#SajhaSawal

“When I see ordinary people speaking on the program, I feel motivated and confident that I also could speak in front of the public.”

This was what a 46-year-old woman from the rural area of Surkhet district told a researcher studying the impact of the radio/television show — Sajha Sawal, literally, Common Questions.

My questions! A woman speaks during Sajha Sawal’s shoot! Photo Courtesy: SajhaSawal
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The Tweeting Editors

Popular microblogging platform Twitter has become popular among the editors in Nepal.

Although the level of impact by the editors’ tweets is yet to be analyzed, they are expressing their opinions and debating on national issues on Twitter.

I follow as many tweeting editors as I could find with my Twitter account (@UjjwalAcharya) and it all went interesting last week when the editors exchanged views on system of governance (especially on directly-elected president).

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Internet Intermediaries & Freedom of Expression

(This post is a result of my participation in the South Asia Meeting on the Freedom of Expression and the Internet in Kathmandu, 2-4 November. This is my personal opinion but I owe to participants of the meeting whose comments may have helped me to shape this.)

By Internet intermediaries, I mean those companies or people who has a role in providing internet services to the people including, but not limited to, Internet Service Providers (ISPs), webhosts, web service providers, website owners, and also cyber cafes and telecommunication companies.

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Constructive youth engagement through social media

At the time when the term Facebook generation is increasingly being used to refer to youths uninterested in political and social responsibilities, youths have came together to use the social media for constructive political and social engagements.

Many consider that Nepali youth in today’s urban societies normally detach themselves from politics, social responsibilities and look for opportunities to go abroad. While not completely false the ongoing political instability, decade long Maoist conflict, lack of opportunities and development have contributed to the rise of pessimistic thoughts among the youths. Equally true is the fact that the youths, at least some of them, have refocused themselves towards constructive engagements with an aim of contributing to the social and political causes.

Through social media, such as Facebook and Twitter, they have found a tool to give life to their initiatives; which can be accredited to the events around the world, the rising popularity of social media and most importantly, the trendiness of the social media that matches the youth’s curiosity.

Use of Facebook and Twitter is still considered by many as a detachment from what is happening around. Looking at someone, who is constantly checking on Facebook and Twitter updates on their laptop and/or mobile phones, the detachment, seems obvious. But when the social media feed them the information on what is going on around them along with opinions to their peer groups, it is safe to say that social media is just a new way of communication of the society.

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Tweets: People’s voices

Click for full image.

Egypt is in turmoil. The North African nation is going through the mass protests it had never seen before in an attempt to rid itself from the clutches of 30-year autocracy of President Hosni Mubarak. Regime change in Tunisia, its neighbor, fueled the protests in the streets of Egypt that are growing violent, without any sign of subsiding until Mubarak steps down.

In the Egyptian as well as the Tunisian protests, social media on the internet such as Facebook, Twitter and YouTube acted as a platform for the people to share their opinions with the world along with exchanging information. In fact, some of the optimistic social media advocates are calling these revolutions Facebook revolutions, which in my opinion is an exaggeration. People used these means of communication media to spread and share information, only because they are global and more powerful than traditional means – word of mouth or telephone.

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Attempt to network citizen journalists

Equal Access Nepal, an INGO working mainly in media development, is in a process of creating MeroReport.net with an aim of making it a network for citizen journalists in Nepal.

The website being built on Ning – the social networking script. The INGO larger objectives on its development is to be give a common platform for people to put on their report; bloggers to promote themselves leading towards a creation of fully functional citizen journalism site.

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Wikileaks: Transparency vs terror

Wikileaks, a website dedicated to leaking secret documents, is a subject of debate, both legal and journalistic, since it began publishing memos sent to and from US State Department and 274 US embassies around the world. The diplomatic documents, some classified as secret or confidential and many unclassified, do not reflect the official policies of the world’s most powerful country, however they represent the attitudes and opinions of American diplomats, which has put the US in an uncomfortable position.

The US tried its best to stop the publication since Wikileaks informed it about having such documents. When US issued a warning that publication of the memos could put lives in danger, Julian Assange – the website’s founder and public face – cleverly asked the US to categorically point to the memos that are sensitive. The US, which denied any communication and comments, tried to block the way through many means including forcing firms in their land to withdraw services that they were rendering to Wikileaks. Amazon withdrew hosting, EveryDNS withdrew domain name services (meaning that when somebody types wikileaks.org, the internet is unable to find the server computer where the site is stored) and popular financial transaction service provider PayPal dropped their accounts (which constrained the donation collection by the site).

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Talking citizen journalism at miniBarCamp

Equal Access Nepal, an INGO, organized the Kathmandu miniBarCamp yesterday as a part of its to-be-launched-project on media workers’ network and citizen journalism platform.

I was asked to recount my experience of blogging during the Royal Regime 2005/06 and talk on citizen journalism. Other speakers who participated include Saurav Dhakal (on his storycycle project), Sarun Maharjan (on Web 2.0 and social media) and Dipak Jung Hamal (on his research on practices of citizen journalism by Nepali televisions). There were few participants but the discussion turned out to be lively and I really enjoyed being there.

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Wonderful Websites for Amusements

The virtual world of Internet is huge. It’s impossible to keep track of even a tiny pie of it. There are pages dedicated to information, knowledge, wonders, dark secrets and many more. Here’s just a small collection of the websites for relaxation, laughing out loud and wondering:

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A Wonderful Attempt

Roman to Nepali Unicode Converter launched today is simply a wonderful attempt that will help to grow Nepali language websites.

When I opened the mailbox this morning there was a mail from Nepali Unicode Project. It was about the Roman to Nepali Unicode Converter. I didn’t understand it first but when I visited the website (www.unicodenepali.com), I was amazed to see what it was.

When opened the site is two panes – the left is for typing Nepali in Roman (for example Ma Nepali Hun) and the right pane will convert it into Nepali unicode format. It allows people to type Nepali in Roman and get that in Nepali unicode and I hope this will not only make easy Nepali blogging for the people like me who don’t know Nepali typing.

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Why Freeware is Free?

Many computer users have probably pondered why there are so many free programs – also called freeware – available? Why would freeware programmers spend countless hours for free at all? And for their dedication, users are happy to see so many available programs suiting their needs without having to pay a single paisa. Freeware also competes with commercial products and sometime are even better, but costs nothing.

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Changing Trends in Online Media

… of Nepal (obviously)!

It looks life Year 2006 will redefine the online media in Nepal. With the popularity of blogging growing in 2005 and Google Adsense giving a few bucks to the website owners (even there is rise in the online advertising), mainstream news sites are also trying to go up in competition.

On the eve of 2006, a few mainstream news sites were launched including promising NepalEyes.com and NewslineNepal.com. Both of them do not have the backing of any established print media as in case of newsofnepal.com or rajdhani.com.np or thehimalayan.com. The earlier two are nothing more than the online version of their print editions while the latter updates regularly. There are many more online sites of newspapers. But I would love to see Newsline and NepalEyes doing good because they offer fresh opinions and interviews or articles. In the case of news, I don’t think they can do much.

I didn’t mentioned Kantipuronline.com which has been newly re-launched as ekantipur.com. On the day of new year, ekantipur was re-launched but sadly it was the launch of design rather than content. With so much resources available with them, ekantipur could have left all other far behind, but that’s not the case. NepalNews.com contines to dominate the online media market.

Talking about blogging, 2005 was a year that saw blogs rising from a position of non-existent. Its good to see more Nepali language blogging than English language and I hope they will further grow to form a thicker and louder blogosphere. Currently, I believe there are around two dozens regular blogs operated by Nepalis. Its good to see citizens coming forward establishing participatory media but none-the-less I am not satisfied with the way they have focused on the disseminating current affairs only and they surely lack the personal ‘subjective’ touch which I feel is a most for blogs.

The most interesting development on online media in the new year though is the registration system implemented by Nepalitimes.com. The popular weekly magazine’s online version is now subscription service. For now, you can register for free for a year’s service. I see this as a step forward to establish a pay-online media. Surely, Nepali Times wanted to count on how many regular visitors they have and will surely be forwarding emails asking if they are ready to pay in coming days.

It looks like online media is taking shape in Nepal and the coming years could see more of such newsites emerging.

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Wikipedia: Gratis, Brobdingnagian & Popular

WikipediaWikipedia is the free online encyclopedia. You’re free to use it, and moreover, you’re free to edit it. It’s proud to introduce itself as the free encyclopedia that anyone can edit.

Users’ ability to add new to or edit the existing articles has not only made this five-year old project a huge success but has also drawn a lot of criticism. Since anyone can edit it, the critics of wikipedia believe the information is not as accurate as it should be. A recent article by the popular Nature magazine compared 42 science articles of wikipedia and Encyclopedia Britannica and found that the open-source had 143 errors whereas the hugely popular paper encyclopedia had 123. It was considered a victory for wikipedia and proof that having expert editors and specialized writers doesn’t ensure accuracy.

Criticize it or praise it, but wikipedia today is the popular online resource for many, giving the updated information free of cost. The English section contains 902,000 articles and there are more than 200 other language versions of it (of course, with fewer articles than in English). There is even a Nepali version, http://ne.wikipedia.org, which has only 55 articles with 69 registered wikipedians – the volunteer editors who write and edit the articles.

More than 83,000 users have registered for wikipedia and their contributions have made wikipedia, now run by the non-profit organization Wikimedia, the world’s largest source of encyclopedic information.

Wikipedia was founded as an offshoot of Nupedia, a now-abandoned project, to produce free encyclopedias. Nupedia hoped to use highly qualified writers to produce free encyclopedias but didn’t progress much. Jimmy Wales, the founder of Nupedia, decided to use wiki, a collaborative site allowing users to edit the contents. Nupedia used wiki on January 10, 2001 – exactly five years ago. Five days later, due to resistance on the part of Nupedia’s editors and reviewers, the wiki project was named wikipedia and launched on its own domain.

As a wiki page, wikipedia has to resist the users who “vandalize” the contents. In response to the criticism and vandalism, wikipedia has now a system that allows users to visit the earlier versions of any article, allowing reverting of the vandalism.

The nature of wikipedia makes it weak in some areas. The radical openness may mean that any given article may be, at any given moment, in a bad state, such as in the middle of a large edit, a controversial rewrite, or recently vandalized.

The propellers of open source and free expression nevertheless see wikipedia as free from the western points of view. The critics look at articles on some controversial topics. However, wikipedia is nevertheless a valuable resource on the Internet, full with links that help users to immediately access further resources on any given topics.

(This is a piece I wrote for The Kathmandu Post‘s City Post. City publishes a cyber post every Tuesday, and I hope to contribute regularly.)

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Right Tool To Blog

Nepali blogosphere is spreading.

Surely there are people hoping to begin blogging soon. But blogging for a non-technical person is not that easy (when I used the internet for the first time in 1999, I didn’t even knew that there is button called refresh.) For their aid, here I am linking to some of the articles that helps them blog and choose the right tool for blogging.

Online Journalism Review has an article about it and a comparision chart for various functionalities of the best available tools.

If you plan to run your blog on your own server, this site lists some popular blogging software, free ones, which can be tested on their site. You can test bBlog, BLOG:CMS, Blur6ex, BoastMachine, FireBlog, LifeType, Loudblog, Nucleus CMS, Pixelpost, Serendipity, Simplog, Textpattern, TruBlog and Wheatblog. For me, WordPress is the best.

If you don’t have your server, you can use some of the following sites to run your blogs free of cost. Blogger is the most popular run by Google, blogsome.com and wordpress.com both uses WordPress as internal engine. More are listed on Let’s Blog page.

Happy Blogging!

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Censoring News? Sorry, No Way!

In the era of cyber information flow, its increasingly difficult to censor anything. This was apparent when the Nepali government tried to block an interview of Prachanda, the supreme leader of the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist). The government raided and shut down Radio Sagarmatha, the first non-governmental independent radio station of South Asia, which was supposed to air the interview of BBC Nepali Service; blocked the BBC Radio FM and blocked the BBC Nepali Service site.

Well that probably served temporarily as many failed to hear the interview. But soon after that the interview was everywhere. Bloggers reproduced and even translated the interview, someone recorded and turned it into MP3 and put it for downloads. Everyone with access to internet could get that in less than an hour of airing.

Wow! Web.

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