A blog is a website that allows a web author to simply and easily share thoughts and ideas with other web users. The word blog comes from weblog, which refers to a log of dated postings by a particular author or group of authors. Blogs can cover any topic or can just be someone’s daily, weekly, or occasional diary of thoughts and opinions. Blogs can be interactive when readers add comments and a discussion is created. Many blogs are topic specific, such as the SCOUTUS Blog or Smitten Kitchen. You can find blogs on almost any topic. Technorati is one of many directories that can help you find blogs that may be of interest to you.
You can also, create your own blog. There are many software programs and web-based blog hosting services, some of which are free, such as Blogger
. Blogs are created using a simple-to-use content management system that offers such features as organization of postings into categories, a calendar view of postings, password protected posting, file uploads, and comment moderation. If you do decide to develop your own blog, remember that the information you post can be viewed for a long time by just about anyone, including future employers.
is an example of a “microblogging
” service, because it allows users to share (or “tweet”) their thoughts, but limits them to 140 characters per tweet. Although Tumblr
doesn’t impose such strict limits, it is also considered a microblogging platform because users tend to be brief when posting content to their Tumblr blogs. However, some use tumblr blogs as "full format" blogs, and post opinions, criticisms and longer form articles.
RSS is an acronym for several phrases; the most common is Really Simple Syndication, but it is sometimes referred to as Rich Site Summary, or RDF Site Summary. An RSS feed allows you to track new content on a website or blog or to keep up with the latest news stories. An RSS reader or browser is required for you to read the headlines or updates.
For example, let’s say there are ten blogs you are interested in reading on a regular basis. It would take a lot of time for you to check each blog separately to see if anything new has been posted. It is much more convenient to subscribe to each blog’s RSS feed. Then, new content will automatically be delivered to your RSS reader, providing you with a one-stop shop where you can monitor all of the blogs to which you subscribe.
There are several types of readers and several ways you can access RSS feeds:
- An RSS aggregator or reader is a special software program installed on your computer. It provides a window on your computer screen so that each time a site to which you subscribe is updated, it displays a headline (called a news feed) and a short summary or abstract of the new content. If the headline is of interest, you may follow a link to the website. If you're not interested, you just delete the headline. An update is sent to your aggregator each time new content is added.
- Some browsers, such as Opera, Firefox, and Safari, have built-in RSS capability.
- Web-based readers, such as Bloglines or Feedly, allow you to check your feeds with your web browser.
- Apps are available so that you can view RSS feeds on your mobile device.
- You can also subscribe to services that deliver headlines and updates to your e-mail address.
Websites with RSS feeds usually indicate their RSS feed with one of the following icons:
Some websites also provide a selection of “chicklets,” or icons associated with specific RSS readers (see CNN's examples below). To subscribe to the feed, you would click the chicklet that corresponds to the RSS reader you use. Like CNN, some larger news sites let you choose to only subscribe to a subset of their feed, so you only recieve the information that will be useful to you.
There are many other sites that provide access to feeds, such as Newsisfree, Syndic8, and Feedroll.
If you have your own website and want to allow readers to subscribe to your content via an RSS feed, you can “syndicate” your site using services such as FeedBurner
. If you have your own blog, syndication usually happens automatically, so it is not necessary to burn your own feed.
provides an overview of how RSS feeds work:
Increasingly, web users are finding that social media sites such as Twitter can be used in place of RSS readers. Since many news sites and blogs tweet links to their latest posts, you can simply follow them on Twitter to keep track of new content.
A podcast is a series of computer files, usually in audio or video format, to which a user can subscribe via an RSS feed. It is helpful to think of a podcast as being similar to a radio or television series, but instead of having to remember to tune in at a particular time to listen to or watch your favorite program, a podcast is a program to which you can subscribe, and have each episode automatically delivered to your computer. An RSS aggregator that supports multimedia (also called a “podcatcher”) is needed to subscribe to and receive podcasts. iTunes is an example of software that can be used as a podcatcher. Other popular podcatchers include gPodder and Juice, and Stitcher, which also has a mobile application for smartphones and tablets. iTunes is also a good place to search for podcasts that might be of interest to you. You can also find many podcast directories on the web, including Digital Podcast and Podcast Alley. As with blogs, there are podcasts on almost every conceivable topic.
Anyone can start their own podcast. To create an audio podcast, you would need a microphone, a computer, and some kind of sound recording software such as GarageBand
(an application for Mac computers and iPhones), or Audacity
(freely available on the web for Windows, Mac, and other operating systems). You would then have to publish your recordings on the internet and create an RSS feed to which others can subscribe. There are many audio/video hosting services, such as iTunes
, that will accomplish both of these steps. BlogTalkRadio
is a service that lets you use your telephone to broadcast your own live talk show over the internet (no recording equipment or software needed). It then archives your talk show episodes as podcasts and allows others to subscribe.
There are differing opinions as to the origin of the word “podcast.” Some say it is a combination of the words “iPod” and “broadcast.” According to others, it comes from the acronym P.O.D., which stands for “portable on demand,” or “personal on demand.” This refers to the fact that podcast episodes are available on the web for users to consume at their convenience. It is important to note that you do not have to have an iPod in order to receive or create podcasts. Podcasts can, however, be downloaded to iPods and other mobile devices for listening on the go.
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