Ethiopian blogs

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By T, Staffer of De Birhan Media
03 April 2012

Blog?
In 2008 there were 184 million blogs (Universal McCann http://technorati.com/blogging/a…). This number might have doubled by now. Blogosphere is embracing the virtual world. Personal blogs, diary, journals, speciality and the like are some types of blog. Blogs secured their stable foundation in the cyber world in late 1990s. Matt Drudge’s 1998 coverage of the President Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinsky scandal spearheaded the blogging world’s immensity. The spontaneity of blogs is their competitive edge against mainstream/conventional media.Meg Hourihan (2002), early adopter blogger and subsequently owner of blogging business, defines blogs as: Blog posts are short, informal, sometimes controversial, and sometimes deeply personal, no matter what topic they approach. They can be characterized by their conversational tone and unlike a more formal essay or speech, a blog post is often an opening to a discussion, rather than a full-fledged argument already arrived at. Efimova (2009), in her PhD research, considers bloggers as public intellectuals; she points out the fundamental difference between the knowledge or professional blogger and the academic, in which the blogger cites other blogs and links back to them, thus creating a web of knowledge, whereas the academic anonymises sources. Efimova treats the bloggers from her study as public intellectuals, and thus asks no permission, but disseminates the results of her research through her blog, while linking to the bloggers cited, this was noted by Catherine Fowleyin her 2011 Ph.D. study. Walker (2005c) echoes this definition as “a frequently updated website consisting of dated entries arranged in reverse chronological order so the most recent post appears first”.
Catherine also states that the perceived broadening of the weblog genre to include personal blogs is ascribed to the development of blogging software, suggesting that “the technical affordances of the weblog format make it readily adaptable to multiple purposes of use”. Most researchers and analysts point to the presence of an audience as an integral and essential part of a blog, a reminder in a way of Lejeune’s (1975) concept of the “contrat” or “pact” between the author of autobiographical text and the reader. The easy and user-friendly addition of icons, pictures, sounds and videos and other newer features ascribe mass media features to them.
Blogs de Ethiopie
Web based forum, blogging started around 1997 by Ethiopians based in the Diaspora such as cyberethiopia.com , ethioline.com and the anonymously written dagmawi.com.  By the end of 2005, the number of political or quasipolitical websites with multidirectional participatory platforms was at least 57 (Megenta and Mekonen, 2005) cited in Abiye (2011). Following the 2005 election home based Ethiopian bloggers begun to pop out writing mainly in various fields of specialisation and news.  Abiye (2011) assesses that the number of bloggers decreased following the split of the Coalition for Unity and Democracy Party. However, the number of Ethiopian bloggers showed a dramatic increase in late 2011 and early spring of 2012 possibly due to the Facebook and Twitter revolutions in the Arab world and increase of Ethiopian Facebook users that has reached now 509, 740 according to Social Bakers in March 2012.  Currently, there are over one hundred blogs written by Ethiopians and foreigners living in and outside the country. Around 20 bloggers found in Ethiopia are aggreegated under one banner name Ethiopian Blog. Most popularly Westerners who travel to Ethiopia for a mission or visit have made it customary to blog about their activities in Ethiopia; one of the famous types of blogging by foreigners on Ethiopia (http://embracing-ethiopia.blogspot.com/, http://billyandtarainafrica.wordpress.com/). Writing on Facebook Notes is also one of the growingly all the rage means of blogging for Ethiopian citizen writers too.
There is a trend of downplaying blogs as sites/forum that can easily be created by any ordinary person with no journalistic training and are less authenticated with no authoritative reporting imputus. However, most blogs including those owned by Ethiopians are highly critical, highly competent and authoritative than mainstream and well established websites and forum. Most blogs are established by specialists, journalists and citizens who detest the institutional control and censorship of institutional media. They serve as gateways for voices that have been unheard of due to governmental control or lack of space. Incredibly, some of the most popular bloggers in the Ethiopian blogosphere are those with little or no literature or journalism background. Anonymity is also one of the common characteristics of Ethiopian bloggers. This has to do with different reasons: safety, privacy and other factors. Nippert-Eng’s (2007) empirical study showed that most people conceptualise privacy online as control of access to information and to self. Privacy in diaries is often linked to the concept of secrecy, harking back to the idea of the adolescent paper diary physically locked with a small golden key, and containing the most intimate secrets.
Most Ethiopian bloggers are young males. Their ages are within the ranges of 23 to 35. There are very few female bloggers as well who fall under this same age category.  Most are located in the Diaspora though home based bloggers is surpassing it. Largest number of audience is from U.S.A. followed by Ethiopian readers. Some of the blogs are pro government/ruling party, most are anti- government blogs and while the remaining are blogs that attempt to be critical of all sides perusing independent thinking. Another feature which could be a short coming of most of these blogs is that they produce very few original materials. Either they serve as aggregators of items on Ethiopia from other sites or are engaged in sloppy journalism. 
There have been recorded cases of legal consequences when Ethiopian bloggers were accused for defamation, unaccountability and other concocted media ethics and law infringements. Pseudo name or anonymous blogging spared some bloggers. Similarly, as a genre of citizen media, blogs are difficult for regulation meaning stories can be filed from Ethiopia, written in Australia and posted in Netherland. Therefore, it becomes difficult to trace the real story teller and producer and sue him/her. There are countless Ethiopian bloggers who state that they receive intimidating, abusive, threatening and warning messages.
Endalk on his recent article entitled an incomplete guide to Ethiopian Blogs said “The control of government grip on traditional media in the country is far above the ground, but it is being challenged, and sporadically supplanted, by an embryonic Ethiopian blogs and social media enthusiasts reversing time-honoured notions of the contours of informational flows between Diaspora and homelands.” The “unprofessional” and “unfinelined” nature of most Ethiopian blogs  makes putting a clear-cut category of each blog difficult. Adopting Endalk’s model of listings of Ethiopian blogs, I assembled the following  blogs list: 

Some Ethiopia focused blogs

Problems of Ethiopian blogs
Lack of Consistency: The most rampant problem that this writer observed on most Ethiopian blogs is lack of consistency. This can mean gaps in posting new entries (updating blogs) or ceasing publication all of a sudden. The later is common. Most blogs are personal and with no mandate for regularity, therefore bloggers update their blogs in a sporadic manner. In short, they have a dormant presence. Few take blogging as a full time and regular duty. Secondly, most blogs cease publication after a year or two of blogging. This could be due to lack of participatory response/comments from readers, lack of time and engagement with all other sorts of activities. Some take blogging as a hobby hence stop blogging as soon as they find a “better” hobby.  Similarly, most blogs are engaged in copying and pasting of stories from other linked sites instead of producing their own original pieces.
Mechanical: The technical (internal) problem that most “IT poor’’ bloggers find  themselves in is what I call internal mechanical problems. Most blogs are not any different from other mainstream websites in their application and use; therefore it requires at least a basic knowledge of web design and online writing to be a technically savy blogger. Bloggers need continuous training and have to update themselves with new features that are introduced by companies and mainly share experiential learning with fellow citizens.
Promotion: One of the other daunting factors for budding bloggers to leave blogging is lack of comments, readership and income from blogs. Although, most blogs offer options of money making from  through advertisements, the meagre income and lack of promotion makes the effort a hard nut to crack. Established websites and blogs are less disposed to put budding bloggers link addresses in their links list making the novice bloggers’ pages “unclickable statues”. Seasoned blogs and websites fear the anonymity of most bloggers even if their contents are plausibly written and icebreaking. Therefore, lack of promotion of blogs is one of the main reasons that continue to derive most bloggers from the blogosphere.
Environmental: such problems take two forms. They are mainly externally emanating. These are faced by most bloggers blogging from Ethiopia. Internet connection problem is pervasive environmental problem that deters most bloggers from timely blogging and drives them into other types of traditional media. Secondly, intimidation, blocking of blog urls/addresses, and viruses that disrupt the blogging activity (both by government and agencies) continue to be the problems most faced by those who blog on/from Ethiopia. The recent jamming/blocking of two popular Ethiopian blogs (https://abetokichaw.blogspot.com/and https://tgindex.blogspot.com ) from being viewed in Ethiopia is a good case in point here. Blogging publically, can sometimes make bloggers prone to prosecution in authoritarian states. Egyptian blogger Kareem Amer was charged with insulting the Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak and an Islamic institution through his blog. Following him many bloggers were arrested in Ethiopia and worldwide. There are in fact countless cases of arrest and prosecution where bloggers have been prosecuted for their blogging activities. Ethiopia’s Eskinder Nega  is one famous case.
Conclusion
Blogging in Ethiopia is becoming a popular culture. Although the most used domain names blogspot.com and wordpress.com are being blocked by the Ethiopian regime often, Ethiopian bloggers should be introduced to new blogging domains (such as www.tumblr.com, www.weebly.com/, http://www.quackit.com, www.squarespace.com/, www.joomla.org, http://my.opera.com and many others hosts ) by their fellow citizens living in the Diaspora. Egypt before the revolution had over 160,000 bloggers (July 2008). Ethiopia is following the same trend. Blogs are used by citizens (journalists) to vent out their untold stories freely to the whole wide world. Blogs enlighten. Blogs entertain. Blogs inform and give us breaking news items available in no other mainstream media. Blogs teach us about speciality subjects. Blogs organise; people can create a group blog, discuss, debate and mobilise forces for change (popular revolutions). There is a promising growth within the Ethiopian blogosphere.  Discussions on social media mainly Facebook that follow blog links are creating a good political public sphere of “Blogo-facebook” synergy for the Ethiopian online population. Blogs have numerous advantages for Ethiopians who can bypass some of the stated problems. Unlike traditional media, blogs as types of citizen media help zealous writers and opinion leaders to interact easily. Still with the least level of internet penetration and connectivity, Ethiopians benefit from the ”blogosphere convergence”. 
Policy makers, especially Western refer to blogs when delving on issues that concern them because most blogs are written by ordinary citizens who tell their experiences free from corporate or institutional agendas. Cognizant of this Ethiopian bloggers should strive to produce critical, objective and unbiased materials. Ethiopian blogs and bloggers have a big role to play in Ethiopia’s social, political and consciousness revolution; let’s have thousands of Ethiopian bloggers!!!!
References
Abiye T. Megenta, [‘2011’]. Can it tweet its way to democracy?. http://ora.ox.ac.uk/objects/uuid:22fe4758-5ec7-44b9-be8f-2293d828415d <<< accessed December 2011
Efimova, L. & de Moor, A., (2005). Beyond Personal Webpublishing: An Exploratory Study of Conversational Blogging Practices. IN. HICSS ’05. Proceedings of the 38th Annual Hawaii International Conference on System Sciences, 2005. 107a.
Hourihan, M. (2002). What we’re doing when we blog. O’Reilly. [Online] 13 June.
Krishnamurthy, S. (2002). The multidimensionality of blog conversations: The virtual enactment of September 11. Paper presented at Internet Research 3.0, Maastricht, and The Netherlands.
Nippert-Eng, C. (2007). Privacy in the United States: Some implications for design. International Journal of Design, 1(2),1-10.
Ratliff, C. (2003). Whose voices get heard? Gender politics in the blogosphere. Paper presented at the Conference on College Composition and Communication, San Antonio, TX, March 2004. http://culturecat.net/node/view/303
Walker, J. (2005c) Blog (weblog) In Routledge Encyclopedia of Narrative Theory. Herman, D, Jahn, M. & Ryan, M. (eds), 45. London, New York: Routledge.

3 COMMENTS

  1. Dear Blogging budies Abelo and Insider tnx…

    Dearest Addis Alem…sorry for not including you…there were many that i didn’t because they only had a couple of posts or were not easily accessible. It is not due to lack of goodwill.

  2. I see the progress in rthe writing of most the ethiopian bloggers has been coming time by time. One comment is – it was good if the list of links/blogs was after the reference as an appendix and the analysis should have maybe included the advantgaes, contributsions and impacts of blogs. Terms like blogospohere convergence are media languages therefore must being explained.

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