"In 2004, this word was the most frequently searched-for term in the online edition of the Merriam-Webster dictionary."
"Various studies show that Americans have created more than 8 million of these."
The question, Alex, is "What is a blog?"
At its most basic, a blog (the contraction of "Web log") is a personal journal in which the most recent entry is always at the top of the page. There are some good reasons for the explosion in the popularity of blogging over the past few years. The tools available are inexpensive and very easy to use. They make publishing to the Web simple for anyone, even if they can't spell HTML.
Currently, the most popular tool for creating and maintaining a blog is Blogger, part of the ever-expanding Google empire. All you need to get started is an Internet connection (even dial-up works well), 15 minutes, and something to write about. The service is free and can be accessed from just about anywhere.
Getting started with Blogger is a three-step process. First, you need to create a Blogger account. Go to www.blogger.com and click the button to Create Your Blog Now. The system will ask you to create a user ID, which must be unique in the system, and a password. You'll also need a display name for yourself and an e-mail address.
Next, you'll need to name your blog and give it an address. The name is displayed at the top of your pages and is also the title that users will see when they bookmark the page. The address will become part of the URL that people use to find you and will be in the form youraddress.blogspot.com. Both of these elements can be easily changed later, but the address you choose must be unique within the Blogger system.
The final step is to select the appearance of your pages. There's no reason to sweat over this part right now. During the initial setup, Blogger gives you a small choice of templates for your page design. You can choose a new one from a larger selection at any time. If you understand a little about HTML and cascading style sheets, you'll have the option later to modify your page in many different ways.
Click the button and in a few seconds your new blog will be ready to go. Now comes the hard part: writing your first post.
After completing the setup process, and whenever you log in to Blogger in the future, you'll arrive at the Dashboard. While there's a lot of information on this page, essentially there are two things you can do at this point: write a new post or change your settings. You could also set up another blog associated with your account, but one should be enough for right now.
Clicking on New Post takes you to an HTML editor, which unfortunately is the default setting. If you would rather not compose in HTML, click the tab for Compose to get an interface that looks more like your word processor, and even includes a spell checker.
Give your post a title, type what you want to say, and click Publish Post. In a few seconds, your thoughts are out on the Web for everyone to read. You can always go back and edit or delete them later, but considering the speed of the Web, review your words carefully before you click the button.
There is so much more to the world of blogging and many more features to personalize your blog in Blogger. This, however, should be enough to get you started. Now, it's time to think about creating your wiki.
Tim Stahmer, instructional technology specialist for Fairfax County Public Schools in Virginia, can be found blogging at www.assortedstuff.com.