After my presentation at Ars Electronica, someone in the audience asked the question I get most often when presenting Global Voices: “How do I decide what to read on Global Voices when I already have too much to read about my own community and country?”

It’s a good question and it doesn’t have a neat answer. Despite my profession and my passion, I still firmly believe that 1.) we should be spending less time online, not more and 2.) the internet should bring us closer to our own community first and the rest of the world second.

This goes back to something Blery mentioned in Brussels: even though Middle America is internationally infamous for its ignorance about the rest of the world, there is something to be said for those who are intimately knowledgeable about their own community, even when it comes at the cost of being able to locate Iran on a map.

Still, the reality is that many people still spend a good portion of their lives watching too much reality television and then regretting it once they finally reach for the remote control to turn the damn thing off. There is a reason for this: it is easier to sit down and watch bad TV for two hours than it is to, say, read through Global Voices even though it’s the latter that will have you feeling better with yourself after you’re done. (Yes, just like going for a run.)

So, where do you start with Global Voices? Well, there is the ever-helpful daily digest produced by Deborah Dilley. But even that can become oppressive.

My recommendation would be to pick a country. Any country. Preferably a country that you’d like to one day visit. But throwing a dart at a map will also work. Read the Wikipedia entry on the country. Then follow that country on Global Voices and get to know its bloggers. Start to follow a couple of their blogs. Leave some comments, introduce yourself. Write a blog post linking to some of their blogs.

It doesn’t happen overnight, but in a few months time you’ll start to realize that you have a few new friends and a lot more knowledge about a country that you previously knew little about.

And, if you don’t have a dart and map laying around, may I suggest Madagascar?

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