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Hello, and thanks for dropping by.

I've decided to move my main website to a new location: www.julianhopkins.com

I'm keeping this one as a record of my PhD research, that involved about three years of participant observation with the emerging 'lifestyle blogging' scene in Malaysia.

You can explore the tags or categories on the right sidebar to see more.

If you like, you can download and read the thesis here: The monetisation of personal blogging: assembling the self and markets in Malaysia

Have a nice day :-)

How many blogs are there in the Malaysian SoPo blogosphere?

This is an interesting paper about the Malaysian SoPo blogosphere – it uses social network analysis (SNA) techniques to crawl links and map the Malaysian SoPo blogs.

It doesn’t seem to say when the data was collected, but the paper was published in 2010, and the crawl was done after the 2008 elections, so let’s assume 2009. One worry I have is that they used the SoPo Sentral of Malaysia directory as the starting point of their crawl – but that was last updated in December 2008, and is not necessarily complete. On the other hand, it’s probably the best place to start. But Dr. Mahathir’s blog (which started in May 2008) is not mentioned which is surprising.

What they did was to take the 385 blogs in the SoPo-Sentral directory and follow the link to a depth of four (e.g. follow links from one blog, collect all the links it links to, then follow those, and again two times). From this they got 4,693 sites, and approximately 2,000 blogs. Another crawl using the same technique on blog posts mentioning ‘Bersih’ in the week after the Bersih demonstrations gathered 878 blogs.

So this suggests that there were about 2,000 Malaysian SoPo blogs. Which is less than I imagined. Edit: Actually, it's more likely to mean that there are between 878 and 2000 sopo blogs.

Here are some of the results. They also compare SoPo blogs to random Malaysian blogs.
• The almost paradigmatic polarisation of SoPo blogs demonstrated in the USA by Adamic & Glance is not replicated here. Instead there is a distinct clustering of smaller groups with scattered individuals forming ‘bridges’.
Source details below

My hunch here is that this reflects patronage-style politics – people affiliating themselves with individuals – rather than identifying themselves with ideology or political stances (to note however that another SNA analysis of the Malaysian blogosphere did turn up a polarisation – though it was not focused on SoPo blogs).
• SoPo bloggers are more likely (compared to random Malaysian bloggers) to be older males (this is the same as the US), and also to reveal details about themselves.
• 27.9% specify a political affiliation as follows: 10.2% UMNO, 7.1% PAS, 4.2% PKR, 2.5% DAP, 1.2% PSM. Surprisingly no other BN parties such as MCA, MIC, Gerakan, etc. Overall, it suggests that most SoPo bloggers see themselves as independents.
• SoPo blogs are four times more likely to be in English than BM (“the small amount of Chinese blog content in [their] data” were not dealt with).
• “the average sopo blogger has more in-links and comments than random Malaysian bloggers”
• Blogger.com (i.e. ‘blogspot’) “has more than 152,000 Malaysian profiles — many more than on Wordpress.com or similar services.”

You can access the paper (in a somewhat garbled copy) here on Scribd, and the full details are:
ULICNY, B., M. KOKAR & C. MATHEUS 2010. “Metrics For Monitoring A Social-Political Blogosphere: A Malaysian Case Study”. Internet Computing, IEEE 14, 34-44.

Restaurant suing blogger Sixthseal and Google

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OK this is a new one: a restaurant - Jothy's Fish Head Curry Banana Leaf Restaurant - in Kota Kinabalu, Sabah, is suing Sixthseal.com, a well-known Malaysian blogger, for saying he did not like the food at the restaurant - in fact he said it was really awful. For some reason I can't access that blog right now, but here is a screenshot of the original post. I can't say that it's a good move by the restaurant, better just to make sure their food is good and it should sort itself out.

However, it's possible that the reason why they are so annoyed is that is was recommended in Lonely Planet, so they must have been making loads of money off the tourists, and with a prominent blog post coming sixth on the Google search first page, it could be affecting their business. On the other hand, the first result is a positive four star rating from tripadvisor.com.

Anyway, it seems to me that Sixthseal has expressed a subjective opinion, and if you're going to start suing every food critic who doesn't like a restaurant (ditto for art critics, book reviewers, etc.) then there are going to be a lot of changes.

But the next bit is the strangest, and it may be a first. The restaurant is also suing Google - I suppose for providing the search engine that enables people to see the blog post.

Well - this one may be a world wide first, so Malaysia boleh! Again. But honestly it's got to be dead in the water. If the courts agreed to this, then every company will be wanting to be tell Google what to show and what not to show. Though there may be precedent in terms of Google returning searches on porn, terrorist related sites etc.

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++++++++++
The 15-minute blog post.
I like to blog, but I can't afford to spend a lot of time on it. Solution: limit myself to 15 minutes per post.
One link, one picture maximum.
All comments, critiques and corrections are welcome. Thank you.

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?)
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