Nostalgia, FLS and Social Media pet peeves

So, I’m feeling nostalgic about my online content creation experience for two reasons. First: a couple of days ago, I met the guy who facilitated online content creation for me and had a long discussion on new media – what was, is and will be – apart from what almost everyone is doing wrong now. Second: I’ve been named Time Magazine’s ‘Person of the Year’ (as have you, I hope)…and I read this. If you’re reading this, consider youself tagged and do post about how you started creating content online.

March 2000, I chanced upon a small paragraph in Mid Day, about a youth community called freshlimesoda.com. I went, I saw, I thought it was all hype. A few months later, I revisited, this time posting anonymously as Alter Ego, and was hooked within a few days. I posted my first column there, apart from articles and, of course, my first short story. From then on, till the site shut down, I must have visited it at least every day (sometimes four-five times a day, at a cybercafe). Till date, no community has measured up in terms of intellectual stimulation, level of debate and fun.

I created my own website, and someone found it, liked it and wrote about it on a little known community at Khwab, which is where I was introduced to blogging. This wont work,blogging is too small, said the skeptic in me after I had registered my own blogspot blog (and revived later). I designed a new site in 2003 and included a blog, which soon became the only part of the site to be updated. And I was hooked on to blogging. Now, my latest online home(s) are blogs – here and here.

(Update: Can’t believe I forgot to mention Motif, which Jay and I, alongwith Rahul and Aakanksha ran for a year and a half. For a while there, I was in a zone, writing a story a fortnight…sometimes more. We struggled with it, but got a lot of support from the friends we had, and the friends we made. Eventually, the lack of a business model killed it, which is why I remain skeptical about Web 2.0. The business model needs to be in place before you seek traction…)

That takes me back to what I had discussed with Parmesh about recent developments in Social Media in India:

– No community, none at all, gives young people the respect they deserve. That ‘What’s hot, what’s not’ idiocy has just been transferred from offline to online. To quite an extent, that is what is pushing them to join social networking and blogs. On all other media, all that they get is patronization by marketers who have forgotten what it was like for them when they were teenagers. Parmesh was way ahead of his time with that idea. I think FLS used to get 30,000 hits a week in 2000-2001…

– Not many Indian social media sites focus on the users, which is the biggest marketing mistake possible. Most focus entirely on the product and copy-paste a successful international idea. Some think users can be bribed or enticed by offering money, or pushing their product in their face.

– Almost all Indian social media websites ignore the offline aspect of user experience…of being faciliatators. (Update: ) …unless they’re an event site.
I’m going to elaborate on all of these points one by one, with personal examples…possibly at ContentSutra if we think it fits the mandate.

Also, if you’re a Limer – Parmesh and I talked about a Freshlimesoda.com reunion for when I’m in Bombay next month (for this very promising conference). Leave a message/send me a mail/SMS or call me at +91-98103-10053, if you’re game.

Confirmed (so far): Alter Ego, Parmesh, AdityaM, DiviM, Mirth, Drumster, Pre, Tink, nosferatu, Neha.

Update: Spoke to KC today, after almost a year, to tell him about the get-together. Realized then that it’s almost five years to the day that we had our Delhi offliner…thirteen people had attended. Pooja, Vikram and Zenwark had come down to Delhi from Gwalior, and Astleviz and deda1us from Jodhpur for the offliner. Photos from Delhi and Bombay offliners here.

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More Blog Pimping

Shyam writes about a comment pimping Jhanki.com. I deleted the comment pimping ilaaka.com and onyomo.com here at MixedBag. Blogger didn’t stop it, but at ContentSutra, the Akismet spam plugin caught the post and put it where it belongs – in the Spam section, alongwith comments advertising weight loss phentermine, valium and other strange things.

The details of the comment:

Name: rajeev | E-mail: allpropellers@gmail.com | URI: http://www.ilaaka.com | IP: 61.17.76.30 | Date: October 5, 2006

Hi,

Nice blog!

Why don�t you consider writing about some of the new �India 2.0� sites that are creating a little buzz as well?

Eg: www.ilaaka.com

www.onyomo.com

Thanks!

Rajeev

A Google search reveals that your friend Rajeev has been quite active. He’s also got a blog here.

I’ve given ilaaka.com some feedback. If you’ve been spammed, you should too.

There’s also a possibility that since this means of promotion is counter-productive, this “Rajeev”could be ilaaka or onyomo’s competitor. Unlikely, but possible.

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Blogger Beta Problem

I have a problem with Blogger Beta – the integration with Google accounts sucks.

Mixed Bag (this blog) has not yet switched over to Blogger Beta; in fact, if I have to redo the entire design, I’m not too keen. Ankit looks like he had to do away with his excellent design, and settle for an all black look.

Every time I go to www.blogger.com while I’m signed into my gmail account, I’m signed into Blogger with my gmail ID. When I choose to sign into Blogger, for posting on Mixed Bag, I get signed out of Gmail. I can’t believe Google didn’t foresee this problem, or aren’t aware of it.

Many people post on multiple blogs, including collablogs, so this very irritating.

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Blogger Beta: We have categories !

The Bewra Kekra informs me that BLOGGER FINALLY HAS CATEGORIES. So I might not shift to my own domain.

From Blogger Buzz:

With the beta you can:

Take the tour here. Still in beta, so it’s available to only a select bunch. (I’m not one of them. Bah). You can also sign in/sign up with your google account. Here. I’m signing up to test it out. Here.

Some Changes (apart from those listed in the tour):
1. The post timing and date has been simplified. Just type it, instead of using a dropdown menu.
2. No link can be added yet to the post title
3. Just two comment options to each post – allow/don’t allow comments. Simplified.
4. No option for backlinks yet.
5. You can edit the post after you’ve published it. No need to go back to the post listing and then editing it. Simple usable changes.
6. Drag and Drop page editing
7. Lots of widgets (they haven’t called them widgets, but they’re widgets all right) – lists, link lists, pictures, html/javascript.(screencap)
You can actually display external feeds! I’ve added one for ContentSutra
8. A WYSIWYG page editor. You can change colours of the links, background, the site by clicking on a colour in the grid. (screencap)
9. You can subscribe to RSS feeds for comments to specific posts.

So, lots of changes. What else do I want?
1. A sync with Technorati/ del.icio.us
2. A search script
3. Display latest comments on the side
4. A calendar for navigating the archives

Okay, so I want blogger to be like WordPress…but thankfully, one can edit the blogger template, unlike the wordpress.com templates.

Update:

  • Amit Agarwal has also written about the changes.
  • Brett informs me that there’s a blogger hack that allows you to add a list of comments on the current page to the sidebar. Not exactly the recent comments to the site, but it’s still an option.
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Blocked again…

My access to blogspot blocks is blocked. Since I’m able to access blogs via proxy-sites, it seems that the blog block has been reinstated. I’m on MTNL Delhi. A few mails have already been posted on Bloggers Collective. In case your access is blocked, go to the Bloggers Collective Wiki for assistance.

Some pakistani bloggers had warned us not to be too gung ho, since this decision to allow access could be reversed any time, without provocation or reason. Most of us, I guess, were as cynical of this, as we had been when we had first heard the news of acess to blogs in Pakistan being blocked.

Yesterday, a news channel carried news of a blog that encourages suicide. I’m told that someone in the report said that these type of blogs ought to be banned. Hope the gourment hasn’t taken up that offer. My views on all forms of censorship are here.

I’ve already shot off a mail to an MTNL engineer (we exchanged mails during the last block), and lets see what he has to say, if anything at all. Expect updates.

Update: The gentleman from MTNL sounded worried about this issue. He’s assured me that he’ll look into the matter, and emphasised that the problem could either be from Reliance. He asked for tracerts. I’ve sent them across. According to codey, this looks like a VSNL problem.

Update 2:
Shyam confirms that this is a VSNL problem, which gets its connection via Reliance. Airtel gets its connection via Singtel, and seems to be working fine.

Update 3: Able to access blogs now. That was quick.

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NDTV Blogs go live

post page at NDTV Blogs

NDTV’s response to CNN-IBN’s blog initiative, has gone live a few hours ago. Observations:

* Blogs on a domain separate from NDTV.com: In an attempt to get ahead of IBNLive which had initially intended to allow users to post, NDTV allows you to register and host your blog at www.ndtvblogs.com. In my opinion, that’s a mistake because the nature of the blogger is that he wants to own his space. He might want contribute to the media, call himself a part of the new media, but he wants to own his space. I’m not shifting bag and baggage to NDTV or IBN, just because it gives me greater visibility, and sacrifice the freedom to post stupid posts. My space will be mine, and I don’t want to have to sign into two blog sites and post.

I liked the IBN Your Voice concept (now in hibernation) better, but that’s probably a real pain to update because it means having to read a lot of blogs.

* Tagging and Advertising: the link at top lists tags/categories. These lead to a page with aggregated posts (ala Technorati). That means that better targeting for Google Adwords (once they’re implemented), and hence possibly greater revenue, or even tieups. The advertising model seems, on the face of it, to be well thought out. Try Asbestos as a category sometime. *grin*

Add RSS feeds to tags, and you’re good to go (IBNLive listening?)

Also, there’s lots of whitespace on the right (encircled in the image above), obviously for advertisements.

Tags/Categories aggregation page

* Post Moderation: So, I might get the opportunity to blog alongside Barkha Dutt (not that I want to), but my posts will be moderated. What are the moderation policies? Will I be allowed to diss NDTV on their blogs? Also, dont get fooled by the random posts that they have allowed. They’re just there because they need posts initially while they’re developing the portal.

* Dashboard Confusion: Click on ‘post’, and you’re taken to a page that asks you for Blog Title, not Post Title, and ‘Description’ instead of something like ‘Post Content’. So how many of those developing this have ever blogged?

Question – why not tie up with an experienced Blog host (if you want to go Indian) like Rediff to develop the same?

* Allows users to host multiple blogs

* Allows you to host 10240 kb of video/audio/photo, but – per post, per attachment or per blog? I don’t know. I got signed out automatically.

I’m not sure of what they’re banking on – getting new users to blog or making bloggers switch to NDTV Blogs? (I can imagine Vikram Chandra saying on TV that – now you can host your blog at NDTV Blogs and we will make sure it doesn’t get banned)

Anyway, this is cliche’d Web 2.0. A post on Web 2.0 and the crowded social networking website segment, next.

A different version crossposted at ContentSutra. My first there. 🙂

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Hammer time!

Yo Yo Yo! Wassup dawgs? YO! MC Hammer! Yo! He’s (Yo!) got a blog.

Yo!

There, he posts photos of THE MAN (MC Hammer, yo!) playing baseball, talks about the maturation of hip hop (Yo!), and love:

“There are so many degrees, levels and types of love. I love baseball, I love music, I love going to the movies, I love stimulated intellectual debate, I love women, and I love Oakland.”

THE MAN (MC Hamer, yo!) also posts photographs with his son (Yo!), as well as audio files.

Yeah, man. MC Hammer’s blogging!

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All hail the Jabberwock!

Jabberwock, rather Mr. Jai Arjun Singh, has won the Indibloggie for the Best Humanities Blog (heh). After a bloggers meet at DV8, I had sat down to write a review that I never did complete. It was a review written in jest, but who knows, this could be prophetic. O-)

You may skip to ‘What didn’t happen’ for the relevant portion –

*~*

What did happen at the Delhi Floggers Meet

Floggers from Delhi converged on Sunday at DV8, for the fourth annual Delhi Floggers Meet this year. I arrived first at DV8, sat by the bar and waited for a familiar face. A query of ‘Floggers Meet?’ yielded a confused look from one of the attendants, so I let it rest on a chair and decided to not question him any further. He might have taken offence, because over the next 10 minutes, I was asked whether I want anything to drink, given a drink of water when I didn’t ask for it, and queried – twice – about how many people I was expecting. I’m not expecting, I told him, but he didn’t get it.

In front of me were a couple of tables set for, well, 15, so I assumed that this was right day and venue for the Floggers meet.The flogger I had met before, Jai, called and told me that he was having trouble parking his car, given the paucity of parking near the venue.

TTG, Swar and Vulturo walked in, sat down around the table-for-fifteen. I heard the word ‘flogger’ mentioned, and went and introduced myself. Much to my surprise, TTG had seen my flog. I got a call from Jai, and helped him find a parking spot, near Wimpy’s.

What didn’t happen at the Delhi Floggers Meet

The parking attendant looked at Jai, trying to place him. His eyes lit up and jaw dropped when he recognised the Elite Flogger. ‘You’re not the Jabberwock are you?’ he asked.

Jai’s eyes narrowed, and he turned away. Not another fan. I’ll have to find a new city, or country soon -somewhere, anywhere I can park my car without being recognised.

I noticed an ice cream vendor drop a Feast as he quickly turned to click a photograph. Paparazzi in disguise. Thankfully, there was no tunnel nearby, to crash into; there was, however, a subway and we walked in, ignoring the crowd that was building up behind us. Another paparzzi, the doorman at Wimpy’s, was taking photographs of Jai’s car keys as the parking attendant gleefully posed with them. He planned to not wash his hands ever again, and maybe even steal a touch of Jai’s fingers when he handed the keys back…

*~*

That’s all I wrote. Jai might soon have keep an extra change of clothes in his car, lest he be attacked by screaming fans, and left with only an underwear on. I wonder what’s going to happen at Jaipore. *grin*

Congrats, Jai.

(P.s.: ‘Flogger’ because Bloggers tend to flog issues to death. *-)

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On Bloggers’ Meets, Collablogs and more…

“Despite tall claims, the city’s blogosphere is still inhabited by few, as the recently held Delhi Blog Meet revealed…”

It was one of the DBM-II’s meets that a reporter from TOI attended and wrote about in today’s city supplement. Though the article doesn’t mention a name, he has been identified as James by Tarun Pall, the host. The fallacies in the article are fairly obvious and ridiculous:

“If anything was in dispute, the 3rd Annual Delhi bloggers meet just proved how big (or small) is the Indian Blogosphere. Just four bloggers attended it, counting the hosts.”

The reporter apparently did no homework: DBM-I had been covered by both TOI (here) and HT (here) in the past. The then editor of Indiatimes, another Indiatimes employee and a TOI reporter had even attended one of the get-togethers at CCD in CP. And this wasn’t “the 3rd Annual Delhi bloggers meet”. Tarun Pall was also misquoted as claiming that those who attended are “the elite bloggers of India.” You may read his response here. His post is cuss-ridden and gets a PG rating.

Note: Codelust talks about it here.

Blog meets or Bloggers’ meets, rather, the “Official” Bloggers’ meets in Delhi are organised by two different groups.

This one (referred to as DBM-I) was first to it, and according to the blog they maintain, the first meet was held on the 13th of January, 2004. They also run a mailing list on Yahoo!, which (in my opinion) is mostly inane. There have been instances of infighting and some mails have been so puerile that I prefer to stay at least an arms-length away, though I do log in every now and then to poke fun. (You have no idea of how much a fan-mail a timely *Yawn* can generate!)

I have met some really interesting people at the DBM’s. My first was on 19th of June 2004. 21 people attended and we had a lot of fun, largely due to alcohol and a provocative Q&A session. Since then, things there have been in gradual decline and like me, some of my friends have now decided to read, but not post.

Another group (DBM-II) was started a few months ago by Vulturo of Desipundit and Shivam Vij of Zest. The group seems (relatively) interesting and was intriguingly tagged Mumbai-style. My grouse against them is that the scheduling of the bloggers’ meets is ad-hoc (one was overnight), and somehow the information never gets around. I always learn about their get-togethers after they take place. Put up a subscription mailer guys, unless you’re selective.

The ownership of the name “Delhi Bloggers Meet” was a bone (Woof!) of contention between the DBM-II and some members of DBM-I, but after a few unpleasant exchanges, they both decided to be indifferent to each other. I couldn’t care less, either. A bloggers meet had been excuse to meet or make new friends, or just talk about books, writing, blogging, the economy, advertising, the media…things that I used to blog about, and things that friends in college didn’t seem up to discussing.

I think bloggers, bloggers groups and blogs in general have started taking blogging too seriously. I’ve seen agendas being set for bloggers meets, and then being completely ignored; why have agendas in the first place? Some people (self included) have begun to think twice before posting opinions that might go against popular (blogger) opinion. Herd mentality will kill the self-monitoring nature of blogging.

It’s because bloggers have become activists and are now in the spotlight, that they’re in a position to stake a claim to fame. Some collablogs will find themselves in a position where they can take advantage of situations, and of battles between Bloggers and MSM or companies. When it becomes a business, you lose sight of the original cause.

Addendum (11th Nov): Legal notices can also be just “formal threats” and the party sending the notice can robbed of an escape route if the issue becomes big and their bluff is called. While they deserve it, this also means that those who were issued the notice are doomed to doing the rounds of courts since cases in India can be stretched indefinitely. Sometimes, neither party is to blame for popularising the issue. Not that I’m sure that this has happened, though.

In case you didn’t realise it, “Blog Trackers” can be selective too. This issue has reached bandwagon proportions, and unless there’s a development that your regular blog trackers are ignoring, or I find that I disagree with a new direction that the herd seems to be taking (or is being taken in) – there shall be no further updates. Most opinions being tracked, however, seem monochromatic and hence redundant.

Please note:
1. If you’re mentioned and you have a problem with it, let me know. It is not my intention to malign.
2. There’s more to this post than just DBM-I vs DBM-II. Read between the lines. Read the last few paragraphs. Further comments on DBM-I vs DBM-II may please be mailed to those whom you want to respond to. Or you have your blogs. I don’t like moderation, but I’m not going to shy away from it.

Updates:
1. The DT journalist (allegedly, Ranjan Yumnam) has posted his opinion and the article here. Whether he is the reporter in question is as yet unconfirmed. I could just as easily start an anonymous blog and defend the story.
2. The following people have since posted about the incident:Saket, Shivam, River, Mandar. Also up on Desi Pundit. No use. Everybody’s doin it.
3. Interesting: A Ranjan Yumnam had also contacted DBM-I, but received no response from them. Harneet, who didn’t respond, tells all in “stink operation”. The journalist can’t claim to be ignorant of the existence of the other group. Not that he does, though.

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