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Blogs vs Forums

In my article, “Forums - Are They For You?”, I defined forums as an instrument used to communicate, interact and collaborate with others (examples include discussions, chat rooms, messaging windows, calendars). They save information posted on a particular topic (not in real time) for other people to see at any time, creating a discussion environment. Everything that gets posted can be read again and again.

In my article, “Blogs – A New Communication Tool That Is Growing in Popularity”, blogs were defined as collections of articles, ideas, news, facts, opinions or inspirations that are “posted” on the internet. They are usually structured, organized by category and are updated often, if not daily. The owner of the blog is able to control the content.

Similarities

With both blogs and forums, you can post a comment and reply to other comments, thus developing discussions. In both cases, you can leave comments which may or may not be moderated and you may have to identify yourself with a name and email address.

Differences

There are many differences and have been summarized in the chart below. Some of the information for this chart was found on: www.commoncraft.com/archives/000768.html.

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  Forums Blogs
Main purpose

Creates a discussion on a particular topic by allowing commenting of posts.

Posting or the content is the main purpose, not the commenting.

Discussion requires many participants Yes - forums are created for discussion between several people.

No - mainly designed for a single user input.

 

Control of content (Authoring of New Topics)

Decentralized, group.

All members usually have the ability to create new topics.

Allows for more emergent and unpredictable directions that may reflect the group's desires as a whole.

Centralized, personal.

New topics being presented by a defined and focused person or small group.

Focus

More unfocused - many contributors contributing user-generated topics (a wider variety of content) with differing viewpoints.

Forums tend to create much more content, and will pull in traffic on topics or phrases that never occurred to you.

More focused as blogs are written and edited by a single author (or a small group).

Replies tend to be directed more to the primary author.

Intent

Group input, decision making, collaboration.

Accumulates group input and facilitates collaboration and group decision making.

Personal accounts, news, reflection.

Trusted individuals provide accounts of events and information.

Chronology
(order and presentation of topics)

Posting of replies can govern the presentation of the originating topic.

Topics with new replies are often presented at the top (but not always).

Most recently posted topics at the top of the page, regardless of new comments.
Content organization
(How topics are archived and organized)

Discussions often presented in multiple places across the online community and are archived independently.

The member chooses the appropriate location to post a new topic, depending on subject matter.

Creates multiple “front pages”, spreading the presentation of new topics across different locations in the community.

Topics are all presented on the weblog front page and then archived into categories.

Each new topic is assigned to a category that is used to organize the topics for future reference.

Message length Many short messages. Used more for posting longer messages.
Responses “replies”
Participation is explicitly requested by the poster. A discussion is not a discussion without a reply.
“comments”
The author does not need further participation to reach a goal - comment if you want.
Personal connections Broader look at a larger number of members as they interact with one another in a group setting. Can allow online community members to develop personal connections with the webloggers relatively quickly.
Log in Yes No
Registration required Yes No
Communicate directly with other forum members online through private messaging. Yes No
Show who's online at a given time Yes No
Provide statistical info, eg, how many comments posted over what period of time. Yes No
Notification whenever new or updated content is posted No Yes
Pollution Control
(off-topic or inappropriate topics (or responses)

Must be managed closely to deal with spam or flames (see definitions below).

Not able to turn off replies, but do prevent problems with moderation of each new topic or response.

Can be unspammable or unflame-able by others without loss of primary value.

Can turn-off comments.

Ability to syndicate (republishing content from one site to another) content to anyone who wants to receive it . No, content is more “private” Yes, your content can appear on other blogs
Tools
(see definitions below)
Most forums have not integrated tools used in blogs ability to read and link weblogs together. They include: Trackback, RSS, Aggregation, Permalinking, Cross linking

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Definitions

Trackback

A system by which another website (usually another blog) is notified that their site has linked to it (usually within an article being posted). The objective is to notify the subject of an article that they have been mentioned in another article elsewhere. It allows a blogger to see who has seen the original post and has written another entry concerning it.

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RSS

RSS is a web content syndication format. The acronym stands for Rich Site Summary or Really Simple Syndication. An RSS file (or “RSS feed”) is a text file that usually contains details about the most recent entries on a website. It doesn’t have any information about colours, fonts, layout, or any other graphical issues. It’s simply text in a standardised format. The purpose of RSS is to makes it easy for one website to include a list of headlines from another, a process known as “syndication.” The second use for an RSS file is so people can read entries, or parts of entries, in an RSS news reader. These are programs you run on your computer. You tell it the addresses of RSS files you are interested in and it downloads them. The program then displays the entry headlines, and maybe their content, regularly fetching the latest version of the RSS file. People use RSS news readers if they like to read lots of weblogs or news sites because it makes the process much quicker — the person no longer has to visit each site in turn, the latest entries are fetched automatically, and the lack of graphics makes the process much quicker. You can read more about RSS at www.webreference.com.

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Aggregation

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An aggregator is a desktop or a Web application that can read and display several feeds in a single interface.

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Permalinking

A link to a specific article in the archives of a blog, which will remain valid after the article is no longer listed on the blog's front page (i.e after it has archived).

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Spam

'Spam' is unsolicited online messages generally of a commercial nature, usually delivered as e-mail (i.e. virtual junk mail). Comment spam however is when someone posts off-topic commercial remarks with links in a blog's comment section.

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Flaming

To 'flame' someone is to make a hostile intemperate remark, usually of a personal nature. A hostile exchange of views via the Internet characterised by highly intemperate language.

To see more blogging definitions, see: www.samizdata.net/blog/glossary.html.


Weblogs and forums are different enough to co-exist on the internet. Which one you may integrate into your business depends on your time, energy and purpose.

More information on:
 Blogs: Blogs – A New Communication Tool That Is Growing in Popularity
 Forums: Forums - Are They For You?

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