The SIGnetwork Technology Focus Group has decided to use a blog to facilitate the exchange of resources and expertise. SIGnetwork Tech Topics will host original content, link to and update on relevant content in OSEP Project Directors’ and Evaluators’ webinars, and serve as a resource registry. This post is intended to discuss blogs more generally, describing their use and potential as a tool for transmitting information.
Blogs are a type of website which are good at transmitting information for a couple of reasons:
- Blogging software allows users with minimal internet savvy to easily generate and post content.
- Content can be almost everything the internet offers (text, images, audio, video, etc). Link to anything that doesn’t fit.
- Blog content is easily accessible for consumers.
Blogs and Listservs
Listserv messages and blog posts are both good ways of transmitting timely or topical information to an interested community. It could even be said that each is an attempt to do the same thing, with listservs using email as a platform and blogs using websites. Each approach has strengths relative to the other, and these differences are a good way to begin talking about what a blog is.
The key difference is that listserv messages are active (content arrives in your inbox), while blog posts are passive (you have to visit the blog to get the content). While listserv messages are thus better at drawing attention to a topic, they are sometimes ignored depending on the disposition (and schedule) of the recipient. Blog consumers are self-selecting, both in terms of their interest and their readiness to consume content.
Blog content remains online until someone takes it down, allowing consumers to discover, rediscovered, or be directed to it at any point in the future. Listserv messages tend to disappear from consumers’ consciousnesses as new messages fill an inbox. Blogs use a number of strategies to keep content accessible over time, and as content is added, blogs can become content libraries .
Blog Elements and Organization
A blog, like SIGnetwork Tech Topics, is a framework that displays individual posts, like “On Blogging.” Each individual post should be a cohensive unit around a fairly limited topic. The blog organizes posts according to a few strategies to help consumers locate the posts they are interested in, while the posts themselves transmit content.
Blog posts are primarily organized by chronology, with the newest posts at the top of the blog. Frequent visitors to a blog can start reading at the top and scroll down until they find a post they’ve read before. It is this feature of blogs that make them so effective at transmitting (and commenting on) news or current events.
Blog posts are also organized by categories (or tags or labels), allowing a reader with a specifc interest or need to focus on specific posts. The categories menu of SIGnetwork Tech Topics is at the top of the right-hand frame (including items like “Online Surveys“). Clicking on the “Blogs” category will take you to a page with all posts filed in this category, but not posts from unrelated categories.
Users can also search within individual posts, using the search feature in the top-right corner of the blog. This can be helpful if you are looking for something specific (”SurveyMonkey”) or not covered by a category (”Adobe Acrobat”). Posts containing these terms will be returned from the search.
Generating and posting blog content is made easy by a number of free software options. SIGnetwork Tech Focus is hosted on the SIGnetwork server, using Wordpress, which takes whatever text or html you provide and turns it into blog posts. Blogger is another option, which has much of the same functionality and hosts your blog, for free. Creating a blog through Blogger takes a few minutes and requires nothing more than a free Google account, though some workplace networks restrict access to it.
Once your blog is set up, you can start generating and posting content.
You can ramble on with text content, as I have done in this post.
Hyperlinks, or simply “links,” are another key way to include content. Links allow you to quickly connect a consumer with a resource, supporting evidence, allies, or even your own related content. By linking to definitions, supporting evidence, or additional reading on a topic, you can fold authority into your content.
Use links to index the wealth of content on the internet, such as Wilma Jozwiak’s ongoing series about online surveys, here at SIGnetowrk Tech Topics:
You can excerpt content from other websites or blogs, always linking to the source:
Content is the raison d’être for any web site. Retail sites feature a catalog of products. University sites contain information about their campuses, curriculum, and faculty. News sites show the latest news stories. For a personal blog, you might have a bunch of observations, or reviews. Without some sort of updated content, there is little reason to visit a web site more than once.
On a blog, the content consists of articles (also sometimes called “posts” or “entries”) that the author(s) writes. Yes, some blogs have multiple authors, each writing his/her own articles.
You can embed video links from YouTube, such as this excellent cartoon from Lee LeFever, “Blogs in Plain English.”
And with a little more expertise, you can embed images, audio files, and anything else that a webbrowser can support.
Keep in mind, however, that some forms of content may not be accessible to all consumers. The SIGnetwork Tech Focus blog uses WordPress blogging software specifically because some of the other alternatives are commonly blocked by many workplace networks. Even more commonly, YouTube is blocked outright, which is why I didn’t start this post with Lee LeFever’s YouTube video. Be aware of this possible barrier for consumers.
SIGnetwork Tech Topics
The SIGnetwork Tech Focus Group hopes that this blog will serve as a commons for discussing and sharing the various technologies all of us are using and exploring as we continue our work. Nothing here will be required reading, and no post will ever be definitive for a given topic. I hope you visit us here often, find a few new resources or get an idea that will be useful to you, and that you too may have something to share.
SIGnetwork Tech Topics, like many blogs, includes a comments section for each post. You don’t need to register to participate, just provide an email address (which will not be posted–it is logged by the system as a spam-fighting measure). Ask questions, comment on or link to whatever you are doing that is related, and let us know if the post is helpful.
I hope to hear from you.