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Blogs are growing. They are spreading across the Earth. And they're hungry.

But blogs, or weblogs, are nothing to fear. They're only hungry for information. In fact, teachers say blogs can help teenagers become better writers. Young poets, authors and movie or music reviewers can easily put their thoughts on the Internet for the world to see. And it's free.

But it's important to know a few things about blogs.

"Simply put, a weblog allows for easy publishing of content to the Internet. You don't need to know HTML or FTP [program codes]. You don't need a server, and in many cases, you don't need any money," says Will Richardson. He is the supervisor of instructional technology at a high school in New Jersey.

Richardson says it's easy to start blogging. "All you need is something you want to say and the time to write it. Basically, weblogs make Internet publishing as easy as sending an e-mail."

Blogs are making teenagers better writers too, says Anne Davis. She is a former elementary school teacher and an instructional technology specialist in Georgia.

Davis uses blogs to help students enjoy writing. She led a project where elementary students wrote current events blogs for high school students. Davis says it made a big difference for students to write for someone besides their teacher.

"Having an audience is an incentive to improve their writing. They left [the project] liking writing," she says.

Blogs are published on the Internet. Writers only need to fill out blank forms with information like news, stories, opinions or spiritual matters. Once the forms are filled out, users just need to click a button to get published.

"In five minutes, you can be on the web and have it done," Davis says.

Blogs are faster and cheaper than creating websites, she adds. It's so easy that anyone can update their own blog instead of asking a computer tech to do it.

But Davis says websites and blogs can work together. For example, school websites can link to classroom blogs that showcase student writing.

Blog technology was born in the late 1990s. Now, blogs are growing fast.

There are plenty of people sounding off about popular TV show and movies, sports, vegetarian diets, books and music. It doesn't take a web wizard to find these blogs, either. Just visit an Internet search engine and add the word blog to almost any subject.

Blogs are easy to start, but it takes commitment to keep one.

Davis says blogs are important.

"It's an arena where more voices are being heard. We have a need for that. It's blossoming away. I hope it's not a fad."

Advertising is another part of the blog world.

"Lots of people are spending many hours trying to figure out how to make money with weblogs," says Richardson.

Most free blog sites have banner ads. Peter Scott is an Internet project manager for a university library. He says some ads might be placed on blogs after a program scans the page and picks an ad that matches the content. If bloggers want to stay ad-free, they would have to pay for their space.

Getting Started

You'll need a computer with Internet access, a blog-hosting site and something to write about. Be prepared for blog readers to respond. Some people might be critical when they use blog message boards.

You'll also want a username and password, and an e-mail address for the blog-hosting website. Before you sign on, review the terms of service with a teacher or parent.

Blogging also requires basic Internet and typing skills. Anyone who can handle e-mail can create a blog. The big difference is blog writers should use proper spelling and grammar because their audience is bigger than a circle of friends.

Most blog sites and public Internet connections are free. Some blog sites include advertisements. Others are commercial free, but they have small annual fees.


How Blogs Work
Great introduction to blogging from the folks at HowStuffWorks

Blogging Secrets
Advice from successful bloggers

How to Start a Blog
Step-by-step instructions on getting started

Video Blogging
Learn how to create a video blog

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