What is a blog?


Laura Roverts has asked me how I’d respond to Niels Lenderink‘s recent article where he asked “What is a blog?”

To me a blog is a candid voice, either the voice of an individual or a group of people, about an interest, a specialism or a project. Blogs, because they contain time-specific entries that are associated with individual authors, manage to document a process – or rather a process as a journey – much better than static websites. And because you know who-wrote-what-when, they bring an honesty and fallibility to the process of documenting that journey.

Photo above: In the 1970s and 80s my dad used this Eumig Mk 502D Super 8 projector to show us movies he took when we were kids. It now takes pride of place here in my office in Bermondsey, sitting beside the broadband router. London, 18 June 2012.

Blogs are usually better when they’re short but the ability to embed hyperlinks to other content means they can actually have tremendous depth. They usually perform very well in search engines, too, so become a really powerful source of content when looking for things. I navigate a huge portion of my work over the past six years via the Akvo and Movement Design Bureau blogs – it has saved me hundreds of hours of trying to explain stuff from the past. Indeed pointing someone to something you wrote four years ago shows them what you were doing and thinking about then. The quality of analysis and references and the ability of the writing to stand the test of time tells you a lot about the character of the writer themselves.

In life you can’t ever be sure which days are going to be really important and which days will be ordinary. And blogs are like that too – when you write them you don’t really know which ones will stand out as your most important work. And that’s part of the fun. Writing blogs can have a big impact on the individuals involved, because when you publish online, feedback loops become much more direct. Indeed, writing about people has an impact on them, too, and changes the dynamic in relationships. But more than anything else, seeing your own ideas there in public makes you self-aware and self-critical in a very positive way. People are able to define and assert their unique identity and talents – their creativity and imagination, their intuition, fallibility and sense of purpose.

Blogs only work if you write what you believe, or things that are really happening. We’ll all be able to tell if you’re just spouting what your boss told you to spin or promote. Later you may change your mind about what you said, and that’s fine too. In fact, that’s a cue to write the next blog, linking to the previous one.

Which brings me to the most important thing about blogs. They are unique snapshots in time, which have their own unique hyperlink. They are meant to live on, and shouldn’t be shut down or broken. They’re part of the story. So get blogging. Because one day you’ll be able to link back, and enjoy showing people the journey you’ve taken.

(I know that great minds have written on this topic – so please suggest good stuff to read on it, via the comments box below)

Mark Charmer is a co-founder and communications director at Akvo.