Sunday, December 09, 2007

Singapore Writers Festival: "World Wide Web of Words" post-event reflections

[From this earlier post]

Arrived at The Arts House 30 minutes early.

Went upstairs and saw this scene.

Alas, they weren't queuing up for our panel discussion though, LOL (they were waiting to listen to a poetry reading session by Chinese poet Bei Dao, i.e. Zhao Zhenkai).

In contrast, this was how it looked at the other side where the "World Wide Web of Words" panel discussion would be held:
SWF: Corridor outside the Living Room, Arts House

Heh. : )

I made sure I was at the right room (the one complaint I have of The Arts House is its lack of signages. Even the toilets were hard to find).
SWF Programme Listing (Living Room) - 8 Dec 2007

The "Living Room" where our panel discussion was held was lovely. There were about ten people when the session started (when we ended at 4pm we had about 20).
SWF: World Wide Web of Words
I took this shot in the midst of them moving to the front seats. Deepika (she's in the red top, from the left) requested that they moved up, to make things cozier.

I couldn't resist taking a photo of the panelists: [from left to right] Sharon, Deepika and Zafar.
SWF: World Wide Web of Words panelists

Zafar wasn't listed in the programme, and there wasn't time for us to be introduced (along the way, I learned he's a published author, currently starting on his third novel, and has a blog with a poetic name: DreamInk).

Deepika started by asking the audience if they blogged. About five people did.

Perhaps that set the tone for the session, with most of the talking points focusing on the topic of blogging, and the panelists' motivation for starting them.

Why we blogged
Deepika directed the question to me first ("What made you start blogging").

I shared my "blogs were platforms for verbal diarrhea" story.

Sharon essentially explained that she had a compulsion to write and blogging was her outlet. She often had to tell herself to stop posting (and occasionally feed her husband, she says).

Zafar's blog was his "cure for isolation".

Deepika started her blog to post material from her interviews with celebrities (with permission from her then-employer), that otherwise would have been wasted since only a fraction of the interview content was used on air.

Would blogging stay?
We discussed about whether the advent of Facebook shifted our blog readers away. Deepika observed that Sharon's blogs seemed to have relatively fewer comments, and wondered if people were participating more in Facebook. I shared my observation (in using Facebook) that people were using Facebook to promote their blogs.

"Blogs as spaces for inserting your voice"
Deepika also started her blog in response to her being misquoted by some other websites. Since they weren't going to properly acknowledge her or publish corrections, she used a blog to publish her version.

Managing Comments
We discussed quite a bit about dealing with comments.

Deepika turned off her comment feature entirely.

Sharon, on the other hand, said she welcomed comments and the more argumentative the better. Her aim was to create Sharon "self-sustaining conversations". She viewed her blog as a catalyst to get conversations going.

Most satisfying part about blogging
Zafar iterated how his blogging was a way to reduce that sense of loneliness of living in a new country. For Sharon it was from "having lots of conversations" with her readers. Deepika said "blogging takes a life of its own". I shared how one has to blog to truly understand the feeling of receiving an unsolicited comment. It was like an affirmation that your existence is being acknowledged.


While the discussion wasn't so much about books and blogging, or about our writing per se, I thought it might have benefited the audience as most of them might not have found a reason to start one (which might change after hearing what the panelists had to say... maybe).

There were lots more points being discussed, but those were the ones I managed to note down on my handphone/ PDA.

Interestingly, at one point, Deepika noticed me punching away on my handheld and asked if I was "live" blogging (in fact, I'd noticed from the corner of my eye that Sharon was looking at my handheld and I bet she thought I was SMSing!)

I quickly explained that I wasn't "live blogging" (it didn't work for me, as I preferred to compose my thoughts and write about it later). And I told the audience I was taking notes.

Speaking of notes, the organisers passed me this -- a personalised notebook (with my name stamped at the bottom-right corner). How nice!
SWF: Notebook with individualised names!

Unfortunately I got caught up with chatting with some participants after the session, and didn't manage to chat more with Deepika, Zafar and Sharon.

But then again, I'll have their blogs to read and to stay in touch with.