My 11/25/07 Missoulian column
A quick math lesson to begin today’s column: 120,000 blogs go online every day. That’s 120,000 brand-new blogs each day, all year long – or about 14 blogs created every second for a total of about 43 million new blogs a year. Whatever blogging is, it’s serious. What’s going on here?
Blogging is self-publishing, it’s community groups on the Internet, businesses promoting themselves, people chronicling their family trees, journalists writing what the mainstream media doesn’t cover, people posting daily photographs and musings. You name it – animal, vegetable, mineral – and there’s a blog (or a thousand) out there for it.
What exactly is a blog? It’s a free Web site that takes just a few clicks to establish where you can present any information you want: your life, your writing, and on and on. (Well, within the law; there are a few limits.) Who wouldn’t take advantage of such a high-tech toy?
To get an idea of what people blog about, go to blogger.com (where you’d go to start your own blog) and watch the ticker that shows blogs that have been updated recently. I watched it for a few minutes while working on this column, and these are some of the titles that rolled by: “Recovering Catholics,” “Emotionally Unstable,” a blog title in Japanese, “Wireless Dog Fence,” “Clair’s Cooking,” a blog that’s definitely “Not Safe For Work,” a blog in Spanish that mentions Baja, someone in Ohio writing a diary, someone else’s computer business site.
Those numbers at the top of the column are from Technocrati.com, which tracks about 70 million blogs and gathers data about the incredibly expanding blogosphere. The people behind Technocrati also calculate that the number of blog posts spike during important news events, that more Japanese people blog then people who speak English, and that the number of blogs in Farsi is rapidly rising. And that the growth in blogging is almost doubling every year.
The first modern bloggers appeared around 1994 when the World Wide Web began to get noticed, but blogging has really exploded in popularity in the past eight years or so. The first blogs were simple and oriented solely toward the Internet, but that didn’t last for long. Once personal Web sites became possible and easy-to-use blog software became available, they really took off. The word blog is a combination of two words, “web” and “log” – web as in World Wide Web and log as in journal. Blog has made it in the Oxford English Dictionary, so it’s firmly established in the language if not the Internet. (Wikipedia has a good entry on blogs).
And, as with everything, as soon as there were blogs people developed ways to exploit them, giving us splogs: spam blogs. (“Splog” hasn’t made it into the OED as of yet.) A splog is a blog that “scrapes” or steals text and photos from other blogs with bots (remember those?) and uses that material to attract people though search engines. For example, when you search for “Guitar Hero,” you click on a site that at first glance appears to be a product review or a storefront but is really a link to a different site. The splog makes money from the advertiser for the real link you clicked through. Last December, about 11,000 splogs with a holiday flavor were created each day. There’s a very interesting Wired News article on splogs and how people make money from them.
After all that, you still want to blog? WordPress.com has free blogs; you can set up and be blogging in five minutes. Google’s Blogger is free, too, though you need to open a Gmail account, which is free as well. Go to blogger.com and the site will walk you through the process. Free and premium video blogging is available at TypePad.com, and you can photo blog at Flickr.com. With most of those blogs, your site’s address will be something like yourblog.wordpress.com or yourblog.blogspot.com. If you want your own bit of Internet real estate, you’ll have to register a domain, as I described in an earlier column, and run your free blog from there.
And where there are blogs, there are free services for blogs. Technocrati.com lists the top blogs, the top blog searches, most popular video blogs and more. Other similar sites are Digg.com and Del.icio.us (no “.com” on that address), where users submit blog links to rank and share. You’ll see icons for all those services on lots of blogs, and that’s how they work: Click on them to submit a blog or link to the service.
Remember the 120,000 new blogs each day? Well, statistics show that upward of 80 percent of those are abandoned within a few months. But give it a try; blogging is free. Search for “Missoula” on Google’s blog search and you’ll find about 23,000 blogs that mention this town. Maybe you can add to that number with you own.