Pune Blog Camp 2: Reflections

Many folks asked me for an update on Pune’s Blog Camp, after the previous photo-post. How was the experience? Was it worth it? Who was there?

Not being diplomatic, I can say that the experience was an interesting one for me, with positives and negatives. I had never been to any blog camp, bar camp, or Tweetup before, so I did not have any expectations, and that probably helped.logo-main-krity

There was an interesting discussion going on even before the blog camp in the comments to Navin Kabra’s PuneTech Why You Should Attend Pune Blog Camp post. At the other end of the spectrum, post-event, the insights from the camp led to Dhananjay Nene’s Why I was disappointed with Pune Blog Camp 2.

Some others have shared their experiences too. Sandeep has a largely positive thank you note at his blog The Mousetrap. Anant has a detailed write up on his blog, Rahul has an update on the Devil’s Workshop, Aniket has shared his awesome feeling about the camp at Melody in Dissonance, while Deep Ganatra raises an important concern about unintentional session-hijacking. Almost all of them have written about the various sessions that took place, so I will not repeat them. Nor will I remember the names of all the presenters! So I will just share a few of my thoughts. You can also read Pune Mirror and TOI’s coverage.

A word of thanks to the organizers is a must. Tarun Chandel led the tone of the camp beautifully, making people get comfortable with his opening presentation and stepping in to facilitate whenever he could. I think the facilitation needed more support – it seemed he was the only one intent on facilitating.

Meeting In Person

BlogCampPune 006There were a few specific people I wanted to meet and that was one of my motivations for going to the camp. There were a few surprises too. I knew about sites like Wogma and Track.in, and it was good to meet online entrepreneurs Meetu Kabra and Arun Prabhudesai in person. I met fellow Twitter contacts like Amit Paranjape, an entrepreneur who shares myriad interests like me, who was busy with his Smartphone throughout the camp as I’d expected! Dhananjay Nene, a software architect, was another Twitter contact and meeting him personally was a surprise as he wasn’t as old as he looked in his avatar!

Friends in need are friends on Friendfeed. I recognized Sandeep Gautam instantly, even if we had only recently started following each other on Friendfeed. Sandeep writes on psychology and neuroscience while being into software development and poetry, at The Mousetrap. Sneha Gore has done a survey-based research into motivations of young bloggers which I found interesting, and meeting Pune Mirror’s Vishal was also good.

Negatives

  • Despite what the self-analysis kit says, the camp was not centered around a theme or purpose. Blogging is a wide umbrella term for any camp to succeed without having a theme – SEO, journalism, the ubiquitous ‘musings’ – some theme is needed for greater audience-presenter harmony.
  • Despite all the marketing-SEO focused presentations, the Golden Rule of SEO was not emphasized at all, or I missed it altogether. Content is king. Period.BlogCampPune 005
  • No talk of the future of blogging. Yongfook, author of the popular open-source self-hosted Lifestreaming application SweetCron has proclaimed The Blog is Dead. Wired magazine advised not to start a new blog, and to pull the plug if you already had one. ReadWriteWeb asked if the future of blogging is lifetreaming. I thought these topics will come up in a ‘blog camp’, but either they didn’t or I missed them.
  • Sometimes, I felt disenchanted with the perspective of an SEO/Marketing oriented pro-blogger that looks at readers as pure numbers and statistics on a graph. Rather than a birds-eye view of traffic flowing on a freeway, I prefer seeking the company of people actually driving those cars – those who take the time to comment and share their ideas and opinions on my posts. But that’s just me.
  • Despite the monetization related talks, there was no talk about writing. I take the blame for this. As a professional writer who is making money out of writing on a blog, and not looking at promotion, marketing, or SEO, I could have talked about how you can earn money as a blog writer without being keen on SEO.

Positives

  • Meeting lots and lots of bloggers! And especially meeting the few I wrote about above.
  • The passion and entrepreneurship of youth that I witnessed was inspiring. Young people in their 20s have .com domains and are discussing SEO. Wow. I actually felt out of place.
  • Navin and Vishal’s presentation on what newspapers can learn from blogs and vice versa.
  • Sandeep’s presentation on niche science blogging.
  • Regional focus – Shantanu Oak talked about Devanagri spell-checking.
  • Seeing lots and lots of newbie or wannabe bloggers.

Lessons

  • BlogCampPune 016Bloggers should be on Twitter if they want to expand visibility of their blog.
  • Some folks try to make money out of blogging. The clever folks make money from bloggers.
  • The ‘blogger elite’ usually doesn’t comment on each other’s blogs. They use Twitter to keep in touch with each other.
  • I personally feel there should be disclaimers within the presentations on monetization, when a lot of impressionable young people are in the audience. I could sense that many such people got the feeling that one can easily make money out of blogging, if one is geeky enough and knows a few ‘secrets’.
  • In a blog camp, the law of two feet is very important. I did it successfully – rather than being felt obliged to listen to sessions that I was not interested in, I preferred spending one-to-one time with people, which is what worked best for me.
  • If I go to a blog camp again, I will present. In retrospect, I could have shared:

A few days back, Asuph asked how one can reduce the page rank of one’s blog and I replied. I would have loved to see the reactions if this exchange had happened at the blog camp!

Thus, all in all, an interesting experience. Will I go to another camp? If it is not centered around a specific theme, definitely not. Else, depends on the theme!

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25 thoughts on “Pune Blog Camp 2: Reflections

  1. That’s really cool. Thanks for providing a summary. There were few surprises for me on your thoughts about Twitter and monetizing. Oh and I noticed you reverted to a simpler theme.

  2. Thanks for the detailed write up. Iam not aware of any such blog camps happening around my area; though I would love to visit such camps. Even though I have been blogging for a while, I have just met one blogger in real till now, and that also happened when I went to India early this year. Here in Canada and even in US, blogging does not have much of a social dimension as it’s in India. If I look at Indian bloggers, mostly it’s social blogging where bloggers meet new people and even make quite a few friends through their blogging. I read a study also on this once when I was researching for a presentation on India. It said that in India, approx 90% of blogging is social in nature compared to just 25-30% in the US.
    As for twittering, Iam quite happy with just blogging as of now. Iam not sure if I wanna use twitter as I find it bit intrusive for my taste..besides, I do my bit of twittering on facebook through my status messages. :)

  3. Indians are much more social in their upbringing and culture, and I guess that reflects in the blog world.

    Facebook is desperately competing with Twitter and hence introducing Twitter-like features every week or so. It will try hard to keep hardcore Facebookers to stick with it!

  4. Nice post. I liked the comprehensiveness, the balance, and most importantly the introduction of “What I (not others) could have done differently”.

    A counteropinion on the event theme however. I choose to favour broadly themed events with threads focusing on different themes thus allowing for a more interesting and contrasting people discovery and interactions (so long as there are multiple parallel sessions being held).

    Great post. +1

  5. Thank you for the kind words!

    Yes, I do not mind multiple threads with broad themes, but those themes must be defined beforehand. If number of threads and theme topics are decided at the last minute, I doubt if it will work well.

    I also agree how that can lead to more interesting people discovery – much like Twitter!

    I was reminded of a Microsoft PDC I once attended in San Diego in 1997. Hundreds of sessions in dozens of multiple tracks with thousands of attendees, and all organized flawlessly. It was amazing. But it was not an unconference. ;-)

  6. just reading this post makes you feel there’s so much to learn.. I get very confused with the SEO thing and though I have recently got a guide on using blogger, have been getting hopelessly lost in the html codes and stuff.
    can you suggest where one can learn to make a customized template?
    also, curious abt the lesson that elite bloggers twitter instead of comment. could you elaborate on advantage tht twitter has to a string of discussions on the comment thread itself?

  7. Thanks mahendra for linking in, and that post actually inspire’s me to think WHAT I CAN DO TO MAKE IT BETTER NEXT TIME.

    I will be updating my blog soon on how can i make a differnece or contribution to blog camp or as a matter of fact any camp next time.

  8. Mahendra, firstly it’s good to see your face. :)
    And that was a nice comprehensive look at what happened at the blog camp. I have never been to one and was curious about these things. Somehow I never thought these blog camps were anything more than social get togethers and so I avoided them!

  9. Hi Mahendra,

    Congratulations to you and Dhananjaye for being honest and forthright while narrating your experiences. Its heartening to note that you realize that it is up to us who attend the blogcapms to make it interesting/ useful and that you have decided that you are going to do something about that next time.

    Reading other post-blogcamp analysis (from the above thread as well as elsewhere) I’m really deeply puzzled about the fragmentary nature of our blogging reality and what diverse people expect from blogcamps- one can see that for some fun element is paramount (Thakkar rocks; all the ‘gyan’ or formal ppts sucks; to others the disappointment revolves around focus on monetization/SEO vs. content; while I believe for most of the people party was spoiled even before it started with one group of bloggers (topical/serious?) pitted vs the other group (personal/whimiscal?) of bloggers.

    Perhaps we need multiple threads with all permutation/combination of above and yet perhaps the greatest realization is not whether there are multiple threads or less- it is about participation as you pointed out in your post – that you should have taken a session yourself and made it what your vision of a blogcamp should be.

    Its good we are seeing some debate on what a blogcamp should be and how it should be unoragnized- hopefully we’ll see more variety in sessions(by having multiple pre-themed threads and strict timed events – but then that would necessarily make people like asuph feel unwanted who value spontaneity more- and perhaps that is one sort of people we should try to attract more to such events) . Lets not doubt our abilities to get what we want- as long as we are willing to work from within the system and open to change – we need not be restricted by what blogcamps are supposed to be or how they have historically been unorganised. But whichever way we go, lets try to integrate all streams and concepts of what blogging means to different people and I would certainly feel uneasy if we end up with just one sort of people at the blogcamps and focusing on one particular version of the blogging story.

  10. Great thoughts, may be you should also take a look at Clay Shirke views on New ways of socializing, here >> .
    I was not aware of any such event either, with a Week in Pune could have extended, stay and stopped for metting.

  11. Gauri, if you want to focus on writing and improving writing skills, I suggest you put learning HTML/CSS on the backburner. Once you get sucked into web design, there’s no end to it! If you just search Google for ‘customize blogger template’ like this, you will get lots of tutorials. I prefer using free website building sites that allow me to build custom websites without learning any HTML/CSS. The site where I write, MakeUseOf has tons of articles about free website building stuff, like this.

    The comment regarding elite bloggers was a veiled jab at those who look at blogs as a vehicle for getting traffic and earning money, not as a vehicle for meaningful interaction and discussion. Today, I find myself in between two extremes – my blogger friends who are not on Twitter on one hand, and others only using Twitter and neglecting their blogs altogether. I sincerely believe both forms of discovery, communication, information sharing, and making friends, have their unique advantages, and in fact can complement each other very well, as I seem to be finding in my experience. Some advantages of being on Twitter while being a blogger that come to mind at once are:

    - Tweets about your posts with appropriate hash-tags reach a much wider audience, as well as a focused audience, who are interested in what you blogged about. For example, when I blogged about different films in my films meme, some people with thousands of followers on Twitter picked it up and re-tweeted it, potentially bringing many people to my posts who otherwise would not have discovered my blog at all.

    - Twitter gives you a good idea of what people are talking about in real-time on the web. This can give you ideas about relevant things to blog about.

    - If I stick to having discussions on blog posts, I have to visit multiple blogs in my browser to read updates to the conversation. When using a Twitter client like Tweetdeck, I have multiple conversations with multiple people at the same time without even having to switch between tabs. For example, there are a few people you will see on this blog with whom I have had multiple conversations on Twitter, much more than on this or their blog. There are a few people you will not see on this blog, with whom I’ve had multiple conversations on Twitter.

    - Not every topic is worthy of a blog post. That’s the reason micro-blogging has become so popular.

    - If I’m reading something you might like, or that is relevant to a post of yours, it is much easier for me to tweet you about it, rather than visiting your blog, adding a comment, and then inserting that link to what I was reading. If you’re not on Twitter, I’m likely to simply pass it up, and not visit your blog, and not share it with you. Who is the loser in this situation?

    To exaggerate a bit, if you’re blogging to make friends on the Internet, then forcing visitors to get in touch with you via your blog comments section is like asking your friends to visit your home if they want to interact with you. Not being on twitter is akin to not having a phone where your friends can simply ring you up.

    Looks like this comment could have been a blog post in itself! So I’ll stop here. :)

  12. :) Thank you, Nita.

    Hope my post gave you at least some idea of what happens at a blog camp. I was conscious not to be presumptive about them, and hence overcame my gut feel that was the same as yours – that they would simply be socializing events. I realized if I assumed them to be, I wouldn’t be open-minded. I had to experience at least one camp to form an opinion.

    I would say every camp would be unique. From some of the comments I’ve seen from people who have attended camps in Mumbai, Bangalore, etc., it seems SEO/Marketing always has a strong focus and a certain set of popular bloggers always seem to hog the limelight. I would therefore advise to know in advance who is coming and whom you’re interested in meeting, and meeting them one-on-one. That’s what I did and that helped.

  13. Hi Sandeep,

    Thank you for your elaborate and in-depth comment on the blog camp phenomenon. It was really a phenomenon as much online as well as actually in the camp!

    Unlike you, I’m not deeply puzzled. Bloggers are not the average Joes and Janes of society. Bloggers are at least one or more of the following – independent-minded, creative, wanting to have their say, entrepreneurs, socialites, iconoclasts, geeks, loners, marketers. Given that this represents a fragment of the general population, and a fragment that comprises of such extremes, it is hardly surprising what would happen if they decide to get together. :)

    I see in your thoughts as well as Dhananjay’s the desire that a blogcamp reflect this diversity with multiple session-tracks. If a certain type of bloggers make the camp focus only on one blogging theme, it would make you feel uneasy and you would be disappointed.

    I share your desire, but not your optimism. I am a bit cynical but that doesn’t mean I am not open to being corrected. I would love to attend a camp where folks like you, me, and Dhananjay are presenting about serious blogging in one track, marketing-SEO folks are presenting in another track, personal/musings/dreams/fantasy folks in another and so on. I think organizing such a camp would be a challenge, especially given the fact that the resources required to organize such an event are more naturally gathered by marketing/SEO kind of entrepreneurs. I would not be surprised to learn that marketing/SEO sessions were primary focus of most Indian blog camps. Are the other kinds of bloggers willing to invest the time, effort, and resources to organize a blog camp that does not adhere to generally accepted guidelines of such unconferences and camps? That, to me, is the million-dollar question in this respect, and as of now, I do not have an answer.

  14. Hi Sunny, as I was a part of Twitter during the recent Iran events, nothing Clay says is a surprise – his views seem to be for those who were not using Twitter!

    Thanks for dropping by, and yes, would’ve been good if you had been there. Do you know where and how I came to know about this blog camp? On Twitter! ;)

  15. Hi Mahendra,
    Thanks for pointing this out and also making us think as to how can we contribute to this and when i searched for areas where i can contribute and they were many, so listed them out here http://blog.anantshri.info/2009/07/04/blog-camp-pune-2-reaction-continue/

    also listing all of them here in order reduce pain of clicking the link

    list of topics i can contribute to or discuss about

    * Peek into wordpress plugin development (basic intro) based on My profiles plugin(still under development)
    * WordPress customization tips including (speed enhancement)
    * Changing world of internet with web 2.0 / 3.0 and its importance to us. (intro to web 2.0 for those new to this concept)
    * A peek into the world of blogging clients. I am talking about clients not servers. (ex scribefire or bleezer or flock)
    * Why i still blog even though i am also lot more then just active @ twitter, orkut, facebook or what not.

  16. Nice thoughts Mahendra. Thanks for analyzing about it and writing in detail. Iam now seriously thinking if my lack of fondness for Twitter has much base..you have given me ideas. Although Iam still not sure that how will I handle too much intrusive part of Twitter and also the pressure of tweeting multiple times a day or atleast once a day if Iam not mistaken. Rest, it looks like a great tool to communicate with and learn from many people at one go, without really needing to visit multiple websites as one does with blogs.

  17. Pingback: #BlogCampPune 2 – Late Reaction :P | Annkur

  18. Thank you. Yes, it’s a great tool for communicating, but like everything else, it is also being abused by spammers. I don’t want to urge anyone to use Twitter, just sharing my thoughts. There is nothing you’re compelled to do or pay attention to in Twitter, so you can take it at your own pace. But the problem is that it is addictive! ;-)

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