Blogs: a simple overview

The word “blog” comes from its base “web log” and this gives a clue to its general structure: a list of entries or records, organized by date, with the most recent “log” (post, entry) appearing at the top.

Blogs became a popular (and probably the dominant) format for web publishing a bit after the turn of the century. Before that, it seems most websites were more static. That is, they were more like posters that someone pastes to a wall — with some text and graphics, on a topic: “There it is. Read it. That’s all I have to say.

Blogs are more lively. They vary, almost as much as one person differs from another, and the entries can take any number of forms.

In the intervening decade, we have photoblogs, editorial blogs, informational blogs, product blogs, microblogging (Twitter, etc.), “curated” blogging (where one just collects others’ content, typically — like Tumblr and Pinterest).

Blogs can also be more interactive and conversational. If you choose, you can invite comment, and these comments become an addendum — a follow-up discussion — that enhances the original post (blog entry).

Frameworks

As you might expect, you don’t have to start with bare ground to blog. There’ve been a goodly selection of both hosted and self-hosted options that give you a structured framework to “put stuff in.”

Hosted solutions are a bit like renting an apartment: if the owner decides to sell or knock down the building, you’re out of luck. I think LiveJournal is still going; Vox (which was great), not so much.

That leaves self-hosted options, where you (or your web professional) installs and configures the blog framework on your own hosting account. It’s flexible — you’re not tied to a single host provider — and if you’re foresightful, you choose a framework that’s well-supported and robust. Lots of times these frameworks are called “CMS”s (content management systems), but that’s a whole different discussion we’ll come back to later. Even here, options abound.

WordPress

Let’s stick with one: WordPress. It’s possibly the most broadly used and is both well-supported (and regularly updated) as well as offering, with each new version, more flexibility and ease of use.

We’ll dive more into WordPress’s myriad gifts later. Keeping to our goal of providing a “simple overview,” these are the basic components of WordPress:

  • Posts: where WordPress is being its bloggy self. Posts are individual publications (whether one sentence or 15 paragraphs) that are displayed, typically, one after the other, with the most recent one at the top/beginning. (This article is a “post.”)
    • Posts typically share a distinction in that they are graced with “categories” so that your reader, who may be interested in your views on vegetable gardening, doesn’t have to muck through your observations on favored home building materials. This also gives a logical structure to your site, so it’s less chaotic, and is a boon to search engines (who revel in labels and “taxonomy” [fancy word for organizing by labels]).
  • Pages: where you break with the blog mold. I don’t think the first iterations of WordPress (back with it was “B2”) had this type of structure. But Pages are handy. They’re where you can provide more static and unchanging — think reference sort of material. It might be an “About Us” Page or the like. They aren’t as plentiful as their Post cousins, but they serve a purpose, since — if there were only Posts, your “About Us” post would get buried back at the beginning of your blog structure in no time.

Advisory: I am being very general here. WordPress offers a dizzying array of options. But keeping these two sorts of publications (Posts and Pages) in mind, along with what makes them distinct, will lead to a more rewarding and less frustrating  experience.