As an amateur web wonk living in Siem Reap, Cambodia, I found myself able to do what very few could: create this mysterious thing called a ‘web site’. I began creating web pages for friends, uploading them from aging computers mounted on wobbly rattan desks as tanned and tattooed backpackers cursed their slow-loading Hotmail. This began in 2001.
I began puzzling out what people call a ‘weblog’, which really got formalized in 2002. I may have been Cambodia’s first local ‘blogger’, but I’m certainly not its last, as a growing community gets wired up.
Jinja (or ‘chin-chah’) is the Khmer name for the small lizards that are everywhere in Cambodia. Jinja.apsara.org currently features my weblog, and serves as a home for simple not-for-profit sites – and whatever else takes my interest. It is my hope that most of these ‘startup sites’ will grow into self-managed and maintained efforts, following the example of such groups I’ve ‘jump-started’ like Amrita Performing Arts, Cyclo Centre and Sovanna Phum. It’s a world-wide web, and should be created by the world, not just a few techies.
I quickly found that the interest and demand exceeded my skills, time and bandwidth. Big props go to Vibol Hou and the Khmer Connection crew for giving me a subdomain and hosting help. I still keep an eye on my ‘one disc’ rule: if you can share your mission and vision in 1.2 megabytes, you’re summarized and optimized.
Cambodia is rapidly getting connected even in the most distant provinces. Khmer Unicode is now facilitating the growth of Cambodian language web pages. People are ‘blogging’, ‘tagging’, ‘IM’-ing and generally communicating at a much faster pace. There are still plenty of challenges.
Meanwhile I’ve graduated from internet cafes to my own office connection at House32.com, in addition to regular work with Sang Salapak (Building Artists), Our Books, and other efforts related to print and electronic publishing.
Along the way I’ve consulted on a number of for-profit and non-profit sites, and conducted various weblog workshops. In addition to helping with the occasional nonprofit web site, I’m not averse to selling my efforts. I’m enjoying seeing the IT sector in Cambodia grow, for the benefit of commerce, art and aid groups.
I hope you enjoy the weblog and these simple efforts, and also hope they may inspire you to develop creations of your own. Trust me, it’s not that hard!
- John Weeks