The Laudable Series Pt. 1: Bloggers




         When it comes to our own; our country, bodies, opportunities we often dwell on the negatives more than the positive but it is a known fact that when we dwell on the good we feel a whole lot better. So I’m going to give out doses of “feel good” with this new series I came up with. The Laudables. Each part of this series will acknowledge a laudable group of people of this-day Cameroon, interview them and give them what limelight Musings has to offer. For this month we shall applaud the Bloggers.
Blogging by my definition is the easier, informal self-publishing of articles, videos, comics etc using a blog. And what is a blog? The term blog is short for web log, a “log” of diary-like entries published on a web site. This is how it started, people publishing their daily thoughts for all to read on their website. The modern blog evolved from the online diary, where people would keep a running account of their personal lives and opinions and are generally recognized as bloggers.
The timeline of blogging starts in the late 1990’s and in the West of course, but almost two decades later there is no doubt a “blog boom” going on in Africa and Cameroon (for once) is not missing out! Why is it so important you may ask? Why is it worth mentioning even?
Let me explain: We grumble and complain about the bias portrayal of Africa on mainstream media. During the last presidential elections in 2011 no single major broadcasting station mentioned what should have been a decisive moment in our history…well I guess they already knew no decision worth noting was going to be made.
The individual has a voice and the media due to those who sponsor it can’t always tune their voice in.
Be it on fashion, or some remarkable event, a home hero/heroine, a new song, your opinion on religion or your personal politics, blogging helps you make your voice heard on whatever topic you wish to talk about. The increase of blogs run by Africans is making it easier for non-Africans to know that Africa is NOT a country; bloggers disseminate information differently and have brought their country and the ways of their people to the limelight. I’m proud to say I’m one of many bloggers in Cameroon. When I started blogging (seriously) I was shocked to note just how many we were! Shocked because for a country who only just recently enforced computer science as a subject in schools and where the internet connection is generally poor at best (and that is putting it mildly) it shows great effort to have so many bloggers all voicing their own side of the story. In no particular order and inclusive of both French and English blogs, here are some examples:
Ø  Scribbles from the Den http://www.dibussi.com
Ø  Art Becomes You http://artbecomesyou.com
Ø  Addicted to Etsy http://www.addicted2etsy.com/
Ø  Can Never Be A Skinny Bish http://canneverbeaskinnybish.com/
Ø  Kamer Kongossa http://kongossa.mondoblog.org  
Ø  Find Palaver Woman http://findpalaverwoman.blogspot.com
Ø  Africally Speaking http://www.africallyspeaking.com
Ø  No Mami Pikin Left behind http://nomamipikinleftbehind.blogspot.com
Ø  Letters To Cameroon http://letterstocameroon.wordpress.com  
Etc……

With all these blogs named you may get the idea that blogging has become cheap. You would be wrong. Blogging requires self-perception, authoritativeness, originality discipline and dedication, attributes which pretty much disqualify most people. Oh, they will try, set up a blog and share something for a few weeks even a few months then something else distracts them. Or there are those (ehem, like me, ehem) who are slow bloggers. In other words do not mark your ovulation cycle by us. You just might have a heart attack.
Well, to get down to the point, in this web 2.0 age of blogging there are Cameroonians in the mix laudably, YAY! And more, there are also a few good, serious minded, consistent ones too, another YAY!!
I shall without further ado throw the spotlight on some of that select laudable few... the crème de la crème of the Camer blogosphere:

        I Rep Camer
Yes she does! “She” is Yefon Mainsah, a 34 year old Engineer, the lady behind I Rep Camer who is into everything and then some! She is currently based in Houston, Texas where she blogs from and impresses us with how much she knows on what is going on with Cameroonians all over the globe. And I mean ALL OVER. I call Yefon the Queen of Camer Bloggers because she knows them all, and connects them to one another. Following I Rep Camer will keep you up to date on what’s happening with up and coming entrepreneurs, artists, and anyone worth noting in Camer social life. With I Rep Camer Yefon uplifts Cameroonians doing what others say cannot be done. And did I say she does this consistently? Since she began blogging in April 2009, she updates her blog at least once a week and has 54 steady followers for the blog and over 800 on the blogs Facebook page. Like I said, she’s QUEEN ergo a Pro at this.  
Musings got her to answer some questions for us and here are her responses to the following questions:
1.      What was the idea behind the naming of your blog?
The name is self explanatory. I Rep Camer! To represent Cameroon and showcase who and what we are to the world.
2.        What is blogging to you, and what is the basic content of your blog?
Blogging started as an out and escape from a stressful job but now I blog to promote, engage, exchange, share and to have a voice. In essence my blog is your stop for all things Cameroon and Africa plus the random thoughts and musings of an All in One Engineer, Movie/Music & Accessories junkie. With multi-focus on Arts, Culture, Entertainment, Fashion, Travel, Tourism, Business, Technology and everything in between!
3.       What do you think of blogging in Africa in general and Cameroon in particular?
 (Is it Afropolitan or reflective of the masses or..)
Cameroonian bloggers are finding their voice and place in the “blogosphere”. I am impressed with the increasing diversity of bloggers. Entertainment, Fashion, Lifestyle, Hair & Beauty, Afrocentric, OpEd, Arts & Culture, Business and the list goes on and on. Afropolitan?  Yes, because there are bloggers home and in the diaspora and the increasing diversity of content.
4.       What in your opinion is the importance or blogging? How has it changed the game?
Blogging is the new media. Bloggers are more important now that ever..The world is a global village where social media is the norm and the dissipation & availability of information of information is widespread. People follow trends. Bloggers are becoming the go-to “experts” for the 411 (info), trends, topics, issues, news etc
5.      What about blogging (particularly about Cameroonian blogging) do you wish would change?
Cameroon is bilingual which is an advantage and challenge at the same time. There needs to be more synergy between Anglophone & Francophone bloggers. Slowly but surely we are moving towards that.
6.      What is your highest ambition for your blog?
My ambition now will be to monetize my blog. At some point it needs to be more than passion and after 5 years of blogging I am at that point. I just started the advertising service. Check out available AD slots on the “About” page.

Scribbles from the Den
If Yefon is the Queen then Dibussi is the King as this scribbler is one of the oldest in the game and of course one of the most constant. Dibussi Tande who is a Senior Analyst for a multinational management consulting, technology services, and outsourcing company based in Chicago has been blogging from there casually since 2004 but really took it head-on as of January 2006. In his words, blogging was merely a continuation - on a different platform- of what he had been doing since the early 1990s when he was a main contributor to leading Cameroonian newspapers such as Cameroon Post, Le Messager, and Cameroon Life Magazine while still a student at the University of Yaounde.
With a MSc. In Political Science it is understandable why Dibussi’s scribble usually read as political punch often sour-wit and sarcasm-sweet. To have blogged for a decade is no small feat so we are not surprised that Dibssi was named number one on Afrigators list of top Cameroonian blogs, with an average of about one hundred thousand unique visits annually. Dibussi took his turn at answering some questions for us as well:

1.      What was the idea behind the naming of your blog?
Interestingly, the name of my blog was chosen on a whim while we were designing the blog banner. That said, I guess if you put me under hypnosis, I might be able to figure out, from the recesses of my subconscious, why exactly I chose that name or where it came from
J
2.      In one sentence what is blogging to you, and what is the essence of your blog?
Blogging to me is a means to share my personal perspective on the key socio-political events of the times, particularly events in Cameroon.Scribbles from the Den” is not about raw news; it is about going behind the news and putting that news in context. I point out in the preface to my 2009 book, Scribbles from the Den. Essays on Politics and Collective Memory in Cameroon, which is a collection of 49 posts from my blog: “For half a century, Cameroonians have been systematically deprived of the appropriate repèreshistoriques or historical reference points that would enable them to analyze political and other events in the country in an informed manner, and place these events in their appropriate historical and geo-political context….”Scribbles from the Den” has, from its little corner in the blogosphere tried to recreate those reference points by taking a fresh look at events of the past and going beyond the official narrative when interpreting today’s events.”
3.      What do you think of blogging in Africa in general and Cameroon in particular? (Is it Afropolitan or reflective of the masses or..)
The African and Cameroonian blogosphere has evolved considerably in the last decade, moving from a sphere dominated by men and politics to one that is more diverse, and which now covers a wide range of non-political themes such as fashion, music, culture,  gender, etc. In fact, we don’t really have a single African blogosphere but a series of African blogospheres. The same applies to Cameroon where the blogosphere is split by theme, language and even location. In spite of this diversity (some would say division) there is a central “Africanist” theme that has remained constant over the years. To quote Zimbabwe Pundit who was one of the African blogging pioneers, Africans use their blogs to ensure that the African story “share[s] center stage alongside the big issues in the west… African bloggers are retelling the African story from their authentic perspective with an avid passion for their countries and continent to boot.”
4.      What in your opinion is the importance of blogging? How has it changed the game?
Part of the answer is found in my previous response. Blogging’s singular importance is that it offers an alternative narrative to mainstream and/or official journalism and reporting, particularly in Africa where distorted official narratives have held sway for decades. Blogging has democratized the media landscape by breaking the traditional media room’s stranglehold on information and disseminating it in the streets.Of course, this shift has risks and downsides that have been well document, but overall, this remains one of the most significant gains of the digital age.
5.      What about blogging (particularly about Cameroonian blogging) do you wish would change?
The Cameroonian blogosphere is generally very splintered and not particularly interested or involved in the larger African/global blogging community. Today, this blogosphere is boxed into sealed silos that don’t talk to each other, or even know of each other’s existence. The result is a largely marginal blogosphere with little or no power to mobilize or influence on socio-political events in the country. Hopefully, the creation of a Cameroonian Bloggers Association will help move things in the right direction. On another note Cameroonian bloggers rarely participate in continental or global citizen journalism initiatives such as the ongoing worldwide campaign to free the detained Ethiopian journalists or in organizations such as Global Voices online, the largest platform for citizen journalists in the world. As a result, the Cameroonian blogosphere remains largely unknown, and deprived of valuable avenues for building continental and global alliances that come in handy particularly during times of crisis.
6.      How frequently do you blog and how many follow you?
In the early years, I used to blog 2-3 times a week, but I eventually realized that the only way to avoid being burnt-out was to control my blogging and not the other way round. These days, I blog only when I have time. And I don’t stress when I can’t. This is why I am still blogging 10 years after. So my advice to young bloggers is simple; control your blogging and never let your blogging control you. Don’t fret about self-imposed schedules and deadlines. Just make sure that that your work is of stellar quality and the audience and recognition will follow.
7.      What is your highest ambition for your blog?
When I started blogging I simply wanted to have a credible blog that would become a reference for the issues that it covered. That goal was met and the blog took on a life of its own in the process. It is thanks to Scribbles from the Den that I have been privileged to contribute to journals such as the BBC’s Focus on Africa Magazine or the Rhodes Journalism Review; invited to conferences around the world to share my insight on issues as diverse as Internet freedoms or Islamism in Africa; have been invited to talk at top institutions such as Northwestern University's Kellog School of Management; have had my blog posts cited and analyzed by top academics or reprinted in newspapers around the world; interviewed by the BBC and other major news organs; called upon to write policy papers for organizations with a wide reach, etc. And how can I forget the life changing encounters with people whom I met in the blogosphere or during my travels? My highest ambition for my blog, if ever there was one, has been met 10 times over!

Dulce Camer
Dulce Camer is the voice of the young changing generation constantly feeding the people with tidbits almost daily. Dulce brings us all the news, all the prisms of Camer, from comparing Camer hip-hop artist to listing the top Cameroonians under 30 making it big. Dulce Camer is our Forbes, Cosmopolitan, and People rolled into one.
 And the lady behind it is none other than Cynthia Tabe who in her 30’s is an insurance manager for a large multinational company in her "main" life as well as the PR behind Douala based ModeMaison PR in my "another life ". She is in and out of Douala and London from London form where she has blogged since 2008. Dulce Camer is constantly named one of the best blogs out there because of their ever informative content. They literally “predict the news” Such as predicting the young Cameroonians to watch for success.