Blog Primer: TICL Information Technology Committee

A Weblog Primer

by Matt Lerner
TICL Information Technology Committee

As part of the New York State Bar Association's efforts to expand its presence on the World Wide Web, the Association has created weblogs for its sections and committees. TICL has its own weblog located here. Like TICL's listserv and webpage, TICL's weblog is an information resource. This primer explains weblogs, how to use them, and how to read them in an extremely efficient manner.

As you will see, among other things, the TICL weblog is different from its listserv and webpage because the weblog unless a central location to engage in discussion. This feature is known as "commenting" on the individual posts. I encourage you to comment on the posts, thereby avoiding having TICL's weblog solely consisting of one author's posts and opinions. You can comment on each individual post by clicking on the word "Comments" at the footer of each post. Doing so will bring you to a template for your name, email address, web page (if you have one; not necessary to have one), and text of your comment. Your ability to comment on an individual post or many posts is unlimited. You can submit your comment by clicking on the button stating "Post."

You will also notice that the word "Comments" at the footer of each post is followed by parentheses with a certain number. The number in those parentheses indicates how many comments are currently posted for each individual post. The ability to comment on posts is but one feature of weblogs. The following discussion explains the others.

What are weblogs?

Weblogs are frequently updated webpages on which writers, known as bloggers, post brief comments about news items, interesting websites, and more. Weblogs are known colloquially as blogs among those who read them. Blogs dedicated primarily to legal content are known as "blawgs."

Blogs allow individuals to present ideas beyond the confines of the frequently stale news sources of which the general public has grown accustomed to rely. Their power to publish issues that the more established media outlets ignore makes blogs extremely powerful.

How are weblogs organized?

The content on a blawg's main page is displayed in reverse chronological order. An author's most recent "post" to his or her blawg will appear just below the blawg's banner (the blawg's name or description). Posts are the main part of a blawg's content. Generally, posts are brief summaries of a specific point or topic. Each blawg's post stands on its own as a discrete "news" piece. The post's content appears under its title that the author gives to that discrete "news" piece.

A post's content is usually in a digestible form, offering the reader direct access to the original source through a hyperlink. Generally, numerous words contained in the post are highlighted. These highlighted posts may link to the author's weblog, either his or her own or another, another website, a document, or an image. A post frequently provides a short analytical summary of a denser, longer news piece, linking to that news story. Here is an example of a post on our own TICL weblog: post.

Posts are also usually subdivided into categories. An author creates these categories and assigns them to a particular post for archival purposes. Posts can have more than one category. The category of the particular post will usually be indicated in either the post's header or footer. By clicking on the category for a particular post, you will be able to view all the posts on that blawg contained within that category. The posts within that particular category will be displayed in reverse chronological order. Here is an example of our own TICL weblog's Appellate Practice archive section. The archives section on TICL's weblog is located on the right side of the screen under "Categories."

Why Read Weblogs?

Weblogs can provide up-to-the-minute information without ever leaving your Web browser. Bloggers post important information throughout the day, and technology allows you to receive this update information without actually visiting the actual weblog page. This technology is called Really Simple Syndication, which allows you to receive feeds from a weblog without actually visiting each individual weblog. Really Simple Syndication or RSS for short, allows you to read limitless weblog posts from numerous blogs in one central locations. For example, you could have learned about Governor Spitzer's veto of Bill 06306 by simply checking your designated feeds on your web browser and reading the TICL post.

How Do You Read Blogs on Your Web Browser?

The newest versions of Internet Explorer and Firefox allow you to designate your favorite blogs and other webpages that have RSS feeds and read them right on your browser. Here is a step-by-step way to do so on Internet Explorer and Firefox.

Internet Explorer

The RSS feed feature is instituted in Internet Explorer 7. To designate weblogs that you want to read from your Internet Explore browser, go to "View" and choose "Feeds." The left side of your browser will now have a separate window that will display your feeds plus some pre-loaded feeds from Microsoft. This is the universal symbol for a weblog's or webpage's feed. Image

Anytime that you visit a weblog or a webpage that has RSS feeds, you can subscribe to that particular feed by going to the feed symbol picture above -- which is located on the Internet Explorer toolbar -- and clicking on it. When clicking on the symbol on the toolbar, you will usually be able to choose RSS 1.0, RSS 2.0, and ATOM. Whichever you choose, you will now see on the left side of you browser that you have subscribed to that particular feed. Once doing so, you will now be able to read feeds from that webpage or weblog without visiting that particular webpage or weblog.

Follow these steps to add TICL's weblog to your Internet Explore feeds:

1. Go to "View" and choose "Feeds";

2. Type" http://nysbar.com/blogs/TICL/" into your browser's search window;

3. Click on the feeds icon (pictured above) on your Internet Explorer toolbar;

4. Choose "Atom (new)" or "RSS 2.0";

5. You will now see a page of TICL Blog's feeds. In the tan box at the top, you will see an icon with a star and plus sign followed by the word, "Subscribe." Click that icon. A dialog window will appear that will allow you to subscribe to the TICL weblog. Click on the button stating "Subscribe";

6. You have now subscribed to the TICL weblog;

7. You can hover over the particular weblog or feed you want to read. When you do so, you will see two green arrows to the right side. By clicking on that feed, it will automatically search for updates on that webpage or weblog. You will then get the weblog's posts in reverse chronological order in the right window pane.

Firefox

I am extremely partial to Firefox's Web browser. Firefox has something called "live bookmarks." The concept is the same as Internet Explorer, but Firefox allows you an easier way to add webpage's and weblog's feeds to your Firefox Internet browser. The process of adding a feed is just a simple drag and drop process. Here is a step-by-step way of adding a feed as a bookmarks to your browser.

1. Type " http://nysbar.com/blogs/TICL/" into your browser's search window;

2. Go to the address window and double click on the feed icon;

3. A dialog window will now pop up asking whether you want to add this feed as a live bookmark. You can either add this live bookmark to your toolbar folder or to your list of bookmarks. I suggest adding it to your bookmark toolbar. In doing so, you go hover on the particular webpage or weblog right on Firefox's toolbar and a list of feeds from that webpage or weblog will appear. By adding numerous feeds to your Firefox toolbar, you will not have to visit any of those site, and merely have to hover over each live bookmark.

Going Beyond Internet Browsers: Reading Weblogs Through An Aggregator

Aggregators are just programs that collect feeds and allow you to read them; they share the same concept as the feeds explained concerning Internet browsers. Some aggregators require you to download programs to your computer, and some do not. An excellent, free aggregator that does not require you to download a program is called Bloglines.

Bloglines is a web-based news aggregator for browsing weblogs and other news feeds via syndicated feeds utilizing technologies such as Really Simple Syndication and ATOM. Unlike other feed readers that download posts directly to one's device, Bloglines is a server-side aggregation system, where blog entries are downloaded and updated on the server on a frequent basis.

Bloglines is free, but you have to sign-up to use it. Here is how to activate your account:

1. Go to http://www.bloglines.com/.

2. In the upper right-hand corner, click on "Register";

3. You will now be asked for your email address, password, to re-type your password, and your timezone;

4. After entering in this information, go to your email inbox and click on the verification link sent from Bloglines;

5. You have now activated your Bloglines account.

Here are step-by-step instructions to add feeds to Bloglines once you have activated your account:

1. Go to http://www.bloglines.com/

2. Go to tab on upper-left corner and click on "My Feeds" tab.

3. Left window displays the feeds you currently subscribe to.

4. Right window displays the feeds content.

5. There are tabs in window for feed directories and searching for feeds.

6. You can also use a "Subscribe to" button using the "Easy Subscribe Bookmarklet."

Searching for Particular Feeds

1. Go to right window and click on "Search" tab.

2. Go to the pulldown window that says "Search for Posts."

3. Change this pulldown bar to "Search for Feeds."

4. Type in your search terms in the search bar.

5. Click on Search bar.

6. On the bottom of each particular result, you can click on "Preview feed" or "Subscribe to feed." There are also "Matching Posts" to the right that you can click on.

Having Newsletter Subscriptions Sent to Bloglines

1. Go to the left bottom window to "Extras."

2. Click on "Create Email Subscriptions."

3. You must have Username in Bloglines.

4. Type in description of that particular email subscription.

5. When you are finished, Bloglines will create that particular email address.

6. Cut and paste the email address and use it for the particular newsletter and your subscription will now be sent to Bloglines.

7. You can even have listserv emails go to Bloglines.

Trying Out Sample Account on Bloglines

For ease of use, I have created a sample account for all TICL members to use. The account comes pre-loaded with some non-legal and legal feeds for you to look at. Here's how to access this ready-made account:

1. Go to http://www.bloglines.com/.

2. In the upper right-hand corner of the screen, click on "Log In."

3. In the email address section, type in: mlerner13@gmail.com.

4. In the password section, type in: "TICLCHARLIE" (all in capital letters).

5. On the left-hand window, you will now have two folders: Non-Legal Feeds and Legal Feeds.

6. You can expand each folder by pressing on the + sign.

7. By clicking on each individual feed, the contents will appear in the right-hand window.

8. If no content appears, that means that there are no recent posts to that particular blog or site. To read older posts, go to the pulldown bar in the right window and choose a time specification to look at older posts.

Conclusion

Once you get the hang of RSS and blogs, the concept will be second nature. However, sometimes the weird words and technical aspects can be a little intimidating. Hopefully this primer clears up some of the mystery. Nevertheless, please feel free to contact me if you get stuck or have a question. I will be more than happy to help out (mlerner@goldbergsegalla.com).