It is an unabashed revolution. In the ten or so years that blogging has been in India, citizens are finding a newer form of expression. Be it audio blogs for the unrepresented from the Maoist heartland or regional language prose that your neighbour could be writing, the technology helps, and so does the urge to be heard.
It is amazing what your own private piece of internet space, and a little anonymity can do. Poets are born, closet fashionistas get bold, and the domestic goddess is not a Nigella Lawson-wannabe. In fact, she is in Chennai, with about 3700 others.
Many long-term professional bloggers seem to concur that dedicated blogs with serious and in-depth analyses are hard to come by. But there still is a surprising amount of variety to be found among the city's bloggers.
Like Priya Baskaran, who works with a non-profit group and moonlights at alayamkanden, her blog on lesser known temples. She has only been at it for a little over a year, but the interaction on history, mythology and heritage here is already lively. Shashidhar Sharma's creative streak (his day-job is in interior design) led to a haiku-writing online avatar at shadowdancingwithmind, on spirituality, travel, literature and of course, lots of poetry.
For Palaniappan Vairam, what 12 years of learning Tamil at school couldn't do, happened when he chanced upon research work by a Czech scholar on Dravidian literature. Vairam fell in love with his mother tongue. He now runs karkanirka.org, that translates ancient Tamil poetry, and which author S.Ramakrishnan has described as “one of the most informative blogs on Sangam literature.” Trying to contextualise Dravidian poetry for modern readers, he says, has helped him improve his classroom presentations (he is an MBA student in the Philippines).
For four years, Ramaswamy N has been documenting Chennai, one snapshot a day. At chennaidailyfoto you will find, alternately ironic and poignant photos of life in the city. Another photoblog, Pheno Menon's capturedalive is the result of a play of colours, starkness and succinct comments, and a sound investment in a DSLR.
Srivalli Jetti (cooking4allseasons) and Sanjeeta KK (litebite.in) found their online voices through their passion for food. Both have now moved on to churning up recipes for professional websites and magazines. Lakshmi Rajesh, who blogs on Indian clothing trends at Adithisammasews, was now published in November 2011's Burdastyle Sewing Handbook. About 45 percent of her blog devotees, she says, are not even from India.
And then there's the truly personal blog — the kind that has theorems on life, or how rotten politicians can get. Imaginativerealist Jennifer Sarto (and until now it was anonymous) found herself thrashing out blog-inspired life troubles with classmates during her MBA days.
Charan's (myopinionsdocumented) was a result of what news channels and constantly “breaking” News were doing to him. “Satirical takes and analogies” of events around him naturally followed. Six months back, Premlal began telecomsutra for those who need help finding their way around the technology, as mainstream writing wasn't hosting enough. He calls it a “semi-tech blog for the industry people and a tech blog for the non-industry reader.”
Admittedly recent undertakings, but all of these bloggers feel the medium does participate in shaping public opinion and experience these days. For instance, Srinidhi Hande says his blog analysis of why certain timeshare holiday memberships aren't advisable drew over 500 comments, and a fair share had probably considered the facility before.
Popular networking platform, Indiblogger.in, hosts a feature called IndiVine – where members can debate topics of current interest. Of course, there was the Lokpal and the 26/11 attacks, but surprisingly, health, education and women's empowerment also had a lot of takers. And then, The Great Indian Blogologues happened. The city's collaborative theatre group Stray Factory staged short stories written by bloggers, bringing to life and the mainstream, original content from the virtual world. Indiblogger.in, which was associated with the blogologues, believe that “these candid stories can be used for television shows, movies etc” as they reflect real lives.
Pratik Mhatre, of filter blog DesiPundit
How much has the Indian blogosphere changed over DesiPundit's (roughly six-year) lifespan? There is a definite expansion in breadth, but do you see a corresponding growth in depth? Should we mature more as bloggers?
I can only speak for what I have seen in the blogosphere. After the advent of Facebook and Twitter, there was a distinct decline in the number of blogs; most of the established ones remained but they had ventured beyond blogging to writing books, newspaper columns, and establishing think tanks. Since most of the interaction moved to Twitter and Facebook, bloggers' interest in writing on breaking news or in-depth opinion on current affairs declined. I'm not sure if maturity is the right word but since there are fewer bloggers, it is hard to expect specialisation since the number of readers for niche blogging is less.
As a content curator, how much does the recent brouhaha about internet censorship worry you? Google's Transparency Report for India (January-June 2011) showed that 39 of the 358 requests for content removal were from blogs; the majority of all requests had to do with government criticism or 'defamation'.
It does worry me but then the Indian Constitution doesn't actually guarantee free speech so the problems of censorship are much deep-rooted; something beyond the control of a minority blogging community. India has never granted free speech so that debate is yet to happen in the mainstream.
Networking platform Team Indiblogger.in
How common is plagiarism in blogs? At IndiBlogger, do you advise members on blogging ethics?
Well, plagiarism is a common problem. Most bloggers over the years have wizened up and started adopting Creative Commons License which is a community promoted concept. Creative Commons provide an easy way to manage the copyright terms that automatically attach all creative work under copyright. Whenever we have had this issue before, bloggers registered on IndiBlogger have raised the concern on the IndiForums to reason with the defaulting bloggers in question. So it's the community standing up for what it believes in that usually works for the best. In some cases, where the community has taken a strong cognisance of an offence we have even banned the blogger from the network altogether.
Are there Indiblogger community members whose major income source is the blog itself? Do any publish blogs for sale?
Yes, that is a healthy trend in the Indian Blogosphere. There are a lot of bloggers in this space whose sole source of income is from their blog. The sources of income vary from ads, to consulting assignments, travelogues, reviews and many more. The avenues for professional bloggers have increased in the last few years. This is a growing group whom we popularly refer to as Pro-bloggers. No one sells their published content unless it's for a book or a publishing opportunity.
Amit Agarwal, of tech blog Digital Inspiration
As one of the earliest entrants in the Indian blogosphere, how much has the space changed?
Some significant changes have happened here in the past few years. One, a lot of veteran bloggers have shifted from long-form blogging to microblogging - either they have lost interest in their blog or find the 140 character approach more convenient to reach out to people. It's a fact that most blogs in India are dedicated around personal stuff but there are some good and insightful blogs around specific verticals as well though the list is small.
How would you advise on blogging ethics at the India Blog School?
My approach is that advertising and editorial should have no relation. Thankfully, advertising programs like AdSense which most blogs in India use, are contextual and targeted so the blogger has no clue of what ads are running on their website. There was a time when “paid posts” were quite common but thanks to updates in Google algorithms, that is no longer the case.
How receptive do you think Indian bloggers are to new technology? Promoting themselves in the online space, incorporating other forms of social media, publishing their blogs for sale on Kindle etc?
This is one area where we are lacking a bit. Most bloggers rarely experiment with alternate forms of media like self-publishing, video etc and there's a valid reason - they are all one-man armies and producing content in alternate forms takes time.