Tuesday, May 17, 2005

About Blog

About Blog

A weblog (usually shortened to blog, but occasionally spelled web log) is a web application presented as a webpage consisting of periodic posts, normally in reverse chronological order. The term blog came into common use as a way of avoiding confusion with the term server log.

Blogs run from individual diaries to arms of political campaigns, media programs and corporations, and from the writing of one occasional author to the collaboration of a large community of writers. Many weblogs enable visitors to leave public comments, which can lead to a community of readers centered around the blog; others are non-interactive. The totality of weblogs or blog-related websites is often called the blogosphere. When a large amount of activity, information and opinion erupts around a particular subject or controversy in the blogosphere, it is sometimes called a blogstorm or blog swarm.

The format of weblogs varies, from simple bullet lists of hyperlinks, to article summaries with user-provided comments and ratings. Individual weblog entries are almost always date and time-stamped, with the newest post at the top of the page, and reader comments often appearing below it. Because links are so important to weblogs, most blogs have a way of archiving older entries and generating a static address for individual entries; this static link is referred to as a permalink. The latest headlines, with hyperlinks and summaries, are offered in weblogs in the RSS or Atom XML format, to be read with a feed reader.

A weblog is edited, organized and published often through a content management system or CMS.

History

Precursors
Electronic communities existed before internetworking. For example the AP wire was, in effect, similar to a large chat room where there were "wire fights" and electronic conversations. Another pre-digital electronic community Amateur (or "ham") radio allowed individuals who set up their own broadcast equipment to communicate with others directly. Ham radio also had logs called "glogs" that were personal diaries made using wearable computers in the early 1980s.
Before blogging became popular, digital communities took many forms, including Usenet, email lists and bulletin boards. In the 1990s Internet forum software, such as WebX, created running conversations with threads. Many of the terms from weblogging were created in these earlier media.
Diarists kept journals on the internet: some called themselves escribitionists. A notable example was game programmer John Carmark's widely read journal, published via the finger protocol.
For example, "troll," a term for a person who disrupts a discussion by posting messages to trick other users into reacting in hostility or aggravation, dates back to Usenet. "Thread," in reference to consecutive messages on one specific topic of discussion, comes from email lists and Usenet as well, and "to post" from electronic bulletin boards, borrowing usage directly from their corkboard predecessors.

Blogging begins
Blogging combined the personal web page with tools to make linking to other pages easier, specifically blogrolls and TrackBacks, as well as comments and afterthoughts. This way, instead of a few people being in control of threads on a forum, or anyone able to start threads on a list, there was a moderating effect that was the personality of the weblog's owner.

The term "weblog" was coined by Jorn Barger in December 1997. The shorter version, "blog," was coined by Peter Merholz, who, in April or May of 1999, broke the word weblog into the phrase "we blog" in the sidebar of his weblog [1] (http://www.peterme.com/archives/00000205.html). This was interpreted as a short form of the noun [2] (http://www.bradlands.com/weblog/1999-09.shtml#September%2010,%201999) and also as a verb, to blog, meaning "to edit one's weblog or a post to one's weblog." Usage spread during 1999, with the word being further popularized by the near-simultaneous arrival of the first hosted weblog tools: Evan Williams and Meg Hourihan's company Pyra Labs launched Blogger (which was purchased by Google in 2004) and Paul Kedrosky's GrokSoup. As of March 2003, the Oxford English Dictionary included the terms weblog, weblogging and weblogger in their dictionary. [3] (http://www.oed.com/help/updates/motswana-mussy.html)

One of the pioneers of the tools that make blogging more than merely websites that scroll is Dave Winer. One of his most important contributions was the creation of servers which weblogs would ping to show that they had updated. Blog reading utilities, such as Blogrolling [4] (http://www.blogrolling.com/), use the aggregated update data to show a user when their favorite blogs have new posts.

Blogging's rise to influence
After the September 11, 2001 attacks, many blogs which supported the U.S. "War On Terrorism" quickly gained readership among a public searching for information to understand that event; many new blogs in the same genre sprang up in this environment. By 2002, many of these were supporting the policy of an invasion of Iraq to remove Saddam Hussein from power (based on U.S. policy since 1998) and eliminate supposed stockpiles of WMDs. These "war bloggers" came primarily, though not exclusively, from the right side of the political spectrum, and included Instapundit. The term was later broadened to include all bloggers whose focus was the war in Iraq, which spread representation across the political spectrum. By the spring of 2003, Forbes Magazine used "war blogger" in this larger sense when listing the "best warblogs."

The first blog-driven controversy was probably the fall of Trent Lott, who had remarked, at a party honoring Strom Thurmond, that Thurmond's leadership abilities may have made him a good president. Since Thurmond had spent much of his early political career sympathetic to white-supremacists, Lott's statements were conveyed in the media to be racist. In the aftermath, bloggers such as Josh Marshall strove to demonstrate that his remarks were not an isolated misstatement, by finding evidence including quotes from other previous speeches of Lott's which were taken to be racist—their efforts kept the story "alive" in the press until a critical mass of disapproval forced Lott to resign his position as Senate Majority Leader.

By this point blogging was enough of a phenomenon that how-to manuals had begun to appear, primarily focusing on using the tools, or creating content. But the importance of a blog as a way of building an electronic community had also been written on, as had the potential for blogs as a means of publicizing other projects. Established schools of journalism began researching the blogging phenomenon, and noting the differences between current practice of journalism and blogging.

Since 2003, weblogs have gained increasing notice and coverage for their role in breaking, shaping or spinning news stories. One of the most significant events was the sudden emergence of an interest in the Iraq war, which saw both left-wing and right-wing bloggers taking measured and passionate points of view that did not reflect the traditional left-right divide. The blogs which gathered news on Iraq, both left and right, exploded in popularity, and Forbes magazine covered the phenomenon. The use of blogs by established politicians and political candidates—particularly Howard Dean and Wesley Clark—to express opinions on the war and other issues of the day, cemented their role as a news source. Meanwhile, the increasing number of experts who blogged, such as Daniel Drezner and J. Bradford DeLong, gave blogs a built-in source of in-depth analysis.

The Iraq war was the first "blog war" in another way: bloggers in Baghdad gained wider readership, and one (Salam Pax) published a book of his blog. Blogs also arose amongst soldiers serving in the Iraq war. Such milblogs have given readers a new perspective on the realities of war. Reading the thoughts of people who were "on the spot" provided a counterpoint, if not a counterweight, to official news sources. Blogs were often used to draw attention to obscure news sources, for example posting links to the traffic cameras in Madrid as a huge anti-terrorism demonstration filled the streets in the wake of the M11 attacks. Bloggers would often provide nearly instant commentary on televised events, which became a secondary meaning of the word "blogging," such as "I am blogging Rice's testimony," i.e., "I am posting my reactions to Rice's testimony to my blog as I watch it."

By the end of 2003 top rated blogs Instapundit, Daily Kos and Atrios were receiving over 75,000 unique visitors per day.

Blogging goes mainstream
In 2004, the role of blogs became increasingly mainstream, as political consultants, news services and candidates began using them as tools for outreach and opinion formation. Even politicians not actively involved in a campaign such as Tom Watson, a UK Labour Party MP, began to use blogging as a means for creating a bond with constituents and creating a channel for their ideas and opinions. Minnesota Public Radio broadcast a program by Christopher Lydon and Matt Stoller called "The Blogging of the President," which covered the transformation in politics that blogging seemed to presage. The Columbia Journalism Review began regular coverage of blogs and blogging. Anthologies of blog pieces began to reach print, and blogging personalities began appearing on radio and television. In the summer of that year both the Democratic and Republican National Conventions credentialed bloggers, and blogs became a standard part of the publicity arsenal, with mainstream programs, such as Chris Matthews' Hardball, forming their own blogs. Merriam-Webster's Dictionary declared 'blog' as the word of the year in 2004. (Wikinews (http://en.wikinews.org/wiki/Blog_declared_Word_of_the_Year))

Blogs were some of the driving forces behind the "Rathergate" scandal involving Dan Rather of CBS and some memos used on the show 60 Minutes II. Within 72 hours a coordinated group of bloggers had built a case that they were likely forgeries. The evidence presented eventually created such concern over the issue that CBS was forced to address the situation and make an apology for their inadequate reporting techniques. This is viewed by many bloggers as the point of blogs' acceptance by the mass media as a source of news. It also showed how blogs could keep the pressure on an established news source, forcing defenses and then a retraction of the original story.

Blogging is also used now to break consumer complaints and vulnerabilities of products, in the way that Usenet and email lists once were. One such example is the vulnerability of Kryptonite 2000 locks.

Bloggers have also moved over to other media. Atrios, Glenn Reynolds and Markos Moulitsas Zúniga appear on the radio, and Ana Marie Cox, better known as Wonkette, appears on television. Hugh Hewitt is an example of a media personality who has moved in the other direction, adding to his reach in "old media" by being an influential blogger.

In January 2005, Fortune magazine listed Peter Rojas, Xeni Jardin, Ben Trott and Mena Trott, Jonathan Schwartz, Jason Goldman, Robert Scoble, and Jason Calacanis as eight bloggers that business people "could not ignore."

Blogging and culture
Blogging however, was as much about technology as politics, and the proliferation of tools to run blogs and the communities around them connected blogging with the Open Source movement. Writers such as Larry Lessig and David Weinberger used their blogs to promote not just blogging in specific, but different social models in general. One of the running discussions within journalism and blogging is what "blogging" means for the way news "happens" and is covered. This leads to questions over intellectual property and the role of the mass media in society. Many bloggers differentiate themselves from the mainstream media, while others are members of that media working through a different channel.

Many bloggers have large agendas, and see blogging as part of Open Source Politics, or the ability of people to participate more directly in politics, helping to frame the debate (See George Lakoff). Whereas institutions see blogging as a means of "getting around the filter" and pushing message directly to the public.

Creating and publishing weblogs
Since their introduction, a number of software packages have appeared to allow people to create their own weblog. Blog hosting sites and Web services to provide editing via the Web have proliferated. Common examples include GreatestJournal, Pitas, Blogger, LiveJournal and Xanga.

Many more advanced bloggers prefer to generate their blogs by using server-side software tools such as Nucleus CMS, Movable Type, bBlog, WordPress, b2evolution, boastMachine and Serendipity to publish on their own Web site or a third party site, or to host a group of blogs for a company or school. Such programs provide greater flexibility and power, but require more knowledge. If they provide a Web interface for editing, server-based systems make it easy for travelers to create and edit text; many travelers like to produce their travelblogs from Internet cafes while they travel around the globe.

In addition, some people program their own blogs from scratch by using PHP, CGI, or other server side software. While these are much more difficult to create, they add a maximum potential for creativity.

Two features which are common to blogging are "blogrolls" and "commenting" or "feedback."

A blogroll is a list of other blogs that are linked separately from any article. This is one means by which a blogger creates a context for his blog, by listing other blogs that are similar to his/her own, or blogs the blogger thinks may be of relevance to users. It is also used as measure of the number of citations a blog has, and is used to rank "blog authority" in a manner similar to the way that Google uses hard coded HTML linking to create "page rank." Still another use of the "blogroll" is reciprocal linking: bloggers agree to link to each other, or link to another blog in hopes of getting a link in return.

Another central, and sometimes controversial, aspect of blogging is the use of a feedback comment systems. A comment system allows users to post their own comments on an article or "thread." Some blogs do not have comments, or have a closed commenting system which requires approval from those running the blog. For other bloggers, including several very prominent ones, comments are the crucial feature which distinguishes a "true" blog from other kinds of blogs. Commenting can either be built into the software, or added by using a service such as HaloScan. If a blog has regular commenters, this is referred to as the blog's community.

Tools such as Ecto (http://www.kung-foo.tv/ecto/) and w.bloggar (http://wbloggar.com/) allow users to maintain their Web hosted blog without the need to be online while composing or editing posts. Enhancements to weblog technology continue to be developed, such as the TrackBack feature introduced by Movable Type in 2002 and subsequently adopted by other software companies (e.g., Userland (http://backend.userland.com/trackback)) to enable automatic notification between websites of related content—such as a post on a particular topic or one which responds to a post on another blog [5] (http://www.movabletype.org/trackback/beginners/). bBlog has gone as far as implementing threaded trackbacks on comments, and comments on trackbacks.

Blogs with features such as TrackBack are credited with complicating search engine page ranking techniques [6] (http://www.theregister.co.uk/content/6/33366.html) [7] (http://www.sixapart.com/log/2003/10/its_all_about_c.shtml). Integrating these into search engines has proven to be a challenge, and has been used to deliberately "push" page rankings. However, as one Google executive remarked, it is the search engine's job to find the ways that a website represents a "vote" for another website.

Web hosting companies and online publications also provide blog creation tools, such as Salon (http://www.salon.com/blogs), Tripod (http://www.tripod.com/), Bravenet (http://www.bravenet.com/) and America Online (http://hometown.aol.com/), which calls its subscriber blogs "journals."

Types of weblogs
[edit]
Personal
Often, the word blog is used to describe an online diary or journal, such as LiveJournal. The weblog format of an online diary makes it possible for users without much experience to create, format, and post entries with ease. People write their day-to-day experiences, complaints, poems, prose, illicit thoughts and more, often allowing others to contribute, fulfilling to a certain extent Tim Berners-Lee's original view of the World Wide Web as a collaborative medium. In 2001, mainstream awareness of online diaries began to increase dramatically.

Online diaries are integrated into the daily lives of many teenagers and college students, with communications between friends playing out over their blogs. Even fights may be posted in the diaries, with not-so-veiled insults of each other easily readable by all their friends, enemies, and complete strangers.

Thoughtful
Where a personal weblog is primarily concerned with daily life and events, and many topical weblogs focus on some technical topic, weblogs in the "thoughtful" category present an individual's (or a small group's) thoughts on whatever subject comes to hand; not necessarily the latest computer technology or the latest political scandal, but typically less contingent and more philosophical subjects. Thoughtful weblogs of course blur into personal weblogs on one side and topical or political ones on the other, but are distinct enough to constitute a category of their own.

FriendBlog
A FriendBlog is a distributed networked journal on the web, composed of short, frequently updated posts written by friends connected through their similar interests. The author allows his FriendBlog to connect to other FriendBlogs, belonging to friends and acquaintances. This creates a "chain" of blogs.

Topical
Topical blogs focus on a specific niche, often a technical one. An example is Google Blog (http://www.google.com/googleblog/), covering nothing but Google news. Another example is a soldier blog. Many blogs now allow categories, which means a general blog can be reshuffled to become a topical blog at the user's need.

News
Many weblogs provide a news digest on a certain topic, e.g., Internet in China (http://china-netinvestor.blogspot.com/), baseball (http://baseballnews.blogspot.com/), or music (http://djmonstermo.blogspot.com/) with short abstracts/summaries and links to interesting articles in the press.

Collaborative (also collective or group)
Many weblogs are written by more than one person about a specific topic. Collaborative weblogs can be open to everyone or limited to a group of people. MetaFilter is an example of this type of weblog.

Slashdot, whose status as a blog has been debated, nevertheless has a team of editors who approve and post links to technology news stories throughout the day. Although Slashdot does not refer to itself as a weblog, it shares some characteristics with weblogs.

A new form of blog involves cooperation between bloggers and traditional media sources, allowing for topics discussed on the air to find legs on the Web, and vice-versa. The first and most prominent example of this form is Lone Star Times (http://www.lonestartimes.com), which is affiliated with Houston talk-radio station KSEV.

Political
Another common kind of blog is a political blog. Often an individual will link to articles from news web sites and post their own comments as well. Many of these blogs comment on whatever interests the author. Some of them are more specialized. One subspecies is the watch blog, a blog which sets out to criticize what the author considers systematic errors or bias in an online newspaper or news site—or perhaps even by a more popular blogger.

Political blogs attracted attention because of their use by two political candidates in 2003: Howard Dean and Wesley Clark. Both gained political buzz on the Internet, and particularly among bloggers, before they were taken seriously by the establishment media as candidates. Joe Trippi, Dean's campaign manager, made the Internet a particular focus of the campaign. Both candidates stumbled in the end, but were, at one time or another, thought of as front runners for the Democratic Nomination.

In 2004, the Democrats took political blogging a major step forward by creating Blog Swarm (http://blogswarm.org) to coordinate the hypertext links of progressive blogs. This allowed one blog to drive traffic by harnessing the power of a full blog array.

Legal
Blogs that discuss law and legal affairs are often referred to as blawgs.

Directory
Directory weblogs are useful for web-surfers because they often collect numerous web sites with interesting content in an easy to use and constantly updated format. News-related weblogs can fall into this category or the previous one (political blogs).

Media
Some blogs serve as media watchdogs, reporting on falsehoods or inconsistencies that are presented as facts in the mass media. Many media blogs are focused exclusively on one newspaper or television network.

Corporate
Increasingly, employees of corporations are posting official or semi-official blogs about their work. The employers however, do not always appreciate the endeavor. In January 2005 Joe Gordon was fired from Waterstone's bookshop in Edinburgh, Scotland, because he referred to his boss as an "asshole in sandals." In 2004 Ellen Simonetti, a Delta Air Lines flight attendant, was fired for posing in uniform on her blog. Perhaps the most famous case of all occurred when "Troutgirl" Joyce Park was fired (http://troutgirl.com/blog/index.php?/archives/46_Shitcanned.html) from Friendster because she discussed the rationale behind the website's technology conversion from J2EE to PHP on her blog.

Other employers have reacted differently. For instance, when Power Line bloggers were attacked by a Minneapolis Star Tribune columnist, one of the bloggers' employers came to his defense (http://powerlineblog.com/archives/2005_01.php#009119).

With the rise in popularity of blogs in 2004 senior management caught on to the trend and by January 2005 several types of organizations, including universities, had started using blogs to communicate with their stakeholders. Many believe this corporate takeover of a tool that was used primarily by Internet enthusiasts will lead to a decrease in the popularity of the medium. Others believe that the use of blogs by organizations will add new voices and vitality to the medium. At any rate, there is little evidence that the growth rate of the blogosphere has slowed.

In 2005 the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) published a guide to blog anonymously and safely (http://www.eff.org/Privacy/Anonymity/blog-anonymously.php) about work or anything else.

Advice
Many weblogs provide expert advice, such as Microsoft technical knowledge (GaryDev (http://blog.advisor.com/blog/garydev.nsf)) or fiction publishing for women (Four Chicks and a Book (http://www.codexwriters.com/4chicks/)).

Religious
Some blogs discuss religious topics. Religious blogs show the public's points of view on various controversies both in religion and in politics, economics, and life in general.

Formats
Some weblogs specialise in particular forms of presentation, such as images (see web comics), or videos (see videoblog), or on a particular theme, and acronyms have been developed for some of these, such as moblogs (for "mobile" blog).

Audio
One of the types of blog that has undergone rapid expansion since the year 2000 is the MP3 blog, which make audio files available to the user. MP3 blogs are normally targeted at highly specialized musical genres, such as late 60s soul music or early 90s hip-hop or even the latest stuff in electronic dance music genres like grime. However, personal audioblogs are also on the rise (See also Podcasting).

Photography
The increasing ubiquity of digital cameras and broadband connections has made it ever easier to post and share photos on the web. Bloggers have adapted their software to facilitate the publishing of photos, creating what is called a photoblog. Photo sharing sites like Buzznet (http://www.buzznet.com) and Flickr have integrated the typical photo gallery service with photo sharing, blogging and syndication to create a new kind of social software.

Video
In January 2005 the first VloggerCon (http://vloggercon.blogspot.com) was held, catering for a new breed of bloggers, the video blogger. A vlog, or videoblog, is a blog where video is included in blog posts. This is also known as videoblogging.

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