May 07, 2005

Blogging > Live-blogging Hossein Derakshan's BlogNashville Talk

Hossein Derakshan of Hoder.com (an abbreviation of his first and last names).

Topic is "Building Blogospheres." Hossein was a pioneering Iranian blogger who translated English news and blogs into Persian so that people in Iran could know what was happening in the outside world. His own blog is blocked by Iranian censors. He lives in and blogs from Toronto.

70% of the Iranian population is under 30. Wth 70 million people, there are around 4-5 million Internet users.

Keys to building a blogosphere in a new country:

  • First bloggers either need to be in-country, or have only recently moved and have a feel for the country's mood and politics.
  • Blogrolls are very important to point bloggers and blog readers to the next link in the chain.
  • Blogrolls eventually need to give way to comprehensive directories. Hossein had to abandon his own blogroll once it got to 3,000 blogs. A comprehensive directory also provides a count of blogs, which helps to measure their impact.
  • Links to newcomers are vital to encourage them to keep writing.
  • Linking makes the blog community bigger and stronger.
  • Celebrities - real ones, not Internet celebrities - are crucial to spread the word about blogs beyond the geeky typical Internet users who are first movers in the blogosphere.
  • Localized software to answer local needs is important. He cites Persianblog.com as an example: their entire interface is in Persian.

How blogs are affecting Iran:

  • Blogs as windows (culture, information). "Example: female journalist banned from parliament turned to blogging (Massih Alinejad)."
  • Blogs as bridges (Iran is a divided society with "social islands"). Iranian politicians use their Web pages very efectively. An earlier phenomenon in Iran that inspired the earlier, pre-Internet revolution used political audio tapes that people would duplicate and pass on.
  • Blogs as cafes (political discourse encouraged by blogs). "A discursive arena that is home to citizen dedate, deliberation, agreement and action (Jargen Habermas)."

Iranian elections are June 17.

Internet access in Iran is almost entirely dial-up, using locally-made PCs that are now relatively affordable. There are fewer Internet cafes than there used to be. Progress on broadband is very slow. Wireless Internet may move in and make blogging more popular.

The lack of tools and information in languages other than English is a problem. He doesn't hold out much hope for automated translation tools. One idea he has is for English-speaking Persians to mass-filter English information by linking to what they think is important. Each link would be a vote, with the most popular links being translated to Persian by volunteers.

Access to blogs and pornography are the biggest motivators for people getting Internet access in Iran, where legal pornography is almost non-existent.

Blogs by Iranians is a collection of English-language Iranian blogs.

Hossein will be in Iran in June in the run-up to the elections. He thinks it may be dangerous, but that the Western media attention will keep the government from taking action against him for fear it would affect the elections. Once the elections are over he'll have to leave Iran.

Posted by lesjones

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