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What's the difference between a Forum and a Blog?

In a meeting today, I found myself explaining the difference between a list-serve and a blog, and a forum and a blog…

Once you get comfortable with the technology, it’s easy to forget what the view is from the outside. It’s confusing!

This is just a brief explanation of what came up in the meeting. I’ve found discussion forums to be the most difficult to explain. Please feel free to contribute, based on your experience.

List-serve: members of the list-server send in email, and the program sends copies of this email to all other members on the list. Often there is an archive of all email messages available to be read online, like a web-page.

Discussion Forum: a lot like a list-server, but all posts are made through the website instead of by email. Discussion forums are great for organizing discussions into topics an subtopics. Some allow members to have posts, and notices of new posts emailed to them.

Blog: This is like a journal and press-release software all in one. A good blog has a distinctive personality or group of personalities at its core. There is also a social aspect to blogs. Many blogs allow visitors to post comments. Sometimes long discussions can take place on a blog, but each topic is started by the blog owner. Websites and software called “aggregators”, collect the feeds (like an AP wire press-release) from many different blogs and list recent posts all in one place.


Howdy. Here's some of the words I've used for similar taxonomies:

Mailing list: Everyone receives whatever everyone else sends, so there's some social cohesiveness and mutual obligation. ("Trim yer quotes!" etc) Each person has to have a real email address to receive the messages.("listserv" is a type of software for administering mailing lists... "majordomo" is another.)

Newsgroup or web forum: These let you drop in and post, so there's less social cohesion than on a mailing list. (One problem is "drive-by posting", where someone will ask for something that's answered five times a week already.) Anonymity has traditionally been a problem, but more and more web boards and non-Usenet newsgroups are moving to some type of identity authentication as a result.

Weblogs: Information quality tends to be higher here, because each writer invests their reputation in drawing readers back.

For me, "anonymity vs reputation" tends to drive a lot of the overall social dynamics... the more someone invests in a conversation, then the more consistently useful that conversation tends to become.

Sound true to you...?


Kristin: In some cases, there isn't a difference. Take my newsblog, for example:


Yeah, it's a normal enough blog, standing alone with its own design and individual voice. But click the "comments" link on any entry and you'll find yourself inside the underlying JournURL News community, which is packed with posts from other folks' blogs, aggregated newswire items, and threaded discussion. (All of it is available via syndication, just like a blog.)

And while the News community doesn't have it enabled for casual users, it's also possible to subscribe to the community via email, and post new content the same way... which gives it the feel of a mailing list.

In a way, I guess you could say that one of my professional goals is to make such explanations at future meetings as difficult as possible for you. :D

Those of us already in a deep embrace with blogs are ready for all that blogs can be...but those still trying to get the picture need a simpler explination. But not too simple...they need a gentle introduction, afterwich we can introduce what wonders are possible :-)

Greg, over at SocialTwister has made some great posts about this issue: http://socialtwister.com/archives/000275.html

couldnt agree more, i find myself sounding very patronising when i try and get to the nitty gritty of search engines, emails and websites! never mind blogs and mailing lists!!