What Makes It a Blog Anyway?
When most people think of a blog, they think of ungoing conversations full of teenagers and twenty-somethings. People new to blogging imagine a continuous blah, blah, blah of air-headed nothingness without any real value to the world at large.
It's time to get that image out of your head.
Chances are you've been to a number of blogs. Some of the blogs that you've been looking at a lot like websites, so you did not even realize that you were blogging. Blogs are essentially directed conversations on the Internet. Any topic is game, so they spread across a wide gamut of categories. You can find blogs covering everything from the latest episode of your favorite TV show to corporate communications from companies like Boeing and GM. In order to better understand what we're talking about, let's establish some common characteristics of blogs.
There are many varieties of blogs, but they share five common characteristics: a chronological listing of postings, RSS feeds, reader comments, built-in search, and categories. Not every blog will have all five characteristics, but this basic set of features is what separates a blog from every other website.
The most obvious characteristic of a blog is its chronological list of postings. New postings will show up on the main page with links to archived postings. As writers create new posts, the blogging software automatically changes the posts in reverse chronological order, so that the most recent posts are located at the top of the main page. Posts are typically short (300-500 words), but they do not have to be short. Sometimes the post will be summarized with a link to the full text for those people who want to continue reading.
Most blogs also have RSS feeds. RSS feeds are subscriptions to content. When you subscribe to an RSS feed, the postings will be 'fed' to you. Software called RSS readers group your feeds by category, topic, etc., so that readers can read the postings on their own time. For the blogger, the RSS feed is a great tool, since it 'pushes' fresh content to its readership.
Comments are another characteristic of blogs. Comments provide readers with the ability to participate in the conversation. The blogger directs the conversation through her posts, and the reader participates in the conversation through comments. Depending on the nature of the blog, comments can be approved before posting or just go straight to the site, based on the site's policies. Comments are an important element of blogs, however, since they create the interaction that generates buzz around a topic.
Blogs typically contain a built-in search feature, so that readers can search for additional information about your topic. As your blog posts increase and more and more of your content ends up in the archive section, you need to provide readers with an easy method to review older content and find relevant information.
Finally, categories are a characteristic of large blogs. As you post and your posting list grows, you can group your blogs by category, improving the reader's experience. You want readers to be able to find information quickly and easily, so searching and categories become important tools available to the blogger.
Although this may sound like a lot to a newbie, the blogging software handles most of the heavy lifting. The blogger focuses on providing content. The blog software provides a set of control panels for creating policies regarding content and then takes care of organizing, searching, categorizing and handling RSS feeds for you. So there are no excuses. Get out there and start blogging!