Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Commentary: Sotir: Blogosphere

I don't know if you realize, but by accessing this blog, you are on the cutting edge of technological science. All right, perhaps that is a bit too flowery, but the truth is, bloggers are really getting into mainstream society. The 2004 election is a good example of how blog influence in a few (since 1998) short years. Conservatives, Liberals and the declared Neutrals drove the red/blue states, dissected the politics and helped define the media presence of TV, radio and print journalism. It is, by far, one of the fastest growing trends on the Web.

What makes them work? The immediacy of response and the ability to create a dated, archived resource have made them a cultural firestorm. Before blogs came into being, the Internet hosted Usenets, email lists and bulletin boards. All of these tools created a community of people who had things to say and share. Blogs just make it easier.

Our vocabulary has expanded as well. Consider 'troll': a person who disrupts a blog discussion by posting messages to create hostility (very common on political blogs). Or 'blogstorm': a large amount of activity, information and opinion that erupts quickly. The totality of blogs is often called the 'blogsphere'. One of my favorite terms is for those who use blogs to create an online diary. Since the diaries are accessible by almost anyone, they call themselves 'escribitionists'. Legal type blogs are called 'blawgs'. A 'moblog' is a blog featuring posts sent mainly via mobile phones, using SMS or MMs messages, and often include photos, which also makes them 'photoblogs'. If nothing else, it is fun to see the almost daily expansion to our vocabulary.

The term 'weblog' (from which the shorter 'blog' comes from) was coined in December 1997 by Jorn Barger. (This could be a Jeopardy or Trivial Pursuit question in a few years.) September 11, 2001 caused a flurry of blogs to appear, as people tried to make sense of the madness. The war in Iraq was the first 'blogwar'. Other media 'embedded' reporters to give an immediate feed to the war and events. But despite giving a first hand view of the war, it couldn't give what many people wanted...a place to give their opinions as quickly as they spewed from their heads. Blogs can do that.

The immediacy of blogs is a particular value. If you read an editorial in the newspaper that you disagree with, you could write a snail mail (letter) or email, but the satisfaction of seeing your words in print is held off until the next printing. Blogs are immediate satisfaction. Type it, hit 'publish', and the entire blogosphere knows where you stand. Blogs exist on almost any topic. There are as many unique types of blogs as there are people who read them. There are blog search engines and blog directories ( try Globe of Blogs: or or ).

Actually, one of the real advantages of blogs is the linking capability. If you want to reference something in your post, you simply link the address. Readers can click on the link to get the information. 'Pings' (tools to notify the original poster when someone else writes an entry concerning their original post) are also useful. The Blogarithm tool ( at the bottom of this page is an example of a 'ping'. Go ahead, add a comment to this post. I'll know that you did immediately after you hit 'publish'.

So how can we use blogs in education? Instructors can set up a blog for students to practice writing. Collaborative discussions work well with blogs. Information for a class (assignments, Web links etc.) can easily be given in a blog, with the advantage of it being in a Website, accessible from any computer with a browser. Blogs can be updated from anywhere, and added to at any time. They are archived and searchable. What ideas do you have?