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Bloggers ’r’ us

Monday June 20, 2005

Bloggers ’r’ us

By MICHAEL CHEANG

Blogging is not just a fad, nor is it a vehicle of scandal as is often portrayed in the media. Some Malaysian bloggers are churning out memorable stories about their everyday lives. 

A few years ago, the word “blog” was not even in the dictionary. Today, the word can be read everywhere, and just last week, blogs made the headlines again when a Singaporean blogger posted nude pictures of herself on her blog, raising an uproar about the “morality” of these online journals. 

Too often, blogging has been put in a bad light. Bloggers have been fired, sued and criticised by all parties, and the recent nude blogger controversy has worsened the reputation of bloggers, especially in this region. 

Nevertheless, blogs are more than just about nude pictures, or insensitive individuals ranting about the system. For every controversial blog out there, there are thousands more that are happily existing anonymously, blogging about their everyday lives, and telling wonderful stories. 

In Malaysia, there are at least 10,000 bloggers, according to Aizuddin Danian, 29, co-founder of Project Petaling Street (www.petalingstreet.org) or PPS as it is fondly known, a “blogtal” (blog-portal) that allows Malaysian bloggers to post updates on their latest posts, and also serves as a directory. 

“Malaysian bloggers are generally a mature and responsible bunch,” said Aizuddin, who has been blogging for four years now.  

“They are well-read, well-informed, and practise community censorship – correcting each other when they make mistakes.” 

The variety of blogs in the Malaysian “blogosphere” boggles the mind. One can find blogs written in English, Bahasa Malaysia and Chinese on social issues, movies, personal lives, and even telling a joke or two. 

MICHAEL CHEANG takes a look at four popular Malaysian bloggers to catch a glimpse of the real person behind the blog, and to see how blogging has changed their lives. 


 

Peter Tan:
The Digital Awakening (www.petertan.com)
 

The blog: 

The Digital Awakening is essentially the diary of a disabled Malaysian. It is an insightful look into his life, chronicling the obstacles and hardship he faces, and also serving to spread awareness about the disadvantages that disabled people go through daily. 

 

The blogger: 

Peter Tan has been wheelchair-bound for 21 years, and wasted 10 of those years sitting in front of the television watching Hong Kong Cantonese serials. Then one day, he started a blog. 

Today, Tan, 39, is a “full-time blogger”, and is quite happy to finally have a way to spend his time constructively. “I can’t go out much, so I spend most of my time online at home. If it weren’t for the Internet and blogging, I would be vegetating and wasting my life away in front of the TV!” he chuckled. 

His rock-star-like long hair masking a mild-mannered yet quietly intellectual demeanour, Tan has been in a wheelchair since 1984 after he injured his spinal cord in a diving accident. 

The Digital Awakening was set up in January 2003 when Tan decided to chronicle his own life, so that he can look back and reflect on it later. 

“I write openly about my life, what I go through daily, and all the obstacles and hardship I’ve been through as a disabled person,” he said. “I love to write, and blogging gives me a way to channel my creativity. 

“When my mother passed away last year, it also gave me a good way to wash out my grief. It gave me something to remember her by – even today, I still cry when I read the entries I wrote about her,” he said. 

Blogging is now a big part of Tan’s life as it enables him to interact with people, and to spread awareness about the lives of disabled people in Malaysia. 

In March, when a major earthquake hit neighbouring Sumatra, Tan felt the tremors in his apartment. Resigned to the fact that if anything happened, he would not have been able to escape due to the lack of facilities for the disabled in his apartment building, and he decided to blog about his experience. 

It was a post that caught the attention of the whole Malaysian blogging community and they posted online banners to support his cause. It is this kind of interaction and the sense of belonging in a community that Tan loves most about blogging. 

“I’ve made more than 50 friends within a year of blogging, and I’m happy to know that what I’ve written has touched people and educated them about what it is like to be in a wheelchair. 

“It has also changed my life in a lot of ways, most of all, helping me to discover who I really am, and help me grow as a person.” 

Blogging now means so much to him that he hopes to start a blogging workshop one day to teach young bloggers how to blog responsibly. 

“Blogging responsibly is very important, because what you write is out there for the whole world to see,” Tan explains. “When a blog offends people or does something immoral, it will put the entire blogging community in a bad light. One should always remember that there is a line to be drawn, and a blogger should always abide by the laws that govern his country. 

According to Tan, a good blog is not about getting as much traffic as possible. “There was a time when blog traffic was important to me, but now that my health is slowly deteriorating, I’ve come to realise that there are more important things in life than being famous. 

“A good blog should also benefit other people, and give people something to think about,” Tan adds. He hopes more disabled people will start blogging as it is a good way to reach out to people. 

 


 

Claire Khoo:
Minishorts.net (www.minishorts.net)
 

The blog: 

Minishorts.net is a direct, emotional, sometimes raunchy but always honest and insightful blog about the life and thoughts of a young Malaysian woman and her very wild imagination. 

And in case you are wondering, Minishorts does not refer to her pants, but to the “mini short stories” on her blog. 

 

The blogger: 

In person, Claire Khoo, 25, otherwise known as Minishorts, is outgoing, direct, smart, pretty, and a definite go-getter. So why is she hiding behind a pseudonym? 

The reason is simple: “If my mother found out about my blog, I’d be dead!” 

You see, while Minishorts.net may be one of the most well-known blogs in the Malaysian “blogosphere”, Khoo’s family does not know anything about her online alter-ego, and she would very much like to keep it that way.  

Khoo first started Minishorts.net in September 2002 when an old friend persuaded her to do so because he knew she liked to write. 

That was three years ago. Since then, she has broken up with two boyfriends, and celebrated four birthdays, and the blog is still around. It’s almost as though the blog is more important than her boyfriends. 

“In a sense, it is more important than my boyfriends,” she laughs. “The blog is a part of me – I am the blog” 

Speaking of her boyfriends, Khoo’s current boyfriend has had to endure some strange moments, resulting from her “alter-ego” as Minishorts, the famed and somewhat mysterious blogger. 

Once, she happened to mention on the blog that she would be going out for supper at a certain time, without expecting anyone to take notice of it. 

So there she was, sitting with her boyfriend enjoying their teh tarik, when a blog reader approached her and said “hi”. Then, another arrived. And another. 

Eventually, there was a whole gang of bloggers who had come around just to see what Minishorts looked like. 

“My boyfriend was stunned. One of them even came up to my boyfriend, shook his hand, and called him Mr Minishorts!” she laughed. 

Stuck in a rather stressful job as an editor for a book publishing company, Khoo uses the blog as a way to release stress. 

“My job involves a lot of editing and rigid writing, so I don’t get to write what I want to write,” she says. “I don’t want the ideas in my head to go to waste, so I blog them. 

“It is good to see them published this way and to let people read them. I can also hone my writing skills at the same time.”So what does she get out of blogging? “Blogging is like mental masturbation! I get an orgasmic high just doing it!” she says, as frank and direct as ever. 

She does lament the quality of Malaysian blogs though. “Many Malaysian blogs out there right now all talk about the same things – religion, movies, Star Wars, sex. It’s a bit boring at times,” she said. 

“Maybe I’m just being an elitist. I think blogs should have a certain amount of ‘class’ to them. People should not blog just for the sake of blogging. You should either blog to inform or blog for yourself. 

“I think a blog is worth reading when the blogger writes with honesty and eloquence, and does not try to go all out just to become famous or to earn revenue out of it.”  

 


 

Kenny Sia:
When Routine Isn’t Exactly Normal (www.kennysia.com)
 

The blog: 

When Routine Isn’t Exactly Normal is a humour blog that specialises in jokes, spoofs and parodies, as well as a look at what the blogger goes through in real life. 

 

The blogger: 

Kenny Sia the blogger and the real Kenny Sia are actually two different people altogether. “Kenny the Blogger is the amplified version of myself – kind of like an imaginary friend, only bigger,” laughs Sia, 23, speaking on the phone from Kuching where he is based. 

“On a scale of one to 10, where Kenny the Blogger would be at scale 10, the Real Kenny Sia would only be at number 2,” says the IT manager, admitting that he is quite humble and quiet in real life, and does not talk about his blog at all. 

Sia started the blog in January this year as a tool to communicate with his overseas friends. However, it soon became one of the Malaysian blogosphere’s most popular blogs, mostly due to an infamous post on April’s Fool’s Day where he made fun of a score of famous bloggers, including Malaysia’s Jeff Ooi and several Singaporean bloggers. 

Since that wicked post, he has seen his website registering more than 3,000 visitors a day, which has motivated him to come up with similar posts to make people laugh. 

“I didn’t expect it to turn out like this. Initially I only used it to express my personal thoughts and opinions,” says Sia. “But then I realised that readers preferred the funny posts than my personal ones, so I decided to blog in that direction instead.” 

Sia, who takes about one to two hours to come up with an entry, sometimes feels obligated to put out a good post every now and then for his readers. 

He has also discovered that “fame” can be a double-edged sword – he’s had strangers coming up to him asking whether he is Kenny Sia, an experience he described as “freaky”. 

Incidentally, his girlfriend and family do know about the blog (though they don’t read it). They’ve complained about it before, but have made no attempt to stop him. 

“My life has changed because of the blog. I’ve made more friends in these past months, and learnt so much as well. Asking me to stop blogging right now would be equivalent to asking me to break up with my girlfriend!” he laughs. 

 


 

Tew Hui Suan:
As Suanie Sees It (www.suanie.net)
 

The blog: 

Started in 1999, As Suanie Sees It has always been, first and foremost, a personal online diary. It contains details and pictures of the blogger’s life, her personal thoughts and opinions about certain issues. 

 

The blogger: 

Don’t take me too seriously, I’m not as outgoing as you read about on the blog!” warns Tew Hui Suan, the bubbly girl behind the blog. 

“Suanie” is a much quieter person in real life, though she exudes an aura of cheerfulness that is very much like the personality she projects on the blog. 

“Most people tend to be surprised to find out how quiet I actually am in person. Maybe I’m just not quick-witted enough to speak well. I express myself better in writing because I can think twice about what I’m going to write about,” says the 24-year-old management student, who describes herself as a “happy person, very shy among strangers”. 

One of her most memorable entries was a humorously self-depreciating one called “The Fat Diaries” where she posted pictures of herself to chronicle her efforts to slim down.  

No surprise then that Suanie describes her blog as a “chronicle of my life”. Through her blog, she sees herself growing up and maturing into the person she is now. 

“Growing up is a very personal experience, and the blog gives me a voice and place to vent my frustrations.  

“My very first entry was a very short paragraph about how I hated a certain aunt of mine. But I reread the post the other day, and I realised that I’ve outgrown that hatred,” she says. 

Although she was surprised to learn that people wanted to read about her life, she was secretly happy. “Most bloggers are lonely people I think, and we are all egomaniacs. We all want attention!”  

Nevertheless, she does exercise caution most of the time.  

“I am very careful about what I post because I have family and friends whom I don’t want to hurt.” Her parents also know about the blog and are very open about it. 

“My mum only read the blog for the first time a couple of weeks back, and she is happy that I can write well. The only thing she is not happy about is all the swearing I do on the blog!” laughs Suanie. 

When news broke about the “nude Singaporean blogger”, one of the first things Suanie did was to call her mother to discuss the issue, and she was advised to think twice before posting anything. 

Being so open with her blog can be a drawback though. For instance, when she got into a car accident recently, she did not tell her mother about it initially.  

However, her mother found out about it anyway when an aunt read Suanie’s blog and reported it. 

“I felt bad about not telling my mum, but since I blogged about it anyway, maybe that’s my subconscious letting her know,” Suanie laughs.

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