Difference in blogs

Refering to Philocrites, a couple of days ago, I wrote, “we also seem to disagree about what a blog is; see his “What’s next for UU blogs?”)”

Here’s the deal: I don’t think Phil’s Little Blog on the Prairie is very bloggy. I think it is well-written, helpful, and a laurel to Unitarian Universalism. I’d call it a specialized Internet newsletter. Why? It is regularly periodic, sticks close to its mission, but above all, it isn’t interactive. To me, that reads newsletter, not blog.

Blog is short for weblog, and when I think of a log I think of the ledger-sized book kept in the pastoral care office of my clinical pastoral education setting. My entries would go in with the chaplains and other interns like

7:30 p.m. Made rounds on 2, 3, and 4. Provided pastoral support with family of patient John White in SICU. Called by charge nurse to pray with Pat Green at her request. Released body of Mary Brown to ME.

and so forth. Short — far shorter than this entry! — bits of information for the people who will next read it, and there’s room for further comment. I suspect there would be more written about John White . . . .

Blogging, as a genre, suggests immediacy and responsiveness and we have technology that makes that possible. I think you can try out ideas on a blog that wouldn’t rise to a developed thought. You can (try to) drum up ideas or garner help on a blog. Blogs are great for sharing the new-new-newist resources and stories without anymore comment than a URL. These are unlikely to fly in a conventional newsletter, or at least they wouldn’t likely produce useful outcomes.

Periodicals past depended on letters to the editor or rebuttals for responsiveness, or writers who went out and gathered others’ thoughts. Ink and paper and mail slowed the process. Even so, looking back, there were writers who today would likely be bloggers — Hosea Ballou and Orestes Brownson come to mind — while others would be careful, even reserved or aloof, essayists. (I don’t see Emerson blogging.)

So the disagreement is philosophical (though hardly highbrow) not technological.

Philocrites is a journalist, and I expect him to act like one, and see the blogging technology as a way to make the producing of periodicals cost- and time-effective. Blogging software is a species of content management system (CMS) software, and complex websites and some print publications depend on a CMS, so the appeal to blogging software is obvious: ’tis a simplified application of what works for others.

So there will be an important place for newsletters, reports, textbooks, magazines, white papers and other refined texts online — how else could some be published otherwise? — but these aren’t bloggish, and don’t need that cachet.

6 Replies to “Difference in blogs”

  1. I think you hit the nail on the head in that the term blog is now being used to cover almost all database driven websites (specifically content management systems). What is the line between a BBS and a blog? You hit on interaction. Are comments required to qualify as a blog? (a similar question was asked on DailyKos today but I am too lazy to link right now). When does commenting, multiparty posting and diaries become more of a BBS (perhaps as FUUSE might be considered). My favorite non-UU blogs are probably DailyKos and Slashdot, mostly because of the size of the “commmunity” there. Sometimes I feel like there is something superior to the feeling of the UU livejournal community compared to a blog like mine. I like the sort of breezy community feel on livejournal compared to the more combatitive and academic tone on a blog like mine. I’m not sure if LiveJournal is really a blog or not however. I suspect people that are used to the original technical meaning of blog that refers to weblog may just have to accept the new way of using the word the same way the word hacker has changed.

  2. You’re very right that I’m trying to ride the coattails of an idea that people are hearing more and more about — Blogs! Amazing and New! — to convince UUs to adopt and develop new public communications media. I’m not trying to convert them into bloggers; I’m trying to introduce a tool.

    I don’t feel that I have to introduce blogs as blogs to the geeky among us who grasp the concept pretty intuitively, aren’t intimidated by the technology, and learn by jumping right in. Instead I’m trying to give some pointers to people who wonder what the technology can do for other goals they already have. (Or should have.) I assume, for example, that interactivity is not actually that high a goal for the writers I’m trying to reach, but that they will discover the benefits of the built-in interactivity of comments and trackback; I wish Phil had comments.

    It’s true that “publishing” is my chief concern: There’s a terrible dearth of publicly-focused UU periodicals, so that’s the need I’m trying to find ways to fill. Blogging proper — dashed-off odds and ends — have much more limited appeal to me, although I’m happy to see them flourish. But as much as I’m interested in CMS — which I spend a lot of time thinking about at work lately — most UU thinkers don’t need a crash course in content management systems; they need an easy to use simple tool that helps them communicate.

    In the interests of full technical disclosure, though, I am trying to find simple ways to introduce basic CMS to UU writers — preferably the sort that doesn’t require busy ministers to learn how to manage Drupal or write php or muck around with scripts and codes. (I’ve been learning Drupal and WordPress, and must say that you really have to be a geek to use either one effectively.) Blogger or TypePad would meet most of these needs — at least until people discover just how powerful the publishing tools can be.

  3. I’m not a technical geek (CMS? pfeh), I’m a content geek. So here’s my $.02 worth….

    As my partner puts it, people like us are information hunter-gatherers. Blogs started out as Web logs, that is as a way to post cool Web links you just had to pass on to others. As an information hunter-gatherer, I started looking at blogs as a way to increase my reach across the Web, and I judged that a good blogger was someone who found good links for me to follow. Then I started reading some blogs that pointed to content beyond the Web — good books that someone had read, and so on. Still a way for information hunter-gatherers to extend their information connections.

    An “ah-ha” moment came when I was looking over old church newsletters, and realized that some of them functioned the same way as blogs. Dr. Charles Lyttle, minister here in Geneva, Illinois, started each of his newsletters off with a short quote from some writer on liberal religion. That part of the newsletter was just like a blog — a pointer to something bigger, a pointer that an information hunter-gatherer would want to follow.

    Blogs have also always had a diaristic aspect. I feel that goes hand-in-hand with the pointers to new information — it gives the readers of the blog some context, some glimpse into the personality of the blogger. Helps us information hunter-gatherers make some judgments about the source. And the interactive component is equally important — it provides feedback to the blogger from the information hunter-gatherers, letting the blogger know how s/he is doing.

    I’m also a minister who keeps a blog. In some ways, people in my congregation are information hunter-gatherers, and part of my job is to provide pointers to interesting liberal religious ideas. A blog is a perfect way to do so, not least because it is an interactive medium.

    So is Phil Lund a blogger? Well, no, not really — but as an information hunter-gathere, I read him anyway. And Philocrites? Well, he’s more of a journalist, but information hunter-gatherers like journalists, too. What I’d really like to see is more UU ministers experimenting with blogging as part of our teaching ministry.

    Just my $.02 worth.

  4. Okay…truth is, I do have a non-UU blogging past (an experimental poetry blog that featured the nightly results of a series of rather complicated text manipulations), and on that site I did have a place for comments and responses, so I do know how it’s done. I’ve added a comment/trackback feature to PLBOTP in hopes of being just a wee bit more interactive. Thanks!

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