By Thomas Duff
If you've been tuned into the different hype machines over the last year or two, you probably have heard the term "blog." Seems like everyone and his brother (or baby or dog) has their own blog. What is are these strange things, and why would you want to have one? Come with me as we explore this new phenomenon...
The word "blog" is a shortened form of the term "weblog." A blog is a blend of a Web site and a personal publishing tool, sort of like an online diary with the ability to post immediately. These postings appear on your Web site for the world to read (and Google to index), and in most cases the world can comment on your posting. In this way, you can develop a sort of "one-on-one/many" conversation on a number of topics.
"But wait!" you say. "Isn't that just like an online forum where someone posts and someone else responds?" Yes, many of the actions are the same. The big difference is that forums are often driven by a stated purpose or common interest that supports the site. If you don't want to talk about subjects germane to that common interest, you are effectively locked out of participation. But with a blog, you are in control. It's your site, they are your postings, you can go wherever you like, and people can choose to read along or not.
The first exposure to blogging that many people have is to start following a small number of blogs written by people that they know or are interested in. Ray Ozzie (at http://www.ozzie.net/blog/) was one of the first "bloggers of interest" in the Notes/Domino area. Even though he isn't part of Lotus any more, many people are still interested in what he is up to and his thoughts on the industry. Or perhaps you have a co-worker or a friend that has a blog. You bookmark the site and read it every few days to see what he or she has to say. Maybe you're into humor... Dave Barry (at http://davebarry.blogspot.com) even has a blog you can read.
Once you have read a few blogs, you start wondering, what benefit do people get from blogging? Is it fame? Publicity? The ability to voice their opinions to the world? In short, the answer is "yes." There are many reasons why people have blogs, and your reason may not be the same as mine. Some people have a creative writing streak (humor, poetry, satire) and like to maintain a blog to exercise that talent. Others (like many of the Domino bloggers) have a wealth of experience in their chosen field, and they choose to share that knowledge with others through their blog. And for others, a blog can be a marketing tool to help highlight their business and add a personal touch to an otherwise static website.