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Blogging: An insider's view

By Jai Arjun Singh
January 29, 2005 14:22 IST
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Severe withdrawal symptoms. I haven't blogged for several -- oh wait, still Friday is it? -- well, several hours then. No new comments on the Parveen Babi tribute I posted either. (Refresh refresh. Nope.)

What's worse, a colleague just peered over the partition at me and sweetly asked. "Don't you ever run out of things to gossip about in your bog?"

Wanted to bop her over the head, but the nearest blunt instrument was a couple of arms-lengths away, which would've meant deserting the computer.

The angst of the never-understood! How to tell an uncomprehending world that a blog isn't mere gossip?

What is it, then?

Well, the first thing you have to understand is that a blog can be mere gossip -- or even just a flippant, self-indulgent online diary with entries that run "9.58 AM: scratched my back; 9.59 AM: regarded the plaster peeling off the ceiling." We bloggers, even the most serious of us, aren't snooty about these things.

But there's a serious side too...

Dismiss blogging as a personal exercise of no real consequence though, and you'll be alienating yourself from one of the most dynamic global communication media around.

"Blog" was Merriam-Webster's Word of the Year for 2004, and it isn't for nothing that blogging has inspired lengthy articles in international media of late.

Around the world there's a growing recognition that it's being done by intelligent people and that there are communities out there networking passionately -- exchanging ideas and sharing information on every topic imaginable.

...And they can make a difference

Take the phenomenal success of the Tsunami Help blog in mobilising concerned citizens across countries, providing updates on relief operations (including the text of SMSes sent by people present at the devastated sites) and supplying information faster, and better, than mainstream media could.

Enough preaching; how to start?

Have learnt a valuable lesson about not procrastinating. I put off starting a blog for several months because I was convinced a) the technology would be beyond my handling and b) I wouldn't have anything of interest to say.

Now that I've started, I realise how silly I was.

Even with a slow Net connection, this is ridiculously easy. And yesterday, just as I'd posted a few scattered thoughts on a movie I'd seen, I got an appreciative comment from this amateur filmmaker based in Los Angeles -- his name's even listed on the Internet Movie Database!

Welcome to the global village, Jabberwock.

Sites like the Google-owned (also known as or Rediff have the simplest, most user-friendly interfaces.

All you have to do is choose a username and password, enter a few basic things about yourself, choose from the template options (this defines the look of your site) and start posting.

Yes, it's all free; we're not talking about personal homepages you have to pay for with a credit card. And if you have anything even remotely interesting to say, you'll be surprised at the speed with which someone will respond.

What can I post?

Have I finished my daily quota of four posts? Let's see -- there's the 2,000-word analysis of the new Booker Prize winner, the tasteless rant against Julia Roberts, the teary tribute to my first cat who would've turned 25 today…and, of course, this one.

Don't constrain yourself -- write on whatever catches your fancy, or simply hyperlink to something interesting you've read on the Internet.

Of course, there are bloggers who pick one topic and turn their site into a dedicated one-stop space for visitors interested in that subject (if you think no one reads or discusses books anymore, for instance, you'll be astonished at the quality and variety of literary blogsites in cyberspace).

And others, the ones with plenty of time and Internet access, maintain several blogs at a time, neatly organising their writings by subject, in what amounts to a Virtual filing system.

Advanced blogging

Once you're comfortable with the medium, you'll want to see what else it can do. Apart from basic text postings, most servers will give you the option of posting images on your site as well.

A basic HTML code will allow you to put up links to other people's blogs on your site; this will, inevitably result in cross-linking and increased traffic on your site.

Monitoring traffic

What's Google up to now? Someone who did a search for "grandmothers having tantric sex with marsupials" was directed to my clean-as-cucumber site?!

Websites like or allow you to track the number of visitors to your blog, and even provide detailed information like who else has been linking to your site and the Google searches that lead people to your space. But the WWW works in mysterious ways, so don't be distressed by any of the findings!

Oh yes, you're an addict now

Just returned from an interview with the Delhi chief minister for this big page-one story I'm working on. Editor is frothing at the mouth; I have a one-hour deadline.

But first I'm going to take out 10 minutes for a quick post about these enormous black bats I saw -- dozens of them -- hanging upside down in a tree in the CM's garden. Whence do they come, what is their purpose, does she keep them as pets?

You'll know you're a blog addict if you find your senses heightened to everything around you -- and when, each time you see or hear something remotely out of the ordinary, your first thought isn't "That's interesting!" but "Whoa! Where's the nearest computer?"

There is a real world

Had an informal bloggers' get-together last evening. Met Putu the Cat, The Griffin, The Marauding Mapster, Writer-in-Exile and Black Muddy River in person for the first time.

We studied each other awkwardly at first; stripped of the colourful cyber-identities, what dour creatures we are! But a couple of drinks helped loosen formality's strings and soon we were chattering away like old friends: books, films, the tsunami, the World Bank, idle gossip.

It was fun. Must meet again soon, in the real world, which is where all the rum and kebabs are.

Those who fear that compulsive blogging can turn you into a sociopath, living life only on the computer, have a point; such is, after all, the nature of the Internet.

But eventually the decision not to be sucked into the Machine is in your own hands, the way it is with any other addiction.

Most dedicated bloggers are aware of the pitfalls -- which is why there are bloggers' forums everywhere now, dedicated groups of like-minded people who make it a point to build friends' networks and to meet, face to face, on a regular basis.


Oops. Just ran into a senior executive in public relations at a book discussion; she wagged her finger at me and said reprovingly, "I read what you wrote about PR people on your blog. Very bad." Discreet, discreet, Jabberwock.

It's easy to forget sometimes that blogs are a public forum (unless you've elected to make your profile private), and that anyone can stumble upon your distilled thoughts through another link or even a Google search.

So be careful what you write, and about whom. Avoid bitching about your co-workers for starters, or making disclosures about the company you work for — people have been fired for that sort of thing!

But you can delete...

One of the attractive things about a blog is that you can always go back and modify, or even delete, a post that you're ashamed of, for whatever reason.

Arundhati Roy -- she who said "How can you breathe the same breath twice?" -- might disapprove of such revisionism, but hey, on your blogspace you're the god of all things.

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