10 Years Ago Today, Global Voices’ First Post Appeared…

10 years ago today, the first post appeared on the Global Voices web site. Photo by Georgia Popplewell (CC BY-SA 3.0)

At 10:03pm on the night of Tuesday October 26, 2004, somewhere in Cambridge, Massachusetts, Rebecca MacKinnon, CNN journalist-turned-fellow at Harvard's Berkman Centre for Internet and Society, crossed the last few t’s, dotted the final i’s, and hit the “publish” button on the back end of the WordPress blog her Berkman colleague Ethan Zuckerman had set up a few days before. And so the first Global Voices blog post was born.

Like many first messages, it was hardly momentous in terms of content. It announced the agenda for a meeting Rebecca and Ethan had managed to shoehorn into the schedule of a conference taking place at Harvard Law School on December 11 of that year. The meeting, which Rebecca would describe in a second post published later that night, was called “Global Voices Online: Blogging for Independent Journalists, Concerned Citizens and Activists”, and would comprise a series of “freewheeling workshops and discussion tracks” focusing on:

 “…the use of weblogs and other new technologies to enhance online global dialogue and political advocacy. Participants will include international webloggers, journalists and activists with an interest in online communication techniques. A major focus of the meeting will be to develop strategies for spreading the use of online participatory media by civil society, activists, and journalists in places generally ignored by the mainstream international media.”

10 years later, here we are. Since Rebecca’s first post we’ve published over 88,000 more articles. We've become a human translation powerhouse. We've developed special sections for our freedom of expression and development work. We've won a bunch of awards. We've become interpreters, not only of languages, but of culture, politics and social dynamics, sought out and referenced by media professionals, policymakers, academics and others seeking to connect with the diverse voices and stories coming out of citizen and social media around the world. And we've held several more meetings and Summits, (with another coming up in January!).

Members of the community at the Global Voices Citizen Media Summit 2010 in Santiago, Chile. Photo by Georgia Popplewell (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0)

Members of the community at the Global Voices Citizen Media Summit 2010 in Santiago, Chile. Photo by Georgia Popplewell (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0)

But the achievement we're perhaps proudest of has been building and sustaining a large and vibrant volunteer community dedicated to fulfilling the Internet’s potential as a global connector. Today we kick off our 10th anniversary celebrations, building up to our official birthday on December 11, with a selection of reminiscences by some of these folks about their first encounters with Global Voices.

Eddie Avila (Bolivia): “One day back in 2005, I noticed a trackback [on my blog] that informed me that this blog called Global Voices had linked to a post about Bolivian politics. Next thing I knew, an email appeared in my inbox from David Sasaki inquiring whether I would be interested in writing weekly posts about what was happening in Bolivian blogs. Naturally I felt honored, but I also felt a responsibility to properly represent my country for a global audience that seemed to generalize and reduce my country to only a few limiting characterizations.” (Read full post here)

Rezwan (Bangladesh): “I was already doing small roundups about South Asia in my blog and guest-blogging in a couple of regional ones. Then in July 2005 I received a mail from Global Voices co-founder Rebecca MacKinnon: “We find that we've been linking to you quite frequently over at Global Voices and would love to know a little more about you…” She requested me to post on Global Voices. I was thrilled to write for Global Voices, and the rest is history.” (Read full post here)

Portnoy (Taiwan): “I started to write blog(s) and learned that there was a brand new world out there. I accidentally found Global Voices, read some posts, and was surprised by its novelty and network. Without any hesitation, I began to translate interesting posts I read from GV. My first translation was this one, and I added my personal comment to share it with my blogging friends in Taiwan. I didn't know who might read them, but with each translation I did, I felt connected with someone on the globe…. I kept on translating posts until one day I received a message from Rebecca MacKinnon, our dearest co-founder, who read Chinese and invited me to join GV…. I am now managing several new media projects in Taiwan, trying to challenge the walking dead media world in Taiwan.” (Read full post here)

Marianna Breytman (USA): “My crazy adventure with Global Voices began back in 2011 when I was looking for volunteer opportunities and came across an article about GV in The New York Times. Soon after, I joined the Lingua team and began translating posts from Spanish into English. My first translation was about the controversy generated over Mario Vargas Llosa attending Argentina's International Book Fair in 2011….That first translation has opened so many doors for me, including everything from expanding my professional network to making new friends all over the world.” (Read full post here)

I-Fan Lin (Taiwan): “I wrote my first post in Global Voices in 2007…. When I wrote these articles, I kept asking myself why people from other countries would be interested in what happens on this island…. I attended my first GV summit in Budapest in 2008. During that meeting, someone came to me and said, ‘Oh, I like your post about Matsu and other culture events in Taiwan.’ That is the magic moment: I was convinced that it is worth sharing our stories with other people.” (Read full post here)

Abdoulaye Bah (Guinea/Italy): “One evening in December 2008—by then I had retired—to avoid arguing with my wife about what to watch on TV, I started to search on the Internet for a voluntary activity I could undertake. Among the sites I came across was Global Voices. I read a few posts and liked them. Immediately, I contacted Claire Ulrich, the person in charge of the French group and I started to partake…. I didn't have any blogging experience beforehand. I didn't even know what Facebook, Twitter, netizen, citizen media, blogs or posts were. My only previous activity had been the creation of a forum for the victims of the dictatorship in my country. I became a blogger thanks to the patience of Claire Ulrich, who helped me create Konakry Express, a blog designed to broadcast information on the grave violations of human rights that occurred in Guinea on the 28th September 2009.” (Read full post here)

Kevin Rennie (Australia): “Immediately after the 2009 Black Saturday bushfires in Victoria, Global Voices managing editor Solana Larsen asked me to write a post. I was surprised as I thought that our disaster would not be of interest to the rest of the world which experiences floods, earthquakes, and tsunamis that kill thousands or tens of thousands. Much to my surprise ‘Australia: Bushfires devastate Victoria’ was one of the more popular posts of the year.” (Read full post here)

Community members at the Global Voices Citizen Media Summit 2012 in Nairobi, Kenya.

Community members at the Global Voices Citizen Media Summit 2012 in Nairobi, Kenya. Photo by Global Voices (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0)

Nwachukwu Egbunike (Nigeria): It was in 2011, the year of Nigeria’s general elections, and we were witnessing the usual theater of the absurd and normal that has for ages characterized Nigerian…politics. I wrote this blog post on the Endless Chatter in Naija’s Political Space. Somehow, I chanced upon the Global Voices site that very day. I was impressed, although I knew nothing about what GV stood for. I did an email to Ndesanjo Macha, the GV Regional Editor for Sub-Saharan Africa in which I shared the link of my post and asked if it could be republished on GV. Ndesanjo responded in the affirmative and…. after a series of email exchanges and I told him that I would love to become a contributor. I must note that I was quite impressed with the frankness of our discussion…. It might seem trivial, but living in a milieu that is characterized by the arrogance of ‘big men’ syndrome, I was surprised that he even responded to my mail at the first instance.” (Read full post here)

Suzanne Lehn (France): “Back in 2008, there was this moment of grace and hope, the campaign and election of Barack Obama, when many in the world held their breath and felt that change was at hand. And with this moment came this beautiful GV project, Voices without Voices, led by Amira Al-Hussaini and which is now sleeping in the depths of the internet's archives. The impulse to be part of this exciting venture was compelling, and Amira guided my first shaky steps as a fledgling author with her firm and gentle hand. Thus I came to do a survey of some first reactions to Barack Obama's election in the francophone world.” (Read full post here)

Mamisoa Isabelle Raveloaritiana (Madagascar): “I met Global Voices for the first time when I went to the office of Jentilisa, the editor on Global Voices in Malagasy, as we worked together in the same company. I saw him doing something on his computer, and when I looked at his computer screen, I saw the words Global Voices, and came across by an article written by Lova Rakotomalala, whose title was “Françafrique casts shadow in Gabon, Madagascar, and Mauritania“, and I noticed that the article was translated into Malagasy…. I was very impressed by the quality of Malagasy language written by Jentilisa, which made me realize how beautiful and important our mother tongue is….I was interested to know more about Global Voices and asked Jentilisa to tell me about it.” (Read full post here)

Dercio Tsandzana (Mozambique):

“Conheci o Global Voices graças a visita da Sara Moreira (ex editora do Global voices Lusofonia) ao meu país, onde visitou a minha Universidade e falou do Global Voices e convidou-nos a juntar-me a família GV.

Naquele dia fiquei impressionado com o GV, e disse para mim mesmo que o meu sonho passaria por publicar um Artigo e assim foi no dia 18 de Dezembro de 2013.
No Global Voices conto actualmente com 25 artigos escritos e traduções que foram publicados em menos de um ano que estou nesta grande família. Não existe ainda um grande activismo social pelas redes socais em Moçambique como em outros países, mas actulamente a consciência tende a mudar e as pessoas a despertar.

O Global Voices projectou-me para o mundo e me está a abrir muitas portas, dei entrevistas a DW para Moçambique, tenho artigos saídos do Global Voices em Jornais Nacionais e até artigos publicados no Canal France 24.”

“I learned about Global Voices thanks to a visit by Sara Moreira (ex-editor of Global Voices Lusofonia) to my country. She visited my university and talked about Global Voices and invited us to join the GV family. That day I was impressed with GV, and it became my dream to write for Global Voices. I've written 25 articles and translations in the year I've been a part of this big family. Mozambique doesn't yet have extensive activism through social networks like in other countries, but nowadays we're seeing an awakening in people's consciousness. Global Voices projected me into the world and has opened many doors. I've given interviews to the DW Mozambique, have Global Voices articles appearing in national newspapers, and been published in France Canal 24.” (Read full post here [pt])

Prudence Nyamishana (Uganda): “My first post was about David Tinyefuza, a Ugandan Army general who had fallen out with the president and was now whistleblowing against the government…. At the time…I didn't have a job and all my friends were wondering why in the world I was taking on work and not expecting any payment…. I told them I was going to do what I loved… and that it was an opportunity to tell Uganda's stories. More worries came from my father, who had experienced the rough times of Ugandan Dictator Idi Amin‘s repressive regime. He said: “I hope what you are doing is not political. I do not want you landing in trouble. You know when a government wants to stay in power they become repressive, they are scared of their own shadows.” I took his words to heart but I was not planning to retreat.” (Read full post here)

Laura Vidal (Venezuela): “I wrote to Eddie Avila to ask him if I could try to participate as an author, and he… welcomed me to the authors’ group. My first post as an author was about a crazy character I read about in a professor’s blog…. I had a blast writing about it, and it felt great to do something about this frustration for the lack of stories of a Venezuela that is rarely seen.” (Read full post here)

Sami Boutayeb:

“Ma première traduction, en 2011 a été suscitée par un appel lancé par le responsable d'un forum fréquenté par des traducteurs participant à la localisation du projet OLPC. Il était question d'un blogueur égyptien, Alaa Abdel Fattah, qui avait été actif dans la communauté des traducteurs de logiciels libres, et qui avait été emprisonné arbitrairement. C'est ainsi que j'ai traduit pour GV Advocacy et que j'ai rejoint la formidable équipe GV francophone. J'ai eu la joie d'apprendre par la suite que Alaa Abdel Fattah avait été libéré (provisoirement car il a été ensuite à nouveau arrêté).” (Lire le billet complet ici)

“My first translation, in 2011, was prompted by an appeal from the leader of a forum for translators involved in the localisation of the One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) project. It had to do with an Egyptian blogger, Alaa Abdel Fattah, who had been active in the free software translators’ community, and who had been unjustly imprisoned. That was how I started translating for GV Advocacy and joined the formidable GV Francophone team. I was delighted to learn afterwards that Alaa Abdel Fattah was freed (provisionally, as he was then arrested again).” (Read full post here [fr])

Mohamed EGohary (Egypt): “I joined Global Voices as an Arabic translator in February 2009. Back then I was a bilingual blogger, writing about Egyptian affairs as well as web2.0…. The editor who welcomed me to Global Voices was Yazan Badran, probably first real interaction with a Syrian…. My first translation was about Gaza. Palestine to me before Global Voices was something I only read about in mainstream media, and you will never to get to know details about conflicts from mainstream media…. Through Global Voices I learned that every conflict has a sea of people, everyone has their own life, memories, happiness and pain….” (Read full post here)

Read the complete series of “first post” and “first translation” reminiscences at the Global Voices Community Blog. And stay tuned as the Global Voices 10th Anniversary celebrations continue!

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