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Don't have a blog yet?

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July 21, 2005 12:26 IST

Do you blog?'

This, boys and girls, is possibly among the most common questions thrown online, in our time.

It ranks right up there with 'What's your email ID?' and 'Do you use an Instant Messenger?' For the ability to answer that question, here's what you need to know...

illustration What exactly is a blog?

For those of you who are still in the dark, a blog is short for 'Web log' -- a journal available online. These are updated often -- in some cases, by the hour, with the help of easy-to-use software.

Some are personal, others resemble newsletters, while still others simply link to other content.

What a blog does is express a personal view or opinion, sometimes on a specific topic. By doing so, it reflects the author's personality.

Who are the people behind the blogs?

They come in all shapes, sizes and kinds, really. The activity of updating or maintaining these journals, or Web logs, is referred to as 'blogging'.

And the people who do this are called, well, 'bloggers'.

Did blogs always exist in this format?

Nothing on the World Wide Web has ever existed in a state of constancy. Although early Web logs were updated manually, tools to automate maintenance are now widely used.

Before blogging became what it is today, digital communities took many forms like:

In the 1990s came Internet forum software, allowing control of online administration control. Internet forum software is written in a variety of programing languages such as Java, Perl or ASP, and is used for everything from providing text-only postings to multimedia support at an Internet forum.

The software can be integrated into a blog to allow visitors to post comments. Some diarists also began keeping online journals around this time.

Where did the term 'Weblog' come from?

The term 'Weblog' was officially coined in December 1997 by Jorn Barger.

'Blog' was born when a man called Peter Merholz used the phrase 'we blog' in his own weblog, in 1999. Usage spread slowly but, by September 11, 2001, blogs had gained wide readership. By 2002, they began to take on political overtones, subscribing to all kinds of causes.

In the years since, blogs have gone mainstream, breaking news stories and shaping public opinion... much like newspapers once did.

What will I find if I log on to a blog?

Just about anything! Blogs range in content from diaries to campaigns to corporate policy.

They can boast of the opinions of one author, or a hundred. Many enable visitors to leave public comments, while some prefer to ignore interactivity.

The totality of blogs is often referred to, by the faithful, as the blogosphere.

As for the kinds of blogs around, these range from the personal to the topical, news and political blogs to legal blogs (also called blawgs), literary (litblogs), religious, collaborative blogs, educational blogs, theme blogs, corporate blogs, audio (MP3 blogs), photography (photoblogs) or video blogs (called vlogs). 

Check out some award-winning blogs at Blog Awards

How do I start a blog?

The tools for editing and publishing blogs are simply called 'blogware'.

The tech-savvy, as always, prefer the more complicated 'content management systems'.

A large number of software packages are now available to help you blog with the least bit of fuss.

For starters, you could log onto Rediff Blogs, follow the instructions and blog away.

You also have a lot of other options like Xanga , Blogger and LiveJournal. Log on to one for a clearer picture.

Anything else I need to know?

Just two more things -- 'blogrolls' and 'commenting'.

The former is a list of other blogs, a means by which a blogger creates context for his or her own blog, listing similar blogs or the ones he thinks are relevant to those who log on to his own blog.

As for 'commenting', this is simply a method of enabling feedback. A comment system allows users to comment on a post or thread at a blog.

Commenting can be built into the software, or added with the help of free services such as HaloScan.

For starters, that's all you need to know. Like most other things online, the phrases, jargon and related terms continue to multiply even as you read this, but that will come later. For now, get your thoughts in order. And start blogging.

Why I like to blog

Rediff blogger Desi Bridget Jones shares her experiences:  

'I've met so many interesting people on the web, stumbled upon some neat blogs and broadened my perspective on life. Personally, blogging has also given me a much needed ego boost -- I started the blog on a whim, egged on by a colleague.

' I never imagined that anyone would read my stuff and that I'd get the type of feedback I've received.

'It's also been a creative outlet for me and it's made me realise that so many people relate to the normal everyday experiences that I write about --  and that ultimately, deep down we're all the same.

'Same problems, same heartaches, same small joys... it's such a small world.'

Check out these blogs

Are you a voracious blogger? Does your blog have a sacred theme? You can get your blog featured on Get Ahead! Tell us all about your blog today

Make sure you mention your age, what you are currently doing, what blogging means to you and how you first started blogging. Don't forget to send the link to your blog.

Note: Only the best blogs will be featured.

Image: Dominic Xavier

Preetee Brahmbhatt