In today's world of the Internet, there is this new phenomenon of blogging. And don't be surprised that there are still many people out there especially those who are not internet savvy, who are clueless as to what blogging is.
For those who do not understand blogging, by and large most bloggers are basically writing public diaries. They may write about their everyday lives, almost as if to themselves, except that they put it up for public viewing.
What differentiates one blog from another is basically the quality of content and writing. A person who leads an interesting life and can write eloquently about it online is going to have a much more popular blog than someone who has a very routine life.
There are millions of blogs and some of the most interesting ones are those written by people who are, for example, cancer survivors who write about how they cope with everyday life and people who live in war zones like Iraq who give literally an insider’s view of the conflict.
What is wonderful about blogging is that there is no entry requirement except perhaps access to the Internet and a facility or flair for language. Anyone and everyone can start one, on any subject !
Bloggers do not have to study how to blog, sit for any qualifying exam, nor are paid for it. So there is no such thing as a professional blogger and a non-professional one. True, there are some full-time ones, people who seem to do nothing but blog.
But most bloggers have a life outside the Internet and write their thoughts for public consumption mostly as a hobby. It is however a hobby that is absorbing and exciting because unlike most hobbies, you do have an audience that is eager to and avidly does interact with you.
The wonderful thing about blogging is that it allows an individual to give voice to their thoughts when there are few other avenues available.
Some of these thoughts are not necessarily positive. But there are some “political” bloggers who generally can make very "intelligent" comments about national issues.
But for the most part, most bloggers are people who simply want to air their views through this exciting new medium.
Of late, there has been a lot of talk about bloggers from people in high places. Bloggers are apparently prone to lying, rumour mongering, and are not credible or authoritative. Some even go so far as to charge that bloggers can cause disharmony among our people, leading to inter-racial violence and bla-bla-bla ...
It's all a bit puzzling, given our country's embrace of the Internet and desire to build a knowledge-based economy. As the eleven million Malaysians on the Internet will attest, once you're on, you're on; there is no turning back. Otherwise, why would there be websites for everything, including for government ministries?
Some people have likened blogs to "surat layang" - those nasty anonymous "poison letters" against people that circulate and are read just like gossip magazines or "pisang goreng panas".
But there is a huge difference between those letters and blogs. For one thing, many blogs are not anonymous, unlike the writers of surat layang. Therefore bloggers who write under their own names are taking responsibility for what they are saying.
Secondly, unlike surat layang, one can always instantly respond to a blog posting by simply posting a comment. The more intelligent your response, the more likely you are to persuade people that what's reported in the blog is not credible.
Indeed, one way for anyone to counter what they view as untrustworthy and non-authoritative blogs is to start their own blogs. Since they view themselves as very credible straightforward people, whatever they say on their blogs must surely be persuasive.
In the US, politicians are increasingly turning to the Net to promote themselves, and it has worked well for many of them. Therefore, it is surely time for ours, especially those on the government side, to join in.
As they say, if you cannot beat them (and you cannot), then you might as well join them. Indeed, there are several politician blogs that could be very popular.
The only thing, however, is that they must be prepared for the Net to bite back at them. Unlike ceramahs to supporters and cosy chats to compliant reporters, netizens have a tendency to talk back, and not always very politely.
If they think you are talking garbage, they will tell you. The only solution to this is to not talk garbage, which apparently some of our politicians find very hard to do. Perhaps this explains their hesitation in embracing the Net.
Worst of all, such grouchy foot stomping about the Net only makes people look outdated and out-of-touch. Telling the mainstream media not to look to blogs for information only backfires. It makes the mainstream media look stupid and raises the profile of blogs, justifiably or not.
Some blogsites get more than one million hits because they talk about things the papers won't. It's an irreversible tide. Might as well flow with it, or risk drowning.