A Blogazine, based out of Park Slope, Brooklyn, that features fun and interesting articles. Topics include: parenting, society, real estate, career, style, spirituality and more. Written contributions are always welcome!

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Brooklyn Blogfest - For Goodness Sake, Blog Responsibly!

Brooklyn Blogfest took place a week ago last Thursday on May 8th. As a “new kid on the blog” my attendance felt a little like a coming out party to me. I debated whether I should go or not. Events like these inevitably always trigger my inner introvert. I can only imagine just how many other Brooklyn Bloggers felt the same way. In the end, however, my curiosity won out. I’m glad I went because I got to see the inner workings of a new and diverse blog culture that has been springing up in Brooklyn now for some time. According to OutsideIn.com, a website that tracks neighborhood blogging, Brooklyn, N.Y., was the “bloggiest neighborhood” nationwide in a report they put together last year. The website’s chief executive Steven Berlin Johnson suggested that in a neighborhood such as Brooklyn “undergoing gentrification is often fertile territory for location-specific blogs, and not only is Brooklyn gentrifying; it's also filled with people who either "write for a living or who want to write for a living".

All sorts of bloggers were in attendance at the Brooklyn Blogfest this year. Thanks to Louise Crawford, of Only The Blog Knows Brooklyn who organized the successful event. Brooklyn Bloggers came in all shapes and flavors, you can see some of their portraits taken by Hugh Crawford online HERE. They ranged from artistic to geeky, cynical to sublime, irreverent to erudite, comical to die-hard. Admittedly, I experienced the whole evening like some odd, out of place visitor to a foreign country. Only recently have I become fascinated by blogging culture, yet even though I am a new blogger, I’m still feeling somewhat uncommitted. Perhaps, this is because I still don’t quite consider myself a true writer. This is also why I didn’t pose for a picture that night or take part in the “Shout Out” at the end of the evening when all the bloggers came on stage and shouted out their blog addresses along with a brief description of their site. Ok…perhaps it was also a combination of my occasional debilitating shyness combined with a fear that I would be mercilessly heckled on stage when I announced that I had a blog dedicated to interesting Park Slope women, many of whom happen to be PS moms. Even though PS mom hating is kind of out of style, for some reason we’re still a controversial lot. You either love us or you hate us. Despite my apprehension, as a mere observer of this phenomenon, I find blogging to be a great democratic tool.

Many Journalists are now viewing bloggers as somewhat of a threat. Gersh Kuntzman, the editor of The Brooklyn Paper was at the event and he half-joked about how standard journalism is a dead medium and how bloggers are pioneers of the new media. Even though there are seasoned bloggers, who have been doing this since before 1998, I still consider this the dawn of a blogging phenomenon that is sowing the seeds for new innovative forms of journalism, public discourse, interactivity and online community. Many newspapers today are clumsily grasping at viable online business models that will replicate the kind of interactive rapport, emotional disclosure and insight of everyday people that many blogs deliver. The wave of the future is not about sterile, one-sided dissemination of information, but rather about real conversation that includes the good, the bad and the ugly. I guess in some ways it falls in line with the advent of reality TV. In this medium, everyone gets to have their 15 minutes (or more) of fame. Similarly, with blogging even the most obscure of us get to have at least 15 seconds of undivided attention on an RSS feed. Many people have become local or national celebrities, written books and become entrepreneurs because of their blogs. In effect, a blogger's personality can become their online "Brand" and that brand can be highly marketable.

Aside from patting ourselves on the back all evening for a job well done, several speakers briefly touched upon the foibles, growing pains and ‘lessons learned’ of being a responsible pioneer blogger in this day and age. I think Brooklyn Skeptic summarized some of the speakers topics best below:

  • Bed-Stuy Banana talked about the flack she gets on her blog from people who question her legitimacy as a mouthpiece for her neighborhood.
  • A few people, specifically Petra from Bed-Stuy Blog and Robert from Gowanus Lounge, mentioned the need to address the lack of diversity among bloggers - a particular tragedy given the diversity of the place we all live.
  • Gersh, from Brooklyn Paper, asked us to think about “the hate” not just in our commenters words, but in our blogs in general. And I think, there, he was speaking about rampant, passionate subjectivity in blogs as a journalist trained in objectivity, rather than as a producer of a new media that lacks clear professional standards. As bloggers, what sort of ethical issues do we face? Is “news” what happened, or how we reported it, or that we reported it?

At the heart of the matter, being a blogger takes a serious commitment of time and requires an endless fountain of creativity and resourcefulness. It also requires chutzpah because we as bloggers are exposing our deepest, personal introspection and opinions to so much public scrutiny. We need to brace ourselves for any unexpected snarkiness. As responsible bloggers representing blogging hotbeds like Brooklyn, we should be cognizant of the quality of the content and whether blog posts and comments help build a community instead of divide it.

By the end of the Blogfest, I was feeling invigorated. It wasn’t just because I was slightly inebriated or flying on a sugar high from all the free beer or the delicious Wasabi Pecan Fudge I had guzzled down. This introverted, non-writer Blogger left feeling encouraged to make her small mark on the community: creatively & responsibly.