WordCamp Philippines 2009 – With Great [Blogging] Power Comes Great Responsibility

Reporting for the recently concluded WordCamp Philippines 2009 last Saturday o>

I totally failed at giving the heads up about this early on in the blog, unlike last year. It was already too late by the time I realized I wasn’t able to inform hazy and Zeroblade about this, the two blogger friends I went with last year OTL

I ended up going to the event by myself, broke out of my anti-social shell, met new people and chatted up a bit with them during lunch and during the afternoon sessions. As an anime blogger (gotta wonder if I was the only anime blogger there) who’s still not in the know about the Filipino blogosphere, I was surprised to know that the girl I was seated to next during the lunch buffet was a prominent travel blogger. Nina Fuentes of Just Wandering. It was an honor :)

The Talks

The event itself was great, a learning experience for me yet again. Danny Arao’s talk, especially, was awe-inspiring. He zoomed in on responsible blogging, juxtaposing blogging with journalism, just like last year, with a focus on the upcoming 2010 national elections this time around. Even those who are apathetic to politics could leave the talk inspired and filled with insights.

Mr. Arao told us of the power we have as bloggers to shape public opinions, “a minority (considering bloggers only comprise about 2.5% of the population), but a force to reckon with”. “Blogs wield considerable power and influence”, he says, measured in terms of PageRank, Alexa, technorati authority, feed readers (or readership in general), linkage, among others. With this sphere of influence, bloggers could said to intervene by providing breaking news (one tweet is all it takes!), social commentary, mainstream media monitoring (bloggers as watchdogs of watchdogs, promoting responsible journalism), and fact checking, and in turn, be able to promote social change.

*in before Blogging is SRS BSNS comments*

Journalism, politics and social change talk aside, this also applies to small-fry anime bloggers like you and me. For as long as you have readers, you already are being an influence — you make your readers laugh, make them think, make them cry, or make them rage. “Responsible Blogging” sounds like a heavy word, since responsibility tends to be equated with burdensome or Serious Business, but in the end, it all boils down to being accountable to whatever we write or say on the internets.

Drawing the line between responsible and irresponsible blogging in the anime community is tricky because we can always give the excuse that “we’re only talking about 2D stuff”, “this is the internets and it’s got nothing to do with real life”, “this is my blog and I can do whatever I want with it”, so we shouldn’t be subjected to whatever standards. We can also get so bogged down by so-called blogging conventions and end up treating blogging as a chore. But all that said, having standards is good, for you and your readers. “Because people (readers) deserve no less”, as Mr. Arao said.

I'm just a little girl caught in the middle, life is a maze

It’s a constant battle, having to fight your inner blogging standards demons to avoid blogging burnout, but for as long as we’re flexible, understand that taste and blogging style can change through time (while keeping standards in mind), evolve, all’s good. Realizing that taking a break from time to time, to actually consume anime and mangas than write about them, is good too.

Responsible blogging in the anime ’sphere can be as simple as “Don’t be pretentious, don’t pretend to know what you’re talking about when you really don’t”, you owe it both to your readers and to yourself.

If you’re trying to build credibility and authority, setting standards and practicing responsible blogging is a MUST. As Mr. Arao told us, “Don’t be irresponsible for the sake of having readers”. You can’t just say, “sorry readers, whatever I’ve been doing in the past is just a shtick to attract your attention, time for the real show :D and expect people to listen to you without questioning your credibility. Your name and blogging identity is what you make it.

Impz mentioned in a comment one time that the problem with writing on the internet is the lack of gatekeeper. “Anything can go out without restrictions” — a very tempting sorry excuse to be lazy and be irresponsible. But please please please, don’t say you are lazy datte hontou wa crazy. Having a blog is not enough. Don’t just blog, blog with a sense of purpose, that’ll be more fulfilling in the long run too.

WordPress In The Wild

froggy, isn't it?
have a break, have a piccie

For the WordPress geeks, this one’s for you. Then again if you’re a WP geek you most likely know this now.

Marku Seguerra’s WordPress in the Wild was a talk full of tips — tips on deployment, performance, optimization, and security, in particular. Here goes my summary:

Deployment
- should be simple, fast and secure
- only download from wordpress.org, for security purposes (no hacked codes)
- ssh/sftp is the way to go. Make ftp the last option, since it’s vulnerable to sniffing.

Performance
- use Super Cache!
- offload content to other sites, e.g. flickr or photobucket for photos, youtube for videos
- use 3rd party comment platform, Disqus, Intense Debate, etc. (kinda hesitant to try this)

Optimization
“WordPress takes care of 80-90% of [the mechanics] of Search Engine Optimization”, says Matt Cutts of google

- Highlight Your Content (plugins etc):

Security
- Using RSS footer plugin to fight content theft
- Removing the default ‘admin’ username
- Hide WP version
- Securing /wp-admin/ with server passcode, through .htaccess (More on making wordpress hack-proof [->])
- WP Security Scan (scans your WP installation for security vulnerabilities)
- Don’t forget yer backups! Use WP-DB-Backup for scheduled regular backup, download backups to PC, burn to DVD.

Sugar n’ Spice and Everything That’s Not So Nice

As per Mr. Arao’s talk (pardon me for using this in a different context), we bloggers are supposed to be watchdogs, so yes, this post won’t be complete without both positive and negative comments about the talks.

On WordPress as the Ultimate Content Management System (CMS)

From the looks of the title, one would expect a discussion about content management system, how WordPress is considered the Ultimate CMS compared to the likes of Joomla, Drupal, or Textpattern, but there was a sore lack of CMS discussion.

What comprised the majority of the talk was Karla Redor’s demo of 3 premium WooThemes themes — how to tweak them to suit your CMS needs — not so much about CMS. Perhaps it was assumed that the audience already knows what a content management system is?

In the end, though, with the lack of comparison with other CMS platforms to show what the edge of WordPress is, it’s like it was assumed that since WordPress is the recommended CMS for non-php coders and/or html/css beginners (and since this is WordCamp, and it’s all about WordPress), we just have to embrace the fact that WordPress is the Ultimate CMS.

On Editorial Voice and Taste in Writing Tech

I believe in Kamina-aniki!

Jeff Villafranca gave the talk on Editorial Voice and Taste in Writing Tech, and even those who are not into tech blogging could actually relate to and learn from it. The talk was great (even if he doesn’t think so), it just so happens that all throughout the session, our speaker would give remarks as to how the audience doesn’t seem to be interested with his talk, that they’re all giving him blank stares (mainly due to the lack of oxygen in people’s brains after the Scrumptious lunch), that he’s going to finish the talk much sooner than he thought because the people were despondent. Ugh, it was horribly distracting.

His talk was meaty (something so self-explanatory that we tend to take it for granted), he had much blogging wisdom to share, but it was sad seeing him not believing in the audience who believes in him. There’s Murphy’s Law, “anything that can go wrong will go wrong”, and there’s also “when you feel like something will go badly (or get any worse than the situation you’re in atm), it tends to do just that.”

All that said, gonna share a bit of what I learned.

The need to create expectations for readers

While expectations is most often associated with pressure, it’s actually good. Why the heck would people want to read/visit/subscribe to your blog if they don’t expect anything out of it? And you, dear blogger (yes you), without expectations (reader expectations and your own expectations), what the heck are you living up to? Why even blog when you don’t expect anything out of blogging?

This scene from Cross Game episode 16 comes to mind with the mention of expectations:

Expectation drives action, also evolution. It gives you the drive to improve, to become better than you were yesterday. And, it allows your readers to have something to look forward to.

The way to create expectations [in blogging], according to Mr. Villafranca, is by writing with a consistent voice, by sticking to your guns. Also by maintaining the quality of your posts. By really getting into the bones of things and not f*cking it up. You build up credibility that way.

With digiboy’s Don’t F This Up series (born out of this hilarious meme c/o ghostlightning), he has managed to create the said expectation(s). Now people are looking forward to the series of posts he’ll be writing, all the while thinking, “Will he or will he not f*ck it up?”

Do keep in mind, however, that you should be setting reasonable expectations. I, for one, can’t expect that I’d be able to write in an intellectual masturbatory level like that of, say, Wabisabi, gaguri, kritik, Owen, ghostlightning, IKnight, the Superfani guys, 2DT too. Each of us have our own strengths, and we should learn to capitalize on that.

I just wonder though, what exactly do the readers of Scrumptious look forward to? Fangirl posts (I’ve been failing in fangirling as of late)? Posts of valuable insights (if there’s such a thing)? Nihongo stuff? Emo posts? Feminist rage? Lulz? Whatever the answer might be, I’ll just keep on writing…

The Inverted Pyramid

As the above slide states, the Inverted Pyramid is a style of writing in which the chunk of the post is presented first, followed by less important details. From what I understood, this is supposed to give the readers a clear idea of what you’re talking about early on. Adapting this style, however, will depend from blogger to blogger and the effect he/she wants to achieve. Each of us have our own blogging style after all.

From the looks of it, though, the invented pyramid technique is frowned upon, as it is said to be “less efficient when it comes to more elaborate web news”. It could also potentially lead to loss of readership, since readers can just stop reading at any point and no value of worth will be lost. Bashing it further, it is also said to be “an uninspired and artless form of journalism”, designed specifically for the print media to allow flexibility in omitting portions of the article when space becomes an issue.

The suggested style is either that of the tumbled pyramid or the hourglass. Or so that’s what they say. I’m pretty much clueless about this since I don’t really pay attention to the style and structure of my posts, heck I don’t even make outlines for my post before writing, hence the lack of coherence and organization in what I write heh.

Sourcing, Attribution, Linking and In-text Story Tagging

Crediting / linking to your sources, giving credit where its due — that’s basically it. In-text story tagging refers to linking to your own post/s, in case the readers are interested to read similar posts, or posts with the same subject matter.

Best case in point of this in the anime blogosphere? ghostlightning’s posts.

Matters of Taste

  • The need for flexibility, understanding that taste evolves. (Just remember to stick to a stand despite the said changes in taste, having a set of principles you abide in.)
  • Don’t do something just because someone else does it, don’t just mimic other people’s style. “Give it your own spin.”

The wise words of Ira Glass that the speaker shared with us:

“Do lots of work, put yourself on a deadline. Put yourself through a volume of work and close the gap between where you are and where you want it to be. Keep at it.”

“It takes a long time to get good.”

Great bloggers are not born overnight. It takes skill perhaps, but more importantly, it takes practice. If your writing sucks, keep on writing, find ways to improve and evolve. Humble yourself, be open to criticism. If blogging becomes a chore, then find ways to make it fun again. Don’t whine that this is easier said than done, just do it.

See: tips on storytelling from Ira Glass. It’s about storytelling, but applicable to blogging too.

There are two other tips on that list which I like:

“Just talk like yourself, be yourself. Don’t try to be someone else. Don’t imitate someone else, some famous personality. Talk like yourself.”

“Be interested in the world and the people around you. You are a part of the story, but don’t be the main part of the story.”

Be yourself, but also remember that it’s not all about you. Whether you like it or not, blogging is social, and the community that blogging fosters makes it a whole lot more fun and worthwhile. Don’t let the social aspect get to you so much, but don’t take it for granted either. Cherish your readership and comments, s-s-silly snob bloggers (snobloggers?)!

…and that’s it, this post has been long enough as it is. A big thanks to Mindanao Bloggers who once again made this WordCamp possible. Looking forward to next year!

Thanks for reading!

P.S. If there’s going to be a battle for the most tl;dr WordCamp Philippines entry, I’m likely to win. That might not really be a bad thing, isn’t it?


Credits to danbooru, しらこむぎさん and chry for the piccies. Can’t find the artist for the other ones :(

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