kottu.org (Sri Lanaka’s “main” blog aggregator) IS the blogosphere for insignificant Sri Lankan bloggers like Cerno. The site is more than the primary source of traffic. It is (admit it) a “community”. The readers that come through it are a specialised bunch. Equipped to various degrees with references and shared cultural baggage from having some sort of ties to Sri Lanka. Your own experiences, filtered via your association with this nutty island is of more relevance to them than any other audience. Naturally you eventually end up blogging with the Kottu crowd. Like this post. Which I think is a good thing.
Its a rare privilege to have a concentrated source of readers who are more likely to know what you are talking about. Yes yes we ALL want to say that we don’t care if anyone reads our blog no? Of course Kottu.org only covers a fraction of Sri Lankan blogs (Blogspot alone has more than a few). There are no conclusive cultural/socio-economic demographic profile on Sri Lankan bloggers beyond what the stats, the blogs themselves or an odd newspaper article (whose conclusions are debatable) might suggest. Unless Ayeshea’s dissertation Project ever gets published (which I doubt) we won’t have a clue.
Its tempting to snootily view all this as being insular. A sort of a small town echo chamber. I don’t hold that view. We blog about what we know. If that involves being influenced by the complexities living in this island, all the better. Even if what we blog about it not immediately accessible for a more international audience. The “small” fraction of Sri Lankan blogs syndicated on kottu.org isn’t an indicator of the site’s significance or anything other perceived value.
As with any online community, themes and thoughts expressed through Kottu’s blogs influence each other. You write posts in “response” t0 other people’s posts and comments on your blog. You build link relationships. People you know only through their blogs seems like friends.
Right now (late 2007) Kottu.org reminds me of a more civilised version of usenet. With the hate spewing flame wars shunted to individual blogs. Its makes for a comfy little village square. With streets leading off to familiar neighbourhoods. Complete with fisticuffs, insider jokes, wise people, and crackpots. During terrorist attacks the communal nature of Kottu.org becomes obvious. It even feels like a more reliable source of news than the BBC.
The site has a few landmarks – the most coveted of course are the “most popular” list. A post on politics/war, the latest attack, anything to do with girls (Lesbians are popular), and humorous imagery will definitely earn you a spot on it.
There are naturally the big names. Groundviews, Lirneasia, Lanka Libratarian, Indi, London Lanka and Drums, and Voice in Colombo (apologies to the unmentioned). Politics is the constant topic – politics of The War. Which tends to creates its own weather system of personal politics.
Thankfully personal politics are played out across individual blogs. If the site has an understanding of etiquette, it is that one should now post more than 2-3 posts a day on one’s blog. Which some folk (usually people new to blogging and kottu) don’t realise. The result is a “flood” of posts from a single blog. Overall the “community” seems tolerant though people who do abuse it have suffered consequences.
Which shows that somebody has to pay the bills and do the cleaning. For Kottu.org it is the janitor who is not uniformly held in high esteem (for his political beliefs). He shells out $$$ for the domain name (its registered to him according to the WHOIS proxy I used). I suppose he pays the Dreamhost account fee as well (the cheapest account currently just under US$ 36). Its not peanuts in Rupee terms though not a princely sum either. I presume that accept for an occasional foray into mucking about the database, maintaining Kottu.org doesn’t take up too much time.
This non intrusiveness has kept the site free of dangerous “improvements” which have wrecked other online communities I’ve frequented in the past. Granted the site may not be hyper efficient, but the clean layout and the focus on content works fine at a human level. Perhaps that’s the familiarity speaking.
I’ve wondered how long it will all last as change is inevitable. Zsri.com seems to operate as a sort of a kottu backup for now. Achcharu.org is a whole another animal that deserves its own post. The janitor could just pull the plug and save up for an iPhone (I’m not suggesting that in any way). He hasn’t so far and in the process created a rare spot for Sri Lankans to shout with as much vehemence as they like and yet not make an ugly scene.
For that at least we ought to say thank you. At least I am with this post.