Saturday, December 27, 2008

A simpleguide to the biggest moments in Indian Blogging History

During the Mumbai Terror attacks, a blog [] started by Dina Mehta was perhaps the first place to provide useful links, phone numbers and stuff. During the unprecedented Bihar Floods in August 2008, a blog was the first one with useful information. During the Tsunami in December 2004, another blog came to the rescue. I can go on.

My point is: Indian blogs have proven themselves time and time gain when it comes to providing timely information before anyone else.

I consider myself relatively late onto the Indian blogging scene: I started blogging seriously in October 2006 [400-odd posts since then means serious enough, don't you think?]. Before that, I helped train and manage a blog network in India.

Here goes a list of most notable moments in Indian Blogging History, some inspiring, some, umm, may be not. Enjoy:

Who are the Indian Bloggers?
Miteshvasa did survey of the State of the Indian Blogosphere in 2006:
It seems Indian men are much more blog-active than women. 32K males vs. 5300 females ie. 80% men compared to just 13% women. This is a big deviation from the global scenario: 45% men and 38% women.

Males: 32203 (80.2%)
Females: 5302 (13.2%)
Undeclared: 2623 (6.5%)

Around 350,000 bloggers are students (~15.4%). People from the field of Education number another 100,000 bloggers (4.3%) while Technology-related bloggers come up third at 81,000 (3.54%). Not far behind are bloggers from the industry of Arts, Communication/Media and Engineering.
Female Indian Bloggers
There is no Blogher type network of female bloggers in India and it is a pity. Last time I checked, they started an ad network focused at women, called Divanation. Damn, the unimaginative name inspires spending.
I would like to think that blogs by women don't get more nonsense in form of nasty comments and flame wars. What happens when you post about matters such as domestic violence, gender equality and so on? Is it safe for a female blogger in India and is what happened to Kathy Sierra in America an abberation and not the rule everywhere?

The three notable Female bloggers who come to mind are Rashmi Bansal ( who also runs a popular college magazine JAM, Dina Mehta ( who has been on the blogosphere since Mar 2003, and Kamla Bhatt ( the woman behind the Kamala Bhatt show.

Blogs in vernacular languages
Search for Hindi blogs in Google turns up 18,400,000 results; for Telugu blogs - 1,840,000 results; for Tamil Blogs - 5,100,000 results; for Punjabi blogs -1,590,000 results. I can go on.

A list of notable Indian Bloggers across categories can be found at this link, which is maintained by Amit Agarwal. More about the guy later on.

Losing Job because of blogging
Gaurav Sabnis, who was almost coerced to quit his IBM job following the IIPM scandal in 2005. [see below]

MSM bullying bloggers
In 2005, Pradyuman Maheshwari, writing at Mediaah criticizes the Times of India. TOI sends Maheshwari a seven-page legal threat for libel. The threat works, and Maheshwari decides to close his media-criticism site. Readership at time of closing: 8000. Maheshwari had only complained about TOI's practice of selling space for photos and profile stories for money under its much-maligned MediaNet initiative.

A word on Media Criticism in India: Indian Blogging still has less than 1/10 of the power enjoyed by Bloggers in America. There is simply no tolerance for criticism among the media types. It is a mutual back-scratching society and many tend to look down upon bloggers.

Bloggers bitching

Bloggers vs. Reporters: TR Vivek writes for Outlook, the weekly newsmagazine about the Star Syndrome in the Indian Blogosphere:
"For the urban twentysomethings with intellectual pretensions and the hope of being spotted by the commissioning editor of a publishing house, it's the new P3, or rather the virtual world's own India International Centre."

He gets this response.

To publish photos or not: In 2007, Bloggers' quarrel over use of Khairlanji atrocity images. Shivam Vjj went ahead and published the disturbing pictures of dead women, while Gaurav Sabnis was against the idea. A debate ensues, with people taking sides.

Bloggers going onto better things
Amit Varma, pioneering blogger at , went to write for MINT business newspaper, winning the Bastiat prize for reporting and is now writing his novel "My Friend Sancho". Varma also liveblogged the Mumbai Terror Attacks.

Meenakshi Reddy Madhavan, writing at the Compulsive Confessor blog got herself a book deal owing to her racy, revealing posts and her book 'You are here?' was published by Penguin India, a major publisher.

Mayank Austen Soofi, who blogs at was approached by the Oxford University Press in Karachi who will be including material from his blog into a Pakistani Class XI school textbook. Soofi had invited Pakistanis from all walks of life to list out "five best things” about their country on his blog.

Blog Authors to Book authors
I have written in the past that a test of of a quality blog is whether it can be turned into a book. I am aware this is quite a heavyhanded opinion. I have mentioned above about Indian bloggers bagging book deals. Harper Collins and Oxford Bookstore ran an e-Author, a pretty awful term, contest. An author is an author, no matter what medium. This is the fifth year of the contest. Then here was the Penguin/Sulekha blogprint contest.
Livejournal ran a Flash Fiction ("short fiction") contest Not sure how many participants in these contests are bloggers.

Indian Blog and Sting Operations
We had Tarun Tejpal doing sting operations for Tehelka and many TV channels have experimented with the idea. Issues about privacy and duplicity had been raised but I think it is all O.K. if done for the Public Interest. So far, no blogger has done any sting operation. I think the task is best suited for Group Blogs.

Indian Group Blogs
Group blogs are the best thing to happen to Online Indian presence after Blogging itself. Nothing beats the power of channelize people's efforts than a Group blog. Desipundit, started by U.S. based Indian students was a pioneer in this field. The Links are: [Ajit Chauhan, Chandan and the Guys]

Entrepreneur and Corporate Bloggers
Rajesh Jain of Indiaworld fame is a pioneering bloggers in this field and regularly writes smart pieces at his Emergic blog. Owners of web startups like Sanjiv Bikchandani of are not surprisingly the first to take up blogging. Bikchandani has done the smart thing: hosting his blog at a different location, instead of the usual location for many corporate blogs, namely ' or'. A Forrester report this month has written about how few people trust corporate blogs. Hosting a blog somewhere else and having a genuine voice is a start.

Some other corporate blogs can be found here , here and here

Someone should do a Forrester type study and survey of the quality and utility of these blogs.

Bloggers Uniting for a Cause
Activism blogging is something we need more of in India and this is also the future of news. Shanmugam Manjunath, an engineer with an Oil Company was murdered in Bihar. As a manager of IOC, Manjunath had shutdown a pump that was selling adulterated fuel. In no mean time, Indian bloggers, here and abroad had launched a concentrated campaign in support of the slain young man. For example, here.

During the Coca Cola water controversy, bloggers had written for Sunita Narain's noble cause.

Bloggers vs. the State
So far, no one has taken the government to task on a big scale and issues abound everywhere. I had written about the Government’s ham-handed approach to land acquisition vis-a-vis SEZs (Special economic Zones) and archaic laws. But, that is all I could do at the moment. Fortunately, people have risen against SEZs throughout the country and I am happy to report that many big business plans have come undone.

Bloggers have covered the Nandigram tussle between Mamata Banerji's people and CPM thugs and the state machinery as well. For example, here.

Blogs and Expose: Where is the Talking Points Memo of India?
Who are uncovering politicians and government servants? In 2005, I had partly succeeded in convincing a senior journalist, who covered the government and Parliament, to start writing about what he saw on daily basis and utilize his contacts. He agreed on principle but soon changed jobs.

Indian Bloggers and Jail
Did you know that more online journalists are in jails around the world than offline journalists? I read in the papers that India has a more vibrant press than the United States. That may be the case but there are certain rules - don't go after the big names. That is the only rule. In a function in Stockholm meant to honor brave (and dead) journalists, some Indian journalists were honored but unlike other countries, India chose not to send any representative to attend the event held in November 2008.

Unless a blogger commits a crime such as data theft, not sure content theft is covered :-), you are not going to jail here.

On a sadder note, Chinese, Saudi, Malaysian, Thai, and Egyptian bloggers have been jailed for the cause of freedom of human spirit.

Indian Media Plagiarizing from Bloggers {or, bloggers highlighting cases of MSM misdeeds]
This is a rich vein. The Times of India leads the field of copy machines.

Times of India: Here , here again when Bangalore Times copies Jennifer Aniston's Daily Mirror interview.
Here, they copied images from Shrinidhi Hande's blog
TOI copies from a blogger's Flickr account
Times of India lifts from Roger Ebert’s review for the Chicago Suntimes.
TOI lifts from The Guardian's coverage of the 2003 Cricket World Cup

Sakaal Times: Copies editorial on healthcare from here.

Dainik Bhaskar: Copies liberally for its supplements on fact most newspapers in India do it. Most times, you can judge from the difference in language tone.

The Hindu: The paper's movie reviewer Ghautaman Baskaran is accused of lifting from NYTimes review of the Film "Alexander" by Manohla Dargis.

Indian Express: Bloggers Amit Varma and Rashmi Bansa accused the paper of lifting from their posts on the Manjunath case without permission. Although, some have said that at that point of their career, this was a good MSM linking thing.

Bigger sites plagiarizing from blogs
Yahoo's newly launched Malayalam site copies recipes from blog entries by several Malayalam Bloggers.

Blogger vs. Religious Gurus
Bloggers write about the Swami Ramdeo and Weight Loss Controversy.

Bloggers write about the (mis)deeds of Sathya Sai Baba

Bloggers as heroes

Bloggers who have made their millions from blogging
Yes, we have our own Michael Arrington, Amit Agarwal who blogs about tech tips and tricks at Labnol aka DigitalInspiration, and who reportedly makes a six-figure (dollars) income from the exercise.

Journalists who blog
You can organize these into two broad categories: blogs run by newspapers and TV channels, which are nothing but web articles with comments and then there are independent blogs written by journalists, which is what I like best.

Ravish Kumar, who works for NDTV India TV news channel, writes a good freewheeling blog and I like it personally for two reasons: Ravish Kumar writes well, very well indeed and he blogs in Hindi.

Celebrity bloggers
I am not too enthusiastic about celebrities who blog. I wonder how stuff is filtered, ghostwritten or vetted by the PR flack. You simply can't trust the voice.

While bloggers may remain skeptic about the whole exercise, the general online Indian audience is seemingly enthralled by it, ever since the news came that a social networking site funded by Anil Ambani, the same man who is funding Spielberg, has paid Rs. 100 crore ($20 million) to Amitabh Bachhan, the actor to blog.

Among actors who blog, one Superstar Aamir Khan announced that his dog's name is Shahrukh Khan, a rival. Moreover, the discerning reader will discover that actors only blog when a major events happens or when their movie is due to release.

Directors took up blogging earlier than actors. Shekhar Kapoor of "Bandit Queen" fame was first off the block, followed by the Quentin Tarantino/Tarsem Singh of India, Anurag Kashyap who wrote the script for the seminal "Satya" . The talkative Karan Johar also blogs.

I am not sure I like the quality of writing. Grandstanding is rife. I am not looking for Erroll Morris like quality on these director blogs.

Bloggers vetting politicians
We are not talking about silly Media Trials but considering how few we know about our elected representatives - tax records, criminal antecedents, business dealing, mistresses and so forth, it was good to see bloggers write passionately about Pratibha Patil, our President-to-be at the time and her "visions".
Expressing concerns about the ills of ceremonial posts, a blogger writes, “a system that accords unaccounted privileges to VIPs will end up undermining us, the people”. True.

Bloggers versus Big, Bad Business: The IIPM controversy
The most notable example is from October 2005, when bloggers Gaurav Sabnis and Amit Kapoor (who is a Professor at MDI, Gurgaon) along with Rashmi Bansal wrote about the veracity of print advertisements given out by a Business School in New Delhi, The Indian Institute of Planning and Management (IIPM).

IIPM used all its muscle in silencing the bloggers and it looks as if it succeeded. Apart from Businessworld and Outlook magazines, no one else in Media, including TV was brave enough to forego ad income from IIPM and cover the story bringing it to its logical end.

In September 2005, IIPM was the 7th largest Print advertiser, you see. While Gaurav Sabnis resigned from his IBM job, Prof. Kapoor stopped writing for his blog altogether. IIPM still buys out front pages of newspapers to print its heavy-duty ads.

I was building the team at Instablogs Blog Network at the time. Still new at blogging. The IIPM story was the first big story we covered. You can read about it here, here, here and here.

Blog Monkeys and India
What is a Blog Monkey? The term is derived from SEO Monkeys, a derogative term for lowly-paid SEO people working for Indian SEO firms, doing mostly low-level off-page SEO jobs including the much maligned Comment Spamming.

The Blog Monkey writes spammy, heavily rewritten (or copies from RSS posts) 100-word blog posts to make Adsense money.

I think there are more than 100,000 blog monkeys in India, writing for SEO firms, blog networks, and for themselves. Thanks to the Blog Monkeys and the SEO monkeys, Indian blogging enjoys a shady name in certain quarters overseas.

Where do we stand now?
I think that now bloggers can hold their head high before journalists who question their value, calling them amateurish and unverified. As if, being the hundredth journalists to cover a movie star's press conference or publishing a puff piece or towing someone's line gives you any cachet.

Andrew Keen, we don't need you here.

Then are others, including some bloggers who say that not enough Indian bloggers are providing User-Generated Content.

To them, I say, wait and watch.
The normal Indian citizen is not as blessed with resources as those in developed countries are or as some of our lucky countryfolks have been, but we sure are finding our way. We are people on budgets, tight budgets.

No one is funding citizen bloggers to useful reporting out here until date and I am not counting the pay per post spam-blogging deals. Hell, the largest cash-rich Newspaper brands out here pay Rs. 2000/month ($40) to their stringers in each district.

I believe the promise of Citizen Journalism is voice. I believe Bloggers in India must be 'a real agent of change'. Craig Newmark says that the role of newspapers is to provide customer service to the community. As bloggers, as Indian Bloggers we must each find our own communities to serve.

Will the P.Sainath of Indian Blogging happen? Will someone start covering issues that matter to the community? Will bloggers start to graduate from easy opinion-blogging to hard reporting?
Sure, sure. The Great Indian 'Jugad' will happen.

That is all folks. Are these the biggest moments in Indian blogging history?
Feel free to add in your suggestions.

Posts you would like to read:

On This Blog

The State of Citizen Journalism in India - Series in 3 parts
My Media Wishlist for India
7 things to know about the web in India before...
Thoughts on covering stories of the Poor in India

The Greatest Moments in Journalism Blogging History

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2009 Predictions: What the Internet thinks about 2009

The internet thinks that it won't lose hope in 2009, in spite of all the abandoned plans, fickle VCs, and of course, expensive houses that were never bought.

In India, social networking sites have taken quite a beating and many are shutting shops. In sectors that were booming, Online travel for instance, expect consolidations. People have big hopes from the mobile internet out here. After BPO, Software as a Service is giving people hope.

What's going up in tech 2009
- Everyone will be adopting cost-saving technologies and methods.
- Virtual desktops and mobile devices will boom
- Smart aggregation of User-Generated Content
- Search Marketing Remains strong

Bandwidth Crunch
Seth Godin says, "the internet is full". The demand from smartphones, videoconferencing will challenge the will of and credit- challenged carriers, leading to (not yet full-blown) bandwidth crunch

Apple Computer in 2009
Although Apple will enter the Chinese market in a major way, finding success will be difficult. Apple's over-priced iPhone was a flop in mobile-savvy India.

More business types adopt Twitter but they must remain wary of all those marketers hiding in every corner.

Government Crowdsourcing
In an U.S. Administration headed by an Internet-savvy President, Ross Ferguson predicts that at least one major government department will launch a large-scale crowd-sourcing site for the purposes of problem-solving.

Conferences: No more talking heads?
Ad Age says that in 2009, it will be harder to justify attending expensive industry conferences. For starters, many conferences will be downsized.

Risky Social networking
2009 will see more instances of crimes on Social Networking sites [e.g. Koobface Virus on Facebook]. Cyber hives will use all means to build their personal networks. Some have gone on to say that, many people will take to a life of cyber-crime while they pass time on the laid-off line.

Suddenly, being Facebook friends with your mom will seem less ridiculous than following 4,000 strangers on Twitter.” - Greg Verdino

Sports Social Networking
Jason suggests entrepreneurs to Build sites like No more copy cat social media sites. If only.

Desktop PCs
Demand for desktops may increase owing to plans of laid-off workers who will be starting their own businesses.

Some say Netbooks may outsell Laptops. Their sales could easily double in 2009.

According to a Reuters Poll of Mobile Analysts, global mobile shipments will dip on average 6.6% next year.
Google Android will eventually develop into a worthy player (Android Smartphones) and may give competition to established players, including the iPhone.

Video Games
Video games are cheap sources for entertainment for a laid-off population with more free time in 2009. As the popular comparison goes, "a $60 computer game can easily provide 50-100 hours of entertainment."
Related things that will also sell well: Social games, Virtual goods.

Cloud Computing
In a cash-strapped/cash-savvy economy, more companies with 1000+ employees will go "Server-Less". Google will focus more on convincing and winning over big corporate buyers into using Google Apps.

A rise in server-less companies with 1000+ employees. In 2009, the market will start to hear about more and more companies going completely server-less.

Affordable Greening
Alternative energy may indeed flourish under Obama's enlightened Administration. but, many companies will have to make a hard choice between going “green” or just surviving through the year.

Annus Horribilis for New Media
As per emarketer, lower prices for most display ads and less competition for many search keywords will make online advertising a buyers’ market.

Jon Fine thinks that at least one top-50 magazine will do a TV Guide, selling for a nominal $1 to a non-industry entity, and onto a decidedly painful restructuring.

More Online Media startups
These will be headed by people laid off from troubled newspaper companies. Some of these startups may be playing a bigger role in 2010 and beyond.

Emily Gordon of has a great take on the future of New Media in 2009:
The good, the bad, and the Ghost of Media Future: Newspaper veterans will unite to create the greatest online resource of all time and overthrow all the sites that put them out of business. Newsday (snappy URL, right?) will rise again as a megasite that dwarfs other news aggregators. PR and journalism will merge to become flackalism. Someone will design an online course called "Multimedia for Magazine Editors in Five Minutes a Day" that will make that someone a whole bunch of money; why not you? Professional bloggers nationwide will unionize, with the encouragement of President Obama and Mayor Bloomberg, and demand full benefits and reasonable work conditions. Readers of long, focused stories online will get tired of scrolling and pay for well-designed paper versions—even more for signed copies from the right authors. (This I can prove.) And someone's got to start paying for the Internet, maybe with a package subscription to favorite sites, which would come, Salon Premium-style, with magazines, music, party invitations, and meaningful community privileges.

From Fortune Magazine
… stay away from risky assets. .. stay away from the stock market… stay away from commodities. … stay away from credit, both high-yield and high-grade. .. stay in cash or cashlike instruments such as short-term or longer-term government bonds. .. stay in things with low returns rather than to lose 50% of your wealth. .. preserve capital.

Identity Theft
Real Estate-based scams will thrive: Experts warn that your home, while fully paid for, could even be entangled in a second mortgage without your knowledge.


Online retail sales
The number of online buyers is fast approaching saturation. Online retail sales (excluding travel) will grow by only 4% in 2009—the first full year to feel the impact of the economic crisis that started in 2008.

Offline Retail
Amidst wide scale "retail space" downsizing in an "over-built" America, where many "Mom and Pop" stores will also go under, Mr. Swing predicts that 5 major "name brand" bankruptcies will occur in national retail chains by Memorial Day 2009. Strip malls will run almost empty.

Global Economy in trouble
The Trouble in America and Europe will lead to more trouble in the Emerging Economies. The Dollar will remain strong as long as economies dependent on America suffer and for the first time in history, people over the age of 65 will outnumber children under the age of 5.

Unemployment in America
Mr. Swing predicts t a " >750K" weekly unemployment claim by Easter despite an increasing number of construction jobs due to Obama's announced work plan for improving America's infrastructure.
Mr. Swing also warns that 3000+ car dealerships will close shop in 2009.
Restaurants will also close.

Best Careers in 2009
In its annual list of best careers, the U.S. News lists out jobs in hospitals and pharmacy, education, therapy, user experience/usability and urban design

American Sports
Mr. Swing predicts that the LPGA and potentially even the PGA will cancel tour dates.
People will question high salaries for sports superstars.

Revolution in Iran?
This article on CNBC says that if oil prices continue to decline, the Iranian society will be badly affected as Oil is Iran's#1 commodity. Can this dissatisfied society rebel against a non-performing government?

Amidst all this, keep dreaming.
Rohit Bhargava puts it best, “You may not always start the year as a leader, but you can certainly finish it.'' that way.”

Stories you might also want to read

A simpleguide to India in 2008

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