Blog at your own peril! Two stories from Azerbaijan

Two bloggers In Azerbaijan had the punishment for blogging delivered to them earlier this week.

An anti-corruption blogger, Mehman Huseynov, who had been sentenced to 2 years in prison last year on libel charges, has held that the government has been filing fabricated cases against him due to his anti-corruption writings. Now the Supreme Court of the country has upheld the sentence.

Blogger's lawyers are thinking of approaching the European court of Human Rights for his acquittal.

Another blogger, Alexander Lapshin, who is an Isreali-Russian passport holder, gets 3 years in prison for entering and reporting from areas under control of Armenia but claimed by Azerbaijan as its own.

While in Belarus, Lapshin was extradited to Azerbaijan before being sentenced. Russia has objected to extradition of its citizen to a different country.

risky blogging
Blogging can be risky if you venture into dangerous territory.

Online abuse and then stabbing to death: did the blogger deserve that?

It is reported that a Japanese blogger who had gone to a seminar to share how to grow traffic and deal with trolls, fell victim to a troll's physical assault. Ironically, he was a cyber security expert and had just told the gathering how to deal with trolls!

Kenichiro Okamoto, the blogger, had finished his seminar and gone to the bathroom where his online harasser, Hidemitsu Matsumoto, stabbed him to death. Matsumoto later surrendered before Fukuoka city police and said he held a grudge against the blogger after their online spat, and he had been planning to kill him.

The killer seems to have a criminal mind as he was a regular troll online and used a number of anonymous handles on social media. His account had been frozen by a blogging service that he was using, but he had bragged that he was not afraid of such actions and had continued with his online harassment of social media users.

bloggers at risk

Bloggers and other users of social media need to be wary of trolls, especially when they are persistent. In this case, Matsumoto had been harassing Okamoto since 2016. Women bloggers especially need to be wary of commenters, followers and friends whose identities look suspect and who persist with their views or become exceptionally warm, or abusive, for no reason.

Experts suggest that bloggers and other social media users should not encourage trolls and online abusers by joining issues with them. Abuses need not be returned but ignored. Too much eagerness to become friends needs to be seen with suspicion. Children need to be told to inform parents when someone asks for address, photo, parents'/ school's details or lures them with gifts for doing something.

Tanzania wants bloggers to register!

Bloggers, and other online publishers, need to register themselves with the Tanzania Communications Regulatory Authority and get a license. The rule to this effect came into force on 15th June 2019. It revives the rule earlier passed but could not come into effect due to a court case.

Blogging tax: is it a ploy to gag freedom of expression?

The requirements for obtaining license include financial and tax documents and personal information.

Controlling freedom of speech on internet

The fee is exorbitant, and at $920 a year it equals the annual income of an average Tanzanian. The penalty for posting inappropriate content - that includes content with criminality or that can endanger national security and interestingly "that causes public annoyance" - is $2180 fine, which could come with a prison term of up to one year.

Critics and champions of freedom of expression say, the steep fee and penalty will virtually wipe out online activity by citizens, thus amounting to gagging free speech that makes internet such a special place. The direct losers will of course be individual bloggers and other online publishers, but it is the country and its polity that will bear an irreparable loss.

Are your blog posts like doodle or Mona Lisa?

The importance of quality of writing on blogs need not be emphasized. That is what makes a blog great or commonplace.

In the linked article, Suhaib Mohammed hits the nail on its head when he says you blog posts must look like Mona Lisa rather than doodle. Then he tells how to do that. Do have a look. Link to Suhaib's blog post

Blog quality matters the most for blogging

What Suhaib is telling is not about the screen looks of the blog but the quality and usefulness of its content. That, in fact, is the key to success in blogging; looks come later.

Google says, content quality matters greatly in search. Blog's success depends primarily on this.

Now that we are on the topic of content quality, let me give you Google's take on why the content of blog/ any other website must be of a very high quality. Some years back, Google itself made public a document - Search Quality Evaluator Guidelines - which has become a sort of bible for those wanting to know what Google considers as good or bad content. Though these guidelines are not used directly by Google to rank websites for search purposes, these are the concepts around which Google determines whether a website's content is worth value or not. The link given here for this document is for the PDF, so might sometimes not work: Google's Search Quality Evaluator Guidelines

If I am asked to summarize Google's advice given in this 168-page document, in just three letters, I would refer to E-A-T: The website owner/ blogger must be such so that they show Expertise, and be seen as Authoritative and  Trustworthy. High quality of content is necessary for gaining marks for expertise and authoritativeness. Without this, any amount of SEO or promotion is not likely to work in the long run.

To borrow the words of Suhaib, try to make your blog posts like Mona Lisa: high in content quality.

Hollow blog or hollow criticism?

In India, political battles are fought mostly on the ground, some on social networking sites. Though some years back blogs were popular among some top politicians as the first medium to express themselves, they lost momentum as social networks took over. Yet, some of them keep writing posts on their personal websites/ blogs. The thoughtful among them, yes.

Arun Jaitley blog

It made news when a spokesman of the main opposition party, the Congress, chose to call Arun Jaitley names. "He is writing hollow blogs to regain lost political relevance," it was said. The provocation was a post written by Arun Jaitley, India's Finance Minister who is recuperating after a serious illness and has not been able to be active in his ministerial portfolio for some time. In his post titled 'Is Congress Becoming Ideologyless? Is Anti-Modism its only ideology?', he had lambasted Congress leaders for blindly opposing the Prime Minister and not seeing the gains of his welfare/ developmental schemes.

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Blogging is growing, with tilt towards earning than socialization

Is blogging no longer relevant ? Is blogging dead? 

In recent years, we quite often hear such questions. These are natural seeing the huge popularity of social networks like Facebook and chat apps like WhatsApp, partly at the cost of slower and older web media entities. 

But, let me assure you that blogging is not going to go away, like floppy disks and pagers disappeared or Orkut and GeoCities disappeared from the scene. As a social media/ media watcher for decades, I can say this with confidence. 

Also believe me that blogging is only growing in forms and formats. Yesterday it was in the form of a diary, which initially had hardly any customization and had just some text and links. Then it started adding pics, audio and video. Then came all types of technological frills that could make a blog as modern and full of functionalities as any other modern website.

In the western countries where e-commerce came early, blogs started earning money through advertisements. That needed traffic and in turn spawned use of SEO. In its heydays, blogging became a social phenomenon as well as a new source of earning for a new breed of publishers. In these countries, the blogosphere has matured over the years and is now a mainstream online activity. In other countries, the use of internet - especially through the mobile phone - has grown fast in recent years and blogging is becoming a serious online activity, also for earning.

In short, blogging is doing well, and the intent 'to make money' is making the blogosphere a business arena more than a social networking place as the latter activity has been taken over to a large extent by social networking, messaging, social sharing and social bookmarking, aided by mobile apps.

past and future of blogging

If you are interested in further discussion on this topic, look for 'blogging' tag on this blog; there also are articles specifically on 'earning'. If you want to know about blogging in all its aspects, consider having a copy of The Manual of Blogging.