Divan 2.0: After Thoughts

// May 25th, 2009 // Blog

The video from Divan 2.0 hasn't yet been released. However, I'd like to share my thoughts on some of what we discussed that evening (at least, what I remember, anyhoo), before it completely evaporates from my brain. Plus, it gives me an excuse to blog something worthwhile (as opposed to posting random shots of my bling collection).

Play Nice, or Take Your Toys Elsewhere

As we know, a blog is a collection of articles, written by one or more users. However, what makes the blog stand out from other publishing platforms is the ability for readers to comment on the content, interact with the author and each other, and thereby build an online community. Unfortunately, the more popular a blog becomes, the more negative attention it attracts: be it from 'trolls', or simply people who lack the manners to debate issues in a respectful manner.

My experience so far of working on MuslimMatters informs me that comment moderation is one of the biggest challenges that a popular blogs face. At times, the MM staff have been accused of being too heavy handed, and at other times, too lax, letting individuals take charge of an entire thread to the detriment of any meaningful discussion. Often, the only thing left to do in these circumstances is to simply close the post to new comments, which can be seen as a victory for the blog troll brigade.

What the readers don't realize is the amount of discussion that takes place behind the scenes. Different team members have different ideas of how stringent our moderation policy should be. No-one wants to curb freedoms unnecessarily; nor do we want to let people be too free to run riot with their negative energy, and ruin it for everyone else (hmm, sounds somewhat reminiscent of the debate surrounding the Danish Cartoons).

Brother Omar Tufail gave some interesting insight into how he handles this problem on the forum, DeenPort.com.

First of all, they don't allow anonymous posters, or even nicknames and handles: they run a full name only policy combined with user registration, which – as brother Yusuf from Indigo Jo Blogs commented – is a rather brave move. The idea is that people can no longer hide behind a screen name, and are thus more conscious of their accountability (though sister Shelina of Spirit21 later questioned why Muslims don't realize how they're accountable for it all anyway, from a divine perspective). However, Omar did admit that the rule is not enforceable (in that, someone could make up a fake name), and that the effect on the user is largely psychological; but it seems to be working anyway – inshā’Allāh. Plus, the ability for the site's admin to log and track IP addresses means that no user is truly anonymous.

The second point was to allow the readers to moderate comments themselves. I am not sure how they do this on DP, but the strategy makes sense when you consider how popular the site is, and how it would be virtually impossible for one man, or a even a small team, to keep track of every post that their many users submit. Rather, it is more logical to utilise the thousands of pairs of eyes that rummage through the site on a daily basis.

So… What's the Point Again?

There was a general discussion about the usefulness of blogging.

It was suggested by sister Humera of the An-Nisa Society that blogging maybe some kind of 'cop out' to escape the responsibilities that we have to our local communities. That is, if we've blogged about a problem, we are satisfied that we've done our bit, and need not contribute to the grunt work that requires real-life interaction. I think her point has merit, in that we shouldn't be deluded into thinking that blogging is the be-all and end all of activism. It's simply another marketing tool, like printing flyers, or making phone calls.

However, blogging, especially when combined with multimedia, allows groups and organizations the space to explain more about their projects from a more personal angle, with the potential to gain a loyal online following that will help them in their offline efforts. I have experienced this to some degree with my work on SignLabs.org. It started off in my head as a purely online initiative to encourage Muslims to learn sign language, but since day one, has required me to work on a one-to-one level with real people on the ground – though I still heavily rely on e-mail (especially as I haven't yet become anywhere near fluent in BSL).

Recent events have also lead me to believe that readers have their fair share of misconceptions when it comes to understanding a blogger's intentions for writing their articles. For example, an anonymous commentator recently suggested on an MM post that it was not enough to 'copy and paste' ahadith and Qur'anic ayats, if the author wanted to tackle the societal issue that they had addressed in their entry.

Erm… Like, hello.com? Isn't that obvious? We write to inform, to educate… but we don't expect miracles. It's akin to the person who makes dua, but does not follow up their prayers with any real action.

However, I believe an exception to the above is where writing is a vocation. Those individuals who write on a professional level, and happen to blog too, are doing what they do best; they're using the gift that Allāh blessed them with to help others. Therefore, in this case, writing could be considered as the 'real action'. But even then, societal change is achieved through the publishing of in-depth pieces, research papers, maybe even whole books. Not one modest blog post.

Though that would be a pretty cool title for an entry: “The Blog Post that Changed the World” [to be said in one of those deep, Hollywood, action movie trailer voices].

And What Muslim Discussion Would Be Complete Without…

Marriage talk!

A brother from the audience asked the panel about the concept of finding your spouse online. I think he was referring to the many Muslim matrimonial websites that us singletons now have available to us – at least, that's how everyone else answered the question. I didn't get to comment on the issue, but I wanted to know if he also meant finding your other half via the blogosphere, as it reminded me of this discussion that took place on my blog a while back.

I still don't think anyone blogs specifically to find their other half (though, there are bad people out there who set up 'honey trap' blogs to lure in unsuspecting readers). We did have a pre-event discussion in the Green Room (how cool is it that I get to say that?) on the proposals we've received via our blogs. Shelina seemed to think male bloggers get more attention in this regard, whereas the brothers were of the opposite view. At which point bro Yusuf was told to don a hijab to increase his chances of success. I'm not sure how that would work…

Anyway… I think I'll end here. Mainly because it's 5am, and I should be asleep. Plus, I'll just be repeating what the soon-to-be-released-inshā’Allāh video will tell you.

The End (I couldn't think of a decent closing paragraph… too schleepy… deal with it, yo).

5 Responses to “Divan 2.0: After Thoughts”

  1. HalalBuzz says:

    Thanks for sharing

  2. Mezba says:

    The main problem I find with Muslim Matters is that some author will write out something from another point of view, and if another commentator (politely) points out something that is wrong, a host of people will jump on that commentator and it soon denigrates into insults. And often the rudest comments come from people encouraging others to “uphold the Sunnah”. My view.

    Regarding your marriage post, while there are blogs about people going through the arranged marriage thing, I have yet to find out if any people got married because of their blog. I do know a lot of hookups through naseeb.com though!

  3. AnonyMouse says:

    Finally, an interesting post! Haha :p

    The discussion about the usefulness of blogging is close to a question that I’ve thought about a lot – how does blogging translate into real life?
    I used to be one of those who used blogging as merely an outlet for my thoughts and ideas, and often didn’t/ couldn’t implement them in real life – these days, however, whatever I write about stems from what I’ve been involved in IRL.

    I find the marriage proposals through blogs to be hilarious – I know I got one, back in my days on Musings of a Muslim Mouse! I think it’s somewhat silly because in my opinion, blogs reveal only one aspect of your personality… sometimes the aspect that is least evident in real life. It’s still an interesting idea to toy with, though :)

    What I’m really interested in knowing is: how do bloggers that strongly disagree with each other on most, if not all, issues act when they get together in real life? Online, things can get quite heated (as you already alluded to), but what if the same topics come up in the real life meeting? Are reactions the same, or more restrained?

  4. iMuslim says:

    @Mezba: I disagree. We all get along great on MM. How dare you criticise us. YOU ARE WRONG AND SEVERELY MISGUIDED.

    But I still love you for the sake of Allah.

    You mean that kind of thing, right? :)

    It’s the tribal mentality. Every popular site has their ‘tribe’ of followers. Outsiders that don’t fit in, usually get hostile treatment. It’s hard to regulate. The ironic thing is that we publish articles on good character development, and yet, we still don’t know how to play nice. The knowledge isn’t sinking in, it seems.

    @AnonyMouse: “how do bloggers that strongly disagree with each other on most, if not all, issues act when they get together in real life?”
    I have experienced that circumstance several times in recent weeks. I am not really an online ‘stirrer’ so perhaps my experience doesn’t count for much. But I managed to have civil conversations with people I know I disagree with on fundamental issues. It’s harder to be polite online, when you don’t have the person you’re disagreeing with, sitting inches away from you (perhaps within striking distance?).

  5. someone says:

    you looked great..mash Allah.

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