Although the basic concept has been around since the primordial days of the web, today’s blogs and the community that binds them are a relatively recent phenomenon. Sites like Blogger.com make it easy for writers to manage and update a site from a web browser. The blog is very much a writer’s medium.

Blogs are usually made up of brief, frequently updated posts that are arranged chronologically. The text most often flows vertically down the page, and modules or boxes aligned in columns down the sides of the page very often provide information about the author-favorite links, recently read books, recently seen movies, currently playing albums, and so forth.

Some blogs serve as microportals, publishing commentary and links to other sites relating to a particular topic; whereas others lean more toward online journals, where the content focuses mainly on the thoughts and experiences of the author and the links more frequently point to that person’s other projects, essays, and so on.

In any case, a blog usually takes on the character of the person or persons that contribute to it because it is so simple to update. This ease of use leads to frequent posting, which creates a fluid, ongoing “conversation” with an audience that helps to bring out the nature of the person “behind the screen.”

Blogs feed off the web, digest it, recycle it, and infuse it with new life. Created by feisty, intelligent, opinionated, subversive people—and sometimes small groups—blogs are the future of personal publishing.

How Blogging Works

The idea behind blogging is simple. Software, either web-based or downloadable, allows you to work in a friendly, familiar environment, while behind the scenes, your thoughts, links, and pictures are being uploaded, formatted, placed according to your preset design, and saved to your web page. This means that you can surf around as you normally would, occasionally contributing to your blog-right from your browser.

Most blogging applications strive to separate form from function by providing an area for you to paste in your template—that is, your page design. Once you’ve placed your design HTML in the designated area, you don’t need to worry about layout (until you want to change it). Blogging software then takes over, merging your dashed-off text with your stored page design and publishing them together to the web as an updated page.

With that ease, is it any wonder there has been such an explosion of blogging? If you’re new to blogging, fear not—there are plenty of great already-designed templates for you to choose from. Posting to a blog is easy; that’s why bloggers post so frequently. It’s usually just a matter of going to a web site, typing information in a form, and clicking Publish or something similar.

Then your post is sent right away to your site. It’s almost addictive, which is perhaps another reason why blogging has caught on. Most blogging applications also feature archives. Nothing you publish is wasted. If you incorporate a search feature into your blog, anything you post over the months, years, or decades to come is searchable by keyword or browseable by date. If you keep a blog long enough, your grandchildren might be able to create an artificial intelligence based on your entries. 

Blog Tour

One way to get to know a little more about blogs is to have a look at a few of them. The following blogs are blogs I read on a regular basis. They are not obscure little-known blogs, although I have many like that bookmarked as well. These blogs have been around awhile and are maintained by people who have helped to shape the medium or are just good examples of a blog in action.

MetaFilter

http://www.metafilter.com

MetaFilter is a fantastic group blog that anyone can contribute a link or a comment to. Although a typical blog is one person posting his or her thoughts on the unique things found on the web, MetaFilter breaks down the barriers between people to extend a blog beyond just one person and foster discussion among its members.

Matthew Haughey

http://a.wholelottanothing.org/

Matthew is the creator of the group blog MetaFilter. This is his personal blog where he blogs about his life, his projects, and various goings-on in the web world.

Paul Bausch

http://www.onfocus.com/

Paul is a web application developer and co-creator/developer of Blogger. He has a lot to say about blogs, and he’s been working where databases meet the web for over six years. I like to check in on his blog from time to time because he takes and posts really great photographs.

The Popularity of Blogging

Blogging became a popular web publishing trend in 1999 and grew steadily into large numbers simply by word of mouth or, in this case, word of blog. From the beginning, blogs were on the breaking edge of news, but when news became a lifeline, blogs turned into so much more than simple web publishing.

Blogs in the Midst of Tragedy

On the day America was attacked by terrorists, most major news sites like CNN and the New York Times were overloaded and unreachable. Everyone had gone home to turn on the television or sign on to the web. With the big news sites all jammed up, people had to find an alternative.

They found blogs. Bloggers were tracking developments as they occurred, and some were logging in with personal experiences from ground zero. When the dust had settled and the media giants were back on track, more press about blogs started circulating. This was serious attention, and it launched a whole new wave of interest in blogs. The popularity of blogging continued to grow and hasn’t stopped since.

Blogs Have Amazing Potential

The popularity of blogging is such that many projects have grown from the phenomenon. In fact, the gurus developing the applications that provide blogging services are usually very supportive of ideas and software that work together and enhance their offerings.

Many blog-related software projects will be covered in this article simply because they complement blogging so well—like user-commenting systems and content syndication. And some of the projects that have stemmed out of the blog phenomenon are just flat-out amazing work by some of the most talented visionaries working with the web today.

Google, everybody’s favorite search engine, loves blogs and is well aware of their true value to the web.

And people like Matthew Haughey, creator of the group blog MetaFilter, are working with blog-related technology to steer our baby web toward its true potential.