“Hey! Mallika, have you seen my new blog. And did you browse the Big B’s Blog today. He has just mentioned titbits about his successful world wide tour.” asked a smart young college girl Raveena to her friend on a cool and pleasant Monday morning on the sprawling campus of one of Hyderabad’s most well-known colleges, St. Francis Degree College for Women. She is not alone, caught up in the whirlpool of blogging that has swept Hyderabadis off their feet during the last five years. Now, if you haven’t heard about blogging then you sound like an alien cut away from the world or simply put; living in a world when cavemen and dinosaurs ruled the roost.
With over 100 million plus blogs across the world, growing with each passing day, blogging has become the biggest online craze of the last couple of decades. Some blogs are said to have become so popular, that their authors have developed cult followings. In fact, these days every body seems to have a blog, from Barbara Streisand to legendary Amitabh Bachchan and Aamir Khan and not to forget Union Minister Laloo Prasad Yadav. Blogs have become a vital form of communication for people to stay in touch with fans, friends, family and just about everyone. Not only does it allow a person to express his or her thoughts or feelings to just about anyone in the cyber world, but also gives those in the cyber world to take a peek into the mind of such a person’s life.
From corporate biggies to RJ’s, fashionistas and college grads, blogging has become the HOTTEST buzzword. Many city based companies who realise that the Internet is a mainstream area have started hiring bloggers to act as a face for them for the internet audience. The entry of Hyderabadis into the world of blogging can be said to have taken place somewhere in the early part of this decade. Says businessman blogger Arun Khemani, “I started blogging just as a hobby when Google was giving free blogger accounts. But slowly as traffic started building up, I got more and more interested in my blog." Asked as to how he dived into world of blogging, he replied, “Two years back, I got seriously into it. I basically blog about things I love - technology, Internet services and consumer technology like IPods. I get traffic from all across the globe - US, UK and India." Like Arun, there are scores of city folks who have been smitten by the limitless power of blogging.
But what is that makes it such a hot tool? What makes even an unknown, take to it like a duck takes to water? The secret lies in its ability to let a person share the day-to-day goings on in his/her lives, their thoughts and views about any aspect that’s happening in their world or the world in general. For some like Shekar Raman, it allows them to put in their views and share thoughts with fellow bloggers. Answers Shekar, “It’s the thrill of putting in my viewpoint online and engage in a debate with fellow bloggers, known or unknown. The magic of just finding my views float across the virtual world is simply mind blowing.” For IT professional Satish Vellanki, it’s a question of pouring out thoughts on a particular topic. He says, “Blogging is my way of expressing my views on something, may be personal experiences or general issues. The best part is in exercising the freedom of speech. Yes, I do get a lot of like minded people thru our blogs, all discussing one common goal. Most blogs I have seen, express the cultural richness of our city and less about happenings and their opinions. I am sure that will improve over time.”
Software marketing executive Anwin Joselyn finds it the easiest way to communicate with both known and unknown people across the world. He states, “The idea of reaching out to people and share ideas was the one that made me take up blogging. And I have never turned back from that moment. This has been a great experience and a great ride for me until now. The feedback from my friends, colleagues, readers and family has been tremendous for me. I am not a big fan of emails and keeping in touch with friends and family through phone calls. So blogging has been my medium of communication for more than four years now and I have made plenty of online friends through my blog(s).”
There are others who find it useful for sharing views on technology, gadgets and so on. Syed Abbas, an avid blogger with a strong affinity for technological gadgets, finds it a useful way to stay in touch with fellow bloggers who share his views. He points out, “I was managing a team at Google before I quit to start on my own. I started writing out of my passion for blogging. My personal blog is an uncensored version of my thoughts and views and the technical blog is my knowledge that I try to share with my readers. I can tell that they like what they read on TNerd.com based on the feedback I receive from them everyday.” His viewpoint is echoed by Saifi Khan, General Secretary, Twincling Technology Foundation, who says, “It allows me to share technical aspects of my work with a larger audience. There are many interested people who turn up for Twincling Saturday meets (TSM) as they stumbled upon Twincling.org while searching for some stuff related to Open Source.”
Chetan Bhawani entered the world of blogging just by chance and was fortunate to have someone to enthuse him to take it up wholeheartedly. A professional working with a city based SEO company who posts his views in http://www.thewwwblog.com/, he says, “I actually learned about all this from my brother Amit Bhawani (www.amitbhawani.com) and have been passionate about blogging since then. In the blogs that I have such as www.thewwwblog.com and www.drchetan.com, I like the interactions from people and fellow bloggers who share their own views about what I share on the blogs and what are the changes going on in the tech world.”
The speed at which it has spread among the city folks has been truly impressive. From a miniscule 2 about six years back, it has swelled to a decent 350 – 400 odd, with fresh additions at the rate of three per week, according to Indiblogger, a premier directory of Indian blogs. Popular broadcasting media giant NDTV puts the number at an estimated 40,000 regular bloggers across the country. When queried about this fascinating growth, Anwin Joselyn, a software marketing professional, with two blogs in his name, http://awesomefotos.com/ and http://anw.in, answered, “Traditionally, blogging was a means of keeping in touch with a group of people. Probably, the advent of ‘groups’ and ‘forums’ on the internet was a beginning. However, people have always wanted to have ‘full control’ over what they want to speak about and share with other people. And hence the idea of an online diary or journal where one can keep track of what they have to say, share, and sometimes inspire came into place. And now, blogging has truly come of age in India and it offers us the chance for all of us to reach out to the millions out there through our blog that makes it truly alluring. This prompts a lot of us to keep blogging and churn out meaningful, silly, funny and sometimes thought provoking posts. If that is called coming of age, yes, I would say blogging in the city has come of age.” Agrees Satish Vellanki, a tech blogger, “The growth has been pretty good. As for me, better than before, I feel connected to my city with some city based bloggers. I regularly (almost daily) read them.”
Saifi Khan, General Secretary, Twincling Technology Foundation credits the rise in city based bloggers to the growing awareness about the usefulness of blogging. He states, “People are fairly aware of the things around them. The fact that many people travel and explore things helps a lot. Blogging for many is to share their opinion and that works.” Syed Abbas, another avid city based blogger who foresees a further rise in the number of city based blogs, says, “Blogging is definitely catching up in the city and around the country. I see more and more Indian blogs hitting the main stream blogosphere and covering the running topics, right from technology to health and various other topics.”
Never known to be technology nerds, but known to be laidback, it’s pretty surprising that Hyderabadis are finding blogs, a great way to reach out to the world. Email has carried on billions of conversations over the past decade. But those exchanges were private, whereas blogs are open to the world. As the bloggers read each other, comment, and link from one page to the next, they create a global conversation. Many experts opine that blogs will become as popular as email, in the coming years and gain the status of “must have” communication tool, as is the case in developed countries.
WHAT’S EXACTLY A BLOG???
The onset of internet has heralded the spawning of diverse utilities like emails, chats, messengers and now blogs. Within a short time, it has carved a niche for itself in the hearts of netizens with its multi-faceted features and ease of helping put oneself online. But what’s exactly a Blog? An acronym for Web log, it’s regarded as an online diary, where you could post your random thoughts free of charge on sites. It can be used by just about anybody, from individuals to companies to governments to groups who can insert anything from texts to photographs to videos and graphics. Some often confuse a blog as nothing but a carbon copy of website. But it’s not so. A website presents your company or institution or even an individual in the best possible light, demonstrating what your firm is or you are, what it does or you do, and why prospects should take notice. On the other hand, a blog is a collection of your insights and musings, without regard to what your firm’s lawyers, managers and PR want you to say. You write as if you’re talking to your readers, so your content sounds more personal. It’s said that people maintained blogs long before the term was coined, but the trend gained momentum with the introduction of automated published systems, most notably Blogger at blogger.com.
How it works? It works like a discussion board that is available to millions of users. You could kick-off a serious or humorous debate on topics ranging from politics to technology and sports or just post some of those New Year resolutions that you’ve failed to keep. In case of print and broadcasting media, only a lucky handful owns the infrastructure and controls the information. But that is passé. With the onset of blogging, information has become truly mass based. One can set up a free account at Blogger or other blog services, and you see right away that the cost of publishing has fallen practically to zero. Anybody with a working computer and an Internet connection can become a blog publisher in the 10 minutes it takes to sign up. If one masters the ins and outs of this new art -- like how to get other bloggers to link to them -- they reach a huge audience. This is just the beginning. Many of the same folks who developed blogs are busy adding features so that bloggers can start up music and video channels and team up on editorial projects. The divide between the publishers and the public is collapsing and this has turned mass media upside down. Blogs create media of the masses.
Blogs come in all sizes, shapes, and flavors. Here are seven types of blogs you might consider starting.
- Personal - Personal blogs are generally what people think about when they think of blogs. Personal blogs are online journals that chronicle the life of the blogger and his/her circle of family and friends. They are often found on MySpace.com or LiveJournal.com.
- Internal Corporate - Internal blogs sit behind a company’s firewall so they can’t be accessed by the public. They can offer a communication channel between upper management and employees or team members on a project.
- Company - Company blogs provide news and information about what a company is doing or what events they are offering. But be careful, this is not something you should use solely as a corporate brochure, sales pitch, or as a way to distribute press releases. Bloggers will call you on this. Good examples of company blogs include the Google Blog or Dell Blog.
- Product - A product blog focuses on news about a particular product. Famous corporate giant Microsoft has a popular blog that’s run by some of the developers on the Xbox team that keeps Xbox fans in the loop about new features to be released and helpful tips on how fans can get the most out of their Xbox.
- Group - Group blogs are blogs run by more than one person. They can be business or personal.
- Niche - Niche blogs focus on news and information about a particular topic, niche or hobby. These can focus on anything from cooking to gadgets to politics to cricket to popular TV shows. Examples include ChocolateAndZucchini.com, TechCrunch.com, Creating Passionate Users, and ProBlogger.net.
- Brand - Brand blogs focus on a particular brand such as GM’s Fastlane or dunkindonutstalk.com or theappleblog.com
For potential writers, blogs have come as a boon. Writing for blogs, they can be spotted better and faster by publishers. One such aspiring city based writer Reema says, “I think this is faster and easier than sending manuscripts to publishers. Also, when you post blogs you get quick feedback from people and that helps. The eagerness to see my work published in a book form made me take to blogging. I had never blogged before. As a writer, I always wanted to write a book. Since the Sulekha-Penguin Blog Print contest gave bloggers that opportunity, I registered and started blogging. Writing for the blog helped me explore a different side to my writing. I’ve written serious stuff before, never a humorous story.”
IMPACT OF BLOGS ON PEOPLE
The growing popularity of blogs makes one wonder as to whether it truly has the power to impact netizens and influence their thinking and actions. Does it alter their opinions and bring about a turnabout in their attitudes? From the survey conducted by a leading French based customer-listening company Crmmetrix, it looks that it does so to a great extent. The survey disclosed that internet users across the world consult blogs regularly for a variety of reasons; some do it to get information, some to share experiences and some to look for advice. It also disclosed that thanks to blogs, Internet users can become co-creators of the web and, subsequently, of the world. Still furthermore, people who are online agree that blogs offers the greatest freedom of expression and creates close relationships between people. In short, people regarded it as much more versatile than any other source of information media.
Blogs are more critical and more interactive than other forms of interconnectivity with the ability to bring people closer. Marketing analysts point out that blogs have heralded in a shift from ‘interruption marketing' to 'conversation marketing', where listening and conversing become critical for brands and organiations as a source of listening to and learning from what people are saying about them.
But what do the Hyderabad based bloggers have to say about its power to impact people? Anwin Joselyn strongly believes that it influences people and cites an incident to prove his point, “During the recent serial blasts in Bangalore, I had posted the 'Do's and Don’ts during a bomb blast'. It was written in my own words and was cited across the blogosphere. I must say that it reached the ears of many people who were impressed by the same and followed it with a fair degree of success.” On the other hand, Chetan Bhawani says, “My blog has made an impact to quite some extent though not to the degree that can said to be major. But I have seen many bloggers, related to medical field, post information for public awareness and that has helped the society a lot.”
Bloggers-turned-writers describe it as a boon that has uplifted their careers. An architect by profession, B.S. Keshav has become another addition to the writers’ world thanks to his blogs. His first book to be published is a collection of his blogs. The book tracks the adventures of a journalist in Pune. “I had written a few pieces earlier and had sent them to publishing houses. There was no response. Once I was initiated into blogging, I found an alternate medium to express my thoughts. There is instant feedback to blogs, which helps you improve your quality of writing,” he says. The possibility of seeing his work in print has boosted his confidence. He further adds, “My work keeps me busy. But I am keen on taking time out to write more.” Like most individual writers, Keshav retains the rights to the content and the share of profits that comes from the sale of his books.
Blogs have also been hailed as the best search engine optimization tool - as most recent, most relevant content gets picked by search engines first. Saifi Khan agrees on this and says, “At Twincling Foundation, our focus is on Open Source and technical excellence. With our extensive reach out programme, there are many students who have received career guidance from senior members of the foundation. What has worked for us at Twincling, is a combination of 'High Tech' with 'High Touch’!” Good articles with lucid suggestions will always pull over people and influence their thinking. Syed Abbas acknowledges the same and points out,” Our Tech How-to articles are the top running piece of information on the blog. We receive a lot of feedback on the product reviews we write, tutorials and free giveaways we offer on TNerd.com. Based on the feedback we receive from our readers, we certainly see a positive impact.”
It used to be said that blogging only has an impact if you blog or read blogs, but that's not the case any more. Though it is still true that blogs only affected you if you dipped into the blogosphere as a reader or a writer, the dynamics have now shifted. Today, blogs are not only a part of individual’s persona, but also the intellectual and cultural fabric of higher education, technology, politics, and so on. They're changing the place and ways that our thoughts and capital can be expressed and shared. And, what’s more, this is just the beginning for the best of it, is yet to come.
The concluding part of this article will be taken in next month’s issue. It will talk about popular blogs, what makes it so popular and how it can be used as to proactive tool.