5 What Is a Blog? What about Tumblr? What about Twitter? Are “Notes” on Facebook the Same as a Blog?

I am confused. Are all these things blogs?

It’s complicated. In some senses, yes—all of these writing spaces could be described as blogs, which blend opinion, news aggregation (posting links to news articles or columns), embedded images, video, and, and, and . . .  and they allow readers to comment.

But following some definitions, not all of these spaces would be called blogs. In their most typical form, blogs are easily updatable sites that collect a series of posts in reverse chronological order (i.e. newest post first at the top of the page), allow comments, and are often organized by tags. (Notice the wording there: a blog is made up of multiple posts, not multiple blogs as folks new to the word sometimes claim.) Even though a Twitter feed or Facebook Notes page may fit many of these traits, if you said, “Hey, you should check out the new post on my blog,” the listener is most likely to think that you are talking about a site created on Blogger, WordPress, Typepad, or another site like it, not a section of your Facebook profile. More on that below.

The presence of comments is crucial to blogging. Comments make blogs a social, often conversational form of writing, so you should enable the comment feature of  your blog. Having comments builds ethos.

Steven Krause's blog. Blog post on left, then column of welcome notes and links, and column of search, login, and comments.
Figure 1. Writing professor Steve Krause’s blog. Note how user comments are featured as an important part of the site on the right hand side.

But be mindful of comments, especially if anyone can post one (such as someone that does not have an account) because it may damage your ethos if those comments are not monitored, are completely off topic, or spam. Spammers and their spam bots are always coming up with clever ways to get their seedy casino and male enhancement products out there, and they’ll often try to mimic real people. If you see a comment that says “Great post!” and has a link to a casino site, delete it quickly. Otherwise, real people may see it and think you don’t pay attention to your comments. (So why should they bother posting?)

Who Writes and Reads Blogs?

Blogs are often written by one person, but they can be written by two writers, a team of people, or even a whole community of contributors (for example, the popular community blogging site Metafilter has about 50,000 members). The cost of a blog may be underwritten by the writer (no lunch is ever free) and placed on a free blog hosting site such as Blogger, Twitter, WordPress.com, or within a corporation’s main web site. The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, Mashable, and magazines like Spin have blogs and people assigned to writing entries for them. At the same time, many people blog for themselves such as those using the easy-to-publish site Tumblr or those who download the open source version of WordPress and install it on their own server.

If you write on the Internet, you may have a particular audience in mind, but there will be untold numbers of second- and third-level audiences. And generally, all will have the ability to comment on your blog posts.

But You Didn’t Answer the Bit about Facebook Notes

Ahh, Facebook. As you know, Facebook, is a social networking site— a virtual space that walls off “friends” from the rest of the Internet. Only those who you have “friended” will see your Facebook Notes unless you designate that the entire universe of Facebook “users” can read your Notes. In this respect, Notes are much like Internet blogs. Is it wise to allow all Facebook users the ability to read your Notes? As with all Internet writing, it depends on what you post, and what you want others to read. Therefore, be sure to read how to safeguard your privacy on Facebook, just as you would for any other kind of Internet activity.

Facebook Notes are great so long as you are primarily interested in your friends seeing them and not worried about keeping your Notes private. One big advantage they have is that since everyone is already on Facebook, you might get a lot more of your friends reading your Notes than you would if you posted them on Twitter or a blog. The downside is that people who are not on Facebook (or not your friends on it) won’t be able to see your Notes, and search engines won’t help people find your writing. It’s a trade-off.

Dennis Baron facebook page. Photo, links to see notes, main content is a blog-like post.
Figure 2. Dennis Baron’s Facebook Notes. Facebook Notes are very similar to blogs, but are primarily intended to be read by friends on Facebook.

My Blog Sucks. Can You Please Help?

There are millions of blogs. What will make mine stand out?

Know why you’re writing and who you’re writing it for. Although the stereotypical blog consists of a Rebecca Black-like ramblings of uninteresting personal events, there are also plenty of respected and thoughtful blogs out there on every topic imaginable. There are also bloggers who are paid by companies to blog about their products or services, as well as bloggers who work for professional news organizations. Most bloggers cultivate audiences by showcasing their personalities and opinions. Even blogs about the latest gadgets, such as Engadget, are frequently humorous and irreverent, making them enjoyable even for people who don’t care about the gadget or device they’re writing about.

If you want to make your blog standout, take strong positions on a particular subject or theme and write in a colorful, fun way. The more fun you have writing your blog, the more likely it is that others will have fun reading it. For instance, if you’re a wedding photographer, you can blog about the weddings you attend and the inevitable funny incidents that ensue at each one. Combined with some funny photos and witty writing, this could easily become a popular blog. If you’re heavily into a sport, such as parkour or racquetball, you can keep a blog about local events and the people you meet there. If you’re working the tech support desk at your university, you can blog about unusual incidents and talk about how you fixed them (or why you failed to fix them).

What Not to Write About on Your Weblog

Keep in mind that sometimes prospective employers or your boss might do a search to see what they can dig up about you. Even if you are posting something just for your friends, a group you belong to, or to express yourself, remember that other audiences can potentially see what you write. Some of those people might have the power to hire you—or to put your application in the discard pile. Heather Armstrong is a blogger who was famously fired from her job for snarky comments she made about co-workers on her blog. Now she runs dooce, a popular mommy blogging site, and is laughing all the way to the bank.

Don’t get fired posting things that make you or your company look bad. Don’t use your blog to vent about your crappy job or stupid boss. You may assume the people you insult won’t ever see your blog, but don’t count on it. If you’re not sure how someone you’re talking about will respond to what you post, it’s probably best to leave out the names and keep revealing details vague. You might work at Wal-Mart and enjoy making fun of the weird customers you see in your store, but if your supervisor sees it, you’ll be blogging for a living.

You Are Now a Part of the Blogosphere

When first starting your weblog, you’ll have to develop your credibility and personality to attract readers. One way to do this is to use the writing by other influential and widely read bloggers as “research” and Genres of the Web 11 “sources” in your posts. Provide direct links in your posts to those other bloggers’ blogs. Such direct linking allows you to join the blogger community—the blogosphere—and will help to increase the visibility of your blog on the Web. Think about how good you’d feel if a fellow blogger linked to one of your posts and talked about how interesting or useful it was to them. Wouldn’t you be more likely to read that person’s blog and want to learn more about it?

Find your niche in the blogosphere. Services like Technorati or Google Blog Search can be used to find blogs that deal with the same topics you write about. Start reading those blogs. Bloggers often include sidebar links (called a blogroll) to other blogs of interest, often on similar topics. Then begin your participation:

Post comments in response to blog posts that interest you. When you add a comment, there’s usually a place to include your name and the web address of your blog, which will encourage that blogger and all her readers to click on your name and check out your website.

Make valid comments and not just requests for people to come to your blog. Nobody likes beggars and whiners: “Please come look at me blog!!!!!!” will hurt, not help, your chances of building an audience. On the other hand, if you make intelligent comments, others on the site may get curious about you and check out your stuff on their own.

You can also talk with other bloggers by responding to their posts with a blog post of your own. Be sure to include within your own post a link to the other blogger’s post. (Make sure to use the permalink to that individual post; you may also want to provide a link to the blog as a whole.)

As your list of blogs that you enjoy reading grows, consider adding a blogroll to your own blog. Just don’t start begging to be added to someone else’s or expect them to reciprocate: “I added you to my blogroll please do the same!!!” Again, begging and whining about stuff like this will only make you look sad and desperate.

What Weblog Software Should I Use?

WordPress.com and Blogger are two of the more popularly used free weblog services, and both could work well for a class that requires you to keep a weblog. Of the two, WordPress tends to be used more by more serious and professional bloggers. It may be the better choice for ethos if you intend to blog long term. While Blogger may be easier to use to start with due to its Google account integration, simpler content creation and management interface, and template customization engine, you may eventually outgrow its more limited feature set.

While WordPress.com provides free hosting of a version of WordPress that offers limited features, there is also the WordPress.org community dedicated to sharing and developing WordPress as open source software. You can download the full WordPress version and install it on your own server or on a commercial hosting account that you subscribe to, giving you much more control over the configuration and hundreds of additional modules that you can use to expand the feature set. Installing WordPress on your own instead of using WordPress.com, however, also means that you will have to keep up with security updates as they are released by WordPress to stop your site from being hacked.

Other free hosted blog sites, like Destructoid, cater to specific types of bloggers (in this case, videogamers) and allow people to set up their own blogs there for free. This can be a good choice because there will be plenty of other like-minded bloggers there for you to talk to. In any case, you can always change your mind later, so feel free to experiment until you find something that fits.

Learn More about Blogging

If you do some searching on the web, you’ll find plenty of resources on how to be a better blogger. If you are blogging for the classroom, Alex Reid’s Why Blog? Searching for Writing on the Web in Writing Spaces: Readings on Writing, Vol. 2, could be a very useful resource because it’s written by a writing professor who regularly blogs.


Icon for the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License

Writing Spaces Web Writing Style Guide Copyright © 2011 by Writing Spaces is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

Share This Book