Sunday, March 13, 2005

Blogging 101: A Primer for Engaging the Online World

This is a brief, work-in-progress primer for Christians to learn how to engage the world through the blogosphere and other electronic communities. As you learn more about blogging yourself, please come back to this page and tell me what you’ve learned in the comments for this post.

What is Blogging?
The blogosphere is a community of "blogs" (short for web logs, or online journals) that discuss all manner of topics. By nature, blogs are interactive, making the blogosphere a dynamic social network based on ongoing conversations. Blogging is the habit of writing blogs, reading blogs, commenting on blogs, blogrolling other blogs, and all other tasks related to blogs.

Why Blog?
Because of the specific language, skills, and mindset of bloggers, they can almost be considered a unique people group, many of whom have never been reached with the redemptive message of Christ crucified and risen. Thus, here is an opportunity for believers to engage the world for the Gospel of Christ.

Furthermore, as recent incidents with Dan Rather, Trent Lott, and John Kerry illustrate, blogs have influence on the non-blog world. Because of the de-centralized, interactive, interlinked, iterative, nature of the blogiverse, new information and insights on issues can become instantly accessible. Ideas can be quickly tested, approved, amended or discarded. Facts can be quickly checked, verified or discredited. The same dynamic is applicable to many other fields than media or politics. The blogosphere is very close to a pure market place of ideas. It is a market place, like Mars Hill in ancient Athens that needs to hear the Gospel and an exposition of how to apply the biblical worldview.

Getting Started
First, do some reading. Read the “How to Start a Blog” series by Joe Carter at Evangelical Outpost. Read both the series and the additional links and posts at this page (in addition to providing great information, they also demonstrate the iterative nature of blogs).

Orangejack Blogging University is also a good primer and reference for blogging. It covers some more of the technical and marketing aspects of blogging, but is written at a level the rest of us can understand.

Scan the Samizdata blog glossary to get a sense for what all the jargon on blogs means.

Second, read some blogs written by believers. Some of my favorites include:

  • Mark D. Roberts: A pastor blogging pioneer
  • Evangelical Outpost: Joe Carter is a splendid writer and is very adept at applying the biblical worldview to the current events and issues of the day.
  • Stones Cry Out: This is a good example of a collaborative blog that looks at national politics from a biblical worldview
  • In the Agora: The “Agora” was the center of a cities commerce and public discourse in ancient Greece. This site offers both Christian commentary on current events and deep theoretical or theological treatises. I like this blog’s attitude.

Third, read blogs that pique your interest. Start your search at Technorati. We all have different areas of interest, so check the blogs that already cover your area of interest. If you can’t find one that does, congratulations, you have found an underserved blogspace where you can be a pioneer!

It is important to visit lots of different types of blogs to get a sense for what is possible with blogs, what people talk about, the kind of language and etiquette that is generally accepted.

Fourth, start a blog. It is a snap to get started. Most of the main blog creating sites offer free memberships and easy ways to get a blog on the web (I use Blogger. TypePad widely used as well). Start small and slow so you can get a feel for the mechanics of blogging, the requirements to produce quality, consistent content, and the stream of topics discussed on your favorite blogs.

Join the Conversation
First, pray. For wisdom, guidance, discernment, clear thinking, and good humor. Pray that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ. Pray that we will proclaim it clearly, as we should. Pray we will be wise in the way we act toward outsiders and make the most of every opportunity.

Then, keep up with other blogs. The blogosphere is a perpetually updated medium. You may want to keep tabs on a large number of blogs and other websites. That can get to be a little tedious and time consuming if you simply surfed to each site. Thankfully, most blogs and major websites syndicate their content, which means they provide a stream of updated content that can be read using a syndication reader. I use bloglines.com to scan the latest content from nearly 50 blogs and websites. It takes me about 2 or 3 minutes to scan the latest posts.

Finally, comment on others’ posts. This is an easy way to start developing content. You simply respond to what other people have already said. If you've blogged on the same topic, include a permalink to your post in the comments. Assuming you have something substantive and respectful to say, most bloggers will appreciate that you care enough to read and respond to what they say. It also helps you develop a name for your self with the given community. “A good name is better than fine perfume”.

I am praying for you. Please let me know of questions you have and your tales of engaging the online world for the Gospel.

"Paul then stood up in the meeting of the Areopagus and said: “Men of Athens! I see that in every way you are very religious. For as I walked around and looked carefully at your objects of worship, I even found an altar with this inscription: TO AN UNKNOWN GOD. Now what you worship as something unknown I am going to proclaim to you. "
Acts 17:22-23

4/1/05 update: I just came across a nice appendix for this post at Both Worlds titled Thoughts on Blogging and Writing. Texas Tommy says "check it out".

2 Comments:

Blogger Gritsforbreakfast said...

Serendipitously, my brother, a Southern Baptist preacher, asked me this weekend for advice on starting a blawg, and I turned him onto your primer. Thanks a bunch. Good job.

8:25 AM  
Blogger Gary B said...

Tommy,

Thanks for the link.

Yes, I do have several of the evangelical blogs you mentioned in my blogroll. I would like to see more blogs devoted to theology, not in a doctrinal way, but in a living, engaged way. Most evangelical blogs I've seen are either too dogmatic or focus on the cuture wars.

Thanks for the suggestions.

Gary

7:54 AM  

Post a Comment

<< Home