What is a Blog?

Posted By BrokenClaw on October 1, 2007

The word blog is a contraction of the descriptive term, web log or weblog. A blog can take all sorts of forms, but at its core, it is a chronological online journal, generally written or compiled by one person or a small group, called a blogger. What made blogs grow so rapidly in recent years was the creation of blogging software. Prior to blogging software, most webpages had to be constructed individually, coded with special web commands, and then uploaded to the website.

With blogging software, once it is installed on a website, the blogger can make new entries simply by typing them into the blog interface, which is similar to typing an email message. Then the blogger saves the text and it appears immediately on the webpage, already formatted to fit the style of the website.

From a technical standpoint, blogging software also automates other processes of website maintenance, including formatting, indexing, and creating links on the pages. Companies that offer free, ad-sponsored blogs, such as Google’s Blogger.com, install and maintain the blog software, so the user doesn’t have to do anything but click and type, with virtually no technical knowledge.

A new entry on a blog is called a post. Posts are generally published in reverse order, meaning that the most recent post is placed at the top of the page. Another feature common to most blogs is the ability for readers of the blog to add comments to posts, making the blog a collaborative effort. Unfortunately, comments have to be controlled in some sense, or they will quickly be overrun by spammers.

The simplest type of blog is an online diary, where the blogger adds a few sentences of his/her personal experiences and thoughts from that day. Blogs of this type may have some interest to the blogger’s immediate circle of friends, but they are generally uninteresting to the public at large. Other than family or school blogs, online diaries are more suited to the social networking sites, where the blogger automatically sends the text to the intended readers.

Another type of blog is the online editorial, where the blogger comments on current events. It is the online equivalent of the opinion page of the newspaper. The blog has the advantage, though, of using links to other articles and photos on the web, one of blogging’s most useful tools. The blogger can link to a news report, or even to another blog, and then post their opinion, rebuttal, or additional content to the story. Posts of this type are generally longer than a paragraph, so they are known as articles, just like an article in a newspaper or magazine.

There are dozens of blogging software packages available, and many of them are free to use, with names like bBlog, Drupal, LiveJournal, Nucleus, and WordPress. The name of the software often appears somewhere on the blog as a courtesy to the software developers. Blogs are usually easy to distinguish from traditional webpages by the arrangement of content on the page. Almost all blogs have one main column for the content, and then one or more narrow columns for navigation links. These narrow columns are called sidebars. Sometimes the sidebars are placed at the top or bottom of the page, but they have the same format. The sidebars usually include a search box, links to recent posts or a calendar, a list of topic categories, and advertising links. There are a host of other little programs, called widgets, that are designed to run in the blog sidebar.

The appearance or presentation or design of a blog in your browser is controlled by a feature called a theme, which the owner of the blog chooses. The theme determines the size of the text, the placement of content, the color scheme, the background images, etc. On free blogs, where the choices are limited, you will often come across blogs that look exactly the same because they use the same theme. Themes can be quite complicated to construct, but most are distributed free by the developer. Again, the name of the theme often appears on the blog page, with a courtesy link to the developer’s website.

Compare this website with my Native American website and my North Annville Genealogy website. They look nothing like each other, even though they all run on the same WordPress software, because they each have their own unique theme.

Read more about the Nature of Blogs. Read about another type of collaborative content called a Forum.

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