A blog? Do I need one?

If you have recently searched the Internet to find information about any topic, no doubt you have run across blogs in your search results. The term “blog” is short for “web log” and it refers to an increasingly popular type of web site. However, blogs are different from traditional web sites in many ways.

Firstly, most blogs are not based on a hierarchical structure. Usually there is not a “home” page and you may not see navigation buttons. Instead, blog authors add content in an on-going manner – kind of like one might update a diary or journal – daily, weekly, monthly or periodically. You use various search features on the blog itself to find what you need.

Blogs also differ from standard web sites in that most of the time, you are invited to interact with the blog author and/or other visitors via a comment feature. In the case of popular or controversial blogs, a blog entry may trigger hundreds of comments.

Blog posts and comments can also be exported and republished using a technology called RSS – “real simple syndication.” You can import blog posts into your website using RSS, or you can add a blog’s RSS feed to your personalized home page – such as My Yahoo, My MSN or Personalized Google home page. RSS syndication means that you can subscribe to one or more bloggers, reading their posts without ever re-visiting the actual blog.

Search engines like Google and Yahoo tend to return blog posts in search results because blog entries are relevant, current and relatively new. There are also a number of blog specific search engines that have sprung up to service searchers who only want to search blogs. Google and Yahoo both have blog specific search engines and several other engines such as Technorati and Bloglines offer blog only searches.

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As is the case with traditional web sites, the information contained in blog posts is not inherently accurate or reliable. You must consider who is writing the blog and his or her purpose for doing so. Blogs are very popular sources of political opinion, but they can also be used to present factual information as well. I am a lawyer in Atlanta, Georgia and I use my blogs to answer questions about possible cases, comment about new developments in the law and to answer frequently asked questions. Because my law blogs are so much easier to update and keep current, I suspect that I have published more content on my blogs than on my traditional web sites. Although I have not yet reached the point where I am prepared to close down my hierarchical web sites, I do know several lawyers whose blogs serve as their only presence on the web.

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