Thursday, March 29, 2007

Weblogs 101

Ok, since we are introducing this new library blog, perhaps we should first post about blogs (also known as weblogs) in general. This is probably not new to most of you, but we figured some background information couldn't hurt... :)

The Oxford English Dictionary defines a blog as follows:

"A frequently updated web site consisting of personal observations, excerpts from other sources, etc., typically run by a single person, and usually with hyperlinks to other sites; an online journal or diary."

Today's blogs, however, are so much more... They are a daily source of news and information for many people, and can be contributed to by multiple authors, some of which are experts or at least highly regarded individuals in their fields. They help many of us keep up-to-date in what's important to us, be it world news, technology, business, or our specific field or research interest.

Finding blogs on topics of interest to you is often a serendipitous process. There are several blog search engines, most notably Technorati and Google Blog Search, but you could of course just do a web search for "insert topic here blog". Very often, you find out about blogs you like through other blogs you like... For example, blogs very often reference other blogs, or include a list of links to the blogs that the author or contributors are reading (often called a blogroll).

Once you start reading a bunch of different blogs on a regular basis, it often becomes cumbersome to visit each one every day to see if there are new posts. Enter the RSS feed aggregator. What is an RSS feed you ask? Well, simply put, it's just a constantly updated stream of information from a particular website or blog. (Want it less simply put? Here's some more info...) You can use an aggregator to compile the feeds from all your favorite sources into one place. Keep in mind that not only blogs have RSS feeds, you can also get them from many websites, especially news sites, which provide constantly updated headlines.

There are many aggregators to choose from, and which one you use is purely a matter of personal preference. Here is a list of what's out there, and here's a chart with some comparisons among them...

Creating and maintaining your own blog is also a great way to share information about yourself or your research with the rest of the world. There are many websites that allow you to create a blog for free, some of the more popular ones are: Blogger, LiveJournal, TypePad, Vox, WordPress and Xanga (just to name a few...)

To sum all this up nicely, we found a great little video on web 2.0... Enjoy!