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The world of the Blog

September 2006

It’s about time we discussed Blogs. Every else seems to be; you can’t even turn on Radio 4 without someone mentioning their Blog, and many readers have asked me what is going on.

A Blog (short for “Weblog”) is just the simplest and cheapest (usually free) way to publish your own, fairly simple website. That’s it. It’s a very easy way of making what you have to say available for others to read, if they know it’s there.

Blogs are usually a growing collection of the writer’s thoughts, presented in chronological order, with the latest one at the top. Many also allow readers to add their views.

We can all have a go, and there are many different websites offering the service. The best known is, which is owned by Google, but they all work in pretty much the same way. They provide a range of templates to use, and you provide the words and pictures. If you are a bit technical you can change the way it looks to some extent, but you don’t need to.

They cost nothing, and it’s not at all clear to me how they make money. I suspect that in due course we shall also see a “premium” service, for which we have to pay.

What is slightly surprising (to me) is just how they have taken off, even if they are free. There is no reliable total count of the number of Blogs that exist, but it must run to many millions, and growing.

Most go completely unread by all but family and friends (if that), but being ignored doesn’t seem to discourage many.

So do they have any real benefit for sensible Oldies, either as writers or readers? Well, possibly. Leaving aside the vanity publishing issue – always a pretty harmless occupation, and now at least possible without the poor writer being fleeced by some unscrupulous publisher – I think that there are several good uses for them.

First, they are an excellent and safe place to store some sort of archive of writing, or perhaps a list of favourite websites. Then they can serve as a means for a group to follow a specific project; for example, if you are trying to organise a large international family gathering, you could use a Blog as means of reporting developments and seeking views from far flung relations.

Or perhaps you are on an extended trip somewhere; if you can find your way round an internet café, you can keep friends and family updated on progress in a single online diary.

At the moment Blogs are public, but provided you don’t mind others stumbling across it, it is unlikely anyone will see yours unless you tell them it’s there. In fact some services are even talking about introducing password protection, which could limit access only to those you permit.

And finally, just occasionally, they can be a genuine source of real news, or at least immediate opinions from the thick of it. There have been a few fascinating ones from people in Iraq, for example.

But do remember, any one with access to the internet can write anything in their Blog whenever they want. This can lend a sense of immediacy that a newspaper can’t hope to match, but they lack the quality control of a newspaper. People can publish any old rubbish – lies, defamation, nonsense – so don’t be tempted to assume that anything you read in a Blog comes with any sort of weight, unless you are sure of the provenance. They are already becoming part of the armoury of the more cunning public relations types.

By way of example, I have created a simple Blog which consists only of this column at At the bottom, if you click on “Comments” you can let me, and every one else, know what you think of Blogs, or anything else. You don’t have to give a name, but I do have the right to remove any drivel.

I look forward to your thoughts – and hearing about your Blogs.