Tag Archives: Internet

Alice in Blogger-Land

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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.

The ever expanding social networks in cyberspace: Devil’s in the detail!

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Way back in the early 90s, we were lucky enough to have one of the first few internet access in the country, courtesy my dad and his love for technology. I remember me and my brother would stay up late at night, learning and exploring the very interesting ‘internet’, and may I remind you that we were using windows earlier version which was not as easy as your Explorer these days. We would thrive on the sound of our modem connecting, and at a stage had even mastered the art of distinguishing a ‘good’ connection from a ‘bad’ one with the mere sound of the modem’s ‘tring tring screeeeeeeech….’. We had to patiently wait for all the pictures to be downloaded before we were able to view the full page. I recall my first interaction with a social networking tool, the mIRC (internet relay chat) which seemed fascinating at that time (and utter waste of time now that you think of it). We were the true mIRC ‘cheetahs’ as we engaged in discussions with random mIRC users, shared secret NUI details with other Pakistani friends of other unsuspecting users (and I am not explaining this! mIRC followers in Pakistan will chuckle after reading this!) and little did we know that this was just the beginning of the soon to explode social networking order in the years to follow…

There was myspace that I never used so am not qualified to comment on it. Then came along Orkut I believe, but for me it soon frizzled out. It was too public for my taste and I did not appreciate realllllly random people and their request for ‘fraandship’. That’s when my sister sent me an invitation for facebook. Ah!

Facebook has seen an exceptionally fast growth in the number of its users, and perhaps a matching growth in its support: for and against! There is a strong number of facebook users who use it quite religiously, updating every single event, thought and questions that pop up in their mind. The question ‘whats on your mind’ is taken quite literally in this case. It is because of such users that I have started thinking twice before I update my own status, lest I sound like one of them!!!! On the other extreme are the users who believe so strongly in the conspiracy theories that they literally deactivated their accounts, lest the Zionist lobby captures their family photos, because ofcourse the ‘forces out there’ would be interested to know how many cousins they have, how many vacations they have taken in a year, what is their favourite colour, and of late, how many Farmville animals they are collecting! While some suspicions maybe correct, a little caution can always help: you do not need to add applications as they indicate that the information can be used by third parties, and also you can always have separate friends list to ensure that people only have access to information to the extent you would like it to be shared!

We also need to define facebook etiquettes, the extent to which one must comment on one’s family members facebook status and this specially holds true for husband-wife and people in a relationship. I have witnessed husband-wife getting into a row, which was very amusing at that point in time but perhaps not-so-funny to the couple in question. I have also seen people stating weird statements after what seems like a very apparent breakup or just-about-to-break-up! Events like these have started taking a toll on atleast my interest in facebook and I am increasingly losing interest. The only thing that keeps me going is the fact that I am able to stay in very regular contact with friends who I don’t get to meet regularly and with family and extended family. I have also recently started using it to share my blog posts, and to give the devil its due, the majority of my blog traffic is diverted from facebook! I should hardly complain!

Information sharing has so far been one of the greatest usage of facebook and one gets to interact with like-minded people. Of late, a lot of political parties have started using it to disseminate information about their political mandates, and then ofcourse there is the flip side of the coin: attacking the opponent political parties and their leaders! Then ofcourse, there are other groups that act like a support group for writers, poets and even potential chefs! Sometimes it is a great way to share live personal events: My brother and I used to update pictures and videos from my sisters wedding to her wedding group on a daily basis, literally until the wee hours of the morning, to share the events with family all over the world. I was most amused to ignore requests from random, and I mean really random people, who wanted to join the group! Why would anyone want to be Abdullah Deewana beats me?! Speaking of weddings, there is an increasing trend of rishta seeking aunties actively checking out potential girls on the facebook, putting two potential candidates in contact with each other via this very active social media. Long gone are the days when your father would jump at the idea of emailing back an interested boy, nowadays parents email each other and share email addresses and facebook IDs of two potential candidates. The world is changing indeed!

As I was learning more about facebook, along came Twitter. Now that’s one tool I have yet to get comfortable with, but its amazing the extent of which one can share information with others with a single ‘tweet’, the twitter term for a message. It has a whole new vocabulary that takes time for one to adjust. What is most amazing however is that there are politicians such as Marvi Memon who are active twitters, there are media personalities like Faisal Qureshi and Naveen Naqvi who keep you informed of their programmes, give you food for thought on various current issues in addition to many other newspapers, news channels, NGOs, development agencies and others. Naveen Naqvi’s show, ‘Breakfast at Dawn’ has even promoted upcoming bloggers by interviewing them and even reads out comments if you happen to ‘tweet’ them at the right time! Lo and behold, even Karan Johar is on twitter as I recently discovered!!! I thought it was hilarious but apparently it is even ‘signed off’ as an ‘authentic site’.

Much has been written on this subject, but today I focussed on my experiences and observations on the ever-increasing social networking tools. For those of you who are keen to read more, you may wish to check out this website that details out all you ever needed to know about all the currently available social media! I was also most amused to read this other article on one of my favourite blogs, Deadpanthoughts and I hope you enjoy reading it just as much as I did. I am intentionally not commenting on the bloggers’ community as I am saving that for another post! However needless to say, blogging is the new way of social networking, media reporting and communication, posting your footprints on the cyberspace. I am just a newbie in this community but I love maintaining my own blog, receiving feedback and to hear what others feel or think about what I write.

Just as I finished writing this post, I received another invitation to join something called DotSpots. Is it time already to shift to yet another social media? And more importantly, how much cyber footprint are we willing to leave behind as we grow and glow in the ever-expanding social space? Personally I am growing wary of over-exposure in the cyber world. That is, until I find another cyber-activity to engage me and my energies!