Clement Nthambazale Nyirenda is a final year PhD student in the Hirota/Sakurai Lab in the Department of Computational Intelligence and Systems Science at Tokyo Institute of Technology and a lecturer, researcher and consultant in Electronics and Computer Engineering at the Malawi Polytechnic. He is the founder of MalawiSoc, a social bookmarking site devoted to news and blogs about Malawi. He recently agreed to participate in an email interview with Global Voices Online.
How did the idea for creating MalawiSoc come about?
Generally speaking, social bookmarking is a method that enables Internet users to organize, store, manage and search for bookmarks of resources online. It also enables Internet users across the web to collaborate with one another by sharing their bookmarks. Because of my blogging activities, I have been a social bookmarking sites, such Digg, Redit and StumbleUpon, for the past few years. My experience with these sites inspired me to create a similar site specifically devoted to blogs and news about Malawi.
Who are the other founders of MalawiSoc?
I am the only founder. But I am trying to bring in a few other Malawians so that we can together further develop this service. It is based in Yamato City, Japan. Yamato is a small city, one hour train ride away from Central Tokyo. The site itself is hosted by siteground.com, who have their main office in Panama.
How helpful is it to Malawians in particular?
There are a number of advantages for Malawians:
- They can submit Malawi-related posts and news articles of their choice, including their own articles. This will help to increase publicity of Malawian content on the web.
- Because the popularity of articles depends on the number of votes received, this site provides links to the most popular Malawi oriented articles on the net. This will become more pronounced as the number of members and activity on the site increases.
- The site provides a chance for Malawians and all those concerned about the country to link up with other people with similar interests. This could give birth to collaborative projects, among other things.
What one success would you like to share?
Because the site is still less than three months old, I do not have any successes to share as of now. I am currently busy promoting the site.
What are the biggest obstacles to your success? If any, how do you plan on overcoming those obstacles?
The biggest obstacle, as of now, is that I am working alone. I mainly do this work during my leisure time. There are many improvements that I would want to make but time is a problem, especially now that I am in the final year of my PhD studies. As I mentioned before, I am already talking to a few friends to join me in this adventure. I hope that together we will be able to make the site more user friendly and exciting.
What skills and expertise would be of assistance to your project?
Skills and expertise in the following software and technologies would be of great assistance: Photoshop, Illustrator, Flash, CSS, xHTML and HTML, PHP, Mysql. In-depth knowledge of the Internet and Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is also very important.
How do you plan on sustaining your project financially?
I am also appealing to all well-wishers out there to make donations towards this project. Those who want to help can get in touch with me through http://malawisoc.com/contact. I used some of the money that I made through adverts and some affiliate programs on my blog to register the domain and secure hosting space at siteground.com for the first two years. I am hoping that in two years time, the adverts that I will be running on the social bookmarking site will provide enough money to pay for all the costs.
How do you think MalawiSoc contributes to transparency in Malawi?
Because the site is user driven, in the sense that users provide the news articles, summaries and comments and also vote the articles, I believe that it greatly contributes to transparency in Malawi.
How does the information published on your website turn into offline social/political change?
I think it may be premature for me to say anything on that for the time being. But as the site continues to grow, it will provide the best resource for summaries and links for the hottest news and blog articles about Malawi. The ease with which important information will be obtained by members and the resulting comments and private messages have the potential of causing significant offline change.
How many hours a week do you personally spend on the project
I take approximately 8 to 12 hours. The most time consuming tasks involve playing around with HTML and PHP codes to improve the functionality of the site.
How many visitors do you get on MalawiSoc?
Because site is still in the initial stages, I think it is premature to share this information at this time.
What do you find unique about MalawiSoc?
Well, the unique thing is that it is the only social bookmarking site devoted to Malawian content on the web. It attempts to allow Internet users who interested in Malawian issues to help in the aggregation and rating of Malawian content on the web. It also helps to increase the visibility of Malawian content on the web
What licenses do you use to publish own content and their code (if you develop any tools).
This site is built on the Hotaru Content Management System under the terms of the General Public License v.3, which implies that we have the liberty to modify it, mainly by using plugins, to suit our needs.
Is MalawiSoc on Twitter?
Where do most readers come from?
Almost 35% come from Malawi and about 20% from UK. USA ranks third at 10%. The target audience is Malawians and all folks interested in Malawian issues. Content submitted to the site is not re-posted elsewhere.
What metrics do you use to judge your own success?
As long as there is enough activity (submissions, comments, voting, private messages etc.) on the site and we are able to pay for the operational costs without any problems, that will be okay.
What else would you like to share with me.
I would like to thank you for granting me the opportunity to be interviewed.