With a few PC components (put together to make a functioning computer), an internet connection, and some time spent writing, you can expose your thoughts, opinions, business, and even your personal life to a potential audience of 2.3 Billion internet users (as of December 2011). It is thus that many people are enquiring: What is a Blog?

It seems appropriate to start answering the question by giving a very broad, without being infuriatingly vague, description of what most people consider to be a “traditional” blog: simply put, a blog is a platform for an individual to publish, somewhat regularly, text, images and hyperlinks of their own choosing. Some blogs are decidedly personal, others are meant to instigate discussion around a particular topic (your recent uMhlanga accommodation, for example, or even the quality of educational toys), while still others are developed purely for commercial purposes. This introductory page will briefly touch on each of the above blog types.

The typical platform for a blog is for the most recent upload or post to be displayed at the top of the page, which in turn means that blog posts appear in reverse chronological order: the earlier the blog, the further down the page it will appear. A page will usually only show a predetermined amount of entries, and the posts that predate the bottom-most entry on the page will have been moved to the archives (a widget or link somewhere on the page will connect with archived posts).

Personal blogs are blogs produced by individuals who either want to connect, and perhaps enter into a dialogue with, an audience, or who simply use the blogging platform as a means to chronicle the events, relationships, thoughts and emotions that shape the course of their lives. The latter type of blogging is often referred to as journal blogging, and the bloggers themselves as journalers. Some journalers refer to themselves as journalists, but for obvious reasons, this title is ill-conceived. The advantages of personal blogging is that family members, friends and even acquaintances can glean insight into one another’s lives through the reading of a published journal post, despite locational differences or severe time constraints.

The former personal blogger is perhaps more concerned with exposing his or writing to a wider audience. The material content of the blog is often centred on a topic of particular interest to the blogger. Blogging of this type is often without any commercial pretence, and the blog publisher simply wishes to put information about a subject that they are passionate about, or at the least very interested in, in the public realm. The primary motivating factor behind their individual efforts is essentially a sense of personal satisfaction gained by adding useful information to the World Wide Web.

The next type of blog mentioned in the introduction to this page is a discussion-instigating, socio-economically conscious and perhaps even politically astute, commentary. This blog cannot exist in isolation, or even within small reading circles, and depends for its survival and effectiveness on a large readership that is willing to enter into an interactive, dialogic relationship with both, the author of the blog as well as with people willing to further discuss the validity, correctness or consequences of the subject of the post.

The final type of blog could perhaps be best described as infomercial content: the blogger produces information for a niche market, and earns revenue for his/her endeavours from advertisement on the blog. The advertising is related to the content of blog, and is often highly targeted at a narrow, niche market. The revenue is either earned from adverts placed by Google AdSense, or by advertising space sold by the blogger to specific companies. Although to many beginner bloggers this might seem contrary to the spirit/purpose for which blogging was originally conceived, it has become standard practice; in many cases, the research done by the blogger is in itself useful to the targeted niche market, and therefore shouldn’t be considered as spam. Obviously, however, spam blogging does exist, and is viewed with much disdain by serious bloggers.

To sum up: save on having to buy toner and paper (which is good for the environment anyway), and publish your thoughts electronically!