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Home Cover Features Blogging Mania grips Hyderabadis - Concluding Part

Blogging Mania grips Hyderabadis - Concluding Part

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The first part of this article, in last month’s issue, focused on what a blog is, what kinds of blogs exist and the impact it has on people. Read on to find out what makes it so popular!

WHAT MAKES IT SUCH A POPULAR TOOL?
A recent Gallup poll survey revealed that an increasing number of people who use the Internet are more frequently turning to blogs than other sites for their information. Certainly, blogs have come a long way and it’s a far cry from the days when hardly about 20% of the people used to turn to blogs on a normal basis.

But then, highly technical people only used them. Now, many people who are not technical-oriented are seeing the power of blogs. This explosion of interest in blogs and the people who read them is a phenomenon that should not be ignored. Across the world, blogs have become almost as popular as websites. They have their own search engines, ad directories, and forums.

Syed Abbas feels this rising popularity is just the beginning and the best is yet to come. He pinpoints, “It goes without saying that the best is yet to come. I’d say we haven’t even started yet. The day we see blogs in Indian regional languages, that day I’d say that blogging has truly arrived and has been embraced by us. I see two reasons for blogging becoming as popular as it is today. One is, efforts put in by open source community and other companies for making blogging an effortless and affordable activity and the other is, it is liberal, uncensored and full of knowledge which makes it one of the best mediums of disseminating and gathering information.”

Satish Vellanki attributes its popularity to the freedom it offers to those who use it. He points out, “It is the freedom of expression. When more people take to blogging, expressing their opinions, sharing their knowledge and views on happenings you get to see the best.” Anwin agrees and says, “Its capacity to offer freedom is what makes it an amazing tool. The freedom to write, think and discuss. I believe that in ten years time blogging would have completely revolutionized the world of press and free media.”

According to Saifi Khan, blogs are turning out to be a mirror image of social networking sites. He says, “Blogging is morphing to certain extent into social networking. Perhaps social networking sites like Orkut, Facebook which have serious mind share show the way in terms of people expression.” Blogs build trust because the readers can interact with the writer. They can ask questions and get answers. They can get to know you, the site owner, as a person instead of just a business. This trust in your site is essential to get site users to convert to site customers. The more trust you can build in your company and site the more users will be willing to use it for their business needs.

Chetan Bhawani has seen his blog generate and build up strong ties with many readers of his blog. He states, ”Blogging is a form of media that has helped in creating news platforms and has made conversations easy online. It’s not something like a static website which a user just comes and reads, but is something by which people can comment, read and also share the news through social networking and book-marking. It is already on a great platform, and I don't think it should become better than what it is right now. The only thing is that it has to get more popular, in Hyderabad.”  

Another reason blogs have gained in popularity is - they are free! More and more people are using blogs to earn an income instead of paying for a website. You don't need to pay for hosting or a domain name with a blog. You can put all your affiliate programs on your blog to earn an extra income. You can also add Google Adsense to your blog, which will give you an additional source to profit from. It is free, and there really is no reason not to do this. It is also very easy to make changes to your blog, and even an amateur computer user can maintain one.

Blogs have yet another important feature that I haven't mentioned, and that's comments. The comment feature allows visitors to the blog to enter comments for a particular blog entry, which then become visible to other readers. This feature engages visitors, and allows them to participate in the blog, turning it into more of a dialog rather than a broadcast. Over time, a popular blog can end up with a regular group of readers and transform into an online community.

Summing it up in two words, blogs summarize usability and community. With a good blogging software, not only is a blog easy to create, but also easy to read and navigate (as compared to personal websites, whose structure and content have no such regularity). Besides the usability improvements for both writers and readers, blogs provide the ingredients for new communities to arise in a way that personal websites never did.

POPULAR BLOGS
Popular blogs are those, which are read by a number of users irrespective of age, sex, location, etc. There are many factors that make a blog post popular. The most important among them is the attractiveness of its heading. If the blog heading is attractive and precise, people will go for a read over it. Secondly, contents and the way they are presented in the blog. If the blog contains quality writings, then it’s definitely bound to attract readers. The trick is that it should be interesting enough to make a reader finish the contents written in it. Thirdly, the blog content should be grammatically correct and the spellings should also be correct. The fourth factor is the blog must be well supported with relevant data and pictures, diagrams, maps, etc. Finally, timing of posting makes a critical difference. Generally the time when maximum numbers of blog readers or bloggers are online is considered the best time.

Coming to city-based blogging sites, which are the ones that most captivate the city netizens? According to Anwin Joselyn, www.indiblogger.in is quite popular both in Hyderabad and across the country. He says, ”Indiblogger, I believe, is quite popular due to its all nonsense and funny approach with a twist to make blogging a difference in India. Another popular activity that has put www.indiblogger.in on the Indian blogosphere map is the offline blogger meets that are called for across India. The Hyderabad blogger meet is featured at http://www.indiblogger.in/bloggermeet.php?id=5.”  Queried about blogging Clubs in the city, he answers,” Indiblogger.in is a very useful blogging club. You can find the registered Hyderabad bloggers at the URL
http://www.indiblogger.in/citysearch.php?city=hyderabad&imageField.x=18&imageField.y=9 .”

Chetan Bhawani feels there are many Hyderabadi blogs that are quite good. “But among them, I believe the following are damn good – www.thewwwblog.com, www.amitbhawani.com, www.hyderabadblog.com and www.hyderabadwow.com.”

Coming to overseas ones, he says, ”The first one would be www.problogger.net, which is an all-time favourite; it’s by Darren Rowse from Australia. Other blogging sites would be www.bloggingtips.com, www.dailyblogtips.com and www.lorelle.wordpress.com.” Regarding blogging clubs, he answers, “I don’t have an idea on them. But I am planning to have one. But first I want to make the term Blogging popular across Hyderabad. This would automatically make people create blogs, clubs etc.”

Satish Vellanki has seen many a blogging site, some good and some bad. But the ones that impressed him are http://hyderabadiz.blogspot.com, http://hyderabadindeed.blogspot.com/, http://sodinews.blogspot.com/
http://hydone.blogspot.com/, http://saurabhb.wordpress.com/, http://syedakbarindia.blogspot.com/, http://hyderabad.metblogs.com/, http://blog.tnsatish.com/
All of these are interesting ones that I believe would interest city based folks too.” Saifi Khan is much impressed by http://www.hydblogs.in/ and coming to overseas based sites, he says,” www.lifehacker.com is one site, which is technically focussed on using technology and mind to get things done effectively. As for blog clubs, I have no clue, but there is a Hyderabad Bloggers Roll. Interested individuals can check in http://www.hydblogs.in/.”

Syed Abbas finds http://hyderabadblog.com, a good site for the sheer depth of Hyderabad related information it provides. As for overseas sites, he replies, ”Two sites are pretty good, http://zaiqa.net/ and http://mindwarrior.wordpress.com.”

GOOD TOOL FOR HIGHLIGHTING CITY PROBLEMS
How good blogs are in highlighting problems or issues was never better illustrated than in February 2005 in the United States. Conservative bloggers forced the resignation of top CNN news executive Eason Jordan over remarks he made at the World Economic Conference in Davos, Switzerland. A 23-year veteran of CNN, Jordan drew ire after he allegedly said that U.S. forces in Iraq targeted journalists on several occasions. Jordan quickly modified his comments, but his remarks, made during an off-the-record discussion, were paraphrased on a website immediately after the forum. From there, two weeks of escalating criticism and demands on Jordan to explain exactly what he said ensued. Jordan resigned.

This particular incident makes us wonder whether blogs can ensure such an incident in India and Hyderabad. City-based bloggers believe that it can do so and effectively. They also believe that it can be used as a weapon to highlight several problems faced by the city and keep the authorities on their toes.
Syed Abbas states, ”Blog can certainly be a powerful tool for highlighting city problems but just writing about the issues wouldn’t help much, we are already aware of a lot of issues in the city. It would be great if a group comes forward with an online platform which not only encourages people in Hyderabad to come forward with the issues they are facing but also the possible solutions.” Hyderabadis are well aware that the city faces problems galore on all fronts ranging from water supply to road conditions to sanitary trivia’s and so on.

Saifi Khan asserts, “Some of the issues we should focus on are civic sense on roads, auto rickshaws and how they influence perception of a city, better bus service, making best use of MMTS, culture of inclusiveness (Salaam-Namaste), greening the city, fostering an attitude conducive for knowledge economy and how to avoid creation of ghettos. Though Hyderabadis stand out on three fronts - participatory attitude, desire to share multi-location experience and want to help out 'Ap ko kya hona’? they need to get their attitude towards city problems right. They should learn to respect the rules better and have a certain sense of pride in the city. Urinating openly on streets and footpaths is one such instance they should eliminate from the city and the nation polity as well. The fastest way to spread the message is to make extensive use of alternative available bandwidth i.e. Audio (podcast) and video (video blogging) and off course photo sets. However, I also believe that blogging is just one channel on the web. If you target that channel, then only the users of the channel will be influenced i.e. the young tech savvy crowd. I think City FM radio stations can play a big role in highlighting the city problems.”
Satish Vellanki strongly believes that it is a very effective tool that can be used with strong success to highlight problems and issues. He cites blogs being used this way with enormous success in the USA, Australia and Europe and is confident that the same can be replicated in India as well. Further, he says, ”Definitely, the city-based bloggers already present a very good picture of the city, though they don't highlight the bad parts of it. Blogging should be encouraged generally; the more people write the more others get to know about things. After all communication is what sets us humans apart.”

Echoing his views, Chetan Bhawani states, ”That would surely be a great way to make the government know about the minor and major glitches and problems in the city. If people join hands and blog about certain problems, it would definitely create some good buzz and would actually help bettering the conditions of the community. Blogging is not a single use service. It has many uses and this is one such instance where it can be used effectively.”

Another instance where the marvels of modern day Internet has been used with success is that of Los Angeles Fire Department that has embraced digital technology, using a Web site, Web feeds and blogs to provide internal and external fire department information. Some of the LAFD public-information officers regularly interact with local bloggers and buff sites. This shows that if this is replicated in Hyderabad, blogs and unofficial websites too can play a pivotal role and supplement the mainstream news media. In the said instance, they are said to have accelerated the news cycle and coerced fire chiefs to anticipate that a fire-fighter video posted on You Tube or an item found in a social networking site on a Sunday night might be the leading news item on Monday morning.

Anwin Joselyn is not at all surprised with this and believes they can as well be replicated here in our own country by diverse organisations. He further states, ”Blogging is a very powerful tool to highlight any city's problems and/or its greatness. The point to note here is what the target audience is. If the target audience is fellow bloggers, then blogging will be a tool to create and spread awareness. However, if blogging can be used as a tool with an NGO or other organizations interested in acting upon the data (especially if bloggers blog about the number of potholes in a specific area or highlight a problem with sewage in a particular area) then it would be a truly great tool to help Hyderabad as a city or bring them to the notice of the right people.”

Hyderabadi bloggers can play the role of a proactive watchdog by interacting with one another on issues confronting the city. Being a convenient publishing tool, blogs can be used as an outlet by the city bloggers for investigative journalism to publicly advocate a particular point of view or issue. Its excellent capability to draw search engine traffic, both from traditional search engines such as Google and blog-specific search tools like Technorati, allows the subject matter to reach out to as many fellow netizens scattered across the world. However, the blogosphere can be a tough playground. The bloggers must make sure that they have the time and the things to say, to become a real part of the conversation. Where it’s the other way around, it isn't going to do much good and may do a lot of harm, particularly if it makes such a blogger phony or a butt of ridicule. Finally, a blog needs to be updated constantly else it risks becoming an out-of-date blog.

FINAL SAY
Go ahead and fret OR rejoice about BLOGGING. Either way, blogging is here to stay and you cannot afford to wish it away or shut your eyes to it, for the simple reason that blogs have become the most potent weapon in the information world since the mighty Internet itself. And what’s more, they're going to shake up just about every event or happenings or business including yours. It doesn't matter whether you're shipping paper clips, cartoon pictures or videos of a ravishing Priyanka Chopra in a figure hugging skirt, blogs will remain a phenomenon that you cannot wish away or ignore.

Over the past few years, blogs have been credited with everything sensational from bringing alive the thoughts of the Big B to unauthorized previews of the latest computer products, to new transparency in presidential campaigns. But still the big question persists, that is - whether blogs have the staying power to become more than just online diaries and will it upend the mainstream media? Be patient, folks, blogging will be around for a long time and this prediction comes from the experts themselves. 

Wharton legal studies professor Dan Hunter puts blogging right up there with the printing press when it comes to sharing ideas and disseminating information. He says, ”This is not a fad. It's the rise of amateur content, which is replacing the centralized, controlled content done by professionals."

So all of you Hyderabadis who still have doubts can assure themselves that BLOGGING is here to stay and will be a way to communicate with the world in ways that were unheard of only a few years ago. It’s time to loosen your feelings and create a more personal, interactive, human communication with your customers, vendors, employees and other people. So, if you have an unfinished book in your personal drawer or a graphic recollection of a riotous party, there's one place you can get cracking right away and expect much faster and wider readership. And what’s it? The Internet and of course one of its finest tools BLOGS. So, blog away with a bang OR else get blogged (or is it bogged!!) down. The choice is yours!

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