blogging3. The World Blogging Forum - session 1

09.30 OK, here I am, I arrived and installed my hardware, and I hope my mobile connection shall not cause any trouble. I took the first contact with the Parliament's Palace, like an hour ago, and I had the same feeling of amazement and being-crushed-like by the absolute hugeness of the building as the last time I visited it, last year. My impression still is that this Palace is so huge that is is not quite functional. I had to walk like 10 minutes to find the coffee shop. [Update 11.00: so far, I like the organization of the event. Minor, if any, inconveniences. The organizers even brought a string quartet for the coffee break.]

Some of the big names arrived and I feel just like a rookie among them.

09.37 The Romanian President, Traian Basescu, came. The event started.

09.38 Welcoming speech by Mr. Dumitru Bortun. Next, the Romanian President holds the first speech on the subject of the Forum, in Romanian.

The President speaks about the new communication medias, then about the Romanian blogosphere. The number he gives is 100,000 blogs in Romania, with about half of them using publicity. A big part of the Romanian blogs discuss political subjects, many of them with a very good analysis. That because - the President says - many journalist prefer to discuss political matters independently on a blog, rather than submitting their work to media holdings and to their control. The President did not miss the opportunity to attack media holdings and their owners, thus praising the independence the internet provides.

Next, the President speaks about the question of freedom of expression on the internet and the recent virtual wars in Estonia and Georgia, as well as the mini-revolution in Chisinau.

In conclusion - the President says - as well as liberty, responsibility is an important issue on the internet, both being essential to the functioning of the new medias. You cannot ask for responsibility without freedom, you cannot speak of freedom without responsibility. The main concept the president wants to propose is self-regulation. Also, a few words on technology - it should not be used as a mean for surveillance.

In the very end, the President speaks against violence on the internet, demanding for the establishing of a set of rules by the bloggers themselves.

10.00 Speech of Mr. Daniel Buda, president of the Juridical Commission of the Romanian Chamber of Deputies. He speaks of the freedom of expression and pluralism, and wishes the best to the Forum.

10.05 Speech of Mr. Gabriel Badescu, president of the Romanian Agency for Governmental Strategies. His speech concerns civic associations, civic involvement and democracy, transition and how Romania evolved, stating that differences on this matter still persist between Romania and the West. He also wishes the best to the Forum.

10.10 Short welcoming speech of Miss Mihaela Draghici, president of ASLS, the organizer of the Forum.

10.11 Speech of Mr. Loic LeMeur, blogger and entrepreneur.

He speaks about his work, the companies he created (Seesmic) or the events (LeWeb, Paris). Then, Loic LeMeur speaks about the steps communication took throughout history: telephone, telegraph, cinema and TV, and finally the internet (for the very first time there is a possibility of both conversational and mass communication at the same time). Professional media has lost its dominant position, for the very simple reason that there are more bloggers than journalists, and for the fact that information is transmitted faster on Twitter, for instance, than on the classic medias. Then, speaking of recent news (the shooting in Texas), Loic LeMeur calls for responsibility and respect of privacy. Information should, too, be treated with care.

About blogging, on a lower key: it is complicated, intensive, takes a lot of time; also, in politics and enterprise blogging mostly failed because it is not authentic.

(Short) Conclusion of Loic LeMeur: anyone should build a community and a brand online.

10.30 Break

11.00 The break is over.

11.05 From China, Zhou Shuguang, in English. His presentation is called "Across the Great (Fire) Wall". Some of the slides are in Chinese, and thus they are more difficult to understand.

He speaks about the status of the digital media and censorship in China. Numbers: 340,000,000 internet users, 40,000 internet "policemen", 500,000 websites, 80 people in jail for the last year.

He speaks about URL filtering, self-censorship (IP blocking), the control of mainland hosting and the blocking of the overseas independent sites. For instance, Chinese from the mainland cannot acces overseas Chinese sites. Some overseas hosting IPs are blocked in China, and some popular Web2.0 sites are also blocked.

In order to access news from China, proxies are necessary, but also normal methods, like RSS, which is very important, since Twitter for instance is blocked.

11.20 Questions, one concerning Google search and the other concerning the Chinese Twitter and the freedom of use on it. The third question is a demand for an example of problems that can determine the blocking of a Chinese blog by the Chinese authorities. The answer of Zhou Shuguang is that most of the social problems can determine that measure.

11.30 Wael Abbas from Egypt. He begins by saying that he cannot hold a proper presentation, since it is impossible to bring a laptop or electronic devices over the Egyptian border as an independent blogger.

The Egyptian media is controlled tightly by the State. Access to the Journalists' Syndicate is difficult. At times, papers are delayed in the printing process, sometimes the videotapes are confiscated from TV stations, some papers are closed. So, there is a need for a new media in Egypt, since the internet is less controlled.

Wael Abbas speaks about blogging in Egypt, its advantages (like interactivity and independence, including financial independence), about the fact that the Egyptian printed press, at a time, took materials from the blogs without concern for the rights, the fact that the Egyptian bloggers imposed to the media important subjects (such as torture, sexual harassment, discrimination towards minorities). One Egyptian blogger was condemned to 4 years in jail, others were character-assassinated (including Wael Abbas), some bloggers were arrested for 2 months for participation in different events.

As a conclusion, Wael Abbas thinks that recent crackdown on Egyptian bloggers is not a reason for optimism, but at the same time, the impact of Egyptian blogs upon the society is not to be neglected, as Egyptians are better informed about their rights and some changes are visible exactly because of the activity of the Egyptian bloggers.

11.55 The moderator concludes: a case of false freedom of expression was made clear by the presentation of Wael Abbas. A question concerning the Egyptian NGOs.

12.05 Jeff Jedras speaks about blogging in Canada. He gives a description of the Canadian trends in the blogosphere, about some challenges (transparency issues, some conflicts with the press).

12.13 a question about Facebook (it is very popular in Canada), coming from David Sasaki - could this popularity be a reason for a lower extent of blogging? / another question about activism in Canada. Jeff Jedras speaks about the question of visas - demanded now - for Mexico and Romania.

12.21 Michael Reuter from Germany (Munich) speaks about blogging in Germany. One issue is about the small reach that most of the blogs still have, and thus about the need for aggregation platforms with specific content.

Three ideas:

1. we should have in freer countries platforms with content about situation in non-democratic countries;
2. we should try to aggregate content on platforms, to have bigger platforms with more reach;
3. (political) bloggers should be able to monetize from their blogs, so that they have the possibility to live from their blog and thus to be protected from external pressure (example: The Huffington Post).

12.31 questions: about credibility of monetized blogs addressing political issues.

12.36 Ramon Stoppelenburg from The Netherlands speaks about his experience with monetization for specific travel purposes and his website - www.letmestayforaday.com. That gave him the possibility to visit 18 countries without spending any money at all, to communicate with people from different cultures. His idea is that the more we share, the more we understand each other.

12.46 questions / a comment about a Romanian blogger visiting Mongolia in a similar way (www.mongolia.ro).

12.52 Mattias Dobo from Hungary speaks about social media in Hungary. The question he raises is about how to get attention, because much information is actually lost and freedom of speech does not mean very much anymore. He thinks blogs can get better attention by addressing business matters primarily, and that - now - bloggers are too small to act for themselves, so specific applications are needed.


13.14 Andrea Vascellari from Finland asks the word. He speaks about citizen journalism and a personal recent experience he had (concerning a shooting in a public school), and also about the ethical aspects of being a citizen journalism (he refused for instance to interview people affected by that situation, and mainly to do anything else than reporting on the situation).

13.34 Lunch break. For the afternoon session, I shall begin a new post.

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