Blogs: Defined and Discussed

Please keep in mind that these opinions are my own and you may or may not agree. Feel free to leave your comments.

Now that blogs are becoming more and more a part of our daily lives, or at least a part of our discourse, the question is raised, “What is a blog?” This question, simple at first, becomes increasingly more complicated, due to the fact that blogs can be almost anything, by anybody, and can contain such varied content that one could become woozy when pressured for a succinct definition. That being said, I shall attempt to define blogs and, more importantly, discuss how blogs can be a tool for discussion.

A blog can be authored by one person (dooce), a small group of persons (Wonkette), or a large community of persons (Whedonesque). The content of a blog can be anything the authorship desires, but they usually tend to be topical or personal in nature. Sometimes it can be both and, with the case of all writings where opinions are involved, the personal often makes itself known. There should be some sort of time/date stamp to the entries on the blog and it should be updated with some frequency. Many definitions I have seen elsewhere include web pages that are set up like a blog, but are simply a list of hyperlinks. I have to disagree with this inclusion as I believe these pages to simply be a web page or pathfinder that is regularly updated. For these types of pages to be included in the definition of blogs, they should have some sort of commentary, however brief, in accompaniment of the hyperlinks by the author. Some blogs allow for comments and some do not.

The real question is why I think blogs are a new form of discussion, especially in regards to the library profession, of which I am a part. I tend to think of blogs that include comments like glorified discussion boards. On a discussion board, someone starts a thread and then the thread can be commented on. On a blog with comments, the author posts something and then allows their readers to post comments. It is basically the same concept as a discussion board, except that one person is initiating all of the discussions. In the case of blogs with comments, the comment ability ranges greatly. Some comments are moderated or limited by word count, which could be likened to “censorship”. This is an unfair comparison because the blog still belongs to the authoring body and they should be able to modify the content. However, the comparison still stands. A topic can be raised by the author and then discussed further in the comments.

There are also a large number of blogs that do not allow for comments. Though the reason for this varies, a major factor is the proliferation of comment spam, a sad but not unexpected problem. Though it appears from the outside that these blogs would not be subject to the discussion category, they do play a key role in discourse. Simply because the discussion can not take place on that particular website, does not mean that the topics posted on a non-comment blog is static in the discourse. The wonderful thing about blogs is that other people are reading it and commenting on the discussions on their own pages. A discussion may start out on one site and be transferred and continued on others, with each author contributing very different things. I see this as all part of a larger discourse on the internet itself. Librarianship and political blogs are excellent examples of this form of discussion. Bloggers read other blogs. A post on one blog can spark a discussion or debate on multiple blogs. Conversation that would have been held through email, on telephones, or not at all, are now open to anyone who reads the postings between a group of people on different blogs.

No matter how we view the discussion aspect of blogs, one thing is certain: blogs have changed the way people get information. I am mostly talking about topic oriented blogs and not diary type blogs. As a young person, I get almost all of the information about librarianship and technology from other librarians who blog or on the internet in general. I rarely do more than flip through the journals that appear in my mailbox each month. Often, I find that the content in the printed journals I have previously read about online. I still view all of the information with a critical eye, as any person should, but I appreciate the timeliness of the way blogs disseminate information. I like being able to see Wonkette’s minute by minute blow of the State of the Union speech as it actually happens or reading about a development in higher education the day before The Chronicle of Higher Education breaks the story. Blogs are just now taking off and, with RSS becoming more accessible and widespread, there is no limit to the directions they could take.

–Jane, blogs