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Session 3: What makes a successful blogosphere? (Part 1) December 10, 2005

Posted by Angelo Embuldeniya in GV05, Session 3.
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Why is it that some countries have developed vibrant local blogospheres (Iran, Jordan, Cambodia etc) while others haven’t? What conditions are required and what outreach can be done by the Global Voices community to help enable and encourage blogging in communities that could greatly benefit from this new citizens’ medium?

Led by Ethan Zuckerman, with input from Roba Al Assi (Jordan), Ory Okolloh (Kenya), Neha Viswanathan (Global Voices South Asia editor), Sokari Ekine (Sub-Saharan Africa editor), Iria Puyosa (Venezuela), Bun ThaRum (Cambodia), Enda Nasution (Indonesia), Andy Young (SiberianLight), Hossein Derakhshan (Iran)

Ethan notes that there is in fact profiling going on… and that if there were 2d and 3d days, we would break up into groups and do brainstorming. He encourages people to use the time immediately after this meeting and take a walk, have a smoke, go to dinner togther; another way to have the collaboration continue beyond the session. This session is mainly about talking about what’s worked in terms of building local blogospheres. Part of the problem we’re confronted with jointly, is how to build more really vibrant, dynamic blogospheres. If our whole job is to point to conversations, we need them to take place.

so we owe it to ourselves to get engaged in the work of building these local blogospheres and bringing people into these blogospheres who might not otherwise be there… There was this dinner I was at with robba with haitham in amman; everyone was saying, this is great; we all know eatch other, we’re excited, but we’re all from west amman. So how do we make tihs broader? how do we learn from other blogosphres that have been doing this well? In areas where this is already working, where there is another dynamic blogosphere…

What can we do to work on this? Let’s focus on what has worked, but also on what hasn’t worked. Look at kenya: for people not familiar, there are hundreds of blogs; great aggregators -it’s really political… I’ll let ory talk about it.

[Mic handed over to Ory by Ethan]

Ory: when I found the kenyan blogosphere … it was mostly linking to personal notes…I made it my business to study technorati and the best way to find other kenyan blogs was to come to my website b/c I would go through technorati religiously every day, and say ‘guys check tihs out, go to them!’ It’s important to support new bloggers by linking to them; encouraging them to keep linking. A lot of times noone thinks new bloggers are interesting, or thatanything they say matters. The second imporant thing was to creat a home where it became more esay to find everyone…We created a kenyan ring. Another home is kenyaulimited.com — a brand new site alunhced last week. redesigned, done by volunteers… It’s rpetty nifty. there’s as wahili version available, translated by a blogger… you can see al the posts down there an open blog: a group blog. if you do a gv roundup you can crosslink to it from the kenyan home, there’s this guy, we call him the godfather who created the kenya ring… this is mentalacrobatics.com and there’s actually – it’s funny, it’s become tall these personalities now, people who compete to be first to comment on each post… turned into a community.

I think a lot of it was finding people woh are just doing it… There are a lot of peopel -= a woman doing political stuff; they felt more comfortable reading about it? b/c she was a woman. And [some] people write about sex, some about other things; there’s a lot of diversity, there were memes that got everyone excited; then we got tired of doing it; but it got pepole involved in the group. We’re also turning this into a place to work on projects offline; when I went to kenya, I would find people who commentedon my blog, and say you commented, why don’t you start your own blog; you have something to say.

Ethan: you mentioned most of these bloggers are from the diaspora. are there ar lot of f2f get-togethers?

Ory: some people meet.. but some are anonymous, and want to keep their identities separate. Some people were resistant to have connections, as if they were pen pals; eithre b/c they weren’t social, or b/c they preferred 1-to-1 interactions. But there’s a lot of online interaction; kenyaunlimeted has a chat room; im; phone… with people I’ve never met… people will sometimes clal e, email me, say ‘are you okay?’ The sense that it’s more than a virtual world, but also a community – it’s made a lot more people comfortable; you feel like you can write — there’s very litel censorship and we’re all very young; this is another important htin. it’s become a psace for young kenyans who don’t have ioutlets anywhere to tpexress themselves to write without feeling judged.

Ethan: to take a couple lessons away… supporting bloggers by linking, commenting as they come along, religiously linking to new lbogs, creating a home a center for all these with instructions, including in local languages; trying to build up behaviors; like a competition to post together; let people know you’re there and recognize that, despite being virtual, this is a real community.

(Tagged: gv2005, globalvoices)

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