Explaining blogs to friends and family
...it may NOT be as easy as you think.
You think it's easy? Or should be?
Have you ever tried to help a non-geeky, blog-disabled person understand what a blog is?
Has an impatient, skeptical, proudly non-progressive family member asked you, repeatedly, without paying any attention whatsover to your reply, "What is a blog?"?
Has a friend caught you casually using the word "blog", caught you flippantly mentioning the fact that you have a blog...
...and did this friend suddenly interrupt you, demanding a proper definition of the word?
"What is a blog?" they ask, often with a concerned look on their face...
...like they know they should know what a blog is, but they really don't get it.
How Do You Explain "Blog"?
If no one has ever asked you to define or describe what a blog is, maybe you should approach a friend or family member, start blabbering about blog this and blogging that and blogger so and so and the blogosphere...
...and thereby cause them to stop you in mid-paragraph, and ask you to explain "blog".
See what happens.
See if they follow what you're saying.
What I Generally Do
I usually take the safe route and say:
"Oh, a blog is just a digital journal, an online diary, that's easy to add new content to, and you can use them for anything.
It's easy for readers of a blog to add their comments to it.
It's very similar to writing an email message, except instead of sending the message to an inbox, you send it to your little web site, called a blog.
I use blogs to present my ideas on web usability and other computer topics."
Most of the time, people still have no idea of what I'm talking about.
Maybe I'm just not great at one-on-one conversations with physically present individuals.
Perhaps I'm also not used to seeing who it is I'm communicating with, and not comfortable with them looking at me as I interact with them. I probably perform better online than in real life.
Or maybe they just have to visit a blog to truly get a grip on what it is.
They need to read a blog, click-select posts from the Recent Posts links, search the archives, and post a few comments...to really get the hang of it.
Better yet, if someone really wants to understand blogs, they should jump right in and start one.
a Lady Asked Me Tonight
Tonight, at a little get together of some new friends, the hostess asked me what a blog is.
I explained to the best of my unedited verbal ability.
Then she asked, "But how do people find blogs to read?"
She thinks blogs are lurking somewhere in the murky fringes of the internet.
"When you do a search engine search on a keyword or phrase, some of the web sites that appear on the results list could be blogs.
You won't know if it's a blog until you follow a link and visit the site. [I didn't go into the fact that if the URL contains "blogspot", "typepad", etc. it's a blog.]
If you do visit a blog, and like it, you can also consider visiting the blogs listed in a blogroll, a list of other blogs that runs down a column of a blog.
So you learn of other blogs by checking the blogs listed on the blog you're currently visiting."
I'm not thrilled with my off-the-cuff explanations of blogs and comment posting.
Comparisons with email is a good start, but people usually act all baffled quickly. Maybe they have a mental block to learning new and potentially completely irrelevant, unnecessary information.
Or maybe I'm not good at thinking on my feet and delivering instant mini-lectures.
But as much as I blog about blogs, you'd think I'd be really good at face to face, spur of the moment explanations.
Of course, here, in my blog, I don't have to explain what a blog is very often. You already know.
How do you explain blogs to people?
Post a comment or email me, and let me know.
[signed] Steven Streight aka Vaspers the Grate