Assignment: Blog Topic 2

Posted on January 19, 2011


By now you should have done a few things. You should have set up a blog at; you should have edited the first entry on that blog according to instructions in Topic 1 (below); you should have completed our contact form, installed RSS Owl, imported into RSS Owl the OPML file (the reading list of our blogs’ RSS feeds) that I have posted to the News widget on our D2L home page; and you should have read, in your RSS Owl, all the entries the other people in this class have written so far.

If you were unable to perform any of these tasks, please Skype, email or call me without delay. I’ll help you catch up.

Now, let us deepen our exploration of blogs.

For some of you, a blog is a pretty new animal. You don’t read blogs and you don’t really know what they’re for. Others of you have heard of blogs, have read some blogs, but don’t that often write on blogs, and aren’t entirely sure what the term “blog” really means.

Whichever of these categories you are in, you are not alone. For some background on blogs and blogging, please view and read the following sources now:

These sources should give you a good, general understanding of what counts as a blog, and as you can see from them, the term, “blog”, is a general one. If the content appears chronologically, if it’s searchable, if it has an RSS feed, if it can be edited conveniently and posted publicly, then it’s probably a blog.

Bloging platforms, like WordPress and Blogger, have become some of the most popular publishing platforms on the web. They are popular largely because they are simple to use and because they do not overly dictate what one can do with them. They are simple and flexible tools, and simple and flexible tools tend to win.

Even less clear to you than the minimum criteria for blogness may be the value of blogs. What makes a blog valuable is not minimal – it’s multiple. The value of the blog depends on who’s doing the blogging, for whom, and why.

For the most part, blogs “narrowcast”, as opposed to “broadcast” their content. In other words, they aim their content at smaller audiences who have well defined interests. Our man Bryan, for example, likes to read blogs about “movies, video games, or comedy”, whereas Mr. Dan is fond of his blog of news analysis. Brian, with an “i”, reports he reads artist’s blogs with an artist’s eye toward learning new ways to make art. Different strokes for different folks. That’s what blogging is about.

Blogging is also about relationships. Equipped with comment forms, blogs invite readers to share their thoughts with the writers who post content to a blog. Virtual communities may form around blogs. Companies may use blogs to build relationships with customers. Soldiers may use blogs to keep folks at home in touch with how they are doing overseas. Potentially, public blogs can form a global communication network of any part of which anyone with a computer and an internet connection can either opt in or opt out. Add RSS and aggregation (your RSS Owl), and the connection between blogs and their readers becomes automated. News flows as its posted, minus the traditional middlemen of news editors, publishers, producers, and managers. Blogs put publication in the hands of the people. At least that’s how it has been so far. Blogs have bootstrapped a media revolution. Put most idealistically, Blogs can give voice to the voiceless.

Blogs can also be private, or semiprivate; they can run behind firewalls, within organizations, to facilitate the flow of information and collaboration inside those organizations. But the public blogs, with their persistent URLs for each and every entry, create a public record of their content, a record that can be indexed by search engines like Google and Bing, so that readers of the future will be able to find their way to content which may not seem that valuable, or may not be widely known, at the time of its publication.

Some people make their living by blogging. For others, blogging is a way of enhancing their professional reputations by showcasing their expertise in an area of knowledge by writing about it. Others use the information available through blogs to grow professionally themselves. Still others simply derive personal satisfaction or peace of mind by sharing, in a more traditional, diaristic sense, their thoughts and feelings with others. Blogs give them an outlet to do this.

“Microblogging”, what people do on Twitter and Facebook, is like blogging, but blog entries tend to be longer than Twitter “tweets” and Facebook “status updates”. In fact, many people who write blogs use microblogs as an advertising mechanism for their blog posts. They might tweet a little headline like, “New post: Our Night at the Fair”, and follow it with the URL of their blog post, or perhaps a shortened version of that URL, which they would create with a URL shortener like if Twitter won’t shorten the URL for them. Then, people who follow them on Twitter will see they have a new blog post, and (they hope) go to their blog to read it. It’s not just hobby bloggers who do this. CNN does it, too.

Here’s a video about Twitter, FYI:

Instructions for Blog Entry #2:

Now that you have gotten a good idea of a blog’s basic mechanics and a glimpse at blogs’ possibilities, I would like you to more closely examine three blogs and report back, through an entry on your own blog, what you find.

Look closely at the blogs listed under your name. Read four or five entries on each. Then, analyze how these entries are written. What do they say? How do they say it? Are they written conversationally, informally, as Mr. Dan said in his first entry most blogs are? What are the hallmarks of the style in which they speak? Do their entries display a predictable structure? For whom do they say what they say? Why do they say it?

Our goal is to get a sense of how people write blogs, how blogs fit into the array of communication channels available to people today.

If you are nonplussed or disappointed by the blogs whose URLs I have listed under your name, feel free to find three blogs you like better, and write about those instead.










Instructions for Blog Entry #3:

Until now we’ve been talking about the content of the blog. But what about the way the blog is designed? While a two column layout has become a common standard for blogs across the blogosphere, what designers do with those two columns, plus a banner and a footer, varies widely.

For the next part of this assignment, I would like you to change the appearance of your own blog by giving it a new banner image.

The design of a blog does matter, at least initially. The impression a blog makes on a visitor may, indeed should, influence that visitor’s sense of the blog’s personality and credibility.

So, now is your chance to make the appearance of your blog better reflect who you are and what you’re about.

Follow these simple instructions:

  1. Log into your blog.
  2. Click the “Appearance” link in the left side bar.
  3. In the “Appearance” link submenu, click the “Header” link.
  4. In Photoshop or a similar program, create your own banner image (jpg or png format—make it lightweight so it will load quickly in the browser) with dimensions of 940 × 198 pixels.
  5. Upload your banner image (here’s one I made for myself).
  6. In a new entry, blog about your new banner image. Tell us that it’s there. Tell us how you made it. Better yet, include in your entry about your new banner image a short illustrated tutorial (with images that fit within the confines of the post) that shows how you made it.
  7. Log out of your blog.

And that is the end of this assignment.

After this, we’ll start working on reviewing and extending your command of CSS on our way to installing a working local instance of WordPress on your computer for template development.

This entry is due on your blog by 11:59pm on Saturday, January 22.

Posted in: Web II