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                                           weblogs
Making
weblogs
work
    A step-by-step guide
    to getting
    citizens blogging

weblogs weblogs
  weblogs
   weblogs
   weblogs
                                           weblogs




weblogs
weblogs        By Gary Quinn
          European Journalism Centre
            Maastricht - The Netherlands
1
What is a weblog ?
   Think of a weblog like a diary – a
   chronological list of your
   personal opinions, thoughts and
   ideas. But, unlike a diary, instead
   of hiding all these ideas in a
   locked drawer you use a really
   simple piece of software to
   publish them on the web so that
   everyone can read them.
   Straight away you can see why
   weblogs aren’t for everyone. For
   some people this sounds like
   their worst nightmare but for
                                         that other media wouldn’t or
                                         couldn’t cover. The UK
                                         newspaper, The Guardian, among
                                         others, picked up his weblog and
                                         published it on their web site and
                                         in the print edition of the
                                         newspaper. The world took
                                         notice and before long the
                                         Bagdhad Blogger became a
                                         sensation. Since then he has
                                         written for The Guardian and
                                         other international news services
                                         as a journalist in his own right.
   others it’s a dream come true.        Most of us don’t have such high
   Weblogs are for people who            ambitions for our weblogs but it
   want to be heard – or, who feel       illustrates how a single voice
   they at least have to try to be.      managed, with the help of
   Weblogs really are that personal      technology, to carry its opinion
   but they also have the potential      very far indeed.
   to be more than that.                 The Bagdhad Blogger succeeded
   There are literally millions of       because he had something he
   weblogs on every subject you          really needed to say and,
   can imagine.                          crucially, there were a lot of
   One of the most famous was the        people who wanted to listen.
   Bagdhad Blogger – an Iraqi            Like all media, weblogs need
   citizen who kept a weblog             both these aspects – a producer
   during the early days of the Iraq     and an audience. Weblog
   war. Unlike the reports coming        software harnesses this by
   through from the newspapers           making the production side
   this was an Iraqi citizen telling     easier - finding an audience
   the story of the war from his         depends largely on what you
   point of view. He told stories        have to say.




2
Kinds of weblogs
There are a number of different categories of weblogs:
Personal weblogs; political; journalism; community and
organisational, among others. In the end, despite their different
themes, they all work because they are written from an ordinary
perspective. Even when they are published by a well-known
journalist the weblog is from that person’s personal perspective
and not filtered through their newspaper or organisation. And
this is why citizen-related weblogs are so important. They allow
ordinary citizens to play a part.




             ” Iran nowthey75,000 bloggers despite the risk of
               prison if
                         has
                             are caught."
                                                                              Financial Times
             3
Weblogs, citizens and the media
              Of course, all weblogs are
              media-related since by simply
              producing one the blogger
              becomes a media producer,
              although a small one. But there’s
              more to it than that. The
              established mass media itself
              realised the power of weblogs
              during the last few years. Major
              newspapers like Die Welt, Le
              Monde, The Guardian and many
              other European titles and
              broadcasters produce their own
                                                   weblog software taking
                                                   ownership and responsibility for
                                                   the development of weblogs -
                                                   the main result being the
                                                   proliferation of free weblog
                                                   services.
                                                   This gives people a chance to
                                                   take part in or generate debate
                                                   about issues that affect them.
                                                   This isn’t a new concept these
                                                   days – regular websites have
                                                   been offering this for a decade
                                                   or more. What makes weblogs
              weblogs and some provide links       more attractive is their ease of
              directly to citizen weblogs.         use. Literally, within minutes, a
              The major online media players       person with almost no technical
              have also taken a role. Google,      experience can post their own
              MSN and Yahoo have bought up         weblog and link to others.




 4
How to create a weblog
Setting up a weblog is the easy part. It’s
easy because there are many free services
who do most of the work for you. Most of
the weblog service providers offer a very
similar product.
Choose a provider from the list here or use
a provider in your country. There are many.
Some questions you will want to check are:
■ Is it free or is there a payment for use?

■ Does it support RSS. This stands for
  Really Simple Syndication. It allows
  other people to subscribe to your
                                              people can visit your weblog.
                                              On blogger.com it will look like this
                                              http://yourweblogname.blogspot.com
                                              In a matter of minutes it’s ready.
                                              It really is that simple. The hard part
                                              is keeping your content focused and
                                              encouraging an audience.

                                              Maintenance: Front and back-end.
                                              The only technical aspect is the mainte-
                                              nance and even that is straightforward.
                                              When you set-up a weblog you will have
                                              two sides of your blog to get used to.
  weblog so that they get notified every
  time you update with a new post.            The front-end, the public side, is the
                                              screen that the user will see when they
■ Are there limits on what you can post?
                                              visit your weblog. It will follow the design
Besides that there is very little to check.   of template you chose when registering
Just go to a weblog site such as              and will contain the posts, links and other
blogger.com and follow the three to four      information you choose to put on your log.
easy steps in setting one up.                 In many ways it just looks like any other
Normally this involves registering as a       website.
user and choosing a password and a name       The back-end is the private area that you
for your log. Then choose a colour scheme     log into as the administrator of the
from the templates offered (you can edit      weblog. It is here that you will write your
this again later) and almost immediately      posts to the weblog, add any links and
you are ready to go.                          photographs, invite people to join and
You will be given a web address so that       carry out any other administrative duties.




                           ” A new weblog is created every second."      Technorati.com
            5
          Take a focused approach
            The best weblogs are about
            subjects the blogger is passionate
            about. Also, just like the mass
            media and many citizen-related
            websites, blogs work best when
            they have a very clear focus.
            During the Paris riots blogs sprang
            up almost immediately. The ones
            that got noticed were the ones that
            were focused in a very direct way.
            Some were from within the
            communities where the riots were
            happening. Their focus was on
                                                    opinion as to why the riots were
                                                    happening.
                                                    Of course, weblogs aren’t always
                                                    generated by such extreme events.
                                                    Many citizens around Europe use
                                                    blogs on a daily basis to discuss
                                                    smaller issues. Take the environment
                                                    as an example. There are many blogs
                                                    that focus on the environment – but
                                                    in a small way. They are often
                                                    prompted by actions at a local level
                                                    and involve citizens talking about
                                                    the environment and the media
            explaining what was happening           from their personal perspective.
            from the inside. Others were            For example, recycling facilities,
            focused on gathering what was           public transport needs, opposition
            being said about the riots in print     to local government plans for the
            and broadcast and bringing it           local community. Sometimes they
            together in one space so people         just want to discuss the
            could get the full picture. Others      mainstream media’s coverage of
            were either in support of or against    these issues. Either way, the logs
            the immigrant communities and           are about getting that local opinion
            used the weblogs to argue their         into a more public debate.




 6
But who
reads them?
Well, very often journalists and other activists.
But perhaps most importantly ordinary citizens
are the largest group. Weblogs have a knack of
reaching just the right people because one
thing that bloggers do very well is linking to
each other’s weblogs. This creates a very
tightly bound social network of likeminded
people.
It works particularly well if the subject
is marginalized or rarely covered in the mains-
tream media. So, for example, if a blogger
created a weblog about the development
of the Scots Gaelic language, another Scottish
blogger who liked what it had to say might
create a link on their weblog suggesting you
                                                       Glossary
go and visit the first one. At the same time a          Weblog or Blog >          RSS > Shorthand for
blogger in another country who is searching             The diary itself          Really Simple
for blogs on minority languages, say Irish or           Blogger > The person      Syndication > A
Catalan, would find it and create a link also.          who writes and            quick and easy way to
Each would link to the other and this binds the         uploads the blog          publish your new
subject matter together – sometimes locally,            Blogging > The            posts to others
sometimes regionally and sometimes wider.               production of the blog:   Photoblog > Just like
So the readership grows because of citizenship          writing, uploading and    a regular text based
and each informs the other.                             maintaining the blog      diary blog but using
                                                        Post > an individual      mostly photos instead
                                                        entry on a blog           of text.


    ” Bloggers are often the only real censored orin countries
      where the mainstream media is
                                       journalists
                                                   under pressure."
                                                              Reporters Sans Frontieres www.rsf.fr
                        ”Ultimately the readers willtheythe judgesyour track
                         you are credible or not. If
                                                     be
                         record they will go elsewhere"
                                                         don't like
                                                                    of whether
                                                                         Poynter.org




  7Groups and anonymity
    Although the idea of a weblog
    is based on a personal user
    they have also been set-up
    by groups of individuals or
    even NGOs working in the
    media. The person who sets
    up the weblog is automati-
    cally the administrator but
    at any time they can invite
    additional members to post
                                    topics. This is particularly
                                    useful if you want to keep
                                    the content updated
                                    regularly. A small group of
                                    people can make a weblog
                                    much more active. Also,
                                    every member of the group
                                    can remain anonymous if
                                    they wish to. Lots of people
                                    run weblogs without
                                                                    revealing their identity. For
                                                                    example, there are many
                                                                    weblogs written by people
                                                                    working within large corpo-
                                                                    rations who want to write
                                                                    about their jobs without
                                                                    being identified. Anonymity
                                                                    allows this and, as you can
                                                                    imagine, they often make
                                                                    very interesting reading.




  8
    But what about accuracy
             and balance ?
    Weblogs aren’t intended to replace              can get very blurred, but at the same time
    mainstream journalism but they are a great      the reader can get very well informed.
    complement and this fact can be its best        You have to accept that you simply can’t
    and worst feature. Even a quick glance          believe everything you read. No more than
    through a small number of weblogs reveals       if you were to meet the same people in a
    how intensely personal the content can be.      café or marketplace and hear their views
    They can be written by journalists – but        directly. But what is important is that you
    they often aren’t. And they are often           can read and understand their position.
    written by ordinary citizens – but not          Very often bloggers are intimately involved
    always. We have to learn to tell the            in their subject matter and since we tend to
    difference. Reading a weblog usually            follow weblogs that we too are
    involves bouncing back and forth between        knowledgeable about then, over time, we
    content based on personal opinion and           can easily tell the difference.
    then links to mainstream journalism on that     It’s this reliance on personal experience
    same topic. The lines separating the two        that makes them valuable.




  9 Photos and Ethics
    Weblogs are best loved for their freedom.
    There are no restrictions on what can be
    written and no editors enforcing style.
    However, this freedom can also be one of
    the medium’s biggest problems. Since no
    one is checking facts we can never be sure
    what we are reading is true.
    Also, like in web publishing, a lot of people
    use images and content that they find on
    other websites without crediting them or
    linking back to their origin. But things are
    beginning to change.
    As weblogs become more popular frequent
    bloggers are attempting to be more ethical
                                                    accurate and not to use other people’s
                                                    material without copyright.
                                                    There are some simple things we can do to
                                                    make sure our weblogs are more ethical:
                                                    1 > Give some background information. If
                                                    you’re a professional reporter then say so; if
                                                    you are in a political party and you’re talking
                                                    about politics then admit it - don’t try and
                                                    fool people.
                                                    2 > If you have “borrowed” material then
                                                    link to its source online.
                                                    3 > Don’t use manipulated images.
                                                    4 > If you make a mistake, admit it and
                                                    show readers where you went wrong.
    in their work. They want to be read and the     5 > Use the word fact sparingly. It’s more
    only way to ensure that is to be more           valuable that way.




” Weblogs, picturesbehind the headlines." are
  telling the stories
                      and even audio diaries
                                                              BBC online
                                       ”       The growth of blogs across the world can no
                                               longer be ignored by mainstream newspapers
                                               and television stations." The Irish Times




    10
  Starting points
   Since weblogs are so personal to the
   individual who created them and to the
   reader who finds them it’s difficult to list
   “the best”. So, instead, we’ve provided
   some starting points. The links below
   will take you to weblog search engines
   and to weblog software to let you set up
   your own. It’s simple. Pick a topic that
   interests you and type it in. You’ll be
   surprised to see how many others are
   already busy with the same subject.
   Then take five minutes and setup your
   own weblog and join them.
                                                                      Find weblogs
                                                                      www.blogsearch.blogspot.com (google)
                                                                      www.microsoft.com/communities/blog
                                                                      s/PortalHome.mspx (microsoft)

                                                                      Create weblogs
                                                                      www.20six.fr (French)
                                                                      www.myblog.de (German)
                                                                      www.splinder.com (Italian)
                                                                      www.blogs.ie (Irish)
                                                                      www.blogger.com (American)




         Newspaper weblogs
 LINKS




         > Le Monde • www.lemonde.fr/web/blogs/0,39-0,48-0,0.html
         > Die Welt • www.welt.de/z/plog/blog.php/sundowner
         > The Guardian • http://blogs.guardian.co.uk/news/
         A few well known weblogs
         > Film and documentary maker Michael Moore's blog •
           www.michaelmoore.com
         > A photo blog: This blogger is taking a photograph every day
           for ten years to measure how things change over time •
           www.tenyearsofmylife.com/
         > A travel blog: Read about one mans trip around the world •
           www.vagabonding.com
         > Celebrity blog: Actor Ian McKellan's blog of the making of the
           Lord of the Rings films •
           www.mckellen.com/cinema/lotr/journal.htm
         Alternative
         The Bagdhad Blogger (Dear Raed) • http://dearraed.blogspot.com/



  The author >
  Gary Quinn is a journalist, researcher and trainer.                 to the media and new technology.
  He has worked on journalism training projects in                    He works for the Irish Times newspaper
  many countries and been involved in a wide range                    and for Dublin City University.
  of EU-related research projects on issues related                   Website: www.dcu.ie/~quinnga


The Melici initiative - www.ejc.nl/melici                                              The EJC
The need – and desire – to communicate has never been as                               The EJC is an independent,
strong as it is today. The use of new technologies, and                                international centre for the
mainly the Internet, has increased everybody’s ability to                              further training of
“talk” together. On the other hand, the media in general                               journalists, located in
have been working hard to reduce the gap between them                                  Maastricht, the Netherlands.
                                                                                                                      PHOTOGRAPHS AND LAYOUT: SOLUTIONS PRESSE - CAROLINE PAUX




and their audiences.                                                                   Information concerning its
The Melici (Media, Literacy, Citizenship) initiative is a                              mission and programmes
project monitoring good practice, innovative ideas and                                 can be found on the website
relevant events with the common goals of supporting                                    www.ejc.nl or by
interactivity between European citizens and media in                                   contacting secr@ejc.nl
general and encouraging active involvement in community
                                                                                       Sonnevillelunet 10 -
life.
                                                                                       6 221 KT Maastricht,
This project has been launched by the European Journalism
Centre with five international partners and the support of                             The Netherlands
the Directorate-General for Education and Culture of the
European Commission (eLearning programme).



                         M                    lici                                  European
                      Directorate-General for Education and Culture
                      European Commission
                      European Journalism Centre                                        Journalism Centre

				
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