Tuesday, January 17, 2006

toot is launched

The toot team

The number of Arab blogs (online diaries) is mushrooming, and it can be a difficult and time-consuming task to try and pick one’s way through the thousands on offer to identify those with particular appeal.

“Toot”, a new website launched on 1 January, provides a way into the Arab blogosphere by presenting some of the best blogs around in an attractive and user-friendly way. The website points out that the word “toot” is both a fruit (it is Arabic for mulberry) that consists of little bits that make up a whole, and “the sound you make to draw attention to yourself.”

Toot’s Amman-based team constantly trawls through the toot list of the Arab blogs, whether in Arabic or English, and displays the most interesting posts and conversations. At present toot has a menu of 50 blogs, seven of them Saudi: blogger Ahmed’s “Saudi jeans” and “yawmeyat” blogs, “farah’s sowaleef”, “tech2click”, “al-mohareb”, “al doktoorah” and “prom 2000”.

Toot was founded by entrepreneur, blogger and podcaster Ahmad Humeid (co-owner of branding and web design firm SYNAX) together with his London-based friend Mazen Arafat, Mazen’s brother Karim, and George Akra.The other team members are chief designer Wael Attili, web developer Jad Madi and Roba Al-Assi, who manages the blogs.

Humeid told Saudi Gazette that he hopes to see more Saudi blogs added to toot as it expands, including technology-oriented blogs “that reflect the active open source community there.” He sees the Saudi internet as “a very interesting space, although dominated by the ‘discussion forum’ phenomenon - not to forget those ‘romantic’ sites.”

The toot-listed blogs include from one end of the Arab world “Moorish Girl”, the literary blog of Moroccan novelist Laila Lalami (currently living in Portland, Oregon), and from the other end “Muscatis”, written by Omani Osamah M Abdullatif and his wife. Blogs from many other Arab countries also feature.

The ‘what’s tooting’ section features nine handpicked bloggers of the day. The ‘tootreads’ section consists of posts that the team is currently reading, and ‘tootstream’ has the freshest harvest of posts, with blogs’ RSS feeds. The members of the toot team write a ‘toot(b)log’. Each month the site will feature the top 10 blogs, voted for by visitors.

Bloggers can submit their own blogs to toot for possible inclusion on the site. Humeid says that toot’s current set up will allow it to eventually handle 150-200 blogs.

I asked Humeid whether there is a risk toot will be seen as cliquey and elitist, especially by those whose blogs are rejected for inclusion. He said: “Although we do have our own understanding of what quality blogging is, if we manage to cover a wide spectrum of interests I don’t think we’ll be perceived as elitists. We will be on the constant lookout for fresh voices and we will rely on the pulse of the blogging community to determine what is good.”

He adds: “One thing we will be careful about is that we don’t want to include extremist or very distasteful content. That kind of stuff already has enough forms.”

Toot is at http://itoot.net

Susannah Tarbush
Saudi Gazette 17 January 2006

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