The 2010 Bloggies best Asian blog nominees are...
The Bloggies is considered the most prestigious blog awards on the net. Every year, in Academy Award style fashion, blogs are nominated in various categories such as best blog by region, best tech blog, best entertainment blog, and so on. For the 10th annual Bloggies, we decided to get to know a little more about the personalities behind the five blogs nominated for the Best Blog in Asia award, which will be announced in March.
Those five blogs are (in no particular order):
Susie's Big Adventure: Susie married a Saudi man, packed up her family and moved to Saudi Arabia where she has blogged about daily life for the last three years.
Desiderata: CNNGo contributor Aarti Betigeri's diary-styled blog about the Australian living in India. Aarti prefers to be paid to write, so she blogs for fun.
Asian Ramblings: Created and written by Steve Peer after becoming fed up with writing under a "Terms of Serivce". Steve now works for Phottix, a photographic accessory company in Shenzhen, China.
Eating Asia: Robyn Eckhardt's and photographer David Hagerman's Asian foodie blog. Robyn is the former food editor for Time Out in Kuala Lumpur, contributes to the Wall Street Journal Asia's Weekend Asia, and blogs when she has the chance.
CNNGo: Exactly how big of a deal is winning a Bloggie?
Leslie Tay: Well, I am not sure to be honest because this is the first time I have heard of it.
Steve Peer: Winning a Bloggie is a very big deal. An award based on the votes of your peers, even being a finalist for such an award, is quite an accomplishment. As a blogger you don’t often get a pat on the back: You toil, check your stats, and hope someone is getting something from your efforts. A Bloggie, that sort of recognition, is a great big virtual nod of appreciation.
Susie: Well, the Bloggies is the oldest and, in my opinion, the most prestigious weblog awards event that is out there. It is currently celebrating its 10th year of awards. It generates a lot more exposure for all the blogs in the competition. There are 30 different categories, and it is such an honor to be included in a contest alongside the likes of such popular world renowned blogs like: The Huffington Post, Cake Wrecks, Post Secret, Fail Blog, I Can Has Cheezburger?, The Pioneer Woman, and Perez Hilton.
Aarti Betigeri: I suppose I'll find out when I win.
Robyn Eckhardt: Would it change my life if I won? No. I didn't start the blog to become a 'known' blogger, and I blogged in relative obscurity for four and a half years simply because I enjoyed the process and interacting with readers. It might push hits up, and as a freelancer I welcome whatever additional income comes my way, so in that respect it would be great. I've sort of not put stock in a lot of blog awards because they are essentially popularity contests.
I really only read blogs that I enjoy, whether they're influential or not. — Robyn Eckhardt, Eating Asia
CNNGo: How long have you been blogging?Leslie Tay: 3.5 years
Steve Peer: I have been blogging more than 3.5 years.
Susie: I started in 2007, just before my family moved to Saudi Arabia.
Aarti Betigeri: Desiderata was my third blog, the previous two lasted only about three posts each before I got bored.
Robyn Eckhardt: Since August 2005, when I moved from Saigon to Kuala Lumpur.
CNNGo: Where do you currently live? Is the blog a full time gig?Leslie Tay: I live in Singapore and my blog is only a hobby I do in between seeing patients in the clinic.
Steve Peer: I currently live in Shenzhen, China. I don’t blog full time, but my online efforts did help me to meet people and get my current job with Phottix, a photographic accessory company. Part of that position involves blogging and social networking.
Susie: It occupies a lot of my time as it is, but I try to post only about once a week because I don't really want it to become a bigger commitment than it already is. I do post every day on my daily photo blog, Jeddah Daily Photo Journal, where I post at least one new photo every day from Saudi Arabia. There is a lot more involved than just publishing a post every week though. A lot of time is spent researching and there is a lot of blog hopping and commenting to do as well. I also get a lot of private emails from readers seeking advice -- most of them are women involved in a relationship with a Saudi man.
Aarti Betigeri: No. I am open to offers of full time work. Especially really well-paid ones.
Robyn Eckhardt: Kuala Lumpur. I left my position as food editor at Time Out because after 16 columns on the city's food scene and 32 resto reviews I was burned out. But I've been a contributing writer at Travel+Leisure Southeast Asia for 18 months and write regularly for Wall Street Journal Asia's Weekend Asia, as well as freelancing for primarily American publications. So my full-time gig is freelancing and I blog in my spare time.
CNNGo: Why did you start your blog?Leslie Tay: Because I wanted to catalog all of Singapore's top hawker stalls on one website with good photos to show off the food.
Steve Peer: When I started blogging in 2006, I was using a social networking site that offered 'incentives' to writers. The site changed its business model and was dumbed down to a point that I didn’t want my name or material associated with it. I started Asian Ramblings as a way to express myself and not be limited by the dreaded “Terms of Service” imposed by many sites.
Susie: I actually began writing it so my family and friends back home wouldn't worry about me. I wanted to keep them abreast of what I was doing and to try to educate them about this country that continues to be such a mystery to the rest of the world.
Aarti Betigeri: It was started as a record or a diary of my time in India. The audience was meant to be family and friends except no one really read it. But I perservered, and even though I haven't blogged particularly regularly I seem to have picked up a core, albeit very small, group of followers. I named it for possibly the best poem ever written, which is kind of about living in the moment, and because it contains the word 'desi', which is a colloquialism for people of subcontinental descent.
Robyn Eckhardt: I and David Hagerman, the blog's photographer, decided to start a blog as a way to become better at our respective crafts by forcing ourselves to practice on a regular basis. And I needed a calling card, so to speak, to present to (mostly print media, at that time) editors when I pitched articles for pay. Now the blog is a place for me to write about what really interests and excites me in whatever way that I choose -- ie it's a break from paid assignments.
CNNGo: What are some other influential or great blogs in the region?
Leslie Tay: Chubby Hubby.
Steve Peer: I’m not really influenced by other blogs, but there are many amazing Asia-related blogs. Taiwan has an incredible number of skilled writers and photographers such as myseveralworlds.com and craigfergusonimages.com. On the mainland: randomwire.com, farwestchina.com, and paddyinba.blogspot.com are a few of my favorites.
Susie: There are really many other fine blogs out there, although I am most familiar with those particularly in the Middle East. To name just a few of my favorites: American Bedu, Sand Gets in My Eyes, Saudi Woman.
Aarti Betigeri: There are many, many other fantastic blogs from or about India (some of which are way more deserving of this honour than mine, to be fair). My absolute top pick would have to be Gora Gora Gora! which is a series of very funny, observational columns about life in India by a pasty-faced Australian journalist who is lucky enough to, visa-wise, be considered a Person of Indian Origin. (He is also ruggedly handsome and lucky enough to be married to me.)
Next, The Delhi Walla who writes with beauty and alacrity about this grimy, noisy, dusty city which we call home. I love writer Amit Varma's India Uncut, in which he writes brief and pithy posts and has a fantastic sense of the ridiculous. Ultrabrown and Sepia Mutiny are both blogs with a number of contributors and are written from more of an NRI perspective about news and issues relevant to the diaspora and pretty much serve as a kind of newsfeed for me.
Robyn Eckhardt: I really only read blogs that I enjoy, whether they're influential or not. Most are food-related. A few in the region, some updated more than others: Jessie and the Giant Plate, Sticky Rice, and I loved Phnomenon when it was active (plenty of archived content to keep you busy though), also xiaolongbao.com, ourmaninhanoi.com, and danwei.org which is more a sort of newsy stream I suppose. And I read many non-Asian blogs as well.
CNNGo: What part of your blog are you the most proud of? Is it the writing, the video, the photography?
Leslie Tay: I am quite pleased with the video blogs which is quite unique for a food blog.
Steve Peer: I am proud of many of the photographs on my site. Initially, my blog was a way to share images and stories from my life and job in China. The photographic aspect pushed me in a new direction. I relearned old skills and improved. I’m proud to look back and see the progress I have made.
Susie: It would have to be my posts themselves. That's what most of my effort goes into. My life here isn't really all that exciting and at times it's difficult to come up with topics to write about. Then there are other times when there seems to be an abundance of things for me to write about. I like to write about things that I find interesting or that are heartfelt. I have found that people are as interested and fascinated with this place as I am, and by getting my feelings about it out in my writing, it helps me cope with living now in such a totally different environment than what I had before.
Aarti Betigeri: There isn't much to my blog apart from the writing, let's face it. So I suppose I like the writing.
Robyn Eckhardt: I'm proud of the degree to which David and I have improved the content. We've worked really hard at it and I think we've come a long way since the early posts, some of which make me cringe! But mostly I'm chuffed that we've introduced readers to many previously little-known (or known but overlooked) Asian foods, food traditions, and foodie destinations. Someone just commented on a recent post on Sichuan's bounty that they had never seen Chengdu in that way, and I've gotten similar comments from Kuala Lumpur residents in response to posts about KL. That, I think, is really a great thing -- when you can lead people to look at the familiar in a whole new light or to find interest or beauty in something they've seen a million times before but never given much thought to.
CNNGo: What are five of your favorite posts on the site in the last 2 months?
Leslie Tay: The photos in Private affairs, the story in Xu Jun Sheng Teochew cuisine, the video in Poach eggs, the discovery at Cumi Bali Indonesian, the story and pics at Kim Joo Guan.
Steve Peer: The last two months have seen me “on hiatus” as I’ve dealt with real life issues: Buying a home and preparing for the arrival of our first child later this year. My favorite posts have been: Hakka Missile Silos, The cow herder and the weaver – the Chinese valentines story, Inspector Stevo and the Case of the missing neck tie, Hong Kong: An afternoon in Central Market, Conflicted: A love/hate relationship with my mistress.
Susie: Well, since I don't post daily, I'll go back in time a bit further. Looking at my list, I realize that my favorites are very personal or have to do mostly with cultural differences that I have had a difficult time adjusting to. Here they are: Hair Do or Hair Don't, Still She Smiles, On Being Normal, The Case Against Women Driving in KSA, and How I Met My Prince.
Aarti Betigeri: My favorites are the ones about my travels: Carnal desire in Shimla, The longest bus trip (about trying to get to Manali,) Bangalore high times and hijinks, The tailor of Qutb Minar, and Staying at home is hard, you know.
Robyn Eckhardt: A sort of nostalgia piece about returning to Chengdu, where Dave and I lived 25 years ago, a post on a rare and unusual treat we stumbled across in Georgetown, Penang, a 'process' piece on making piong ayam (chicken cooked in bamboo) in Toraja, Sulawesi, a post about searching for the history of khao soi in Chiang Mai, and a recipe piece about a really delicious Filipino dish we ate while spending Christmas there a couple years ago.
CNNGo: What advice would you give to newbie bloggers?
Leslie Tay: Take good photos, be concise and make sure you are passionate and focused on what you want to blog about.
Robyn Eckhardt: Blog (with text, photos, or both) on something about which you're truly passionate so that posting won't be a chore and you'll do it regularly. I suppose that some bloggers who've set out to be the next 'star' blogger have succeeded via marketing in spite of sub-par content, but in the end I think that the cream rises to the top and those who are blogging mostly because their passion has driven them to it post superior material and thus attract readers and viewers through word of mouth. Of course these days marketing is important too -- so do devote some time to SOE (advice I could give myself, actually), Facebook, and especially Twitter.