Welcome to the first episode of our blogger track, in which I try to answer the question, “So, what’s a blog and why should I have one?”
At first blush, these might sound like some dumb questions to ask in this day and age, but they’re really not. New people get access to the internet every day, and each one of these new people bring a talent they don’t yet know they can share with us. I remember a quote from Merlin Mann, the co-host of the Back to Work podcast on 5by5, “There is someone on the planet who hasn’t seen The Flintstones yet.” So, for the sake of argument, we’re going to start with the assumption that we know nothing, and work our way up from there.
Blog is short for ‘weblog’, and they were a logical extension of the Bulletin Board Systems, email lists, and newsgroups that populated the online space in the 1980s. Then, in the 90s, internet forum software came along and gave us threaded conversations we could follow. The next step was when folks who had websites and a pretty decent knowledge of HTML could update previously static parts of their website with a running dirty. Once some easier web publishing tools were invented, that ability became available to the masses, and eventually that evolved to the blogging platforms we see today.
Now, blogging is universal. That’s both the good and bad news. So, why have a blog at all if ‘everyone has one’?
Well, for a start, let’s face a little reality: Not every blog has a reason for being. A lot are merely personal journals that stand as an electronic record of someone’s existence. That’s fine as far as it goes; a basic truth of the human spirit is to be acknowledged, to have some other human know you were here on this rock. That’s fine, but I want more from you than that, and I hope you want more than that for yourself. It is not enough to simply exist, you must live, and I believe that part of living is passing on your knowledge to another and inspiring them to take an action that improves THEIR lives. That is why this particular website exists.
Now, let’s get back into the dry techie points for a second. What makes a blog different from a website?
- Blogs get updated pretty regularly, some many times a day. Static websites don’t for the most part.
- Blogs have a syndicated feed that allows reader to ‘subscribe’, and receive notifications that a new post has been released, or they might receive the post in a feed reader or their email.
- A lot of blogs have comments. Now, a lot of big blogs have been removing the ability to comment, some don’t have that ability at all. That is a matter of personal choice for the blogger. Comments allow for more of a community vibe at the blog, where the blogger is replying to comments and answering followup questions, and making other related remarks to the topic in the original post.
If you’ve been on the internet—not Facebook, I mean actual websites not related to social media platforms—I would bet you’ve been to a blog maintained by a person or a company of some kind. Go to some now, or think about the places you’ve been recently. What is it about those sites that you like? What kind of content are they giving you that you can’t find anywhere else? Is it their writing style, or their ‘voice’? How often do they update their content? Do you engage with the blogger on those sites or contribute to the conversation?
What are your favorite blogs, and most importantly why are they your favorite? For example, I am a great fan of Daring Fireball and The Loop, both Apple-centric blogs. Sure, I could get the same news from a tech site like The Verge, but I like their running ‘link-list’ commentary, and their thoughtful irreverence to certain topics.
Leave a comment below with your favorite blogs, and why you like them. Next time, we’re going to talk about why professional blogging can be a successful side hustle, but not overnight.