Well, the Jamaica Blog Awards are nearly upon us, and the “hype” is building! (Jamaicans love the word “hype” - it has become a slang word meaning “cool.”)
As a blogger with over 350 blog posts under my belt – it’s amazing how they add up – I have recognized the importance of research. Blogging is not about writing off the top of your head – unless you just want to vent. If you are going to write on a topic, for heaven’s sake make sure you get your facts right. Check, and double-check if need be. Make your blog readable and credible. As one radio station declares itself, “consistently credible.”
Now, sometimes it’s not as easy as you expect to find the information you need to enhance the quality of your blog. You Google back and forth, looking for the right information that will support your argument or add meat and substance to your article. You browse websites that are distressingly inadequate, out of date and user-unfriendly. It can be frustrating. But I recently came across one amazing online resource – mainly, but not entirely, for Jamaicans – managed by Deika Morrison under the aegis of the Gleaner. It is called DiGJamaica, and it replaces the print version “Handbook of Jamaica” formerly published by the Gleaner.
Fellow-bloggers, indulge me please. Take my hand, and let us stroll through this marvelous little website: http://digjamaica.com. Right at the top, there is the all-important search box. That’s a good start. Let the discovery begin…
I typed in “children’s homes” in the search box. A page similar to a Google results page came up, with links to DiGJamaica’s directory. Clicking on Mustard Seed Communities, for example, I found all their contact information clearly at the top of the page, followed by a description of the organization and listing of the services they offer. If you click on other buttons below, you will find the name of a contact person there (how useful is that! Having a name), opening hours, and “other useful information” – in this case, a note that Mustard Seed accepts donations and volunteers. Everything you need to know, concisely.
The directories are great, actually. You can search alphabetically for government entities, publicly traded companies, civil society organizations and international organizations in Jamaica. The civil society directory is beautifully laid out, with the logos for each organization. So nice to use. Sample page: http://www.digjamaica.com/directories/view/civil_society/kevoy_community_development_institute.
OK, let me backtrack a little… we should really have started with the Overview tab, which covers the broad categories: Land, People and Culture; Government and Economy; Parish Profiles; and a number of lovely slideshows on various topics. Here is a sample from the Arts and Culture page, a vibrant slideshow with good quality photos: http://digjamaica.com/dance. And here is a beautiful slideshow of Jamaican Herbs: http://digjamaica.com/jamaican_herbs. There is also a lovely slideshow on our formerly-little-known-surprise-100 meters-bronze-medal-winner-in-the-London-Olympics, Warren Weir.
There is a tab for events. You can add your own event using a simple form – whether it’s a fund-raiser, a party or a seminar. If you click on one, all the contact information, a flyer and a map are all there. Very neat indeed. Free advertising. You can just direct persons to the entry for your event, and you can save it on your iCalendar. Take a look at http://www.digjamaica.com/calendar.
Then there is the data section, divided into categories. DiGJamaica is gradually building these sections, but already you can track murders and major crimes per calendar year since 2009; access 30 different charts on budget issues – Gross Domestic Product, inflation rate, remittances and many others; and browse 40 charts showing aspects of government projects and a breakdown of Jamaica’s domestic and external debt; the 2011 Census results broken down into separate charts; and much more useful information. There is a wealth of economic data here to be explored (pardon the pun)… and of course, politics too!
Resources: well, all of this is one huge resource, but this section includes all kinds of useful stuff – lists of emergency services, the Ministry of Education’s approved textbooks, Justices of the Peace in each parish, and so on. There is a “how to” section… apply for a visa, clear a barrel, address a dignitary…
Now to perhaps my favorite section of the website, “Our Past.” As the oldest company in Jamaica, the Gleaner has a reputation for its meticulous archives, chronicling the history of Jamaica pre- and post-Independence. There is “This Day in our Past” across the years, with several entries for today from the sixties, seventies and eighties. Did you know that on December 15, 1975 trading in the Jamaica Telephone Company’s shares was suspended in the Jamaica Stock Exchange? The government was moving towards nationalizing the company. See here: http://digjamaica.com/this_day_in_our_past/december_this_day_in_our_past/december_15. If you don’t have the book or want to look up one of Dr. Rebecca Tortello’s marvelous “Pieces of the Past,” you can find her beautifully detailed historical articles here. These were serialized in the Gleaner in 2003. There is also a fascinating timeline of key events from 1494 to the present.
And this is just the basic stuff. Click on “New DiGs” and you will find the latest information on HIV in Jamaica, and Transparency International‘s Global Corruption Perception Index. There is an excellent page on Children’s Rights in Jamaica at http://digjamaica.com/childrens_rights. There is a detailed Job Seekers’ Guide with lots of practical advice.
The “Top DiGs” is a very useful little sidebar, which will take you to all kinds of places – an important article on how to protect yourself from identity theft, for example; and – a most invaluable resource for journalists and bloggers alike – a link to various Government papers recently tabled in Parliament, in a flip magazine format. For example, here’s the Public Debt Management Bill tabled on November 30: http://digjamaica.com/public_debt_management_bill.
And hey! DiGJamaica now has a blog. This includes “6 Things You Need to Know Today” – a daily review of the local news. For the season, there are items on “Three Places to buy ‘Made in Jamaica’ Christmas Gifts this Weekend” – see http://digjamaica.com/blog/2012/12/14/3-places-to-buy-made-in-jamaica-christmas-gifts-this-weekend/; and “64 Easy Delicious Jamaican Christmas Recipes.” There is also a new Christmas series, starting with the article “Jonkunnu a Come!” (Do you know all the characters?) There is a new feature, “Five Facts Friday.” The first of the blog’s “Monday Musings” this week was on Human Rights Day and what it means for Jamaica.
A couple of other nice things: The moving charts are cool. Check them out for yourself. And the DiGTrivia online quiz is fun and not as easy as it looks (embarrassingly, I got the first question I tried wrong, at the “easy” level). How much do you know, or think you know, about Jamaica?
DiGJamaica is, of course, properly plugged in to social media. You can find it on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, and you can subscribe to its email newsletter. And they are open to suggestions. If there is information you would like to see included, just drop DiGJamaica a line on their website.
Like all such websites, DiGJamaica is a work in progress, and a project that requires a high degree of maintenance and very detailed work. I applaud Deika and her team for an astonishingly good product; the design and layout is clear, bright and attractive – not too many visuals on the home page, but plenty when you start to explore. The charts and graphs are well laid out and “at a glance.” I can see all the new improvements and additions, and I can see that it will go far.
So bloggers, students, journalists, information junkies all… take a look at DiGJamaica’s website, and arm yourself with all the right information. It’s there at your fingertips!