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Sunday, July 17, 2005

Bloggers.SG

Nametag
Bloggers.SG was held yesterday at DXO, the NTUC (local labour union)-owned-and-operated nightclub at The Esplanade. It was scheduled to start at 2pm and end at 6pm, with a sponsored party after that.

I had volunteered to help at the conference, initially as a videographer, then when the venue was moved to DXO (which has its own crewpeople), as tech support for folks with problems using the wireless network. All of the volunteers were supposed to meet at 12pm. When I arrived at 12:15pm, there were only two or three other volunteers, besides the organisers. Ha, I forgot that we're still working on Singaporean time.

Lexmark had sponsored four printers and up to 500 free 4x6 (4R) photograph prints. I helped to set up the printers, which was really as easy as taking them out of their boxes and plugging in the power cord. When more volunteers arrived, we chatted for a while, were introduced to one another, then taken on a tour of DXO. This was my first time there and it seemed to me like any other nightclub in town, i.e. dance floor, central bar, exclusive private rooms, etc.

One of the rooms was used for the organisers and volunteers to keep their stuff. While we chilled out there before the event, I saw Lee Kin Mun aka mrbrown, Benjamin Lee aka Mr Miyagi, and Wendy Cheng aka xiaxue. And I needed someone to point out that the plumpish man dressed in long-sleeve shirt and tie was Malaysia's very own Kenny Sia aka kennysia.

BTW notice that I'm not linking to these "blogebrities" (blog celebrities). They're so popular that they don't need someone like me to link to them.

At about 1:30pm, word was buzzing that there was already a queue outside the door. Like celebrity-crazy fans, a few of us rushed outside... and saw about 20-30 people waiting in line. The doors were eventually opened and we helped to usher people to the dance floor, which had chairs laid out already.

Meanwhile, James Seng aka jseng briefed a few of us that some people might experience wifi problems because of the strangely weak reception in spite of having five base stations spread out over two floors in a place that was definitely much smaller than Bill Gates' house (and he probably only needs two base stations). As luck would have it, I was never asked to troubleshoot any network-related problems and I assume that everything went on without a hitch.

The conference started at 2:15pm or so. The first order of the day was an introduction to various local blogging communities. The few that I remember are an Indian expatriate community, a marine nature community, students from Temasek and Victoria Junior Colleges who blog for a government-sponsored blogging competition, and a community called "barflies" that engage in quite a number of alcohol-indulgence-related activities. Sorry, I don't know their web addresses.

There was a break at 3pm (refershments sponsored by government organisation, SHINE) and I chatted with my cousin. He remarked that this conference was a gathering of geeks, even if the attendees wouldn't admit to it. I agree to a certain point, since one needs some level of understanding about and comfort with various technologies to blog.

The next segment was a discussion on the legal aspects of blogging, e.g. defamation, copyright, etc. In summary, whatever goes on in the real world can be applied to a blogosphere. Just keep one thing in mind: we're in Singapore, not the United States, so we are subject to local laws in spite of how high-falutin' we may be.

One topic that got my attention was about Creative Commons. There is a growing movement to embrace this, especially in the U.S., but in Singapore, there are again no explicit laws to protect Creative Commons works in spite of the free trade agreement with the U.S., so it's really up to the copyright owner to defend his rights. Ideally, anyone who uses Creative Commons (including me) should never have to deal with such legal problems.

As the panel for the third segment prepared themselves, a video from Shaun Chng was shown, partly because he had "promoted" himself during the first segment. His video was of the last days of military training before his batch was done with national service.

The third segment covered some blogging-related tools that the average blogger may not be aware of. Kin Mun raved about Flickr, especially moblogging (mobile blogging), and demonstrated how he was able to email a picture to Flickr, and it would appear on his personal blog in mere moments. The catch, which he neglected to mention, is that this is not free. First, you need to subscribe to GPRS and/or 3G mobile service provided by your phone operator. Then you need to subscribe to the premium features of Flickr to enjoy this level of moblogging.

If there is one thing I learned from this segment, it's this: tools exist that can be used by anyone if he is either willing to pay and/or is comfortable in dealing with technology. For the young who are technologically saavy, money is likely to be an issue. I know it is for me. For those who are older and have deeper pockets, their use of computers may only be limited to what they know, e.g. writing documents, reading e-mails, browsing the web. Ask them to fiddle with RSS or design their own templates? That may be quite a task.

When the issue of trackbacks came up, Angela asked me what it was, and I did my best to explain since I hardly use it myself. Apparently, she's writing her own blogging tool/program that will pull together the best parts of the various blogging tools (e.g. Blogger, LiveJournal, etc.) already available. And I learned from her how exactly a computer would receive and decode an SMS. Apparently, all one needs is a gadget that accepts a SIM card and is plugged into the computer. It then receives SMSes and transfers them to the computer to handle. I may need to look into that one day.

The conference ended with a belly dance performance. That, of course, attracted the attention of the audience, especially the men. Lots of camera flashes went off. And when they were done, the dancers were willing to pose for photos with the bloggers.

For dinner, I joined a few volunteers: Angela, Yanying, Stephanie and Jeff. We just went to the crowded Marina Centre food court. Over dinner, we learned a bit more about one another, e.g. what we did (3/5 of us were students, Yanying is a graphic designer), where we lived, etc. And we made recommendations of our dinners, e.g. what was good, what should be avoided.

We returned to DXO at about 7:30pm or so and just hung out there. I talked with Jeff and learned about the difficulties faced by support groups for mental patients, e.g. finding volunteers, getting publicity, etc. But it seems like a worthwhile service.

MSN (Microsoft Network) had sponsored the club's premises and free flow of drinks from 6:30-9:30pm. We sat at the balcony and chatted over drinks. I started with a gin tonic and moved to a vodka orange juice.

We were happily enjoying our night when the peace was broken by loud explosions. These were the fireworks from the National Day Parade rehearsal, which was at the Padang. Given our proximity, we had a prime view of the display. Quite a few rushed to see it, again, like celebrity-crazed fans. I also heard some cheering and clapping. All of this reminded me of the fireworks that I saw in Madison every Fourth of July aka Independence Day.

Yew Jin and Chin joined us later. And we met Terence and Tracy. We also played a trick on Chin: we insisted that Yew Jin had joined the five of us for dinner, not him. He was so taken in by us that he had to ask Adri aka Popagandhi to confirm that Yew Jin had joined them instead.

Jeff, who is a psychology student, remarked that this was a classic case of conditioning (or something like that) conformity. Anyway, it was a good laugh for all of us there. Sorry, Chin!

On a sidenote, Jeff also became more open and talkative. He apparently doesn't drink and just had two gin tonics. A classic case of alcohol lowering one's inhibitions?

We noticed that the only patrons at the nightclub were the bloggers themselves. I remarked about how dead the place must be on other days, considering that this was a Saturday night. Even when I left, the dance floor was stark empty. It seems like not all union members are party animals. Is DXO a drain on NTUC's funds?

BTW besides the other bloggers mentioned, I also caught sight of Silly Celly (who I recognised but didn't know who she was until I heard someone mention her name), Cowboy Caleb (whose identity is supposed to be a secret but someone in our group recognised him), Agagooga (whom I somehow recognised because of his long hair even though I had never seen a picture of him), and Sarong Party Girl (with her Caucasian beau). The newspaper reported today that Sandralicious was also there and mentioned that she was apparently the sexiest blogger there. I didn't get to see her though so I can't comment.

It was a long day and I finally left at about 10:45pm. For me, the conference was less about what blogging is about and more about bringing bloggers together. For almost all of us, we are just faceless individuals who write online. So this was a chance to "expose" ourselves somewhat. Of course, a few chose not to reveal their blogging persona, and that's just fine. And there were those who already knew other bloggers and remained within their cliques.

So from a networking perspective, I think Bloggers.SG was a success.

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8 comments:

Sivasothi said...

Nice write up, thanks!

Rescend said...

Bumped into your site through bloggers.sg

Very informative write up on the event. I wish I could make it. Sounded quite interesting.

Dude could I like ask you a few questions regarding blogging? I'm new to it and I've been looking for someone to approach.

Please mail me @ rescend@pacific.net.sg

Thanks =)

Kevin said...

Good write up from your perspective. I just feel that it's more like a meet and greet session for blog celebrities. Needs more involvement from the rest of the blogosphere, not just the celebrities.

jeffyen said...

Nice writeup! BTW, it's actually conformity... ;)

Cowboy Caleb said...

thanks for coming!!!

Fiona said...

Think "Xiaxue" is actually Wendy Cheng...

Wow! So interesting. I didn't go. *Sob, sob!*

Yuhui said...

Fiona: thanks!

Bah! What was I thinking???

Chin said...

Hey Yuhui, the 5 monkeys story I told can be found here http://insaintly-yours.blogspot.com/2005/07/tradition-explained-through-scientific.html

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