Technology Networking & Internet

Enter the Blogosphere

There has been a flurry of debate in recent weeks on the South African blogosphere about, perversely, blogs. Who are the country's top bloggers? How do we rate a blog? Who are the biggest influencers? And do they use this influence as effectively as they could?

Undoubtedly, there are plenty of movers and shakers who stand out from the crowd - but what makes a blog a blog? And more importantly, what elements make a good blog?

Not an impenetrable fortress
Blogging communities are fairly tight-knit in terms of the fact that most have dedicated followers and regular readers. This is not to say that the arena is impenetrable. It is in fact, quite the opposite.

Blogging is a way for anyone to publish anything and participate in the conversation.

There are many different types of blog; corporate blogs, industry blogs, personal blogs and special interest blogs (to name just a few).

An element that all blogs have in common is that they are comprised of posts, displayed in reverse chronological order. Other typical characteristics are that blogs are generally opinion-based and more informally written; can contain images and video, and readers being able to post comments and responses to the posts.

When is opinion compromised?
A great deal of the recent debate has asked 'when is a blogger not a blogger?' This thought has stemmed from the commercialisation of many blogs. When a blog has advertisers and business interests to consider, as with anything, this can cause a watering-down of opinions and opinionated analysis.

As Matthew Buckland put it on his blog, Matthewbuckland.com, "The big bloggers then start to resemble corporates or traditional media companies rather than the gutsy, independent, grassroots startups they once were."

This is perhaps a side-issue, but is nevertheless something to consider when thinking about the far-reaching and influential effects of blogs in shaping opinion and fuelling debate.

Frank analysis, opinion and participation are values held high by many 'new' web (web 2.0) advocates and many take a grim view of having these values diluted by what could almost be termed 'blogging machines'.

So, what makes a good blog?
Many would point to David Armano's 4 C's of blogging for guidance. On his own blog, Darmano.typepad.com, he outlines his four C's as Community, Consistency, Clarity and Content.

Community is defined as those who are participants in blog conversation. Good bloggers participate within one (or several) social networking communities, whilst they also listen and facilitate discourse.

Good bloggers have their own voice, and write about things that interest them. This is an important part of consistency, and also an integral part of what will keep readers coming back for more.

Clarity refers to having a clear view of where you're going, even if you don't know how you're going to get there. Having a clear vision of where you want to get to or what you are doing on your blog is also a key way to differentiate it from the rest. The conversations and musings should be clear and articulate - waffling bores people, and there is far too much 'noise' on the internet already.

Finally, what it all comes down to in the end is content. Naturally the content on any blog depends largely on its purpose and community. When it comes to blogging, it's not just about reporting as much as it is about opinions and authenticity. Don't be afraid to share your views and seek other opinions.

What are you waiting for?
Everyone has something to contribute - whether it's humour, opinion, resources, commentary - anything!

Blogging is an important part of creating a persona online. Blogs are also a great way to create an impact and get a debate going in your industry. Due to their potential influence, blogs can also be one of the key elements to managing your online reputation.

You can start a blog today. While some blogging software and services are paid services, there are a number of free blogging options out there. Blogger.com and WordPress.org allow you to create your own, personalised blog quickly and easily.

So get out there and start the debate!

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