(We)B logs or Blogs
The word ‘Blog’ is typical of the jargon found on the Internet. It is a shortening of the term ‘Web Log’, which is a method of publishing articles on the web, similar to an extended newsgroup thread. That means it can contain text and attachments (photos, sound, video, etc.), and is usually in reverse chronological order (latest posting at the top). So, is this just another way for webheads to post opinions and pictures of their cats? Maybe, but it has also been used in other ways.
* In the early 1990s, it was mostly used by people to disseminate their opinions. When these opinions are read by tens of thousands of people, it has the reach and influence of a newspaper column.
* Bloggers have become an influence in U.S. politics: they are believed to have discredited a U.S. Senate majority leader.
* Many politicians in developed countries use blogs to maintain contact with their constituents, providing a channel for their opinions.
* Bloggers have given a personal view to world events, including blogs from both soldiers and civilians in the Iraq war, and survivors of earthquakes, storms and tsunamis. These have often contradicted the official versions of these events, bringing pressure on those in power.
Mainstream media have recognized the influence of blogs and bloggers, with The Guardian (U.K.) and Fortune Magazine publishing summaries and lists of blogs. The reason for their interest is the tremendous influence these blogs have on so many issues. The open source community (the people behind Linux and other open source software) is able to use blogs to build support for their software in competition with Microsoft — and they are succeeding! Blogs are a method of getting many people with similar interests working for a common goal, or to disseminate information that might not otherwise reach its audience. This can work both for people building support for their cause and for a business trying to reach a community.
Several major corporations use blogs to support their positions in business and the community, or to promote new products or offerings. Ford has blogs to support development teams and concept cars. Coke uses blogs to advertise new products. Microsoft has literally hundreds of blogs, both official and not, covering their many products. These blogs may be used as tools to reach a target market, for advertising, to assist in the development of products or just about any use requiring the dissemination of information.
Other companies use blogs to connect with the communities in which they work. Some monitor blogs to determine the response to particular actions. There are blogs that focus on the activities of companies such as Abitibi Consolidated, International Paper, Falconbridge Ltd. and many others. These blogs discuss the actions the corporations are taking in industry and in communities, and express the views of both passive viewers and active participants. Some cover concerns of investors, others those of environmental protestors.
The bloggers themselves may be company employees, paid to write blogs or doing so freelance. Or they may represent groups with a particular interest. It is important to remember that although corporate blogs are generally moderated and proofed for accuracy, the same cannot be said for personal blogs. Anything can be said in these, just as in any personal communications. Unless something legally actionable is posted, there are no restrictions, and as with anything on the Internet, the information is only as good as its source.
Blogs and bloggers have become an alternative medium for news. They can bring together people who are closely related either geographically or by interest. A small town can have a blog to address local concerns, or a widespread group can use it to connect and discuss items of common interest. However blogs are used, they have become a powerful influence and should be considered as both a tool and a concern.
Freelance writer Dan Davies can be reached at email@example.com.