I was very pleased this morning(yes, this morning, my vampirish routine has got to go this semester) when I logged on to Jordan Planet and found that we have 7 new Jordanian bloggers(welcome to the Planet guys).
Blogging is certainly taking off in Jordan, although I must stress on the fact that it has been mostly growing with a certain segment of society. This better-off segment of society is a young one that speaks very good English, that is(to a certain degree) quite technical, and is, as Firas and Natasha pointed out, not very political.
We, as Jordanian bloggers, have tried to account for this trend several times, both in online and offline discussions and debates. Although the conclusions have ranged from political conspiracy theories to reasons related to disinterest, I believe that the fact that there were no real Arabic blogging softwares online greatly contributed to the social segmentation of Jordan bloggers.
Yes, I know that American blogging softwares such as Blogger can be manipulated to start posting in Arabic, but I personally believe that what we really need to facilitate blogging in the Arabic-speaking world is having a blogging software with a blogging interface in Arabic.
So, when I heard about a newly launched blogging service by the Middle-Eastern portal Al-Bawaba, I was intrigued to try it(And Far Away… on Al-Bawaba here), especially as the blogging interface can be interchanged between both Arabic and English.
I found the interface fairly easy to use, the default blogging setting being the wysiwyg editor, although it can easily be switched to HTML mode. It has some features that make it very appealing, even more appealing than Blogger(which I believe in the best free blogging software online), such as the availability of a “Resource Center” which acts like an online file library. It also has categorizing, integrated statistics, and easy link managing(links have to be added in HTML to the template in Blogger). All these features make it very, very usable for less technical Arabs interested in blogging.
Actually, the only setback to Al Bawaba Blogs is the template system, which only has a few templates and of which only a couple are aesthetically usable in my opinion. An even bigger setback with the templates to a more technical person is that you cannot edit their HTML, and I believe that the best thing about blogging is that you have, to a certain degree, complete control over your space. Apparently though, changes are being cooked to improve the templating system, so that should be something to look forward to.
I’m aware that Fastlink had started a mobile blogging service earlier this month, and although it has huge chances of success as a service because Fastlink as a company has a lot of subscribers, I do not think that it is even slightly comparable to Blogger because the quality of the target audience. I mean- cheap mobile phone cameras, aimless picture taking of random people and random places, and pretty much nothing to say are not the ingredients of a good blog.
It would be interesting to witness what will happen to blogging in Arabia with the local companies starting up local, Arabized blogging services, and whether these easy to use services such as Al-Bawaba Blogs will attract Arabs who have something real to say but who are, for some reason or another, not very comfortable with English-based interfaces.