Talking technology – blogology

All you ever wanted or needed to know about blogs

Blogs, short for web logs, are web pages on which the author posts diary-like entries that people can regularly read and reply to. When the first bloggers appeared in the mid-1990s, they were just members of a small online journal community of tech-savvy diarists. A decade later, much has changed. Because bloggers often comment on other blogs, articles, or related media, and provide links to those pages, a blog can easily develop into a global conversation viewed by millions of people.

It is impossible to say with any precision how many blogs there are, but estimates put the figure in excess of 10 million. According to the blog search engine Technorati, 23,000 new web logs are created every day – that’s about one every three seconds. So there are blogs on every subject you might care to name, from alien adbuction experiences and audit, through financial accounting and flight simulators, to spreadsheets and spaghetti burritos.

The widespread availability and affordability of the Internet, coupled with hosted blog tools and software (such as Blogger and LiveJournal) have helped to create a blogosphere – a worldwide democracy where anyone and everyone (with an Internet connection and a computer) can share their thoughts and opinions on anything and everything. Whether or not they should is another matter.

Blogs seem ephemeral, giving the impression of disposability and informality. But they are not; and it’s important to remember this if you are either publishing your own blog or commenting on one. Because blogging gives millions the chance to be a publisher, bloggers tend to forget that their public outpourings are subject to the same laws as any other forms of written communication. This can create costly problems. A college lecturer found guilty of libelling a British politician, in a blog on the merits of military action in Iraq, was ordered to pay £10,000 in damages and £7,200 in costs. In Singapore, two ethnic Chinese bloggers were imprisoned and fined for sedition, after posting anti-Muslim tirades deemed as threats to social harmony and political stability. Some subjects are best avoided.

Potential legal problems are also a worry for employers, so many take an unsympathetic line on blogging, particularly if it raises issues relating to conflicts of interest, proprietary or confidential information, or creates liabilities in areas such as defamation or libel. Employees have had their employment terminated for a variety of blogging incidents, including the publication of: a blog that discussed their employer, a blog discussing a client, a blog that included an image of the writer wearing their uniform, a blog that showed Macintosh computers being delivered to Microsoft – and more. However, the growing popularity of blogs, and their business potential, means that increasing numbers of organisations are using them to ‘talk’ informally to customers, vendors, employees – and anyone else who shows an interest.


"According to the blog search engine Technorati, 23,000 new web logs are created every day – that’s about one every three seconds"