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How many Malaysian blogs are there?

A recent statement by the Malaysian Information, Communication and Culture Minister - Datuk Seri Dr Rais Yatim (Dewan Rakyat: 2 Million Bloggers Proof Of Media Freedom In Country) affirmed that there are two million bloggers in Malaysia.

I wish I knew where he got that figure – with a population of more than 26m, that would mean that about 7.7% of Malaysians are bloggers. Although I do think that blogs are proportionately more popular in Malaysian than many other countries, I have my doubts about this figure, especially since, of course, not all Malaysians access the internet. In December 2009 there was 31.4% penetration of broadband (Broadband penetration rate surpasses 2009 target), and in June 2009, internet penetration was 64.6% (for more information, many useful stats are available at the Digital Media across Asia site). 64.6% of Malaysians means about 16.6m people. If two million were bloggers, that would mean 12% of Malaysian internet users are bloggers.

As a researcher of Malaysian blogs, I have long wanted accurate statistics on the overall Malaysian blogosphere, but eventually came to the conclusion that it is very difficult, if not impossible to get them. In a nutshell, these are the problems:
• Most Malaysian bloggers use platforms such as Blogger, and Wordpress. These are hosted in the US (I think, but not in Malaysia anyway). Most Malaysian bloggers in my experience do state their location in their profile, but not all. So, a crawl of these sites that picked up profile information would capture many of the Malaysian bloggers, but not all. I suspect this is what Sysomos did recently.
• The more serious bloggers usually have their own domain. Hosting is a lot cheaper with American or European companies. Hence the core of Malaysian dedicated bloggers will have their blog hosted outside of Malaysia. And their blogs will not be picked up in crawls of .blogspot blogs, etc.
• Many bloggers have more than one blog. Some will have many blogs. Many of these will be inactive. Any survey of blogs needs to have some measure of how active they are – for example by deciding that one post in the last three months means the blog is active.
• Private blogs (with password protection) cannot be crawled (thanks to Tim Highfield for this point).
• A proper survey of Malaysian blogs needs to look for blogs in English, Bahasa Malaysia, Chinese (Mandarin), and Tamil (this is probably the easiest problem to overcome).

Here is a little survey of figures/estimates of the population of the Malaysian blogosphere that I have come across.

June 2010
A survey by Sysomos gives some idea of the relative popularity of blogs in Malaysia, but as I blogged about before, without more details on their methodology this survey is not reliable. As it stands, it implies that there were either 1.7m blog posts from Malaysia when the survey was done, or 1.7m bloggers. Maybe this is where the Rais got his data from?

October 2009
Around the time of the Nuffnang Awards, Nuffnang said in a press release it had registered “more than 100,000 blogs hosted on various platforms”, and the Singapore Co-Founder said in a radio interview that they had 40K blogs registered in Singapore. A bit of informed guesswork on my part leaves 50K blogs registered with Nuffnang in Malaysia.

In the survey I did last year (myBlogS 2009), about 36% of the blogger respondents were registered with Nuffnang or Advertlets. Taking that as a benchmark, my guesstimate of active blogs in Malaysia is 150-200,000 blogs.

April 2009
The Young Asians survey by Synovate was reported as showing that “Malaysian youth are active bloggers with close to half (48%) spending a portion of their time blogging.” This refers to those aged between 8-24 years old. One could extrapolate from that how many young bloggers there are, but I don't have an equivalent breakdown of the age of Malaysians.

April 2008
A newspaper article quoted Dr Abu Hassan Hasbullah from University Malaya saying there are 500,000 active bloggers in Malaysia (Blogging in Malaysia ranks among highest in the world). There were no more details on the research, and I tried contacting the person quoted, but to no avail.

September 2007
Some research based on Microsoft’s ‘Windows Live Spaces’ (Research confirms boom in Malaysia’s blogging scene) said that “41% of Malaysians […] own a blog account” – but this is probably 41% of the respondents, and the total number of Malaysian respondents is not known. A good critique that I read at the time (but can’t track it down) noted that the Windows Live Spaces blogs at the time had a blog as a default option, and that selecting the option did not mean the blog was active. It was also pointed out that Microsoft had an interest in promoting their new blogging service.

July 2003
The Great Malaysian Blog List had 393 blogs listed, and the “VOI Blog Directory” had 567 blogs listed. There may have been overlap between these, and overall perhaps less than 1000 Malaysian blogs at the time.

If anyone has more accurate data on the number of blogs in Malaysia I would love to hear from you! For the moment I will stick with my estimate of 150-200 thousand active blogs. But I wonder how come I am estimating so much less than all the other sources, and I could be way off the mark.

Which country blogs the most?

Just some thoughts on a international report on blogging by sysomos I saw today (blog post here). I’m always really interested in international comparisons of blogging, but this one - based on the methodological details they give anyway - is not as useful as I hoped.

To be fair, they are also faced with the perennial problem which is not knowing the total population (of blogs) and therefore whatever sample is taken, it can ultimately only be said to represent itself. And I don't know their precise way of collecting data, which may have taken into account some of the critiques outlined below. So I'd love to hear from anyone with more details on the data sampling and so on.

• It says "Over 100 million blog posts analyzed" - this does not mean the same as 100 million blogs. For example, I have about 291 blog posts on my blog. Measuring blog posts alone would favour countries that have an older blogging population; and also blogs that have permalinked posts (most do, but not all). So, I wonder how they identified individual blogs.

• They also say that "a third of blog posts are from the U.S." If the total bloggers are 29.2% from the US, and the blog posts are 33.3% - then that means each blogger has on average a bit more than one post each. Which would make sense if they have taken a 'snapshot' of the blogosphere I suppose - i.e over one day or something. But it still raises questions in my mind - that would mean on one day almost 10% (see chart below) of Americans were blogging/had a blog (assuming one blog per person, which is not always the case). Which seems like a lot.

• How did they identify blogs? Is it based on url - e.g. those on the blogspot or Wordpress domains, or perhaps identifying the software used (e.g. Wordpress, or Serendipity)? What happens to blogs on self hosted domains? Could this introduce a bias - for example - against certain countries or languages (e.g. China)?

• They say "We analyzed more than 100 million blog posts that provided information about their age, gender and location information." I would have some questions here too:

**When they say "blog posts", does that include the sidebar information, or just the blog post?
For example: a blog post (such as this) may have the words: "I love living in Malaysia, because I am a man who loves good food, and when you’re over forty like me, good food is important." Or, the blog post may have nothing revealing in it, but on the side bar the profile says: "Male, Malaysia, Age: 40". If you're counting all the sidebars, that's a lot of duplicates.

**Perhaps the location data is based on some IP address analysis? I don’t know how that would work, but if they could work out where the last update was done from, that would be a good bet. Otherwise, many blogs are hosted in the US, but belong to people outside (i.e. all those on blogspot, etc.)

• Anyway. A final thing. I was interested to see that Malaysia ranked 14th in the number of blog posts. Which is not bad for a smallish Asian country. But I thought it would be interesting to get some idea of the proportionate number of blog posts - because America has a population of about 310m, so it’s not surprising there is more blog activity. So here are a couple of tables (population figures taken from the CIA World Factbook)

The first table is derived from sysomos; and I have assumed the total number of blog posts was 100 million, from where I get the "Putative no. of blog posts" per country
blog rank international sysomos

Then, dividing the blog posts by population, we get the proportion of blog posts to the population - giving us in theory the ranking of the countries where blogging is the most popular
blog rank international sysomos

So according to this - Sweden is at the top, and Malaysia comes first in Asia! (OK I dunno why China isn’t in there either, maybe they can't search in Chinese?)

Confinement as brainwashing?

Just a rapid thought, between nappies and other reproductive tasks :-)

The practice of postpartum (i.e. after the birth) confinement is common in Malaysia, and basically means that after the birth the mother is confined to the home, or a room, and has to eat certain foods, follow certain practices (such as not bathing), and so on. For more information on the Chinese version try: "Zuo Yue", Chinese Postpartum Confinement?, and ‘Doing the month’: Ancient tradition meets modern motherhood.

Anyway, the principle seems fine: the mother is able to rest and recuperate, concentrate on getting breastfeeding going and learning how to deal with the baby. Some traditions may have made sense once upon a time: e.g. no bathing for a month - imagine in a rural setting, water can be dirty, it has to be fetched, and someone suggested to us that it was also a suitable 'contraceptive' to keep the lusty husband at bay!

But others - such as a diet very low on vegetables and fruit, high on meat, ginger (thought to exacerbate jaundice in newborns) and herbs - does not make sense. Especially the no fruit and veg for the first ten days (or something like that).

Also: being confined. Literally sometimes. A friend of a friend had to stay in one room for thirty days! Not allowed out. Now that's a good way to induce postpartum depression if you ask me!

Anyway, back to the title. Being confined to a room for a month is a form of sensory deprivation. Coupled with the high stress of dealing with a newborn, the lack of sleep, and a different diet, it could actually be said to resemble a 'brainwashing' programme. Maybe, that is one function of confinement - a liminal period that realigns the mother as an extension of the child, enforcing her subsidiary role as reproductive organ rather than autonomous individual.

Just a thought...