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Weblog

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The first use of the term weblog.

A weblog (usually shortened to blog, but occasionally spelled web log) is a web-based publication consisting primarily of periodic articles (normally in reverse chronological order). Although most early weblogs were manually updated, tools to automate the maintenance of such sites made them accessible to a much larger population, and the use of some sort of browser-based software is now a typical aspect of "blogging".

Blogs range in scope from individual diaries to arms of political campaigns, media programs, and corporations. They range in scale from the writings of one occasional author, to the collaboration of a large community of writers. Many weblogs enable visitors to leave public comments, which can lead to a community of readers centered around the blog; others are non-interactive. The totality of weblogs or blog-related websites is often called the blogosphere. When a large amount of activity, information and opinion erupts around a particular subject or controversy in the blogosphere, it is sometimes called a blogstorm or blog swarm.

The format of weblogs varies, from simple bullet lists of hyperlinks, to article summaries or complete articles with user-provided comments and ratings. Individual weblog entries are almost always date and time-stamped, with the newest post at the top of the page, and reader comments often appearing below it. Because incoming links to specific entries are important to many weblogs, most have a way of archiving older entries and generating a static address for them; this static link is referred to as a permalink. The latest headlines, with hyperlinks and summaries, are frequently offered in weblogs in the RSS or Atom XML format, to be read with a feed reader.

The tools for editing, organizing, and publishing weblogs are variously referred to as "content management systems", "publishing platforms", and simply "weblog software".

Contents

History

Precursors

  • Electronic communities existed before internetworking. For example the AP wire was, in effect, similar to a large chat room where there were "wire fights" and electronic conversations. Another pre-digital electronic community Amateur (or "ham") radio allowed individuals who set up their own broadcast equipment to communicate with others directly. Ham radio also had logs called "glogs" that were personal diaries made using wearable computers in the early 1980s.
  • Before blogging became popular, digital communities took many forms, including Usenet, email lists and bulletin boards. In the 1990s Internet forum software, such as WebX, created running conversations with threads. Many of the terms from weblogging were created in these earlier media.
  • Diarists kept journals on the Internet: some called themselves escribitionists. A notable example was game programmer John Carmack's widely read journal, published via the finger protocol.

For example, "troll", a term for a person who disrupts a discussion by posting messages to trick other users into reacting in hostility or aggravation, dates back to Usenet. "Thread", in reference to consecutive messages on one specific topic of discussion, comes from email lists and Usenet as well, and "to post" from electronic bulletin boards, borrowing usage directly from their corkboard predecessors.

Blogging begins

Blogging combined the personal web page with tools to make linking to other pages easier, specifically blogrolls and TrackBacks, as well as comments and afterthoughts. This way, instead of a few people being in control of threads on a forum, or anyone able to start threads on a list, there was a moderating effect that was the personality of the weblog's owner. Justin Hall, who began eleven years of personal blogging in 1994 while a student at Swarthmore College, is generally recognized as one of the earliest bloggers.

The term "weblog" was coined by Jorn Barger in December 1997. The shorter version, "blog", was coined by Peter Merholz, who, in April or May of 1999, broke the word weblog into the phrase "we blog" in the sidebar of his weblog. [1] (http://www.peterme.com/archives/00000205.html) This was interpreted as a short form of the noun [2] (http://www.bradlands.com/weblog/1999-09.shtml#September%2010,%201999) and also as a verb to blog, meaning "to edit one's weblog or a post to one's weblog". Usage spread during 1999, with the word being further popularized by the near-simultaneous arrival of the first hosted weblog tools: Evan Williams and Meg Hourihan's company Pyra Labs launched Blogger (which was purchased by Google in February 2003) and Paul Kedrosky's GrokSoup. As of March 2003, the Oxford English Dictionary included the terms weblog, weblogging and weblogger in their dictionary. [3] (http://www.oed.com/help/updates/motswana-mussy.html)

One of the pioneers of the tools that make blogging more than merely websites that scroll is Dave Winer. One of his most important contributions was the creation of servers which weblogs would ping to show that they had been updated. Blog reading utilities, such as Blogrolling [4] (http://www.blogrolling.com/), use the aggregated update data to show a user when their favorite blogs have new posts.

Blogging's rise to influence

After the September 11, 2001 attacks, many blogs which supported the U.S. "War On Terrorism" quickly gained readership among a public searching for information to understand that event; many new blogs in the same genre sprang up in this environment. By 2002, many of these were supporting the policy of an invasion of Iraq to remove Saddam Hussein from power (based on U.S. policy since 1998) and eliminate supposed stockpiles of WMDs. These "war bloggers" came primarily, though not exclusively, from the right side of the political spectrum, and included Instapundit. The term was later broadened to include all bloggers whose focus was the war in Iraq, which spread representation across the political spectrum. By the spring of 2003, Forbes Magazine used "war blogger" in this larger sense when listing the "best warblogs".

The first blog-driven controversy was probably the fall of U.S. Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott, who had remarked, at a party honoring U.S. Senator Strom Thurmond, that Thurmond's leadership abilities may have made him a good President. Since Thurmond had spent much of his early political career sympathetic to white supremacists, Lott's statements were conveyed in the media to be racist. In the aftermath, bloggers such as Josh Marshall strove to demonstrate that his remarks were not an isolated misstatement, by finding evidence including quotes from other previous speeches of Lott's which were taken to be racist. Their efforts kept the story "alive" in the press until a critical mass of disapproval forced Lott to resign his position as Senate Majority Leader.

By this point blogging was enough of a phenomenon that how-to manuals had begun to appear, primarily focusing on using the tools, or creating content. But the importance of a blog as a way of building an electronic community had also been written on, as had the potential for blogs as a means of publicizing other projects. Established schools of journalism began researching the blogging phenomenon, and noting the differences between current practice of journalism and blogging.

Since 2003, weblogs have gained increasing notice and coverage for their role in breaking, shaping, or spinning news stories. One of the most significant events was the sudden emergence of an interest in the Iraq war, which saw both left-wing and right-wing bloggers taking measured and passionate points of view that did not reflect the traditional left-right divide. The blogs which gathered news on Iraq, both left and right, exploded in popularity, and Forbes magazine covered the phenomenon. The use of blogs by established politicians and political candidates—particularly Howard Dean and Wesley Clark—to express opinions on the war and other issues of the day, cemented their role as a news source. Meanwhile, the increasing number of experts who blogged, such as Daniel Drezner and J. Bradford DeLong, gave blogs a built-in source of in-depth analysis.

The Iraq war was the first "blog war" in another way: bloggers in Baghdad gained wider readership, and one (Salam Pax) published a book of his blog. Blogs also arose amongst soldiers serving in the Iraq war. Such "milblogs" have given readers a new perspective on the realities of war. Reading the thoughts of people who were "on the spot" provided a supplement and perhaps a differing viewpoint to official news sources. Blogs were often used to draw attention to obscure news sources, for example posting links to the traffic cameras in Madrid as a huge anti-terrorism demonstration filled the streets in the wake of the M11 attacks. Bloggers would often provide nearly instant commentary on televised events, which became a secondary meaning of the word "blogging", such as "I am blogging Rice's testimony," i.e., "I am posting my reactions to Rice's testimony to my blog as I watch it."

By the end of 2003 top rated blogs Instapundit, Daily Kos, and Atrios were receiving over 75,000 unique visitors per day.

Blogging goes mainstream

In 2004, the role of blogs became increasingly mainstream, as political consultants, news services and candidates began using them as tools for outreach and opinion formation. Even politicians not actively involved in a campaign such as Tom Watson, a UK Labour Party MP, began to use blogging as a means for creating a bond with constituents and creating a channel for their ideas and opinions. Minnesota Public Radio broadcast a program by Christopher Lydon and Matt Stoller called "The Blogging of the President", which covered the transformation in politics that blogging seemed to presage. The Columbia Journalism Review began regular coverage of blogs and blogging. Anthologies of blog pieces began to reach print, and blogging personalities began appearing on radio and television. In the summer of that year both the Democratic and Republican National Conventions credentialed bloggers, and blogs became a standard part of the publicity arsenal, with mainstream programs, such as Chris Matthews' Hardball, forming their own blogs. Merriam-Webster's Dictionary declared "blog" as the word of the year in 2004. (Wikinews (http://en.wikinews.org/wiki/Blog_declared_Word_of_the_Year))

Blogs were some of the driving forces behind the "Rathergate" scandal involving Dan Rather of CBS and some memos used on the show 60 Minutes II. Within 72 hours a coordinated group of bloggers had built a case that they were likely forgeries. The evidence presented eventually created such concern over the issue that CBS was forced to address the situation and make an apology for their inadequate reporting techniques. This is viewed by many bloggers as the advent of blogs' acceptance by the mass media as a source of news. It also showed how blogs could keep the pressure on an established news source, forcing defenses and then a retraction of the original story.

Blogging is also used now to break consumer complaints and vulnerabilities of products, in the way that Usenet and email lists once were. One such example is accusations about vulnerability of Kryptonite 2000 locks.

Bloggers have also moved over to other media. Duncan Black (a.k.a. Atrios), Glenn Reynolds, Markos Moulitsas Zniga (a.k.a. Kos), Ana Marie Cox (a.k.a. Wonkette), and others have appeared on radio and/or television. Hugh Hewitt is an example of a media personality who has moved in the other direction, adding to his reach in "old media" by being an influential blogger.

In January 2005, Fortune magazine listed Peter Rojas, Xeni Jardin, Ben Trott and Mena Trott, Jonathan Schwartz, Jason Goldman, Robert Scoble, and Jason Calacanis as eight bloggers that business people "could not ignore."

The year 2005 also saw the introduction of the first qualification in blogging (http://sqacomputing.blogspot.com/2005/06/blog-unit-is-now-available.html).

Blogging and culture

Blogging however, was as much about technology as politics, and the proliferation of tools to run blogs and the communities around them connected blogging with the Open Source movement. Writers such as Larry Lessig and David Weinberger used their blogs to promote not just blogging, but more generally different social models. One of the running discussions within journalism and blogging is what "blogging" means for the way news "happens" and is covered. This leads to questions over intellectual property and the role of the mass media in society. Many bloggers differentiate themselves from the mainstream media, while others are members of that media working through a different channel.

Many bloggers have large agendas, and see blogging as part of Open Source Politics, or the ability of people to participate more directly in politics, helping to frame the debate (See George Lakoff). Whereas institutions see blogging as a means of "getting around the filter" and pushing message directly to the public.

Creating and publishing weblogs

Since their introduction, a number of software packages have appeared to allow people to create their own weblog. Blog hosting sites and Web services to provide editing via the Web have proliferated. Common examples include GreatestJournal, Pitas, Blogger, LiveJournal, DeadJournal and Xanga.

Many more advanced bloggers prefer to generate their blogs by using server-side web applications such as Nucleus CMS, Movable Type, bBlog, WordPress, b2evolution, boastMachine, Antville and Serendipity to publish on their own website or a third party site, or to host a group of blogs for a company or school. Such programs provide greater flexibility and power, but require more knowledge. If they provide a Web interface for editing, server-based systems make it easy for travelers to create and edit text; many travelers like to produce their travelblogs from Internet cafes while they travel around the globe.

In addition, some people program their own blogs from scratch by using PHP, CGI, ASP, Perl, or other server side software. While these are much more difficult to create, they add a maximum potential for creativity.

Two features which are common to blogging are "blogrolls" and "commenting" or "feedback."

A blogroll is a list of other blogs that are linked separately from any article. This is one means by which a blogger creates a context for his blog, by listing other blogs that are similar to his/her own, or blogs the blogger thinks may be of relevance to users. It is also used as measure of the number of citations a blog has, and is used to rank "blog authority" in a manner similar to the way that Google uses hard coded HTML linking to create "page rank." Still another use of the "blogroll" is reciprocal linking: bloggers agree to link to each other, or link to another blog in hopes of getting a link in return.

Another central, and sometimes controversial, aspect of blogging is the use of a feedback comment systems. A comment system allows users to post their own comments on an article or "thread." Some blogs do not have comments, or have a closed commenting system which requires approval from those running the blog. For other bloggers, including several very prominent ones, comments are the crucial feature which distinguishes a "true" blog from other kinds of blogs. Commenting can either be built into the software, or added by using a service such as HaloScan. If a blog has regular commenters, this is referred to as the blog's community.

Tools such as Ecto (http://www.kung-foo.tv/ecto/) and w.bloggar allow users to maintain their Web hosted blog without the need to be online while composing or editing posts. Enhancements to weblog technology continue to be developed, such as the TrackBack feature introduced by Movable Type in 2002 and subsequently adopted by other software companies (e.g., Userland (http://backend.userland.com/trackback)) to enable automatic notification between websites of related content—such as a post on a particular topic or one which responds to a post on another blog [5] (http://www.movabletype.org/trackback/beginners/). bBlog has gone as far as implementing threaded trackbacks on comments, and comments on trackbacks.

Blogs with features such as TrackBack are credited with complicating search engine page ranking techniques [6] (http://www.theregister.co.uk/content/6/33366.html) [7] (http://www.sixapart.com/log/2003/10/its_all_about_c.shtml). Integrating these into search engines has proven to be a challenge, and has been used to deliberately "push" page rankings. However, as one Google executive remarked, it is the search engine's job to find the ways that a website represents a "vote" for another website.

Web hosting companies and online publications also provide blog creation tools, such as Salon (http://www.salon.com/blogs), Tripod (http://www.tripod.com/), Bravenet (http://www.bravenet.com/) and America Online (http://hometown.aol.com/), which calls its subscriber blogs "journals."

Types of weblogs

Personal

Often, the word blog is used to describe an online diary or journal, such as LiveJournal. The weblog format of an online diary makes it possible for users without much experience to create, format, and post entries with ease. People write their day-to-day experiences, complaints, poems, prose, illicit thoughts and more, often allowing others to contribute, fulfilling to a certain extent Tim Berners-Lee's original view of the World Wide Web as a collaborative medium. In 2001, mainstream awareness of online diaries began to increase dramatically.

Online diaries are integrated into the daily lives of many teenagers and college students, with communications between friends playing out over their blogs. Even fights may be posted in the diaries, with not-so-veiled insults of each other easily readable by all their friends, enemies, and complete strangers.

Thoughtful

Where a personal weblog is primarily concerned with daily life and events, and many topical weblogs focus on some technical topic, weblogs in the "thoughtful" category present an individual's (or a small group's) thoughts on whatever subject comes to hand; not necessarily the latest computer technology or the latest political scandal, but typically less contentious and more philosophical subjects. Thoughtful weblogs of course blur into personal weblogs on one side and topical or political ones on the other, but are distinct enough to constitute a category of their own.

FriendBlog

A FriendBlog is a distributed networked journal on the web, composed of short, frequently updated posts written by friends connected through their similar interests. The author allows his FriendBlog to connect to other FriendBlogs, belonging to friends and acquaintances. This creates a "chain" of blogs.

Topical

Topical blogs focus on a specific niche, often a technical one. An example is Google Blog (http://www.google.com/googleblog/), covering nothing but Google news. Another example is a soldier blog. Many blogs now allow categories, which means a general blog can be reshuffled to become a topical blog at the user's need.

News

Many weblogs provide a news digest on a certain topic, e.g., Internet in China (http://china-netinvestor.blogspot.com/), Baseball (http://baseballnews.blogspot.com/), Norwegian News in English (http://newsfromnorway.com/) or Music (http://djmonstermo.blogspot.com/) with short abstracts/summaries and links to interesting articles in the press.

Collaborative (also collective or group)

Many weblogs are written by more than one person about a specific topic. Collaborative weblogs can be open to everyone or limited to a group of people. MetaFilter is an example of this type of weblog.

Slashdot, whose status as a blog has been debated, nevertheless has a team of editors who approve and post links to technology news stories throughout the day. Although Slashdot does not refer to itself as a weblog, it shares some characteristics with weblogs.

A new form of blog involves cooperation between bloggers and traditional media sources, allowing for topics discussed on the air to find legs on the Web, and vice-versa. The first and most prominent example of this form is Lone Star Times (http://www.lonestartimes.com), which is affiliated with Houston talk-radio station KSEV.

Partner (collaboration on multi-section documents)

A partner blog site has a parallel web page or wiki page. Consider the possible similarities between a blog site and a multi-section web document. Blogs are generally thought of as a collection of periodic postings organized by reverse date, each posting its own topic that does not necessarily directly relate to the last. An essay or any large document is also a collection of headings or sub-topics but organized by sequence so that each sub-topic follows from the last to form a coherent whole. An example of this partnership is Blog Study (http://blog-study.blogspot.com/), which has a sidebar link to a parallel web page.

At the blog site readers can use the comments link to discuss each section. The author or authors of both sites having the passwords to both would keep these two parallel, building on the feedback and re-weaving it into the section of the web page essay and re-editing the original blog posting. Revisions to the web page would come after consensus formed in the posting at the blog site. The web page provides a streamlined printout or reading without the distractions of the comment and date data. The comments section of the blog provides a way to track, remember and negotiate each heading section of the document. The web page also provides more secure control of the developing document than with a wiki, but slows down the evolution of the more comprehensive document. A troika partnership of web, wiki and web page is also viable. This has a wide range of uses for group editing of policy statements, manuals, and grant and curriculum development.

Political

Another common kind of blog is a political blog. Often an individual will link to articles from news web sites and post their own comments as well. Many of these blogs comment on whatever interests the author. Some of them are more specialized. One subspecies is the watch blog, a blog which sets out to criticize what the author considers systematic errors or bias in an online newspaper or news site—or perhaps even by a more popular blogger.

Political blogs attracted attention because of their use by two political candidates in 2003: Howard Dean and Wesley Clark. Both gained political buzz on the Internet, and particularly among bloggers, before they were taken seriously by the establishment media as candidates. Joe Trippi, Dean's campaign manager, made the Internet a particular focus of the campaign. Both candidates stumbled in the end, but were, at one time or another, thought of as front runners for the Democratic Nomination.

In 2004, the Democrats took political blogging a major step forward by creating Blog Swarm (http://blogswarm.org) to coordinate the hypertext links of progressive blogs. This allowed one blog to drive traffic by harnessing the power of a full blog array.

Educational

There are many educational applications of blogs. Students can use weblogs as records of their learning and teachers can use weblogs as records of what they taught. For example, a teacher can blog a course, recording day-by-day what was taught, including links to Internet resources, and specifying what homework students are required to carry out. This application has many advantages: (1) a student can quickly catch-up if they miss a class; (2) the teacher can use the blog as a course plan; and (3) the blog serves as an accurate summary of the course that prospective students or new teachers can refer to.

There are other educational applications of blogs. Students can blog an educational excursion, recording day-by-day (or hour by hour) where they went, what they saw and what they learned - including photographs, audio or video. The collaborative features of blogs can be used to permit several students to contribute to the blog.

Blogs can be used by a wide range of educational organisations. For example, SQA uses a blog to keep teachers up-to-date with new qualifications (http://sqacomputing.blogspot.com/). Will Richardson's blog (http://www.weblogg-ed.com/) is a compendium of useful educational blogging resources.

Legal

Blogs that discuss law and legal affairs are often referred to as blawgs.

Directory

Directory weblogs are useful for web-surfers because they often collect numerous web sites with interesting content in an easy to use and constantly updated format. News-related weblogs can fall into this category or the previous one (political blogs).

Media

Some blogs serve as media watchdogs, reporting on falsehoods or inconsistencies that are presented as facts in the mass media. Many media blogs are focused exclusively on one newspaper or television network.

Corporate

Increasingly, employees of corporations are posting official or semi-official blogs about their work. The employers however, do not always appreciate the endeavor. In January 2005 Joe Gordon was fired from Waterstone's bookshop in Edinburgh, Scotland, because he referred to his boss as an "asshole in sandals." In 2004 Ellen Simonetti, a Delta Air Lines flight attendant, was fired for posing in uniform on her blog. Perhaps the most famous case of all occurred when "Troutgirl" Joyce Park was fired (http://troutgirl.com/blog/index.php?/archives/46_Shitcanned.html) from Friendster because she discussed the rationale behind the website's technology conversion from J2EE to PHP on her blog.

Other employers have reacted differently. For instance, when Power Line bloggers were attacked by a Minneapolis Star Tribune columnist, one of the bloggers' employers came to his defense (http://powerlineblog.com/archives/2005_01.php#009119).

With the rise in popularity of blogs in 2004 senior management caught on to the trend and by January 2005 several types of organizations, including universities, had started using blogs to communicate with their stakeholders. Many believe this corporate takeover of a tool that was used primarily by Internet enthusiasts will lead to a decrease in the popularity of the medium. Others believe that the use of blogs by organizations will add new voices and vitality to the medium. At any rate, there is little evidence that the growth rate of the blogosphere has slowed. A prime example of senior management blogging is GM's Fastlane blog [8] (http://fastlane.gmblogs.com/), edited, among others, by GM vice chairman Bob Lutz.

In 2005 the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) published the guide How to Blog Safely (About Work or Anything Else) (http://www.eff.org/Privacy/Anonymity/blog-anonymously.php).

Advice

Many weblogs provide expert advice, such as Microsoft technical knowledge (GaryDev (http://blog.advisor.com/blog/garydev.nsf)) or fiction publishing for women (Four Chicks and a Book (http://www.codexwriters.com/4chicks/)).

Many small businesses are also using blogs to offer advice and better connect with their clients. These blogs are particularly prevalent in the real estate industry where agents typically have a great deal of flexibility in marketing themselves.

Religious

Some blogs discuss religious topics. Religious blogs show the public's points of view on various controversies both in religion and in politics, economics, and life in general.

Formats

Some weblogs specialize in particular forms of presentation, such as images (see web comics), or videos (see videoblog), or on a particular theme, and acronyms have been developed for some of these, such as moblogs (for "mobile" blog).

Audio

One of the types of blog that has undergone rapid expansion since the year 2000 is the MP3 blog, which make audio files available to the user. MP3 blogs are normally targeted at highly specialized musical genres, such as late 60s soul music or early 90s hip-hop or even the latest stuff in electronic dance music genres like grime. However, personal audioblogs are also on the rise (See also Podcasting).

Photography

The increasing ubiquity of digital cameras and broadband connections has made it ever easier to post and share photos on the web. Bloggers have adapted their software to facilitate the publishing of photos, creating what is called a photoblog. Photo sharing sites like Buzznet (http://www.buzznet.com) and Flickr have integrated the typical photo gallery service with photo sharing, blogging and syndication to create a new kind of social software.

Video

In January 2005 the first VloggerCon (http://vloggercon.blogspot.com) was held, catering to a new breed of bloggers, the video blogger. A vlog, or videoblog, is a weblog which uses video as its primary presentation format. Vlog posts are usually accompanied by text, image and additional metadata to provide a context or overview for the video.

Common terms

Blogging, like any hobby, has developed something of a specialised vocabulary. The following is an attempt to explain a few of the more common phrases and words, including etymologies when not obvious.

Audioblog
A blog where the posts consist mainly of voice recordings sent by mobile phone, sometimes with some short text message added for metadata purposes. (cf. podcasting)
Bleg
A blog entry consisting of a request to the readers, such as for information or contributions. A portmanteau of "blog" and "beg".
Blog feed
The XML-based file in which the blog hosting software places a machine-readable version of the blog so that it may be "syndicated" for further distribution on the web. Formats such as RSS and Atom are used to structure the XML file.
Blogfoo
Statements written with an air of generality while obviously pointed at a specific person or group of people.
Blog hopping
to follow links from one blog entry to another, with related side-trips to various articles, sites, discussion forums, and more.
Blogorrhoea
A portmanteau of "blog" and "logorrhoea", meaning excessive and/or incoherent talkativeness in a weblog.
Blogroll
A list of blogs. Usually a blogger features a list of his favorite blogs in the sidebar of his blog. These lists can be made dynamic using services like BlogRolling (http://www.blogrolling.com).
Blog site
The web location (URL) of a blog, which may be either a dedicated domain, a sub-domain, or embedded within a web site.
Blogsite
Sometimes confused with a simple blog or blog site, but a blogsite is a web site which combines blog feeds from a variety of sources, as well as non-blog sources, and adds significant value over the raw blog feeds.
Blogsnob
A person who refuses to respond to comments on their blog from people outside their circle of friends.
Moblog
A portmanteau of "mobile" and "blog". A blog featuring posts sent mainly by mobile phone, using SMS or MMS messages. They are often photoblogs.
Permalink
Permanent link. The unique URL of a single post. Use this when you want to link to a post somewhere.
Ping
The alert in the TrackBack system that notifies the original poster of a blog post when someone else writes an entry concerning the original post.
TrackBack
A system that allows a blogger to see who has seen the original post and has written another entry concerning it. The system works by sending a 'ping' between the blogs, and therefore providing the alert.

See also

External links

Additional information and statistics
Advocacy
Articles and books
Miscellaneous

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