Blog

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A blog is a user-generated website where entries are made in journal style and displayed in a reverse chronological order.

URL = http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blog

(see also the separate discussion on Blogging)


Description

Stine Lomborg:

"The weblog is a type of online communication that enables self–expression and peer–to–peer interaction, thereby supporting social relations between media users. It entails a highly complex set of mediated processes blurring for instance professional and private practices and purposes of media users. Further, the weblog is a moving object of study, emerging in a continuous produsage [2] of text. It can change character over time, e.g., by taking up new types of content and experimenting with new writing styles, following current interests and motives of the author(s) and those who comment and read. As a consequence, navigating the blogosphere in a research context is a quite complicated challenge. A first step must be to look at general characteristics of the weblog.

Weblogs are often defined as “frequently modified Web pages in which dated entries are listed in reverse chronological sequence” [3]. This definition is fairly simple but not exhaustive, since it does not contain any specification about the social and communicative functions of the weblog that are constitutive of the genre and make it distinct from other genres. To conceptualise the weblog as a social and interpersonal phenomenon, it is necessary to expand this simple definition to include reflections on the communicative functionalities of the weblog, and on how the weblog can be distinguished from other genres of CMC on the basis of these communicative functionalities. The communicative features of weblogs are, of course, not entirely new and unique to weblogs but are to some extent common features in all genres of CMC, though in various combinations. What makes the weblog a distinct genre of CMC is the specific combination of communicative functionalities that constitutes the weblog and is the result of the social practices emerging around the weblog. To unfold the extended definition, other types of CMC — personal webpages, e–mail, newsgroups, debate forums, instant messaging and chat — will be used as points of reference.

Weblogs are typically published by one individual author (although sometimes there are more than one), and have an informal style. Some ascribe this informal style to a blurring of textuality and orality characteristic of a number of genres of computer–mediated communication (e.g., chat, newsgroups and instant messaging) (see, for instance, boyd, 2006; Taekke, 2005). Although the written text is the predominant mode of communication in weblogs, other modalities are also increasingly used to communicate. Audioblogs, videoblogs and photoblogs are all examples of types of weblogs that draw upon other modalities in the communicative expression (Miller and Shepherd, 2004).

Weblog communication is asynchronous, meaning that author and reader are not required to be online simultaneously to interact, because weblogs are persistent, as they are written and stored directly on the Internet (typically organised in archives) and can be accessed at any time by anyone [4]. In this sense, the weblog resembles the personal webpage and the debate forum. Chat sessions, on the contrary, are deleted when the programme used for chatting (e.g., Messenger, ICQ) is closed.

Another central feature of the weblog is that it is easy to operate because it does not require any technical or coding skills. Anyone — even computer newbies — can make a weblog building on existing templates provided by the weblog host (Efimova, et al., 2005). This low barrier to entry is reflected in the variety of users and purposes of weblogs.

Finally, most weblogs have some interactive features establishing relations between the author and the readers (through comments, RSS feeds, etc.), and creating direct links to the sources of information or opinion that inspire the blogger (through blogrolls, trackbacks, permalinks, tags, etc.) (see for instance Efimova, et al., 2005; Taekke, 2005). However, these interactive features are not actualised in all weblogs, but depend on the purpose of the weblog and the author (who can chose to disable commentary functions, blogrolls, etc. in the weblog). Accordingly, the weblog does not necessarily facilitate user–to–user interactivity, but can be used as a unidirectional channel for self–expression (Taekke, 2005; Herring, 2007). Regarding interactivity, Taekke (2005) and Herring, et al., (2005) argue that the weblog combines features from the personal webpage with more interactive forms of CMC such as chat, newsgroups and debate forums.

To recapitulate, in a socio–pragmatic perspective, the weblog can be defined as an author–driven, asynchronous and informal genre of CMC that uses various modalities and entails some interactivity. This definition is rather broad and suggests a high degree of complexity in the configuration of communicative features actualised in the various social uses of the weblog. A socio–pragmatic definition of the weblog as genre must further take into account that the weblogs, which constitute the blogosphere, are quite diverse and that the genre is dynamic and constantly negotiated in the practices of users. Accordingly, the weblog is an evolving genre with several subgenres (Yates and Orlikowski, 1992)." (http://firstmonday.org/htbin/cgiwrap/bin/ojs/index.php/fm/article/viewArticle/2329/2178)



Characteristics

These comments by Kazys Varnelis, though applied to the field of architecture, have a general validity:

"What follows is a brief set of observations about the importance of blogs to architecture, and to network culture.

Blogs are not temporal. The chronological nature of posts is a ruse. That’s not how we read blogs. Chronology doesn’t accrete in the blog. Our sense of time is being redefined.

Blogs are symptomatic of a redefinition of the individual. What matters to bloggers are the links into their blogs. A blogger only exists as a function of the links into their site. An unknown blog is a scream in the forest. Instead of an authorial voice, the blogger is an aggregator, a switching machine that remixes content. The blog is a transition away from the old notion of individuality. In many ways, this is a return to pre-modern ideas of the self.

Blogs blend the public and the private and have no space for high and low. We’re in a new flattened field of nobrow. As Alan Liu writes "No more beauty, sublimity, tragedy, grace, or evil: only cool or not cool." Instead of distinction we have linkbait. Say something outrageous and you get more readers. Topless architecture!

Blogs embrace the niche. Blogs appeal to idiosyncratic, niche audiences. For a blogger finds it is better to have 100 fanatical followers than 10,000 lukewarm fans. If today there are bloggers who are more well-known than their professors, will there come a time when bloggers will be hired by universities (am I the first in architecture)?

The wealth of blogs is a great question mark. During this economic crisis, we a massive decapitalization of knowledge work in favor of free labor. Not only does Open Source software drive most of the Web today, but news bloggers are effectively replacing newspapers. If the best architecture criticism is now on blogs, how does this culture of free actually function anymore? Is there any room for anyone who doesn't have a trust fund or access to lots of credit cards to contribute to culture?" (http://varnelis.net/blog/a_note_on_blogs)

Typology

From Robin Hamman at http://www.cybersoc.com/2007/02/3_types_of_blog_11.html:

"Closed Blogs are at the centre of an audience that resembles a closed network. Blogs of this type include baby blogs and wedding planning blogs.

Characteristically, they have a:

  • small but extremely passionate and engaged audience
  • audience unlikely to grow
  • audience potentially super-served - they all have a very strong personal connection, usually running both ways.

Blogs as Conduit of Information are blogs that act as the conduit between individual audience members and information or ideas. That is, the blog is the centre of the relationship between the information consumers and information producers. The blog itself may not be the origin of this content, but may merely pull it together in a useful way.

This sort of blog is characterised by:

  • potentially larger audience than closed blog model
  • audience highly engaged with personality and/or topic
  • audience unlikely to grow rapidly because it serves same audience without reaching out


Blog as Participant in "The Conversation" are connectors of ideas and people, but also of conversations that flow between them. Blogs of this sort have an audience potentially as big as the numbers actively engaged in the conversation. New people who get involved in the conversation, or who discover a node of it, may very well follow contextualised links, visit other sites in the chain, and become regular audience members of those sites. Bloggers who create blogs like this tend to engage with the comments on their blogs and link out heavily, using tools like RSS readers and technorati to follow the "buzz". Some also use social bookmarking or social recommendation tools to save, order and share links." (http://www.cybersoc.com/2007/02/3_types_of_blog_11.html)


Clay Shirky offers a similar breakdown:

Clay offers three segments of blogs which can be mapped to Malcom Gladwell's numbers of 12 and 150 (I gave away my copy of the Tipping Point this weekend, so Im paraphrasing, but also see Robert Patterson's outline of the Tipping Point):


(1) Blogs-as-mainstream-media: The Infinance of Syndication, a point to multi-point distribution of weak ties that realizes economies of scale.


(2) Blogging Classic: The Magic Number 150, a multi-point to multi-point distribution of weak ties.


"The figure of 150 seems to represent the maximum number of individuals with whom we can have a genuinely social relationship, the kind of relationship that goes with knowing who they are and how they relate to us. Putting it another way, it's the number of people you would not feel embarrassed about joining uninvited for a drink if you happened to bump into them in a bar." (Robin Dunbar)


(3) Blogs-as-dinner-conversation: The Strength of 12, a point-to-point distribution of strong ties. When most people are asked to list whom they would be deeply affected if they die, a measure of strong relationships, the average list is of 12 people." (cited at http://radio.weblogs.com/0114726/2003/02/10.html#a281)

See also the typology by 'genre' at http://firstmonday.org/htbin/cgiwrap/bin/ojs/index.php/fm/article/viewArticle/2329/2178

Discussion

Blogging as Distributed Activity

David de Ugarte:

“In the new reticular structure of information the centre of journalism is no longer the writing of copy, the conversion of information from fact into news which used be the purpose of journalists. Rather, what matters now is the selection of sources which are anyway immediately and directly available to the reader. This is what most blogs do, as do, by definition, press-clipping services. Their contribution consists in selecting sources from a certain point of view. In the same way as it makes no longer sense to understand newspapers as “newsmakers”, so opinion is no longer based on the best information attributed to an individual, as the network makes sources available to everyone. What is important now is interpretation and analysis – that is, the deliberative component which signals the appearance of a truly public, nonindustrially mediated, citizens' sphere.

This is one more aspect of the most characteristic result of the development of the distributed network society: the expansion of our personal autonomy with respect to the establishment. We become more autonomous, for instance, when we can write our own blog and establish a medium and source relationship with others, becoming a part of that collective newspaper which we all make every morning with our web browser tags. That is, the network allows us to act socially on a certain scale, bypassing the mediation of external institutions – in fact, it allows us to act as “individual institutions” and, in that sense, to become much freer and to acquire many more options.

In practice, the emergence of a pluriarchic information sphere, which is what the blogosphere, the identity aggregators and the new personal pressclipping services roughly amount to, is a real process whereby power is reorganised into a distributed information structure. We are living in the early days of a new media environment which, due to its very architecture, guarantees access to information in a more robust way.” (http://deugarte.com/gomi/the-power-of-networks.pdf)


Source: the book, The Power of Networks. David de Ugarte.


The Five Stages of Blogging

By Kevin Newsome:

"why is there so much blog attrition?

Here are my 5 stages of blogging, from creation to abandonment.


Stage 1: Excitement

This is the early stage of a blog, during which a platform is selected and a template evolves, widgets and other ancillary content are added, and the initial blog posts are written. Like the band who has been gigging for years before making a record, new bloggers - at least the ones who have done a little planning - generally have an albums' worth of really good topics to toss out. Those initial posts generate a little reaction, particularly if the blogger does his homework, identifies the established bloggers who are amenable to new voices and cultivates them.

Excitement is high during this stage and expectations are intact and rising.


Step 2: Expectation

After the blog is launched and the blogger has learned his way around the blogosphere, it's time to start building traffic and readers. There are three related ways to measure this growth: blog visitors, subscriber numbers and links. During this stage, a little traffic goes a long way. I still remember how excited I was when I had 100 inbound links (not from 100 different blogs; I'm talking 100 total). I called my wife into my study to show her the first time my blog was on Techmeme (then known as Tech Memeorandum). It takes work to pass those initial milestones, but they generally come within a reasonable period or time. At this point, the new blogger is certain that before long he and all those guys and gals he reads about will soon be yukking it up in cross-blog conversations like old college buddies. But like college, this stage doesn't last forever.

One of two things will happen. Once in a blue moon, the blogger will catch lightning in a bottle, get swept up by the blogging elite, and become a recognized name in the blogosphere. Much more often, the blogger will hit a plateau and the growth of his still new blog will slow or flatline. He's not the new guy any longer, his album's worth of posts are getting a little stale, and the lizard-like blogosphere has been distracted by all the other flies buzzing around.

At this point the once hopeful blogger finds himself writing away to what seems like a diminishing rate of return.


Stage 3: Frustration

Once the honeymoon is over, the blogging work that seemed so new and interesting at first starts to feel hard and frustrating. And very, very inefficient. The blogger can't figure out how to generate enough traction to achieve the organic growth that is an absolute requirement to maintain a popular blog. He writes thoughtful posts on hot topics, links like crazy to other bloggers and waits. And waits. He gets a few links here and there, but the small return on the huge effort is profoundly discouraging. The blogging elite doesn't notice him and many of the other new bloggers are too busy fighting for attention to engage in any meaningful conversation. The blogging happiness trend is going down pretty quickly, but not in a straight line. Small victories occasionally conceal the larger defeat and the blogger bounces between the rock of discouragement and the hard to maintain place of synthetic optimism.

At this point, the blogger begins looking for a new angle to kick-start and accelerate the growth process. Perhaps he crafts alliances with other similarly situated bloggers, which, like any attempt to change the status quo, only works as long as it has critical mass. Inevitably, some will become convinced that they can muscle their way into the club and take advantage of the very forces that once kept them down. It's the same dynamic as the driver who slows down to rubberneck at a traffic accident, telling himself that he's already paid his dues by waiting in the long line of cars.

For the new blogger, the collapse of his wagon train is just one more setback in a journey that grows more frustrating with every step.

It is during this stage that pandering, agitating and extreme positions in search of a reaction begin to occur. Like the preschooler who acts out for attention, however, this approach is not sustainable over the long term. Angry or effusive posts create a self-fulfilling prophesy, whereby the blog's growth is even more negatively affected as a result of posts, cynical or sycophantic, inspired by the blog's lack of growth.

This is probably the least happy time for most bloggers. The former excitement is replaced by frustration and the growing belief that time spent blogging might better be applied elsewhere. Many bloggers abandon ship at this stage. Other trudge along wearily to the next stage.


Stage 4 Alienation

After the blogger's capacity for frustration is exceeded, he does an about face and, instead of seeking inclusion in the conversations, he rejects the entire process completely. At this point, the tailspin towards abandonment has begun. The blogger's mental image of the blogosphere as unicorns and butterflies in a field of wildflowers is replaced with an equally distorted image of a dark and wicked place, full of conspiracies and evil doers. The benefit of the doubt is cast aside in favor of broad condemnation.

This alienation manifests itself in one or more ways. Perhaps it takes the form of cynical posts about the unfairness of the system. Or long periods without posting anything, followed by a week or so of active posting. Rote behavior, in an effort to find the hidden key that will unlock the gate.

Some blogs exist in a near perpetual state of alienation. Eventually, the alienation gives way to abandonment.


Stage 5: Abandonment

Next comes the unsatisfying end game for the discouraged blogger. His once cherished blog is either cast into the abyss via the delete button or, more often, left to lie silent by the side of the road like a burned out jalopy. A testament to the inefficiency of the process.

I am amazed at the number of abandoned or nearly abandoned blogs I come across. All the information in all the posts that were never published lost- not just for now, but for all time. The development of the collective consciousness interrupted. Once here, twice there. Before long the entire process is in jeopardy." (http://www.newsome.org/2007/06/from-creation-to-abandonment-5-stages.shtml)

Some recent blogging statistics

From http://i-wisdom.typepad.com/iwisdom/2006/11/blogs_as_a_trus.html :

European usage, 2007:

"- Blogs are now a near second to newspapers as the most trusted information source: A quarter (24%) of Europeans consider blogs a trusted source of information, still behind newspaper articles (30%), but ahead of television advertising (17%) and email marketing (14%).

- High spenders are most trusting of blogs: Of those who spend more than 145€ (£100) online every month, the proportion of people who trust blogs rises to 30%.

- France leads European blogging; Britain lags: Across Europe, six out of ten (61%) internet users have heard of blogging, and one in six (17%), have read a blog. France is the most blog-savvy country in Europe, with 90% of respondents familiar with blogs. The British are the least blog-aware, with only 50% having heard the term. In Germany, 55% have heard of blogs, 58% in Italy and 51% in Spain.

- Blogs are now driving purchase decisions: More than half (52%) of Europeans polled said that they were more likely to purchase a product if they had read positive comments from private individuals on the internet.

- They also block purchases: Nearly 40 million Europeans have not bought something after reading comments posted online."


More Information

  1. List of blogging terms at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_blogging_terms
  2. Book on the (pre)history of blogging, at http://www.pbs.org/mediashift/2008/09/blog_history_101scott_rosenber.html
  3. We monitor developments in the Blogosphere, the interconnected universe of blogs, through a delicious tag at http://del.icio.us/mbauwens/Blogosphere
  4. Blogging