While consulting with clients new to SharePoint and how the robust functionality can empower their organization’s collaboration efforts, we are typically asked this question:  “What’s the difference between a discussion board and a blog?”

Well, that’s a very good question to ask and sometimes a little difficult to explain.  Why?  It’s mainly due to the fact that the technical functionality between a discussion board and a blog are essentially the same.  Both provide a platform for a user or users to post a message that other users can respond to.   However, there are three core differences that separate the two within SharePoint

Organization – A discussion board’s posts are typically organized by a topic.  The blog on the other hand is organized in a chronological format, with the posts assigned to a category

List vs. Site – In SharePoint specifically; a discussion board is a preconfigured List template.  On the flip side of that coin, a blog in SharePoint is actually an entire Site template.  The blog being a site allows a great deal more functionality, while the discussion board is limited because it’s only a list

The main difference:

Purpose – the philosophical purpose of a discussion board and Blog are very different from each other

A discussion board is used to solicit feedback from others and is a great tool for generating dialogue between users in a group.   Anyone can post a message and users have a platform to respond to each other in a constraint free environment.  We typically think of a discussion board as a conversational view of an email (think ‘Reply All’ here).

A blog however is intended for a specific person or a specific group to post ideas, thoughts, and articles.  Generally the posts are considered expertise (although an occasional rant) and visitors can comment on them.  A blog’s purpose isn’t to start dialogue, but is meant to deliver a message

Here’s an example that will put it in perspective

Scenario: We want to find out what my team thinks is the best place to have lunch on Friday

Discussion Board or Blog:  Discussion Board


Scenario: We want to explain why Just Fresh is the best place for team lunches on Fridays

Discussion Board or Blog:  Blog


Conclusion

As you can see, the discussion board and blog have some major conceptual differences between them.  Although the core functionality is similar (topic, post, comments) what sets the two apart is what you want to accomplish with them.  If you want to have communication between users about a topic, utilize a discussion board.  If you have a topic that you want one user to communicate to users, utilize a blog.  In the next article we will review the blog Site template in SharePoint and how it can be used in organizations