New Kids on The Blog
Alister Black looks at how weblogs are changing the face of the web.
The internet has a number of advantages over other forms of media. Whereas print and TV media is linear and one-way the internet is interactive and responsive. Furthermore, the internet is fairly egalitarian. If you have access to a computer then you can publish on the internet and potentially have access to the same audience as the far more established sites do.
At least that was the theory. The reality of self-publishing on the internet was that you quickly come up against a number of barriers.
- Technical knowledge. HTML, web design applications, uploading files etc can be intimidating.
- Time. Work, politics, family. Not everyone has the bandwidth to keep a site regularly updated.
- Money. Many services are free and you probably get web space free from your Internet Service Provider (ISP), but domain names and hosting need a little investment.
But as with many other things on the web technology has intervened to solve many of these problems. A new phenomena known as web-logging or blogging has emerged.
At its most simple blogging is just self-publishing on the 'net. It began with individuals who would simply keep a daily online journal of their thoughts and activities. Often these would focus on a particular interest, whether that is a political cause or stamp collecting.
It is estimated that a new blog is created every 40 seconds and blogging is now a key part of the 'net with up to half a million blogs in existence.
As this phenomena took off so technology became available which made it easier to produce a blog. The leading company is pyra, creators of blogger (http://www.blogger.com/) who provide free, but ad-supported, web space as well as the use of their technology. Using blogger you can type your blog entry directly via a web-site. It does all the html coding for you in the background, although if you do want to use fancy formatting you can add the tags in yourself if you have the know-how. The site is then automatically uploaded to either their website or your own web-space depending on the settings you have specified.
So you can self-publish without having much technical knowledge, the time you are taking is focused on the site content, not technical mumbo-jumbo.
In case this column is beginning to sound like an ad for Blogger, I would point out that this particular service has its drawbacks. Its very popularity has made blogger-hosted sites occassionally hard to access and update, as their servers have a tendency to crash. There are others who have similar technologies such as 'moveable type' (http://www.movabletype.org/), which is also free.
What has all this got to do with socialist politics? Well it gives us a weapon in the communication battle. You can get your message across instantly without the hostile middle men of the capitalist press. You can also instantly respond to your critics in the press or parliament.
An excellent example is the blog that Kevin Williamson is running for his Rebel inc. Cannabis Coffee Shop (http://www.rebelinccoffeeshop.com/weblog.php). As well as posting articles on the shop that have appeared in the press, he can instantly reply to smears and attacks that are published. People looking for information about the shop know where to go and all the latest news can be released via the blog and its related site.
There are more and more left-wing blogs springing up all the time. The outbreak of the Afghan war saw a plethora of pro and anti war bloggers slugging it out in cyberspace. Check out the links below for some blogs worth reading.
Here are some political blogs worth investigating: