Blog - which is short for "web log" - is a type of web site that can easily be updated by its author, making it possible to update it in real time from any Internet connected device, including a laptop with a wireless connection or even a web-enabled cell phone. It's also possible to include pictures taken with digital cameras or camera phones - again on the spur of the moment.
More important than how they are created is what they stand for in our culture. Although there are no hard and fast rules, blogs are typically very contemporary in style and may take the form of stream of consciousness writing.
They are also often interactive, allowing readers to chime in with comments. Blogs, says Dan Gillmor, in his new book "We The Media," represent an "evolution - from journalism as lecture to journalism as conversation."
The reach of blogs varies widely. A few can boast of hundreds of thousands of readers per week, rivaling mass media outlets such as local radio stations and newspapers. But most have only a handful of readers.
Unlike reporters working for traditional media, there is no pressure on bloggers to appear to be objective and there are often no editors, publishers or other checks and balances on the accuracy of the writers. But to say that all blogs lack credibility, said Gillmor, "would be like comparing all print publications with the ones you find on supermarket checkout stands."
Gillmor, who is also a business columnist for the San Jose Mercury News, argues that blogs are an important alternative to traditional media. "I think of the journalist contingent at these conventions as a combination of stenographers and critics. The bloggers effectively will be a new batch of critics."
Bloggers are, in a sense, citizen journalists.
David Weinberger is a freelance writer and self-proclaimed political activist who will be blogging the Democratic Convention for Boston.com. Weinberger does not feel obligated to provide "comprehensive objective news reporting of all that goes on because that's being done for us by the media." Bloggers, he says "are citizens who are going in order to report back what strikes us as interesting and important and in general to do that for people we think of as our friends."
Bloggers, said Weinberger, "are not broadcasters. It is a much more conversational media. People respond to blog entries in their own blogs, they write comments and write back. There is a lot of back and forth. This is not a voice that's speaking to the wilderness of masses of people."
Not all convention blogs will be run by individuals. Major media organizations, including the Associated Press, Chicago Tribune, and MSNBC will also have blogs, though they aren't likely to be as freewheeling as those operated by individuals. Some delegates are also expected to update their blogs from the convention floor.
Links to the convention bloggers can be found at CyberJournalist.net.
Bloggers are also expected to be credentialed for the Republican National Convention, set for August 30th through September 2nd in New York.
Reading blogs can definitely be an eye-opening experience but the best - and at times the worst - thing about blogging is that anyone can join in, even if you're short on experience and/or cash.
Blogger.com, which is owned by Google, offers free advertiser-supported blogging tools for anyone with web access. For the nuts and bolts of building your own blog, see my article
By Larry Magid