The Monitor (Kampala)

28 January 2007

Uganda: Blogging Mania Hits Town

"Some of the bloggers I've met are analytical, philosophical, poetic, lyrical, angry, soulful, odd, scandalous, clinically insane... they pour out their minds and display their weaknesses and fantasies"

The mental curiosity and the willingness to learn and take interest in what goes around has compelled many to read voluminously, carry diaries and engage in debates. To be informed is to be 'cool' so, folks have turned to the Internet in an additive trend called blogging.

Blogging comes from 'blog(s)' and dictionary.com defines a "blog" as " a shared on-line journal where people can post diary entries about their personal experiences and hobbies" or "an online diary; a personal chronological log of thoughts published on a Web page; also called Weblog."

Setting one's blog is easy as creating an email address, you just have to pop in an Internet café and visit blogger.com, the website that started the blogging passion, and follow the easy instructions. Blogs come with a sidebar in which a blogger can set links to their favourite websites and other blogs.

It's without doubt a riveting experience reading people's blogs. Because most bloggers use pseudo names, they are not shy to blog about how tortoises make love to how exciting it is to kiss in the morgue. Introverts turn into instant extroverts -posting anything to see how readers respond. Then there are blogs on ordinary things like the premiership soccer craze, the work experience and getting stuck in a jam.

In short, you'll find a myriad of blogs on anything from everywhere and in any language.

The comments section makes it the more fascinating when readers leave behind snide comments provoking other bloggers to hit back. In the end it becomes a heated interaction in what could perhaps pass as a battle of wits.

It has been said that best writers you'll ever come across don't write for newspapers, perhaps they blog because bloggers are a creative lot who paint big pictures with incandescent prose, sheer musicality and urbane vividness by weaving terrific escapades that provide intimate reading for their online fans.

Ugandan community

As is the case all around the world, Uganda has not been spared by the ardour of blogging. It all began in 2004 when one Jay, allegedly created the first blog in Uganda. After discovering blogging, Jay decided that his "idle thoughts" were "quite comfortable right here (on his blog)" and more so he wanted "people to know a thing or two about living in sunny Kampala" and thus he named his blog 'Jay's Idle Notes.'

"At first I thought I was a lone Ugandan sailing the vast sea that is the blogosphere until another sail picked up my message in a bottle and responded with urls of other blogs that had been around longer," Jay writes on his blog while celebrating two years of blogging.

"Now I have a whole lot of blog friends and acquaintances....some of the bloggers I've met have been philosophical, poetic, analytic, lyrical, angry, soulful, scandalous, odd, clinically insane...on their blogs is where they pour out their minds and display their weaknesses and fantasies and make the whole human experience worthwhile."

Political blogs

Most Ugandan blogs, he however notes, "are heavily political; they are all about Kony, poverty, democracy...the funny thing is that many of these bloggers are actually foreigners with a keen interest in Ugandan politics. The rest are mostly opposition types and self proclaimed anarchists or tourists going through Uganda." Jay's "rambling thoughts from Sunny Kampala" have endeared him to lots of fans and his blog has featured on the BBC website because he's very analytical and engaging writer.

Ivan Musoke, who is credited for wooing many Ugandans (mostly girls) into the blogsphere, notes on his weblog that blogs are about "the twisted wisdom, the witty remarks and the downright dirty eloquence."

Ugandan bloggers choose funky, strange names for their blogs such as 'Building the Nation,' 'Song of a Warrior' 'Twisted Vision,' 'Mad and Crazy,' 'Exciting Reporter' 'Rolex Maker,' 'X-poser' 'The Rants of a Willie Boy,' 'Goddess of Sorts' 'Communist Socks and Boots' or 'Cookie Crumbs.'

The subtitles of their their blog titles read like: 'I came. I saw. I expressed an opinion,' 'The sun shines on the wicked and on the righteous alike,' 'Are you pondering what I'm pondering?' 'May the bright revolution find you on the winning side -common blessing in prehistoric Uganda.'

Local singer Morris Kirya is favourite among female bloggers while Nsaba Buturo and Straka 'Baby' Mwezi are blogged about mostly by males. Employing a versatile funny style, Ugandan bloggers will write about small legs, archeology, pot bellies, corpses, and how Eve of the garden of Eden is a "bitch" that brought suffering to humanity.

A blogger named Cherie, who claims to have been born a "little monster with pretty face and no teeth" once swiped at a critic that accused bloggers of being computer freaks that wear huge glasses the size of "windows" and lead empty lives and wake up every morning to thank God for the Internet, because its the only place that accepts geeks. Cherie was perturbed that the anonymous critic said bloggers are "poem writing, diary keeping, book reading and puzzle loving geeks" who should be ostracised.

An obsession

Blogging is so obsessive that those who spend days without updating their sites apologise to fellow bloggers: "I ask forgiveness, blog friends for I have sinned...I accuse myself of suffering a mental blockage for a while now and I've been incapable of thinking straight for more than a few seconds at a time.

My brain seems to sever the connection it has with my fingers everytime I get close to a keyboard. My batteries are being recharged for a comeback. Now guys you can proceed and do whatever it is the priest does at this point in a real confession booth. Absolve a brother," reads an apology on Ivan's blog.

Blogging is certainly a major part of many Ugandan lives, incling seasoned journalists like Daniel Kalinaki, Ernest Bazanye and David Kaiza. Ugandans believe that had William Shakespeare lived long, he would be a blogger.

Last week, they held their inaugural meeting at Mateos. It started as an invite posted on one Jack Fruity's blog: "The first 'Uganda Bloggers Happy Hour' will take place on Thursday, January 18, 2007 at 6.30 p.m. at Mateo's (above Nandos on Kampala Road). Bring your wit, your feistiness, your eloquence and your humour and meet up with the myriad of voices, minds and opinions that make up the Ugandan blogsphere.

Friends, readers and the blog-curious are welcome, as is anyone willing to debate the faults and merits of Aga Khan or Jay-Z. We hope this happy hour will serve as a springboard from which the Uganda blogging community can trade ideas, stories and opinions and continue to grow. We look forward to seeing you there," read the communiqué.

Many who had taken it as another joke missed out, so, only a handful attended. After raising the 'Bloggers Happy Hour' card, they settled down to some drinks, and with concrete humour, shared about their blogging addictions before unanimously confessing that one of the female bloggers, Inktus, "is so friggin' hot!" Jack Fruity a blogger said, they had come "together to discuss the issues circulating among our blogs and throughout the country, to put faces with names, and to enjoy a few drinks with our fellow geeks...the goal is to increase the level of debate in this country."

New media

Accordingly, Dave Winer, an American software developer, started the first official blog in 1997, and by 2006 there were over 60 million blogs worldwide. In 2003, Google realised that blogging was the new sensation and bought the company that helped make blogs such a boom. According to a BBC story, Google buying Blogger validates "the importance of weblogs to the Internet ecosystem."

Critics have since branded blogs a "a media of their own...with a power to transform both writers and readers from 'audience' to 'public' and from 'consumer' to 'creator.' Not only do blogs provide an open platform for self-expression and for budding writers to hone their skills, but also there is fear that they will replace newspapers in the future.

Late last year, a selected team of journalsim students from Makerere university with their counterparts from Southern Illinois University Carbondale (SIUC) tele-conferenced at the American Embassy, Kampala, about Blogging and Media in Africa.

Blogs are also swiftly becoming a channel of political activism. When radiokatwe.com fronted damaging government secrets majorly about Museveni and his family, it was disabled by the authorities but its editors swiftly opened a blog and posted all their inflicting propaganda there as a panacea to the government move.

Through blogs, people have made friends while girls are getting marriage partners.As blogger Inktus, cheekily notes, "you might meet that rich Sultan's son (would he be a prince) and he'd sweep you off your feet on his flying carpet to a world of jewel encrusted cups and plates!" Never underestimate the power of blogs!

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