iBlog3 Notes (Part 1)

7:05 am PHT

The iBlog3 last April 13 and 14 was a blast. I was able to attend parts of the program at both days and also the socials at the end of each day. I originally wanted to attend the whole event but because I really had to finish some things up at work on Friday and because I had to go to my doctor on the morning of Saturday, I was only able to see the last quarter of Day 1 and the first three quarters of Day 2, making a grand total of 1 day attended.  :)

No pictures this time around because I forgot to bring my camera.  :p And I’ll be dividing my post into two parts. For part 1, I’ll be discussing the content of the talks I saw in iBlog3 and for part 2, I’ll be talking about the iBlog3 as an event itself.

The Talks

I won’t anymore give a blow-by-blow account and commentary of each and every talk that I was able to hear. I’ll just highlight some points and learnings. (You might be interested to know that I took copious handwritten notes while listening to the lectures, even when I brought my laptop with me. I guess, typing simply cannot beat the freeform nature of taking down notes and drawing lines and arrows on a piece of paper. Hehehe  :))

Among all of the talks, I learned the most from the Legal Track of the program, which happened on Day 1. I very much liked the talks of Roby Alampay and Emerson Banez which were about freedom of expression and blogging in Southeast Asia, and the blogger’s code of ethics respectively.

Roby Alampay. Roby works for the Southeast Asian Press Alliance (SEAPA) which tackles freedom of press in the region. One surprising thing I learned from Roby lecture was that Singapore, despite being the region’s most developed country, has very little freedom when it comes to the press. Singapore is lumped together with countries like Myanmar (which Roby consistently referred to as Burma [I’m not sure if that’s in deference to the U.S.’s wish to avoid calling that country by the name its military junta imposed]), Laos, and Vietnam for having very repressive environments for mass media. And the Philippines, despite the First Gentleman’s numerous libel lawsuits and journalist killings (remember that the Philippines is among the top countries deadliest for journalists), is counted within the freest category in the region together with Thailand (pre-coup) and Indonesia.

Roby scored his point home when he found a Filipino blogger’s celebratory statement quite ironic: Bloggers ARE journalists . It’s ironic because, in most countries in Southeast Asia, being a journalist is not something you might want to aspire to. For instance, being a reporter in Malaysia means that you’re little more than a puppet mouthpiece for the reigning political party. And in Singapore, you’re a government employee (which is not too bad because Singaporean bureaucrats are among the highest paid in the world), but you’re not free to criticize the government at all, something that we enjoy here in the Philippines post-EDSA I, notwithstanding Mike Arroyo’s libel charging spree.

Roby also tackled the right to access to information, again another thing we Filipinos take for granted. In Myanmar, he shared his experience of accessing a blocked Internet from an Internet cafe in that country. Furthermore, Myanmar’s Ministry of Information have decided to “enlist” the help of the Internet cafe operators to monitor its citizens’ activities on the Internet by logging all websites visited and taking regular screenshots for forwarding to the government. While we Filipinos complain about disrupted DSL connections, and expensive Wi-Fi access, we’re actually much, much better off than most of our counterparts in Southeast Asia.

Emerson Banez. I love Emerson’s PowerPoint presentation! It’s definitely unique. What he did it seems was to create a speech, take the most important words and phrases, and give each one its own slide. It violated almost every presentation guideline that I know of (like making each slide with about one or two minutes—I think each one of Emerson’s slides lasted no more than 5 seconds) but it was quite effective. (My seatmate Juned and I wanted to make a bet on how many slides comprised Emerson’s presentation.  :)) Despite having some respiratory problem, Emerson managed to engage the audience with his talk on the ethical issues of blogging.

Emerson illustrated the issues by discussing two recent events in the blogosphere. First was the Microsoft PR blitz of giving selected bloggers each a “no-strings-attached” Acer Ferrari notebook pre-loaded with Windows Vista and Microsoft Office 2007. The second issue was the terrible online harassment (e.g., cyber-bullying) of Kathy Sierra.

My personal opinion regarding the Microsoft PR thingy is that while Microsoft wanted to get into the good graces of influential bloggers (it’s a PR move after all), the bloggers were under no obligation to say anything positive about Microsoft. Heck, they’re not even required to say anything at all! But Joel Spolsky, a very influential ex-Microsoft blogger, says that this form of blogger bribing corrupts the medium and is tantamount to “pissing in the well,” which Emerson pointed out. Sorry to prick your bubble, Joel, but the well has long been contaminated by urine, even before blogging had become mainstream. Blogging is not some ivory tower; I think disclosure is enough ethics.

But speaking of disclosure, too much brazen commercialism in blogs, despite disclosures, is really one good way to turn off readers (e.g., Benj’s blog pre-Blogging Awards). And that’s the beauty of the medium, the readers have control: they can stop reading one blog and read other blogs.

Regarding Kathy Sierra’s incident, that is so wrong in so many levels. Yes, we do have freedom of expression, but that freedom rightfully stops the moment you do harm to others.

Emerson also talked a bit about the PCIJ TRO episode in explaining that the Law can’t keep up with ethical issues in the new media. Surprisingly Emerson didn’t talk about Tim O’Reilly’s call to create a Blogger’s Code of Conduct. I also liked Emerson’s suggestion of redefining “pro-blogging” to not just mean “professional blogging” but also so mean “professionalism in blogging.” He suggested that we should also have some sort of tagging in our blogs (like Creative Commons) to systematically show our personal ethics. I’ve thought about the same thing before but I’m not sure if something like that would work in practice.

Other speakers. I also caught the last part of Dean Alfar’s talk, but I can tell that he’s a very effective speaker and is entertaining as well. I thought that I would learn something from Atty. Jaime Soriano’s talk about Blogging and the copyright law (including an introduction to Creative Commons), but it contained nothing that I haven’t known before. (I guess I know my copyrights pretty well.)

I enjoyed Norman Agatep’s talk about the prosumer. He talked about how influential bloggers belong to the “proactive consumers.” From what I’ve heard, prosumers are kinda like the Mavens and Connectors that I’ve read from Malcolm Gladwell’s The Tipping Point.

I was surprised to find the Blogging and Journalism track of lectures somewhat lacking. I guess it’s because I’m currently reading Dan Gillmor’s book, We the Media, which discusses online forms of journalism in bold detail. Finally, the talks given by Marc, Jayvee, and Gail were very informative. I was especially amused to find Jayvee talking about network blogging in particular instead of professional blogging in general.

I really wanted to hear Abe’s and Manolo’s talks, but I didn’t get to catch them speak.

To be continued…

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