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Bloggers at the gate

BY ROSS SHEIL Online Co-ordinator

Sunday, December 19, 2010

DO Jamaicans blog? By way of an answer, 23-year-old local blogger Corve DaCosta has launched an event to award his fellow bloggers, and 225 have been nominated via its website, since the process opened on December 3.

The Jamaica Blog Awards, to be held for the first time in the New Year, will recognise bloggers in 16 categories including best company blog, best personal blog and best micro blog (Twitter). Blogs are of wider significance to Jamaica because they help make citizens more active and involved online, says DaCosta.

"Not too long ago, everyday Jamaicans hardly had any voice at all on public issues, current affairs, government policies the things affecting their lives. The discussion was limited to radio sound bites, newspaper articles and fleeting television broadcasts. The Jamaican public was passive in its own country. Today, thanks to blogging, all that is a thing of the past. Through blogs, in all their forms podcasts, videos, photography, music, gossip, news, technology and a host of other genres, any Jamaican with access to an internet-equipped computer can start, contribute to or lead the discussion instead of just being subjected to it," he said.

To be held early 2011, the event has gained several sponsors including blue chip companies LIME and NCB. But in terms of marketing, the awards have already demonstrated self-sufficiency. DaCosta has used social networks to solicit nominations, which, judging by the number received, is helping to generate significant buzz online.

As the Observer previously reported, online users can be willing to help market an event or product, something this newspaper benefited from when Twitter users originated and promoted the #FNOja hashtag (hashtags always preface by the # symbol are used to identify specific topics on Twitter) to help highlight information about this newspaper's celebration of Fashion's Night Out.

Meanwhile, local blogger and web designer Nicholette McFarlane created the #JamaicanBlogger hashtag so that posts by Jamaican bloggers here and overseas could be easily found on that social network.

Crowdsourcing the act of outsourcing a task to a community or crowd has become one of the buzzwords of the Internet, with technology enabling people to network in new and creative ways. In the examples of hashtags, as above, Jamaican Twitter users are using them to create and further debate on a variety of subjects while more 'old-fashioned' message boards and comment threads still remain popular be they under articles or posts on Facebook.

"I think we underestimate the power of the Internet. Before I even started the process (of nominations), people were excited about the awards. I think using crowds can work, and look what the Pegasus did with Twitter and their tweet up and online ticketing and that event was booked in hours. What we are doing in terms of blogging we are uniting people and we are really seeing the fruits," said DaCosta.

Ultimately he hopes that the Blog Awards may inspire the Jamaican society at large.

"I hope to use the awards as a platform to inspire other Jamaicans by raising awareness about the versatility and power embodied in blogging not only as media of expression and communication, but also as new opportunities for advertising, marketing and social advocacy," said DaCosta.

Nominations will close on December 19 with judging decided by a combination of public votes and a judging panel. Besides an award for each category there will be an overall 'Jamaican Blogger of the Year'.

The Jamaica Blog Awards will be held at the Jamaica Pegasus on January 16.