Tuesday, 12 September 2006

I'm blogging this

Over the last year or two, from the disaster relief blogging phenomenon that redefined online collaboration, to the furor over the advertisements of a certain business school, to the more recent block on blog sites by our government, blogs, blogging and bloggers have proved that they can be responsible; that they can contribute positively to the world they live in, that are here to stay. And what better way for an increasingly influential segment of society to assert its presence than a conference?

As I write this, the first ever BlogCamp India is winding down, with an informal quiz. The sponsor booths are being dismantled, and little knots of people dissect the last couple of days.

What’s it all been about then? One way to describe this would be to tell you about the various sessions. Sections on corporate , commercial and professional blogging. Geeky sections about very complicated things only die-hard geeks get excited about—or even understand. Broader topics like the place of blogs in the media, freedom of speech, censorship, responsibility, legal problems. But you get all that from the schedule on the BlogCamp.in wiki. Blow-by-blow descriptions of each session? Heck. With around 200 bloggers in attendance, most of them—or so it seemed—live blogging every session over free WiFi, an IRC channel which had a bunch of people logging in from other parts of the world, cameras of all descriptions catching every moment on still and video, live streaming video feeds, and heaven knows what else, I’ve been scooped before I even got my hands near a keyboard, for, alas, I possess a dilapidated laptop which doesn’t have a WiFi card. So I’ll just advise you to feed the words “BlogCamp India” to your favourite search engine and take it from there.

In the meanwhile, I’ll tell you this much. It was the first of its kind in India, a conference, or rather, an unconference (simply put: no audience, everyone is a participant), that brought together Indian bloggers from all over the country and a few from abroad as well. The mix was a lively one. While most of those present were young, male geeks, there was more than one grey head and receding hairline, and quite a few bloggers from the distaff side. Backgrounds and history varied wildly too, from one of India’s first bloggers to newbies who’d just about got their toes wet, from a very successful professional blogger to people who people who abhor the very idea of commerce on blogs, techies, researchers, utopians, marketers, poets, bloggers in Indian languages (a newish, growing and exciting area), people with new products and ideas to promote, others just there to meet and socialise, and yes, a special appearance by Sunil Gavaskar, a guest of the main sponsor, who was there in his role as a podcaster. (A podcast, named after the popular music player, the iPod, is a blog in audio format rather than text.)

Sponsorship by some big names—and not just from the e—world—indicates that as far as corporate India is concerned, the blogging community is worth befriending. Coverage from traditional media leads one to believe that blogging is taken a wee bit more seriously by the MSM (bloggerspeak for “mainstream media), that it is much less of a mysterious, niche activity than it was not too long ago.

A sum up? There was more than one glitch (and I admit to this as a member of the organising team) but I do think even the harshest critic will admit that it worked out pretty well. The issues and ideas that were discussed will continue to be debated, on blogs, naturally, but also at the next BlogCamp. For BlogCamp, like its attendees, is now here to stay.

Published in the Times of India, Mumbai edition, 12th September, 2006, in a much edited version.


No comments: