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January 20, 2006


Ewan McIntosh

I don't know if you can define a blog based on the number of people reading it when one considers how many blogs make up that long tail with 2 readers.

Mary Schmidt

And if a blogger falls in a forest, will anybody hear him/her? Sorry, by Friday, I'm getting silly - Seriously folks, blogging is whatever we make of it. Fundamentally, it's a tool - up to us how we use it (or not.) Ideally, it's a conversation - which is beyond the passive writer/reader relationship. That's the power (and challenge) of blogging.

Serge Cornelus

Definitions: the lights that shine in our darkest hours. I don't know if it's a typically western thing, but we sure like to define the world around us. Put everything in different boxes, pigeonholes, or however you want to call it. We like tags (what an appropriate term in this context), so we can structure what we see around us. This should give us a sense of control, probably. Mind you: I understand, I do it myself. But to be honest: in this case it seems like one of those non-discussions to me. Anyway, what's the point of having a definition? Let's say we all agree on one definition about what blogs are and what they are not (which is never going to happen, anyway). Then what? Tell every blogger whose blog does not meet the definition he is no longer a blogger? Set up an organisation of true bloggers? I know: I am probably sounding like a bit of a cynic here. But I tend to agree with Mary. In that respect, Nike has a point: just do it. The rest is up to the bullfighters (


I think blogging is a great thing for the corporate world to get into. I agree that it gives them a human voice, which is also very appealing to consumers. As far as defining a blog based on the ability to comment...I think that the ability to comment is necessary for it to be considered a blog, but if no one does, that doesn't take away the title. I've posted blogs many times that haven't recieved any comments. Does that mean my blogs aren't worthy?


Thank you for your comment and checking out Graduate Observations. I have responded here:

Elizabeth Albrycht

Do we need definitions? Absolutely. This is because no matter how contentious, futile, boring etc. it seems, definitions can be political weapons. They encompasses assumptions (deliberate or not) about power. They can exclude, for example, and by excluding, say something about the group that is making the definitions. A perfect example of this is how, back in 2004, bloggers were trying to define blogging in a way that meant that Live Journal blogs weren’t included. They were dismissed as “diaries”. What was very interesting about that, is that the users of LJ are predominently women. So, by cutting them out of the definition, suddenly a huge segment of woment bloggers were no longer considered bloggers, not included in the databases, and denied a way to link into the growing online networks of influence.

So definitions matter. I have encouraged Beth and her blogmates (using the same words above, and some others) to continue thinking about this, and will report in on their efforts from time to time (and they are of course welcome to remind me!) should they decide to do so.

Elizabeth Albrycht

Oh, and I'd never state definitively that there can only be one correct definition! In fact, there will likely be a series of them. What is important is that we can recognize their flaws and their intents. That is why, for example, having the discussion page that brings out the debate is so interesting on the contentions definitions in Wikipedia.

Phil Gomes

This topic seems to come back around every so often. For some reason, people have a little trouble divorcing the publishing tool from its application (e.g. "Is-blogging-journalism?") and/or its user (e.g. "Is a corp-sponsored blog a blog?").

The result inevitably descends into useless PC-versus-Mac frothing from both sides of the mouth:

- Left side: "All companies must blog!"

- Right side: "But I'll harp on every single detail when you *do* publish a blog and forget the fact that, even today, a company that blogs or freely encourages their employees to do so is making brave steps."

This is to say nothing of somewhat ridiculous presumed indicators of authenticity, such as the presence of typos and grammatical errors. (I can imagine a flack in a meeting asking "What's our 'authenticity strategy' with regard to typos-per-post?")

Besides my (shared?) conviction that a blog should be dialogue-friendly and come from a person or a disclosed team of people, I think that defining a communications medium based on the source is wrong -- it's the source's *content* and how it's presented that really matters.

Jonathan Smyth

Why is it that the level of response by readers make it or break it? Comments or no comments determine whether or not a blog is a blog? I don't think so. A corporation that creates a blog must be making an effort to engage in conversation with their consumers, but if their consumers don't respond by commenting on the blog then that does not diminish the fact that the blog is still a blog. Is that like saying that if I create a Web site for my organization, but no one visits the site or sends me E-mail through my contact page, does that mean it's not really a Web site? This is interesting to me because a blog is a Web Log, not a Web feedback forum. Organizations should blog their hearts out, and surely some consumers somewhere are feeling more engaged with that organization whether they add to the discussion or not through comments.

Serge Cornelus

I should have known you would come back on my comment, Elizabeth. As a matter of fact, it was probably my subconscious intention of stirring things up a bit. I know: I am a horrible person. ;-) Okay, seriously now: my point was that the average blogger (and, yes, I stick to my original opinion here) will not care that much wether he is operating a blog by its proper definition - or definitions, indeed - or not. You were right in pointing out there will probably never be a single definition. As a matter of fact, that was the point I was trying to make as well. But that's exactly where the weakness of any effort to create a definition will be. Look, I do not want to start a semantic discussion here (although that was the original question: what ís a blog - but I'll leave that to the experts like yourself). I can perfectly imagine that for some students, researchers,... (like the people from NewComm forum) it ís important to define certain phenomena in the new communications sphere and to structure them in a way. That is, after all, the best way to be able to study them. And that definitions càn be used for certain purposes, good or bad, is true. So yes, in that respect they matter; I did not want to claim that any definition is BS by uhm... definition; I just like the bullfighters' site and their quest. On the other hand, I do not think that the fact the LJ bloggers were left out of the statistics made that big a difference to thém - their orginal intent was probably not the same as the 'real' bloggers anyway. But I'll be the first to admit: I'm way too new to blogging for this level of assessment. And engaging in this kind of discussions for me is in the first place a way of learning.
But there's also another reason for my comment. I wanted to make clear that you might end up with a "Ceci n'est pas une pipe" situation: it is not because you draw a pipe, you can smoke it. The smoker wants to smoke, he is not interested in whether the object he is holding is a pipe by definition. A chair is a chair when you can sit on it. But I can sit on a table too, right? To take it a bit further: by not sticking to definitions and set rules, progress often sets in (that's why some chairs no longer have legs - that does not make them less a chair). This all sounds a little simplistic perhaps, but in daily life things can be very simple. It's only when we try to make an abstraction of what we see (and this is always an interpretation of reality and logically not reality itself thus incorrect) that things get complicated. The danger in my view (and it is something I have seen happening, especially in an educational and/or research environment) is that people studying something, start treating their subject of study as a window. They want, through this window, to learn more about the world behind it. But in fact they only look at their own reflection in this window. Or like someone else told me once: a photographer's best photos are usually not his self-portraits. Mind you: I am not saying you are making self-portraits here. I was only trying to explain that the 'how' is often more interesting than the 'what': "How can you achieve what you want to achieve through your blog?" rather than "What is a blog?" I, for one, am eager to learn more about the former; the latter does not really appeal that much to me, because it does not get me any further (yes, I know: how pragmatic of me). And I am sure, that people like yourself can help simpletons like me here. So, keep up the good work: you, the people from the University of Akron and anybody else who is in this field of expertise. Just look through the window from time to time. If only to check whether the rest of us are still there ;-)...


There always seems to be a rush to define new technology or new discovers. I do think that great care should be taken to pin down a definition though. Who has the authority to determine if a person's or corporation's blog is really a blog compared to "standards." I do not think that anyone has that power. If a person does venture to put out a definition, that person must also to willing to accept the definitions of others. A look into the Webster's dictionary shows that there can be a page full of explanations for a single word. Then again, even the academics from Webster aren't able to encompass the whole defintion of a word. They might not be up to date on street slang or personal preferences on word use.

All this to say that while I agree with the venture you have made to define a blog, I believe the list of descriptions for a blog will continue to grow in length. I do believe that it is important that you pointed out that a blog, by nature, has the ability to be interactive. The ability does not insure action though. I have recently started a blog for a class assignment and I had high hopes for receiving some sort of feedback for my comments. I guess I will just have to accept that rarely will I get any comments. On that same note, if I venture to comment on a corporation's blog page or ask a question and never get a response, I will still assume that that blog is a blog. Someone has the ability to read my comment, even if no one makes the effort to reply.

By the way, I particularly enjoyed Jonathan's comment above. A chair does not have to be a chair by definition to be sat on. Good point Smyth!


I made a mistake just now. I attributed the chair comment to the wrong person. Sorry Serge, you deserve the credit for that one!


I was searching the web and found your entry . I really like your site
and found it worth time reading through the post.
Blog's just a tool - up to us how we use it.
what you and what your blog...

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