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.
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
There 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Bloggers 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:
- My experience with plagiarism
- The intense debates on this blog surrounding female foeticide, right to free speech, whether poverty is the root cause of terrorism, the legal implications of blogging, and paranormal phenomena. How these thoughtful discussions with readers have enriched me is very precious to me as a blogger.
- My experiences of blogging at Mutiny.in especially when defending the Indo-US Nuclear Deal. There are distinct differences between blogging on your personal blog and doing it on a high-visibility group blog.
- As mentioned earlier, writing to earn money, which I think is a dream quite a few people might have.
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!