BloggerCon IV Attracts Buzzing Group of Online Scribes

Reporter's Notebook: A group of bloggers meet to discuss citizen journalism, the need for better blogging tools and more.

SAN FRANCISCO—BloggerCon IV: Now here is one event at which a person with a laptop computer can set it down on a table or chair in a roomful of strangers, go to get a cup of coffee or a bottle of water, and not have to worry about whether someone will run off with it in the meanwhile.

Why? Because everyone else already has a laptop, and most of them are probably newer and better than the one youre leaving there, anyway.

A buzzing crowd of about more than 200 bloggers took time off from their jobs, their vacations—and their regular blogging duties—on June 23 to attend the fourth BloggerCon event in the first-floor meeting room at CNet headquarters in the South of Market district. The event continues through June 24.

So, what were they all doing, starting at 8 oclock in the morning? Why, talking about blogging—and blogging at the same time, of course. Topics for general discussion included blogging tools, citizen journalism, blogging, standards for users, blogging and the emotional life of bloggers.

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"Im surprised anybodys here this early," said one of the organizers, Sylvia Paull. "Bloggers arent usually morning people."

But come they did, from as far away as Nashville (site of a past BloggerCon), and as close as one block away (Ziff Davis Media headquarters, at 101 Second Street).

Everything about this event was transparent, free and public, from the list of attendees to the free admission, free coffee and free bottles of water. There was plenty of free advice about good blogging publishers, good blogging tools and good recordingware for podcasts.

There was nothing commercial about this event. No sponsors (except CNet, indirectly, which donated use of the room), no exhibit floor, no ads, no promoted products, no hawking salesmen. It was a true anti-conference.

Phil Torrone of Make Magazine, who led the blogging tools discussion, made the point that "companies are not putting enough attention and money into showing people how to use products instead of just marketing and selling products."

For example, he said, "Kodak made a camera with Wi-Fi, called the Easy Share camera ... it uploads images only to Kodak servers. It is neither easy, nor does it share," Torrone said. "But that didnt stop me from finding a workaround [so someone could upload to another server] and blogging about it."

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Blogging should be educational, informational and useful, Torrone said. "Things that most people take for granted, they really dont know about," he said. "Youd be surprised at how many people dont know what a right-click does. Right-click? Whats that? I do that and weird [stuff] comes up."

Many participants at the conference said they wanted better blogging tools. "I built a coffee table once, and it took me longer to write and post the blog about the documentation of it than it took to build the table itself," one blogger said.

"I want an automatic link-producing device, so I can set my cursor to embed the link into the post Im writing," said Jay Rosen, a journalism professor at NYU. "Just go somewhere, click and I have a link. That would be cool."

Blog search engines werent favored. "Theyre overrun with spam," said another blogger. "BlogSpot is overrun, WordPress is even worse ... comments are full of links to garbage."

The conference even featured a little music. There was the recorded, jazz-rock kind in between sessions. Someone tried to sing the Beatles "All You Need Is Love." And there was an impromptu live version of "Do the Hokey Pokey" to kick off the unusual proceedings, which were—naturally—blogged in real time via IRC (Internet Relay Chat). Sessions were immediately turned into MP3s, and they remain up on the event site.

Some of the folk heroes of blogdom were in attendance, people like grassroots journalist Dan Gillmor, author of the best-selling "We the Media" in 2004. He also serves as the director of the Center for Citizen Media, a project affiliated with Harvard University and the University of California, Berkeley.

"Yes, I am thinking of writing another book, but with a different take," Gillmor said. "By the way, We the Media is now out in paperback."

Other notables present included organizers Dave Winer, Doc Searles and Rosen, veteran journalist Rafe Needleman, Broadband Mechanics CEO Marc Canter, Dori Smith of Backup Brain, BusinessWeeks Rob Hof, Lisa Williams, ZDNets Steve Gillmor and Dan Farber, and many more.

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Chris Preimesberger

Chris J. Preimesberger

Chris J. Preimesberger is Editor-in-Chief of eWEEK and responsible for all the publication's coverage. In his 13 years and more than 4,000 articles at eWEEK, he has distinguished himself in reporting...