Blogs

Library Technology Reports, July-August 2006 | Go to article overview

Blogs


Part 1: Blogs, Libraries, and Librarians

One of the most talked about online innovations of Web 2.0 is the use of blog software to create easily updated, content-rich Web sites. In 2004, Merriam Webster OnLine announced the most-searched word of the year was blog! M-W's definition from Merriam-Webster's Words of 2004 (www.m-w.com/info/04words .htm) is: "Blog noun [short for Weblog] (1999): a Web site that contains an online personal journal with reflections, comments, and often hyperlinks provided by the writer."

Blogs are everywhere! The blog-tracking site Technorati (www.technorati.com) frequently publishes statistics. In April 2006, Dave Sifry posted this informative overview of the Blogosphere for Technorati:

* Technorati now tracks over 37.3 million blogs

* The blogosphere is doubling in size every 6 months

* It is now over 60 times bigger than it was 3 years ago

* On average, a new weblog is created every second of every day

* 19.4 million bloggers (55 percent) are still posting 3 months after their blogs are created

* Technorati tracks about 1.2 million new blog posts each day, about 50,000 per hour (1)

Another useful resource for understanding how people use Internet tools is the Pew Internet and American Life Project. Pew reported on blogs in 2005, including:

* Blog readership shoots up 58 percent in 2004

* 6 million Americans get news and information fed to them through RSS aggregators

* But 62 percent of online Americans do not know what a blog is (2)

So although the name may be a turn off or misunderstood, my guess is a lot of folks have encountered blogs and simply didn't know that it might be called a blog. Library users may even be returning to the cool page that has all the best news and not even know it's a blog!

Just a Tool!

It's good to point out, when talking about blogs, the discussion is fundamentally about a tool--a software tool that, when created and developed by its human operator, performs a whole lot of organization and page building for Web sites. What began as hand-coded personal journal pages, moved into free-hosted space, and then into blog software, both commercial and open source. Blogs have grown from "what I had for breakfast" chronicles to a mechanism that creates thriving personal, business, nonprofit, and educational Web sites with some keying and the click of the mouse.

The Nuts & Bolts of Blogging

A blog is a Web site that:

* is organized chronologically by date (newest entries are usually at the top);

* self-archives by date (done by software);

* is updated somewhat regularly with relatively short entries;

* includes links, more links, and still more links;

* uses a unique URL (called a "permalink') for each individual post;

* provides an RSS feed that syndicates the blog's content;

* does all the dirty work of creating pages and archives.

Weblog features usually include:

* Dated entries

* Mission, goal statement, or About the Blog area

* Categories for posts

* Permanent URLs for each post

* Comments on posts by readers

* Archives

* Lists of other blogs the author(s) reads

* Navigational links

* Tags (or keywords) for each post assigned by the author(s)

* Contact info

Posting to a blog is a simple process. Once configured, most blog software is accessed via a Web-based interface. The posting process might go something like this:

* Open a Web browser

* Log into your blog software

* Select "new/create entry"

* Type text in the boxes for title and entry

* Click submit button

Welcome to the Biblioblogosphere

As a means to create dynamic Web pages, searchable archives, well-organized categories of information, and to free your staff to develop content instead of coding HTML or using page-creation software, blog applications fits the bill.

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