Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Is it a web site or a blog?

I noticed a little discussion over on Blogspotting over whether Blogspotting, which is a blog, can also be properly called a "web site".

Heather Green, in a post entitled "Empowering the Interviewee" says that "Blogspotting's Steve Baker is quoted, talking about how he publishes interviews and asks for input on stories. (Though they call Blogspotting a Web site and not a blog. Little odd)." My emphasis.

In fact, the NY Times article by Katharine Q. Seelye, entitled "Answering Back to the News Media, Using the Internet", does not refer to Blogspotting directly per se, but simply says "Stephen Baker, a senior writer at BusinessWeek, has posted not only transcripts from his interviews but also his own notes on his Web site, saying he likes to involve his readers in the journalistic process." My emphasis again. In fact, Mr. Baker's notes are in a Microsoft Word .DOC file on the BusinessWeek web site. Yes, they can be downloaded using a link given in a blog post, but the notes themselves are not in the blog itself. The NY Times article as no explicit references to "Blogspotting". The fact that Mr. Baker is not exclusively a blogger and writes for both the print magazine and the online (non-blog) web site as well, means that the Times is not necessarily implicitly referring to his role as a blogger per se.

Another way of phrasing that is that if you were to examine the RSS feed for the blog, you would not find the text of the notes. You would find many links, but would have to read carefully to determine which links referred to notes and the notes themselves are not in the blog.

Part of the confusion stems from the fact that BusinessWeek has chosen to mix both blog and non-blog content on the same web site.

The core problem is that there in fact is no solid technical concept called web site. If you dig through all of the WWW Consortium technical information, you find lots of references to web pages and how they can be linked, but there is no core concept of a "web site". In other words, it's more of an informal term. Not as loose as a pure marketing term, but the only thing that makes a collection of pages a "site" is that there seems to be some cohesion to the content, such as a common page layout, banners, menus, etc. In theory, you could scatter your pages with each on a different domain and still give that outward appearance of a "web site". As long as nobody carefully examined the URLs. And these days, mere users are not going to confuse themselves by trying to make sense out of the bizarre URL structures that so many "web sites" employ.

BusinessWeek does have a distinct domain name assigned for Blogspotting. Search for "Blogspotting" in Google and you'll see it: www.blogspotting.net. But, if you go to that URL, you will immediately be redirected down into the depths of the main BusinessWeek web site: http://www.businessweek.com/the_thread/blogspotting/. Gee, that sure sounds like we're now in a "web site" rather than a "blog".

BTW, the latter is not an example of a "user-friendly URL". Shame on BusinessWeek's technical team for not showing a little more respect for users.

Business week further clouds the issue of web site vs. blog by entitling their blog's main web page as "Blogspotting - BusinessWeek Online", explicitly informing the world (and the blogosphere) that this blog is part of the BusinessWeek Online web site. And the page layout (complete with its truly obscene level of unnecessary garishly graphic visual noise) is so similar between the blog and the rest of the web site, that no sane user can be blamed for thinking that they are all part of the same... web site.

I'd love to be able to refer to the Wikipedia for clarification of the terms blog and web site, but all of the blogosphere-related content on Wikipedia in an a state of disarray as competing factions continue to battle out what perspective to give to the concepts, terminology, and ideology. Sigh.

What is a blog? To quote the Wiki: "A blog is a website ...". The full first sentence is "A blog is a website in which journal entries are posted on a regular basis and generally displayed in reverse chronological order."

What is a web site? To quote the Wiki: "A website, web site or WWW site (often shortened to just site) is a collection of web pages, typically common to a particular domain name or sub-domain on the World Wide Web on the Internet." That seems to cover all of www.businessweek.com, including the web pages of the various blogs. Oh well, that's no help in dispelling confusion.

To be honest, sometimes it takes me a couple of seconds to visually distinguish a blog from a web site. If I'm lucky, they use Blogger or Typepad in an "obviously its a blog" layout, but so many times it seems that the graphic layout people are intentionally trying to blur the distinction rather than to emphasize the distinction.

As a result of all of this terminological and structural chaos, I'm afraid we really do have to excuse Ms. Green for her own confusion about terminology. But, we can't give her a free pass for taking the moral and technical high ground and insisting that the NY Times was wrong, incorrect, or that their usage (quoted above) was "odd". The NY Times did they practical thing, and avoided addressing the nuance at all. They wouldn't have been able to do that if Mr. Baker had been a pure blogger instead of a "senior writer". If he were exclusively a "blogger", they would have had to confront the issue head on. Maybe... maybe they were simply giving him some professional courtesy and acknowledging that real, profesionally journalistic writing has a professional status well above a mere "blogger". And, similarly, a "web site" is still considered (by some) to have a professional status well above a mere "blog".

-- Jack Krupansky


At 3:01 PM EST , Anonymous Anonymous said...

And all this matters because....?

Seems to me that it's topics of this nature that clutter the 'blogosphere', turning what should be a dynamic forum into yet another bogged down bloviation laden spitting contest.

At 3:40 PM EST , Blogger Jack Krupansky said...

Simply that if people can't keep their terminology straight for even the really basic stuff, how is anybody supposed to really know what anybody else is saying?

I can't imagine how keeping terminology straight would in any way interfere with maintaining a "dynamic forum" (whatever that really means).

-- Jack Krupansky


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