|Sunday, March 6, 2005|
Article on the Blogging Scene in India
Here's the full English text of the article I wrote for Nirantar :
Is Blogging in India at the Threshold of a Tipping Point?
Malcolm Gladwell defines The Tipping Point as "that magic moment when an idea, trend, or social behavior crosses a threshold, tips, and spreads like wildfire".
The premise of his book is that ideas and products and messages and behavior spread just like viruses do. He illustrates three rules of the Tipping Point - The Law of the Few, the Stickiness Factor and the Power of Context. This article isn't meant to be a review of his book, so I won't describe his constructs in detail. However, they are useful in examining whither Indian blogging today, why it is on the threshold of a tipping point, and what might we see in the future.
Examining one of the constructs, the Law of the Few, Gladwell talks of a small number of highly contagious people spreading an epidemic. He calls these Connectors, Mavens and Salesmen. We have our own set of Connectors, Mavens and Salesmen in the Indian blog world. That's one sign that we're at the threshold of a tipping point.
I firmly believe that blogging is not just about having your own online diary or journal. It is much much more than that. Many bloggers will tell you of their addiction to blogging that goes well beyond just writing a piece. How many active bloggers can really say they do not start their day looking for reactions to something they wrote the previous day? Or checking if someone has linked to something they've written? Or running their newsreaders to look for interesting pieces by other bloggers in their community? Or checking back at others' posts they might have left comments at to see how the discussion is evolving? Or checking blog statistics to assess whether more or fewer people are reading what they write?
Blogging is about conversations among people in real time and real voices. That's what makes it sticky. Communities get built around these conversations. Sometimes with spontaneous order, at other times more gradually.
In the Indian blogosphere, we see tangible evidence of these in Blogger Meets, Blog Rankings, Blog Awards and Blog Directories and Services. However the real magic lies in the spontaneous discussions that arise out of this emergent medium and in the natural selection it embodies. In the "great coalescing of interlocking communities in the 'sphere who are finding ways to work with each other ...... so many other groups are forming like planetary dust into new workspaces around a sun that is drawing out our lost humanity into the light again"
There is no better example from the Indian Blogosphere that I can think of to demonstrate how this works, than my recent experience with the Tsunami Help Blog (The South-East Asia Earthquake and Tsunamis Blog). It mobilized hundreds of volunteers around the world in mere hours, and provided a single point of information for Tsunami aid, relief and volunteers. A great example of the power of the blog.
Howard Rheingold in his book Smart Mobs says that they emerge when communication and computing technologies amplify human talents for cooperation. Smart mobbing is what happened with the Tsunami Help Blog, started by a maven and connector, Peter Griffin, pushed forward by connectors and salesmen all over the world and spread so virally and had amazing repercussions far beyond the imagination of the founders. Demonstrating that the crowd is much smarter than the individual.
There is a buzz about blogs in the Indian traditional media today. There were articles earlier too - but very few and far between, where blogs were typically dismissed as youth ramblings and techie's rants. Today this is changing, sadly, it took a disaster like the tsunamis to gain this growing respect for what blogging is and how powerful it can be, for Indian TV and press. Still, miles to go.
The future of Indian blogging lies in more and more connectors, mavens and salesmen entering this field. The blogging epidemic may not follow all of Gladwell's laws, but may focus on any one of these laws with significant impact on the rise or the fall of this epidemic. Indian blogs have evolved from personal diaries of youth or a techie's ramblings into a more pervasive space for conversations. Individuals and groups are gaining from this social phenomenon. Journalists are using this new media to air their views and draw reader responses. Restaurateurs are having conversations through blogs with people and customers. One man's no-holds barred views on Indian media is very widely read in advertising and marketing circles. A group of bloggers interested in the BPO industry has set up a community built on a blog platform. Many more communities are thriving. I have landed a couple of paying projects from Clients worldwide as a result of visibility and because my blog says much more about me than a cold website would.
We will also see more of a convergence of social media in the blog space. Caferati has recently won an award for best SMS poetry.Which will only make this a more powerful tool. Turning ideas into action. Enhancing communication flows and collaboration. As the Tsunami Help blog so powerfully did.
There will be a day when this new media will encourage traditional media to find new ways to connect with their audiences. Where it will change the way people, groups and organizations organize for work and play. Where organizations in India will wish to adopt such technologies and pay bloggers for their time spent blogging.
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