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Azerbaijan: Blogs, BarCamps & Social Networks

This post is part of our special coverage Caucasus Conflict Voices.

On the sidelines of this weekend's Caucasus BarCamp in Tbilisi, capital of the Republic of Georgia, Global Voices Online's Caucasus Editor Onnik Krikorian had a brief opportunity to talk to BarCamp Ambassador and Regional Program Manager for Transitions Online, Emin Huseynzade, on blogging in Azerbaijan and the potential for its future development.

Huseynzade was also in Tbilisi to coordinate special training by Transitions Online for journalists and bloggers from all three South Caucasus republics. The training deals with the latest trends in new media, including podcasting, video casting, RSS feeds, and social networks, as well as the impact of blogs on the traditional media.

Azerbaijani Participants

Azerbaijan Participants with Huseynzade

Emin Huseynzade with Azerbaijani participants, Caucasus BarCamp, Tbilisi, Georgia

Azerbaijani Participants Registering

Azerbaijani participants registering, Caucasus BarCamp, Tbilisi, Georgia

Over 150 people from Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia as well as Eastern Europe and Central Asia registered for the conference although not all attended. Neverthless, the unconference dealt with topics such as the use of mobile telecommunication for social and environmental surveys, research and activities, as well as other topics as diverse as social networks such as Birge.az.

With the conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan over Nagorno Karabakh still frozen, both events also gave bloggers and journalists from both countries the rare opportunity to meet each other. Although interaction was minor for the BarCamp, participants from both countries attended presentations by the other and Huseynzade says that communication between the two would likely be greater for the smaller Transitions Online training.

However, with Azerbaijan due to stage its own BarCamp on 29-31 August in Lenkoran, Azerbaijan, it is unlikely that Armenians will be able to participate.

GV: You’ve arrived in Tbilisi with a large group from Azerbaijan for the BarCamp and the training which will take place afterwards.

EH: For the Caucasus BarCamp we have nearly 30 people. Some are students while others are from different companies or IT specialists – programmers, designers and so on. For the Transitions Online training, however, there will be just 6 people attending from Azerbaijan, 6 from Armenia, and 10 from Georgia.

GV: You’re planning to stage your own BarCamp in Azerbaijan. Why the interest?

EH: The first time I heard about BarCamps was last year. Jeremy Druker, Executive Director of Transitions Online, told me about this idea of an unconference and I was intrigued. I was very interested in the idea and so I contacted some people in Latvia to find out more. I then decided to become the so-called “Ambassador” for Azerbaijan and took people to attend the BarCamp there. Five people went and it was very amazing for us. There were nearly 500 people attending and presentations of different ideas, projects, and the possibility of finding funding for our own projects. I decided I’d attend other BarCamps.

GV: Of course, BarCamps are not just about blogs, but what is your specific interest in them? Will that be the main focus of the Transitions Online training?

EH: Actually, we’re thinking about blogs as the first phase for citizen-journalism, but it isn’t just about new media. There are also social networks, podcasts, and many other things. However, we decided to start with blogs and we’ll present the practice and experience of other countries in this respect. If there are new forms of new media, we’ll also implement those and start to develop them in our own countries too.

GV: Yesterday you told me that blogging is quite well established in Azerbaijan.

EH: There are different groups of bloggers in Azerbaijan and they started mainly on Blogspot and Blog.com before Russian blogs appeared on LiveJournal. Then some started to appear on blog.az, but there were a few problems with that. However, Azeriblog.com created a new blogging system a few years ago. Actually, the system was created by a blogger from what some call South Azerbaijan in Iran. In fact, many of those using that system were from there. On that system alone there are nearly 5,000 bloggers out of a total of some 8,000 spread across different platforms.

We’re also developing another project in Azerbaijan with the European Journalism Center. It’s a network – sirr.az – and there will be blogs there as well. So, we’re using new opportunities to provide people with not only social networks, but also networks and blogs within both. Some will be able to blog specifically for particular groups within other networks, for example. As a result, I think that in two years we won’t just be able to double the number of bloggers in Azerbaijan, but perhaps even triple it. We can also say that if a few years ago the Azerbaijani Internet was mainly in Russian as a result of the under-development of the Internet as well as the general situation of the country, it is now 80 percent in Azerbaijani.

GV: Given the lack of communication between neighboring countries in the South Caucasus for obvious reasons, do you think that blogs could be a way of bridging that divide?

EH: Maybe, but perhaps not blogs themselves. Instead it might be blogging systems or bookmarking sites such as Digg or Technorati because I don’t think that many people will access each other’s blogs so much or be quick to comment. Nevertheless, I would like to see Armenians comment on Azerbaijani blogs and vice-versa.

Transitions Online also operates a number of blogs from Armenia, Georgia and other countries via a main portal here. The official site of BarCamp Azerbaijan is here while last weekend's
Caucasus BarCamp is here.

Azerbaijani participants

Azerbaijani Delegates

Azerbaijani Participants

Azerbaijani Participants

Azerbaijani participants, Caucasus BarCamp, Tbilisi, Georgia

Armenian and Azerbaijani participants

Armenian and Azerbaijani participants, Caucasus BarCamp, Tbilisi, Georgia

Azerbaijani Participants

Azerbaijani participant

Azerbaijani participants

Azerbaijani participant

Azerbaijani participants, Caucasus BarCamp, Tbilisi, Georgia

All photos: © Onnik Krikorian / Oneworld Multimedia 2008

This post is part of our special coverage Caucasus Conflict Voices.

  • http://el-oso.net/blog David Sasaki

    It looks like it was a great event. Azerbaijan is one of many countries that I know next to nothing about. This post is a great entry point to learn more. Thanks Onnik.

  • http://blog.oneworld.am Onnik Krikorian

    Hi David, Emin has already expressed an interest in becoming a GV Author for Azerbaijan so I hope we’ll learn more quite soon.

  • http://www.solanasaurus.com/ Solana Larsen

    I love the photos!

  • http://karabakh.co.uk Farid Mammadov

    Very nice photos, my pleasure Onnik.

    But, tell me pls. do you have any comments about interview Emin Huseynzade?/

  • http://blog.oneworld.am Onnik Krikorian

    Hi Farid,

    You mean my own comments? If so, I found it very interesting to hear Emin’s opinion on the state of blogging in Azerbaijan and I certainly hope he will continue to push exposure of its future development through Global Voices Online.

    Personally speaking, I also welcomed the opportunity to meet Azerbaijani bloggers albeit in Georgia. I hope there will be other such occasions.

  • http://karabakh.co.uk/ Farid Mammadov

    Hi Onnik,

    Your feedback is very important and so interesting for me.

    Thank you for the being open with me.

    We also appreciate if you send to this email address our pictures. (faridmammadov@hotmail.com)

  • http://blog.oneworld.am Onnik Krikorian

    Hi Farid,

    I’ll be sending the pics next week (Monday). Got a painfully slow connection at home (dialup).

    Cheers,
    Onnik

  • http://nurgeldy.wordpress.com nurgeldy

    :) Hey, guys! glad to meet you all!

  • http://blog.oneworld.am Onnik Krikorian

    Farid, just to let you know, I sent the photos to Turxan, Ilgar and Rashad yesterday.

  • http://barcamp.az/ Farid Mammadov

    Hi Onnik

    Thank you for distribution, if is possible, send me too.

    my mail: farid.mammadov@azersun.com

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