What's a Blog and Why do I Care?

By W. Terry Whalin

Millions of folks are blogging--for all sorts of reasons. Here’s what caught my attention recently about blogging. While watching the MSNBC program, Hardball, I caught an interview with Mrs. Lynne Cheney, the wife of the Vice President of the United States. She quickly rattled off several blogs that she reads on a regular basis—mostly of a political nature. I’ve read journalists are regularly combing these documents for story leads and insights. I had to learn more and before long I became a blogger myself.

Here’s a great definition of blog, the word is a short hand for weB LOG and means: "A blog is basically a journal that is available on the web. The activity of updating a blog is "blogging" and someone who keeps a blog is a "blogger." Blogs are typically updated daily using software that allows people with little or no technical background to update and maintain the blog. Postings on a blog are almost always arranged in chronological order with the most recent additions featured most prominently."

There are many different places to begin blogging--and different reasons for doing it. I decided to blog for the fun of it--but also to help others have more of a personal glimpse into my writing life as an editor and writer. You can find my blog at: The Writing Life.

And if you are concerned about cost, blogging is free--other than the time you spend which always costs something. It's always best to put a bit of thought into something like this before you jump into it. The Evangelical Outpost (a widely read blog) has a great series of articles on some blogging basics.

I'm using Blogger I found the help menu of Blogger easy to use and answered most of my immediate questions. During the first few weeks of blogging, I changed my entire look. At first, I used one of the standard looks or templates at Blogger. As I began reading the blogs of various friends, I suddenly did a double-take a few times--because their blog looked exactly like mine--except the words were different. Blogger allows you to replace the standard looks within their system. I looked around the web and located a free template, copied the HTML code and pasted it into the right spot--and suddenly I had a different look. Within the blogging community, it seems to be important that you have a distinct look with your blog--to attract regular readers.

Is Anyone Reading it?

I'm using a free counter called Sitemeter and have it inconspicuously on my blog. In a general sense, it tells me how many people have read my post and is a useful tool. I've been to some blogs and it’s pretty obvious that few people are reading the information. Other blogs get a lot of readers every day (thousands in some cases).

How To Regularly Read an Updated Blog

I'm reading a number of blogs on a regular basis. I've been to some blogs and they haven't been updated in literally months.

How do you know when a blog has been updated? Through a recent change in Yahoo, it's simple. Here's what I suggest:

1. Get a free MyYahoo account at: http://my.yahoo.com/
2. Add a second page to your MyYahoo news page. From the front page: Go to select page (at the top of the page), click on Add/ Delete Page. Add a new page. Go to this new page.
3. Click on the Add Content link on the far left of the top of the page.
4. Now see the Find Content search bar toward the top of the new page? See the link on the right-hand side that says, "Add RSS by URL"? Click on this link.
5. Paste the URL for the blog you want to read into the search bar and follow the directions.

It's simple and I have a number of these blogs on a single page. Then I go to this page on MyYahoo and I can see at an instant if the blog has been updated, go to the link and read it.

Why blog?

Maybe you simply want to record some events for your family to read on a regular basis. Or maybe you want to pretend you are a newspaper columnist and write something that would/ could appear in your local newspaper. Or maybe you want to express your political opinions or journal about something in a public way. There are dozens of reasons to blog.

Like any other discipline of writing, blogging is a discipline--something I'm learning about and having fun with this year. I am committed to keeping it up. Blogs are short and personal—yet often include links to other sites. It does not have to be lengthy.

So dive into this new world. I hope I've helped you take a step in that direction.

W. Terry Whalin writes about his life as an editor and writer through his blog: The Writing Life. He understands both sides of the editorial desk--as an editor and a writer. He worked as a magazine editor for Decision and In Other Words. His magazine articles have appeared in more than 50 publications including Writer's Digest and Christianity Today. Terry has written more than 60 nonfiction books including the first person story of Olympian Vonetta Flowers called Running On Ice (New Hope Publishers). See more about his writing at www.right-writing.com/whalin.html. For more than 12 years Terry has been an ECPA Gold Medallion judge in the fiction category. He has written extensively about Christian fiction and reviewed numerous fiction books in publications such as CBA Marketplace and BookPage. He is the former Fiction Acquisitions Editor for Howard Books. Terry and his wife, Christine, live in Scottsdale, Arizona.

© 2010 W. Terry Whalin