BlogCamp India: Day One Report

Chennai, India: Atul Chitnis credits blogging for spurring Domino’s to open a branch near his house in Bangalore. He said his posts about Domino’s not delivering to his neighborhood, a fact commented upon and picked up other Bangalore bloggers, inspired the pizza chain to actually mail him and ask him where he lives. “A branch is soon opening up, well, not next to my house as I would like it to, but close enough for them to deliver.” Neha Viswanathan’s spleen on some of local ICICI Bank’s policies caused the hapless bank to write to her offering to help, she said.

Blogcamp, India’s largest unconference of bloggers—yes, almost 200 people from around India showed up –kicked off with such anecdotes this morning in south Chennai at Tidel Park. According to Blogstreet India, there are some India-based 4,500 blogs in India, with Chennai having the maximum of 368 blogs which tracks some 4,500 India-based blogs, says the country boasts around 80,000 active blogs in total, with Chennai having the maximum of 368 blogs. The stated purpose of Blogcamp is to provide a forum where bloggers “can share their stories and be inspired by innovative and successful blogging experiences.” There was a lot of such sharing on Day One but one got a sense that there was a lot of preaching to the converted.

‘Blogging as a Career,’ a session by Amit Agarwal was one that a lot of the bloggers were looking forward to. I overheard several dewy-eyed, young ‘uns going up to Agarwal saying they were really looking forward to hearing how he makes money as a professional blogger. The session proved to be a bit of a damp squib as Agarwal, a) didn’t volunteer the exact amount he makes, which is what people (unfairly?) really wanted to hear b) his tips were, well, a bit trite c) some participant started to dispute adsense numbers and Agarwal instead of dealing with it head on insisted, “we can talk about it offline,” whatever that means.

One rather tasteless (depending on your taste) shill came from either an organizer or someone with Yahoo India. “If you haven’t tried the beta upgrade of Yahoo mail, you must try it now!…Ever wished you could backup an SMS from a special person? With Yahoo’s new beta you can!” Methinks the hard-sell didn’t work. Syed Nazir Razik, sitting in the audience and unable to resist, added, “It’s similar to Outlook and takes a long time to load even if you have a broadband connection.” Nokia, also a sponsor, had a stall to enlighten people about its Nseries phone, useful for mobile blogging. Thankfully they kept it on the down low. Also, an Intel India representative was there scouting for bloggers for this! (Call her!)

On Day Two participants have a video cast by Robert Scoble to look forward to. I, though, can’t wait to see and hear cricketing legend Sunil Gavaskar, in the flesh, talking about podcasting. And if Yahoo India’s shills are what it takes to get to hear the original ‘Little Master,’ all is forgiven Yahoo I!

Notes from the sidelines:

Nevertheless the participants were rewarded for their efforts (okay, they will say attending was reward enough) with, among other small thingamajigs, a pretty decent backpack with sponsor Yahoo India’s logo and a very, very large T-Shirt (judging by the one I got) that said on the back, “I am blogging this.” And some of them were, thanks to Sify providing WiFi and the organizers Kiruba Shankar et al ensuring plug points for everyone to connect their laptops to—a rarity in electricity-starved India’s buildings. Getting into the first world groove, the first thing most did on entering the large auditorium was to whip out their laptops and check their mail. Most continued to surf through the day ;-) .

Geek sessions (’Introduction to Word Press,’ ‘Word press Hacks,’ etc) were held in a conference room above the auditorium where the non-geeks interested in discussing things like, “Disaster Blogging’ and “Group Blogging Strategies,’ hung out. It was all nice and friendly on the face of it but there was a definite competitive undercurrent, and I’m sure Veer Chand Bothra’s announcement of the launch of blogstreetindia 2.0 didn’t help any. “Many people have complained about our rankings and with this new version we hope to improve,” he said. (Witnessed a lot of rolling of eyes at that statement.) Hopefully thing will improve for the ranking service in the near future.

Explore posts in the same categories: BlogCamp, Citizen Journalism

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