One of the more interesting aspects involving the news coverage of the war in Iraq was the personal accounts, or logs, of embedded reporters as they traveled with soldiers. Readers got a firsthand, first-person account of what fighting men and women experienced.
Similar ideas are behind the newest trend in Internet communication, the Web log, or blog.
A blog is a journal in which people write, often in a brutally direct way, about their observations, experiences, thoughts and emotions. Then they open it to the public, worldwide.
A blog can be about a range of topics, whatever the writer is thinking about. Or it can be on a narrower topic, such as politics, education, technology, popular culture or humor. Some blogs read like online magazines, with reports and commentaries about new developments. Most blogs are personal, but a good number are business-oriented.
Like Web sites, blogs can include pictures and links to other Web sites. Unlike Web sites, new entries go on top of the page, pushing previous entries down.
Anyone can write a blog, anyone can read one. Blog sites typically include software for creating blogs, with predesigned templates to make things easy, and Web space that hosts what you've created. A good place to start is Blogger
But do you want to be a "blogger"? Are blogs sources of interesting or useful information, or are they just exercises in narcissism by writers and voyeurism by readers?
To shed light on these questions, I got input from four experts in online communication, professionals who write about the Interact and computers for a living.
Freedom of the press has long been a cherished ideal in this country. "In much of the West for centuries you've been able to make independent news for the price of a printing press," says Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols, chairman of the Internet Press Guild. "The real difference now is that blogs drop the bar for self-publishing to a new low."
Some people, however, disparage the quality of the information and insights available through blogs, particularly when compared with the traditional media. It's only partly self-serving for me to say that journalists are trained to distinguish news from rumor and self-promotion, to dig out relevant, interesting information, to make the complex clear …