29 May 2009

HEARD ON THE LISTS: Are Blogs Replacing Websites?

Barbara Keef [Windham (Maine) Public Library, USA] wrote the following on the LIBREF-L electronic list.
“At a recent local library meeting, the speaker suggested that websites were outdated and being replaced by blogs. The main reason for this change is that ‘People cannot interact and comment on a website. A website simply delivers information. If you are thinking about book groups or any kind of sharing of info, the blog is the way to go. Also in most cases it is much easier to add information to a blog site.’ Are websites being replaced by blogs? Pros? Cons? Comments?”

Scott Peterson responded, “It depends on where you draw the line at; many websites have comments/forums which allow visitors to post their input, such as Slashdot. Effectively these sites have been ‘blogs’ before the term became popular. On the other hand, a blog isn’t the answer to everything, nor does every website need to have a comment section. The assumption is that blogs/comments have the most current or relevant information, but a lot of the time it seems it’s more an endless opinion war. There are times I’d really prefer to read the information from a knowledgeable source than try and draw a consensus from pages of comments.

Dan Lester [Boise, Idaho, USA] had this to say. “Well, first of all, blogs are websites. Yes, they’re ones with particular software for a particular purpose, but that’s true of the website you call your ‘library catalog’ and the website called ‘Amazon’ and the one called ‘Susie’s House’o’porn.’ It isn’t really much different than fiction vs. non-fiction or a zillion other examples. But you’ll find those who think a blog is the way to go. Others prefer ‘forums’ or ‘boards.’ So, the basic question is ‘what is the purpose of what you want to create?’ And, you don’t have to have just one or just the other. Personally, I think you might want a semi-traditional (fixed content, updated as needed) with links to your library catalog website, a blog for what I’d consider to be ‘announcements on which people can comment,’ and perhaps a ‘board or forum’ for discussion on the book-of-the-month. Just look at all the options, join some sites if you’ve not already, and figure out what might be best for your need(s). And whatever the ‘answer’ is today, it may be different in 3 months or 3 years.”

Blogger (Librarian In Black) Sarah Houghton-Jan [San Mateo (California) County Library, USA] commented, “I think what is being targeted here isn’t really blogs vs. websites, but rather making sure that websites are more interactive. My guess is that this is what the speaker was getting at. That indeed is a trend, and an important one for libraries to pay attention to. But you don’t need blogs to make your website interactive. Anything will do it—a discussion board, community calendar, wiki, or just about anything else that allows the public to write content that is posted to your website. Blogs make ‘interactivity’ easy as they have a commenting feature built in. Allowing your website to be a two-way street is essential today. It is what our community expects. If your site is static with just library staff being able to post to it, you will lose a lot of your potential users.

Andrew Heiz [Flushing, New York] added, “As always when a new tool enters the toolbox it is thought that it will replace the entire contents. Web publishers have a new tool that allows a high degree of interactivity and flexibility, the blog. So that blog would be the tool to use if you want the commenting features you mentioned. But it won’t replace every web design tool available to librarians. A library may desire a certain amount of interactivity in their overall web presence. Blogs need a high degree of maintenance to stay current. While it is of little effort to update a web page or a blog, a blog is expected to be updated a minimum of daily and sometimes more frequently than that. A blog or web site is only as useful as the people who feed them. In the end whether you call your site a blog or just a site users will find their way to it if it is the following: current, accurate, easy to navigate, understandable, etc. In a nutshell blogs are not replacing web sites. Take away the personal blogs that are not relevant unless you are related to the blogger, the abandoned blogs, the corporate advertising blogs and I suspect that you’ll find an equal number of useful blogs and web sites.”

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