Of false imaginings [part2].

17 August 2007

Many people might argue that “the Pinoy blogosphere” or “the Filipino blogging community” is simply a buzzword. This may be so, but even if we mean something else when we use it, our intended meaning will be shadowed by what the phrase implies. Remember those times when our elders told us to be careful with our words? This is why.

 

Note that “_the_ Pinoy blogosphere” or even just “Pinoy blogosphere” refers to the blogosphere in the singular. Does this suggest that there is one overarching community (which means it subsumes other communities) of Filipino bloggers? I think so. And I think that this is precisely where Jayvee’s original claim of misrepresentation is coming from. Indeed, if we lumped together all the Filipino blogs, it would be impossible not to misrepresent them. Or consider the ruckus raised about the impressive marketing stint that is “Making money online with a 13-year-old”. Sassy Lawyer says in reaction to the reactions: “Now, I ask: Which community? What is “acceptable”? Exactly! If we weren’t looking at it from a we’re-all-in-this-together point-of-view, the transparency crusaders would all just tell each other to not visit the site instead of wasting time and effort spouting rhetoric which the other side will never pay attention to. And vice versa. I’m not saying that we shouldn’t fight to shape our part of the Internet in the way we want it to be – if we didn’t that would be boring. What I’m just saying is that by ridding ourselves of our false sense of community, we can avoid the ugly fighting that goes with trying to impose our views on others.

 

Correcting our misconceptions about a Pinoy blogosphere is not only a cure. It is also a form of prevention. By establishing that the bases of community are shared interests and beliefs, we avoid making generalizations. Imagine, a newcomer stumbles upon a network of blogs which claims to be members of the Pinoy blogosphere. Said newcomer observes how asinine those blogs are, and how they are mostly geared towards making money. Newbie then arrives at the conclusion that the Pinoy blogosphere is not really such a good place after all. I have read many people complaining about blogging not being fun anymore, about how Filipinos are always politicking, about how blogging is becoming an ugly business. They arrive at those views only because they only see the noisy people, who coincidentally are part of the group that advocates a Pinoy blogosphere.

 

I’m not saying that we should dump our Filipino identity when we go online. I think it is wonderful the way there many communities of Filipino bloggers. Let’s just please dump this concept of a Pinoy blogosphere. Seriously. It doesn’t exist.


Of false imaginings.

16 August 2007

The “misrepresentation” controversy (I’m not linking, I’m sure you know how to do your research) making its rounds in certain blogging circles belies dangerous and false notions that many Filipinos seem to have about blogging.

1. “Pinoy blogosphere” – This concept is problematic but to explore this question, we need to discuss a little social science.

Discussion regarding the nature of a nation tend to get tricky. In most social science classes, however, we go by the formulation “groups of people with a shared language, experience, and culture are nations”. Although technically, the Philippines does not really satisfy all these conditions, our shared historical experience has been enough to bring us together. As a result, the project of nation-building has been extremely hard (think conflict in Mindanao and the sad state of our society in general). Nevertheless, we are able to carry on because there are institutions which help in the effort: the state, school, the family, media, civil society. Their confluence helps us imagine ourselves into a cohesive community.

However, the Internet is different. It is not chopped up into regions and countries. There are no boundaries. There are no laws to be followed beyond those of ethics and conscience. In addition, the Internet allows people to share a culture that is transgeographic. Whereas before, culture is naturally tied to the land, here people from different places can share the same culture. Online, there is no need for a national (that is, country-centric) community. Instead, communities are formed around shared interests and interpersonal relationships.

In this context, is it appropriate to brand the body of blogs authored by Filipinos as the “Pinoy Blogosphere”? The only thing a Filipino’s blog will have in common with all other Filipino’s blogs is that they are both written by Filipinos. This is obviously a very tenuous bond if we consider that nationality has very little relevance online. We can insist on painting all these blogs as being one whole community but that will never be the case. Proof enough is the fact that of all the blogs authored by Filipinos only a small percentage reach out to each other. More proof is the misrepresentation controversy, with people slinging ad hominems everywhere and cries of “down with the elite” suddenly ringing out – all of which indicate that there never was a bond among these people – or if there was, it was wrongly imagined.

This is getting a bit too much for me (and probably you too) to digest right now so I’ll leave the idea here and continue with the implications in a follow-up post.


Let’s make talk small.

14 August 2007

I’ve written before about the online identity crisis I perceive we are having. A lot of people tell me that they are not so positive about having a unified social network because it would give away too much about them. I guess it really is just human nature for us to disclose ourselves to different people with varying levels of openness.

The problem is that doing this online is so much harder than doing it offline. On the Internet we are suddenly faced with an audience a couple of magnitudes bigger. And the thing is, we suddenly have a lot of audiences for every aspect of us. There are people who read your blog for your punditry, people who read you for your little day-to-day stories, people who only want to talk shop, people who want to talk about that latest online game, etc. We can resolve to splitting our online personas and have multiple blogs and presences (like Pownce, Jaiku, Twitter, blah) or we can mash it all up. Either way, we have a dissatisfied audience.

Naked Biff has a solution he calls Open Messaging. He says

Open messaging would allow you to communicate with a targeted audience in a dedicated space created for the occasion, based on what you want to share. The effort of maintaining an online presence to draw people into a conversation disappears

I agree. I haven’t seen anything like this being done on a personal level yet. Naked Biff says they’re working on something. As for me, I think a TechMeme + Technorati + MyBlogLog solution is a good step forward. This allows us to see what is being talked about and imagine the people involved into a community. Amidst all the noise in the blogosphere/web, this allows us to see conversations clearly and “draws” us to them.


The dark side of advertising.

5 August 2007

I have never been too enthusiastic about advertising on blogs. Before yesterday, I always thought that ads were a necessary evil – nobody wants to see ’em but nobody wants to get rid of them either. As if you could get rid of a jillion-dollar industry on which most Internet business models and blog monetization schemes are built on anyway. I’ve given much thought to the nature of advertising, the fact that it seemed to be a driving force in the Internet economy, and whether or not that was a good thing. The mental exercise really left me hot and bothered (and not in a good way).

Not all ads are created equal.

Advertising is necessary. Whether it is right that advertising should appear everywhere is debatable but whether advertising is objectively good is not. In a world as big as ours, there is presently no better way for businesses to make consumers aware of their goods/services. Contextual advertising as made it easier for consumers to find the goods and services they need.

However, not all ads are created equal. I know that there a lot of good advertising campaigns out there. There are also a lot of ‘evil’ ads, which fall under two categories:

  1. Ads that mess with your mind: If you use me, you’re going to be like a star!
  2. Ads that mislead: Make money fast! Hot Pinays from Quezon City want to hook up! (with corresponding pictures of Caucasian women)

I wonder if you, as a blogger, have ever considered that whenever a sleazy company swindles a naive consumer through ads on your site, you are an accessory to the crime.

Not all bloggers are created equal either. 

A lot of “pro”-bloggers talk about how to optimize ad placement to maximize CTR. Even many of the ones who care about their readers only go so far as to provide ‘relevant ads’. What seems to have escaped everyone’s notice is the content of the ads themselves, and how this will affect consumers.

Much of the conversation in blogvertising (in all its forms) is between advertisers and bloggers. Since advertisers are the ones shelling out the moolah, most bloggers only care about making them happy. There are people who write paid reviews about products they’ve never tried. Even more reprehensible are those bloggers who review without full disclosure. In this set-up, readers/consumers are relegated to statistics.

Leveling the playing field.

I think it’s a good thing that people who advertise on their blog make money. In fact, good for them! What pisses me off is that they’re making money at the expense of other people. What pisses me off even more is the fact that some of them don’t give a damn about that.

It’s a good thing that there are people out there who care about this. In fact, I’m part of a team that’s developing something that will empower consumers. It might even kill off the dirty side of blogvertising.


Naming and communities.

3 August 2007

I’ve long been wanting to write this essay and finally something erupted on of my mailing lists that made me see the point my clearly. I first got the notion of this while browsing one of my friend’s photo albums. The collection was titled “SciHi batch 2005 island hopping” or something of that sort. There are around 140+ people in my highschool class. There were around 10-15 people in the pictures. I don’t even recall being invited to a batch island hopping outing.

The point was illustrated even further when I joined the PinoyBlogoSphere mailing list. There was a lot of discussion about spam, about what the mailing list is for, etc. I was chatting with Rocky about our disappointments with the mailing list. My frustration was that it did not reach my expectations. Based on the posts, it seemed that the other bloggers on that list were not on the same wavelength as me.

I found myself disagreeing on the nature of this community. However, I knew that was not just the reason. I thought and thought and thought even harder and it dawned on me that I was disappointed because the bloggers I was looking for were not on that list. Not one of the bloggers in my reader were there. Which got me to thinking – is it right for a group to brand itself the PinoyBlogoSphere if it doesn’t count the majority of Pinoy bloggers as members?

This might simply be an issue of naming but more often than not, there is more to the name than meets the eye. I know this is completely half-baked, but the reason I blog is so that I can get other people to help me flesh out my ideas. I’d really love to hear what you have to say about this.


Regionalistic identification

2 August 2007

Pardon the title but I could not think of any other term to describe it. “It” being the way Filipinos always have to identify themselves with their region. To wit, the on-going Review a Mindanao blog contest.

The main objective of the contest is to highlight and promote blogs made by Mindanaoans.

The Mindanao Blog Directory takes it even further by categorizing blogs according to the specific region, province, and cities their authors hail from. Is there really a need to identify your blog with your place of origin? I’m thinking that this reflect people’s sense of deep-rootedness. An imagination that wherever you are from, there you will always be. A mentality that if you’re a Dabawenyo, your life will center in Davao. Is this kind of world view (or country view?) a good thing or a bad thing? That’s for another discussion.

I can understand why we might want to promote blogs. But to promote blogs simply on the merit of their being made by Mindanaoans, I don’t understand. Is it because we can find no other similarities that we only have a regional identity to rally around? Is this project to prove that Mindanao is not as backward as many people from other regions think it is? I feel like I’m missing out on something and I really want to know. Why?

Update: I just read the official contest guidelines and it turns out that what will be judged are the reviews themselves, and not the blogs they are reviewing. Things get even more confusing.


Getting over the identity crisis.

31 July 2007

Paint me a picture.

When we meet someone in the physical world, we create a mental image of them. We think this image to be complete: there is a face, a name to go with it, and a personality we can animate it with. Of course, this is merely a shallow impression. We will hone this image when we meet him at a coffee shop and have a chat, when we see him dining at a fancy restaurant, when meet him at a party, and through our other encounters. This is comparable to an artist who first sketches a draft and then slowly fills in the details.

On the Internet, the opposite happens. We start with little details – what little we can know of a person through his tweets, pownces, flickr photos, etc – and try to cobble this together in our minds into a coherent whole. Except, we can’t! People switch from one service to another like they change clothes, and even if they didn’t, it would be a pain to follow them around the Internet. At present, we settle for one-dimensional mental images of people. (Some of you will say that search helps in this department but we all know how inadequate that is.)

Icebreaker to the max.

What I’m driving at here is that we need to come up with something that allows people to have a unified online identity. Imagine just how much more value the Internet can provide when we will finally be able to tell who exactly John Doe is in the Internet world. The possibilities that arise when we can see all the Wikipedia entries he has contributed to, all the blog posts he has written, all the things he has ever sold on eBay, all the songs he has listened to on last.fm, and so on and so forth (all subject to privacy limits set by him) are endless and exciting.

This will be like the social sixth sense created by Twitter, only 100X better. This is unlimited ammunition for conversations. This is the kind of thing that will allows us to know each other more, and understand each other more. This will end wars! Just kidding – but you get my point.