blogging sites and platforms to choose from, including WordPress.com, Tumblr.com, Blogger.com (part of Google), LiveJournal.com, and more. They all make it quite easy to start a blog in minutes, so the most difficult parts can be choosing a platform, then choosing a name for your blog.
I recommend doing some research to learn more about the pros and cons of blogging, the different platforms to choose from, as well as exploring existing blogs to see how they look and operate.
Should you start a blog?
If the idea of writing online appeals to you, and you have something to say publicly, it's easy to get started. I also suggest that you approach this as a fun writing project, and not expect to turn it into a way to make money online.
If you're going to start a blog, it's also important to understand how to protect your account's security. This will be different for each platform, but just like any other online account, if a hacker were to break into yours, they could destroy not only your work but also your reputation.
Where to go from here
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I love helping people learn how to use their computers better! Like a "computer driving instructor," I work 1-on-1 with small business owners and individuals to help them find a more productive and successful relationship with their computers and other high-tech gadgets.