Amatomu: The South African blogosphere, sorted

Amatomu web page “Dear friends on the South African blogosphere, it is with great pride and a degree of trepidation that I announce the public alpha test of,” writes Vincent Maher, officially announcing the launching of Amatomu. Blogger Tyler Reed, unaware that Amatomu was in a closed alpha testing phase, wrote about it before it went public alpha. According to Vincent, it was a code on on a test blog, which led Tyler to discover it:

It was always going to be hard to keep something like this a secret, but those we invited managed to stay quiet for more than a week,” he says. Word got out when South African blogger and Global Voices author Tyler Reed, who was unaware of the initial secrecy, discovered code on a test blog and wrote a review of the site on his own blog,

Amatomu is a new, dynamic South African blog aggregator hosted by The Mail & Guardian Online. Some bloggers have called it “South Africa's Technorati”.

The Mail & Guardian‘s online strategists and bloggers, Vincent Maher and Mathew Buckland are the key figures behind Amatomu.

“This has been more than a website for Vinnie and I, but a passion,” writes Mathew Buckland:

It was part of what we call our “Lab” projects at M&G (modelled on the Google Labs concept), which we have created via a rapid development process without the usual project plans, workflow diagrams, specs, storyboards etc etc… It’s not for the faint hearted.

Amatomu is something that has been developed on weekends, early mornings and that has had Vince and I monitoring it late into the evenings from our homes and even Vince rushing to the office on a particular late Sunday evening. What has been particularly great, is to see the same amount of passion for it by the local blogging community.

The name Amatomu, which means “reins” in isiZulu, was the subject of considerable debate before it was eventually chosen:

Amatomu, the name we eventually settled on, was hotly debated. The name means “reins” in isiZulu and I was a strong proponent of it because of the original desire to steer more mainstream traffic towards the blogosphere. Matthew was concerned that the name might imply some sort of punitive element but I managed to win that argument, only just, by explaining the difference between a crop, a bit and the reins (not that I know much about equestrian sports LOL).

Amatomu was designed with the primary objective of providing an organized perspective of the South African blogosphere. Sorting it out:

The general idea was that we wanted to provide some sort of destination for our readers that would give them an organized perspective of the South Afrian blogosphere, and offer some useful services to bloggers without treading on the toes of existing services like Muti, which we support completely.

One sentence describes Amatomu: “The South African blogosphere, sorted.” Ethan Zuckerman explains the sorting:

The sorting refers to the site’s ranked lists, which list blogs in terms of their popularity in terms of unique visitors. Amatomu is able to calculate this by asking participating bloggers to put a badge on their sites – by analyzing how many users see this badge, the system can calculate how many readers see the blog.

Features: Graphing the buzz, calculating rankings, tracking traffic

Amatomu ranks, categorizes and sorts out South African blogs using criteria: Tag Cloud, Top 100 Blogs (using unique readers as main indicator), Hot Right Now, Trends, Blog Search, Latest Blog Posts and Blog Charts.

According to Mathew Buckland, they have recently enabled Amatomu to graph the buzz in the South African blogosphere:

We’ve added more graphing on’s search results. It tracks activity of search keywords over a 30-day period and then graphs the buzz. These are new graphs we added together with the others launched on overall blogosphere trends and individual blogger profiles on top posts etc…

Another feature tracks traffic sent to one's blog from Amatomu:

Today we added a little somethign extra to Amatomu that tracks how much raffic we send to your blog. That figure is now listed on your stats page and after a week we will start graphing that too, for your visual pleasure.

At the moment my blog gets about 15% of its traffic from Amatomu and that’s roughly the figure I hear from others too. Keep in mind that once we go public with the site and link it from the Mail & Guardian Online that figure will increase dramatically.

Vincent explains how rankings are calculated:

When you register you’re asked to put a little bit of code in your template. What that does is it tracks the pages and unique visitors to your site. We’re still working on the way that tracking happens but it seems to be working fairly well so far. From this data we calculate the most popular blogs over 24 hours, 7 days and one month, and we also track the most popular posts.

If it ain't there, it does not exist: Look, quickly!

Both South African and non-South African bloggers’ reaction to Amatomu has been overwhelmingly positive. FACareers put it this way, “If it ain't there, it does not exist”:

If you need to stay abreast on local happenings, you’ll find it all there. Not just news, but information, networking possibilities, new developments, and so much more are readily available through a singular platform.

I’d go as far as to say, if it ain’t there, it doesn’t exist. (Well, that is the idea behind the product, and I’m sure it won’t be too long before my statement is completely true) calls Amatomu, a searchable blog directory: collects South African blog content and measures traffic to local blogs, displaying the top 10 and top 100 blogs by their popularity. The site also organises blogs into various categories such as media and marketing, business, politics, technology, life, sport and entertainment, effectively turning it into a searchable blog directory.

Nick thinks it is pretty cool that Steve Rubel, a marketing strategist and senior vice-president at Eldeman links to Amatomu:

I subscribe to Steve Rubel’s RSS feed and just noticed that he has linked to Amatomu in his links. That is super cool. Maybe I am missing something and a bit slow on this post, but maybe the dudes at Amatomu haven’t noticed it yet!

I think it’s pretty cool.

Alwyn calls Amatomu graphs “a serious eye candy”:

Amatomu added some seriously good looking graphs to the front page and even more on the stats page for your blog, indicating the page impressions for each of your blog posts, and over 3 different periods, the last 24 hours, last 7 days, and last 30 days.

It gives you a good insight into the popularity of each of your posts that you’d typically only know if every visitor left a comment (which we all know they don’t)

Swimgeek compares watching Top 100 blogs in South Africa to stock trading:

I’ve been looking at the Amatomu Top 100 blogs in SA list a few times over the last week. It’s a bit like day-trading.. watching your blog stock move. I’m in the top 40 today.
Top 100 blogs in South Africa, really nice to see.

Adelaide declares: I am the No. 10, look quickly:

Ok, while it lasts, look quickly: I'm the No. 10 Life Blog on the new South African blogosphere site, Amatomu.

Although Amatomu has been described as the Technorati of South Africa, Eish argues that it is more navigable than its “big brother”:

The internet universe is so immense that blogs originating from South Africa are pretty darn hard to find. Since discovering Amatomu that has all changed for me. It's been referred to by some as the Technorati of South Africa, but I don't know if it's just me, but I find it way more usable than it's ‘big brother.’
It's has easy to navigate tabs which start with a ‘full’ top 500 listing (that oddly stops at 200!?). But then you can check through the top blogs by traffic for the past 24 hours, 7 days & month. The same can be done for each of the categories. It has a sidebar which lists new postings from registered blogs as they are posted. There is also a column for newest blogs and a “Zeitgeist” widget which displays most popular topics being blogged on the SA blogosphere.
As a blogger it's simple to register and as the rankings are calculated on actual traffic figures it's a fun way to keep tabs of visitor numbers in relation to fellow SA bloggers.

Charl finds Amatomu a good alternative to Technorati, which is too large for South Africa:

Technorati is simply too large for South Africans to make an impact. Amatomu gives us even playing field and allows us to watch what's happening locally. I would certainly like to see this project grow and improve, as I'm sure it will.

Stii uses Amatomu to find out how healthy the South African blogging community is:

If you go onto Amatomu, you will see that whatever SA blog you visit from there has got some opinion. If not opinion, then at least some form of originality. I’ve never seen such spamming happening yet in the SA blogosphere. (Apart from the lovely daily links that seems to be soooo popular! At least even there opinions about the links are given in the form of a one-liner.) When this does happen (hopefully never, although that might be wishful thinking) we will have bigger problems. Crap like that detracts from a blogging community in more ways than one. There is nothing more appalling than hitting a blog that only offers you a link to another… PUKE!

Through Amatomu, Laurence notices how apolitical the South African blogosphere is:

On the subject of Amatomu: it also left me rather surprised at how apolitical the South African blogosphere is. The US blogosphere is far less weighted towards political blogs than it once was, but even so, three out of the the Technorati Top 10 are political. On the Amatomu Top 10, it's zero. I wonder why?

Khanya looks at race and blogging in South Africa. “Are there black bloggers in South Africa? If there are, why are they not showing up on Amatomu?”, Khanya asks:

Look at South African blog aggregator sites like Amatomu, and the vast majority of the bloggers there are white. And this in spite of the fact that it is run by the Mail & Guardian newspaper, which has several black journalists. So if there are black bloggers out there, why aren’t they showing up on Amatomu?

The last thing Gino would like to see is Amatomu becoming an aggregator for “A-list bloggers”:

As more blogs get added to the system, it will be interesting to see how Amatomu helps users discover new blogs that are just starting out, in turn generating some of the traffic and links to these new blogs as well. This is important to take away any potential stigma of Amatomu being of use to only “A-list bloggers” or “serious bloggers”.

PixelPLEXUS would like to see more innovation around Top 10 and Top 100 features:

What I’d like to see next is some innovation balancing the popularity contest aspects of the top10 and top100 lists with valuable stuff that may or may no lie hidden somewhere in the long tail… I can’t say that any of the tags in the ‘what’s hot’ cloud appeals to me in any way whatsoever :-(, but that is not the point here, far from it.

Issues: What is a blog? What is a South African blog?
There seem to be several issues, which need to be resolved. Laurence, blogging at, notices some sites on Amatomu have stretched the definition of a blog:

I spent a lot of time today playing around with Amatomu, and while it's a fascinating and fun tool, I also couldn't help but notice that a lot of the sites on its list stretch the definition of a “blog” to its most tenuous. It's difficult to make this argument without coming across as a pompous elitist, but that doesn't make it any less true.

Swimgeek weighs in on the same issue:

At first glance a few “blogs” did not strike me as blogs, but they have syndication feeds and they have comments. They seem to lack the personal angle. When is a news site with teams of sub-editors no longer a blog? The top 10 contains at least 3 sites which I don't think are blogs.

Swimgeek talks about a filtering mechanism to prevent “law of the jungle”:

Is there some filter process for what is a blog and what is an SA blog.. or is it just “law of the jungle”?

Steve Hayes wonders how long Amatomu will remain a South African blog aggregator:

How long will it remain a South African blog list? Is there anything to stop pyramid marketers from Korea or penis enlargers from Oklahoma from signing up?

The Future: RSS reader and Social Networking

A great future is awaiting Amatomu users. According to Vincent Maher, it is set to becoming more than an aggregator:

There are some new features coming. The first is the ability to create an extended blogger profile and upload a picture of yourself or something you like. The second is the ability to indicate which bloggers you know and like. The third is to give you a page filtered by your favorites. That pretty much makes us an RSS reader too, if you think about it.


  • That’s about as good a summary of the buzz about the launch of Amatomu as one could wish for, gathering it all in one place. Congratulations!

  • […] This is a very comprehensive and very well written review of Amatomu. On the well-read Global Voices site, Ndesanjo Macha tracks the history of the site and includes comments from most of the bloggers who wrote about Amatomu during the early launch phase. The site has got a bit fuller and busier since launch, adding graphing, shmaaking, and favouriting. The site has got busier and although I think this has impacted on the design somewhat, there is great new functionality. […]

  • […] The African and South African blogosphere Tanzanian blogger Ndesanjo Macha gives a summary of the buzz around the launch of Amatomu, South Africa’s answer to Technorati. If anyone wants to know what Amatomu is and how it started, and what the response has been, read this article. […]

  • What an impressive summary! Even quoted the Eishman! This will be where I send people with questions about Amatomu and blogging in SA in general from now on.

  • Just started blogging. why? don’t know, but its something else. Ya? Just don’t have time, but will make time!!!

  • […] Source la Highway Africa. Jarida hili kwa mara ya kwanza limeanza kutoa habari zake kwa Kiswahili! Bonyeza hapa usome habari niliandika wakati fulani kuhusu […]

  • Ingo Koll

    The closure of the Swahili Kamusi Hai is a very regrettable incident. I sent a number of Emails to people at Yale like President, Chair of Alumni, African Department; I don`t really know how an American University works but just picked them from the website. Why don`t a few of you just join??

    What I wrote was this:

    I would like to draw your attention as …. to a regrettable development on Yales internet presence.

    I just noticed that the Internet Living Swahili Dictionary has been blocked on the Yale server for some administrative problems.

    This online dictionary and community has been for me my first contact to Yale.

    I was, indeed, quite positively surprised that your university has such an impressive site and provides such an important service internationally.

    For Swahili as a growing African international language your site has grown to be a major focus world wide. I have also been quite impressed how this programme managed to continue even after formal funding had obviously ended.

    As I understand from the communication on the “Internet Living Swahili Dictionary has been taken offline”-screen the problem seems to be of some administrational nature.

    I am surprised that such obstacle can come in the way of a unique Yale academic achievement and I would be disappointed if this obstacle should continue to block this important venue.

    I could not really imagine so far that for one of the better American Universities a really important Africa related site should not matter any more.

    I hope you are the right person to adress about this problem. As I am not familiar with Yale I just have to guess it from your website.

    Kind regards

    Ingo Koll
    Hauptstr. 42
    D 21460 Bliedersdorf,

  • Ingo Koll

    Uups, sorry dear moderator, that was the wrong page I posted to! (was meant to go to Zuckermann’s blog who wrote about the problem – I had opened both pages)

    BUT IF YOU HAVE SOME INTEREST in African Net sources – the development may also be of interest to you. In that case kindly regard this misposting as something to look into. I. Koll

    (Zuckermanns page:

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