What makes a website a blog? (the blog test)

What makes a website a blog? I’m getting this question more and more often these days, and I figured I would create this page and send people to it when they ask.

A blog (short for weblog) is a web-based journal.

How is it different from a standard website? Well, I’ve narrowed the list down to about five items. The first three items are essential, the last two are common. Now, you don’t have all five of these items to be a blog, you can have three or four and still be a blog in my mind, but if you have one or two of these items you’re probably a faux blog or a website.

  1. Unedited content.

  2. Comments.

  3. Reverse chronological order of content.

  4. Frequent linking to other sites.

  5. Frequently updated.

  6. Honest and fair with corrections.

Some more details by point.

Unedited content.
Clearly the most unique aspect of a blog is that one person can share their message with an audience. Faux blogs, in which someone either edits or writes messages and puts someone else’s name on them, are the equivalent of press releases or canned speeches. In other words they lack authenticity, transparency and soul. We forgive bad grammar, spelling and other rough edges on blogs for the raw payoff of an unedited messagejust like we forgive people when they mispronounce a word in a conversation or stutter (note: you don’t correct spelling errors on people’s blogs, it’s considered bad form).

Comments
I’m sure this is something people will debate, but as far as I’m concerned not having comments means you are not willing to have a dialogue with people on your home turf. Forcing people to write their comments on their own blog makes you the New York Times, and the New York Times is clearly not a blog. Now, I know there are some high-profile blogs without comments, and I know some folks have turned off comments because they are a headache, but the tools are getting better and I think someday soon everyone will be able to have blog comments without comment spam. At that point anyone who doesn’t have comments has no excuse for not turning them on unless they are scared of the truth. Now, you do have the rightas a blog ownerto turn off comments you find inappropriate, but you should tell your audience the ground rules if you do this (i.e. Jarvis tells people not to talk about his day job, which is understandable).

Reverse chronological order
Blogs have the newest piece of content at the top. There is nothing to debate here, it’s just a fact.

Linking to Others
This is not essential, of course, but it is common. If you are a blogger you are probably going to point people to things of interest, things that demonstrate your point or related conversations.

Frequent Updates
Again, this is not essential, but it is common. Most bloggers update their blog every day, or every couple of days. Once you get to once a month you really lose the value of a blog.

Honest and fair with corrections.
This is key to being a successful blogger, but you can be a blogger and be unfair, dishonest and not correct your errors. You won’t have a great audience, if any, but you can do it.

Here are some examples of the “blog test” at work:

Is Fark.com a blog?
Fark.com is filtered and sister site TotalFark.com is not filtered. Fark.com has comments, is in reverse chronological order, links to others and is frequently updated. Is it fair and honest? I guess that is up for debate at this point, but it seems it is becoming fairer. So, while Fark.com may not be 100% pure blog I would say it is 80% blog.

Is http://www.georgewbush.com/blog/ a blog?
It certainly is not unfiltered from Dubya, although every post is by a user named GeorgeWBush. Based on this alone it is not a blog. It is more like a rolling PR wire. It does not have comments, but it doesn’t link to outside sites like ABC News or the New York Times. However, I couldn’t find links to other blogs. I say this is clearly a faux blog.

Is http://blog.johnkerry.com/ a blog?
It is written by people like Dick Bell, Ari Rabin-Havt and others. They don’t seem to be edited (at least not heavily), and they have comments! Ding! Ding! Ding! Reverse chorological and linking to othersyep. So, this is a blog for sure.

(Note: I left the fair and honest part out of those last two to keep it from being emotional for some folks.)

What do you think makes a blog a blog? Have any examples of faux blogs?

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