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Ten years of Kottu

Earlier this week, the Sri Lankan blogosphere’s main blog aggregator/planet/definitive index Kottu turned 10.

No one seemed to notice – I certainly didn’t know till Cerno and Yudhanjaya posted about it online.

So let me explain something to my non-Sri Lankan readers:

I started blogging in 1998. Sometime in what must have been say 2005 or so though I barely remember when I found this fantastic place online that pulled the RSS feed of every Sri Lankan person who was blogging online be it via Xanga, WordPress, Blogspot, Blogger or Livejournal. It was a blog aggregator or as anyone who is a geek wants to call it, a planet. You can see my love for planets of the blogging variety here.

In three different languages: English, Sinhala and Tamil. They could have called it achcharu, every minute or so, new posts coming in, new flavours all in a pickle.

But in a stroke of genius they called it Kottu. Kottu is a street dish made from a pancake thing called Godhamba roti with a variety of meats/egg, vegetables and spices added to it. It’s cooked on a hot metal surface with massive metal choppers that slice and dice it. Everyone loves it.

Kottu (c) Dailynews.lk

And so for ten years, sliced and diced snippets and excerpts of posts about people writing stories to people expounding opinions on politics, to people whinging about their day turned up on the never ending feed like clockwork. If a post was popular it got more chillies in the chillie rating and got spicier. It was a way to keep track of what the mad crowd of bloggers was saying without needing to comment or follow. You could lurk, you could jump right in, you could hover between the two. But if you wanted to find a fellow Sri Lankan blogging, you went to Kottu.

Kottu kades (stalls) are somewhat nigh ubiquitous in Sri Lanka. They stay open late as well so instead of a curry this is our option if we have  to have a post drinking binge.

And that’s why while I am annoyed at myself that I did not realise that Kottu had turned ten, I am also not surprised that many didn’t either. Like all good blog aggregators, planets and other such tools, it works in the background and is invisible.

So much so that I have forgotten to re-add my feed to it after moving servers before. I am pleased to note that I average about two chillies which means that even those not a fan of spicy food can handle my posts.

It does the job it is meant to do. When we stop at the stall we don’t think too much about what it means to work those long hours serving people by the roadside with all sorts of traffic and clientele. We don’t stop to think about the team that came up with the idea of Kottu and set it up.

According to Yudhanjaya at readme.lk, Facebook came in and flattened it and after a while good content often got lost under stuff that was republished from elsewhere and it became harder to sift through things.

It still has its uses. It is the definitive index of Sri Lankan blogs, and if you dig through the rubble you find some real gems – old blogs being dusted off briefly, or new writers with passion and flair. Still, it’s nowhere what it was before. Kottu now lives mostly as a list.
Yudhanjaya Wijeratne, readme.lk

But we are grateful. Or at least I am, Hence why despite it seeming rather odd to say, I do want to say thanks to Indi and the rest of the crowd. Because it took foresight and effort and it helped a lot and it still as Yudhanjaya points out, has some useful function as the definitive list of bloggers.

So my thanks to Mahangu for the name (because it has paid off if only so I have a hook to write this post a decade on), to Indi for setting up and running it and to Janith for taking over as the main chef in 2011 and all the others who have been involved since.

So thank you for recognising that there was a need for it before most of us realised that yes there were enough other Sri Lankans blogging, gossiping, ranting online that it would be useful. Thank you for kickstarting friendships and in some cases, feuds too but more friendships than enmity.

One day, one day I will have a five chillie post rating on Kottu. One day. This is my new life goal. Facebook and Zuckerberg be damned. I am old fashioned, give me chillies over likes any day. 😉

In the meantime, thank you for keeping those wheels turning in the background and the effort and time you have spent unpaid and often out of pocket to keep it going for us.

So THANK YOU and HAPPY BIRTHDAY Kottu. 🙂 Even if I am a few days late. (What do you expect – I am Sri Lankan. We always show up late, fashionably so.)

And if you are Sri Lankan, write about Sri Lanka or want to wade through it all to read Sri Lankan bloggers, you can find Kottu here: http://kottu.org.

Marisa is a globetrotting freelance writer, journalist and editor with cat for hire (her, not the cat). She is usually based in Melbourne but is currently flouncing around in Perth for a week for the Inaugural 2018 KSP - Varuna Foundation Fellowship. She will be at Melbourne's Continuum and online running a Writers' Bloc course in the coming weeks.

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