TODAY: Just a boring bloggers’ night out?

Bellydancers swayed, SPG partied, tips changed hands. So who yawned?

IT was a big week for the blogging community in Singapore.
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First, we blogged about the National Kidney Foundation saga to death, then we attended the first-ever Singapore Bloggers’ Conference, Bloggers.SG.
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In what The Sunday Times called “a big yawn”, bloggers from around the island attended a two-segment conference on Saturday that started in the morning at the Woodlands Regional Library and stretched the afternoon and night at DXO (the new NTUC nightspot) at the Esplanade.
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There was even a queue outside the afternoon venue, despite National Day Parade rehearsal-induced multiple road closures.


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Breakout sessions included technical tips on blogging, by “master bloggers”, such as mr brown (www.mrbrown.com), Preetam Rai and Xiaxue (www.xiaxue.blogspot.com), and a segment on the legal ramifications of blogging.
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It was such “a yawn”, this whole thing, and the sit-down bits of the conference was wrapped up with a belly-dancing performance by a group (www.bellydance. com.sg) which volunteered for the occasion.
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(As blogger Trompe L’oeil recaps: “The metal railings creaked under strain as the men leaned forward to get a better view of the sultry second dancer … I could swear the air in the darkened enclosure was hanging thick with the heady scent of lust.”).
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Speaking of volunteers, it has to be said that the only people who were paid to be at the conference were the DXO staff (and even then, DXO supplied them to the conference free-of-charge) and the news reporters.
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Every other person, from the stage crew, panel speakers, ushers and photographers came, attended and supplied their own services on their own time.
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We learnt useful blogging tips too. Blogger Tym (www.toomanythoughts.org/blog) went home and played with her new-found technical skills to track online conversations about her at the conference.
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And, oh, to meet bloggers we’d never got to see before in the flesh, now that was a treat.
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Blogger Sarong Party Girl (www.sarongpartygirl.blogspot.com) turned up after The Sunday Times reporters left, which is a pity. Because, if they had stayed on, they might have had the chance to witness that the Sarong Party Girl without her sarong is still pretty much a Party Girl.
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Maybe the “mainstream media” (bloggers’ definition of anything in print or broadcast content) just didn’t pay enough attention, and expected everything to happen as things normally would in the real world. Blogger Tym observed of several reporters:
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“I overheard a press photographer remarking querulously to his reporter colleague, “No banner outside, nobody at the door — all so secretive”.
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“I saw another reporter repeatedly approach different conference organisers, entreating their assistance in unmasking a hitherto unidentified-in-real-life blogger, because she’d decided that was the angle for her story …
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“How could they be expected to make sense of a non-profit event that doesn’t need a banner because its main target audience gets the information directly from the organisers via the Web, not the mainstream media or a banner hanging outside a community centre?
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“How could they expect to interview, let alone unmask, a popular blogger, when the local blogosphere thrives on goodwill and (largely) mutual tolerance and respect — not just for the views expressed in each other’s blogs but also for personal decisions to reveal/conceal personal information, including one’s identity?”
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By all other bloggers’ accounts, the conference went very well. Even if the legal panel moderator, Daryl Sng (www.dsng.net), had to leave because he was activated by his army unit’s mobilisation exercise, the segment still went on as smoothly as the back-channel would allow.
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The “back-channel” is an online chatroom that allowed conference audiences (on location and off) to make comments about the panel in real-time, with the “live” transcript screened behind the panel speakers.
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Every now and then, the audience would burst out laughing at the comments, while the panel was discussing some issue seriously.
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If anything, this constant stream of interruption, bordering on the chaotic, encapsulates what the online community is about: Random bits of information, hurtling from every direction, carrying different opinions and voices, masking different faces and personalities – but coming together to make a fluid, organic and community-based entity whose significance is greater than the sum of its parts.
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Mr Miyagi a.k.a. Benjamin Lee, has been entertaining blog readers for a year, and is very sorry for not having enough time to talk to Sunday Times reporters. (His blog can be found at http://myveryownglob.blogspot.com)

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