Five years after setting up its first client web log (for Julia Darling), Cornwell Internet has finally taken the plunge, and set up a blog for ourselves: we promise to do our best to update it regularly. One of the first entries in it explains why Cornwell Internet needs a blog: the rest of this page (which was written earlier) explains why you might need one, too.
Blogging - keeping an online diary or "web-log" - is one of the great internet success stories. There are writers' weblogs, photo diaries, there is even an online adaptation of the diary of Samuel Pepys.
The first blogs were kept by internet enthusiasts, who used special software to maintain lists of links to sites and news items they had found interesting, with their own comments - which could be brief explanations, or could be long discussions. Now the term "weblog" is used interchangeably with "online diary" and people use them as such as well as the original logging idea.
A blog is a good way of getting people to make repeat visits to your site - if they find a blog that they enjoy reading, and know it is updated regularly, they tend to come back again and again. As Mslexia (the magazine for women who write) advised its readers:
"Offer visitors a nugget each time they come: background info, news, links, or perhaps a diary entry (see Julia Darling's inimitable weblog 'In Person'...)"It can also be a way of attracting the interest of people who might not otherwise visit your site - Julia Darling told us: "My mum said the web log had been quoted in Church Times!" More than just about any other bit of your website, a blog is very much what you make it. Different people have different reasons for wanting to keep diaries online - in this extract, Julia explains hers:
Apparently this kind of diary is called a BLOG... derived from web logs. Mmmm. One of the reasons I wanted to do it was because having had cancer a lot of people think that one steadily declines, which is not the case. My (breast) cancer was diagnosed in 1995 and I'm quite used to it now. I think of it as an incompetent kind of disease, that sometimes manages to rally a weak drunken army and to attempt to make an attack somewhere in my body. However, most of the time it lies about in a dirty heap snoring.
~ November 25, 2002
Julia Darling's diary was very personal and immediate, keeping her many well-wishers informed of her health: sections from it were broadcast as a Radio 4 Afternoon Play, The Waiting Room (adapted by Jackie Kay) on January 16th 2007. Nicholas Rhea's diary entries are longer and more formal, often illustrated with photographs. In this example he describes a cruise up the coast of Norway and into the Arctic Circle:
With three nights and two days at sea ahead, we cruised north, entered the Arctic Circle and eventually docked in Ny-Alesund on north west Spitsbergen, a mere 600 kilometres from the North Pole.
Ny-Alesund is as far as you get by ship as it is literally the frozen north beyond that. Here we mailed our postcards at the world's most northerly post office and wandered around the village with its handful of wooden buildings, the North Pole Hotel and scientific monitoring devices. Ny-Alesund has been designated a centre for Arctic environmental monitoring and research, and the Norwegian Polar Institute's Research Station was established here in 1968.
The earth around the settlement looks somewhat barren as the only vegetation is the moss-like growth on the tundra where the polar bears prowl. Reindeer and Arctic foxes also inhabit the area and we were warned to beware of the Arctic terns which are known to attack humans with white hair in the belief they are polar bears. We were requested not to wander from the settlement as there was a genuine risk from polar bears and indeed a girl had been killed by one about three years earlier.
With snow and glaciers around us, and temperatures just above freezing, we toured this lonely place - and found it fascinating. Here we witnessed the midnight sun and enjoyed 24 hours of daylight for the next four days.
July 31st, 2003
Your blog can be written by just one person, or opened up to a group of contributors: Diamond Twig launched its weblog as one to which all of their authors could contribute thoughts, or items of news, as Kath Kenny did in this entry:
Hi, Just a quick word to say that the launch of my second poetry collection takes place tomorrow evening (Monday, 20th October) from 8pm in the Tyneside Irish Centre, Gallowgate, Newcastle upon Tyne. Entry is free and it would be lovely to see lots of people there. The collection is being published by SAND press and is being promoted as part of the current Tyneside Irish Festival. So although you will have to pay for your own Guinness, once I've read a few poems from the book (which shouldn't take long) there will be some live Irish music to jollify the event.
19th October 2003
And it is flexible: as the contributors moved on from their initial Diamond Twig pamphlets, and many of them set up web sites of their own, the blog was re-branded as "Ellen's Diary".
If you simply like the idea of keeping an online diary, and nothing else, then we can talk to you about whether one of the dedicated blogging services would best meet your needs (maybe even for free). But if you would like a blog as a feature of your web site, we can help you integrate it into your site, so that the pages have the look and feel of your website, and make it easier for visitors to move on into the rest of your site. Our earliest blogs use weblogging software developed by Noah Grey, but since this is no longer being updated, we now start new blogs (including our own!) on the popular Wordpress software.
This also has a feature which permits visitors to the site to comment on what you have written: Teresa Nielsen Hayden says in her blog, Making Light:
Note: My readers are the best thing about this weblog. If you're not reading the comments, you're missing half the fun.
but the open nature of the comments facility means that it may be targeted by spammers, so we don't recommend enabling comments unless you are prepared to check them regularly and delete where necessary. The choice is yours.
We can set up a blog to your specification typically in a couple of hours (more or less depending on your precise requirements). We will help you with uploading images and making links if you want us to. And then you can blog from anywhere in the world, wherever you can find internet access. We get a real thrill when we read in our clients' blogs "I'm writing this in an internet cafe in Blantyre, Malawi" or "I'm in Rio in a long blue internet cafe full of young Brasilians gleefully playing computer games."!