We've all heard the term "blog" tossed about, but what is it, really? I picked up Hugh Hewitt's book entitled Blog - Understanding the Information Reformation That's Changing Your World recently. I was fascinated to read of all the active blogs - poliblogs (political blogs raising huge sums of money for politicians), warblogs (after 9/11), milblogs (military) and faithblogs (Christian blogs) -- just to mention a few.
As I understand it, blog originally started as the word weblog -- a sort of online personal journal/diary, with links to web sites that the owner enjoyed. Weblog was cumbersome to say, so the short form blog was born.
Hewitt quotes the "incredible power of the blogosphere" -- 30 or so blogs in 1999 to four million in 2004. He states that the number of four million blogs is projected to double by the year 2006. (News flash: I read on the Internet recently that we've already hit eight million blogs in 2005.)
As Hewitt says, "The gatekeepers have lost their power."
More colorful to read about blogs is Rebecca Blood's book "The Weblog Handbook -- Practical Advice on Creating and Maintaining Your Blog". You can order it on her blog. Also posted on her site is a full "History of Weblogs".
Here's a sample of Rebecca Blood's thoughts on blogs:
A weblog is a coffeehouse conversation in text, with references as required.
A weblog is a text version of ham radio.
A weblog consists of commentary with the new stuff on top.
In the weblog universe, everyone can say his piece.
The weblog phenomenon is democratic.
Webloggers seek to put the news into a larger perspective.
Weblogs excel at exposing and explaining flaws in media coverage.
Marginalized voices, dissenting viewpoints and obscure web sites all flourish in the weblog universe.
Weblogs can perform a valuable function as critical disseminators of pertinent information.
The weblog's strength is fundamentally tied to its position outside of mainstream media -- observing, commenting and honestly reacting to both current events and the media coverage they generate.
A weblogger's commentary may provide insight into current events and may provoke the reader to more fully consider his own point of view.
One of the strengths of the weblog is its ability to contextualize information. (The tin soldier would rephrase this to say that the weblog puts events and facts into context -- sometimes literally connecting the dots of confusing facts and events to draw a picture of behind-the-scenes reality.)
Weblogs that are maintained by information junkies are likely to bring to the attention of their readers web sites and articles that would otherwise go unnoticed.
Webloggers who link to one another recognize their ability to leverage virtual social connections into networks, enabling each of them to amplify his individual voice.
The Web has circumvented all the gate keepers, and now everyone with a web page has the means to reach an audience of like-minded individuals.
Rebecca Blood describes three broad categories of blogs:
Blogs: Resemble short-form journals. The writer's subject is his/her daily life, with links subordinate to the text.
Notebooks: Distinguished from blogs by their longer pieces of focused content. The weblogger's ruminations are front and center. The blog tends to focus on the weblogger's inner world and their reactions to the world around them. They tend to be less a record of external events than a record of ideas.
Filters: (1) Organized squarely around the link -- maintained by an inveterate Web surfer -- personal information strictly optional. These filters have one thing in common: the primacy of the link. They want to show you around the Web. The self, when it appears on a filter-style blog, is revealed obliquely, through its relation to the larger world.
(2) Collaborative weblog (such as Sound Off Santa Maria) -- maintained by a group of people, rather than one individual. They range from sites on which any member can post and comment, to those on which the site owner posts to the main page and members contribute in discussion forums.
And finally, Rebecca Blood says: Weblogs invite participation in another way -- they produce webloggers.
One Tin Soldier would like to invite other people in the Central Coast to start their own blogs. The more people we have blogging -- and linking to each other's blogs -- the more accurate will be the picture of what's occurring in our cities and the greater will be our voices in getting the changes accomplished that we feel are necessary.
My next commentary will contain information on how to use one of the blog maintenance services available to very easily start your own blog -- even if you're a complete novice on the computer.
One Tin Soldier