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That Blog Thing V

(October 02, 2003) - One of the most fascinating (and likely to be enduring) aspects of the blog phenomenon is the embedded reliance on multiple streams of communication. Blogs can be read by visiting the site, subscribing in email, bouncing between links to follow a dialog or through a newsfeed reader. Using RSS (a simple XML syndication spec), RSS Newsfeed Readers collect the updates from various sources (remember, Craigslist offers RSS as a way to keep up on jobs or other discussion streams). Savvy Bloggers are operating in a world that comes to them. They do not go to blogs, they engage in a conversation that is routinely updated on their desktops.

7. Blogs assume the use of  multiple channels for communications.

Like HTML (which enabled Web 1.0), RSS is a deceptively simple idea. Essentially, new content causes a system to be notified so that the desktop blog newsreader can go out and get the material. This spider-like process has few limitations because it is designed to be simple (RSS stands for Really Simple Syndication). From the user's perspective, content is updated automatically. A set of blog subscriptions flow seamlessly onto the desktop, ready for incorporation into the blog.

The very simplicity of RSS makes a huge array of unexpected things possible. Take a look at this weblog (which happens to be a page focused on microadvertising, one of the things enabled by RSS). It's very likely the case that the weblog you see only exists on your screen. The page itself (taking a cue from sophisticated Web1.0 operations), is built 'on the fly', using RSS elements.

Because page elements are drawn from multiple sources, blogs are the perfect vehicle for microads. Reaching precisely the target demographic you seek becomes a simple exercise. While it's early in the process and many kinks have yet to be worked out, it's clear that a major channel for recruitment advertising will become the micro audience.

Multi-channel communication provides a kind of information redundancy. When a particular article is posted, it is (more or less) immediately fed into the RSS stream. It is simultaneously posted to the blog and stored (with a 'permalink') for future reference. If an 'email me the updates' feature is set, the post goes:

  • Directly to the blog
  • Directly to the archives
  • Into the RSS feed, and
  • Into email, while
  • Still residing on the publisher's hard drive.

The process provides a stream of current hot news, a flow perspective, instantaneous backups and archival placement for search engines. The process is remarkably search engine friendly. Without ever feeling imposing or overly redundant, the internal dynamics of blog publishing ensure that each and every tidbit of information is positioned correctly for web consumption (both user and machine).

8. Blogs demand substance first, design second.

We've talked to a number of old school media folks who shrug off the implications of blogs. "It's fast news and lightly considered opinion", they suggest. In fact, blogs cover amazing topic variations (there are a number of attempts to build directories, most rendered ineffective because the growth rate is now 5 new blogs a minute).

The topics covered are usually vetted in a couple of significant ways. First, any item is delivered in the context of the rest of the blog. It is easier to find out the background and credentials of most blog authors (though there's an anonymity trend in our industry), than it is in traditional print style journalism. Secondly, the various emphases on linking and cross linking means that the most widely read blog material has been heavily subjected to peer review.

A look at blog design shows that the form is fairly limited and functional. Surprisingly, this design style is more usable than more expensively designed material. Blogs are typically developed from straightforward templates, readership is developed through the substance of the message.


Newly discovered:

John Sumser

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