My first interaction with the fascinating world of blogging was through my friend and ex-colleague Raza Ahmad who had initiated his blog on wordpress and I used to get SO amazed at how he ever finds the time to work fulltime, manage his very active social life in addition to ‘writing articles’, my first take on his very regular blogging. Little did I know that my orientation was to grow more with time and that the world of blogging and those of the bloggers is fascinating, addictive and a whole lot more! This post is just to give you an idea of what it is out there, from someone who has just stepped in this wonderland only recently.
So what is a blog in the first place? It’s a contraction of the term ‘weblog’ and is a type of ‘website’ that is either maintained by an individual, a group of like-minded people or even organizations. Many blogs are ‘theme-specific’ and provide commentary and articles on related topics while others can just be online ‘diaries’ of individuals. A typical blog would have narrative, images and might even have links to other related sites. What makes a blog more interesting is the nature of interaction with its reader: you can leave a ‘comment’ to share with the author what you feel about their post. Some blogs provide help and advice to those in similar circumstances and serve as discussion boards for key topics such as parenting. According to an Economist article, quoting Mr. Bhatia who helped start hotmail, ‘Just as everybody has an e-mail account today, everybody will have a blog in five years’. Need I say more…
Blogs come in all shapes and sizes. The collective community of all blogs is known as the blogosphere! Yes, it has a life of its own indeed, with its own set of vocabulary, search engines and the networks that connect the proud citizens of the Blogger-Land. Blogging is also termed as the easiest, fastest and the cheapest ‘publishing’ tool ever. There are personal blogs that are maintained by individuals, and are perhaps the most common kind. Then there are corporate blogs that are likely run by businesses, and then there are blogs by genre or types: travel, fashion, musical and ofcourse the rather widely known photoblogs. And then, lo and behold, there is even something called a moblog, a blog that is maintained via your mobile phone!!!! I even read a term ‘blooks’, books from blogs, and cheekily enough, there is a Blooker Prize for the popular books!!!
The west has experienced the strength of blogs in their political and public lives and there have been numerous studies and research to analyze how this medium is increasingly becoming popular with the masses. International media such as the CNN uses stories from readers/users who can upload their stories on the IReport link.
Blogging in Pakistan has seen an upward surge in popularity with the educated elite, with mushroom growth of many blogs in the last couple of years. Sites such as the wordpress have made it easier for upcoming bloggers to have their personal space only a click away. The scribe is but a prime example of the same! Of late, DAWN group of newspapers in Pakistan has also initiated its own blog space and a recent article on a subject as popular and controversial as the blackwater can attract as many as 77 comments! Alternate media is definitely here to stay!
Some skeptics might argue exercising caution in maintaining your own blog, as prospective employers might at some stage check your cyber content and may not accept your candidature as ‘appropriate’ based on your opinions cited freely and publicly earlier on. Bloggers of the world, beware! Your blog is now officially the window to your soul! Others might even question how much of cyber footprint are we willing to leave behind anyways, as the cyber social networks experience an exponential growth and as users increasingly become wary of over populated social networks.
There is increasing skepticism over the role of mainstream media and how our national media is increasingly resigning to promoting catfights among politicians and fuelling fights and grudges by highlighting pedantic issues with a potential to create disharmony among provinces (recent case of disagreement over citing of Eid moon is a case in point). So while we ponder over the importance of responsible journalism, perhaps it is also prudent to start thinking about the importance of responsible blogging as well. News, especially in a medium which is one’s ‘personal space’ and therefore can encompass biased opinions, false or inaccurate information, can also spread like wildfire. The domino effect of links and cross-links can be just as misleading on blogosphere as anywhere else. Granted that your blog is your personal space, but does that give an individual the right to air their opinion on any subject? In this age of information, and perhaps information overload, how does one go about ‘filtering’ the ‘right’ information? What remains ‘right’ in such an information-clutter anyways?
In the current crisis it is all the more important to share the image of an enlightened Pakistan, while all the others hear about are Taliban, widespread corruption, disasters and the ongoing conflict in the country. Our blogs must reflect our sense of responsibility towards building a better image for the country in these stressful times, highlight the earnest efforts of the few among us who still upload the sense of patriotism closer to their hearts. As Raza Rumi points out, ‘Fighting intolerance and forces of retrogression is of prime importance in these troubled times and nobody can do it for us. We will have to undertake this Jihad – albeit of another variety – ourselves!’.
There are two blogs that I would refer to my readers, who are doing their bit towards a more aware Pakistan: Dr Awab Alvi’s Teeth Maestro and Faisal Kapadia’s Deadpanthoughts. They are prominent among Pakistani bloggers for their genuine writing style and candid disposition. The duo has recently launched a podcast, a web-based media production so to speak, with a tongue-in-cheek name, ‘The Laidback Show’. I suggest you watch it on this link, as it opens new horizons to the alternate media in Pakistan. A candid, casual, open discussion focusing on the online community in Pakistan, its informal style making it most watchable….Not a single dull moment indeed! Although they can definitely improve on the sound quality and perhaps even on the duration of the episode itself. From what I can tell from the site they have received raving reviews already and there is great excitement on the second show, which is hopefully uploaded tonight! The Laidback Show only reinforces the belief that the social networks and interactions are only to grow, hopefully stronger and with a focus that gives a new gateway to the world into Pakistan: the land of promise. The show, due to its online presence and the medium of language, has the potential to reach out to the world and perhaps play its role in changing global perspective about the country.
I hope this post has given a fair roundup of the blogging 101 for Pakistan…that is, if you have had the patience to make it all the way down here! I am remembering Star Trek’s opening lines as they seem very apt for the Blogger-Land in which I am still trying to find my way around…
….the final frontier….to explore strange new worlds…to seek out new life and new civilizations…to boldly go where no man has ever gone before.