Apr 132012

Article by Steve Simpson

Bloggers Blogging Blogs A recent report finds that 62% of Internet users don’t know what a “blog” is.

Last year, the Oxford Dictionary of English added the word “blog” to its selection of new words. Unlike the similar addition of the Internet meaning of “dot” a few years back, I suspect most people replied to “blog” with “Huh?” A recent report supports my suspicion in its findings that 62% of Internet users don’t know what a “blog” is.

Plain and simple, a blog is essentially a journal posted to the Internet for anyone to read. What started out as a way for individuals to share their diaries with the world is fast becoming the talk of the Web.

First, let me help you understand the name. Say “Web”, like the World Wide Web, then “log”, like a daily captain’s log. Now, say the two words faster. Sounds like “weh-blog”, right? That’s the short history of the name.

A blog has grown to essentially cover commentary, opinion or observations posted to a Web site on a regular basis. It’s a pulpit from which anyone can share their views with the world. Bloggers (the people that write blogs) include a number of traditional columnists, analysts and pundits. In their cases, blogs let them extend their expertise and audience beyond the confines of the printed, broadcast or packaged publication.

Blogs are also ordinary folks who feel they have a voice. And, it’s these new voices that seem to hold the most promise. Professionals who never had a channel to the public, self-decreed or de facto experts on a topic, creative types working the art of the blog and a few blowhards who just think they need to be heard are all blogging.

Blogs may be reshaping our use of the Internet, the distribution of news and the proliferation of opinion. Dan Gillmor recently left his ten-year post as a columnist for the San Jose Mercury News, the newspaper at the center of Silicon Valley. Gillmor struck out on his own to fuel the fire of “distributed” journalism, his terms for the effect of blogs on traditional reporting. “I think of distributed journalism as somewhat analogous to any project or problem that can be broken into little pieces,” Gillmor states on his blog at http://dangillmor.typepad.com, “where lots of people can work in parallel on small parts of a bigger question and collectively – and relatively quickly – bring to bear lots of individual knowledge and/or energy to the matter. The important thing is the parallel activity by a large number of people.”

Gillmor is apparently on to something. The Pew Internet and American Life Project recently found that blog use increased 58% last year. At the time of the study late in 2004, just 27% of Internet users were following blogs. But blogs represent a huge growth area within the Net.

Some of this popularity is attributed to the recent presidential election and politics in general. Bloggers covered every facet of the political process, including the media coverage. And since blogging is about more than just reporting the news, they have become part of the political process.

Gillmor cites a recent example centered on the DeLay Rule in the U.S. House of Representatives. Gillmor credits two political blogs with helping force House Republicans to reverse direction on a vote. The blogs “asked readers to call their Republican members of Congress and ask how they voted on the original secret vote to give DeLay a break” after being indicted.

Blogs are tied to Web sites, so searching for a blog of interest is similar to finding a Web site. Finding a quality blog may be harder. Try these tips:

* Look at your favorite Web sites for links to blogs. * Search for a topic in your favorite search engine, following your search term with the word “blog” (i.e., association management software blog)* Look to sites like Bloglines, Feedster and others that house blogs for writers. Some of these sites list blogs by category, making it easy to find blogs that fit your interests.

Steve Simpson is a technology writter in Iowa

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