Here is part two of the exclusive Anup Shah interview.
If you missed Part 1, read it here.
4. In my work as a personal coach, a large amount of work goes into not being biased or judgemental when talking with clients. Do you feel that it is an important trait to have when you write articles that are related to topical global issues?
Certainly. It is not easy though. I am not happy with some of my earlier articles, which are a bit more opinionated than I would like (which I will address over due course). The challenge of writing about political issues is that it will not be possible to please everyone, so even though some may think you are not biased, others will think you are! What I try to do is provide liks and sources as much as I can, so people can see for themselves.
5. You are not credited in any political field and write extensively about global issues. Does this affect your readership or your website content's reliability?
Probably. I am quite conscious about this, and have tried to be as open about this as I can on my web site's about section. I therefore try to link and reference as many sources as I can within the articles so people can follow through. I think in the earlier years of the site, I occasionally cited slightly more opinionated views that I would do now, and these days I try to ensure what I cite is of good quality, too. Of course, not everyone will have heard of all the sources I use, but when they are online, people can follow them as much as they want. I tried to keep them varied and broad, including sources from developing countries, as here in the UK, or from my experience in the US, we hardly hear such views and perspectives.
As an aside, not having a degree in a related field and doing computer science instead has resulted in another problem for me: the quality of my writing skills! Computer science encourages efficiency, not good quality writing. A number of pages are, I feel, poorly written, and that is something I am trying to improve. I think more recently updated pages/sections are better, but some old pages do still exist that I want to change – time allowing!
In terms of readership, from what I can tell, the visitors come from all around the world (the majority being from the US). I have even had people from the UN email me or sign on to my mailing list. Even former US President Jimmy Carter, and the famous political activist, Bianca Jagger, have emailed me with kind words.
I have personally tried to avoid ads, and requests for donations, etc for the time-being, so that probably helps with credibility, too.
I think I have made a decent attempt thus far, as a number of times I have been asked to either write an article for a publication/newspaper, or do a small radio interview for someone. The OneWorld.net and MediaChannel.org affiliations for example, also help in terms of credibility. A number of other reasonably prominent web sites have linked to certain pages of mine, which helps too. Until Africa started being talked about a bit more in recent years in the mainstream, I found news sites such as the BBC and others occasionally link to some of my Africa pages. A number of high schools and university web sites have linked to the site as a resource for students. I have also recently been asked to write a book, which I think really helps as well. I won't go into the details on the book for now as it may not go ahead, but the fact that I was approached rather than the other way round makes me feel that I must have done okay somewhere!
Ultimately, however, bias will be everywhere, intentional or not, from the largest and most popular news outlets to the smallest sites, so it is up to the individual reading the content to determind if the content is reliable or not.
6. From a web development angle, how did you manage to get your Global Issues website to the top search engine ranking for the issues you write about?
I think a number of factors have helped me here: I have had the site since 1998, so some search engines place a bit of weight on that. Perhaps most importantly, many other websites link to various pages on my site, which I also link out to others.
Search engines apparently like this, because when they see a site receiving many links from other, related and reputable sites, they see it being a kind of vote for that site. Enough of these "votes", and you get a better ranking!
In the early years of the site there was a lot of one-to-one "marketing", whereby I simple emailed other websites that I frequently visited to see if there was any way they could place a link to my site. I was probably fortunate because in those "early years" of the web, there were not as many sites on these issues as there are now. These days, I don't really have the time to do this, but I still find many new links to the site from all over the place, so hopefully this means that the site is itself generating enough interest. (As I write this, it has been almost a month since I have updated the site, because of a particularly long and drawn out project at work, and yet that has not affected site visits, for example).
Some people try to fool and cheat search engines using a variety of techniques. I stay away from that, because once you are found out, you will be knocked off the listings, and struggle to get back on. Furthermore, it is plain dishonest. In principle, search engines go for what can be determined as good quality content that people are compelled to link to.
7. You’ve been editing the Global Issues website since 1998. What has driven you to continue it eight years later?
Another hard one to answer! A number of people ask me this as well and I always struggle to answer it! I guess it’s a combination of deep interest in these issues, the enormous number of encouraging and motivating emails I get (for I often question whether there is any point going on, as in some ways not much seems to change or just when you think there might be progress in world affairs, something will happen to prove otherwise), and probably a number of other factors I can’t yet articulate!
8. What do you believe is the relationship between self development and global issues? Is there a connection between the two?
The way I see it, there is a connection between most issues, in some way. At one level, the support of global issues such as universal human rights inherently supports the development of the individual self.
Furthermore, in a functioning democracy, individuals have responsibilities as well as rights. Amongst other things, those responsibilities include making informed decisions, not just to vote, but to also ensure that people are accountable, that those universal values are not slowly taken away, and so on. Self development is not done in a vacuum, and so, I feel that global concerns are crucial for self development.
Approaching this from the other way, a drive to improve and develop the self can perhaps help one to be more open-minded about global issues, encourage one to look outwards to see how they fit into the world around them, and even strive to learn more.
9. What advice would you give to individuals who are on the personal growth path about global issues and the way they deal with it?
Probably to say be open minded, try to learn about issues from the perspective of others around the world, to be questioning about what is (and what is not) reported from the mainstream media, and the types of experts interviewed, etc. That is not to say there is a conspiracy of some sort to actively lie, or whatever, but that power does influence our world, and so naturally the media—a crucial aspect of a functioning democracy—is going to be subject to those interests, too.
If we wish to develop ourselves personally, as productive members of society, then we also need to ensure the society we are to be productive in is as positive for the world as possible. We in the wealthy countries have more influence on other people around the world than we realize. But this influence can be negative as well as positive, so any personal growth path, I feel, needs to consider the global as well as personal considerations.
KH: Thanks very much, Anup. Your commitment and the writings you present are a great learning resource and eye-opener to all who read them. And I hope you write that book!