Saturday, December 07, 2002

Parting Words

I have a friend, Stacy, who was a roommate of mine in college. We both left the school after our freshman year and ended up going in different directions. I went back to Arizona and she went up to Oregon. We wrote letters for a few years, but eventually they were fewer and fewer until we didn't write at all. E-mails were sporadic and they, too, eventually stopped.

Earlier this year, I did a search for her husband's name because I knew that he had a website. When I found it, I discovered they were both keeping a blog. They both post to the same blog and sometimes make comments in each other's entries. Because of their blog, I was able to find out what had been going on in their lives and to contact Stacy. We have been e-mailing each other since.

This is what blogs do. They keep people connected. They're a way for people to keep a record of their lives so that they will remember what happened years later. People are able to keep in contact with friends and family they rarely get to see, or as in our case, people they've lost touch with.

Blogs inform, entertain, and connect people. They allow regular people to be heard by thousands of others. Some invite argument and discussion; some are just for fun; others are creative and inspiring. But all these sites have one thing in common: they allow everyone to have a voice by being an unrestrained and open forum. Blogs will continue to be a part of the Internet and will continue to expand in their uses. There will never be a better tool for letting people open up and affect the world around them.

Tuesday, December 03, 2002

Blogs and the Workplace

Journalists are not the only ones who need to worry about their jobs if they're keeping a blog. People in all sorts of occupations need to be concerned about what they say in their blogs because if word gets out at work that you've said some things about your company or co-workers, you could get yourself fired.

Heather Hamiltion who runs was fired from her job because of comments she made about her job and her co-workers. Although she never used any names and never said where she was working, her employer felt it was inappropriate for her to be keeping a blog where she ridiculed her workplace. This discussion took place on Metafilter shortly after it was discovered she was fired.

The discussion brings up interesting points. Should your employer be able to fire you because of what you write in your blog? It is a valid question because blogs are public sites, and yet they are personal writings. If you were to post something nasty about your co-workers in your cubicle, you would most certainly get in trouble. But if you post something nasty about your co-workers on a site where you may not identify yourself or the people you are talking about, should that be cause for dismissal?

Another, even more difficult, aspect of blogs and the workplace to try to figure out is should you be fired for personal beliefs or experiences? Mark Pilgrim of Dive into Mark was fired because he wrote this. (To read more about this check out his archive where he details what happened.) Are people not allowed to talk about private things on a blog because their bosses might be embarrassed by what they have to say? If that is the case, then what are people supposed to talk about on their blogs?

This is a difficult area to discuss because it brings up many issues. There are those who would argue that privacy rights and freedom of speech should come before the rights of employers to hire and fire those they want. But what about employers' rights? Should they not be allowed to present a particular image of their company to the public; should they not be allowed to hire and keep the kinds of people who would shape and maintain that image? This is a tricky area and there are sure to be lawsuits in the coming years as more people get fired over their blogs. For the time being, people need to be aware of what is going on and make sure they keep tight-lipped about what's going on at work.

Sunday, December 01, 2002

Blogs and the Media

It's not surprising then, that since September 11th, more and more journalists have been keeping blogs for the news sources they work for. MSNBC currently has seven of their correspondents keeping blogs.

Many of these types of journalistic blogs written for a newspaper's online site or an online news source are generally along the lines of opinion columns. It is uncommon that reporters keep blogs as a part of their job, but there is debate about whether or not that should be allowed. Steve Outing from Editor and Publisher believes they should keep blogs. However, Mickey Kaus, from Slate, worries that "reporters will start to put their best stuff into blogs" in order to avoid their editors (NY Times).

Another important aspect to consider is journalists keeping personal blogs. When it was discovered that Steve Olafson, a reporter for The Houston Chronicle, was keeping a weblog in which he discussed local politicians and his newspaper, he was fired from his job ( NY Times).

So should journalists be able to air their own views on their own sites without consent of their editors? This is something that newspaper publishers will need to look into; new policies may needed to reflect the blog phenomenon.

Saturday, November 30, 2002

Evolution of Blogs

After a while, the weblog movement was gaining momentum. In July of 1999, Andrew Smales created Pitas, which allowed anyone who signed up with them the ability to keep a weblog. Soon after that, Blogger , a similar service, was created (Blood, 5).

With the creation of these services, weblogs changed. They evolved into what we know today as blogs: sites of short, personal entries that are updated usually once a day. Many of them did not include links, and the links that were included were for other sites like these. Since keeping a blog became so easy with Pitas and Blogger, knowledge of HTML no longer being required, blogs started popping up on the Internet by the thousands.

On September 11, the day of the terrorist attacks in New York and Washington, D.C., weblogs took on a whole new importance. When many news sites crashed because of too much traffic, people started looking to blogs for updates on the events. Bloggers had the time to look through the news stories so that others could read them (LA Times).

Tuesday, November 26, 2002

Blog Beginnings

I was trying to remember over the weekend what it was that initially got me interested in blogs in the first place. Then I remembered as I was reading over Rebecca Blood's book, The Weblog Handbook, that it was through online journals, which predate blogs by several years. I used to read online journals, like this one, which is unfortunately no longer updated; I thought he was pretty funny. These online journals acted as personal diaries, but were meant to be shared with a lot of other people. These have fallen somewhat out of favor now that blogs are so popular.

Blogs may not seem all that much different from online journals. In fact, Blood finds it difficult to truly distinguish between the two in her book (p. 7), and using the definition of a weblog by Brigitte Eaton--a site consisting of dated entries--it seems to me that online journals would qualify as weblogs. However, blogs didn't start out as a form of online journalling.

Blogs originated as sites with lists of links. Some people started collecting links to websites or news articles that they found interesting or entertaining. They thought other people might like to look at these sites, and made them available. It was an easy way for people with little time to spend online to see a lot of websites they wouldn't normally have the opportunity to see. One of these original filter weblogs is Camworld . The maintainer of this site, Cameron Barrett, actually created many of the elements found on blogs, including the sidebar of links to other blogs (p. 4).

Monday, November 25, 2002

I think I should start out by defining what a weblog, or blog, is. This may be difficult as there are several types. There are filter weblogs, which give links to different parts of the internet (Now This ); blogs, which act as online diaries for individuals (Trevstac); and notebooks, which are similar to blogs, but often have longer, less frequent entries (Lemonyellow) (Blood p 6-7). There are even professional blogs, which companies can set up to reach out to customers, or professionals will put up to connect with new clients. Here's what Macromedia is doing with its blog. Even journalists are keeping keeping blogs.

Sunday, November 24, 2002

Ok. I am going to try a post. It's been difficult for me to do this. In fact, maybe that is what I will talk about. I have noticed that writing for a blog is harder than it looks. Sure, this particular one may be especially difficult for me simply because I'm being graded on it and feel like an entry has to be perfect before I can put it up. But I think in general that it has to be difficult to maintain a blog. People write entries usually once a day; many people write several entries a day. Even Rebecca Blood in her book The Weblog Handbooksays that it was difficult for her to write every day. Once she got started, she found it easier and easier to do and her writing even got better each time( p28-29). But initially, there was concern that she wouldn't have anything to say every day.

I think my biggest problem has been getting over the fear of writing something that is incomplete. I like to write a draft by hand first and then type it in the word processor, editing along the way. With a blog, you can't do that. You have to think on the spot and just let the words fly. You also have to make sure that you write concisely because most people aren't going to read a blog entry that spans the length of a computer screen. Rambling on, as I am wont to do when I don't have a draft in front of me, is not going to get you readers.

So this first entry may not be very informational as far as talking about blogs goes, but I am hoping that it is a starting point for me. I think that I just need to get writing and hope that it will get easier each time I post. Maybe in the next post, I can actually get started on the topic of blogs.