I am surprised at the number of e-mails I get asking for an explanation of the meaning of blogs.
Blogs are essentially just websites but, unlike the bazillions of commercial sites out there, they are usually two-way, interactive pages.
The tools created for blogging allow users to post thoughts, ideas, pictures, sounds and links, without all the hassle of standard Web-authoring tools and without having to have any detailed knowledge of Web-authoring techniques.
What makes blogs so special is not just the ability to easily post to the Web, but the ability to allow the readers of your blog to interact with your online journal by posting their own comments, links and other content. And I think this is what has contributed to the blogging phenomenon as it stands today.
You see, most websites are just static pages; what you read is what you get. If you want to comment on whatever you are reading, you have to send an e-mail to the Webmaster or, if available, post a message on the site's bulletin board.
Blogs changed all that by allowing readers to post comments, links to other sites and pictures right to the journal as they are reading, without any extra steps to get the point across.
Now, the blog owner has full control over what's posted (most blog-authoring tools allow the blog owner to review, edit and delete any posts before they actually go live) but in most cases it's a real-time event. Read something on a blog that you want to comment on and post your own thoughts and they show up instantly.
Sounds basic enough, so what's all the hubbub?
Well, the interactive nature of blogs has caused the art to snowball. Where once people had to sift through pages of Web content for relevant news, blogs have enabled the masses to get things across at the speed of thought.
Since Web logs are a worldwide phenomenon, people are able to get up-to-date information relevant to them instantly without having to go through all sorts of Web search gyrations.
Now, let's say you were looking for news updates on a news event. Instead of just staring at a handful of news sites for your information, you can also look at a handful of Web logs (or "blogs").
You may monitor a blog that's authored by a guy in Ohio, along with a few thousand other people at the same time. The original blogger posts his story, along with links to other sites relevant to what's going on, and (here's where things get interesting) a bunch of those other people (maybe even you) post their own stories along with links to other blogs and news sites.
So, instead of having to sift through a bunch of news sites that don't change for hours on end, following the blogs can get you in on the information as it happens, unfiltered by the mainstream media.
This type of interactive show and tell is taking the Web by storm, and why you'll be hearing more about blogs in the months to come.
So how can you find out more? Probably the easiest way is to type the word "blog" into a Google search page and start reading the results that come up. With millions of Web logs out there already (and more appearing every day), there is something for everyone.
If you want to start your own blog, www.blogger.com is a good place to start, as they promise to have your own blog up and online in just five minutes.
One final note on blogs: just because you read it online doesn't necessarily mean it's true. Since anyone can post what they want, when they want, with none of the checks and balances that are in place with traditional news sources, that means that you have to weed out truth from lies on your own.
Well, that's it in a nutshell. I'm sure I missed some stuff, but that's my understanding of it.
So, if you're a blogger or a regular blog-follower and I've left something out, go easy on me; I write it the way I see it.
Sean McCarthy fixes computers. He can be reached at 888-752-9049 or help@ComputeThisOnline.com (no hyphens).