You raise so valid points...
I would just like to add that blogs will be around for a long, long time to come.
I have just written and posted a pretty long comment to both the Adventive I-PR mailing list moderated by the highly capable B L Ochman and to the
Lance Dublin's Pre-Conference and On-Site Weblog/Dialogue discussion taking place now online at Online Learning 2003 Discussion Conference.
The topic is blogs and their yet to be understood nature and potential.
My short article brings together many of the points that I have been making recently and it paves the way to correctly introduce the Communication Agents Initiative that I have decided to launch within a few days.
I will be posting here more detailed information shortly about the CA Initiative and what it provides to you. If you have not read or seen anything I have done so far in this direction, please stay tuned (put your email up on the top right in my Bloglet subscription box, so that every new post I make is immediately notified to you with the full text included).
Here is my down-to-earth explanation of what blogs are and why a blog is not a blog at all.
thanks for giving this opportunity to bring the issue and confusion reigning around blogs to be better exposed and clarified.
I have used and tested blog technology since 1999 when I first embraced the Manila/Editthispage service.
As my role is one of communication advisor when new media technologies are involved, I have had the opportunity to study and analyze this technology or rather "blogging phenomenon" and develop a view that diverts a bit from what is being reported in the mainstream media.
Let me clarify this more.
A Blog is a form of journalistic expression it is not a tool.
Just like a pen is not a poem but an instrument to write.
Yes, a new breed of tools, based on specific concepts and features did give rise to the blogging phenomenon, but the tool remained an instrument that could be applied to several different uses and applications.
In the eyes of non-bloggers, a blog is a tool to make a blog.
A blog is a form of personal expression that is characterised by:
A list of dated news items, listed in reverse chronological order, authored by one or more individuals.
The tone is informal and the blogger speaks generally in her own natural voice and tone.
The tools that can be used to create a blog can be many different ones.
Generally these tools can be considered to be basic Content Management Systems(CMS) which are capable to provide authoring and editing facilities that shield writers from any technical issue, and an effective and simple-to-use management system able to automatically archive, categorize, index, title and name files. This is the tool that stands behind many blogs.
Some of popular CMSs are:
Radio Userland http://radio.userland.com/ (Mac & PC)
*All solutions can be used from either a PC or a Mac or for that matter any other platform. The server-based solutions listed here will run on most operating systems and CPUs as well.
Costs range from free (Blogger.com, LiveJournal.com) to $ 2-3,000 if you are looking for all of the possible functionalities one may have in an online information space.
Personally, I would label such tools as Personal Publishing Systems as they enable individuals, professionals, writers and communicators of all kinds to effectively communicate without encountering all of the typical barriers of a present Web-based presence (maintenance, technical issues, editing, HTML coding, etc.).
In my opinion, the key benefits that one derives from utilizing these personal publishing systems could be summarized in:
1) Manage your content from anywhere
You can access all your information from a normal Web browser - Your content is viewable in all of the browsers, with some systems even on mobile phone browsers. This means that you can manage your intranet and public Web site from a Web browser anywhere in the world. The administration and configuration is all done through the Web as well.
2) Edit without knowing HTML
You can create, edit and change content without ever needing to write an HTML tag. On the more advanced solutions you can actually write in "preview" mode seeing what the page and formatting will look at the end. Alternatively some allow you to edit content in place on-site. Yes! You go the page where the content is published you click on it and you edit it in place. Amazing? Indeed.
The web site is updated from within the site itself - no specialised tools are needed, just a Web browser. Most of these tools work even with older browsers, so even if your organization do not use the latest in Web technology, here you have a solid solution.
3) Immediacy of updating and publishing
Now the time from concept to online is drastically reduced. A piece can be written posted, approved and made available online in the arc of minutes instead of hours or days.
4) Ability to categorize content
Content can be easily and automatically categorized according to predefined categories that you or your organization can define with maximum flexibility. In practice category additions and changes can even be made along the way without serious consequences to the integrity of your data.
5) Content distribution through RSS/XML syndication
These new breed of CMS (content management systems) effectively integrates RSS technology allowing your content to be used as a "news feed". This allows newsreaders and news aggregators to tap into your content without even needing to go on the Web. Other federated sites can easily integrate your content and republish it the moment you post it on yours. The possibilities are endless.
6) Management of multiple language interfaces
This is something that these CMS tools do not economize on. Great flexibility and Unicode support paint a rosy future for the ability of these tools to match effectively the multilanguage needs of many organizations.
7) Integrated search functionality
Search is integral to the system and does not require extra steps to make content appropriately indexed and available. Extra functionalities allow you to search across a federated network of relevant sites, or only across specified domains.
8) Integrated traffic tracking functionality
Integrated. You can track and measure traffic on your site according to a number of indicators and metrics. This is an indispensable feature if you have any concern over accessibility, user-centered design, measuring reach and specific campaigns success. The effective tracking of traffic to your site also provides the means to identify and discover partners, competitors and other very valuable resources previously unknown to you.
9) Easy maintenance and updating
Maintenance is completely transparent. There is nothing to do to maintain the site, outside of publishing content, checking links to outside sites (that may change or expire) and making a backup of it all every so often.
10) Cost effectiveness
You can't beat Open Source pricing, and most of these solutions are indeed quality Open Source solutions. Even commercial ones have very affordable solutions ranging from $ 150 to $ 3500.
11) Open source advantage
Your system can be further customized by your webmaster and engineers. The large community of Open Source developers guarantees a vast array of ready-made solutions that can be easily integrated in your system.
12) Really-Easy to use
These systems are easy to use. You learn how they work in the arc of less than hour. Everything is reduced to outmost simplicity, and it is designed to be stupid-proof. I must say that I have been impressed indeed by the ease with which these systems can be adopted by a non-technical user.
13) Clean interface design
This is also something to cheer about. Most of these systems give you a Spartan look to start with that is very lean and fast to appear on slow connections. Navigation is essential and well designed. As you can customize this to your liking it is up to you not to load up too much extra "chrome" that serves no purpose at all.
14) Look and Feel customization
All of these systems are based on a template architecture. Using templates the Web site content can now be fully separated from site's presentation and style layers. You decide before hand how all of the content pages will look, as well as the bulletins, the circulars, the procedures, the news pages. The design, layout and features are embedded into the template, and you can now forget about it. You need only to focus on filling in the content and the rest is done automatically.
Much satisfaction should also come to the Communications department that will finally see the possibility of consistent looks and navigations become a real possibility.
15) Creates ownership
Users can add content, managers can manage. Letting users edit and add content lets them feel ownership towards what they publish and motivates authors and researchers in publishing their latest information promptly. Content production can be increased significantly and by utilizing so much less time and resources. This in turn leads more people to use such content management and publishing systems actively.
16) Facilitates collaboration
When editing and publishing content, you can assign other participants local roles within projects, and some tools also support versioning and staging of content.
17) User roles and rights system. Content validation.
User roles and permissions can be assigned selectively by the administrator(s) and each one gets to edit his own assigned area. Permissions are easy to implement and modify.
Therefore, if you ask what are the differences between a normal web site and one of these systems, the answer is as simple as answering that the Web site is the fruit of the handwork and coding of someone, while a personal publishing system like these ones enables YOU to be in the driver seat.
That is all it comes down to and that is WHY "blogging" has been the first phenomenon you have seen sprouting out there. Unexpressed writing souls finally finding a channel to funnel their rants and ideas with no reference to communication strategy, marketing, networking. It was a natural, spontaneous and beautiful cultural phenomenon signalling finally the planetary "conversation" had indeed begun.
The effective digital divide between those who ate HTML and FTP for lunch and those who did not was slashed forever. That has been the revolutionary event.
Freedom from geeks.
(Not that they were not necessary or even critical in the advent of blogs, but certainly the time had come for people to understand that THEY DID NOT HAVE TO HAVE A WEBMASTER ANYMORE.)
In summary, here are some of the key differences that identify what people refer as a blog (and I would refer to as a CMS-powered Web site) and what people refer to as a normal Web site:
1) No difference in terms of looks. A blog or CMS-powered site looks as professional and slick as any other Web site.
2) No webmaster to maintain it.
3) You can publish directly from your computer.
4) You can use any type of computer to publish (Mac, Linux, PC).
5) There is no HTML or other coding for you to learn.
6) Changes you make to the site happen in real-time.
7) Content you publish can be easily organized under different categories you define yourself.
8) You can easily change, update, add new categories.
9) The pages you create are automatically archived chronologically and by category.
10) Readers can subscribe to your "mini-station" and receive each and everyone of your articles without having to come to your site.
11) You have maximum immediacy in publishing anything. From thought to online page it takes as little as 30".
12) Readers can comment and provide public feedback to your articles if you decide so.
13) An effective search engine is already integrated in your mini-station.
14) Traffic and number of visitors to your site are automatically measured at no extra costs.
15) Page titles are automatically set to reflect your content title for best indexing by major search engines.
16) An RSS feed is integrated in the site allowing individuals to receive your content through newsreader and news aggregators.
17) The content you publish can be automatically syndicated to major news syndication services like Syndic8 and Newsisfree which in turn will redistribute it to hundreds of sites home pages' news section.
18) Can easily reference other content and articles available online.
19) Can publish images with very little effort. No quality difference with a traditional Web site.
20) Can make site changes and content changes with minimal effort and time. Any page can be edited instantly.
21) Be part of a community of several thousands users utilizing the same technology with success.
22) No need to use FTP or to transfer files manually to your server.
In this light one can easily see that the applications one can achieve with the use of these tools are indeed several, including:
an online publishing press,
a mini-radio station,
a hub for information,
a news reporting site,
an independent newspaper online
a networking hub,
a community center,
a clearinghouse for projects,
a catalogue of products, images, tools
a directory of services
a online shop
a connecting resource for like-minded people
a site that supports social change
an information point to effect positive action
and much much more.
I hope this helps clear a bit of the heavy fog floating on the blogging issue and the underlying implications.
There is indeed a lot more to say that people are not aware of, but I feel I should leave it to you to decide whether what my point of view is relevant to yours.
Now to make this long story very simple to understand, head on to this site http://www.masternewmedia.org/ tell me if it looks to you as a BLOG.
Ideas, Tools And Resources For Communication Agents
You raise so valid points...
I would just like to add that blogs will be around for a long, long time to come.
Great insight and detail. The other issues at hand if any, would be the negative aspects if they exist and what would they be.
And of course the commercial value?
Which if I am not mistaken, is the current question of the blogging phenomenon.
And, is there a searchable database such as Google available to log/file etc.?