Why don't tech bloggers write about Kenya

I got slammed on some blogs for not writing about Kenya’s problems. Truth is I missed that story because I was busy with CES and MacWorld and Fast Company stuff. Ethan Zuckerman, who founded Global Voices Online (which +is+ the right blog to keep up with human rights blogging from around the world comes to my defense, which I greatly appreciate).

Guy Kawasaki had a great guest post from a blogger who was staying in Kenya and barely escaped.

But the question about why the tech blogosphere doesn’t write about these kinds of things isn’t really a fair one. I write about technology. Gadgets. Interview technologists (last night, for instance, I videoed from inside Yahoo’s Brickhouse on my Qik channel).

I don’t usually write about stuff that I don’t have first-hand knowledge of. I’m not in Kenya. The Kenya story, as awful as it is, really doesn’t impact the tech world that much (and if you read Global Voices Online, which you should, you’ll see that Kenya is far from the only place in the world where awful stuff is going on).

That said, if I hadn’t been so busy and hadn’t been keeping up with my feed reading I would have put more things about this story on my link blog.

But you should read Ethan’s blog post. He’s right. We write about things we know about through a personal connection. I’m hoping to expand my personal connections next week at the World Economic Forum where we’ll talk more about this, and other issues that don’t seem to — on the surface — affect the tech industry.

Comments

  1. Dan: that’s a great idea. But that’s why I subscribe to Global Voices online. If I put every bad thing that happened around the world on my blog you’d get very bored very quickly. If you really care about this kind of stuff you are already reading Global Voices Online.

  2. Dan: that’s a great idea. But that’s why I subscribe to Global Voices online. If I put every bad thing that happened around the world on my blog you’d get very bored very quickly. If you really care about this kind of stuff you are already reading Global Voices Online.

  3. I think the people who slammed you on this are missing the point.

    You are absolutely right not to blog on this because you don’t have first hand knowledge of it. The beauty of the blogosphere is that you can get news like this from someone first hand who is an authoritative source. But when people who know nothing about it start making posts they create a situation in which they drown out the authoritative voice in a sea of posts.

    So now there are 140 Kenya posts on Google and no one can find the one that’s actually from the guy in Kenya anymore. They’re literally drowning out the signal with a bunch of noise.

    I mean, Lets face it, the difference between not having access to an authoritative source and not being able to find an authoritative source amidst the noise is pretty much non-existent.

  4. I think the people who slammed you on this are missing the point.

    You are absolutely right not to blog on this because you don’t have first hand knowledge of it. The beauty of the blogosphere is that you can get news like this from someone first hand who is an authoritative source. But when people who know nothing about it start making posts they create a situation in which they drown out the authoritative voice in a sea of posts.

    So now there are 140 Kenya posts on Google and no one can find the one that’s actually from the guy in Kenya anymore. They’re literally drowning out the signal with a bunch of noise.

    I mean, Lets face it, the difference between not having access to an authoritative source and not being able to find an authoritative source amidst the noise is pretty much non-existent.

  5. From a non-tech person’s point of view, I don’t think you should be expected to report on it. However, you might want to re-think your statement about Kenya not really affecting the tech industry. I say this mainly because of the big tech buzz right now around the so-called social graph. Isn’t that driven off of the idea that we’re all more connected to one another than we think? If that’s true, then the tech industry IS more connected to Kenya, and other world crises than it might appear at first glance.

    Just a thought.

  6. From a non-tech person’s point of view, I don’t think you should be expected to report on it. However, you might want to re-think your statement about Kenya not really affecting the tech industry. I say this mainly because of the big tech buzz right now around the so-called social graph. Isn’t that driven off of the idea that we’re all more connected to one another than we think? If that’s true, then the tech industry IS more connected to Kenya, and other world crises than it might appear at first glance.

    Just a thought.

  7. Steve: the idea that anything that happens anywhere affects us all is one that works with me! But, sorry, it doesn’t hold water in journalism. You gotta pick what you’re going to report on and this one doesn’t have much direct effect on the tech industry.

  8. Steve: the idea that anything that happens anywhere affects us all is one that works with me! But, sorry, it doesn’t hold water in journalism. You gotta pick what you’re going to report on and this one doesn’t have much direct effect on the tech industry.

  9. “I don’t usually write about stuff that I don’t have first-hand knowledge of. I’m not in Kenya. The Kenya story, as awful as it is, really doesn’t impact the tech world that much (and if you read Global Voices Online, which you should, you’ll see that Kenya is far from the only place in the world where awful stuff is going on).”

    Is that why you blogged about London Bombings as soon as it happened ?? Seems like you were all over it then .. ??

    http://www.dylangreene.com/1/1428-Coverage-of-London-attacks

  10. “I don’t usually write about stuff that I don’t have first-hand knowledge of. I’m not in Kenya. The Kenya story, as awful as it is, really doesn’t impact the tech world that much (and if you read Global Voices Online, which you should, you’ll see that Kenya is far from the only place in the world where awful stuff is going on).”

    Is that why you blogged about London Bombings as soon as it happened ?? Seems like you were all over it then .. ??

    http://www.dylangreene.com/1/1428-Coverage-of-London-attacks

  11. Robert, I don’t expect you to post regarding issues not in your field of expertise. For that information I can go elsewhere. I do expect you to do your best at tech reporting because this is why we come here. Unfortunately, with fame comes unrealistic expectations from people trying to tear you down.

    I do appreciate you taking the time to respond to this matter. In your free time it would be great if you could learn about Kenya, East Timor, Sunni-Shite history in Iraq, Palestine, Kashmir, Chechnya, etc. However, its for your personal enrichment.

  12. Robert, I don’t expect you to post regarding issues not in your field of expertise. For that information I can go elsewhere. I do expect you to do your best at tech reporting because this is why we come here. Unfortunately, with fame comes unrealistic expectations from people trying to tear you down.

    I do appreciate you taking the time to respond to this matter. In your free time it would be great if you could learn about Kenya, East Timor, Sunni-Shite history in Iraq, Palestine, Kashmir, Chechnya, etc. However, its for your personal enrichment.

  13. I am an IBM software blogger and I tackled this topic a few days ago:
    http://blogs.ittoolbox.com/bi/websphere/archives/how-technology-can-save-kenyan-democracy-21803

    I found it very educational when researching the topic. I know a lot more about the Kenyan democracy crisis now than I do about switching TVs off at CES. It’s a real crisis and not a trivial manufactured one.

    Ballot stuffing was made possible due to the manual steps in the election – the overly long counting process, the physical transfer of results to constituency office, counting that had to be postponed because they ran out of kerosene oil.

    There is a place for technology in improving the election process in under resourced and corruption riddled countries – mobile devices that can accept a stat dec signature and send results, counting machines, even the $200 laptop program for laptops at each of the 17,000 voting booths for more accurate voter lists. It’s possible that 20,000 Apple iPhones could have prevented the billion dollar Kenyan crisis.

  14. I am an IBM software blogger and I tackled this topic a few days ago:
    http://blogs.ittoolbox.com/bi/websphere/archives/how-technology-can-save-kenyan-democracy-21803

    I found it very educational when researching the topic. I know a lot more about the Kenyan democracy crisis now than I do about switching TVs off at CES. It’s a real crisis and not a trivial manufactured one.

    Ballot stuffing was made possible due to the manual steps in the election – the overly long counting process, the physical transfer of results to constituency office, counting that had to be postponed because they ran out of kerosene oil.

    There is a place for technology in improving the election process in under resourced and corruption riddled countries – mobile devices that can accept a stat dec signature and send results, counting machines, even the $200 laptop program for laptops at each of the 17,000 voting booths for more accurate voter lists. It’s possible that 20,000 Apple iPhones could have prevented the billion dollar Kenyan crisis.

  15. I have to agree with you, Robert.

    There are many blogs out there that address Kenya. My guess is that if you started to write about it you would be attacked for writing about something you know nothing about.

    It’s like writing a technical manual. You can load it up like a junk drawer with all kinds of topics. The hard part is what not to put in, not what to include.

    The traditional media carries story after story about the political situation in Kenya. BBC dwells on it ad infinitum, ad nauseum.

    Now if you were to find out a good tech story about Kenya, go with it.

  16. I have to agree with you, Robert.

    There are many blogs out there that address Kenya. My guess is that if you started to write about it you would be attacked for writing about something you know nothing about.

    It’s like writing a technical manual. You can load it up like a junk drawer with all kinds of topics. The hard part is what not to put in, not what to include.

    The traditional media carries story after story about the political situation in Kenya. BBC dwells on it ad infinitum, ad nauseum.

    Now if you were to find out a good tech story about Kenya, go with it.

  17. I know Ellen, who wrote that post, and she knows Guy, because she worked at Apple. That’s how the post came about, I bet. I also read Global Voices Online, and there wasn’t a lot of blogging about Kenya there either, as I remember it. So chill out and enjoy your birthday.

  18. I know Ellen, who wrote that post, and she knows Guy, because she worked at Apple. That’s how the post came about, I bet. I also read Global Voices Online, and there wasn’t a lot of blogging about Kenya there either, as I remember it. So chill out and enjoy your birthday.

  19. There are some tech bloggers such as White African writing about Kenya: http://whiteafrican.com/

    What I found interesting is how fast Kenyan bloggers deployed a web app at http://www.ushahidi.com to record the violence.

    I agree that it’s more difficult to write about a topic when you’re far away and not involved. I don’t think a blog needs to comment on every news story out there.

    I write about Malawi and point to related websites ‘cos it’s my home.

    Before blogging the only regular source of information was the BBC. Blogging has increased the amount of information coming out of Malawi many fold.
    For me this really shows the power of blogging more than anything else.

  20. There are some tech bloggers such as White African writing about Kenya: http://whiteafrican.com/

    What I found interesting is how fast Kenyan bloggers deployed a web app at http://www.ushahidi.com to record the violence.

    I agree that it’s more difficult to write about a topic when you’re far away and not involved. I don’t think a blog needs to comment on every news story out there.

    I write about Malawi and point to related websites ‘cos it’s my home.

    Before blogging the only regular source of information was the BBC. Blogging has increased the amount of information coming out of Malawi many fold.
    For me this really shows the power of blogging more than anything else.

  21. Of course one wouldn’t expect tech bloggers to write about politics – there are political blogs for that – if I understand the critique correctly it is saying that there is an important tech-blog angle to this story which was missed by most of the tech bloggers. As much as the Plaxo vs. Facebook controversy touched on some important issues happening in the area of data portability, there are tech-related stories happening throughout the world that deserve at least as much attention.

  22. Of course one wouldn’t expect tech bloggers to write about politics – there are political blogs for that – if I understand the critique correctly it is saying that there is an important tech-blog angle to this story which was missed by most of the tech bloggers. As much as the Plaxo vs. Facebook controversy touched on some important issues happening in the area of data portability, there are tech-related stories happening throughout the world that deserve at least as much attention.

  23. I agree Robert. This is no different than the press criticizing Michael Jordan or Tiger Woods for not being more socially or politically active. Jordan’s response was usually “I’m a basketball player”

    This is no different than actors thinking people want to know their opinions on different political issues.

    To them I say “Shut up, and sing”

    To tech bloggers that think they have to comment on social/political issues, I say “Shut up and blog about tech”

  24. I agree Robert. This is no different than the press criticizing Michael Jordan or Tiger Woods for not being more socially or politically active. Jordan’s response was usually “I’m a basketball player”

    This is no different than actors thinking people want to know their opinions on different political issues.

    To them I say “Shut up, and sing”

    To tech bloggers that think they have to comment on social/political issues, I say “Shut up and blog about tech”

  25. Wow, I’m glad I agree with you for the first time in a while:-) This isn’t your bag. Sure, global issues (of all sorts) are things intelligent, capable (capable of making or affecting change) should be aware of, and try to do their part. But your readership is not expecting this, and it’s not why they come here. It’s not your job.

    However, it may be your job to help others learn to use the technology to get these messages out. And as someone with marketing know-how, maybe it could be a side project to help some of these groups promote their interests and their blogs more–but it’s totally out of scope of this blog. If you do wan to do that, I suggest you do it on a different blog (afterall, many tech bloggers have their personal interest secondary blogs where they write about the “other stuff” they care about).

    Really, this is the responsibility of the broadcast channels (NYT, ABC, BBC, Time, etc.), not narrow cast (OMG, I am showing my age. Remember Pointcast?)

  26. Wow, I’m glad I agree with you for the first time in a while:-) This isn’t your bag. Sure, global issues (of all sorts) are things intelligent, capable (capable of making or affecting change) should be aware of, and try to do their part. But your readership is not expecting this, and it’s not why they come here. It’s not your job.

    However, it may be your job to help others learn to use the technology to get these messages out. And as someone with marketing know-how, maybe it could be a side project to help some of these groups promote their interests and their blogs more–but it’s totally out of scope of this blog. If you do wan to do that, I suggest you do it on a different blog (afterall, many tech bloggers have their personal interest secondary blogs where they write about the “other stuff” they care about).

    Really, this is the responsibility of the broadcast channels (NYT, ABC, BBC, Time, etc.), not narrow cast (OMG, I am showing my age. Remember Pointcast?)

  27. Techies have the right to escape into their own tech heaven, away for all the craziness of the world. :-{

    With the exception of gaming – tech-talk is one of the few diversions that do not deal with violence and sex as a popular theme.

    Sometimes one just wants to escape from reading and hearing about all the continuous evil in this world.

    There just is no rest… NO REST!!!

    Societies just don’t learn, people don’t learn. It just seems that there will always be a percentage of people who will engage in massacres and never ever appreciate the value of life. Next year – there will be another nation or two in the news and the year after that – and so on …

    The Video technology and The Social Internet will allow future generations observe and analyze this era. Wonder if they will be doing the same things

    http://searchengines.wordpress.com/2008/01/18/video-archives-of-worst-moments-of-past-century/

  28. Techies have the right to escape into their own tech heaven, away for all the craziness of the world. :-{

    With the exception of gaming – tech-talk is one of the few diversions that do not deal with violence and sex as a popular theme.

    Sometimes one just wants to escape from reading and hearing about all the continuous evil in this world.

    There just is no rest… NO REST!!!

    Societies just don’t learn, people don’t learn. It just seems that there will always be a percentage of people who will engage in massacres and never ever appreciate the value of life. Next year – there will be another nation or two in the news and the year after that – and so on …

    The Video technology and The Social Internet will allow future generations observe and analyze this era. Wonder if they will be doing the same things

    http://searchengines.wordpress.com/2008/01/18/video-archives-of-worst-moments-of-past-century/

  29. The problem with this kind of issue is, that no matter what you do, you will get slammed.

    You don’t write about Kenia – you are the bad guy not caring about people in need.

    Many German bloggers joined in an effort to get some attention for Burma last october, and we got slammed for apperently “taking advantage of the situation in order to improve our pagerank”.

    Pick your poison :)

    PS: The Free Burma campaign was inspired by italian bloggers. I do not know if there was such hard criticism there or in other participating countries.

  30. The problem with this kind of issue is, that no matter what you do, you will get slammed.

    You don’t write about Kenia – you are the bad guy not caring about people in need.

    Many German bloggers joined in an effort to get some attention for Burma last october, and we got slammed for apperently “taking advantage of the situation in order to improve our pagerank”.

    Pick your poison :)

    PS: The Free Burma campaign was inspired by italian bloggers. I do not know if there was such hard criticism there or in other participating countries.

  31. we don’t live in a vacuum. whether the blog is on tech doesn’t mean you shoudn’t comment on social issues that affect us. comment liberally, even on the rigged Kenyan election.

  32. we don’t live in a vacuum. whether the blog is on tech doesn’t mean you shoudn’t comment on social issues that affect us. comment liberally, even on the rigged Kenyan election.

  33. You weren’t slammed. The focus of the original story was that there was another story with a tech angle that had vastly more critical importance than you not having access to Facebook or not. It was about the lack of real priorities in the tech community.

    This wasn’t about you writing about Kenya. In a way, it wasn’t about you at all. It was about this self-centered environment, with its macro focus on what amounts to nothing more than trivia.

    As for Zuckerman, I would say he needs to focus on his own backyard, when Geekcorps people start recruiting for the World bank and UK consulting firms, for gigs in places like Afghanistan.

  34. You weren’t slammed. The focus of the original story was that there was another story with a tech angle that had vastly more critical importance than you not having access to Facebook or not. It was about the lack of real priorities in the tech community.

    This wasn’t about you writing about Kenya. In a way, it wasn’t about you at all. It was about this self-centered environment, with its macro focus on what amounts to nothing more than trivia.

    As for Zuckerman, I would say he needs to focus on his own backyard, when Geekcorps people start recruiting for the World bank and UK consulting firms, for gigs in places like Afghanistan.

  35. First off, congrats on your new job, Robert. Change is often a great thing for reinvigoration.

    Robert, anyone that pressures you to include “content” is off the hook. It’s your blog, after all. You should be the one to decide features and/or lack thereof.

    The world is not perfect — it has some very ugly occurances. Some of these are natural, some caused by man. War and violence is obviously man.

    Between the TV, things in physical print, and the WWW, there is violence and sadness galore. We don’t need to ask others to highlight it. People are largely aware of worldy goings on whether or not they choose to show it, react to it, or bring it to the attention of others.

    Telling someone they should be the bearer of bad tidings just so that person somehow feels justified is both wrong and stupid. I despise when people, no matter their intent, try to live vicariously through others. It’s a mark of narcissism, and narcissists suck.

    Enjoying your blog, Robert, and looking forward to your Fast Company reporting.

  36. First off, congrats on your new job, Robert. Change is often a great thing for reinvigoration.

    Robert, anyone that pressures you to include “content” is off the hook. It’s your blog, after all. You should be the one to decide features and/or lack thereof.

    The world is not perfect — it has some very ugly occurances. Some of these are natural, some caused by man. War and violence is obviously man.

    Between the TV, things in physical print, and the WWW, there is violence and sadness galore. We don’t need to ask others to highlight it. People are largely aware of worldy goings on whether or not they choose to show it, react to it, or bring it to the attention of others.

    Telling someone they should be the bearer of bad tidings just so that person somehow feels justified is both wrong and stupid. I despise when people, no matter their intent, try to live vicariously through others. It’s a mark of narcissism, and narcissists suck.

    Enjoying your blog, Robert, and looking forward to your Fast Company reporting.

  37. Amongst other places where I seem to be seeing lots about Kenya is in Mark “Rizzn” Hopkins’ shared items feed. He has tons of Kenya news there, and I learn from it there.

    Why I don’t write about it (or other things of that nature) is that in my flavor, I tend to write about the tools and methods that would enable others to go off and do that. Hopefully, some will.

    Write where your heart and inclinations take you. It will deliver the best of what you can produce.

  38. Amongst other places where I seem to be seeing lots about Kenya is in Mark “Rizzn” Hopkins’ shared items feed. He has tons of Kenya news there, and I learn from it there.

    Why I don’t write about it (or other things of that nature) is that in my flavor, I tend to write about the tools and methods that would enable others to go off and do that. Hopefully, some will.

    Write where your heart and inclinations take you. It will deliver the best of what you can produce.

  39. [...] Why don’t tech bloggers write about Kenya « Scobleizer — Tech geek blogger “Scoble:…Truth is I missed that story because I was busy with CES and MacWorld and Fast Company stuff”. This almost sounds like “we missed the Holocaust because of the Munich Olympics”… (tags: scoble tech techblogs kenya) [...]

  40. Kenya is a problem for sure, but the idea of a tech blog is people blogging out of the technology perspective. Not blogging about human rights related events probably caused by the single interest. It is good to see some of us focus on the other stuff in life and the world.
    Here in The Netherlands there is a lot going on at the moment about the upcoming Olympics and if we all sould boycott the games, do we need to boycot them too in your opinion? Or should we take the offensive and change a communist country by means of technology?

  41. Kenya is a problem for sure, but the idea of a tech blog is people blogging out of the technology perspective. Not blogging about human rights related events probably caused by the single interest. It is good to see some of us focus on the other stuff in life and the world.
    Here in The Netherlands there is a lot going on at the moment about the upcoming Olympics and if we all sould boycott the games, do we need to boycot them too in your opinion? Or should we take the offensive and change a communist country by means of technology?

  42. Robert,
    here are some other things you are woefully amiss in blogging about:

    Zimbabwe
    Deforestation in Borneo
    Japanese Whaling
    Burma

    And you have the cheek to call yourself a tech blogger ;)
    In case anyone gets upset – I believe all of the above are very important. But I wouldn’t come to Scoble to read about them, in the same way I don’t expect detailed analysis of the US recession on a football programme. That’s the beauty of the blogosphere – you can find the info you want from someone, you don’t have to get it from one provider.

  43. Robert,
    here are some other things you are woefully amiss in blogging about:

    Zimbabwe
    Deforestation in Borneo
    Japanese Whaling
    Burma

    And you have the cheek to call yourself a tech blogger ;)
    In case anyone gets upset – I believe all of the above are very important. But I wouldn’t come to Scoble to read about them, in the same way I don’t expect detailed analysis of the US recession on a football programme. That’s the beauty of the blogosphere – you can find the info you want from someone, you don’t have to get it from one provider.

  44. Robert

    There is a tech angle to the Kenyan crisis and everyone’s missing it.

    The blogosphere is how democracy is being built, and every type of blogger is involved.

    Where else has that happened?

    SMS is very, very important – especially when there’s a news media blackout. This is being tied into the blogosphere by Kenyans.

    Where else has that happened?

    We have something to learn here. Don’t look at Kenya’s blogosphere out of guilt, look out of interest and be prepared to learn something new about the Web and what it can do – yes, from Africans!

    More on my blog.

  45. Robert

    There is a tech angle to the Kenyan crisis and everyone’s missing it.

    The blogosphere is how democracy is being built, and every type of blogger is involved.

    Where else has that happened?

    SMS is very, very important – especially when there’s a news media blackout. This is being tied into the blogosphere by Kenyans.

    Where else has that happened?

    We have something to learn here. Don’t look at Kenya’s blogosphere out of guilt, look out of interest and be prepared to learn something new about the Web and what it can do – yes, from Africans!

    More on my blog.

  46. The traditional counterpoint to Davos Economic Forum, the World Social Forum, is being held all over the world this year with an online presence at WSF2008.net. As such, it does a little bit to bring together technology, injustice, and even Kenya ;-)

  47. The traditional counterpoint to Davos Economic Forum, the World Social Forum, is being held all over the world this year with an online presence at WSF2008.net. As such, it does a little bit to bring together technology, injustice, and even Kenya ;-)

  48. If you want to get a hands-on perspective from different parts of Kenya, we launched a Kenya channel on our site at http://www.kenya2.0television.com that has about 3,000 members from around Kenya who have been blogging and writing in special groups pages about the situation on the ground. Here is the most recent post from member Otuonick based in Kisii: http://2.0television.com/blogPage.php?bid=525&buid=543

    I don’t think you can be blamed for not bringing the topic up in any other way than you did. Yes, there is a tech angle in the way SMS was used pre- and post-election to spread hate and false rumours, and also to disseminate factual information and mobilize people…unless you were very familiar with the situation on the ground it would be easy to walk into a minefield with a tech-angled post.

    Thanks for giving your audience pause to think about the country…young people are suffering in the name of a chess game of old men.

  49. If you want to get a hands-on perspective from different parts of Kenya, we launched a Kenya channel on our site at http://www.kenya2.0television.com that has about 3,000 members from around Kenya who have been blogging and writing in special groups pages about the situation on the ground. Here is the most recent post from member Otuonick based in Kisii: http://2.0television.com/blogPage.php?bid=525&buid=543

    I don’t think you can be blamed for not bringing the topic up in any other way than you did. Yes, there is a tech angle in the way SMS was used pre- and post-election to spread hate and false rumours, and also to disseminate factual information and mobilize people…unless you were very familiar with the situation on the ground it would be easy to walk into a minefield with a tech-angled post.

    Thanks for giving your audience pause to think about the country…young people are suffering in the name of a chess game of old men.