Saturday, July 19, 2008

Thoughts on the Egyptian blogosphere

So I've been wondering everytime I hear about blogging, what happened to the Egyptian blogosphere, how far its gone, and how much it has matured. Its been almost three years since I've been actively blogging, not even reading any of the blogs anymore. I would think that things have changed dramatically during all that time. Can I affirmatively say yes? I'm guessing no. I'm guessing the number of bloggers have probably grown substantially, the word "blogger" has become a well-defined word, active political blogs are on the regime's radar screen in case they need to shut its author up, but that's about it.

Other than growth in number and local recognition of the phenomenan, how has it grown I wonder? Actively loud bloggers are probably more famous and well known in the media and the Internet community, as well as the state security ofcourse. Some bloggers are arrested from time to time, but is that because of a real threat that bloggers present to the regime or because our regime is paranoid and is just utterly stupid and brutal considering what they did with Esraa the Facebook girl!

Three years ago, when I was still blogging the main question I was being asked by all the annoying journalists, was how do I think blogging will progress democracy. My answers were usually that I don't think it will, though blogging has many other valuable benefits. There more to blogging than just politics for sure, which is what most foreign journalists are interested in us for.

I'd imagine there isn't any collective effort by bloggers for a general steady goal, there wasn't any hope of one back when I was blogging, and it just isn't in us. Our collective efforts are always momentary, for immediate goals.

Anyways, so three years later if I want to start blogging again or to find the interesting blogs to follow, I probably wouldn't be able to. Why? because there are so many blogs out there (not as many as there should be for sure), that people wouldn't find my blog and neither would I be able to find the interesting blog to follow, not to mention find the time to read all the crap that bloggers usually write.

One would've thought that during the 5-year period since blogging has been thriving, technology would follow suit and provide the necessary tools to satisfy the blogging community (globally and local to the Egyptian/Arab community), but alas.

How can I find what the Egyptian blogosphere is saying regarding a specific topic or a current event?! Even simple queries, I was simply trying to figure out how many Egyptian blogs there are out there. The EgyBloggers says there are around 1500 blogs, but this is last updated a year and a half ago, and this is assuming that all bloggers submit their blogs there and that they're all active. The Aggregator used to have a list of all the blog feeds it aggregates, but not anymore. The Aggregator seems to be an attempt to collect the Egyptian blogs in one place, but its not useful anymore with so many blogs out there. The blogs are hardly classified (only a very general tag cloud), not to mention that the interface is really ugly, and no one uses the readers' recommendation system which should bump up the most useful blog posts.

I also wonder, why am I writing this in English still?! I used to claim that I write in English because I am much slower in typing Arabic. But hey, I really like this Yamli tool, and I basically use it whenever I want to write anything in Arabic. This is an example of an advance in technology that enables users like myself to write in Arabic and increase the amount of Arabic content on the Internet. I use it, and it made some aspects of my life easier, yet if I would blog I would still blog in English, hmmm. Its a step though. Other companies like Microsoft (with its R&D centers opening in Egypt two years ago) and Google (starting a new dev center in Jordan) are also starting to target the Arab region, with specific technologies in the pipelines for the use of the Arab community. Will they provide us with technologies and tools to empower us, to hook us to their software (like so many got hooked on blogger), where things can be easier, where we can be more vocal and more productive, would that enable us to solve our inherit problem of working together.