March 08, 2006

Not always at bloggerheads

I called it "Not A Face-Off", and I wrote it slightly differently. But the guys at TimeOut Mumbai improved it. My article on bloggers and their meets, in the current issue (March 10-23, 2006).

***

Not always at bloggerheads

A friend called: join me and a few blogger pals for coffee? Sure, I said. After all, I like the guy, and I thought I could use an hour just chilling. Seems like a good idea to meet at the nearby Barista, talk cricket, tsunami, travel, this and that. Good time, tasty coffee concoction or two, head home.

If you've been hibernating since the fall of the towers, here's what you need to know: Bloggers are webizens who put their thoughts on public view. It's instant publishing: no editors, no deadlines. Write and be read is the allure. Still, after a while of reading on screen comes the urge to put faces to opinions. Even webizens want to meet each other. So Mumbai's bloggers meet failry regularly, usually at a coffee joint. Word of such meetings is, unfortunately, still available only if you're already a blogger and know where to look. (Desipundit.com, a daily compendium of interesting Indian blog entries, is a good place to check).

The morning after, one already had his impressions of the meet up. Following my modem's blinking lights to his blog, I found this: "I'm sure you are all wondering what happens when a bunch of free-market cheerleaders face-off against one leftist."

His description of the evening: "Face-off".

I'm the "leftist" he meant, see, and the others were free-market types. Hey, you might have thought this was just shooting the breeze, downing brown stuff. But it really was an ideological war.

Now "leftist" hardly mattered, but I was stunned by "face-off". I mean, plenty of my friends think along diverging ideological lines. Yet we meet, chat, argue, play tennis, swap notes on girls (well, in the past tense). What friends do. Never has anyone called this a "face-off."

But then they are not bloggers, or one breed of bloggers at any rate. And somewhere in there is the essence of a modern phenomenon.

The freewheeling world of the Web attracts people looking for the last great frontier of individualism. They like that Wild West quality, the lack of rules. They think of themselves as "very bright" (an actual quote) and forthright. So they are fiercely combative, ready to do battle. My coffee companion that evening saw the world as disparate camps itching for face-offs. Fine, but must everyone else see it that way too?

Yet within the camp, forthrightness and individualism fade like vanishing cream, and kid gloves appear. It's suddenly "we bloggers" -- who can never criticize mediocrity among us, nor even crass behaviour. Because don't "we" think alike?

Almost as a corollary, there's anger that mainstream media -- "MSM" -- won't take bloggers seriously. MSM has its weaknesses, sure. But it has at least a few animals every writer could use: good editors. Because a good editor gives you the best gift you'll ever get: he tells you when you're writing crap (with no kid gloves on). Instant publishing is so seductive, it's possible few bloggers recognize the great worth of that gift. Therefore, I suspect, the resentment of MSM.

With participants bursting with charms like these, bloggers' meets must be unbearably dreary affairs. Right?

Wrong. The next time I met a gang of bloggers, one told me: "Nobody reads what you write! Nobody wants to read what you write! How do you earn a living if nobody reads you?"

Such excitement.

No but really, some of my best friends are bloggers.

But seriously: many bloggers, those to whom ego means nothing, are normal, charming people. They talk, bake delicious puddings, like to travel. Some are outstanding photographers. I know one who won a poetry-by-SMS contest. Another combines technology, politics and sharp-but-never-cutting humour in a delight of a blog. Yes, people much like your friends.

Though I bet your friends don't have this cherry on top: a truly endearing tendency to refer to people by web addresses and blog monikers. How can you not like a guy who says, twinkle firmly in place: "Last week in Delhi, I met Ball Toad, Black Pad and Minorly Orbiting Fun Days! We had fun."

Note: this is not a face-off.

20 comments:

Abi said...

It just occurred to me that I once had a face-off in Bangalore with 'Death Ends Fun'.

Quelle Horreur!

Dilip D'Souza said...

Yeah, but Abi, were you able to quell the horror?

Abi said...

No, not yet. I am still working on it ...

Man, death certainly is no fun.

Roshan said...

nice :-)

why do some bloggers want MSM to "take them seriously"? why does it matter one way or another?

Jo said...

"I'm not leftist, I'm not rightist, I'm a typist"

LOL man!!! :-))

Jo said...

Bloggers who demand MSM to take them seriously will make the spirit of blogging too low!

Shivam said...

great piece!

Hope to have a face-off with you this Sunday :)

zigzackly said...

[s]Six-guns[/s] Cellphones at dawn?

Patrix said...

Gosh! we forgot to "face-off" when we met up but then I belong to neither "camp" :)I just sit on the sides, watch the fun, and then link it on DesiPundit :)

km said...

Has there ever been bloody violence in one of these blog meetups is what I'd like to know.

Pompous Ani said...

Shit man, I was hoping one of those guys would come here and call you a troll or something (because your argument is logically fallacious).

I know it's irritating but you've written about these guys and their ilk many times. I've come across them too. There's no sense in complaining again and again.

Plijh to note, I don't mean to preach. It's just something I noticed in Delhi. We wasted more than an hour talking about these guys. So, this time, even when Vulturo behaved idiotically I forgot about it in a day or two.

Anonymous said...

Good to note that the elite-chop-me-a-penis-blogger TTG wasn't around. Else 'face-off' would have been some dicks off.

Yazad Jal said...

Dilip

Being present in some of the blog meets you talk about, I have a slightly different perspective on the "face-off" and the "Nobody reads what you write!" parts of this post. If I remember right, I think you've been a bit uncharitable in both cases.

Regarding the "face-off", the post is online and maybe reading it in context might help. Here's relevant excerpt:

I was meeting Dilip D’Souza and Amit Varma for the first time. I know the question on all your minds is, “what happens when four supporters of the free market face off against one left-of-centre guy? Why aren’t the capitalists writing about it? Do they have anything to hide?”

Let me assure you, nothing happened. Dilip turned out to be a rather softspoken guy, not the type who’d get into verbal arguments (I too fall into that category, incidentally)


Do read the whole post.

Regarding the "nobody reads what you write," I'm not sure if those were the exact words used. I'd like the blogger concerned to clarify if he/she wishes to. But to my knowledge, the gist was that blogs don't have a big readership and it's difficult to make money from writing on blogs (an opinion I think you agree with).

Your version does sound more colourful though!

Charu said...

if you got my sms (not msn), I read this on time out and then came here and found it... was wondering you had posted it here and the comments. tame. disappointing.

Sunil said...

i haven't had a face-off with any bloggers in a meet.

Now, only the ok corral will do for me.

Dilip D'Souza said...

km, there's violence all the time. Come join in. Next meeting, Shivam's planning to beat me up.

Pompous A, Please don't say things like that (comment about vulturo). Let's keep this civil.

Yaz, i should have known you would find my comments uncharitable. It does remind me of email you have promised to send me about other comments, uncharitable or otherwise. I am still waiting.

To my recollection, those were the exact words used, and it specifically referred to more than just my blog writing.

Yazad Jal said...

Hi Dilip

Said email replied to.

zap said...

It will do us well to remember that :

All people are not bloggers.
AND
All bloggers are people.

zap said...

except my terribly intelligent pet dog[who is called Kutte, just so that i get some kicks calling him his name] who has his own blog...

Anirudh said...

Ah! I don't completely agree with the "editors" bit. A lot of them don't much care about good writing.