What is a blog?


Going back to Plone, after using WordPress for a long while, and yet again inflicting a painful migration on myself, I ended up asking myself this question: What is a blog? and I’ve found an answer that really surprised me.

I’m a very structured person. Do you remember how everybody had a folder named MP3 back in 1999 or 2000, when MP3  became popular and people started to store music on their computers? Well, I didn’t have such a folder. My folder was called “music”. MP3 was only the format, what I had in that folder was, actually, music. And I even tried and convinced some people about doing the same.

The issue became evident when other formats, like Ogg Vorbis and Flac, appeard and I stored music with them. Or when other audio files like speeches (“We choose to go to the moon[…]” anyone?) and podcasts, in MP3, were stored in my disk. I’ve seen people happily mixing podcasts and music and other things in their MP3 folders, or having other folders containing MP3s outside the MP3 folder. Yuck!!!

So if you asked me what a blog was, and I had to explain it a lot of times, I’d say: it’s this thing with pieces of texts, which is sorted chronologically and has RSS and categories, and pings, and Technorati and, well all that! you know! Not a very precise definition you may say.

When I wanted a blog I installed WordPress because it could do all that. And for a time I was happy. But my web site isn’t just a blog, it has a blog. My web site is a bunch of things that need a proper CMS to handle. Another of those definitions. So I started to use WordPress as a CMS and it was really lacking (hey! it’s a blog! what did you expect?). So I never reached the point when I deleted my old site. It just stayed there, hidden away, with lot’s of stuff that wasn’t on the new site. My wife ended in a similar situation, having http://blog.sandrafernandez.eu and http://sandrafernandez.eu and always being confused where to post some stuff.

The day to move to a new server came and with that, a new Zope and a new Plone. Plone 3. It was so nice I wanted it back. But what about my blog?

I spent some weeks looking at the web sites of each bloging product for Plone and remember the pains they’ve caused me when I tried them. There was no evidence the next time wouldn’t be as painful. Looking around I’ve found an article about using Plone to blog by using its news system and renaming it blog. I think it’s nice and shows the power of Plone, but I still want the news system in place.

So, what is a blog? Maybe it actually is a bunch of news and I could just use the news system. No, they aren’t really news. This post is not news and it is a blog post. “Well, they are kind of articles” I thought. But more informal than real articles. Sometimes more informal; sometimes more formal. Sometimes they are long, very long, sometimes they are just one sentence. Mmhhh…

And I’ve found myself not thinking about Technorati, or pinging, or trackbacking, backtracking or whatever it was called. Those things were not important at all. My favorite blogs don’t have any of those or adopted them recently, like Joel on Software or Paul Grahams’, which is not even a blog. RSS was important, for me, because it allows people who care to keep up to date. I wasn’t worried. Plone can make RSS of almost anything.

So, what is a blog? One conclusion is that the content is more important than the tool. Doh! Eventually I reached the conclusion that a blog is a collection chronologically ordered pieces of text of any quality, of any length, of any anything, that can be articles, or quotes, or links, or anything. It’s a very loose definition, but I think blog is a very broad term.

For a moment I thought about making a folder “articles” and putting there what I normally put in my blog. But in a effort to leave my strongly-structured mind in its corner and bring my poorly-developed pragmatic personality I’ve decided to call it blog, so that at least a couple of visitors would click on it and see it. Who would click on “articles”? Would you? I wouldn’t.

So, here, my new blog is born. It doesn’t have fancy pinging capabilities, it may even not have comments (I’ll figure that out latter), but it is here, it is consistent and I hope to stop making so many rants and start writing interesting articles, or news, or, well, blog posts.

Proof read and reviewed by Juanjo Conti.

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