Tuesday, February 28, 2006

A Good Yet Simple Explanation On How Blog Works

Here I would like to share a simple explanation on how blogs really work by Roland Tanglao from www.streamlinewebco.com . It was first published in Mar 2004 but it is still very much applicable to this day. All the savvy and techie bloggers certainly understand all this very well. But for majority others and newbies, this guide should help to make all of us better bloggers.


Summary of How Blogs Work in 7 Easy Pieces

Joe Blogger writes something and publishes it to his blog.
Joe's Blog system updates his site's HTML, updates his RSS file and sends a 'ping' message to the 'Aggregation Ping Server' indicating that his site has updated.
Search engines like Google and RSS specific services like Feedster, Technorati and PubSub periodically ask the Aggregation Ping Server, "Which sites have updated?".
Since Joe's site sends pings and has an RSS file and is easy to update frequently, Joe's search engine rank is higher than a 'normal site'.
Techie Teresa uses a program called an RSS reader to subscribe to Joe's site. The RSS reader checks Joe's RSS file for updates periodically (usually once/hour or once per day) and notifies her of Joe's updates. Teresa no longer wastes time manually surfing Joe's site. She just checks her RSS reader.
As a result, Teresa's information flow is more efficient and she can monitor more sites in less time.
Joe Surfer (who is not related to Joe Blogger) still can access blogs the old fashioned, slow and less efficient way using his web browser and search engines.


And here he continued for those who would like to know more the ins and outs of it.


Notes (for those who care about details):

This is typically done today using a web browser and clicking on a button I have generically labeled "Publish".

It will vary depending on the system used. e.g. Blogware and MovableType uses the word "Save" instead of Publish, Radio uses "Post to Home Page", etc. Most blog systems also allow you to update your blog via email.

Blog systems automate the creation of web pages, linking together pages and archiving old pages and creating and updating the RSS file. So bloggers don't think in terms of 'pages' or HTML, they think in terms of posts (short chunks of writing such as 'once upon a time...' because the blog system takes care of creating HTML pages out of multiple posts. This allows bloggers to concentrate on writing rather than technical site creation. There are other syndication formats. RSS is just the most successful. Atom is a syndication format that is new and gaining momentum.RSS was popularized by blogging but there is no reason why non blog sites can't have RSS files. In fact a lot of non blog sites like the New York Times, the BBC, etc. have RSS files as well.The first aggregation ping server was weblogs.com. Now there are many more such as blo.gs

It's more complicated than this. I have glossed over the technical details but that's what happens from a high level.
Rather than waiting weeks or days, to re-index a site, search engines re-index blog sites much more often (sometimes within minutes for Feedster, Technorati and PubSub) since they know right away when the site has updated. This leads to a more accurate search results and a higher search engine rank. So Joe's search engine rank is higher simply because he sends the 'ping' message and updates an RSS file without Joe having to manually register his site on search engines or hire an overpriced search engine optimization firm.

We recommend Bloglines (free hosted solution like Hotmail for RSS), NetNewsWire (Mac) and FeedDemon (Windows) for your RSS reading needs but there are plenty more!
If you want to make more money or care about getting the latest knowledge first, then an RSS reader (despite their crudeness; RSS readers and blog systems are at about the 'Visicalc stage' of evolution to use a spreadsheet analogy, the Excel of blogs and RSS readers will emerge in the future!) is an essential tool in your toolbox.

Blogs are normal websites. The only 'magic sauce' is the RSS file and the pings and the fact that blog systems automate the tedium of archiving, constructing HTML pages and linking them together. Otherwise they are identical to any other website so even people who don't know about RSS can access them and use them.

Don't forget to mention what happens when Teresa blogs Joe's story! ...

The story of the blog post now continues in a most important direction, picking up from when either Theresa or Joe make use of what they had found:

8. Theresa, on reading Joe's post, wants to make her own point, agreeing, disagreeing or just extending the original. She highlights some salient quote and clicks a 'bookmarklet' in her browser.

9. A window opens with the message area already filled in with the quoted excerpt and a link to Joe's post; Theresa edits this to make her point about what she's quoting from Joe.

10. When she clicks POST, Theresa's blog contacts the ping server as did Joe's, and that process continues as above.

11. Theresa's blog software /also/ pings _Joe's_ blog software, leaving a note attached to Joe's original post that now shows a short summary and links back to Theresa, and usually sends an email to Joe to tell him someone has continued his posting.

12. Visitors to Joe's site now see the posting, any comments left by visitors to his site, /and/ any 'TrackBack' pings leading to other blogs commenting on this post of Joe's

13. Google, on finding Joe's page, finds links to Theresa, and finding Theresa's page, finds links to Joe, thereby increasing the PageRank score for both authors as related to the current topic.

In the /future/, Internet searching will become more sensitive to frame and context, so if Theresa and Joe Surfer both comment, whether by TrackBack or by old-fashioned comments, the semantically sensitive search indexing robot may conclude that Theresa, Joe Blogger and Joe Surfer are all somehow related by this topic, and they are. The search engines will find all such clusters of commentary and will build implicit birds of a feather relationships, strengthening the relationships the more these connections are repeated.

These items 8-14 are what I whimsically call the "semantic mycellia", the invisible interconnections _between_ weblogs, connections hidden beneath the surface that provide a very rich information resource out of the relationships between the visible websites.


Happy blogging everybody.


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