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i-Technology Viewpoint: The Five Dimensions of Blogs

"Is a blog a blog if the feedback is turned off?"

The value of blogging continues to surface as a naval-gazing exercise within the technology community. Does blogging matter? Does anyone care whether or not it matters? Should it matter? These and other meta-questions continue to be posed by those who a.) aren't getting enough hits on their blogs, b.) have too much time on their hands, or c.) are onto one of the seminal transformations in history of humans' communications with one another.

My view has always been that blogging serves two major purposes: it acts as an arbitraging agent within the calcified traditional media world, and it keeps a lot of people off the streets and at their keyboards where they belong.

The first, and obviously more serious, point relates to the self-correcting mechanism that blogging has become, whether in debunking the George W. Bush "sugarcoating memo" story, finding flaws in the latest Xbox, or confirming numerous other reports and thereby turning rumors into stories.

What was that last point? Most people think that 99.9% of blogs are mere intellectual onanism, read by almost nobody, and essentially content-free. This is, of course, true, and it reflects the general output of humans in particular, whether yapping over the fence, on their cell phones, or through their blogs.

Yet there is a certain hive intelligence in the blogosphere that frequently focuses that remaining 0.1 percent onto issues that are important and is able to work as a many-handed reporter in seeking the ultimate truth behind any number of legitimate news stories.

But beyond all that, I think an interesting questions also emerges when people try to define what a blog should be. I recently heard a major technology executive criticized, for example, because he simply turned feedback off to his popular blog, thereby obviating the cumbersome business of having to moderate feedback for obscenity and libel while also distancing himself from the direct flaming criticism that often comes cascading in through user feedback.

Is his blog really a blog, then?

In my opinion, yes it is. To me, there are four essential dimensions to a blog. The first is the intent. Is the blog that of a reporter or an opinion-maker? The second is form. Should it be a collection of hyperlinks punctuated by minimal commentary (a view held fiercely by many who think this is the essence of a blog.) Third, should feedback be enabled? (Is this is one-way march or a two-way street?) Fourth is frequency. Is your blog updated frequently every day, daily, weekly, or whenever the heck you feel like it? And fifth, and far most important to my mind, is RSS.

Without some sort of, well, really simple syndication, a blog just sits there waiting for people to visit (you know, like a website). But through RSS, you are now able to feed it to the two or three people or the many thousands (and maybe millions some day) of people who want to read it.

Without RSS, blogs are simply the latest development on Speaker's Corner, the stemwinding letter-to-the-editor, or the subversive little pamphlet surreptitiously distributed to those who want to join your movement. Not to denigrate even that aspect of the blog, because in this respect, blogs are the latest wrinkle in the honorable tradition of citizen engagement, free speech, and the egalitarian principle that we each have an inalienable right to speak our minds to whomever will listen.

But with RSS, blogs become true publishing for everyone-whether or not anyone has anything valuable to say.

More Stories By Roger Strukhoff

Roger Strukhoff (@IoT2040) is Executive Director of the Tau Institute for Global ICT Research, with offices in Illinois and Manila. He is Conference Chair of @CloudExpo & @ThingsExpo, and Editor of SYS-CON Media's CloudComputing BigData & IoT Journals. He holds a BA from Knox College & conducted MBA studies at CSU-East Bay.

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