Delhi Bloggers Meet with BBC World Radio May’2006

This event took place exactly 4 years ago, in May’2006 when I had completed one year of blog. By sheer work of fate BBC World had reached out to me to talk about the use of internet amongst Indian youth. Back then there was no social media, blogging was the only cool thing. I organized a Delhi Bloggers Meet for BBC. Below is the account of how I felt after the event was over. I am just republishing it today with some typo fixes.

The team with me in the center

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Blogging Outreach Project

I believe its time I write about the Blogging Outreach Project I had designed and now look forward to take further.

Outreach means to reach out to a section of people with something which originally wasn’t there domain. By that definition this project should not be called ‘Outreach’ project because, blogging is everybody’s domain.

The project is an initiative to reach out to the less privileged, socially, economically, culturally and so on, and introduce them to the concept of ‘blogging’ an amazing new media tool currently used by handful people belonging to urban middle or upper class, but actually meant to be used by the most ordinary.

This has been for long in my mind. Such an amazing thing blogging and people hardly know about it. For example, traditionally, NGOs reach out to their beneficiaries, funders, supporters etc mostly via email groups or by putting up press releases on their website. Maintaining a website is not possible for smaller website and they also cannot update it frequently. Such NGOs can achieve better networking by using blogging and other social networking tools.

Then there are students, young professionals who have an easy access to internet, they spend a considerable amount of time on the internet emailing, using social networks like Orkut or Facebook, but that’s about it. It occurred to me that they sure would take up blogging once they know about it.

By way of blogging they can reach out to the largest global commune, the internet, in real time by just a push of a button without requiring fancy equipments or technical expertise and incurring almost no cost. The information delivered is first hand and untainted. So, the life and time and voice of a prostitute or an HIV+ person or a farmer or a destitute child can reach to the whole world whenever they feel like reaching out, even if they themselves are not blogging, but if a bunch of enthusiastic bloggers having the time and resource to blog and therefore does blog on their behalf.

While the thought was always on mind the project was actually designed when I heard about the Global Voices Online Summit 2006. It was encouraging to see that they were also trying to answer the same questions that I had in my mind. Over the past couple of weeks friend Swagat who is a film maker and a great champion of new media, one of his students Kamakhya, a budding documentary film maker, and I worked towards the first outreach workshop which was successfully conducted with a group of students on 10th December 2006.

Blogging outreach can be done with anybody and everybody from students, to civil society members, young professionals, faculty members at the college and university level, retired personnel and so on. However the first workshop being a pilot workshop we had focused on students and civil society members.

As a first step of this project an interview sheet was prepared to assess the Student’s accessibility and understandability of internet and secondly, their inclination to pick up blogging and do it for a cause. The interview sheet was also supposed to work as a filter to form a focus group of students who would really want to know more about blogging. However the responses to the interview was quite encouraging and we pretty much called all who responded to the workshop.

There were 10 students from 3 different educational background and Broadcast Journalism, Mass communication and Social Work.

The workshop was conducted in a Reliance Web World where all the students had access to a PC with internet. The content of the workshop had 3 major parts.

  1. Blogging: What is it all about? Why it is the most talked about new media in today’s date. (Session taken by me)
  2. How to Start a Blog of Your own (Session taken by me, Tutorial was given on Blogger.com being one of the most simplest blogging platform)
  3. How can you integrate blogging with other social networking tools. (Session taken by Swagat)

At the end of the workshop the students were given the task of creating one collaborative blog where they promised they’d blog about their experiences from various field activities. We intend to have one collaborative blog from each of these workshops which would help us follow up with the participants as to how are they utilising the learning and if they are disseminating or not.

The first workshop was just a pilot project. I intend to conduct a series of such workshop and want to make it a bigger project involving a considerable amount of funds. We didn’t have any funding or sponsorship for this project, the venue cost was split by Swagat and me, I made food at home in the morning and packed it for everybody and we ate them sitting at a community park in Noida. It was not fancy but it was hugely satisfying.

Here are some of the workshop photographs.

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Update 1: I was on BBC

Click here to hear me talking to Gareth and Bill about this project on BBC World Service technology program Digital Planet.

Update 2: Alootechie wrote about the project here.

Update 3:

I was on Indian Express Print version on 27th December talking about the blogging outreach project. Here is a link to the e paper. http://www.indianexpress.com/story/19421.html

Shall we Censor

I know the blogdom is full of people who vouch for freedom of speech and expression and talk passionately against censorship. I got one thing to say to them. *Bull Shit* Get real no body wants freedom… all of us so badly need censorship, you know why… Cause we are so fucking wild..we have no control on our’s and no respect for other’s freedom of speech and expression.

Seeing a sudden furore on the DBM mailing list, triggered by a mail (about a job opening) posted by one member today made me spend the whole day going back to all those mails on this list where I have been a victim of such censorship, of a few members thinking themselves to be so full of wisdom that they think its their moral responsibility to decide what’s fit and what’s not for this whole group. I went back reading and recalling how being vocal about a certain topic bother other members so much that they leave this forum forever, how initially this place was so full of ownership egos and it was so well defined who is an outsider and who insider. How there has been occassion when democracy has been completely repudiated on this list when moderators took policy decisions on behalf of 100s of us. I created a google note back copy pasting each of those mails there word by word making doodh ka doodh and pani ka pani. But I don’t intend to share that note book coz then a lot of dead would be unearthed. Bitter memories would be refreshed not only in my mind but also in those with who I have patched up now.

But I would still make my point here. Umpteen numbers of time I have been told and have seen those wise men telling other rebels like me that there are certain kind of mails which are NOT to be posted on the mailing list (a public forum) and instead should only be restricted to personal blogs. The punchline of censorship. Shall we challenge it?

I would just quote the very latest in this regard. It was a post wrote by paavani on her blog. I expressed my opinion on that on the mailing list. Of all that followed, the most significant was this conclusion, that my biggest mistake was to have written what I wanted to write to the entire mailing list and not restricted myself to Paavani’s blog ONLY. And such virtual attack followed inspite of me having given a proper disclaimer in these words

 

“Hi, This is my reaction to Paavani’s post. First I started writing in her comments section, then I thought of mailing it here. Then I thought it would be safest to post it on my blog since it might have objectionable content. Seems like its bad luck day for me… blogger.com isn’t working again…can’t even publish so am mailing again.”

The first reaction to the mail was outrage from so many of them in so many ways. I ask, to restrict myself to my blog and not use a public forum to express my angst over something, if *that* is the right thing to do then how can we argue against censorship of blogs or media on the whole by government. The logic on mailing list is that irrelavant off topic mails at times containing personal grudge gives rise to flame wars. Government have the same philosophy behind blocking blogs, movies, books, they contain material which outrages the sentiments of certain section of society. Internet is the most public of all forums. If we don’t control what we publish on the net utter chaos might follow just as a simple mail regarding a job posting is followed by exchange of malicious mails. Or some one’s opinion on a certain something may lead to 2-3 members leave the DBM list.

Message No. 2193 is a farewell message of a member where he clearly mentions he no longers wishes to remain a part of this group because he doesn’t like some member expressing too much.

He says
I almost left the group when the whole alternative DBM issue happened bcos I didn’t agree with a lot of vocal members who “protested” for whatever reasons against the new group.

Goes to show how difficult it is to express yourself on the list. Seems like people here are sitting with their sentiment in hands just waiting to be hurt. Just about 200 of us and so much of tention already. What we write in our blogs affects the entire nation. And we think that need not be controlled?

 

Coming to another side of this whole issue. What is Topic to begin with so as to decided what’s off topic. Now this is where lies the philosophy of control. Those so called wise men, those flag bearers, those who think its important to keep certain things in certain order and therefore telling us DO NOT do anything which is Off topic, off tradition, off culture, off religion. They don’t trust that every adult mature person have their own sense of right and wrong. On this list I am aware of instances (Msg no. 1065) when one member has requested the moderator to throw a certain non acceptable member away from the list and a third member taking stand against such a request (msg no. 1088). So who decides what’s right and wrong.

Let’s take the present example. The logic is that since each mail that is shot on the list reaches inboxes of 100s of members who then get annoyed by off topic mails. Ok agreed but then when they agreed to recieve mails in their inbox they should keep some space for some off topic mails also. No one is perfect. So assuming X has shot an off topic mail, the rest have only few options (1) ignore it. (2) Ignore it but at the same time inform this person nicely in private that you didn’t like the off topic mail. But that’s all one can do and if that doesn’t work well just bear with it, he is a fellow member. Of course if things go way beyond tolerance, if such (so called) off topic mails become too frequent then one needs to think of a way to put full stop.

In today’s case am sure this guy is well aware of the purpose of DBM List (personally I am doubtful if we even have any purpose or not but that’s a different issue) and he knows where to draw the line. His mail so didn’t deserve to be backlashed by around 15 more mails (all off topics coz they are about a off topic mail) within few hours of his having shot it. He thought of shooting one mail and stop there but the rest of the group so very wisely have ensured the off topic is continued even as I write this post.

My simplest of expression in this list (Msg No. 1484) of having made some new friends and a note of thanks to them have been objected by the then moderator and few other members (privately thankfully). I was softly told I should avoid posting such mails as then the other members feels left out.

I can go on and on but my eyes hurting now. I virtually spent my whole day doing this. I am not always politically correct. I take sides and have no fear saying Prashant’s mail wasn’t that off topic and Joydeep and Priyanka’s mails were extremely uncalled for.

The Minutes DBM XIV

Minutes of XIV Delhi Blogger’s Meet

The meeting was held at the same time and place as announced. It was attended by 12 members with 5-6 of the old and regular ones and rest new faces. Compared to last couple of meetings this time the attendance was low but the discussion was much more constructive than before. Let’s see where do we go from here.

The agenda was of course to discuss a blog camp or somthing of that sort event here in delhi. As we started our planning we were posed with few basic questions

(a) What kind of event are we looking at? Is it going to be a huge affair with lots of sponsors and propoganda or do we want to keep it simple like our meets are. I guess we all agreed to make it big (attendees correct me if I am wrong)

(b) What do we call it a seminar / blog camp / a workshop / a meet etc.? Most of us don’t want to call it blog camp and its not just about the nomenclature we don’t want to repeat the chennai thing….we’ve got to do something different and new. something that hasn’t already been dealt with.

(c) what kind of audience/participation are we expecting? We can either try to reach out to people who are not into blogging by doing some thing very basic..what’s a blog..its uses, handyness and effectiveness, or we can keep it amongst the circle of those who are already blogging but focus more on issues they still would want to know bout. We understand that the two groups are mutually exclusive and we can’t expect a event to be atteded by both kinds..so we have to promote the event accordingly. We haven’t really reached to a conclusion on this.

(d) What are we going to do in the event? After a lot of brainstorming we have more or less catagorised two kinds of activiities.. some sort of research papers on topics which are very very off track this will give new perspectives and round table discussions where we would debate some of the exisiting notions and trends on blogging.

Topics for Research, anybody can volunteer to take part of conduct these researches.

1. Personality of the blogger v. the blogger [suggested by Lijo , Prashant, Sanjukta] a more flashy name for this is Indentity Management through Blog or the Psychology of the blog. A case study on this cannot be done unless a guineapig has volunteered for it.

2. Education, Abroad studies and blogging – A students perspective. [Mayank]

3. Shall we censor | Darker side of blogging [Sanjukta] I want to know how reliable is the information on the blog, given the fact that blog owner can control and tamper everything..date of publishing the post, comments on it etc. Should we then really have absolutely free flow of all kinds of contents. Shall we allow inflammatory blogs in the name of freedom of speech.

4. Blogging trends accross nations – interaction / comparison with Indian Blogsphere. [Twilight Fairy] country for case study Pakistan. We are similar so are we really similar. We can find that out though there is doubt as to how much a blog reflect the country and its people. I guess at least we can compare two similarly placed bloggers…say journalists or software engnrs or activiists etc. Fairy can explain this more.

Topics for Round table discussion.

1. Raveena Tandon – why are you not blogging? [Harneet, Yogesh] I think they are trying to say something about celebrity bloggers….or may be they were just kidding….guys pls explain

2. Blogs, a threat to certain Industries [Prashant] job of travel consultant being replaced by travel blogs, and somthing about banking also he said. Prashant can explain this more.

3. Horizontal Blog [Prashant] where one person is blogging about everything under the sun.

4. Frequency of Posting – effects on quality of blog [Prashant]

5. Blogging Syndication and their impact on freedom of expression [Nikhil] Its like this, a jaana maana blogger express is PoV on something and everybody else in his group tends to agree and only agree..let us ask ourselves are we really exercising our Freedom of Expression. I personally find it interesting though I think it goes for other media also. After all most of us are taught to conform to notions and ideology preached by our peers.

6. Sun V. Microsoft – The technical art of Blogsphere [Yogesh] He would have to explain this.

Topic on which guest speakers can speak and also discussion

1. Business Blogging [Lijo] this I think have been discussed quite a few times before. However one can speak on any breakthrough changes in it.

2. Blogging in Regional languages – Support and technology [Lijo] He knows farmers in Kerela who blog in regional language. It might be interesting to find out about all the available technical and other support for regional blogging.

3. Ways of improving aggregation of blogs to better reflect quality content. [Nikhil] He would have to explain this.

4. Usability issues with mobile blogging [Nikhil] as its gonna come up big time in the next couple of years this is the right time to start talking bout it.

Besides these topics there’s general expectation from the event, common between me, Harneet, Fairy Mayank, Lijo (pls add ur name if am leaving u out), to reach out to those sections of people who are part of the same frame and yet unaware of blogs.

– Media that reports on blogs
– Govt. agencies, they have access to internet, power to regulate but don’t understand blogs.
– Students
– Creative minds at home..the home makers, retired persons etc. got access to net but not utilising
– social activists, i know so many of them who have faintly heard bout it and wanna know more about it.
– Basically Anybody and everybody…as Chota Amit said anybody can blog.

————

So we really had a fruitful discussion yesterday. Now the next step. As of now we have all promised to blog exhaustively about the topics we have suggested. Let’s first have a reality check, how easy it is to conduct these research. I suggest we set up a community blog (on blogspot Beta) for this purpose and have a Wiki also.

Time now for the group to speak.

List of Attendees

Lijo Isac – http://lijoz.blogspot.com
Amit Gupta2 – www.amitgupta. in
Prashant – http://www.knowprashant.blogspot.com/
Rohit Malik – www.delhievents.com/
Roopak – http://03.indiatimes.com/wallflowers
yogesh – ?
Nikhil – http://mixedbag.blogspot.com/
Harneet – http://harneet.blogspot.com/
Twilight Fairy – http://twilightfairy.rediffblogs.com/
AmitKen – http://amitken.wordpress.com/
Sanjukta – https://sanjukta.wordpress.com/
Mayank –
http://mayankchauhan.blogspot.com

This post was also published on the Delhi Blogger’s Meet.

DBM XIV

Ok I know I am tad late…actually too late..but still…at the nick of time… Announcing DBM XIV and this time we do have an Agenda…huh finally

DBM XIV

Date : 7th oct’06
Time : 4:30pm (it gets dark by 6pm)
Venue : Steps near audi, (BBC meet waali), IHC, Lodhi road.
Agenda : planning a seminar style meet, progressing onto a blogcamp.

Participation: Be there if this announcement sounds interesting to you

See you

Blog Camp

Ok I may be a tad late in talking about the Blog Camp Unconference…but its never too late.. I cannot even begin to explain how much I would have loved to be a part of it and how much I have got to talk about blogs and blogging. Regular readers of my blog would know why… May be soon we should have a Delhi Edition of Blog Camp and then I would be an active participant.

Only yesterday I had another lecture in AIMC on Media and Law, but the students were more enthu to talk about blogging given the fact that their Swagat Sir has been influencing them 24/7 about powers of blogs. Swagat is always so exited about the blogs and is always trying to be innovative about its use. He wants all his students to share their class notes. He wants me conduct a one day blogging workshop with his students.

They kept saying India have to go a long way in blogging well not after such a huge event like blog camp. The list of participants is as glamorous as it could get including Sunil Gavaskar on board. I would be mailing Bill and Julian regarding the Blog camp.

So if you are in Chennai on 9th and 10th September you better be sane and attend it.

An article I wrote for AIMC Seminar which not many read am linking here again given its relevance to this post. Click here. My efforts to put some sense and direction to the DBM is also of significance once again. I cannot believe how a bunch of around 150 bloggers who have been in this community for a little less than 3 years now still cannot think of doing anything more constructive than sipping cofee and ‘meeting new people’ in their meets. Every time I have tried to talk about it those guys have blamed me for thinking too much and getting too serious with something so casual as blogging. One of them actually sent me hate mails blaming me of being a cheap attention seeker. For once I thought I would put up his derogatory mails for all to see but then I thought why should I get dirty myself.

I fail to understand with the government banning some blogs, the RTI applications and the media attention how can blogging still remain a casual matter an avenue only to meet new people and socialize.

Anyway

DBMs | do we have a purpose?

This post is in reaction to Paavani’s post. First I started writing in her comments section, then I thought of writing on the DBM mailing list. Finally I thought it would be safest to post it here. However I couldn’t post it to blogger (for some reason i couldn’t publish) so posted on the mailing list. And once again all hell broke loose.

I wonder why is it so difficult to express

First of all Paavani I applaud your bravery on this post.. though I am not sure if you are yourself aware or not but you have raised some extremely sensitive issues…

“So the question is when there is a popularity of such event, people love to be
part of bloggers meet even though internally they feel its more like a socializing meet. And you expect to meet new friends and on getting chances, you mingle up”

a) What is the substance of this commune…where are we going with all these meets?

AFAIK the bloggers when were united in this forum… the purpose was to just try out something new, the culture of net users was very different back then and as TF puts it in the BBC program “meeting people you have only known through web wasn’t very common” untill this happen. The first meet am sure must have happened under exitement and little bit of apprehension but then they actually liked it and continued with it…

Off late I have begin to wonder after 2+ years and a series of significant meets isn’t it time for something more substantial and constructive

“Why did they never become one? And what were the issues that rose up for
registration and most important what about those bloggers’ opinion who
joined both the groups? Is there any difference”

b) Why two seperate groups under same nomenclature and the politics amongst them?

Who better can talk about this but me….. you gotta ask the oldies of both the groups to understand who better but me… But I am falling short of courage these days so would refrain. Just one thing, blogging politics haven’t begun in India yet in the true sense but its not too far… Your post have instance of it though is a little scattered.

One small eg. The XIIth Meet was called in a very short notice and we had 22 member participating… with big shots like Dan coming along…… now there surely is a politics behind it and one needs to understand that…

BTW what registration are you talking bout? Don’t tell me the other group have done some kinda registration….

c) Why some members who quit some time back have joined again? Did they join only for the XIIth meet or have they joined the group again? Do they have a notion as to what is the purpose of this group since they are the oldest and also the founding members. What is their present take on the existence of two groups? Are they a part of the other groups?

d) And finally honestly how was the XIIth Meet? Could all those who attended give an honest opinion of the meet?

Personally if I was a first timer in this meet I wouldn’t have been interested in coming for another one. Not saying it was bad but not worth repeating especially with the cost that was involved. The 22 never interacted as a group except for the round of introduction. As soon as it was over everybody was busy talking amongst themselves. There was no fecilitator and no one to hold a discussion. The venue was chosen arbitly and important points like balance between financial capacity and spending preferences of all members, location, choice of food and timings were not kept in mind.

I am always the one to ask the wrong questions, am always giving the bad news…. while I too won’t take name but I have been told by a member, and i quote, “delhibloggers need some strong moderation I think, I feel the group is degenerating into idle talk.”

I am not supporting this statement completely for I don’t think it needs moderation… but I am concerned about (asking me what is *my* concern? good question but I don’t have an answer) such bloggers who join this community with a certain perceptions and expectations but are disappointed….

May be we should have more opinion on all that…

Disclaimer:

Please don’t start a flame war…. that’s not at all my intention… would rather like to Apologise in advance if any of my staments amount to flaming…..and I also don’t have the courage to fight anymore flame wars….

The word *politics* here is being used in its true sense as used in social and philosophical research and not as understood in the popular indian context.