Was Sullivan right?

Rediscovered this 2002 article in Wired by Andrew Sullivan (one of the more recognised bloggers, certainly one who actually makes money doing it) while researching a piece I need to deliver tonight. I'll go back to writing, and you go read. An appetiser:
Blogs do two things that Web magazines ... cannot. First off, blogs are personal. ... Readers increasingly doubt the authority of The Washington Post or National Review, despite their grand-sounding titles and large staffs. They know that behind the curtain are fallible writers and editors who are no more inherently trustworthy than a lone blogger who has earned a reader's respect.

The second thing blogs do is - to invoke Marx - seize the means of production. It's hard to underestimate what a huge deal this is. For as long as journalism has existed, writers of whatever kind have had one route to readers: They needed an editor and a publisher. Even in the most benign scenario, this process subtly distorts journalism. ... Blogging simply bypasses this ancient ritual.
So far, I think, he was on the money. Further down in the article, he sticks his neck out a bit:
Why not build an online presence with your daily musings and then sell your first book through print-on-demand technology direct from your Web site? Why should established writers go to newspapers and magazines to get an essay published, when they can simply write it themselves, convert it into a .pdf file, and charge a few bucks per download? Just as magazine and newspaper editors are slinking off into the sunset, so too might all the agents and editors and publishers in the book market.

This, at least, is the idea: a publishing revolution more profound than anything since the printing press. Blogger could be to words what Napster was to music - except this time, it'll really work. Check back in a couple of years to see whether this is yet another concept that online reality has had the temerity to destroy.
Well, do you think this too will come to pass?

Permission to squat

Now that the title perhaps grabbed your interest...

This may be old hat to you veteran bloggers, but anyway. Forgive the initial use of the phrase "big media", but this is really not about big media. Instead I think it has some bearing on what Dina often says about conversations.


"Big media ... treated the news as a lecture. We told you what the news was. You bought it, or you didn't. You might write us a letter; we might print it ... it was a world that bred compacency and arrogance on our part. It was a gravy train while it lasted, but it was unsustainable.

"Tomorrow's news reporting and production will be more of a conversation or a seminar. The lines will blur between producers and consumers, changing the role of both in ways we're only beginning to grasp. The communication network itself will be a medium for everyone's voice, not just the few who can afford to buy multimillion-dollar printing presses, launch satellites, or win the government's permission to squat on the public airways."


All from Dan Gillmor's book, We the Media: Grassroots Journalism by the People for the People -- taken from a review of the book in the Guardian Weekly, November 26-December 2, 2004.

To Those Questioning Judgements

The questions that face me as a blogger are not technical, spiritual, tactical, financial, legal or ephemeral. I have faced these questions all my life in various apparitions. In my view the question is really philosophical, or more precisely - ethical. What is my world-view, and hence, if the world is simply a reflection matrix, what the hell is my identity?

I am not independent. I am at the mercy of editors who want to judge whether my writing is worth a few thousand rupees. I am at the mercy of natural forces.

I am not an individual, since I'm inexorably dependent on the presence of other human beings. I'm dependent on tactile love, not perceived love. I'm somehow connected to the world wide web as if it were a umbilical tube.

And I am not Indian. Even though I have never traveled abroad to see the world in it's diversity, even though I have always remained within the cartographic confines of the nation-state, I have never been able to understand India. My birthplace remains a hospital bed in some Jaipur clinic, the stargate womb of my mother, not India.

But I'm willing to listen to all you wise folks and learn. I would like to learn only one thing about whatever the final truth it is I'm searching for - what does your silence mean to me?

This thing we do

The ethics thing. What are the ethics of blogging, or in what way are they different from other media platforms, and what are the questions they throw up?

To me, and I know this is no profound insight, the difference is simple: in blogging, there's no editor. You get up and publish whatever the hell you want, whatever length you want, pay no attention to deadlines if you want, etc. There's no editor you have to travel through to get your stuff on air. Publishing has never been so easy.

There's great power in that, and that's some of what makes this thing addictive. But the point about ethics is this: with that power, there's also great responsibility. Whether and how you choose to exercise that responsibility is the question of ethics. I don't know too many other areas of life where the connection (and contrast) between power and responsibility is so clearly set out. And for me, that's the addictive part -- the constant challenge to learn, and define, what responsibility is. How it waltzes with power. And these are very old dilemmas, even if blogging holds them up in new light.

With the pretty formatting tools and so forth that are available to bloggers, it's easy to put your thoughts out in very respectable looking form. The seductively easy thought, then, is that you're shaping opinions simply by virtue of being published. I sense a lot of that in blogs I scan, I sense it in myself. But the truth there is, again, an old one, even if blogging holds it up in new light. Nice Blogger backgrounds notwithstanding, you have to offer quality, you have to build credibility, you have to show substance. Old journalistic virtues.

And if you blog, and if you want to be read and taken seriously -- which I imagine all of us do -- you have to offer quality etc on your own. Because you have no editor.

I am likely going in circles, forgive me, but I'm just reiterating the point. For me, this is the challenge, the addiction, of blogging: making that mark, if I ever do, on my own. The lessons to be learned, on my own, about ethics.

I'm glad for this space. Because in the free and easy space that's blogging, I come across a deal more arrogance than I do introspection. And yet, as more situations like Mediaah's crop up, we will all need to analyse how we go about this blogging thing we do. May this space be one for that analysis.

And now, the soapbox is yours, whoever you are.

A gentle intro...


We move beyond the semi-private world of email groups, and get onto a blog. (Which is what all our emails are about anyway!)

Both Zig and Dina got me thinking on how I got into blogging anyway. Well, I always had a journal sort-of thing on platforms like Diaryland. My run-in to blogs was incidental, and was merely another place to crib, and post very personal notes.

Before long, it became a place to put up what otherwise would have been 20 e-mails to different people. And then, it became a political space. I never intended my blog to become anything, and yet I see, that it reflects the deepest aspects of my personality. And that is what I see happening in most other blogs. A blog at one level helps resolve the differences and dichotomies faced by individuals. We are supposed to neatly divide our selves into the spaces of the 'public' and 'personal', and a blog over-rides these spaces and is closer to the 'personal is political' space.

I started a blog to be 'free of influences', and yet I am acutely aware that I am not able to post everything that I want to, because I know I am being read and watched. :)

(Minor Irritations?)

The collaborative effort in December and January, really made me do a re-take on what I thought about blogs. I cannot apply one definition to them. A blog is a space. And there's no knowing what might happen there. And yes, I confess my addiction to this space. Collaborative blogs is an interesting concept, and one that I am yet to explore fully. What is interesting however, is the evolution of the spirit of a blog. While one may start off with a 'Terms of Reference' so to speak, the spirit somehow evolves on its own.. perhaps?

*Draws an armchair*
Yup! I like blogging!

Indian Independent Individual - Issues

I like the philosophy of a place to discuss issues that affect us as bloggers. Am seeing this more as a collective than a lobby. Lobby somehow seems to suggest a 'cause' - what is the cause here?

I'd hate this to become a watchdog though, or take on any form of policing or decision-making or censuring.

Lets instead engage in conversations around issues and embrace diversity.

To start off - some of the issues that i face as a blogger, these are personal and perhaps aren't BURNING issues :)

- balancing work, family, life and blogging - maybe we can learn something from discussions around how people manage these and what they gain from blogging?

- how much to reveal in a corporate blog/media blog - where do we draw the line? Take the case of Mediaah - much as i am pained about the shutting out of a voice - was Pradyuman naive not to expect this fallout having gone after the TOI hammer and tongs? If you're willing to pack a punch, the other has the right to retort, no? Don't we see this happening in comments at our own blogs on issues? Or take the case of Apple winning a suit to get three bloggers to reveal sources of insider info?

- which leads into the question of blogging ethics - what do others feel about this - should there be any or not ???

- and another on the power of blogging and what it can mean and do? And in recognising the power of blogging, what is mature and what is not?

- what can we do to gain more respect as bloggers, how to popularise blogging in India in several fields - the arts, non-profits, corporate, media, sports, etc etc etc. What values can we leverage and how?

- and on a very personal note - how do others handle partners/family who don't always understand our addiction or obsession with blogging? My husband calls himself a blog-widower :)

Really looking forward to some good discussion here. Thanks Peter !

Indian, Independent, Individual

What this blog is not

It is not a formal organisation.

Or a union.

It is not a watchdog, it is not going to police anything.

It isn't a crusade, or a revolution snapping at the heels of Mainstream Media.

It isn't a bunch of people who all agree with each other on everything and only want confirmation of their own views.

It isn't a pulpit. Or even a soapbox.

What this blog can be

It can be a circle of virtual armchairs.

It can be a place to discuss bloggers' rights, yes, but also the responsibilities that must come with those rights.

It can be a place where the softer voices - the ones that are not out on the edge preaching to the converted, the ones that don't instantly froth at the mouth when someone says "mainstream media" - can be heard, can exchange views as equals.

Who we are

We're a loose association of Indian bloggers, an informal collective. We all run blogs of our own, some of us contribute to group blogs, some of us write in the mainstream media. We come from various parts of the political spectrum, and we will not bring those issues to this table.

We're banding together for one simple reason. We see the need for a place where we can discuss things that affect us all as bloggers. Nothing more, nothing less.

The rest can be discussed elsewhere.
Independent, Individual, Indian.

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