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"Basically, a blog is a web site, where you write stuff on an ongoing basis. New stuff appears up at the top, so your visitors can read what's new. Then they comment on it or link to it or email you. Or not." (blogs.yahoo.com)

Blog is short for "weblog". It is a web site managed by software that has built in page designs to make it simple to start a blog and makes updating very easy. The updates are dated, most recent at the top. A blog is a lot like an online diary, editorial, commentary, or journal. Most are usually authored by one person, but some have multiple authors. While visitors to the blog can't edit a blogger's page as they can a wiki, visitors are invited to add their thoughts in a Comments section. Blogs can contain text, images, videos, and more. They can be public or private (access limited by the blogger).

To learn more about how blogs work, let's look at them from several different perspectives. A blog is at once a website, a diary, a conversation, and a syndicated publication.

Of course, if you are over the age of 40, you will never understand what a blog is, so get your kids to do it for you. You also are unable to program your own cell phone, or even change the ring tones, in most cases. Face it, you are over the hill.

A Blog is a Website

All websites have unique web addresses (called URLS; such as http://nisc.wikispaces.com); blogs are no exception. Blogs can be viewed through any standard web browser and look like standard web pages. Like many websites, blogs consist of a collection of individual pages, and there are many internal links that aid users of the site to navigate its content. Blogs may link to other web pages (using external links), and any existing web page can link to a blog or any page inside the blog.

A Blog is a Diary

Traditional, written diaries are chronological records of one person's thoughts, feelings and opinions. Translating to the online world, a blog adheres to a very similar pattern. The owner of a blog creates posts (the equivalent of diary entries), which are automatically stamped with the time and date. Typically, a blog's main page displays recent entries, with the most current one at the top. Readers of the blog can then find current and recent entries with no further effort, and may search the blog archives (typically through a calendar-like interface) for older content.

There are two big differences between blogs and diaries. One is the addition of category tags, which can be defined by the blog creator and then attached to individual posts. This makes it possible to categorize posts so that blog readers can more easily find specific content. The second difference is really the thrust of blogging, though. Where diaries are private, blogs are intended to be publicly read and commented on. Much of the value of blogging has to do with the feedback that a blog writer receives in response to his or her posts.

One important concept in blogging is the permalink. Each blog post has its own unique web address (URL), so rather than linking to the blog a whole, a web page may link to a particular blog entry. This makes it very easy for the blogging community to have a dialogue. One blogger may post on a particular topic, and the reader may then comment on the post and link to his own blog post. The blogging community is quite active, and most serious bloggers have a list of other bloggers that they regularly follow and comment on (their blogroll). These people, of course, have no life and certainly no meaningful interaction with live human beings face to face. in fact, they are rotting away in dark rooms in front of computer screens. Pity them.

A Blog is a Conversation

A key feature of blogs is the ability to comment on posts. Subject to the blog owner's preferences, anonymous or identified readers may add written comments to any post. All comments for a post are listed in chronological order, so it is possible to read a blog post followed by the conversation it stimulated.

Conversations may emerge when commenters (even perhaps the original writer of the post) respond to existing comments. Additionally, other bloggers may write their own blog entries to debate or reinforce a post. These discussions have the flavor of internet message boards dating back to UseNet and its various BBS antecedents. The blog owner himself may respond to comments by adding his own comments.

A Blog is a Publication

The key feature of any syndicated publication, such as a magazine or newspaper, is the ability to subscribe to it. If you know that you enjoy reading Time Magazine on a weekly basis, you can save yourself a lot of effort by subscribing. Rather than needing to remember to buy one every week at the store, you need only wait for each issue to arrive in the mail.

Several systems exist for syndicating content on the Web. The two common ones are RSS and Atom, and most blogs employ one or the other (or both) to publish their content. A blog will publish one or several web feed links that allow a user to subscribe. Just as with traditional publications, you can access blogs a la carte without subscribing, or you can subscribe to one or more of their feeds if you want to automatically receive updates as they occur.

In order to subscribe, you must use an aggregator, which is responsible for keeping track of your web feed subscriptions and updating the the contents on a regular basis. There are many types of aggregators. Some web browsers have built-in aggregators. There are also plenty of stand-alone programs that are dedicated to that one function. Finally, web-based aggregators allow you to keep track of your subscriptions without any special software, and have the advantage of independence from any one computer.

Currently, Technorati, a search engine focused on blogs, provides you access to over 55 million blogs and estimates that there will be millions added each month.

Using Blogs

Who's writing all these blogs?
Not just folks in the U.S. as the graph below indicates.
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Why write a blog?
  • Personal online diary
  • Place to vent opinions
* Place to share information like The Medical Blog Network
  • Collaborative space
  • Political ideas and debates
* Journalism or breaking-news outlet
In education
  • Connecting and sharing with students around the world
** Sample: Dekita.org
  • >>
  • Journals about topics from science or other projects or books
** Sample: Newberg Middle Schoolers bloggings about their wiki project.
  • >>
  • Journals about history or current events
  • Communicating with parents and the community
** Sample: Mabry Middle School in Cobb County
  • >>

Feel free to add other ways that blogs are or could be used and, below, to add links to blogs that could be useful for attendees of this class, other parents, teachers, or students.

Adaptive Path: a blog focused on the upcoming trends on the web, specifically on web marketing.

Pedagogical implications of weblogs

The following list is from Will Richarson's book on Web 2.0 and its use in education. Richardson argues that blogs can improve student learning because they:

  • are a constructivist tool for learning
  • expand the walls of the classroom
  • archive the learning that teachers and students do
  • are democratic tools that support different learning styles
  • can enhance the development of expertise in a particular subject
  • can teach students the new literacies they will need to function in an ever expanding information society

Later in the same chapter Richardson also explains that blogs are useful resources as well. Many experts in their fields write or contribute to excellent blogs, and even just one really good blog can prove to be a jumping-off point to other blogs and sites that carry the implicit endorsement of the author(s).

Reading and Commenting on a blog
Visit the NISC blog and make a comment.
Go to the NISC-Web2.0-Blog and add a comment about this session or whatever you wish. If you give me your email address, I can give you rights to add a blog entry on this blog, not just a comment entry.

Starting your own blog - in under 10 minutes

Decide what the purpose of your blog is.

Then, you might want to check out some popular blogs to see what they look like and what makes people read them. Yahoo's Weblogs is one place to check.

Now select a blogging service like
www.blogger.com Free blogging service, very easy to use. It will guide you through naming your blog, selecting a pretty background template, and making and editing your entries.

Links to blogs and articles about blogging
Yahoo's Weblogs
Sir Timothy Berner-Lee's (inventor of the WWW) thoughts on blogs
ThinkingAboutTheNewWeb - add a comment.
Forbes' Best Blogs - Their ranking of the 5 best blogs in many different categories along with a paragraph summary about the blogger and site, which can be helpful. Easy to navigate and select one or two to read. For example, Best food blogs is one category.Electronic Frontier Foundation - Not a blog but an interesting FAQ page about student bloggers' legal rights and responsibilities.
A Teacher's 10 Best Sites picks -

Blog vocabulary

Aggregator - ( or news aggregator or feed reader )
ia client software that uses a web feed to retrieve syndicated web content like blogs and podcasts for a user who has subscribed to these blogs or podcasts..

Archives - Past entries in the blog, usually grouped by months.

Blogoshpere - The universe of blogs and bloggers and all their conversations.

Blogger - someone with no outside interests and way too much time on their hands.

Comment - A short message posted by a blog visitor on the comment entry page.

Entry - The thoughts the blogger (or visitor) writes and posts, arranged by the blogging program in chronological order.

Feed - A method to distribute blog entries outside their sites. You can subscribe to a feed and have it delivered via a newsreader program to you to read.

Index page - The home page of the blog, where the most recent entries are posted.

Moblogging - Mobile blogging, entries are posted via cell phone.

Newsreader - A program of web sites that gathers and displays blog entries from many blogs.

Podcast - A regularly produced audio program distributed by an RSS feed.

Sidebar - The space next to the entries on a blog, often filled with links to other sites, information about the blogger, photos, and other miscellaneous content.