As someone who remembers what it means to ‘put pen to paper’, being asked to write for a blog at first drew a total blank.  Everyone has heard of ‘ blog,’ ‘blogger,’ ‘blogging’ and whatever else blog associated there is in ‘blogosphere.’ Yet, have we ever stopped to think what does this really mean? Why do we blog and who cares anyway?  Despite having written a blog or two, as I sit here wondering what I am going to write about next, I thought I’d delve into the world of blogs so that I can add creditability to the term ‘blogger’  after my name.  Who knows – I may even achieve the blogger’s A-lister status!

So where did it all start?

It seems if we are to understand the origin of the term, we begin with Barger’s term ‘weblog’ – or was it Merholz – who changed it to ‘we blog’ or indeed Williams and Labs – who shortened it to ‘blog’ and created the ‘blogger’. Whoever gets credit for the term, the idea has been going around since around the mid-1990s when individuals publicly documented their lives on an on-line diary. And it seems it has been growing ever more popular, with some 450 million of us – ‘active’ (i.e., not ‘dead’, ‘zombied’ or ‘sleeping’) bloggers – at least in English anyway. If we were to include non-English speaking blogs, one estimate claims that 1 in 6 people in the world have a personal blog.  A whole diverse industry has grown up around blogging.

So what is a blog and who is a blogger?

Simply put, a blog is a ‘simple webpage,’ that accommodates a discussion or information that is published on-line that has entries or “posts” generally organised in reverse chronological order, i.e., the latest post first. This information can be regularly maintained (or not), updated, shared, commented on (or not), can be presented in various media forms. It can be interactive, where readers can post comments, ‘like’, ‘digg’, post to Facebook, etc., and is includes many various design forms: generally all have text, others have art, music, photographs, film, etc.

Originally, many of the early bloggers provided commentaries on particular subjects, posted personal on-line diaries, documentaries of their travel experiences, some were daily news feeds, journals, etc. Since 2009, blogs have evolved from traditionally being developed by individuals to now ‘multi-author blogs’ or MABs as they are called. The world of the blog since then has entered the professional sphere where there are many authors who contribute to blog content, which is edited and managed professionally.  This would include major newspapers like the Guardian, and other news media like Sky News, universities, financial institutions, think-tanks, even some of the major churches, local politicians, political parties, and governments. Incidentally, Israel is regarded as one of the first national governments to set up an official blog.

Blogging can provide up-to-date content and is essential to feeding social media networks like Twitter, Facebook, etc.  The blog is able to overcome the space limitations for content in social media networks – Facebook it seems allows 440 characters and Twitter only 140. A blog allows for more detailed information and can also be interactive. But a blog doesn’t have to be lengthy, it can also be a ‘microblog’ which includes short posts.  Blogs are used for advertising products, services, business, there are ‘Edublogs’ to support students and teachers with even an Edublog award! ScoilNet publishes a list of blogging schools, teachers and selected organisations in Ireland. It also gives 5 reasons why schools should blog.

Blogging can support key information being brought into to public light. Mainstream media often makes reference to individual blogs and increasingly ‘experts are blogging and providing in-depth analysis to a whole host of topical issues around the world. Anyone it seems can be a blogger. It is increasingly becoming a necessity for the business sector. Worldwide, blogging has been an essential tool in publicising human rights abuses experienced under repressive government regimes.

Who blogs?

Whether you fit into or agree with the categories, according to number one blogwatcher Technorati, a blogger fits into 5 different categories:

1) The Hobbyist – who ‘blogs for fun’ with 60% of the respondents to the Technorati survey of over 4,000 on-line bloggers.

2-3) Professional Part/Full-Timer bloggers – This sector represents 18% of respondents, who claim to blog to supplement their income, or it is their full-time job. Generally, this group claim to blog about ‘personal musings and technology’.

4) Corporate bloggers – claim 8% of the blogosphere. This group are full-time bloggers or as hired as bloggers on behalf of an organization or company. It seems that technology and business dominates their blogs.

5) Entrepreneurs –13% blog as entrepreneurs or blogging for their own company or organization.

In the world of International Development check out Staying for Tea list  of the ‘Who’s who’ or the ‘A-listers’ of development blogging (main site

So what’s all this got to do with development education?

So here is where I get to the point. How does all this fit in with Development Education?  How do we, at value blogging?  Why do we feel that is it important enough to include a sizeable section of the site and our time to it?  If we look at the how we view the role of Development Education in Ireland in particular, we believe that values – (social) justice, respect for self and others, responsibility; communication, rights, critical thinking, shared understanding and action, engagement and commitment to change, etc., are fundamentals of the core of development education.

If we take human rights as an example, it is our duty as global citizens to be aware of our rights.  But tied to this are our responsibilities to ensure that we share this knowledge and understand the needs of others in relation to these rights. If we are in a position to support those being denied their rights, we should act on this.  Blogging provides a great forum in Development Education, in my opinion anyway, to learn more about and appreciate other cultures, religions, opinions, difference. It provides the space for individual voices from a variety of perspectives, cultures, traditions, countries. It provides a facility to learn, to understand and importantly, to tack action.

Take for example, Duncan Green’s From Poverty to Power blog from Oxfam.If we are looking at the advancement – or indeed regression – of the right, as civil society to freedom of opinion and expression, this is an excellent place to engage with up-to-date issues from a well-informed blogger.  The blog has an extensive discussion list of a wide variety of development issues and a great place to stop when researching development.  Incidentally, if you are interested in exploring human rights in Ireland check out the Human Rights in Ireland blog

As someone interested in issues on the African Continent, I enjoy the varying topics and opinions on the Africa is a Country blog It has a whole host of interesting information and viewpoints from music to politics to sport, to media – where else would I have come across the term ‘voluntourism’? (do check out this discussion) it would be interesting to hear your views on this).