Reaching out through blogs
March 10 2013 01:05 AM
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Picture of lamps for sale at Souq Waqif by Rachel Charlotte, posted on her blog.

By Sakshi Vashist

In earlier days a writer was known for his mighty pen. He had an opinion about everything and also the means to be heard. His power rested in making or breaking anyone’s life with the power of his writing. But today anyone with an Internet connection has the power of speech.
The concept of blogging (a short form of ‘web log’) started in the late 1990s when computers and the Internet started being commonly used by everyone.
Blogging became popular during 1999 and emerged in the following years as a medium of self-expression all over the world. Tumblr, WordPress and Blogger are the most popular blogging service used today, attracting people of all age groups and uniting them with a common yet diverse purpose.
Steff Gaulter, senior weather presenter at Al Jazeera, who also writes the weekly Weather Addict column for Gulf Times Community (see Page 7), feels that anecdotes of daily life things that seem fairly normal to the writer, could surprise, excite or amuse someone else.
It is a common misconception that blogging is only about writing. It is a combination of curiosity, research, writing, publishing, collaboration and getting involved in social media sites for promotion. For people who love reading and researching, it becomes a hobby and for people who promote their brands and products, blogging is a profession.
Mohanalakshmi Rajakumar, a PhD and Adjunct Faculty at Virginia Commonwealth University — Qatar (VCU-Q) says, “I am a writer, so now my blog is part of my professional portfolio, but initially it began as a hobby. The culture, modernism and society of Qatar are hugely inspiring.”
Indeed, the vibrant culture, ample photogenic landscapes and friendly natives and expats have motivated bloggers to follow their passion. Working with an oil company in Qatar, Irena tells how her experience is enriched after coming here. “I’ve always been very passionate about travelling and photography, however the best photo blogging time has been since I migrated to Qatar. The local culture is exhilarating.”
A typical blog combines text, images, and links to other blogs, web pages, and media related to its topic. It can focus on one narrow subject or a whole range of subjects and often become a way to reflect on life or works of art. It is more than just a way to just communicate. Constance Citalan writes a blog on home decor ([email protected]) so that expats can create a home away from home.
Andre Snoxall, an Australian management consultant and avid blogger since 2005, narrates the purpose of his two blogs. “I started blogging at “Waggingthedog” because I wanted to share my experiences of moving to and living in Qatar. The blog helped people around the world in understanding the diversity of this country and the joy of meeting and mixing with people from an entirely different culture and belief. I started “Qatarka” because I wanted to inform fellow professionals and open some debate and discussion about the healthcare sector. The title is inspired from Knowledge Academy for Qatar.”
Qatar has some excellent bloggers both expatriate and national. Dan Adams, who has been blogging since nine years, highlights the great cultural diversity and dynamism within Qatar. The multitude of ethnicities working alongside truly uplifts the atmosphere of the nation, he said. Undoubtedly, the country has talent and purpose, but this form of interaction through social networking is still limited. Does this mean there is lack of sincerity, time, material or knowledge in Qatar’s blogging community?
Dr Colleen Morgan, a blogger and an archaeologist with University College London — Qatar, sheds some light on this. “The infrastructure for blogging in Qatar seems to be very good, but perhaps people like to communicate more by Facebook or Twitter than by blogging. Masses are still unaware of the unique features of blogging.”
There are three main ‘cool’ features of a blog which many don’t know about. Firstly, blogs are easy and inexpensive to set up. Secondly, some blogging tools like WordPress offer users the ability to e-mail the posts directly to the blog, without direct interaction through the blogging tool interface. And lastly, a blog can be composed by multiple-users rather than a single blogger, so several authors contribute on a topic.
While a traveller can update his blog on the move via e-mail, a group of college/school mates can start a blog together and update it simultaneously.
Gustav Brandt, a photographer supports this, “I take photographs and then update my blog any time.” He chuckles and adds, “More than the architecture of Qatar, I like the good-looking cars here, which you don’t normally see in other countries all the time.”
All blogs have a few things in common. They have a main contents area with articles listed chronologically, the newest on top. They feature an archive based on dates (monthly or yearly), categories, authors or just alphabetical order. Further, all blogs have a “blogroll” which links other web pages that the author finds worthwhile or interesting.
Additionally, the majority of blogs are interactive, allowing visitors to leave comments and messages to each other, and it is this interactivity that distinguishes blogs from other static websites.
This feature allows users to comment upon posts, link to your posts, and recommend them. Thus, blogging is a form of social networking as bloggers not only produce content to post on their blogs, but also to interact with their readers and other bloggers.
Rachel Charlotte, a British national residing in Qatar, describes the interactive aspect of her blog. “People have been very kind about ‘Funky Qatar Blog’ although a few left negative comments about the design and colour scheme. The constructive feedback helped me improve my blog because it is really important to hear what your audience says, good or bad.”
Over the years blogging has become one of the most important means to promote any product or services and an integral part of any online marketing campaign. Rachel adds, “I am a writer, illustrator and graphic designer. I started including music, video pages and the public galleries to my blog and now the site is becoming a great networking tool for musicians, artists and writers in Qatar.”
Alex Klim left his IT job to follow his passion and became an independent filmmaker; his blog not only documents his work but also connects and supports aspiring filmmakers in Doha.
On the other hand, a 14-year- old blogger Raquel Citalan feels she can learn professionalism with blogging. She wishes to study at Parsons Paris School of Design and believes she has learnt the impact of social media and visuals on readers from her blog.
Some bloggers in Qatar feel people can be put off by teething troubles in starting a blog. Others may get off to a good start only to become quickly discouraged because of the lack of comments or visits.
Expert bloggers recommend these tips for beginners:
{ Post regularly, don’t give up if there aren’t enough visitors.
Mohanalakshmi elaborates, “Blogging takes time, commitment, and discipline. Blog every week, make it interactive, ask a question. Use other social media to tell people about your posts so they can share with others.”

{ Use clean and simple language. Born and brought up in Qatar, expatriate blogger Hooriya Hussain gives an insight, “The success of a blog varies, if the blog is constructive, transparent and ethical, it would be widely accepted.”
 
{ Visit other peoples’ blogs too as they normally check out your blog too. Hooriya adds, “I personally take time out to read blogs and interact with authors. Reflecting on other people’s little tidbits on life, their feelings initiates a thought process between like-minded people.”
 
{ Choose crisp and attractive subjects/titles. Nailya Bentley, a freelance writer and a columnist, gives her personal example, “I once used some words as a joke and had unwelcome visitors! You have to be aware of the exposure — some of it is unwanted.”
 
{ Tag the words you want to associate with your blog, it comes up in searches.
Nailya says, “Blogs have real stories and experiences, told in fresh voices. The more people write, the more people will read them, and forward them on to their friends. Blogging has helped me to learn the discipline of writing something regularly, practicing my skill and finding my own, unique voice. It has taught me what creates reaction in the masses.”
Sometimes blogging can become a profession too. Bloggers in Qatar give their readers an exposure to plethora of topics in the country as well as from around the world, enabling them to make new contacts. This is a trendy new way of connecting a small part of the world to the rest, giving the people in Qatar a common platform to share ideas and information.


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