The discussion about what makes a blog a blog has resurfaced again – I was struggling with a definition recently when putting together a presentation about social media, so the debate is particularly timely for me.
Neville Hobson has a good summary, while Dominic Jones has a more lengthy discussion of the key issues here.
For me there are two key aspects to the discussion:
1) Does the ability to post comment make a website a blog?
I’ve always been clear that comments have been an important aspect of blogging – the whole activity of blogging for me is about a two-way conversation – not a one-way monologue.
Shel’s comment addresses exactly this point. In an ideal world the dialogue would take place on blogs, with me blogging my input to the conversation on my blog and then tracking back to the blog I’m responding too.
However in the real world this approach would significantly limit the number of potential participants in the conversation as the minority of people have their own blog. From a usability point of view the conversations can be a lot harder to track when they’re dissipated over multiple blogs, rather than sequentially listed on a single blog page.
On the flip side conversations comprising a post and sequential comments on a single page can be very hard to follow on blogs with a large audience – for example try to follow the conversation on this post.
So do comments really make a blog? They might do – it depends on the individual blog.
2) Does Winer’s “the unedited voice of a person” definition work?
On the surface it does. It expresses very simply the underlying premise of what a blog is.
But when you think a bit further a crack appear. Does it preclude a team or corporate blog where there are multiple contributors?
So I guess the real point is actually the word “unedited”.
For me the core essence of a blog is that it’s a direct communication from one or more individuals, not filtered, moderated or edited by anyone else.
Being unedited is the pre-requisite. Once that’s established we can consider all the other valid factors that we see in definitions like Neville’s that can make a website more or less blog-like:
1. Reverse chronologically-ordered content, written by the author
2. Author’s personality/passion shining through in the posts
3. Commenting – the means for visitors to comment on the blog itself
4. Trackbacks (links to and from other blog posts)
5. Content distribution by RSS
However I suspect that we may be attempting the impossible by trying to draw a firm line between what’s a blog and what’s not.
Like most things in life there’s a grey area – a continuum between a website at one end and a blog at the other. And there are a number of variables, such as those above, that position a website/blog on that continuum.