August 1, 2014

Why your blog is not a trash can. It's not Facebook timeline too

Most of us bloggers open our blogs 'on the spur of the moment' and keep posting on it whatever comes to our mind. In the Directory of Best Indian Blogs, you will find more than a hundred such blogs under 'personal' category. We are not saying that there is something intrinsically wrong with posting personal matter on the blog. In fact, blogs (originally called web logs or web diaries) were/are primarily meant to do that. In fact, the blogs selected by us in the 'personal' category of the Directory are indeed very good blogs.

So, what's the issue?

The issue is lazy blogging; maintaining the blog like a Facebook timeline (or worse, like a Twitter account) just because  we have not thought of making the blog something better. This also explains why a large number of bloggers have left blogging or reduced it in favour of Facebook or other networking sites: they have found new platforms better than the blog for their personal chatter or comment on whatever came in front of them. 

Allow us to give the simile of real estate. If social networking platforms are large colonies with multi-story flats, blogs and personal websites are, if finely maintained, small but beautiful villas. They have their identity; they have space to grow; they showcase their best resources.

But a personal blog has to be personal, isn't it?

Yes, a blog can be intensely personal, but it should not be trivial, routine, too commonplace, a place for gossip. For all things that you want to routinely share with friends and relatives, social networking sites are much better a place than blog. 

We'd advise that you keep your blog for substantial matters. Even if your blog is about your kid's early years, you could use your experiences as a tag to start discussion on parenting and child-health. If you are writing about how you spent your summer break in a tourist destination, make it a travel masterpiece on that destination. "The kid started walking on his own and he stumbled and he cried and I had tears in my eyes and my mother-in-law fell down as she came running and then my husband came and took her to hospital while I hugged my baby and ..." can be suitably shared on Facebook or other platforms, isn't it?

Well, you might say, what stops me from maintaining a web diary of my child's growing years? No one. Such a blog can, in fact, be a treasure that you can read when the child has grown up to become an adult; it can be a treasure for him to cherish. But that would be a deliberate and conscious decision on your part, not a product of lazy blogging because you could not think anything better. Also, it would not be a blog to share with public at large; it would be your personal diary.   

So, the takeaway is, maintain your blog as a personal diary but with matter that has substance and that you'll be proud of when you visit its old posts years later. Do not use the blog as a trash can for blurting out anything that comes to your mind. 

This reminds us of an old article on good writing for blogs. Like to browse it?: Quality of content matters a lot

July 29, 2014

Social media in conflict zones: Can you believe it?

The conflict between the Israelis and Hamas is on, with each side trying to breath down the neck of the other. Equally fierce is the war of hashtags in the social media world. 

With many western media organisations pulling their correspondents out of the war zone, not many bylined news stories are coming out of the Gaza strip. So, the Palestinian groups of various kinds are spreading rumours and half-truths about how the Israeli aggression is targeting civilians.  We are not saying that Israelis have been discreet about not hurting civilians. In fact, there have been numerous civilian casualties in the name of pounding the Hamas militia, and there must be bone-chilling, genuine, accounts of people suffering. But propagandists are not supposed to uncover the truth; they are there to spread untruth.

ISIS showed us how militia use social media to carry their tale. Hamas could not be an exception. On the other side, all governments use social media in a big way to garner support and sympathy to their cause. Israel is known to be using a huge army of social media users and professionals to bombard the social media with their messages and blunt the opposing view-points. But, being seen as brute, Israel is being outnumbered by Arab sympathizers, as of now.

Even journalists in today’s conflict zones do not seem to be discreet. There are many reports of journalists tweeting hearsays and unsubstantiated impressions of casualties, progress of conflict, damage etc.

Then there are a million social media propagators. They further disseminate whatever comes from the war zone, especially the Gaza side. Being agitated – and also believing that their actions will generate more support - they propagate the stories and statements far and wide. In social media, a message, especially when accompanied by a visual, gets instantly interpreted, commented upon, and disseminated. So, except for some peace-lovers and a bunch of cold analysts, every recipient of a message from the war zone participates in colouring and blowing it up. The more emotional a visual’s appeal, the more viral it gets. So, you can see many visuals of crying children, mutilated bodies and blood splattered clothes of the injured from both sides.

Twitter, as expected, is the main platform though activity is also seen on Facebook and minor social networks. There is a virtual war between hashtags such as #GazaUnderAttack,  #AJAGaza, #ICC4Israel and #FreeGaza on one side and #IsraelUnderFire on the other. These all have visuals showing how the other side is pounding homes and killing and seriously injuring innocents. 

The mainstream media is under pressure from the social media. In absence of enough verified reporting, it takes the course of using the social media route, sometimes using it in a crass manner and sometimes as a commentator on what social media is publishing.

There is a bloody war going on there, no doubt about that. Innocents are being killed and maimed - and you don't need proof for that. But we need to take with a pinch of salt, all that is being reported on the social media, even by supposed victims and journalists.