WEB | Ahmad Humeid reports on how Jordan’s bloggers attracted global attention following the recent terrorist attacks
This is an article I wrote for the Jordan Times to bring attention to the contribution Jordan’s bloggers are making to global convesations and impressions on the web.
Hours after the attacks of 9/11 on Amman’s hotels, I was still frantically switching my attention between the TV screen and my laptop. So were masses of people around the world. I checked Technorati, the site that constantly searches over 21 million blogs around the globe, and ‘Amman’ was already one of the site’s top searches.
In a state of shock, depression and anger, I was looking for more than news. After making sure immediate friends and family were safe (mostly over the phone and mobile) I found myself reading what fellow Jordanian bloggers were writing.
Isam Bayazidi, Roba Assi and Natasha Tynes were constantly updating a blog post on the Global Voices Online web site with the latest news into the early hours of the morning. On the same night JordanPlanet, which brings together a community of over 40 Jordanian bloggers, had a replaced its usual header graphic with a black banner showing the Jordanian flag and the slogan ‘Mourning Our Innocent”.
Reading through the Jordanian blogs that night and the following days was an emotional and heavy experience. I discovered that it was not only me who had stomach pains as I crawled through the long weekend after the bombings.
But it was not only shock and pain in Jordan’s blogosphere. What we saw that night were some interesting examples of ‘citizen Journalism’ taking place. Sabri Hakim, a young Jordanian blogger was already posting pictures from outside the Radisson showing a crowd of people and the police surrounding the hotel, nearly getting himself arrested in the process. Another blogger, Haitham Sabbah, was posting screen shots from his TV screen to his Flickr account.
As demonstrations and vigils took to the streets almost everyday in the week after the attacks, Jordanian bloggers were posting photos of these events. Ordinary people from around the world responded with expressions of sympathy posted as comments on blogger’s sites.
But big media was listening in too. That’s not a surprise, given the fact that journalists too are using Google! And because blogs are highly linked and constantly updated web sites, they tend to show up in high positions in Google searches. A number of Jordanian bloggers got the attention of major global news organizations, including CNN, MSNBC and the BBC who took note of the views and feeling that Jordan’s bogglers were expressing. Some bloggers were contacted directly for interviews.
Influential bloggers like Ethan Zuckerman and BoingBoing’s Xeni Jardin also took note of the Jordanian ‘blogosphere’ and were linking to bloggers’ posts.
Other Jordanian sites also witnessed a spike in web traffic. Dr Mohammad al Asad, director of the the Center for the Study of the Built Environment reported to me that his site witnessed an increase in traffic. The reason: many people were using Google and other search engines to look for ‘Amman street maps’ and ended up arriving at CSBE’s site because it had an article on the topic of Amman’s maps!
The tragedy has shown that Jordan already has a small, but vocal vanguard of highly informed and globally connected citizens. In the age of search engines and blogs, they are the country’s representatives in the ongoing global conversation.