By Kate Theimer
Why are we starting with blogs? Because as you go through each of these 23 Things, we will ask you to create an entry—on your own blog—about your experience. You will also be able to read the other participants’ blogs and see how they’re doing, and comment on their entries. Web 2.0 is all about interactivity, so you’ll be able to try that out right from the beginning.
Blogs (shortened from “web logs”) are one of the easiest and most common ways for people and organizations to share information on the web. Blogs are Web documents (usually a unique Web site) created by software that allows material to be published on a Web site in the same manner as log—or diary—entries are written in a journal. When a new entry is published, it appears at the top of the Web page, moving older entries down, and eventually off, the site’s first page.
Blogging software was first introduced in the late 1990s, and in their earliest days blogs were primarily used by technology writers and other “early adopters.” At that time, “blogger” was sometimes used as a derogatory term and the information conveyed by blogs, particularly news information or political commentary, was often perceived to be unreliable. Today, blogs have gained widespread acceptance as a mainstream vehicle for Web communication, and are used by major corporations, publications, and writers.
There are two options available for creating a blog. You can use a service (usually free) that provides both online software and hosting, or you can install software on your own server (or server space you rent) and host the blog yourself. (For this program, you’ll be using one of the hosted services.)
The ease with which people can use these free services has led to the creation of millions of blogs—a very small percentage of which remain active for any substantial amount of time. Blogging is very easy to begin, but not so easy to continue. It takes a commitment to writing on a regular basis. While often a challenge to maintain, blogs are powerful tools for Web communication, and one of the simplest of Web 2.0 tools.
Note that when people leave comments on your posts, which are short and contain a link, the comments are sometimes classified as spam by the blog’s automatic spam filters. As you work through the Things, take a look now and then to see how your blog is handling any comments.
- Set up your own blog to use as a tool to track your progress on the “23 Things.” You can use either Blogger or WordPress.com. Both of them are free and very easy to use.
- To set up a blog on Blogger, you will need a Google account. To set up a blog on WordPress.com, you will need to set up a WordPress account. If you already have a Google account (if you use Gmail, for example), you may find it easier to use Blogger, but it’s not difficult to set up an account with WordPress. Another thing to consider is the ease of adding widgets; Blogger accepts most widgets, while WordPress limits you to a pre-selected list. For example, you can put a Meebo widget on WordPress but not a LibraryThing widget.
- Both sites provide easy to follow directions for starting a blog. You’ll be asked to provide an e-mail address (which will be used for all your communication about your blog) and to provide a title for your blog. If you don’t intend to use your blog for anything other than this project, you can choose as silly (or as serious) a name as you like. If you want more detailed instructions, you can view this video on YouTube, which walks you through setting up a Blogger blog. (Sorry, couldn’t find anything comparable for WordPress.)
- After you have started your blog you can choose a different template to change its look. Don’t worry about making your blog fancy or fully “accessorized” right away. It’s the kind of thing you can tinker with over the coming weeks. For example, we will cover adding “widgets”—the tools that appear in the sidebars of your blog—in Thing 15. You will probably get ideas as you visit other blogs and see things you like. As you find blogs that you like you can add them to your blog’s “blogroll,” or list of recommended sites.
- Add a comment to this Thing to let us know your new blog’s title and URL. We will add a link to your blog to the list of Participants’ Blogs. Then you can look at what some of your colleagues are doing.
- As you work through the 23 Things, there will be many sites that allow you to add an image of yourself to your profile, including your blog. Don’t have a recent photo of yourself? want to be more anonymous? Try using an avatar instead.
- An avatar is an online representation of yourself. Go to Yahoo! Avatars to design an avatar. If you don’t already have a Yahoo account, you will need to create one; if you already have one, just log-in. Once logged-in, you should be forwarded to the Avatars page, but if not go to this URL: http://avatars.yahoo.com/. There are many choices for appearance, accessories, background, etc. You can make an avatar that resembles the “real you” or create an entirely new you.
- Save your avatar and export to your blog. (Need help exporting your avatar?)
- CommonCraft video: “Blogs in Plain English.”
- EDUCAUSE article: “7 Things You Should Know About Blogs.”
- The Interactive Archivist article on “Blogs.”
- The Interactive Archivist case study on “Blogs and Blog Marketing: Bringing New Users to the Northwestern University Archives,” by Kevin B. Leonard.
- The Interactive Archivist case study on “Spellbound Blog: Using Blogs as a professional Development Opportunity,” by Jeanne Kramer-Smyth.
- The Interactive Archivist case study on “The Blog as an Archival Tool: Coca-Cola Conversations,” by Philip F. Mooney.
- Wikipedia article on blogs.