Blogging for Beginners: What is a Blog?

Note: This post is aimed at beginning bloggers or people who have just discovered there’s this thing called blogging and want to know more. If you are already “in the know” but have had a hard time explaining this to other people, feel free to send them the link to this post.

You Don’t Know What a Blog is? You’re Kidding, Right?

You mean in this day and age, you don’t know what a blog is? Relax! You’re not alone, and I wrote this article especially for you. Many people still don’t really know what a blog is.

The word itself, blog, is short for web log. The main feature of blogs that sets them apart from other kinds of websites is that the site’s content appears mostly on one main page in the form of posts. A post is the basic unit of content in a blog. The newest post is the first one at the top, and the next most recent post comes after the first, and so forth. Most blogs usually show only the most recent posts, with the remainder stored in accessible archives. Usually, clicking on a post’s title will take you to a page where that post in its entirety is the only main content on the page. Many home pages of blogs feature only the first few words of each post, and you can click a link if you’re interested in reading more of the article.

The listing order of blog posts meets the needs of people who want to keep up with the latest news. It’s really no different than your email inbox, which does the same thing. Can you imagine how exasperating it would be to have to scroll to the bottom of your inbox just to see the latest email you received? This is why blog posts are listed in reverse order. 

About eight or nine years ago, this post format was something new—most websites consisted of a series of pages linked to from a “home” page, like a table of contents points to pages in a book. It was difficult and time-consuming to make changes to a website. By contrast, blogs are very easy to update, thanks to advances in the proficiency of the underlying technology. Blogs can have pages, too, but their primary feature is a series of posts. Sometimes posts can be long, but most are only a few hundred words in length.

Blogs have certain common features other than posts, and it is often these features that perplex people. Two such features are categories and archives. Categories are a way to classify and group blog posts. For example, here at I have a category called Blogging. Whenever I write a post about something related to Google services and products, I assign it to the Google category (and to other categories, if applicable). There is often a list of categories on a blog page, either in the left or right column. You can click on any category to see all the posts which are assigned to that category. If you click Blogging, you will see all my posts on Google collected in one place

Archives are past posts collected into groups by month. Links to a blog’s archives are also usually in a sidebar. If all that organization of material seems like a lot of work, it isn’t! That’s because what makes this possible is that all of a blog’s content is stored in a database, so it can be retrieved and displayed in many different ways by a computer program that runs on the web server where the blog is stored. The archiving of old posts happens automatically as a function of the blogging software.

Practical Definition of a Blog and Blogging

In practical terms, a blog is an internet publishing platform that’s relatively easy to use and manage. A blog is just about the easiest way going to have a website. Using a blog involves creating written content (and more and more, audio and video). Writing blog posts is most often done in a web-based form (somewhat like writing an email) in the administration pages of the blog. You log in to the admin area of your blog with a username and password. A team blog has multiple authors, each with their own usernames and passwords.

Even if you publish more than one form of media, blogging is, essentially, writing. You write posts, assign them to categories, create a list of links to other bloggers you like (this is called a blogroll), and respond to comments left by visitors. The ability for visitors to leave comments, and for blog authors to respond to those comments, is one of the hallmark features that makes blogs different from a “regular” website. For many blogs, loyal commenting visitors form a community around the blog.

How Blogs have Changed Recently

I know there are many articles online defining what a blog is, but many of them are getting old. Blogging evolves at a rapid pace, and if you want to stay current, you have to put some effort into staying caught up. The ease of use and features keeps improving with each new version of blog software such as WordPress. The advent of a combination of technologies collectively known as AJAX has brought about a new dynamicism to blogs. Flash media in the form of embeddable video players has revolutionized how people watch video online. Other advances in technology alongside flash video have brought about the rise of the video blog, or vlog, such as the ones I’ve been running, GoogleTube Video of the Day and YouTube.

The rise of tags has had a big impact on blogging. A tag is a descriptive word or short phrase attached to a blog post so people can find it and so that it has a context with other blog posts that use the same or similar tags. You will find tags at the bottom of nearly every post on this blog, including this post. 

Podcasting, or using RSS (Really Simple Syndication) to send audio and video to subscribers, has also exploded into raging popularity. RSS itself has nearly always been with blogs, but it’s finally catching on with a mainstream audience. Many social and community-based services offer some kind of widget you can put on your blog to show your participation in that community. A widget is a little window or box of content that is fetched from the service (you see some widgets in my sidebars to your right). Finally, the most recent trend is blogging from mobile devices, and the tools that facilitate it, such as Twitter.

So now that we’ve taken a look at what a blog is (and, to some degree, what blogging is), the question naturally arises: What is the advantage to blogging? That will be a future article.

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Blogging for Beginners: What is a Blog? Blogging for Beginners: What is a Blog? Reviewed by wof on 12:35 Rating: 5
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