Saturday, April 01, 2006

To Blog Or Not To Blog

It was a really difficult decision for me if I should start a blog or not. There were so many reasons I could think of why I shouldn't bother. Having to keep it updated regularly was the main one. I'm the person who keeps saying an out of date blog is sloppy and unprofessional. So I had to decide whether I had the time and the commitment to keep it going.

I love writing, I love writing about myself. But, every time I've started a diary I've been fine for the first few weeks and then started to slack and then I find I'm trying to catch up with the days I've missed and slowly the diary peters out all together. Shame I know, but I've found I just don't have the stamina to keep going.

Another reason for not starting a blog was my spelling is awful and when I write I type words back to front and inside out. Sometimes I think I may be slightly dyslexic but it is more likely that my fingers type faster than my brain can keep up with. I depend a lot on a spell check and that is why words such as 'from', which I usually type as 'form' get missed. The other thing is even though I am sure I put my finger on the shift key, capital letters often do not happen. I always go back and check these.

One of the reasons for starting a blog was that I have got a specific subject I'm interested in writing about. And that would be I hear you ask? Well, writing, of course. I suspect you guessed that. But, more specifically it is writing for children. I was a full time primary school teacher for sixteen years and believe I have an understanding of the things children enjoy reading and I know I have the sense of humour of a ten year old.

However, would I want to publish these thoughts on a dialy basis on the Internet? I honestly didn't think I would and maybe the only reason I've started doing so is because I'm very dubious if anyone will read it anyway. A good friend of mine, Lynne Hackles, once said, "Do I really want to air my dirty laundry?" Well, I intend to try and keep this blog limited to only my clean laundry.

Before, I started this blog I did a bit of research. Largely because I love research but also because I wanted to know:

  • What exactly is a blog?
  • What does all the blog jargon mean?
  • How do blogs differ from traditional websites?
  • How do blogs differ from forums or newsgroups?
  • How did blogs originate?
  • What different types of blogs were there?
  • What other blogs were out there that were of interest for a writer like me?

Here are some of the things I found out.

What is a Blog?
I found out that blogs, or weblogs, are basically websites where items are posted and displayed with the newest at the top. Some function as online diaries and usually focus on a particular subject, such as writing, food, politics, or local news. They are most definitely archives of human thought.

A typical blog combines text, images, links to other blogs and web pages related to its topic. I also found out that since 1995, blogging has emerged as a popular means of communication, affecting public opinion and mass media around the world. Blogs need to be kept up-to-date. I still strongly believe an outdated blog will lose the interest of readers and you might as well not have a blog at all, as it will look, yes you've guessed it... sloppy and unprofessional.

Blogs can be hosted by dedicated blog hosting services like this one, which is hosted by, or they can be run using blog software on regular web hosting services. It is possible to blog from anywhere with Internet access. This is quite an exciting revelation.

Blog Jargon
Here are some of the new words I have discovered.

Writing a blog, maintaining and adding articles to existing blogs, is called blogging. Individual articles on a blog are called posts. A person who adds posts is called a blogger. Real-time commentary is known as liveblogging.

A blog contains:
· Title – main headline of the post.
· Body - main content of the post.
· Permalink - the URL of the full article being discussed.
· Post Date - date and time the post was published.
· Comments - added by readers.
· Tags – other subjects open for discussion.
· Trackbacks - links to other sites that refer to these subjects.
· Blogroll – links to other blogs that the blog author reads or is connected to.

How Blogs Differ from Traditional Websites
A blog has certain features that distinguish it from the standard web page. Pages are easily created using a simple template containing the title, category and body of the article.

This information is uploaded to the Internet and automatically added to the home page, a full article page is created and links added to the appropriate date or category-based archive.

I have found blogging combines the personal web page with tools to make linking to other pages easier. This enables bloggers to control the threads that connects them to others with similar interests. Date, category, author, or other archive headings can be used to search for specific data.

How Blogs Differ from Forums or Newsgroups
Blogs are different from forums or newsgroups, because only the author or authoring group can create new subjects for discussion on a blog. A group can blog with multiple people holding posting rights but blog owners, or editors, initiate and highlight discussions to maintain the blog to their specification.

History of the Blog
The modern blog evolved from the online diary where people keep a running account of their personal lives. The first known personal blogs started in 1995.

Jorn Barger coined the term ‘weblog’ on 17 December 1997. Peter Merholz coined the short form, blog, which has been accepted as a noun and the verb, ‘to blog’ meaning, ‘to post to one's weblog or to edit one's weblog’.

In March 2003, the Oxford English Dictionary included the terms weblog, weblogging and weblogger in their dictionary.

Since 2003, blogs have gained increasing notice and coverage for their role in breaking, shaping, and spinning news stories. The Guardian newspaper launched a daily digest of blogs in September 2005.

Some institutions see blogging as a means of avoiding the filter and pushing messages directly to the public. Some critics worry that bloggers have no respect for copyright or presenting society with credible news.

Even so, blogs have become an increasingly popular medium of news dissemination. Though often seen as gossips, bloggers lead the way in bringing key information to public light. This puts the mainstream media in the unusual position of reacting to news that bloggers generate.

Types of Blogs

This is a list of some of the different types of blogs I have found in my research. There are probably loads more.

  • Business Blogs - used to promote and defame businesses, to argue economic concepts and to disseminate information.
  • Collaborative Blogs - written by more than one person on a specific topic. They can be open to everyone or limited to a group of people.
  • Cultural Blogs - discuss music, sports, theatre, arts and popular culture.
  • Directory blogs - provide regularly updated links on a focused topic of interest.
  • Eclectic Blogs - focus on specific or unusual subjects and can be individually or collaboratively produced.
  • Educational Blogs - are teacher or student records, often course specific, identifying homework, links to Internet resources and recording day-by-day what is taught.
  • Forum Blogs - allow select users to post into a discussion.
  • Link blogs - a way of sharing interesting URL’s.
  • Moblog - or Mobile Blogs are posted to the Internet from a mobile phone.
  • Personal Blogs - online diaries or journals. They can include poems, prose, illicit thoughts, complaints, daily experiences and sometimes allowing others to contribute.
  • Photoblogs - consist of a gallery of images that are regularly updated.
  • Political Blogs - news driven, and link to articles from news web sites with the bloggers personal comments.
  • Science Blogs - discuss specific scientific interests. Some scientists believe blogs are an excellent way to disseminate and discuss data, others fear they could damage the credibility of science by bypassing the peer review system.
  • Sketchblogs - where illustrators post different sketches and other types of visual art.
  • Splogs - Spam Blogs are a form of high-pressure advertising.
    Topical Blogs - focus on a particular subject, like mine which is mainly about writing and writing for children in particular.
  • Warblog - highlight events in an ongoing war, often with a biased slant.

Blogs of Interest to Writers
Here are some writer’s blogs that I looked at before I started to write my own and might just give you the inspiration to write your own. I have not told these people I've put their blog on my blog or asked permission to do so. I have no idea if I am suppossed to or not. but I will list them for now anyway and if I get complaints I can always remove them. That is the great thing about blogs, like webistes, nothing is permanent. They are in no particular order.

  • John Baker's Weblog is the blog of a British crime and mystery writer. It was originally intended to trace the development of a novel from conception to completion, but has diverged into book, film and political comment.
  • Scriptwriting and Script Reading in the UK is the blog of a scriptwriter working in the UK TV and film industry.
  • Notes From the Slushpile contains news, talks, essays, workshops and conference notes on writing for children. I have met Candy at my SCBWI-BI meetings and have a lot of respect for her. I hope my blog will grow to be as good and as informative as hers.
  • The Felixstowe Scribblers Weblog is an example of how a writing group have collaborated on a joint blog
  • Grumpy Old Bookman is a blog about books and publishing, aimed at both readers and writers. Listed by the Guardian as one of the top ten literary blogs.
  • Judes' Writing Corner is the blog that really made my mind up for me on whether I should blog or not. So, I blame Jude for this blog. No, I should say, I thank Jude for this blog, as when she told everyone about hers on Wordpool and the SCBWI-BI Yahoo group, it gave me the push I needed to get started. I had to enrol to post on Jude's blog and then I began to experiment for myself. The rest is history. Take a look at Jude's blog here.

Anyway, this is my blog. I obviously decided the answer to the question is to blog and I am now officially a blogger. So far, I have enjoyed blogging. And if it doesn't work out? Then I can always delete it.

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