Expressing Yourself Online: A Beginner's Guide To Blogging

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The blog, known less-commonly by the term "weblog", is becoming an increasingly popular form of Internet communication. It enables one to make a statement, to keep in touch with old friends, to precipitate debates and express their feelings.

Just what is a blog? More text-based than most websites, it is a personal web space that is written in by you and you alone. You can register with a blogging website to obtain a section of it for yourself, or you can design your own small site and upload it to a free or paid host. You can even get your very own domain name for it, and put whatever you like on it. Anything goes in a blog - there are, however, a few generalized types of blogging that people might not even know exist.

The weblog was originally created as sort of an online journal or diary. This is still the most widespread use of large blog-providing websites, such as LiveJournal. The journal-style system, depending on whom the hoster is, allows the blogger to network their blog with others. With a single click from their site, they can peruse the new journal posts of dozens of friends, starting from the most recent. They can set security so only those friends can read their posts. They can find people with similar interests and perhaps participate in a community blog with them. The journal type of blog can contain everything from quotes to pictures to quizzes to schedules, whatever the blogger decides to put there, but it is typically used for a day-to-day chronicle of one's life, and a place to express happiness or unhappiness. This type of blog is often popular for keeping in touch with old friends or family who are unable to see each other often, such as a student living in residence at college, or a relative who has moved overseas. Journal blogs are also often highly personalized, making them even more appealing - the keeper of the blog may add a special website layout, icons to indicate their mood, or "avatars", small graphics featuring an image of themselves or some of their interests.

The other major type of blog does not have a specific name or category, but it is generally used for editorial-style writings. The blogger pens his or her opinion on a certain subject - anything that they may feel strongly against. Politics and religion are common subjects of such blogs, and depending on where the blogger is hosted he or she may receive hundreds of comments or e-mails in reply. This is an excellent way to begin a good online debate, but is less like a forum than it may sound - remember that one person is making the statement, and all rebuttals would be featured in comments below, if at all. Rather than a discussion, an opinion blog is often an opportunity to draw attention to one's way of thinking, with space for commenting but little opportunity for in-depth disagreement. (However, a response from a reader in their own blog is not uncommon!)

Community blogs are often a mixture of the previous two. They are usually comprised of members of a certain group, or people who have interest in a similar subject, such as a blog for fans of a certain TV show or a blog for people who are in a particular faculty in college. Again, there are no restrictions on who can or cannot be part of such a community. In these blogs, events may be planned, people share photos, writings and artwork, engage in debates, and get to know people similar to themselves.

Blogging has a lot of potential for artists and aspiring writers or photographers as well. Any kind of medium that can be written or scanned - from graphite art to your latest short story - may be placed in a blog for people to evaluate or constructively criticize. These types of posts are usually found within journal or community blogs, where friends and sometimes strangers can offer their honest advice.

There are dozens of other uses for blogs. They could be a subsection of a personal website, a showcase for photographs, an advice column, a space to share song lyrics, recipes, translations and just about any other form of written text. There are blogs devoted to thousands upon thousands of subjects, and millions of people keeping daily diaries in personal blogs. New to this kind of thing? It's simple and fun, and a great way to express yourself. All you need is a piece of web space and a thought, and you're on your way to blogging.

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