Yet again today I was faced with confusion around the notion of calling your blog posts “blogs”. I have been thinking about the need to write it up in a blog entry myself for quite a while now because increasingly I seem to suffer from genuine series of misunderstandings when training, mentoring or simply chatting to people about blogging. I have also noticed that many fundraisers in the UK moving into digital tend to use the term “blog” incorrectly. That is if we assume that we should not call our blog entries “blogs”.
Just for example if you check out the website of one the leading UK fundraisers (and from what I have seen over at IoF National Convention a celebrity of this industry) Ken Burnett, you will see that he refers to blog entries as “blogs”. You can click though to his “blogs” (meaning recent blog posts) and you can subscribe to his “blogs” (i.e. blog entries) over e-mail. Please do not get me wrong – I do not intend to criticise Ken Burnett, I actually think his input into the development of UK fundraising is immense. What I am worried about is the vague social media terminology we seem to accept not even realising that it might not be correct. And if trusted people in a particular industry use this terminology incorrectly, we will see more and more young fundraisers using it the same way too.
The real problem here is the fact that digital, tech and social media – or whatever definition you use to describe new social web – bring a lot of new practices, tools and notions that we need to learn to describe in a consistent way. Blogging is not new, but it has been introduced to the mainstream media and many industries in times of Facebook’s and Twitter’s popularity so many new users (even if established voices in other areas of life) do not really understand the basics of blogging. On the top of that you will find that the social media marketing industry is not helping. We, social media practitioners, are focusing on even more complex topics and keep forgetting that we do live in our little geeky box – at least I feel this way. On a daily basis I work and live with people who ask me about various elements of the web for their daily work and passions. The more I do it the more I start to realise that we need to speak the same language instead of developing a new one.
What is the standard and the real meaning of “blog”, you will ask me. I could write a long blog post evangelising (preaching about) the correct meaning of the word “blog” but I am not a guru – I decided to ask some of the most established technology and social media voices in the UK and globally – just a few – to answer this question for me. I am happy to see they all agree with my take on the topic.
I had mixed responses from some of my friends and followers who joined social media spaces few years ago, like for example Patrick, though he later corrected himself:
Few people mentioned that the right to call a blog entry “blog” should belong to the author of the on-line journal. When I check the on-line versions of Oxford and Cambridge Dictionary I did not find “post” as an additional meaning of the word “blog”. “Blog” is defined as follows:
Now as a linguist I know that many words in our languages change with time. They adopt new context and move into new idiomatic expressions, but in case of “blog” vs. “blog post” we need to be really, really careful, because if we get it wrong we cause misunderstandings. The other day someone who does not blog at all told me that he published few blogs – which was really surprising, but only when I have received the links I realised that the person meant blog entries, articles written as guest blog posts. So I was continuing our chat basing my further recommendations on wrong assumption and instead of discussing guest posts I talked about blogging platforms and content aggregation!
I was told today that I am moving into dangerous grounds of yet another theoretical discussion about terminology. It is indeed difficult to decide what terms we should be using and how we should talk about our social media activities. I think however that some basic terms remain clear and obvious. The word “blog” was around for slowly 13 years, so I think it’s time to coin its proper usage. Instead of just taking a new word for granted let’s check how it’s used by the industry leaders – leading bloggers in this case. If bloggers know what a “blog” is, let’s trust them;)