While we’ve reflected on whether we think our blog is working, we’ve never posted on blogging basics--so that is the focus of today’s post.
What is a blog?
According to Wikipedia, “A blog is a website...with regular entries of commentary, descriptions of events, or other material, such as graphics or video. Entries are commonly displayed in reverse chronological order.” Blogs can be written by individual or multiple authors. This HIV.gov blog is a team effort-- team members collaborate to bring government, public health, and new media perspectives to each post.
Blogs are usually informal--taking on the tone of a diary or journal entry. Some blogs are very personal, while others provide mainstream news updates. Most blogs encourage dialogue with their readers through the use of comments. Common Craft talks about the value of blog comments in their video, Blogs in Plain English: “Each blog post can become a discussion through comments left by readers. Blogs make the news a two-way street.”
What are some of the benefits and challenges of blogging?
Blogs provide opportunities for an individual or organization to share information and engage in conversation. Problogger says, “Whole blog communities have sprung up...putting people into contact with each other in relationships where they can learn, share ideas, make friends with--and even do business with--people with similar interests from around the world.”
For the AIDS community, benefits might include reaching your clients with important HIV information, like David Wessner’s blog, The AIDS Pandemic. Poz.com blogs are autobiographical stories of people living with HIV/AIDS. James Daugherty’s HIV and AIDS News provides up-to-date information, while chronicling his experiences living with HIV.
We recently spoke with Dr. Kevin Fenton, Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD, and TB Prevention. Dr. Fenton told us, “We are launching a blog to engage the public, our grantees and partners in exchanging ideas about HIV, Hepatitis, STD, and TB prevention and our efforts to reduce health disparities, increase program collaboration and service integration, and to enhance global efforts to control these diseases.”
While there are many benefits to blogging, there are also challenges. For one, maintaining a blog takes time (as a government blog, we go through an additional step of having our content go through clearance). And opening up your blog for comments implies a level of transparency that might be challenging for some organizations.
At HIV.gov, we try to be as transparent as possible and post all comments, as long as they are in accordance with our comment policy, which includes not posting comments that contain vulgar language, personal attacks of any kind, or offensive terms that target specific individuals or groups. We also do not post comments that are clearly off-topic or that promote services or products. Some of our greatest lessons and insights have come from people commenting on our blog.
Want to learn more about blogging?
As with most new media tools, we recommend getting your feet wet. Explore the blogosphere. Read blogs. Comment on blogs. Subscribe to some of the ones that you find interesting. As of June 2008, the blog search engine, Technorati, has indexed over 112 million blogs, so you have a lot to choose from!
The HIV.gov team has learned a lot about new media and blogging from Beth Kanter’s Beth’s Blog: How Nonprofits Can Use New Media, Katya Andresen’s Nonprofit Marketing Blog, Nedra Weinreich’s Spare Change blog, and Olgilvy’s 360 Digital Influence -- they recently wrote about blogging in the government, mentioning some Federal colleagues’ blogs, such as Secretary Mike Leavitt’s Blog and CDC’s Health Marketing Musings blog, written by Dr. Jay Bernhardt can help you determine if blogging is right for you or your organization.
If you decide to start a blog, there are many free services to help you get started. Some of the most common ones include Blogger, Typepad, and WordpressAs we mentioned in last week’s post, blogging has been an incredible learning experience for us. Whether you decide to start your own blog or continue to read and comment on others’ blogs, we’d love to hear from you!
Stay tuned for next week’s post when we conclude our three-part series on blogging--we’ll be speaking with three HIV/AIDS bloggers!