Blogs take Web diaries to the next level
(CNN) -- Ever frog blog -- or contemplate blogging your dog? Or how about blogging over that 1967 mustang? Blogs are journalism's latest craze. The odd little word is short for "Web logs." They first appeared around 1998, and are starting to take off among people searching for information online. You can find a blog on just about any topic imaginable, and this week, Bruce Burkhardt speaks to a self-proclaimed blog enthusiast. Josh Quittner, editor of Business 2.0, tells Bruce Burkhardt why he thinks blogs are journalism for the future.
BRUCE BURKHARDT: What is a blog and why do they call it that awful word?
JOSH QUITTNER: It's a great word! I love the word "blog." The word "blog" is nothing more than a combination of two words: "Web" plus "log" -- blog! And the idea is, it's the almost perfect way of communicating your thoughts -- one to many -- on the Web. It's the natural evolution of what used to be known as Web-based diaries or Web diaries.
BURKHARDT: What's the difference from just a Web site?
QUITTNER: What a blog typically is, is a collection of links out to interesting things out on the worldwide Web. The typical format is: link, tiny bit of commentary, and then a pointer to everyone else's commentary. Sounds very simple -- in fact, sounds so simple as to be not even very interesting, but in fact it's incredibly interesting.
QUITTNER: In some respects, this is the future of journalism ... The cool thing about blogs is somebody can say something, or point to a story in Time magazine or CNN, and other people can have at the story, and almost debug it ... What this does is takes information and it puts it out before a community of users who will, in effect, crash test it. Hold every single fact up to the light and make sure that it all works.
BURKHARDT: This community of users you're talking about is relatively small right now?
QUITTNER: Well, it is and it isn't. The cool thing about blogs is that there are thousands of them, and they're reaching a point where it's exploding -- there are new ones coming online every day. And there is a blog about every conceivable thing. So, my favorite -- the one I go to every day ... is a site called Slashdot.com. It's a blog for techies. The cool thing that (Slashdot) does though, is its software has this really interesting algorithm that weights how many times people actually hit on a particular link and how valuable they found it. So the good commentary floats to the top.
BURKHARDT: As determined by the popularity of the comments.
QUITTNER: It's totally democratic. It's democratic journalism ... it's journalism by the masses. And if you have an interest in a subject matter -- anything -- find the blog! Because you're going to learn more then, you're going to stay totally up to date on your subject matter by going to that blog every day.
BURKHARDT: How do you find a blog?
QUITTNER: A really interesting place to start is at MIT, at the media lab there. They have a thing called blogdex, which, as the name would indicate, is an index of blogs ... It shows you the articles -- not the blogs themselves -- but the articles that are eliciting the most discussion right at this very minute.
BURKHARDT: Is there special blogging software, and what does it do?
QUITTNER: There are a number of solutions that people can download to start blogging themselves. The first and best free product is called Pitas.com. And you get it at www.pitas.com and it's totally free.
BURKHARDT: What does that software provide you?
QUITTNER: What the software does is it gives you a really easy, templated way to post your thoughts, your links and allow other folks to do the same. There's another one that actually is way cooler, far more sophisticated and allows you to add all sorts of graphical components and do all sorts of indexing and interesting diagnostic stuff. It's called Radio Userland.
BURKHARDT: You know, it seems to me this is just another step in the evolution of surfing.
QUITTNER: Right. It's all about communication. That's one of the main reasons people use the Web; they're using it to find information and they're using it to communicate to each other. And the blog is this wonderful way of doing both.
BURKHARDT: That says it all!
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