Blog Assignment
Politics 116
World Politics
Fall 2009

What is a Blog?

People read blogs for two reasons: to find information on subjects they care about that is not readily available from other sources and to share insights with others who have similar interests. Blogs, therefore, create and sustain communities.

As such, blogs have filled a void in the traditional information networks (newspapers, journals, and even books) that survive and flourish only with relatively large readerships. The financial demands of sustaining a large circulation characteristic of the traditional media often leads to a filtering process and a homogenization that often ignores the interests of smaller groups. The phenomenally small costs of maintaining a blog allows these smaller groups to communicate easily with each other, to share information, and to develop common interests. In a very short period of time blogs have emerged as a vital force in human affairs although their actual effects have yet to be fully measured or even understood.

I would recommend that a student maintaining a blog should choose a subject matter of particular interest to her. It doesn't need to target a wide audience. Indeed, that strategy is probably counterproductive--there are a very large number of blogs that already serve audiences that define themselves broadly (usually, ideologically). Intense personal interest will guarantee a sustained interest over the course of a term and will also ensure a readership of similar intensity.

When Evaluating the blogs I will pay attention to the following issues:

  1. Quality of the writing. Even though blogs are considered to be a "shorthand" method of communication, they still are judged by the clarity of the tought and wiriting that goes into them. Misspelled words, typographical errors, jargon, and poor sentence structure and grammar all indicate a lack of rigor and care. Poorly written entries lack persuasiveness.
  2. Depth of the research. When commenting on a contemporary event, an individual's persuasiveness is enhanced if the comment is informed by a multitude of sources. Most good blogs incorporate internal links to other sources within each entry. If a reader believes that the commentator has done her homework, then the reader places more confidence in the entry. All bloggers should maintain a "Google Alert" on their topic to make sure that they recieve a steady stream on news from a variety of sources.
  3. Diversity of readership. If no one comments on blog entries, then the blog lacks credibility. It takes quite a while for a blog to attain a degree of visibility. But if a blog attracts enough readers who regularly visit the blog, the visibility of the blog increases dramatically. Make sure that your friends and relatives regularly comment on your entries with intelligence and seriousness. Over time, others, more anonymous, will visit.
  4. Persistence. Readership of a blog drops off precipitously is the readership believes that the blogger is not commited to the blog. One needs to make at least three entries a week to assure readers that the blog is serious. Erratic or infrequent entries to a blog is the kiss of death for a blog.

Mount Holyoke College's Web Pages

MHC Web Journals

User Guides: Support for Blogs at MHC

Good IR Blogs

The Five College IR Blog

Foreign Policy Passport

World Politics Review

Web Sources

Problogger, "How to Write Great Blog Content"

wikiHow, "How to Write a Famous Blog,"

Susan Gunelius, "How to Write a Blog People Want to Read,"