Over at Janet the researcher, in her post Blog, Website or Both?, Janet ponders whether or not to create a website for the business portion of her genealogy and historical research. Many of us, whether or not we have a business related to our passion of family history, will eventually find ourselves in a similar situation: we stop, look at what we've created so far (be it blog or website) and decide, "Is this the best way to proceed?"
Which Came First, the Blog or the Website?
From a technology progression, this an easy question to answer: the Website. We all know that blog is shorthand for "web log" and came about in the late 1990s during what I call the "Internet Renaissance" - the period after the initial explosive growth of the modern post-1990 Internet but before the advent of the Internet as used for social networking and leisure activities. As blogs started out more as a means of communicating news (in fact Wikipedia places the definition of blog in the journalism section), they are now used just as much to communicate personal journeys as well as knowledge.
But when trying to answer Janet's question or to solve your own puzzle of how to proceed, which came first for you? I'd venture to say that for most genea-bloggers, the blog was their first entry point in communicating their knowledge, research and journey of their family history. This makes sense since the concept of a blog really took off once interfaces such as Live Journal, Word Press and Blogger were developed.
Blogs Are Easier - Right?
Blogging applications made it much easier for us to basically create something akin to a website and allowed us to make it as customized and as personal as we wanted. Prior to the appearance of these programs, users either had to create a website by coding HTML or using complex programs such as Dreamweaver or they were left to use what I call "insta-websites" such as a free homepage on AOL or Yahoo which, while free, had many advertisements and were not as customizable.
Websites Are More Professional - Right?
But if you came to blogging from the other side of the journey like I did, having first created my own website, then it is easy to think that blogs are simply "fluff" or dumbed-down versions of websites. After almost a year of blogging, I've come to the conclusion that blogs can readily stand on their own next to websites and should be taken just as seriously. The problem is: will viewers of my blog see the format as "professional" if I were using it as part of my business?
Are We There Yet?
The answer is - we just aren't there yet. I think it will take time for users to realize that blogs are more than just personal diaries or soapboxes for people who need a platform to communicate their ideas and knowledge. Many still hold the view that a website communicates better in the business world and a business is seen as more legitimate if the web address takes them to a website instead of a blog. But as they say, the times they are a changin'!
Nowadays I often encounter websites that also have a blog attached - Ancestry Press is a great example. These business blogs offer a way to casually communicate to the visitor latest developments in a product, testimonials from clients, etc. On a website, this information would often be lumped under the FAQ or News sections.
Blogs: More Is Better - Right?
Another point in the journey that many of us reach, is the desire to create more blogs. In my case, my blog began as a means of documenting research on my mother's family, the Austins. However, over the past year, I've found just as much, if not more, information about my father's family, the MacEntees/McEntees. Would it be easier just to have two blogs?
Not necessarily - it would mean a duplication of many tasks such as customizations, modifying comments, posting etc. I've decided for now, that proper use of tags and labels can help my viewers find the information they need. I could also create a "quick link" at the top of my blog to go directly to posts about each family branch.
Realize that over time, your blog will evolve as it is guided by your needs. It may become much more narrow in focus such as on a certain period of time or a certain topic. Or it may become a catch-all site that is visited by many types of users. Either way, they key is clarity: make sure each person can easily find what they want through the use of those customizations that come with each blogging application.
The Two Roads - Considerations
Finally, what will it be for you? Here are some considerations to keep in mind:
- more personal
- easy to use and maintain
- informal communication
- easy organization of topics and knowledge
- possible revenue stream through advertisements
- community-oriented (easy to meet up with other bloggers who have the same interests)
- more business oriented
- formal communication
- more storage space for knowledge and information
- possible revenue stream (subscription fees, membership fees, product purchase)
- not taken as seriously by some as compared to websites
- has limitations in terms of customizations
- has limitations in terms of data storage (amount and format)
- easy to become cluttered and disorganized
- expensive (domain name, hosting, storage)
- requires technical knowledge to maintain (often hiring third-party to design and maintain)
- can appear cold and impersonal and sterile
In my next post, I'll talk about how I've decided to combine both the blog and website concepts together and what my next steps are in my Internet progression of my family history journey.