Bus. Std: The A, B, C of Blogs

My latest column in Business Standard:

What are blogs and why are they becoming hot now? Why should you consider reading blogs or even doing your own? [This story is organised as a blog. So start reading the last entry first because blogs are published in reverse chronological fashion, with the newest entries at the top.]

Friday, May 13: Here are some blogging tips.

  • Blog daily. A good starting point is the BlogStreet list of the top 100 Indian blogs at http://india.blogstreet.com/top100.html. Blogging has to become part of the day’s routine. Things have to become habits – for both readers and writers.

  • Read widely. One may not understand everything, but over time, one gets the lay of the land. Maps start forming. Stories acquire a context. And over time, the linkages between developments start becoming apparent.

  • Think aloud. The one thing I decided when I started blogging is that I would write what I thought.

  • Start. Even when I feel I may not something to say, sitting in front of the computer changes everything. The words just come.

    Thursday, May 12: How do you start blogging?

    To get started, you can use any of the free blogging platforms available via Google (Blogger.com), Rediff, Sify or IndiaTimes. Once you are sure you want to do it, you could try a more advanced blogging platforms like TypePad (costs $5-15 per month). If you have your own server to host the blogging software, you could use WordPress (open-source) or MovableType (free for non-commercial use).

    An RSS Aggregator would be a good tool to complement the blogging platform. It offers an alternative to going to various blogs. Instead, it aggregates the output of various blogs (keeping track of when the blogs are updated) and shows you all the fresh items in a browser or a special client. Bloglines and Rojo are web-based aggregators. NewsGator is an Outlook-based aggregator.

    There are plenty of services becoming available for bloggers and readers. Our Blogstreet ranks top blogs along with their neighbours (other related blogs), and has a set of useful RSS utilities. Three other RSS-based search and notification services that you may find useful are Feedster, Technorati and PubSub.

    Wednesday, May 11: Why blog?

    Let me talk about my experience. Recently, I completed three years of blogging at http://www.emergic.org, which mainly discusses emerging technologies, enterprises and markets (though I do have the occasional personal post). I take items that I think are interesting, abstract a part of the text from the original story and link to it from the blog. This has a dual purpose: it helps me find interesting items easily later, and I serve as a human filter (or aggregator) for a small part of the content web. At times, I will add a small commentary to the post, adding my unique perspective on what Ive read.

    For me, the blog has become an ideas refinery. I learn a lot from reading what others write. Much like the open-source software community shares and gives back, the blog is my way of contributing back into the ideas community in my own small way by not just taking the time (a precious resource for all of us) to link and write, but also by discussing the ideas that I am thinking about. The blog is a mirror of my mind. The comments I receive from many of the readers (and other bloggers) helps in real-time refining and getting the best out from a community smarter than any single individual.

    One of the by-products of blogging has been the new friends that Ive made and people Ive met. The blog is a non-linear way to make connections we can only meet so many people you can meet in person, but via the blog we can build an exponentially increasing network. For me, the blog and its readers are the social network.

    Tuesday, May 10: What are blogs?

    Blogs (also called web logs) are journals, personal diaries. They have postings at varying intervals, usually by a single individual, in the form of text, images, and other data forms, arranged in reverse chronological order and accessible with a Web browser.

    In the early days of the Internet, setting up individual home pages was seen as a big deal. But these pages were hard to update once created. Blogs are all about updates. Publishing for individuals on the web has become easy and one of the by-products of that is the emergence of millions of personal pages talking about everything from what their authors did during the day or running commentaries on specialised topics. Blogs are the opposite of mainstream media. If media as we know it is about a few publishing for many, blogs are about many publishing for few.

    Monday, May 9: Blogs are hot.

    Business Week had this to say in its cover story entitled Blogs will change your Business in the May 2 issue: [Blogs] represent power. Look at it this way: In the age of mass media, publications like ours print the news. Sources try to get quoted, but the decision is ours. Ditto with letters to the editor. Now instead of just speaking through us, they can blog. And if they master the ins and outs of this new art — like how to get other bloggers to link to them — they reach a huge audience. This is just the beginning. Many of the same folks who developed blogs are busy adding features so that bloggers can start up music and video channels and team up on editorial projects. The divide between the publishers and the public is collapsing. This turns mass media upside down. It creates media of the masses.

  • Published by

    Rajesh Jain

    An Entrepreneur based in Mumbai, India.