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Blogger of the Week: Siniša Boljanović

Siniša Boljanović

Siniša Boljanović at the Global Voices Summit in Budapest 2008, Photo by Elia Varela Serra

Siniša Boljanović had never blogged when he volunteered to report on Serbian blogs for Global Voices in 2007. He read an article about Global Voices in a Serbian online magazine and was so hooked on the idea of contributing, he taught himself to write in English and to use WordPress for the first time in spite of one additional obstacle: Siniša is blind.

Among the topics he has blogged about in the past year are, atrocities of war in his region, the arrest of Radovan Karadžić, human rights, Serbian politics, and Kosovo's independence claims.

Siniša lives with his family in a town called Novi Sad, which is well-known for the EXIT music festival. He is a graduate of Serbian language and literature at Belgrade University. He does not have a personal blog, but is planning to create one in the future. More urgent are his plans to help start a new Lingua website, Global Voices in Serbian.

In his spare time, Siniša likes reading books and sometimes writes short stories. Before he became blind, he liked to play tennis. These days he is a fan of Serbian tennis players Novak Djoković, Janko Tipsarević, Ana Ivanović and Jelena Janković, and also likes Roger Federer and Maria Sharapova.

When did you first learn about Global Voices?

One day in May 2007, while I was surfing the internet, I accidentally found an interview with Global Voices co-founder Rebecca MacKinnon in a Serbian online media magazine called Link. Until then, I'd never heard anything about Global Voices. Starting with the first of Rebecca's sentences, it was already clear to me that Global Voices is a really serious, modern and interesting project. While I was reading the interview I remembered an old Latin proverb:Vox populi vox Dei (‘the voice of the people, is the voice of God’). I think if there are more voices, there will be much more truth around the world. At that moment, in my eyes Global Voices looked as an modern version of this saying. Of course, I immediately visited the website.

What is your most memorable blogging experience?

Every time I remember how I published my first post for Global Voices I am numb with fear again. Just a few days after reading Rebecca's interview I wanted to write a post for the site. Back then I didn’t know english almost at all. Back then I didn’t know how to use WordPress at all. I didn't know almost anything what was necessary to start blogging for Global Voices. At the same time I was enthusiastic and I had a strong desire to publish my first post. I was translating it the whole day using a Serbian-English dictionary. Ljubiša Bojić, Global Voices’ other contributor from Serbia, and Veronica Khokhlova, the Central and Eastern Europe editor, unselfishly assisted me, and thanks to them I succeeded in finishing my foolish adventure. I’ll remember that as long as I live.

Can you describe the software you use to read and write on the computer without seeing?

Blind and low-vision persons use screen reading software to read digital text. These softwares are logically based on use of keyboard shortcuts, instead of a mouse. I use Jaws. It's one of the best screen readers. There are numerous applications that are supported in JAWS, including word processors, encyclopedias, financial and spreadsheet packages, email and messaging applications, and more.

For example, in Internet Explorer, for navigation over the page I use arrows on the keyboard or TAB or PageUp/PageDown buttons. Jaws can read everything in a textual form on the page. If I want to enter a web address to visit a website, I type “ALT+D” to make the address bar available for editing. Jaws says: “Address – Edit”.

When I hear that, I can fill out the address bar.

Apart from Jaws’ keyboard shortcuts there are also Windows keyboard shortcuts. They are not exclusively intended for blind and low vision computer users. You can see these options in the menus of almost all applications and use them instead of the mouse.

How do you write the posts for Global Voices?

I have no problems doing that, because the WordPress platform is accessible for screen reader users.

What are the Serbian issues you are most interested in communicating to the rest of the world about?

I think there are a lot of interesting things Serbia can communicate to the rest of the world. Unfortunately, we are in the shadow of political issues. I am sure we will communicate with the European Union more and more in the next months, in order for Serbia to become a member as soon as possible. Slobodan Milošević's regime isolated Serbia for more than a decade, but Serbia is a very nice and attractive country from many aspects. We can communicate with people around the world about tourism, economy, industry, sport, art and other issues too.

Do you think we can look forward to a Serbian language Global Voices website?

I am thrilled to announce that a Serbian-language Global Voices website will start very soon. My friend Dijana Djuričković, who will be one of translators, is currently preparing the site, and I hope the first post will be translated and published in the Serbian language at the beginning of September.

How do you think Global Voices could be better?

As time goes by Global Voices is getting better and better. There are a few new interesting initiatives such increasing the availability of audio versions of posts. They would make Global Voices better and more approachable by different kinds of readers.

I think there are more populations who can get their place on the Global Voices in the future. For example, I am very interested in how young people live around the world. I remember when I was 13-15, I wanted to know how persons of the same age from other countries live, what their problems are, what they think about etc.

I would love if we could provide something like a “Junior Global Voices” website, where young people could read posts created by other young people. For now, everyone of us could find several boys and girls from different countries and encourage them to be bloggers. I think the Global Voices could be better in this way.

Do you think your daughter Maša will grow up to be a blogger?

I think she will be. She is a very clever and curious little girl. She is almost 4 and I am going to enroll her in an English school. She likes the computer and she already knows how to type on the keyboard. Maybe these are initial steps to becoming a blogger one day.

13 comments

  • Yet another wonderful GV member profile! Thanks, Sinisa and Solana!

  • Great to meet you in Budapest. Best wishes on the start of GV in Serbian!

  • Wonderful profile. Can’t wait to see GV in Serbian up and running. Oh, and the influx of amazing tennis players out of Serbia is just remarkable.

  • Siniša, thank you so much for all the great work you’re doing for GV! And best of luck with GV in Serbian!

    Solana, thanks a lot for writing about Siniša – it’s an awesome profile!

  • Siniša, it’s great to learn so much about you! The program that you use is very interesting. Keep up the great work with GV and I look forward to seeing GV in Serbian!

  • I love the Young Global Voices Idea. I used to have pen pals and loved to read about life in other latitudes, how kids my age lived their lives.

  • Junior Global Voices – what a fantastic idea!

  • Will be looking forward to the new Global Voices in Serbian!

  • Hi Sinisa keep up the great work. All power to the elbow of screen reader accessibility, long may it live and become more affordable as part of it’s enabling power too. When I think of those people who must have wanted to have a say in the world but could not because it was not possible for them, then I read of someone who has transcended those obstacles, I know in my heart that freedom for all – even if only by an iota – is getting closer.

  • Ljubisa Bojic

    I enjoyed reading this interview. I will try to assist GV Serbian as much as I can. Best regards to Solana, Siniša and you all!

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