Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Tips from an Aging Beginner

The other day, I turned fifty. I spent some wonderful moments with my family, and friends we have made since moving to Manila nearly four years ago. Don’t worry,
I am not mentioning my birthday to solicit your belated notes of congratulations. This is about getting older. My age, and all that goes with it, has become an incentive to exert special efforts to stay in touch with technological developments. These have been particularly dazzling in the fields of media and communications.

While in many parts of the world younger members of society (I can see this with my 18-year nephew in Germany) are exposed to the products of technological progress on an almost daily basis, as one grows older one has to pro-actively seek and make special efforts to stay in touch with technology’s advances.

As a journalist with a professional interest in political communications, I am fascinated by the impact and also the potential of the digital media. A few weeks ago, I facilitated a workshop for communications workers of Asian liberal political parties entitled “Political Parties and the Internet.” The one-week affair was co-sponsored by the Council of Asian Liberals and Democrats (CALD) and help in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. For me, preparing for the workshop was an opportunity to seriously look into blogging.

There are tons of related materials on the Internet and also various printed publications. Beyond the online research and the ultimate (and time consuming) method of “learning by doing”, I wish to recommend two sources for new (pastime) bloogers.

While a bit out-of-date, I found Rebecca Blood’s “The Weblog Handbook” very useful and full of practical tips. She also gives an interesting history of the origins of the blogs which started out as rather simple collections of links. After reading the book you will probably spend hours and hours surfing the net, checking out blogging software and scrutinizing existing online journals. There is probably no better way to get started than to do just that.

If you have already posted your own blog, which in any case should be a stimulating experience, you should check out the “usability”-study by Jakob Nielsen. In a recent paper, Nielsen describes “The Top Ten Design Mistakes” of weblogs. Among the “mistakes” Nielsen mentions is – mea culpa – the “unregular publishing frequency,” which, of course, should be avoided in favor of a publication schedule which one should stick to.

Nielsen also recommends getting (buying) an own domain-name. Weblog addresses ending in blogspot.com or typepad.com, are for him “the mark of a naïve beginner who shouldn’t be taken too seriuosuly.”

Harsh words, I think, maybe even too harsh.

In the mean time, I will see how this writing and publishing project of mine develops. Should I manage to stick to a regular schedule – as Nielsen and others advise – I would consider migrating to an own domain. Until then, I am grateful to Blogger.com for their all inclusive and extremely user friendly services. Salamat po!

P.S.: Speaking of my birthday, one of the many presents my dear wife gave me was an Ipod Nano . I’ve been busy checking out all the features of this little wonder machine. Of course, I have also downloaded various political podcasts. As a former radio editor (and acting freelance radio reporter) I am thrilled to see the revival of (digital) audio. I am actually contemplating to start my own little podcast, if not for the sole reason but to stay in touch with technological progress.


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Sunday, November 27, 2005

My Focus

Thus far, this project didn’t turn out as I had anticipated. When I started this blog some weeks ago, I had planned to keep it running with regular updates - maybe with two additions a week, to give you an idea. But then, other priorities in the office and an illness struck this ambition down. Things at work have cooled down (I am actually taking a week off just now) and, also, I feel healthy again. Therefore, I haven’t given up on my earlier plan.

Time constraints and conflicting priorities are probably the main stumbling blocks for many pastime bloggers like myself. A second major problem for those starting to write a personal online journal, I would argue, is to know what you will be writing about. While there are 1001 subjects one could dwell on, finding the topic that is both relevant and interesting (from a personal perspective) remains a challenge.

For me, this has not been a problem. As my entire professional life has had to do with politics, writing and dealing with politics has long become a passion.

The focus of this journal is politics – liberal politics, as I have explained earlier. While I am often tempted to use information I have access to through the political work I engage in in the Philippines (I feel privileged to be privy to many bits and pieces of information that hardly ever see the day of light), this would not only be improper but also in breach of my employer’s policies.

This said, don’t expect to read in these pages informal news and “secrets” from what is often termed the wider liberal family. I intend, instead, to focus on a more general note on issues relevant to liberal politics in the Philippines and beyond, and discuss and analyze them from a liberal point of view. This shall be my focus.

Saturday, November 05, 2005

The freest and most liberal communications tool

For some while, I had played with the idea to create my own blog. A journalist by profession, I enjoy writing (although doing this in English, which is not my native language, remains a challenge). I also like sharing information and thoughts with others.

Numerous ways exist to do just that: Ever since I left my editor's job at Radio Deutsche Welle in Cologne some ten years ago, I considered the media an important avenue for my liberal advocacy. This is not the point to discuss the merits and shortcomings of the various conventional media (radio, television and print) as tools of political communications. Instead, I wish to highlight that the digital media - and foremost the ever expanding blogs - have opened totally new avenues of communications, thereby effectively democratizing and liberalizing how millions of individuals communicate today.

No other communications tool gives us the possibilty to express ourselves more freely than the blog. While empowering the individual and enhancing creativity, blogs also offer space and techniques for digital socializing and community building.

So far at least, the blogosphere seems free of politcal intervention and censorship. It is void of gatekeepers. Blogs are - in short - the freest and, therefore, most liberal of all communications tools. To top all this: for the author, no medium is cheaper than a weblog.

With these advantages, expect the blogger movement's advance to continue: last time I checked, technorati listed more than twenty million published weblogs. This is about three times more than at the beginning of 2005.

So join the bandwaggon! It's fun, educative - and, if you have something to say, your message might even find an audience...


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Friday, November 04, 2005

Why liberal?

I can think of hardly a term as controversial as "liberal." For ideological foes, and they are not a few, liberalism-bashing is en vogue; they misuse the term as a four letter word. Disturbingly, the epicenter of the ideological onslaught is found in the United States, whose history (with some major exceptions) may be termed a liberal success story.

When North Americans and Europeans meet they usually have varying ideas about liberalism. What for most people is merely a matter of definitions and linguistics, for me has always been a major professional challenge. I earn my life working for an institute whose main objective is the promotion of liberalism both at home (Germany) and abroad.

I have developed a definition of the basics of liberalism some years ago. Liberals, as a matter of principle, abhor thinking in terms of black and white, they tend to ask many critical questions before they come up with solutions. Necessarily, this mind set and ideological openness has also led to what may be termed liberal confusion.

But, then, this site is not aimed at spreading confusion. I intend to post comments and thoughts on political matters from a liberal vantage point. As a resident of the Philippines, expect most of the entries to deal with Philippine politics - a profoundly confusing topic, and often also depressing. But politics Filipino style is also fascinating. I can think of hardly any other society that is as transparent regarding domestic politics as is the Philippines.

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