A step-by-step guide
weblogs By Gary Quinn
European Journalism Centre
Maastricht - The Netherlands
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.
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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
Reporters Sans Frontieres www.rsf.fr
”Ultimately the readers willtheythe judgesyour track
you are credible or not. If
record they will go elsewhere"
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.
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
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
” The growth of blogs across the world can no
longer be ignored by mainstream newspapers
and television stations." The Irish Times
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.
> 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 •
> A photo blog: This blogger is taking a photograph every day
for ten years to measure how things change over time •
> A travel blog: Read about one mans trip around the world •
> Celebrity blog: Actor Ian McKellan's blog of the making of the
Lord of the Rings films •
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
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