the hour of our discontent

The first rumblings started here, with feezee’s remarkably eloquent comment about the Uganda Best of Blogs awards. Then Pea had a little something to say, Dennis D. Muhumuza worked his magic in the Daily Monitor, Minty chimed in, and now everyone’s talking about it: should Ugandan bloggers stay in their own, private corners, or should we out ourselves and come together offline?

My opinion on this one is obvious — I’ve been pushing hard for the BOB awards and UBHH. And since I’ve been encouraging more interaction, more debate and more openness among Ugandan bloggers, I feel like it’s time to, you know, do that. So here goes.

I get the need for privacy. I understand that there are things you could never say to your closest friends but have to say to the world. I know the fear of being outed, of losing your anonymity, of having your innermost thoughts suddenly exposed. It’s happened to me, and the results weren’t pretty — rebuilding the relationships that were damaged when people I knew read what I’d been thinking in secret was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done.

A study done in 2004 showed that 42% of bloggers almost never reveal their identities online, and 36% have gotten in trouble for something they wrote on their blogs. I value the freedom to say what you want online without offline retribution (provided you’re not inciting riots or calling for murder), and I will never criticize those who treasure their online privacy. My intention with the BOB awards and the Ugandan Bloggers Happy Hours is not to force the spotlight onto anyone who would rather remain anonymous (UBHH guests: I went through the photos and deleted those that showed the faces of anyone who asked me to protect their privacy). If you don’t want your blog involved in the awards, just e-mail me and let me know so I can take you out of the running.

That said, I believe there is great value to be found in publicizing Ugandan bloggers and the Ugandan blogging community. Through the first UBHH my knowledge of Ugandan blogs quintupled. Nominations are coming in for the BOB awards, and I find it encouraging that so many of us are paying attention to what each other has to say. We’re talking more: we’re arguing, but we’re also learning and laughing. Isn’t the point of posting your thoughts on the internet, anonymously or otherwise, to get them read? To start conversations? That’s why we post comments and link to each other.

Bloggers all over the world, from Houston to Delhi to Cape Town, are meeting up. They’re talking about identity, censorship, media, technology and creativity, among other things. They’re telling their stories and making their voices heard, and I think that’s a wonderful thing — something Uganda deserves and is highly capable of doing. That’s why I helped start UBHH, and that’s why I created the Uganda BOB awards.

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