Share |

Home > Archive > Recipes & articles > Trellis: Blogging for ideas > A suggested solution

C. A SUGGESTED SOLUTION

Blogging

Overview

John Barger coined the word “blog,” an abbreviation of “weblog,” in 1997. “Blog” is formally defined as a web site where pieces of information are stored as separate entries and presented to a viewer in a reversely ordered chronological list.

Blogging is based on the practice of journaling, extending it into a richer and more organized process. The framework provided by a blogging system helps to order and index the data, while abstracting the underlying technicalities. From its genesis a simple online journal, blogging has become a common, widespread format for sharing information.

As a result, most blogging systems have database-driven, dynamic architectures, which allow posts to be grouped into categories, automatically updated, and commented upon by others who wish to provide feedback.

Powerful blogging technology is increasingly utilized for content management. Businesses use blogs in their intranets, news organizations incorporate blogs for opinion and analysis, and public figures blog in order to reach a wider audience.

The popularity of blogging has prompted the development of new applications. Syndication, a means of providing users with frequently updated content, has been integrated through RSS and is expected to move to a universal publishing standard called Atom. Many popular blogging systems have been developed as open source projects, inviting modification and experimentation.

Together with social networking, blogging is one of the most promising technologies enabled by the Internet.

Leading Systems

The infrastructures powering blogging advance proportionally with new developments in Web technology. Although a multitude of systems exist, the most popular systems are introduced below.

  • WordPress: A free, open source project with a large base of users and developers. It includes standard features and a unique plug-in system for creating custom actions based on PHP and SQL code. WordPress is also popular for its flexible theming engine, which fostered the development of thousands of themes. WordPress comes in two versions, a single install and multi-user version. The multi-user version (called WordPress MU) is the software that powers WordPress.com, a free service that boasts over half a million active blogs.
  • Blogger: In operation since 1999, Blogger is one of the oldest and largest hosted blogging services. While it doesn’t provide advanced customization, Blogger makes up for this shortcoming by offering a large number of semi-customizable templates and a straightforward publishing interface. Google acquired Blogger in 2002, which helped to both promote and standardize the Blogger API, an Application Programming Interface for remotely publishing and retrieving information from a blogging system.
  • Moveable Type: A commercial product produced by Six Apart, which has developed a large number of both professional and personal blogging systems. Moveable Type is a feature-rich system, and well known for introducing the “Trackback,” a feature that allows posts to be linked and referenced. Customization is limited for personal use but readily available by purchasing a software license.

Design Patterns

Blogging is a fueled by a community of researchers, programmers, and designers guided by the desire to collect, organize, and visualize information. By experimenting with the technology, several design patterns have developed, affecting blogging on both an individual and a community-wide basis.

Content

At the heart of the blog is its content. The content area acts as the primary display for information, and is where users spend the most time.

Within this area, posts are displayed in a reverse chronological list. The content area is subdivided into individual units of information called posts. Each post can be further divided into its content and metadata, or information that describes the content. Metadata usually contains the title of the post, historical information like publication and modification dates, and a list of comments posted by readers, within a similar reverse chronological display order.

Blogging invites discussion through commenting, and in popular posts these lists of comments can become unwieldy, organized only by time. The method of “threading” comments initiates a hierarchy to the chronology, allowing comments to be placed underneath other comments. A different strategy is “Inline Commenting,” which allows users to tie a comment directly in-line with the content of the post.

Theming

Theming is the process of changing the look of a blog while retaining its content. This process is achieved by a mix of HTML, stylesheets, and template tags. The HTML markup contains a skeleton of page elements. Within this skeleton, the anatomy of the layout is defined and linked to a stylesheet – a set of rules that define that section’s visual style. The template tags, which tell the blogging system what information to load, are embedded in the HTML markup.

The three screenshots in the figure below are of the same blog styled with different themes. Notice that the content remains the same, while the rest of the interface is transformed by the theme. Below are Vertigo Squared (A), Qwilm (B), and AndyBlue (C), three free, open source themes available for WordPress.

Community

Blogging is driven by a community of bloggers, collectively referred to as the blogosphere. This community is largely responsible for developing the blogging format and discovering new ways for managing and sharing information. As the blogosphere continues to inflate, it is increasingly difficult to stay abreast of the new information generated by the blogosphere.

In order to better organize the content available inside a blog, a method known as social bookmarking is applied. Social bookmarking helps to store, organize, and share links through a collaborative process called folksonomy. Folksonomy orders content into categories based on human-assigned labels.

The community-centric aspects of blogging are a crucial part of a broader virtual space provided by blogs. Within this space, readers can communicate with writers and other bloggers. Unlike traditional media, this space enables interaction and facilitates feedback.

Strengths

With the technical complexity of the system hidden from the writer, bloggers can focus on the content and be more productive. In addition, the content can easily be managed by a procedure known as moderation.

The information available in blogging systems is well organized and easily accessible. Blogging abstracts the information within a database, offering higher-level organization structures and employing mechanisms for retrieving and filtering that information. Syndication technologies take the next step, providing the means to broadcast blogging content.

Through commenting, blogging invites conversation about the content it displays. The conversation is normally displayed near or around the content of a post, along with a form to add another comment. This visual link helps keep the conversation in context and solicits both discussion and criticism.

Weaknesses

Blogging’s primary drawback is its constant need for new material. This flaw stems from the standardization of the reverse chronological display format, where visual precedence is given to the most recently published material by placing it above its preceding entries. Older, possibly more popular content is eventually cycled out of the main display chronology and archived, often never seeing the home page again. The drive for fresh material can sometimes result in useless information that the bloggers publish only to keep their audience interested.

The second weakness of blogging is credibility. The informal tone of presenting information, inherited from journaling, can often make even significant information appear frivolous. This kind of informality is inherent to blogging and it is most likely determined by the ease of the publishing process.

Share |