What is a blog?
The term blog is the shortened form of the words web log. Blogs are commentaries on just about any theme going. Themes include everything from personal diaries and sharing of different crafts and projects to business or technology information and entertainment news. Blogs have the ability to connect like-minded individuals and give authors the ability to express their thoughts, philosophies and opinions to anyone interested in reading. There are no official rules for what a blog must be about. It is up to the author to provide the direction and content.
How do I start a blog?
When looking to create your own space on the Internet, there are many options available. The best one for you depends on your level of technical ability and the purpose of the blog. For those who own their own domain (for instance, xyz.com -- in essence, a website), a blog can be easily installed in a few minutes. The biggest advantage to hosting your own blog is that customization of look and function can be taken to a higher level to meet the specific needs that your blog has. An intermediate knowledge of -- or immediate access to someone with -- graphics and web tools is recommended when hosting your own blog, to ensure proper design and functionality.
If you don't own your own domain, there are some fantastic online blog services and signing up is as easy as signing up for a web-based e-mail service. Services such as Wordpress.com, Thumblr.com and Blogger.com offer free blogging services and are a great place to start your first blog. Typically, a blog can be set up in a matter of minutes, and can then be customized with graphics, fonts and colours to reflect the look and feel you wish to present. Most blogs contain text as the main content; however, there are also blogs that are entirely (or a combination of): pictures (photoblogs), video (videoblogs) or audio-based (podcasts) for listening to on your computer or MP3 player.
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How to make your blog popular
At the time of this writing, Technorati.com was actively tracking 75.2 million blogs. In contrast, the number was 51 million back in November 2006. With new blogs appearing at about 175,000 per day, it can seem impossible to have your blog recognized, and to gain readership. Here are some basics to get the ball rolling.
Memes: "5 Reasons Why I Blog"
A meme (pronounced "meem") was originally defined by evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins as "a unit of cultural transmission, or a unit of imitation." Memes, in terms of blogs, have been redefined as "an idea that, like a gene, can replicate and evolve from blog to blog."
A recent and popular example of a meme is one titled "5 Reasons Why I Blog" where the originator posted their five reasons, then tagged (like when playing "Tag! You're it!") five other bloggers to do the same. They each write their post on the original topic, reference the person who tagged them, and they tag five friends, and so on.
Although they are often compared to chain letters, memes, unlike chain letters, provide authors with blog content, link exchange, increased traffic and, in this example, insight into each author and why they blog. Participation is entirely optional, but it is a great way for newly established blogs to actively participate in the community.
To participate in a meme you have the option of waiting to be tagged yourself, or simply starting one and tagging your favorite bloggers -- it's that simple.
Blog carnivals: expand your audience
Like memes, blog carnivals are an excellent way for new bloggers to expand their audience. Blog carnivals are typically initiated by a blog author, on a specific topic, and a request is made for links to more blog posts on the same topic. The original blogger then gathers the links submitted, organizes the list of links to other blogs, and then publishes the list as a post on their blog. Blog carnivals are ways to target specific blogs, on specific topics, and use the readership of the originating blog. Essentially, this is a way for lesser known blogs to piggyback a post on a more popular blog to gain exposure. Currently, the best resource for finding current blog carnivals looking for submissions is BlogCarnival.com. Within this site you can directly submit your articles to different blog carnivals that are taking place.
When looking for a phone number, a restaurant or a store in a mall, we usually end up referencing a directory of some kind. Sites such as BlogCatalog.com and Blogarama.com provide directory services for finding other blogs. Blogs are broken down by category where readers interested in a specific topic can find relevant blogs. Submitting a blog to a directory is generally free for most sites and provides yet another exposure point.
Tags are simply labels that can be included in each post, allowing people to find the post more easily. For example, if this article was in fact a post on a blog, the tags might be something like: How To Blog, Canadian Living, New Blogs, etc. The tags are created by the author and then automatically submitted by the blog itself, to a site such as Technorati, which indexes posts based on tags. When someone searches Technorati for a specific topic, the site looks for the most relevant tags that relate to the topic and provides those links to the user.
Defined as Rich Site Summary and, more informally, Real Simple Sydication (RSS), this is a specific link on a blog that allows for blog syndication. RSS feeds allow RSS feed readers -- such as Google Reader -- to gather the latest information on multiple blogs without the user having to visit each one individually. By providing an RSS feed for your blog, this allows more readers to easily keep up to date when new posts are published. An RSS feed is part of the blog software and is in operation when the blog is installed/set up. A service such as FeedBurner.com can enhance your feed to help increase your blog's traffic.
Comments and trackbacks
Liz Strauss of Successful-Blog.com is a master of engaging her readership in conversation through comments and trackbacks. Generally, for each article posted on a blog there is a place where a reader can leave a comment, and the comment will be displayed for all to see. It is a place for readers to leave their opinion, ask a question, or provide further information as it relates to the topic of the post.
When blog authors are able to provide more insight or resources to a post that can be left in a comment section, they will create a post on their blog that references the original post.
Trackbacks are the links from one blog post to another that allow the readership on the second blog to be able to track back to the first blog. Trackbacks provide the original blog author with an overview of who their post has reached, and your blog ranking on Technorati is heavily driven by the number of blogs that reference your blog.
Blogs worth visiting
• Darren Rowse (ProBlogger.net) provides an extensive resource for bloggers who want to use their blog to make money.
• Trey Ratcliff (StuckInCustoms.com) provides some of the most visually stunning HDR photography from his trips around the world on his photoblog.
• Franke James (FrankeJames.com) is a Canadian artist and writer committed to bringing awareness to global warming.
[Editor's picks. These blogs make us laugh!]
• Gofugyourself.com -- What were those celebs thinking when they put that on? If you've ever had that thought, you'll enjoy this snarky but funny blog on Hollywood's worst dressed, the perfect pick-me-up for those bad hair/bad shoe days.
• Perezhilton.com -- A blog phenomenon, with a following of millions. Perez breaks the news, cuts up celebrities mercilessly, heaps praise on a select few. Caution: you might want to look at this one after the kids have gone to bed.
• Yarnharlot.ca -- One of the world's most famous knitters, Stephanie Pearl-McPhee offers nuggets of wisdom and humour on life, teenage daughters and, of course, knitting.
William Tully is an entrepreneur, and author of LOGICal eMOTIONs blog. More details about him can be found on his LinkedIn profile.
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