Recently a few people have been asking me about my blog. “What is it?” “Why do you do it?” “What is it for?” The funny thing is that most of these questions come to me via my Facebook page. This made me realize that there’s an ironic ignorance surrounding blogs by the general public. Ironic because Blogging is basically what everyone’s doing when they post information on their Facebook page.
The definition of blogging, according to Wikipedia, the free, collaborative online dictionary is this; “A blog (a contraction of the term “web log“) is a type of website, usually maintained by an individual with regular entries of commentary, descriptions of events, or other material such as graphics or video.”
People’s first experience with posting content online is often with the ubiquitous Facebook (or other social networking website). Hardly surprising, they provide users with simple methods for getting stuff online easily, no programming involved! You can create your own free account, upload messages, links, pictures and videos. Everything’s taken care of for you, you don’t have to do any site maintenance and most of the latest web technologies are implemented as and when they become available. But all this comes at a price, it’s a double-edged sword. These sites don’t provide all this for nothing so how do they make a profit by providing you with all this free stuff? (I’ll use Facebook as an example from this point on as it is currently the one most people will be familiar with but all these sites operate in similar ways.)
The simple answer is advertising. Facebook has built up a huge number of users. At the time of this blog there were more than 400 million users with an average of 50% active each day – a captive audience of sitting ducks just waiting to be sold stuff! As you can imagine this is extremely attractive to advertisers, they can hit millions of people very easily.
Facebook’s database must be one of the biggest and most lucrative in the entire world. By posting stuff on your Facebook page, you allow them to build up a detailed profile of you, so that advertisers can target their business towards your individual preferences and interests. If you’re not careful with your privacy settings, these personal details can also be passed on to other businesses making even more profit for Facebook and it’s affiliates. This may, or may not concern you. After all, when you sign up for a Facebook account you sign a Terms and Conditions agreement to agree with all this, you did read it before signing it didn’t you?
I’m not saying you shouldn’t use these sites, quite the contrary. I have a Facebook account and think it’s a really great platform but I am very careful about my privacy settings and about the information I include. What many people are unaware of is that it’s not only you that can share your information. If you don’t customize your privacy settings your friends can distribute information about you to other applications that you may not want to join. Take a little time to read the terms and customize your privacy options, make sure you understand what you’re doing. There are websites that offer help with this, for example allfacebook.com
I’m aware how easy it is to express yourself via social networking, I think it has a place for sure. It’s a great means for sharing information quickly with a large group of people that you know will share similar interests. But if Facebook dissolved today, or if they changed the rules, forcing you to close your Facebook account, you’d loose everything, your whole profile would cease to exist. All the photos, contacts and messages that you’d built up over the years would be gone. (But Facebook would already have all the information it needs from you about you, your friends, shared likes and dislikes etc.) I find it scary to think that all the effort I put into my Facebook profile could end up being a complete waste of time. Imagine if Facebook continues to grow and achieves it’s rumored ambition of controlling the internet. They could start charging for the service, effectively holding your memories and communication to ransom. This may seem like an unlikely scenario but I’m just trying to illustrate to you how non-permanent and insecure your profile contents could be.
So, what’s the answer? Blogging! You own your blog. You control what’s included and you can host it wherever you want, making sure it’s secure and backed up forever. It provides you with a great platform for uploading your thoughts, pictures and links, you can even feed information from it to your Facebook page, giving you the best of both worlds. All you need to do is set up a free account. My favorite is WordPress but there are others including Blogger. Once you have your free account you can begin writing. Some people use a blog like a diary, adding to it every day. Others only blog when they have something specific to say. Many great authors have been produced as a result of blogging. One of the most famous was the case of Julie Powell who wrote about the recipes of food writer, Julia Child. This story was eventually made into a hollywood movie.
Blogging really is a great way of expressing yourself, I think everyone should have one! Next time I’ll talk more about the benefits of blogging. I’ll give you some tips and techniques and show you how you can use RSS readers to build up a network of your own favorite blogs to take inspiration from.
Angie’s shuffle track of the day; Express Yourself – N.W.A. – Listen free on we7.com