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Washington Post on January 9 hosted a meeting of bloggers; perhaps the first of its kind*. Only 100 attended, though anybody who has “a blog about DC” was invited.

The Post‘s Marc Fisher reported: “This was a chance for all sorts of local bloggers to hear from Post news executives about how the paper is not equipped to cover the micro-local events and issues that bloggers specialize in, and to explore ways in which the paper, its website and bloggers can collaborate, at least by referring readers to one another’s work.”

Company executives talked about sharing revenues with local bloggers from ads sold by the Post’s sales staff, which must be exponentially bigger and effective than any bloggers’ effort. The meet-up, coincidentally, came just a few days after Backfence, a local news/blog-like effort co-founded by an online WashingtonPost.com veteran announced a staff cutback and reorganization.

Just an indication of how the mass media landscape is changing.

* Update following Dinakaran’s comment: … perhaps the first of its kind organised by a media organisation.

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Just the other day, a friend remarked that blogging might just soon fade away as one other technological phenomena that created waves. It was, of course, a remark made without any study, as he himself said. It was more of a perception-based personal view. I countered his argument. Blogging is not a flash-in-the-pan phenomenon. It is not going to fade away.

My view was, and still is, that the casual bloggers may fade out, those who just came to see what it is all about and didn’t find it exciting. But blogging as a powerful media of mass communication — a democratisation of publishing — will stay on. The excitement of the new medium may wear out, but the medium is only going to get stronger.

Call it coincidence: BBC has a story on this based on a study by Gartner. It says 200 million people have stopped writing blogs. It says, by next year the number of blogs will level out at around 100 million. The reason: all those who wanted blog have started, those who like it will keep blogging and the rest will stop.

Again not based on any research, but I have a feeling that the number could still increase. Because as more children grow up and become aware of the medium, many would get on it and a good percentage may just stay on as well. Also, Gartner predicts that the cost of a PC will come down by 50 per cent by 2010. That will be additional reason for people to start blogging, especially in developing countries.

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Blogger Beta

When I first read about the features Blogger Beta had, I wanted to switch immediately. But I couldn’t. It was unsettling to see new and smaller blogs being allowed to make the switch first. Apparently bigger blogs had to wait. Finally, my turn came, on Dec 8. That’s why my blog looks different now. The last two days I have been experimenting with the various features.

The beta version is better than the earlier one. Not only there are many more options, it is easier to change the layout, design, colour and fonts. There is also no need to publish repeatedly after these changes are effected. It’s good to see Blogger having labels like WordPress. It was long due. It will take some time before I label all my 300+ posts. Hope to complete it soon.

The big drawback is, there are still not many templates to choose from. Also, there are limited changes we can make to the layout. Nevertheless, I think Blogger is the best bet for non-techies.

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Blogs and me

Usha tagged me with the following questionnaire:

1. Are you happy/satisfied with your blog, with its content and look? Does your family know about your blog?
I am quite satisfied with the content.
I wish I knew a bit more of technical stuff, so I could improve its looks. On the plus side, blogging has given me opportunity to learn a lot of tech stuff which hitherto I didn’t know. The learning process is continuing.
Yes, my family knows about the blog.

2. Do you feel embarrassed to let your friends know about your blog or you just consider it as a private thing?
No, not at all. I don’t consider blog as a private thing. Blogs are very much in the public domain, even if the contents are private.

3. Did blogs cause positive changes in your thoughts?
Yes, in some ways. Reading blogs has exposed me to diverse lines of thought, many of them refreshing, positive and encouraging. Also, blogs have been a steady source of information for me. Today, I search blogs as much as or more than websites.
As a professional journalist, I am also, in some ways, expected to keep going through blogs to know the pulse of the people.

4. Do you only open the blogs of those who comment on your blog or you love to go and discover more by yourself?
I often hunt for new blogs based on the topic of interest. It’s almost becoming a past time. Of course, I also have list of blog buddies, whom I visit regularly.

5.What does visitors counter mean to you? Do you care about putting it in your blog?
Yes. Besides the number, it is a pointer to the type of subjects that attract readership, and also the regions where most of my readers are.

6. Did you try to imagine your fellow bloggers and give them real pictures?
An image of the blogger’s personality does indeed get formed in my mind as I keep reading her/his postings over a period of time.

7. Admit. Do you think there is a real benefit for blogging?
I find blogging a much better method of making friends than most of the networking sites that have sprung up of late. Blog is nothing but another medium of communication. It has its advantages and pitfalls.

8. Do you think that bloggers society is isolated from real world or interacts with events?
Yes to a great extent. Not just the absence of get-togethers, many bloggers are pseudonymous. It has its advantage, because some people are able to though express themselves better that way. With many bloggers exchanging emails and also keeping in touch over phone, besides the occasional bloggers meetings, the isolation is breaking down.

9. Does criticism annoy you or do you feel it’s a normal thing?
Criticism does not annoy me, except when it is personal.

10. Do you fear some political blogs and avoid them?
No, I neither fear them nor avoid them. Sometimes I look out for them.

11. Did you get shocked by the arrest of some bloggers?
Earlier I used to; not now. Because I have reconciled to the fact that blogsphere too its share of saints and sinners like the real world.


12. Did you think about what will happen to your blog after you die?
No. Though I won’t be able blog, the URL will survive, won’t it?

13. What do you like to hear? What’s the song you might like to put a link to in your blog?
We Thank Thee by Jim Reeves:


We thank Thee each morning for a new born day
Where we may work the fields of new mown hay
We thank Thee for the sunshine and the air that we breathe oh Lord we thank Thee
Thank Thee for the rivers that run all day
Thank Thee for the little birds that sing along the way
Thank Thee for the trees and the deep blue sea oh Lord we thank Thee
Oh yes we thank Thee Lord for every flower that blooms
Birds that sing fish that swim and the light of the moon
We thank Thee every day as we kneel and pray
That we were born with eyes to see these things
Thank Thee for the fields where the clover is grown
Thank Thee for the pastures where cattle may roam
Thank Thee for Thy love so pure and free oh Lord we thank Thee
Oh yes we thank Thee Lord…

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Today, it’s exactly two years since this blog began. One point in the first post here was how US President George Bush had, in a way, joined the war against terror which other countries were already waging, though he was calling upon other countries to join him.

Immediately after 9/11, there was a lament, quite justifiably, that had the US been perceptive to small-scale terror in different parts of the globe, we all would probably not have reached this stage. Remember, how Kandahar hijack was no issue for the US, which for whatever reason showed no signs of having seen the growing trouble.

But five years on, my views have amended. Laments make no sense. It’s time to learn a few lessons; from the US. Not from the war in Iraq; but from how that nation has transformed itself post-9/11.

One deadly sting, the whole system was shaken up. Top administration officials were intensely questioned. There have been debates, discussions, and brain-storming sessions. Most importantly, the administration implemented corrective steps.

Contrast that with India. Soon after 9/11, India implicitly told the US, “Look, we have been here long before, you have just woken up.” True, terrorism is nothing new to India, unlike the US; but five years on, who has moved ahead – India or the US?

How many terror attacks have taken place in the US after 9/11? And, in India? The answers speak volumes.

May be the number of US soldiers killed in the post-9/11 wars is now almost equal to the number of Americans who perished on that tragic day. But the country has been well-secured, at least in comparison to India.

Probably the only significant change here is that: incidents which were categorised as “communal” are now “terrorist”, rightly or wrongly. Malegaon is the latest example. Still, there is no change on the ground.

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The debate is all over again.

The trigger is Charles Johnson’s expose on his blog Little Green Footballs on Aug 5 of how a photograph of Beirut — after an Israeli air strike, taken by Adnan Hajj — was significantly manipulated before being published, a serious breach of journalistic ethics.

This issue has been discussed in The Guardian by Patrick Barkham, and in The Christian Science Monitor by Randy Dotinga.

When we didn’t have the benefit of today’s technology, people had only the conventional media to look up to when they needed information. Now, the scope and dynamics of mass media have expanded by exponential proportions. Thus, the extent of reliance on newspapers or TV for news has been reduced with the advent of mobile phones and blogs.

But to run down the conventional media as biased is not correct. Journalistic practices have remained essentially the same down the ages. Today because of improved technology, the few genuine mistakes that journalists commit and the few black sheep in profession are exposed much easily and widely.

Let us not be overawed by the phenomenon of blogs. It’s another medium of expression with its own inherent advantages and disadvantages. It’s wholly wrong to assume that what is on a blog is the ultimate truth. If a blog has to be credible, its author has to work hard in the pursuit of information. Whether you are a professional journalist, citizen journalist or freelance journalist, the journalistic work is exacting, it takes pains and effort.

The Lebanese photographer Hajj may have doctored images. Reuters immediately acknowledged the error, once it was brought to its notice. And, it removed the photographer immediately. It’s commendable that a blogger like Charles Johnson could detect that. I am sure has worked hard to get to this truth.

One Adnan Hajj does not discredit the entire conventional media, just as one Charles Johnson does not mean everything that appears on millions of blogs is the ultimate truth. There is nothing like absolute objectivity. Everything is seen through someone’s eyes. A blogger can distort information and doctor images as much as anyone else. Only that blogs are not under so much of scrutiny as conventional media.

The tendency of some bloggers to be “holier than thou” vis-à-vis conventional media is not healthy and must be curbed. Citizen journalists and professional journalists have to draw from each other so that technology-facilitated mass communication becomes more comprehensive and serves the purpose it is intended to.

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The following is a piece I wrote for The Times of India, Bangalore, dated July 22, 2006:

Bloggers are referred to as “citizen journalists”, as different from “professional journalists”. But a survey in the US has found that only 34% of them consider their activity as journalism and 65% said it is not journalism.

At the same time, a majority of bloggers engage in practices generally associated with professional journalism, like giving credits, quotes, checking facts, etc, says a survey conducted by Pew Internet and American Life Project, a Washington-based non-profit research centre studying the social effects of internet on Americans.


Fifty-seven per cent bloggers give credits in the form of links to original sources and 56% spend extra time trying to verify facts they want to include in a post. Forty per cent quote other people or media directly in their posts, while 20% of bloggers said they seek permission before posting copyrighted material on their blog.

Thirty-eight percent also posted corrections in their blogs. This was more prevalent in bloggers over 30 years and with college degree, the Pew study showed.

Most bloggers are also keen followers of current events, and also use blogs as a source of information. Ninety-five percent of bloggers said they get news from the internet, compared to 73% of all internet users. Bloggers were also found to be more dependent on technology for social interaction.


“My life and experiences” was the most preferred topic (37%) for blogging, 11% cited issues of public life like politics and government, 7% picked entertainment related issues, 6% sports and 5% news.

Twelve million American adults, or 8% or internet users, kept a blog. While 54% were under 30 years of age, 55% used a pseudonym and 84% described the activity as a “hobby” or “something I do, but not something I spend lot of time on”. While 59% of bloggers just one or two hours per week on their blogs, while 25% spend 3 to 9 hours.

While 70% said they blogged only when they felt like, 22% did it on a regular basis.

Access the full report here

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