What is happening to “our” Ghanaweb features page?

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Thu, 17 Aug 2017 Source: Kofi Amenyo

There is something happening to Ghanaweb these days. It is no longer the site we used to know a few years ago. It used to be better. I will not say the glory days of the site are over. Far from it! It may not be the most technically accomplished Ghanaian internet portal but it still remains the oldest, biggest, and most popular – by a long haul.

Ghanaweb does not often create its own content. It serves basically as a repository for news generated from elsewhere. Any important (and unimportant) thing that happens in our country will find its way to ghanaweb no matter where it is first published. Perhaps the most original part of ghanaweb is the Features section. People write their commentaries on various happenings in Ghana and have them first published on ghanaweb. But something is happening to the features section.

Some five, or so, years ago, three or four features are posted in the early morning Ghana time. Early risers (or late sleepers in the US) can feed themselves on these articles. More features are added in the morning just before working time in Ghana. This pattern was maintained consistently and regular visitors knew just when to visit and see fresh articles. This practice has changed. These days, the webmaster posts a single new article in the early morning time (CET) and waits until very late in the morning to post the rest. A few more are posted in the late evening.

The single feature article that is posted for several hours before new ones are added is given undue publicity. This is unfair to the other articles especially when there is nothing special about the lone article. Articles posted late in the day do not often attract many readers even from the Americas. Since the webmaster, at any given time, has several feature articles on hand, it will be nice if he posts all of them at once. The best thing will be for him to post features at the same hour every day – most preferably early morning Ghanaian time. He should also ensure that no article appears twice on the same day or again the day after as is now, sometimes, the case. And what about posting the articles in the order in which he receives them? Unless a topic is extremely urgent to be discussed immediately, there is no reason why he should keep some articles waiting for several days whiles he posts newer ones.

Often these days the comments section does not accept comments. You may be met with info saying you are trying to flood the site or trying to post a commercial item even if such is not the case. Sometimes, the webmaster corrects the problem too late or not at all. Even if he does, the problem recurs. This means that some articles may have one or two or no comments not because people do not want to comment but because they cannot do so. Given that the comments section is one of the most popular parts of ghanaweb, it can be very irritating not to be able to post a comment.

Of late, some people have been consistently posting comments to all articles that are pure advertisements. We have all seen people selling sexual healing, spiritual emancipation, job opportunities and other things in the comments section. This is often a nuisance to serious minded Ghanaians who come to the site to partake in the debate going on there. Even if these advertisers are paying ghanaweb for these messages, this seems to be the wrong place for them. After all, the site has a lot of avenues for advertisers and these ads should be displayed there.

For some unexplained reason, the webmaster has stopped posting by-lines with author bios and email addresses. There are advantages and disadvantages to author addresses. Some readers may want more information from writers on the things they write and some writers also like to receive such private mail. They cannot do that now. On the other hand, the publication of email addresses often invites spam and other unsolicited material. The old time writers can still be reached through the email addresses attached to their old articles. Writers who add their bios and addresses to their pieces want these to be posted. Those who have PhDs will want readers to know that. After all, we are Ghanaians and this deeply ingrained human need to be seen as someone a bit above the rest is very strong in us. Why does the webmaster deny us this little flight of vanity?

Those of us who have followed ghanaweb from its inception some 23 years ago, almost at the dawn of the internet (from the Okyeame network days), cannot but remember the early days with some nostalgia. There were only a few feature articles each day. The webmaster even did some minimal editing including formatting of material. For a long time, there were only five features each day. Then the webmaster decided to flood the place with features of all kinds. Through all the low quality articles, one could, now and then, come across some very well written pieces. Many people visited the site only for such gems. The comments section also used to be great. Even though this has always been full of people insulting each other, some great debates have occurred in this section too. There were some people who only specialised in debating on the forum penning critical comments that were often even better than the articles that brought them about. We remember the names of a few great ones, like… (oh, I won’t go there). I wonder where all these guys have gone to.

Of late, two of the real heavyweights to the site have left us. They gave us no reasons and they did not even leave us with their swan songs. I am referring to Kwame Okoampa-Ahoofe, (PhD), and Francis Kwarteng (he does not attach any titles to his name…). Their departures have made the site much the poorer for it. No matter what you think of their work (too cerebral, too lengthy, too frequent, or, sometimes, much about nothing…) you still do not want to see them go. It is far better that they write too often or too long articles than that they do not write at all. It is on this note that I am personally appealing to them to come back to the fold. There are many of us who miss them…

Kofi Amenyo (kofi.amenyo@yahoo.com)

Columnist: Kofi Amenyo