This may seem like an obvious question, but there are many people who don’t understand what a blog really is and how it can help them and their organizations.
The simplest answer to the question is that a blog is a website. Many people out surfing the web don’t want or need to know any more than that. However, if you plan to have a presence on the web you should know more so you can decide if a blog style website is right for you.
Evolution of Blogs
Blog is short for Web Log. Early definitions of a blog described it as a personal journal or diary on the web. This conjures up the not so serious image of a collection of frivolous, rambling, or random stories. While some of the early blogs started this way and you can use a blog for that purpose, if you focus on the topic or content to define a blog you are really missing the big picture.
A blog is a type of website that consists of a series of posts. Posts can include but are not limited to text, pictures, videos, audio, or any other type of content. Blogs frequently allow comments which creates an interactive quality to the content.
Software like Open Diary, Live Journal, Blogger, Movable Type, and WordPress was developed to easily create this style of website. This software did its job well and made creating blogs really easy. It became so easy that lots of people did it. As lots of people did it, the software and the characteristics of a blog evolved.
Two Definitions of Blogs
These days there are two ways to define a blog:
1. A blog is a website with some or all of the following characteristics:
- A series of posts frequently in reverse chronological order
- Has an interactive quality due to the ability for readers to comment on posts
- Usually one but often more than one author
- The ability for readers to subscribe to RSS feeds
- The ability to notify other blogs that are linked in posts
- The ability to receive notification from other blogs that link back
- Organization of posts with archives based on time, categories, tags, and authors
2. A blog is a website created with blogging software.
- Blogging software is a specialized form of Content Management System that allows someone to publish a website with the characteristics of blogs.
- Blogging software separates content from design and code so that publishing to the web is simple and quick.
- Since blogs typically contain timely content and are generally interactive, most blogging software is designed to automate the process of commenting and of notifying other sites of new content.
- Most blogging software can be customized with new designs and new functionality.
- Popular modern blogging software includes WordPress, Movable Type, Blogger, and many others.
Who Publishes Blogs?
Blogging software has made it so easy to publish to the web that anyone can do it. People of all ages and walks of life can blog. Writers, business people, artists, scientists, photographers, journalists, musicians, academics, students, film makers, hobbyists, poets, children, retirees and anyone else that has a desire to communicate can and do blog. Blogs can be simple or complex. Online newspapers and magazines are often created with blogging software.
Many people blog because it is an easy way to publish to the web. Because it is easy, blog content tends to be timely. Because it is timely, blog software has developed many features to notify people of new content. Because of quick notifications, readers tend to react and interact. Because of this interaction, blogs tend to generate buzz. If you have an idea, product, service, or something to say, you want to be part of that buzz. If you want to be part of that buzz, you need to blog.
Should I Create a Blog?
Here are some good reasons to create a blog:
- You have a product, service, or idea.
- You want to communicate with a group of people.
- You want a presence on the Internet.
- You want to create a website that can be updated easily without knowing code or html.
- You want to publish new material frequently or infrequently.
- You want to edit existing content easily.
- You want an interactive website where people can comment on your posts.
- You want to have software that automatically reaches out to websites you reference.
- You want software that reaches out to people or services that are interested in you.
- You want to be able to categorize, tag, and otherwise organize website content.
- You have something to say.
What Blogging Software Should I use?
There are many options out there. Some are dedicated blogging platforms. Some are comprehensive CMS systems. Some are free and open source. Some cost money and include support.
If you are just getting started and don’t really know what you want or need, I recommend starting with WordPress. I am a big fan of WordPress. But don’t take my word for it, it happens to be the most popular blogging platform on Earth. If you are just starting out, there is no reason you can’t start there.
There are two ways to get WordPress:
- Download it from WordPress.org and install it on your webserver. (Or install it automatically at the vast majority of web hosts. This is the recommended option.)
- Sign up for a free account at WordPress.com and try it out for free. (Just try it out at WordPress.com. Do not start your “real” blog there for these important reasons.)
Choose Other Blogging Software
WordPress is free, simple, extensible, well documented, and well supported. However it is not for everybody. If you know that WordPress does not meet your needs, you can try any of the hundreds of CMS and blogging platforms out there. A comprehensive (and frankly intimidating) list can be found at CMSMatrix.org.
I’ve built sites with Drupal, Joomla, DotNetNuke, and Community Server. They are powerful and popular content management systems with good blogging capabilities and more. I just find that WordPress is much simpler and handles 98% of my website needs.