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May 29, 2008

70 Million Definitions of "Blog" And Counting

Do you have a definition of a "blog"? Or a simple expression that you can substitute for "blogging"?

Maybe you do.  (Feel free to share it!)

And maybe you don't.  Perhaps, like me, you've a number of different definitions and explanations, depending on who you're talking to, or which blog you're talking about.

Yvonne Russell at Grow Your Writing Business got me thinking about blog definitions at the weekend, when she hosted a fascinating conversation at the Writers' Cafe on whether the term "blog" was on its way out.  It proved hard for us to have this kind of conversation without first articulating what it means (to us) to "blog".  Some of the definitions that emerged were:

  • A means for businesses to develop relationships (Susanna, Great Adaptations)
  • A constant stream of communication that lets customers know you're on top of your niche (Gayla, Mom Gadget)
  • Citizen publishing (Rosa Say, Managing With Aloha Coaching)
  • Frequently updated content in a strong informal voice (Sonia Simone, Remarkable Communication)
  • I’ll define a blog with a simple “to publish” and I doubt that the word will fade. Publishing text on regular basis on a blogging platform will remain blogging. (Mig, Online Public Relations)
  • Interactive web pages you can use to have meaningful conversations with customers, prospects, and stakeholders (Brad Shorr, Word Sell)
  • An easy and affordable way to tell your story on the web, and to let other people share in the telling of it (that was my effort)

But as the conversation developed it became clear that our definitions all depended on our style, approach and experience.  Here's a flavour of the conversation:

The richness of all the descriptions shared here lies in the fact that each speaks as much of the person explaining it, as about the blogging process itself. It’s also about the purpose of the particular blog and the nature of the client’s business. (Yvonne Russell)

It seems there are different kinds of blogs for different purposes. Maybe that’s another reason the word blog will fade away - maybe new words will be coined to reflect the different kinds of blogs or maybe they’ll just be called Web sites Lillie Ammann, A Writer's Words, An Editor's Eye

A blog can have myriad definitions. It all depends on what the publisher and the readers want to accomplish... [And] the objectives of the publisher and the readers tends to change over time. A lot of traditional marketing tools such as newsletters and direct mail have a quality of sameness, whereas blogs are really organic. Blogs grow and are influenced by their environment (not only individual readers but the aggregate character of conversations). (Brad Shorr)

As I reflected on this conversation the more I figured we'd never come up with one single definition because we all use blogs in different ways.  They're a means to an end, not an end in themselves.  They're written, published, designed, nurtured, loved with a different purpose in mind.

And with 70 million blogs out there (and counting) that's a lot of different definitions.

You notice this when people take time to reflect on the purpose of their blog, or adjust their focus or direction.  They share what it is their blog means to them: how it supports or fulfills their bigger purpose.  Some recent examples from blogging friends of mine:

No matter what I end up writing about, my blog HAS to continue to be a “forum for joy” - an upbeat expression of “Me” that can spread that joy as wide and as far as possible. I want to be “joyfully banal” if I want to, even right after I hit Starbucks in the solar plexus, or wax poetic about John Adams and the Declaration of Independence. (Terry Starbucker)

It is my hope that Lives Less Ordinary will help you to recognize and accept just how special, how unique you truly are... This blog is the place where I share my own journey of discovery, and this is your invitation to join me. (Amy Palko)

[My blog] provides an outlet for creative expression, a venue for professional reflection, and a connective conduit to people from around the globe. (Diane Cordell)

I'm still mulling over the question of blog definitions: whether it's important to have one, whether it matters what mine is, whether we could ever narrow it down to something we could all agree on. 

And I'm still wondering if there are elements we'd call defining features of blogs - and if so, what would we choose?  Is it the regular updates, the informal voice, the linking out, the readability of the content, the conversation and community... and does that mean we dismiss some things as 'not' being blogs if they don't have them?

I guess if I had to pick one it would be the human dimension of blogging:

Content shaped by the blogger's perspective, values, history, experience, personality. Purpose driven by the bigger picture of their hopes, ambitions, goals.

I think that's why purpose is so important to the blogging endeavour.  That purpose can be as broad or as narrow as you want to make it - but you need to know why you're writing, or publishing, or blogging what you do, and how it fits with that bigger picture of what you're trying to achieve, and who you are.

Do you have a single definition of blogging - or more than one?  Does it vary according to the purpose of the blogs you write, edit, manage, read?

This piece is a contribution to the theme of writing with purpose.

Post inspired by the conversation started by Yvonne Russell:

Is The Word Blog On The Way Out? How Do You Explain A Blog To Non-bloggers?

The writers' cafe is open each weekend for great conversation amongst writers and bloggers (plus virtual coffee and cakes!)

Joanna Young, The Confident Writing Coach
Because our words count

P.S. While you're here and I've got your attention... would you mind taking part in this reader survey?  It's to find out the main focus for your writing.  There's only one question so it'll only take a minute.  Here's the link to the survey - thanks!


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Jamie, sorry for jumping over you there.

Thanks for that wonderful definition of a blog - and of individual posts. One of the reasons I enjoy blogging so much is that each post contains something of value - a word, an idea, a conversation - like you say: one thread of a tapestry, one page of a book, one card in the deck.

Thanks for joining this conversation


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