What is a blog? Definition and Typology
Notes from a talk at the Sydney Mechanics School of Arts, 16th April 2007
I have disagreements with some easily found definitions (my underlining)
- A website that displays in chronological order the postings by one or more individuals and usually has links to comments on specific postings (American Heritage)
- an online, regularly updated journal or newsletter (Columbia)
- a website, usually maintained by an individual, with regular entries of commentary, descriptions of events, or other material such as graphics or video. Entries are commonly displayed in reverse chronological order (Wikipedia 20080410)
- Robot Wisdom (now here) is generally considered the first weblog or blog.
- the idea here is a "log" of web browsing, and the key feature is the linking. Links are what makes the Web unique, and linking is what distinguished blogging from keeping a diary, or other older forms of expression.
- we also have a site maintained by an individual and regularly updated.
- also note (on the original site) the header of static links to news sources and other sites - what would now be called a "blogroll".
Blogs are now much more diverse
- many blogs have much more substantial analysis - the link is in many cases just the starting point for an essay.
- many blogs support comments on blog posts - easy commenting is also new to the Internet. One well-known example is Slashdot.
- many high profile blogs are group blogs - easier to maintain regular updates (Crooked Timber)
- common usage now allows for blogs that have no links! - say the View from Elsewhere. The term has shifted to subsume "online diary".
- but calling something with neither links nor comments a blog would still seem odd, at least to me.
My attempt at a typology you can make a rough classification of blogs by what matters most (noting that this is somewhat reader-dependent):
- old-fashioned link blogs, where readers are mostly interested in the links - such as my own blog Pathologically Polymathic
- blogs where the analysis/content is the primary interest - like Informed Comment
- blogs where the comments are of most interest - probably Slashdot, for most readers
- various combinations of these - the Literary Saloon has no comments, but a balance between interesting links and analysis; Fark has little commentary/analysis, but links plus comments; Crooked Timber posts often have links, but the analysis and comments are more often the attraction
Things that are not blogs
what happens at the boundaries?
- content takes over - news, diaries, or collaborative authoring - not every online journal or newsletter is a blog (pace Columbia)
- commentary takes over - discussion forums
- generic link lists or latest news pages - no individual or group "voice", local linking only. Not everything in reverse chronological order is a blog (pace American Heritage and Wikipedia)
- If you want to start a blog, there are free blogging tools like WordPress. There are also many sites that will host blogs for free or a fee, so you don't have to manage your own site or install software.
- there's nothing wrong with "non blog" content! In fact, it's still most of the interesting material out there (and blogs are in many ways dependent on it). Almost all my own writing is in the form of book reviews or travelogues.