Friday, May 20, 2005

Photo Blogs

Fortunately for photography, photography blogs have not been abbreviated to phlogs or phlogging. The term photoblog has been coined to describe a new form of near instant image uploading and viewing, an online source of photos, graphics and imagery (Google search for photoblog). The site Photoblogs ( notes thousands of photoblogs in over 80 countries in over 35 languages. (See also;,, and Yahoo's photoblog service directory.) At such sites each click of the next button brings up image after image. Visit the photoblog site by clicking this link or the screen shot below. Once there, click the small pictures (thumbnails) to see their larger versions.

Click image for larger display.

Videoblogs and Moblogs

The very small file size of compressed video coming from cell phones, PDAs and digital camcorders stimulated the idea of moblogs, vlogs and videoblogs. Moblogs are focused largely on the low quality small file size video and still images coming from cell phones, clips of no more than 20 to 30 seconds and which can also be played back on cell phones. Others focusing on video appear to expect viewers to watch through computer displays. These sites, and, compete as hosting sites for those that wish to video blog. Each site will have its own patterns to follow to actually reach video that can be played. This may require clicking on text or an image as appropriate.

Click image for larger display.

Examples of individual sites include Video Link Japan and Steve Garfield's Videoblog while Demand Media - A Collaborative Video Blog is an example of a team effort. The site MoBuzzTV is extending the moblog concept to a news and documentary format. Perhaps the most advanced vlog service is which automatically detects microphone and webcam or other digital video device. This site allows up to 10 clips of 10 minute duration to be created for use in any web media, clips which are then streamed from the Userplane servers with a copy of code that can be copy-and-pasted into your own web-based media.

Google co-founder Larry Page also reported plans by Google to follow their own lead with photo blogging at with a new service on video blogging (Kapustka, 2005, April 4). Given past practices, it would be logical to presume that Yahoo and MSN will follow with something similar of their own.

Those who want to focus just on finding video can use ANT, a feed-reader or iPodderX, which use RSS or syndication service to find and download video directly to your hard drive shortly after their creators post them to their vlog, moblog or video log or whatever they will be called in the future. Though ANT and iPodderX are also feed-readers (video player of material from subscription service), it is also a video aggregator along with that provides sites to which one can subscribe.

Always wanted to have your own TV station? Once again, if you adjust to this "out of the box" blog thinking, it's yours today. Will TV stations start a vlog channel and someday play your video blog, as standard radio stations are now doing for audio? It is as inevitable as sunshine.
To learn more about video blogs, online video and tricks of the trade, visit and; ; and Comments appreciated that point to other new video hotspots.

News Feeds-Automated Broadcasting

There is more to blogging than just quick web site posting of text, images, audio and video. Blog sites can choose to allow their own specialized form of automated and global distribution, a process called syndication. This syndication system enables instant distribution of content updates to syndicated readers. It also makes a quick review of a large number of sites possible.

Syndicated sites are also called news "feeds" which feed data to those who want to know. Fans of different blog sites can set software to watch for updates of those blogs allowing syndication and grab and download postings for immediate display on their own computers. Readers subscribe to a blog and receive updates automatically by using a reader or feed aggregator, also called a news aggregator. At this time there are multiple standards for syndication, though a merged standard of RSS and Atom is appearing likely (>Chen, 2004; Festa, 2003 ; Festa, 2004).

RSS means Really Simple Syndication. It has many uses that go far beyond blog syndication. One example is Basecamp, a web-based project management tool which passes all communication instantly across the web to all on the project, including latest updates, communications, deadlines, and other activities. This could have internal uses or used for student and client projects too.

The blog newsreaders, the software tools for organizing blog postings and notifying readers of blog news and information feeds, are readily available yet still innovating in their designs. Stand-alone software applications that read and display syndicated blog newsfeeds include NetNewsWire (Mac) and Newsrover (Win). Web server based designs include: My Yahoo! ; and Bloglines. criticism and evaluation of the dozens of blog readers available is developing (Blog Newsreaders Links & Reviews; Google search for blog newsreader reviews). In a blog reader, the list of blogs selected for monitoring will typically appear on the left of a window; selecting a blog puts new postings from that blog in a frame on the right.

Web browsers are also getting into the act as blog newsreaders. One method being explored is to create a browser plug-in which extends the browser's features, such as Lektora and Sage. Programmers are also building these features into the browser itself so that add-ins like Lekora will not be not required in the long run. The Opera web browser included RSS blog reader features as of May, 2004 while others are announcing the inclusion of such features in the months ahead (Hicks, 2004). As of late 2004, the Firefox web browser supported some blog reader features for all forms of RSS feeds, that is, forms of blog posting distribution. As of May, 2005, the newest version of the Safari browser for the Mac that came with OS-X included a fully integrated blog reader and browser. The forthcoming Internet Explorer 7.0 will also include RSS integration but details will have to wait until a real update is available in 2006. Downloading and installing an RSS capable browser or using an add-in and learning to use it to explore blog space is highly recommended.

Limitations of blogs?

Blogs will not completely replace newspapers, radio and TV stations or even standard web sites. But they can and do replace components of what these other forms do and do it more simply and efficiently than any of them. That is, they can quickly distribute any form of information that the available bandwidth will allow as long as the given blog form or style fits your needs. They represent one more new wrinkle invented for cyberspace. But every design form has its limitations.

Blogs are not ice cream. That is, there must be some motivation to use them, some audience that the blog authors want or need to reach or to hear from. Just asking or teaching someone to create a blog will not lead to much interesting use in and of itself. Blogs do not talk; people do once they have practice in the language or style of conversation that is needed. Blog interaction requires formal direction until new habits are acquired. Like any activity, there must be some motivation and direction (Krause, 2005) for effective practice.

Though blog design can effectively collect comments and stimulate discussion and debate, blogging style limits itself to moving on to the next posting and debate, with little follow-up to prior activity. It is rare that a blog author will edit the original posting to summarize what has been learned from the feedback comments. Blog authors could address this limitation in several ways: 1. create a new post with a link back to the previous post and put a link in the old post referring to the new one; 2. link a wiki page where the feedback on the old posting summarizes and restates what has learned yet continues to leave the discussion open to further editing by those interested; or 3. put a link in the original posting to a static web page that summarizes what has been learned from the feedback.

An effective blog requires some discipline with personal scheduling to achieve regular postings and build a loyal fan club or a strong collaborative group. Remaining persistent is challenging.

Blogs will reduce but not replace email, though blog syndication makes it possible to subscribe so that any new posting to your favorite blogs is reported to your email account or to specialized blog reader software. Blogs needs other forms of communication, such as email. For example, just because you created a blog does not mean that anyone will use it unless you tell them about it and provide its web address. Blog information will also lead to using email for private comments that you do not wish to share with everyone.

Blog authors must recognize that not everyone who reads blogs has the best interest of the author in mind. Putting personal information in a blog can be dangerous. That personal information can come back to bite you in terms of identity theft, harassment, reputation endangering mistakes in grammar and logic and more. Further, comment links open to all readers can lead to blog site vandalism by those who insert foul ideas, language and web links to trashy web sites such as pornography or hate promoting sites. However, there are a number of effective and quick defenses against the "dark side" while the personal side just requires good judgment and editing.

Teachers and younger students need password protected private blogging for limited audiences. Work teams and social groups may have reasons to be public or private, a decision the group will need to ponder. Most blog hosting designs provide options for "teams" that wish varying degrees of privacy for their work. Further, many thinking and writing needs require a totally private space where thoughts are explored without fear of any exposure. That still makes those cellulose sheets of paper a valuable technology.

Social Capital: The "Disruptive Value" of Blogging

One of the values of disruptive inventions is the way they force a re-examination of past practice. Blogging stimulated more fundamental debates about social practice. What is the best way to build social capital? What are the best ways for group or team communication to take place? How should the different tools of the communication sandwich be balanced and used?

Communities and institutions stand on their shared history. From classrooms to professional teams, shared history leads to the shared intelligence that becomes useable knowledge (Geoff, 2005; Vygotsky 1978; Wenger et al, 2002). There are many practical aspects to keeping knowledge used and useable. Much of the social intelligence of an organization is now flushed down the bit drain minute by minute with the tap of the Delete key or buried beyond community searches in email archives. A given email idea often nourishes just a few individuals who may soon leave the group or organization. The greater the turnover of individuals in a group, the lower the value of email. An email quickly becomes buried forever in institutional email archives, not searchable unless retrieved by the occasional subpoena in legal wrangling. Blogs are far more effective than email in keeping the emerging intelligence of an organization visible and useable for long periods of time.

Because so many now blog instead of email, the capacity to listen to this largely public discourse, to do online anthropology, has been greatly magnified. The major blog search engines provide key word searching and cross-link counts for free. Other more specialized tools are being honed to also listen for and provide analysis on subgroups or demigraphic subsets. This can potentially impact composers at all levels who are inspired and motivated by the expressed concerns of others, whether song writers or marketers. The vice president of a public relations firm noted that "we look at the blogosphere as a focus group with 15 million people going on 24/7 that you can tap into without going behind a one-way mirror" (Bulkeley, 2005).

A distinction should be made between emerging intelligence (real news for the team) and the formation of considered social conclusions. The process of creating and updating reflected policy, guiding philosophy, position statements and encyclopedic facts need something a bit different than blogs. These constructs require collaborative writing. The concept of the Wiki emerged as a powerful complement to blogs (Goodwin-Jones, 2003). Emerging in the same era as blogs, a Wiki site or application allow potentially anyone to edit a web page, keeping an elaborate history of developments and fast reversion when necessary. Access to a Wiki document can be as public or as controlled as needed. More in-depth consideration is beyond the scope of this writing, but voluminous explanation of the wiki concept awaits in cyberspace. Both have their advantages which has led to experiments weighing the best features of blogs and wiki sites (Tonkin, 2005), and led to a new design, a bliki.

The concepts of formative and summative communication can further serve as a useful lens through which to position different kinds of thinking and communication. Blogs, wikis and email systems have special value for collaborative formative activity. They gain most of their value through use of the computer networks' unique capacity for interactive communication. More static and stable concepts and policies may best appear in web pages and other media more devoted to one-way communication, including print, radio, theater and television/film. The eventual major role of a web page could be to serve as a hub to all forms of formative and summative media.

Stayed tuned to this page for new design examples of the merger of blogs, wikis, multimedia and standard web pages.

Those interested in best practices in institutional and organizational development should build functional knowledge of blogs and wikis into professional development so that they begin to take priority in professional practice over email. Experiments in the partnership of blogs, wikis, email, standard web sites and the necessary level of privacy should be underway to find the right balance. Each has a role to play, but for the good of the social group, revising the cultural emphasis on email is overdue. Is email the last place a good idea should go?

Educational Uses of a Blog

From higher education (Glenn, 2003) to public education (Carr, 2005), educators are taking advantage of the lightning fast and free way make ideas available across the Internet using text, images, audio and video. New uses are constantly being invented.

Educators (teachers, instructors, professors, administrators) are using them to: teach writing with the blog as a kind of public word processor for student assignments; teach collaboration and build a sense of audience using the comments features; support institutional teamwork and collaborative thinking activity from curriculum development to policy formation, which was discussed in the section of social capital; build reputations as they distribute what they are learning in their field of study and share what they find important to their peers and students; create instructional tips for their students and parents as a course progresses; make course announcements and make assignments; provide a collection of annotated links to important resources; offer students and/or parents another place for feedback and discussions of what is being taught; and to get out news on anything.

Student blog composition can create unprecedented attention to student composition. Students at Hunterdon Central Regional High School read the Secret Life of Bees, then used a literacy style blog to create dialog around the book. Their site, has received more than 2 million hits (Richardson, 2005). Students use blogs to: create reflective or writing journals; create blog postings as submitted assignments; engage in collaborative writing teams using comments to provide critiques of the writings of classmates; build e-portfolios using a variety of media; share their findings of useful resources to support the learning of a course; and bypass adult restrictions on their communication.

Blogs can also be re-invented for additional purposes. This set of thinking about blogs is an example of using a blog site to support the gathering of comments for different sections of a larger document or essay. Each section heading in this essay is both a blog posting and a section of a standard web page. Each blog posting is used to collect responses and feedback which is used to further edit that section. The concept applies just as well to sections of institutional documents including guidelines, planning documents, policies and curriculum development.

Richardson (2005) has used his own blog ( to collect best practices information on educational blogging. Blogs bring great power to those numerous situations in which students must construct, collaborate, and communicate, what he referred to as the three C's.

Please leave comments which point out other educational uses.

Do blogs have a future?

"At the Aspen Institute's Conference on Journalism and Society in mid-July, a question was put to executives of major news organizations: Whom do you trust in online media today?" (Lassica, 2004). Their feedback showed that a major transformation is underway. Observers are finding that "a nobody with a Weblog can build up a more loyal audience than news brands that have been around for a century or more" and that bloggers make up a large and growing number of the national top 40 attention getting sites on the web whose credibility and respect matches or exceeds major news outlets (Lassica, 2004). Not only are these audiences more loyal, in many cases they are larger, with more readers than major newspapers and magazines have subscribers.

This transformation in communication is happening at several levels. At one level it is changing whom we trust, from large organizations to individual voices. At another level it is changing the understanding of cyberspace. Outsiders and beginning users of the Web first see it as a place for random searches for information, for googling data. More experienced users recognize that blogs have given mainstream legitimacy to a long standing but often overlooked value of cyberspace, the Web as a place for talk. Through such online chat the Web serves as community builder, consensus maker, and hub for intimate social and political conversations. Decades before the phenomena of blogging made Web sharing an instant simple act, millions of email conferences were taking place within systems of communication called newsgroups and email lists or listservs. Blogs help reduce the email glut and also serve as a wedge to bring more cyberspace users into these older forms of dialog as well.

By combining intelligent and informal thoughts with this inexpensive design, blog voices are also contributing to brand and reputation building on a scale from individual writers to Microsoft and General Motors (GM). In the short time since the concept emerged, the Wall Street Journal noted that some 4% of major U.S. corporations have blogs available to the public. Blogging jobs are not only well paid but growing in popularity (Needleman, 2005). Some have found that blogging has been added to their job description and others have used their blogging skills for advancement and promotion purposes.

More importantly, by changing the nature of public voice, blogs have changed the nature of power distribution (Gillmor, 2004). Gillmor provided multiple examples of the power pyramid being inverted. Prior to the Web, society's priorities for distributing information were based on wealth. The bigger your city or organization, the bigger your media outlets from newsprint to television stations, and therefore the greater your influence. Further, the more money your institution or corporation had, the more global their reach with advertising, and "spin" or propaganda. This influence dictates public policy and consequently the distribution of wealth.

Blogs increasingly provide hope that the least powerful groups, the poor, the rural, and the public educators in public schools, have a tool to match the power reach of the wealthy. Currently Gillmor (2004) reports that only a relatively small slice of the polity have had the digital knowledge to have engaged the top of the power pyramid and to have been successful in getting heard and having an impact. A far larger portion of the population stands outside this digital conversation, unaware of this new powerful contribution to democracy. Educators at all levels should explore their free use, for the value of their contribution to culture, to professional communication and in teaching and learning to determine which of the many values of blogs makes the most sense for their educational situation.

Those who live outside a democracy have found the Internet a major tool in their fight against authoritarian regimes. On September 22, 2005 the group Reporters Without Borders, a Paris-based media watchdog, made available a Handbook for Bloggers and Cyber-Dissidents. "It gives detailed advice on safeguarding anonymity by using psuedonyms and proxy services that can replace the easily traceable IP addresses of home computers" (Naughton, 2005). Those using blog sites and other Internet tools to report the news are often the only independent and truthful voices available to citizens of oppressive countries. Unfortunately the desire for access to markets and profit has led to companies based in democracies providing technical skills and knowledge about the Internet to help dictatorships suppress the sharing of ideas that challenge their power. Dissidents that are caught face jail-time, torture and death.

For those who need to share a perspective on the conditions around them, blogs provide a quick way to get started, but they too are limited in their power. As the culture moves past the hype on blogs, a true partnership between blogs and other new ways to communicate will emerge. Blog-wiki combinations seem likely. Furl and Flickr also seem likely allies. Blogs will also become part of many earlier designs. For example, Moodle, an online class management system, is adding the blog concept. Moodle is a free, open source competitor to commerical applications such as WebCT and Blackboard. Students can blog in a "walled garden" in which outsiders to the school cannot see what is there, or also allow some blogs to be visible and interactive with the larger world.

Can we effectively spread the word about blogs? Will the lower rungs of the power pyramid also use the web to find and share their voices? Is there the will and the discipline to do so? For those individuals or organizations with a need to develop local, national and international reputations as voices of change, blogs are simplicity personified. Welcome to the blogosphere!

Blogging Bibliography

The items in this bibliography are referenced in the sections above.

Bulkeley, William M. (2005, June 23) Marketers Scan Blogs for Brand Insights. Wall Street Journal. B1, B6.

Carr, Nora (April 1, 2005). Educator blogs could boost respect for teachers--and expose classroom challenges. eSchoolNews, Retrieved April 14, 2005, from

Chen, Anne (2004). RSS Makes Enterprise Headlines. eWeek. Retrieved September 20, 2004, from,1759,1646538,00.asp

Deflem, Mathieu. 1996. “Introduction: Law in Habermas’s Theory of Communicative Action.” Pp. 1-20 in Habermas, Modernity and Law, edited by Mathieu Deflem. London: Sage. Retrieved June 9, 2005, from

Dewey, John (1916). Democracy and Education. New York: Macmillan. Retrieved on June 6, 2005, from

Festa, Paul (2003). Battle of the Blogs. CNET. Retrieved August 4, 2003, from

Festa, Paul (2004). Blog Format Truce Proposed. ZDNET. Retrieved March 9, 2004, from

Gillmor, Dan (2004). We the Media: Grassroots Journalism by the People, for the People. Sebastopol, CA : O'Reilly. Retrieved June 22, 2005, from

Glen, David (2003, June 6). Scholars Who Blog. Chronicles of Higher Education. Section: Research & Publishing, 49 (39), A14. Retrieved June 14, 2005, from

Glogoff, Stuart (2005. Instructional blogging: Promoting interactivity, student-centered learning, and peer input. Innovate 1 (5). Retrieved June 9, 2005, from

Goodwin-Jones, Bob (May 2003). Blogs and Wikis: Environments for On-Line Collaboration. Language Learning & Technology, 7(2) p12-16. (ERIC EJ666342) Retrieved May 17, 2005, from

Habermas, Jurgen (1984). The Theory of Communicative Action: Reason and the Rationalization of Society; translated by Thomas McCarthy. Two volumes. Boston : Beacon Press.

Hesseldahl, Arik (2005, May 27). Radio Must Change. Here's How. Forbes. Retrieved May 27, 2005, from

Hicks, Matt (2004). Apple's RSS Embrace Could Bolster Adoption. eWeek. Retrieved June 28, 2004, from,1759,1618128,00.asp

Huffaker, D. (2005). The educated blogger: Using weblogs to promote
literacy in the classroom. AACE Journal, 13(2), 91-98.

Jardin, Xeni (2005, May). Podcasting Killed the Radio Star. Wired News. Retrieved May 14, 2005, from,1412,67344,00.html

Lasica, J.D. (August 18, 2004). Transparency Begets Trust in the Ever-Expanding Blogosphere, USC Annenberg Online Journalism Review. Retrieved January 4, 2005, from

Krause, Steven D. (2005, June 24). Blogs as a Tool for Teaching. Chronicles of Higher Education, B33-35.

Mossberg, Walter (2005, June 15). Taking the Mystery Out of Blog Creation. Wall Street Journal, D4. Retrieved June 15, 2005, from,,SB111878431732959531-Hc5m3ctbnR1Dnv4yoCiNZq71qFc_20060614,00.html?mod=public_home_us

Naughton, Philippe (September 22, 2005). How to be a cyber-dissident - handbook offers advice. Times Online. Retrieved September 22, 2005 from,,3-1792375,00.html

Needleman, Sarah E. (2005, May 31). Blogging Becomes a Corporate Job; Digital 'Handshake'? Wall Street Journal, B1, p.1.

Nesbitt, Alex (2005, June). The Podcast Value Chain Report: An Overview of the Emerging Podcasting Marketplace. Retrieved June 20, 2005, from

Pew Internet & American life Project (2005). New data on blogs and blogging. Retrieved July 22, 2005 from

Podcasting News (June 30, 2005). Apple Extends Dominance in Online Music to Podcasting. Retrieved June 30, 2005 from

Richardson, Will (2005, June). New Jersey High School Learns the ABCs of Blogging. T.H.E. Journal, 40.

Tonkin, Emma (January 30, 2005). Making the Case for a Wiki. Ariadne. 42, Retrieved June 3, 2005, from

Vygotsky, L. S. (1978). Mind in society. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Wenger, E., R. McDermott, and W. M. Snyder. (2002). Cultivating communities of practice. Boston: Harvard Business School Press.'s article titled Blog, Retrieved June 16, 2005, from's article titled Podcasting, Retrieved June 18, 2005, from

Other Bibliographies on Blogging

A Weblog Webliography

A search of shows over 90 books on blogging.

Blog Help Groups

Discussing ideas, problems and techniques with others adds real value to getting the most out of a computer application. Fortunately, has a forum for trading messages in several different types of discussion themes. Check out Registering is free.

Any other forums or discussion groups out there supporting folks using MSN Spaces and Yahoo 360?

One brilliant solution the bloggerforum provided me within minutes was for making a sidebar list of post titles longer than 10 items, the unchangeable default in Blogger. I was directed by CptCanuck to for a javascript generator that has many uses, but in my cases used it to grab a list of my own headings and set the default to some number between 10 and 100. Worked like a charm when I pasted it into my template and commented out the blogger code. Gotta love communities that care. It certainly has me thinking about including fresh postings from other blog sites without confusing readers about what came from where.