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Blog FAQ

Frequently Asked Questions About Weblogs

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What is a Blog or Weblog?
A blog (aka weblog or web log) is a web page that is frequently updated, usually with personal insights and links to other sites. Each blog entry is typically short and to the point, sometimes with a link to a longer, extended entry.

In many cases, most people can’t tell the difference between a blog, a wiki, and a standard website. In fact, they really are all the same thing. These days, the primary definition of a blog is a website that is built by blog software such as WordPress, Blogger, or LiveJournal.

How are Blogs Used?
Traditionally, blogs were used as something like an online diary. They included links that the author had found interesting that day as well as life stories.

But as blogs became more and more popular, businesses started to use them. The first industry to really embrace blogs was the news media. Journalists post their stories to the blog and readers subscribe to the blog news feeds to receive up-to-the-minute information on a variety of topics. Now, blogs are used for many different purposes.

  • Personal diaries
  • News feeds
  • Hourly, daily, weekly updates of websites
  • New information on a topic
  • Product updates: reviews, new versions, new products
  • This day in history
  • Birthdays and other special events
  • Almost anything you can think of

What do I need to set up a blog?
Since blogs are just web pages, all you really need to set up a blog is a computer, space on a web hosting server for your pages, and time to create the blog. But there is an easier way to go.

There are numerous applications created to help you build a blog. One of the easiest is Blogger.com. This site allows you to set up a weblog in about 10 minutes. LiveJournal is another popular hosted option.

I have my own web server, are there blog tools for me?
Yes, there are a number of blog tools that work with the server you already have. My favorite is WordPress.org. WordPress.org is the same software as found on WordPress.com, but it is open source and available for you to install on your own servers. Most of the blogs that I run run on WordPress.

How can I post to my blog?
There are many different tools to use to post to your blog. Many of the applications allow things like posting from an offline editors, email posting, and even posting by phone. I have used a cell phone with web access to post to my weblog.

Are there other tools I can use to post?
There are many tools you can use to post to your weblog. Most blog applications these days offer support for the Blogger API which allows desktop and mobile client tools to connect to the blog for posting and management.

Why would I want to use a client tool other than the blog application?
Blog client tools or assistants are used for a variety of reasons.

  • They are easier to use than the blog application, as they have fewer features.
  • Because they are desktop and not server tools, they allow you to work offline and publish once you’re ready.
  • Some provide better WYSIWYG support, for those who don’t like HTML.
  • Some integrate directly into your browser.
  • Some are available on your mobile device so you can post from anywhere.
  • Some offer management tools that are easier to understand.

What is RSS?
RSS stands for Really Simple Syndication, and it is a way to tell other people about your new blog entries. You post your weblog entries in the XML specification RSS. Then readers all over the world can view your blog entries on content aggregators. Or you can post content from other blogs on your site using RSS tools.

I run a business, what good is a blog to me?
weblogs are a great traffic generator, but only if they are honest, and not just marketing hype. There are many uses for a business weblog—not just for personal diaries.

You can use a blog to keep your customers up-to-date on your products, as a way to highlight your press releases, or even just to make your company seem more friendly. Blogs are a great way to find out what your customers think of your site, products, or company as they comment and participate in the blog itself.

I’m a Web Designer/Developer, should I have a blog?
Ultimately, you are the only one who can answer this question. Doing a blog well means that you have to be willing to write for it fairly regularly. One of the saddest things to see is a blog that hasn’t been updated in months or years. And if you have it linked prominently from your home page, this can be even more embarassing. But the benefits to you and your design business are the same as for any other business. You make your company seem more personable, you can highlight new features or PR information, and keep your services up-to-date and in mind for your clients.

What is a permalink?
Permalink is short for “permanent link.” It is a link that readers can use to bookmark the current blog post. This is important, as most blogs change regularly, and without a permanent link, the posts would be impossible to find later.

Permalinks are usually indicated by a linked pound-sign (#) or the permalink at the end of the post.

What is Trackback?
Trackback is a tool to allow you to notify other blog authors of your blog posts. Most blog software uses it to comment on a blog post as an entry on their site, rather than as comments on the other blog. It is done automatically in most blog software, and some bloggers show these links along with the comments made directly on the blog. It’s similar to linking to a permalink (permananent link) but it adds the functionality where you actually tell the original blogger that you’ve linked to them. This is called “sending a ping.”

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