It’s an energetic, young team. Siti Syameen Md Khalili finds out more about the guys behind local tech blog amanz.my
AMAN Firdaus was only 17 when he started his blog. Like many bloggers, he keyed in why he started the blog and a little bit about himself in the Hello World post. Yet, that entry was perhaps the only one that did not touch on his passion, technology.
Today, his Malay-based technology news blog at amanz.my has over 160,000 visitors, recording a total of more than 540,000 page views so far. Tech fans also follow the blog via Android, iOS and Chrome Web Store apps.
Aman first got interested in blogging in 2005. “I asked many people on online forums how to start a website and they told me that it was hard and that one had to study for it, read books and learn programming.
“I was about to take the Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia examinations then, so I decided to go by way of trial-and-error. I like technology, so I wrote about it,” says Aman, 25.
His earlier entries included Yahoo! changing its masthead colours from red to purple, MySpace’s new design and updates on Acrobat.
“I also shared tutorials via the blog, so friends started visiting the site,” says Aman who writes about things he himself would like to read.
In 2008, he was invited to cover a corporate event when he was studying business management at Universiti Industri Selangor (Unisel). “I received a formal invitation from the Celcom corporate communications department to attend its event in Kuala Lumpur.
“I took a two-hour bus journey from campus to attend it and I wanted to break the news first before other bloggers and online sites such as Lowyat.net did.”
Aman has since attended many events as a blogger and delivered many news articles via his blog.
For Aman, blogging only became a serious affair a few years ago, when more people began noticing his blog. He was about to graduate and traffic to his blog was increasing.
It dawned on him that what started as an information sharing and tutorial hosting site was turning into a popular news source for the tech community, and his active participation at Weblogcentre forum also helped increase traffic to his blog.
Aman began to treat his blog like a company. “By then, I’d graduated and knew the potential for blogs to become a sound business venture here. While there are many who blog about tech, not many blog in Malay. I roped in people to take things to the next level,” he says.
Using his Facebook account, Aman posted a vacancy ad for the CEO position at Amanz.net. His status post read: “Who wants to be CEO?” There were some 20 replies and one, from a friend he met at a few BarCamps and geek gatherings, caught his interest. The friend, Ikhwan Nazri, was a multimedia solutions developer whose efforts included an e-wedding card service called WeddingKami and a community project, OfficeKami.
Ikhwan, a Multimedia University graduate, says: “Before joining Amanz.my, I was doing e-business with a team of multimedia developers. Our products such as digital Al-Quran for PSP platform were already featured on Amanz.net and
I had thanked Aman for taking an interest in our products. After I responded to his post on the CEO position, it was clear that we had the same ideas on how Aman’s blog can be expanded.”
The timing was right as manufacturers, PR practitioners and ads agencies were looking for opportunities to reach the Malay market and interest in Amanz.net was steadily increasing.
“We want to be Malaysia’s own Techcrunch and the Malay market’s version of Mashable. We want to be a serious alternative media that offers fast news and honest reviews. We also believe if Amanz.my grows, it can benefit the local developer community and tech start-ups as well. If big companies rely on mainstream media, we believe we can be an avenue for smaller companies to shine,” adds Ikhwan.
The duo incorporated Amanz Media in May 2011 and changed the URL of the blog to www.amanz.my. “Ikhwan is CEO while I concentrate on what I like — blogging,” says Aman, who has the title of senior writer.
As a team, Aman and Ihkwan began to churn out more posts for the Malay-medium tech community. “There were times we beat other online sites by being the first to post a news items and the same piece was lifted and attributed to us.
“We get leads and we even ‘stalk’ insiders, CEO blogs and Twitter accounts. But before posting any information, we do checks and save evidence, for example screen captures of Tweets. If we cannot confirm facts, we tell people it’s a rumour. It is a game of observing trends and asking the right person the right questions,” says Ikhwan.
Since Amanz.my is also active in the developer scene, Wut Media offered to develop an Android app for the Amanz.my blog while Terato Tech helped to develop a similar app for iOS platform.
“We also developed on our own Symbian version of the app. We recently hosted a potluck gathering with our followers. We met Arif Ishak who also developed a Meego version of the app. Our followers are mainly guys but we hope to see more women taking an interest in tech,” says Ikhwan.
As CEO, he markets the site and searches for funding. Many companies with products which are not related to tech want to get onboard Amanz.my.
“We invited the most famous blogger in the Malay medium scene, Obifiend, who runs Blog Serius, to be a writer. While he has the freedom to continue running his own blog, we have an avenue for non-tech topics,” says Ikhwan.
Obifiend, or Effi Nazrel, says he became a blogger back in the days when Geocities was popular. “I started blogging because I wanted to share my experiences while studying overseas during the 1998 economic crisis. Back then, local magazine Ujang had a comic series that painted a bubble gum and candies lifestyle of students overseas. I wanted to tell people that it wasn’t true, that it wasn’t as glamorous as in the comics. Even though we had a student allowance from sponsors, there were times when we only ate once a day because, after paying rent, transport and books, there wasn’t much left.
“It was a dark blog, but I gained a following. I wanted to turn it into a book, but I never got to do the ending,” says the Petronas scholarship recipient who also reviews gadgets and the latest mobile applications for Amanz.my.
With Blog Serius as part of Amanz network, the Amanz brand is strengthened, says Ikhwan. “Blog Serius is one of the top Malay blogs in the country. Combined, we have a wider reach especially for the Malay market and we now can cater for technology and other lifestyle products.”
Another development that the Amanz.my team is especially proud of is its relationship with Internet giant, Google.
“We started collaborating with Google by doing weekly Zeitgeist videos, which we called 10 Carian Terhangat Di Google Malaysia (10 Hottest Search on Google Malaysia). We enlisted the help of Nisa Kay as we liked her video blog.”
Nisa Kay, or Khairunnisa Aminullah, 21, who has over 12,000 followers on her blog, says that she met the Amanz.my team at corporate events and launches. “Aman offered me a spot on the team while I was still studying communications at Unisel. Now that the finals are over, I can do more videos and Amanz.my gives me leeway to manage my own blog.”
“Nisa’s videos are our way to capture the female market. At Amanz.my, males make up our demographic. With Nisa on the team, we offer seven videos a week. There are more goodies coming up for the female market, so stay tuned!” says Ikhwan.
Amanz.my’s collaboration with Google Malaysia does not stop at videos. Acknowledging the popularity of the site, Google Malaysia took another step forward by inviting the team to develop a Chrome application for Amanz.my. As
Chrome is used by 44 per cent of desktop users in Malaysia, the Amanz.my team sees it as another platform to widen its reach.
“Working with Google is cool, and Amanz.my is among the few Malaysian acts to have its own Chrome app for the local market, alongside big names like AirAsia and Maybank. This is a recognition for us,” adds Ikhwan.