What is a Blog? or Why Spam?

To answer the question, “What’s a blog?”, first we could look up the quoted phrase “what is a blog” at Google, however, it is clear to me that those over-simplified definitions walk a fine line between conciseness and inaccuracy, as glossary entries often do.

If you didn’t get lost at that last hyperlink, and you’re still reading this, then I better move along with answering the question.

A weblog, or simply blog, is a type of database driven website. Its purpose is often similar to a paper journal and it lends itself to common use as a simple web-publishing system. However, blog usage isn’t limited solely to journalizing or journaling, its uses are likely as varied as the imaginations of bloggers are diverse. There are large, busy news blogs with many individual journalists posting content throughout the day, and there are personal blogs dedicated solely to one blogger’s content of daily routine, tribulation, and elation. Some specialized blogs are updated infrequently, if ever: others appear abandoned.

Unlike the early web days, once blogging software is setup on a website, content creation is relatively easy. The site owner or user logs in to the backend through an assigned web address, then the software presents the user with a screen similar to a word processor. The blogger doesn’t need to know much XHTML or Extensible Hypertext Markup Language, if any; the software automatically applies basic styling through the use of pre-configured index templates and CSS or Cascading Style Sheets, which format the text to the aesthetic standard conceived by the site designer. Blogs are a big improvement in usability from the days when each page of HTML needed to be carefully hand-coded and FTPd into a webserver.

Publishing the text or content written in the blog’s backend systems is as easy as pressing a button on your browser’s screen.

Most blogging software has the capability for RSS, otherwise known as Rich- or RDF-Site Summary, and which sometimes is referred to in affectionate manner as Really Simple Syndication. It is a short summary of blog content stripped of browser formatting codes. This vastly decreases the file size required for computer-to-computer content transmission and increases interoperability between different operating systems. Among other uses, RSS feeds present to the public new blog content without the public them needing to request the site’s web front page. For any of the sites people may choose to read, feed addresses can be easily added to RSS readers, programs people can install on their computers which download all headlines and site excerpts. Some browsers have integrated RSS and XML feed reading capability. If a headline intrigues a reader, they can easily request the article’s entire content. This makes it easy for information consumers and networks to assemble their own, customized, daily content.

People who do browse to a blog’s article often have the ability to comment on a posting, a function similar to message boards, unless the site owner has turned comments off. The absence of comments linked to an article is a growing blog phenomenon due in part to the problem of comment and trackback spam.

Trackbacks and pingbacks are other, more powerful networking features of blogging software, which have come under the routine attack of cyber terrorists strutting their commercial wares and services.

Often underutilized by some bloggers, trackbacks are a method of multi-linking similar-content blog articles to each other, a convenient aid to readers looking for related information, whereas comments appear only in one location. What distinguishes pingbacks and trackbacks from comments? When an article is ready to publish, a trackback or pingback can be created by the blogger, and when it is, an excerpt of the article’s content is automatically placed on another blog’s comment or trackback page. Comments are essentially singular postings about an article only appearing on the article’s comment section, whereas trackbacks and pingbacks are designed to be multi-synchronous, placing content on several different blogs at once.

Pingbacks, like trackbacks, are cross-blog, simultaneous-linkings to related content, but this isn’t quite correct. Pingbacks notify another site that a link to them has been created in the article’s text, whereas trackbacks are manually entered into a separate field in the backend of the blog. Sometimes a person needs to use something to fully understand how it works, and how it works differently from platform-to-platform and site-to-site.

It’s important to realize that the use of blogging software is subject to the varying discretion of the bloggers publishing their articles, as well as publishing their and others comments, trackbacks, and pingbacks. Integrated networking tools such as RSS feeds, trackbacks and pingbacks along with reader commenting have created a powerful publishing platform with efficient information dissemination capabilities. Over the last few years, the deployment of millions of blogs across the Internet has itself created a wide variety of information in the content-rich blogosphere.

Never before in human history has communication between people been so easy and fast.

It is also easy to understand why unscrupulous and desperate businesspeople, owned spambots under greedy arms, would try to freely exploit the built-in and real-time networking capability of blogs without paying a site owner any advertising fees. The apparent purpose of spammers may be free advertising, but is that all they achieve? Spammers utilizing automated bots may create the false appearance of a large group: a much smaller group’s purpose could be to disrupt the ability of people to easily and efficiently communicate and build virtual communities. Bloggers often, in response to overwhelming and time-consuming message management issues related to comment, pingback, and trackback spam, turn these powerful features off.

What groups benefit from the disruption of potent global communication tools between the virtual communities people are driven inspired to build?

2 thoughts on “What is a Blog? or Why Spam?

  1. An excellent example of how trackbacks work. By posting an article on your blog, then using your blog’s trackback function, an excerpt of the article on your blog appears in the comment list here as a “Trackback by Mystery of a Shrinking Violet.”

    If you ask me, that’s twice as powerful as simply posting “a comment” that would have only appeared here!

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