Cutting the mustard

Every now and then I’m prompted to revisit the question “What is a blog?”

I won’t rehash all my thinking here. Let’s instead consider the rather circular argument: a website produced with blog software is a blog.

This must be true in 99% of cases, though it’s quite possible to produce a site with blog software that is not intended as a blog. For example, I’ve published the Internet Newsletter for Lawyers using WordPress. This has all the trappings of a blog, but is intended and configured to be seen as a bi-monthly newsletter rather than a blog per se.

Can we say, though, that a website not published with blog software is not a blog? Of course not. It’s perfectly possible to produce a respectable “hand-crafted” blog. Charon QC did this quite effectively for some time. before taking my advice and moving to WordPress.

And it’s also possible to publish a blog with a more general CMS. But a blog is more than a bunch of articles managed latest-first by a CMS. You really need standard blog functionality for it to be seen as a blog. This means as a minimum: recent posts on a home page; navigation to post collection pages by month and category; individual post pages with commenting; and an RSS feed. There are many custom blogs that achieve this very effectively – national news media blogs in particular. But there are also many so-called blogs that don’t cut the mustard in my view, lacking one or more of these elements. And there are so many advantages to using standard blog software that you need a very good reason not to.

I’ll leave you to consider these two sites, recently submitted to the infolaw Lawfinder Blogs category. Are they blogs?

[Updated: Life and Death and Taxes from Leigh Sagar was a single news page of recent developments in trust and estate law, but, as noted in the comments below, Leigh has now – having read this post – set up his blog on WordPress.]

Mace & Jones’ Blogs – family and employment posts, navigable by author only.

4 thoughts on “Cutting the mustard

  1. Well, my site (updated…again) is missing at least one of those elements: navigation by category. Would it still qualify as a “blog”?
    I’m also not sure that recent posts have to be on a home page; WordPress 2.x software enables you to have a static page as the homepage, and put your latest posts on another (/blog or whatever). Does it become something else simply because of a difference in navigation/presentation?

    The problem [with minimalist themes especially] is unwanted clutter, and a ruddy great list of categories looks rather untidy, in my opinion. That is why, on, I’ve implemented drop-down categories/archives instead. On there, we categorise the posts according to subject-matter, so it’s very important to archive correctly. But I’m not sure it is as necessary on a personal/whatever blog to list all your categories/tags. Does anyone actually click on the category links? I know I don’t. If I want to find something on a blog, I’ll use the search bar or, possibly, the date archives.

  2. As you use blog software, I’m 99.9% certain you have a blog!

    I don’t wish to be prescriptive about what is a blog – in principle any online journal is a blog. But in my view, almost all so-called blogs that don’t use blog software fall short of what 70 million bloggers expect. If you’re the Guardian or similar, then you have the resources to successfully produce the look and feel using your own CMS. But others tweak some web pages or create a document category in their CMS called Blogs and succeed only in producing poor immitations. Not only do they not feel like blogs, but they also miss out on all the benefits of a standard blog service – automatic RSS feeds, trackbacks. Google juice etc.

  3. I am grateful for your message.

    Since I read it (I found from my stats provider) I have moved my show to WordPress ( It is much easier to use and works better than my own efforts, although I was enjoying the challenges of creating my own pages. I think it is also more effective.

    I have issues with using the WordPress site rather than taking their software to my own (which increases the costs); mainly the stats that are available.

    Overall, however, I am happier with the result.

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