Social Web/Blogs

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Blogs, Microblogs and Podcasts[edit | edit source]

In this class we will heavily use blogs and microblogs. They are a big help in documenting and in communicating. We may also record the lectures and post them on YouTube.

Blogs[edit | edit source]

In previous centuries, people wrote personal, private diaries. In our day and age this has become the public blog. The Wikipedia says that

"A blog (web log) is a personal journal published on the World Wide Web consisting of discrete entries ("posts") typically displayed in reverse chronological order so the most recent post appears first." [1]

The spectrum of blogs is very wide, ranging from personal blogs, corporate blogs and journalism blogs (’citizen journalism’ [2]). In the exercises you will learn how to write your own blog in case you haven’t started one already.

The History of Blogging[edit | edit source]

While the term "blog" was not coined until the late 1990s, the history of blogging starts with several digital precursors to it.

1983–1993[edit | edit source]

At this time Usenet was the primary serial medium included in the original definition of the Internet. It featured moderated newsgroup which allowed all posting in a newsgroup to be under the control of an individual or small group. In the early 1990s, when Tim Berners-Lee coined the term "world wide web" and defined the first standards for HTML and URLs, the specifications although included "USENET newsgroups for serial publishing and discussions."

1994–2001[edit | edit source]

The modern blog itself evolved from the online diary, where people would keep a running account of their personal lives. The first weblogs were simply manually updated components of common websites. However, the evolution of tools to facilitate the production and maintenance of web articles posted in reverse chronological order made the publishing process feasible to a much larger, less technical, population. Ultimately, this resulted in the distinct class of online publishing that produces blogs we recognize today. For instance, the use of some sort of browser-based software is now a typical aspect of "blogging". Blogs can be hosted by dedicated blog hosting services, or they can be run usingblog software, such as WordPress, Movable Type, Blogger or LiveJournal, or on regular web hosting services.

The term "weblog" was first-used by Jorn Barger on 17 December 1997. The (“more popular”) short form, "blog," was coined by Peter Merholz, who jokingly broke the word weblog into the phrase we blog in the sidebar of his blog in April or May 1999. Shortly thereafter, Evan Williams atPyra Labs used "blog" as both a noun and verb ("to blog," meaning "to edit one's weblog or to post to one's weblog") and devised the term "blogger" in connection with Pyra Labs' Blogger product, leading to the popularization of the terms.

After a slow start, blogging rapidly gained in popularity. Blog usage spread during 1999 and the years following, being further popularized by the near-simultaneous arrival of the first hosted blog tools:

Blogging combined the personal web page with tools to make linking to other pages easier — specifically permalinks, blogrolls and TrackBacks. This, together with weblog search engines enabled bloggers to track the threads that connected them to others with similar interests.

2001–2004[edit | edit source]

By 2001, blogging was enough of a phenomenon that how-to manuals began to appear, primarily focusing on technique. The importance of the blogging community (and its relationship to larger society) increased rapidly. Established schools of journalism began researching blogging and noting the differences between journalism and blogging. Since 2002, blogs have gained increasing notice and coverage for their role in breaking, shaping, and spinning news stories. The Iraq war saw bloggers taking measured and passionate points of view that go beyond the traditional left-right divide of the political spectrum. Blogging was established by politicians and political candidates to express opinions on war and other issues and cemented blogs' role as a news source. Meanwhile, an increasing number of experts blogged, making blogs a source of in-depth analysis. Blogging was used to draw attention to obscure news sources. For example, bloggers posted links to traffic cameras in Madrid as a huge anti-terrorism demonstration filled the streets in the wake of the March 11 attacks. Bloggers began to provide nearly-instant commentary on televised events, creating a secondary meaning of the word "blogging": to simultaneously transcribe and editorialize speeches and events shown on television. Real-time commentary is sometimes referred to as "liveblogging."

2004–present[edit | edit source]

In 2004 Merriam-Webster (Publisher american dictionary) voted Blog the "Word of the Year"

By 2010 about 8.4% of the german internetusers had their own blog. Worldwide there were about 200 million Blogs and min. 200 free bloghoster

Technical Characteristics[edit | edit source]

Software[edit | edit source]

Typical for most Weblog-Publishing-Systeme is that it is very easy to publicate websites using them. They are Content-Management-Systeme allowing you to create new content as well as changing and commenting for new and amateur users, without giving you a lot of variation in the Webdesign. Most the time the Design is only made once with the installation by choosing one of the Designspatterns availabe. Most Blogsystems allow you to change your Design later. You cann choose whether you host your weblog-software from your own webspace or you use it via ASP-service from a free or charged hoster. Most famous blog-softwaresystems are Serendipity, WordPress, Movable Type and Textpattern, mostly using PHP. The most famous blog-hoster are, Blogger.dom/, or

Elements[edit | edit source]


The articles,which are the main component of a blog,are called posts or postings. They are usually listed chronologically in reversed order.


All posts made about one specified topic inside one Blog


Many blogs give you the opportunity to submit your opinion on a topic. This comment is then placed right on the same page as the original thread. On most Blogs you have the option whether you want to moderate the comment or you want to show them by instant. Moderating helps to avoid Spam or vandalism.


A Feed holds the whole content of a weblog in a unified form. It can be read and subscribed to via a feedreader. Best known formats are RSS and Atom


The Blogroll is a linkcollection open to everyone which refers to other weblogs. Normally it´s made clearly visible on the mainpage and all subpages.

Tag Clouds

Tag Clouds list and prioritise the tags used in the Blog in a very visual way.

The Blogosphere[edit | edit source]

The blogosphere is made up of all blogs and their interconnections. The term implies that blogs exist together as a connected community (or as a collection of connected communities) or as a social network in which everyday authors can publish their opinions. Since the term has been coined, it has been referenced in a number of media and is also used to refer to the Internet. There is no Study that can show a global view over the whole blogosphere

About the Bloggers[edit | edit source]

  • In the german language area about 66% of all Bloggers are female but the men´s blogs are the more read
  • It´s nearly the same in the U.S
  • About 72% of the english-speaking bloggers write a personal Blog
  • Only about 28% write their blogs for the reason of commenting and giving Information. But they have the bigger audience and are the far more active bloggers

Blogging niches[edit | edit source]

Political blogs These blogs are often tied to a large media or news corporation, such as "The Caucus" (affiliated with The New York Times), "CNN Political Ticker", and the National Review's "The Corner."

Gossip blogs These blogs can greatly be attributed to the popularity of Perez Hilton, a celebrity and entertainment media gossip blogger. His blog posts tabloid photographs of celebrities, accompanied by captions and comments. Web traffic to the often controversial and raunchy Perez Hilton site skyrocketed in 2005, prompting similar gossip blogs, such as, Jezebel, and the Superficial, to gain popularity.

Food blogs These blogs allow foodies and aspiring chefs alike to share recipes, cooking techniques, and food porn, for others to enjoy. Food blogs serve as a sort of online cookbook for followers, often containing restaurant critiques, product reviews, and step-by-step photography for recipes.

Fashion blogs

These blogs became their own larger than life sub-community following the explosive growth of the blogosphere. Besides fashion news blogs, street style blogs have also become exceedingly popular. Many Bloggers consider updating their blog a full time job. These style mavens are able to earn considerable livings through advertising, selling their photos and even providing their services as photographers, stylists, and guest designers.

Health blogs These blogs cover health topics, events and/or related content of the health industry and the general community. They can cover diverse health related concerns such as nutrition and diet, fitness, weight control, diseases, disease management, societal trends affecting health, analysis about health, business of health and health research.

Political Impact[edit | edit source]

  • Human Rights Defenders especially in Iran or China write about censoring, human rights violations and the social or political states in their countries
  • Many politicians use blogs for their PR
  • Political bloggers like Alexey Navalny in Russia started to challenge the official pro-government media ending in Navalny beeing called "the man Vladimir Putin fears most" by the "Wall Street Journal" in March 2012

Legal and Social Consequences[edit | edit source]

Blogging can result in a range of legal liabilities and other unforeseen consequences.

Defamation or liability

Several cases have been brought before the national courts against bloggers concerning issues of defamation or liability. U.S. payouts related to blogging totaled $17.4 million by 2009; in some cases these have been covered by umbrella insurance. The courts have returned with mixed verdicts. Internet Service Providers (ISPs), in general, are immune from liability for information that originates with third parties (U.S. Communications Decency Act and the EU Directive 2000/31/EC).


Employees who blog about elements of their place of employment can begin to affect the brand recognition of their employer. In general, attempts by employee bloggers to protect themselves by maintaining anonymity have proved ineffective.

Political Dangers

Blogging can sometimes have unforeseen consequences in politically sensitive areas. Blogs are much harder to control than broadcast or even print media. As a result, totalitarian and authoritarian regimes often seek to suppress blogs and/or to punish those who maintain them.

Personal Safety

One consequence of blogging is the possibility of attacks or threats against the blogger, sometimes without apparent reason. While a blogger's anonymity is often tenuous, Internet trolls who would attack a blogger with threats or insults can be emboldened by anonymity.


Tim O'Reilly proposed the Blogger's Code of Conduct for bloggers to enforce civility on their blogs by being civil themselves and moderating comments on their blog. O'Reilly and others came up with a list of seven proposed ideas:

  1. Take responsibility not just for your own words, but for the comments you allow on your blog.
  2. Label your tolerance level for abusive comments.
  3. Consider eliminating anonymous comments.
  4. Ignore the trolls.
  5. Take the conversation offline, and talk directly, or find an intermediary who can do so.
  6. If you know someone who is behaving badly, tell them so.
  7. Don't say anything online that you wouldn't say in person.

Activity:[edit | edit source]

  1. Take a look at some popular blogs and judge for yourself: Blogbar, Bildblog, Spreeblick, Basicthinking, Schockwellenreiter, Ehrensenf, Netzpolitik, Fefes Blog taken from [3].
  2. Use the blog search engine Technorati ( to search for ’social web’ or any other thing you may want to look for in blogs.

Microblogs[edit | edit source]

Microblogs are a relatively new phenomenon and are a special form of blogging.

The most famous microblog is Twitter, but also alternatives like Tumblr or Google Buzz exist. The main idea behind a microblog is to restrict the size of a message to 140 characters. This comes from its original connection to texting (SMS) [4]. In todays society with its general tendency toward information overflow this is a welcome trend. This is also why it is very popular with mobile devices.

Microblogging [5] is essentially a broadcast medium, meaning you write a message, which then will be broadcast to all your followers. It is not unusual that you also follow your followers. It can not only be used to exchange textual messages, but also links, images and videos.

In our class we will use it to primarily communicate class announcements.

Messages[edit | edit source]

Sent messages, sometimes also referred to as “microposts”, can either be public, so for the whole world to see, or private, i.e. only viewable for a specified group of people. Depending on the service used these options are either preset, or can be changed in settings. As an example, when using twitter all your posts are public, while in Facebook you are able to decide for yourself with whom you’re going to share your news. You can even change publicity settings for every post individually right before sending.

Microblog messages can be submitted via SMS, instant messengers, e-mail, digital audio or simply typed straight into the web interface, and will then be sent out by the service of your choice. One aspect that made microblogs popular as they are today for sure is mobility. Not being bound to a computer and instead being able to send out your message the moment you feel the need to has been one of the biggest selling points since the beginning. So it’s no big surprise that, when microblogs first became popular, one of the most common ways to submit messages was via SMS. And that however is the origin of the microblogs length restrictions, adjusting the size of microposts to traditional text messages. An additional theory says another reason of choosing the length of the traditional SMS was that people are used to consuming these short texts quickly and so would more easily adopt the new online equivalent.

Nowadays clearly the most popular method of submitting is through the use of service-specific smartphone applications. Being able to quickly share messages, and pictures about events, experiences or whatever as they’re happening is what really makes up the charm.

History[edit | edit source]

The first microblogs documented were known as tublelogs, and weren’t actually microblogs as we know them today. Moreover they were based on using the regular blog services, but instead of long meaningful posts they were simply being filled with hundreds of short, sometimes seeming randomly put together, text messages about the authors life, certain events or just about anything imaginable. From that example emerged basically all the microblog services we know today. In fact the idea was spreading like a wildfire so that by May 2007 there already existed 111 microblogging sites.

Founded in March 2006, Twitter is today’s most popular pure microblog service, but also Tumblr, which is focused on posting an collecting pictures, is enjoying great popularity. But also social networks contain micropost features, usually referred to as “status update”. The most popular representatives here are Facebook and Google+. Twitter is sometimes being referred to as some type of time shifted instant messaging, since it doesn’t require you to be online and allows you to filter whose posts you want to receive.

The posts content comes from a wide range of topics covering probably every aspect of life. The most popular and posted about are personal actions and interests as well as occurring events, be it organized or natural. Beyond that microblogs are also commonly used for communication and basic conversation. People share ideas with others of the same interests, concerns or professions.

Criticism[edit | edit source]

Critics say that the majority of microposts being sent only contain dull, meaningless messages documenting people eating, waiting, etc… But opposing this argument, it’s not every bit of information sent through these channels that is important, but the potential it has in general. For example it is the fastest way to spread news nowadays. In recent events there occurred several natural catastrophes and the first reports about what’s happening always reached people via twitter being posted by random people experiencing said events at the very moment. And that’s long before news stations were able to produce and publish/send their first reports.

Other services[edit | edit source]

There are a huge number of microblogging services similar to the ones mentioned above. Additionally there are free software packages that can be used to implement microblogging services inside a private network. The most popular ones here are and, which are often used by companies to set up a new channel for intern communication.

Services like Lifestream and Profilactic will aggregate microblogs from multiple social networks into a single list, while will send out your microblog to multiple networks and services.

Usage[edit | edit source]

As recent studies have shown 10% of Twitter users account for 86% of all activity on the network. Marketers running commercial microblogs for promotion of products, websites or simply their brand seem to be much more active and follow a lot more people than noncommercial equivalents.

Video[edit | edit source]

Finally for everyone interested in more about microblogs I’d like to recommend the video “Twitter in Plain English”, where the phenomenon of Twitter gets explained easily understandable for everyone.

Podcasts[edit | edit source]

A podcast is a type of digital media consisting of an episodic series of audio or video files subscribed to and downloaded through web syndication or streamed online to a computer or mobile device. The word is a neologism derived from "broadcast" and "pod" from the success of the iPod, as podcasts are often listened to on portable media players.

Variants:[edit | edit source]

Video podcast: The same as a normal podcast, but it includes video.

Podcast novels: A podcast novel is a mix of the traditional podcast and a format called audiobook. It’s like a traditional novel but it’s delivered via RSS. The recording process is made continuously. Every time an episode is done it will be released online. Podcast novels are distributed over the Internet, commonly on a weblog.

Enhanced podcast: Enhanced podcast is also an expansion of the traditional podcast format. It includes some extra information like images displayed simultaneously. Links are also allowed to provide extra information and content.

Platform:[edit | edit source]

The most used platform is called iTunes. iTunes is a media player computer program, used for playing, downloading, saving, and organizing digital music content and video files on personal computers. It can also manage contents on iDevices. Other software not that popular is also available for different platforms. A list can be viewed on:

Most popular Podcasts in Germany:[edit | edit source]

The most popular podcast(audio) on iTunes is actual because of the european championship, Jogis Jungs provided by SWR 3, a bavarian radio station. 2nd is Quarks and Co(video podcast) a scientific TV format explaining the world from the eyes of a scientist. 3rd is Wissen macht Ah! the same format like the previous one from Westdeutscher Rundfunk.

Let's Play[edit | edit source]

'Let's Play' is a form of 'User Generated Content' (UGC) like screenshots or videos showing people playing a video game

Presentation[edit | edit source]

It's up to the player to decide on how to present the gaming session. [6]
When using screenshots the presentation is done in a text form. The end result is quite similar to ordinary blogs or reviews.
Presentation by video offers more opportunities. The player may opt between recodring his own voice of comment the video with captions.
Some players use both methods, audio for their own comments and captions as a comical relief. [7]
If the player wants to reach an international audience using the english language is a must. There are however players that limit themself to an audience speaking the same language.[8]
Sometimes distinguishing a 'Let's play' from a video blog isn't that easy. Some players add personal information in their videos or create a distinct series for this. [9]

Attractivity[edit | edit source]

People watch 'Let's plays' out of different reason.[10]

Experience[edit | edit source]

The skill level among a player base differs greatly. Some may have difficulties with the game mechanics and so may not be able to experience some content of the game. Others may not have to time or patience for challenging different story lines. 'let's plays' offers these people an opportunity to experience this content.

Availability[edit | edit source]

The Audience gets the opportunity to see games that are no longer available on the local market or never have been available. The audience might also us the 'let's play' to decide if they want to purchase the game or not.

Comfort[edit | edit source]

It's easier for the audience to integrate a 'let's play' in their schedule. Some games don't allow the player to save the game at any place. The gamer has to advance to the next savepoint if he doesn't want to lose the achievements he made in the meantime. A video however can be paused anytime and be resumed later.

Distribution[edit | edit source]

Apart from recording a video and uploading it to video sharing services like youtube there is the possibility using a live stream. One of the most widely used services is which is specialised in streaming video games. [11]
Youtube stated that 'let's plays' and 'walkthroughs' make out nearly 50% of their videos.[12]

Popularity[edit | edit source]

The number of subscribers of some 'let's players' now exceed the one of contemporary pop-stars [13] end reaches two-digit millions. Success however is not guaranteed. Success is determined by how good you can present yourself and how skilled you are with the creating and editing videos. [14]

Economic Aspects[edit | edit source]

'Let's plays' offer the opportunity to earn money.[15] In addition to earnings from ads services like offer further opportunities like subscriptions [16] or donations.

The market in between has reached a size that makes it attractive to corporations. was bought by Amazon for over 900 million US dollars.[17]
PC hardware manufacturers tweak their products to match the needs of 'let's players' and advertise this.[18]
Game creators have mixed feelings about the topic. While some allow videos from their games [19] others try to prohibit this [20] or try to benefit from it. [21].
Some 'let's players' are directly paid by game developers or are supported otherwise [22].

Legal Aspects[edit | edit source]

In germany the legal situation concerning 'let's plays' has yet not been clarified. The content of video games is protected by copyright, there is however no clarification if a 'let's player' needs the agreement of the entitled person to create videos out of the game. You can be on the safe side of you get the agreement in advance.[23]
Some 'let's plays' are accompanied by commercial musics. Since this in most cases is a copyright violation service providers like are now blocking audio sections from affected videos.[24]

Assignments[edit | edit source]

Ex.1: Start your Blog[edit | edit source]

For your personal learning journal it makes sense to start a blog. If you already have one, and you want to use it that is fine. However, it may make sense to create a new one, just for this class. You may use any blog web site you like, only it should be publicly accessible, and it should allow others to leave comments. In case you have difficulties setting up a blog, check the ’HowTo’ pages. Note that your blog can be anonymous, but we the class need to know about your blog. My blog can be found under ’Social Web Ohm’ ( If you need more help, check out [25].

Ex.2: Micro-Blogs: Twitter[edit | edit source]

For communications relating to the whole class we will be using Twitter. Follow the ’HowTo’ pages and see how to set up a Twitter account. Again, you may not want to use your real name for it. If you have already an account, you are more than welcome to use that. I have set up an account for the class: ’@SocialWebOhm’ ( Make sure you become a follower of that account, if you don’t know how to do that ask a friend. If you need some introduction / help with Twitter reference [3] maybe a good starter. If your interested in some interesting Twits, reference [26] maybe interesting.

Ex.3: Podcasts[edit | edit source]

Read the wikipedia article on podcasts [27]. Find podcasts in an area that interests you and listen to one or two. Write about your favorite podcasts in your blog.

References[edit | edit source]

  1. Blog,
  2. Citizen journalism,
  3. a b The Ultimate Guide for Everything Twitter,
  4. Text messaging,
  5. Microblogging,
  25. Blogger help,
  26. 13 “Twits” Who Will Change Your Perspective on Reality,
  27. Podcast,

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