Over the last days, since a post on the newly created Janitor Al blog, the National Blogger’s Association for the Philippines has been buzzing the Pinoy blogosphere. You can follow all the buzz on Twitter via the #nbaph hashtag.
Before I continue though, I wish to introduce myself as most bloggers in the Pinoy Blogosphere do not know me. I have been blogging professionally since end 2006, for Splashpress Media, and have worked for an extended time with respected Pinoy bloggers Angelo, Jayvee and others. Currently I am CEO of Splashpress Media. People might know me as @franky or iFranky.
End 2010 I decided to leave Europe and move to the Philippines. This (new) blog is used to comment on my experiences both on- and offline in the Philippines.
Disclosure: This site is my personal platform, represents my and solely my own opinions and nothing I say here is or can be taken as official statement by or is endorsed by my employer, Splashpress Media.
According to Janitor Al the Manifesto draft has been mailed to several bloggers in the last weeks, in particular to a small group of select bloggers.
It seems difficult to call any organization national when it comes to blogging, an act and movement built on the decentralized and fast spread of opinions, news. Even more in a country consisting of more than 7,000 isles and different regions, all promoting their own values and often having an own language.
On… (National) Representation
While especially representation should be one of the values and functions NOT endorsed by any association, as perfectly expressed by “Blogie” Robilo:
It must not put itself forward as representing all Filipino bloggers. Further, while it will be its mandate to recruit Filipino bloggers across the country and around the world to become its members, it should not make any representation, nor give any impression, to third parties that it is an umbrella organization above existing bloggers’ groups, such as the Cebu Bloggers Society Inc., CDO Bloggers Inc., Mindanao Bloggers Community, etc.
(That said, the association should be inclusive. That is merely to say, not exclusive in terms of membership: all bloggers should be welcome to join, and join of their own free will.)
Corollary to the above: The word “national” should not be used in the association’s name. (Filipino Bloggers Guild, anyone?)
On… National Again
To further raise doubts on the term National, I will refer to WordPress WordCamps. Since a while already now Jane Wells of Automattic, who runs the central WordCamps organization of WordPress event around the world, has stated that no further use of country names will be allowed by WordCamp (and the WordPress Foundation). Upon first thought this might seem ridiculous but the motivation and reason behind this is valid:
If there was a national event, some people could be dissuaded from running a local event and she felt that this would be a bad thing
Many opinions on this issue can be read over at WPCandy. At the same time this does raise issues with the WordCamp Philippines event, which has moved from the WordCamp Central site to its own site. A move made in Summer 2010, around the same time as Automattic started to reach out to other WordCamps with the country name in their title. Surprise or quietly kicked out?
I am of the same opinion as Jane Wells and do ask: “Who gives you the right to call yourself national and thus oppress anything regional by name alone already?”
It is very simple to call any group trying to found an organization an association. At the same time together with association often comes the official voice expectation and feeling of mediator role and regulator. In a decentralized environment such as blogging the term association is semantically incorrect and even directly opposes one of the values promoted in the actual Manifesto Draft:
the drafting and adoption of a code of ethics that underscore the community’s responsibility and maturity;
Any creation of such a draft, valued by any association, will be experienced as being oppressive and possible members might feel the existence of any Code of Ethics a required endorsement, possibly limiting their freedom of expression.
On… Code of Ethics
A quick Google search for Blogging Code of Ethics yields many results, results often several years old already. Among professional bloggers often Allan Jenkins’ Code of Ethics is believed to be the first official and most widespread code of ethics. This should be a personal endorsement. While an organization may promote these standards, many especially free-time writers might struggle with certain topics in an ethical manifesto.
Bloggers should personally endorse the code of ethics they adhere to, and self decide to link, publish the ethical code they follow. This is a personal endorsement and any addition of these values by a national organization works restrictive and will result in less people joining. More so, any endorsed Code of Ethics will often be regarded as a major foundation principle of the organization which leads me to…
On… Best Practices
From the actual Manifesto Draft:
the gathering and sharing of Philippine blogging’s best practices that reflect our contributions to ourselves and our online communities, media, causes, organizations and businesses, government, the nation and the world
Both the stride towards a Code of Ethics and the use of terms such as best practices are values often endorsed by professionals, in their fight to be respected as media. The big question raised by the use of above terms is: “Who decides what best practices are?”
Let’s not beat around the bush, it will be the main contributors on founders of the Association who will decide upon this and set the standards. To what need?
Which leads me to…
For years already I have lead a mental battle with myself against the term blogging. On my main page, I fully endorse the opinion of Paul Boutin and do struggle with the term blogging.
Writing a weblog today isn’t the bright idea it was four years ago. The blogosphere, once a freshwater oasis of folksy self-expression and clever thought, has been flooded by a tsunami of paid bilge. Cut-rate journalists and underground marketing campaigns now drown out the authentic voices of amateur wordsmiths. It’s almost impossible to get noticed, except by hecklers. And why bother? The time it takes to craft sharp, witty blog prose is better spent expressing yourself on Flickr, Facebook, or Twitter.
As a professional, making a full-time living from publishing online I do fear that the people promoting the creation of the National Blogger’s Association are fighting the wrong battle. The need for a best practices standard and Code of Ethics often is pushed by people making and actual earning, and living, from their online publishing ventures. An on-going fight against the main stream media, who often still neglect blogs in the every day more important battle for page views and revenues. Additionally, many a ‘New Media’ outlet which started as a ‘blog’, does not endorse the term anymore in its name or tagline. Think sites such as TechCrunch, Gawker Media properties, and the GigaOm network. All these sites started as ‘blogs’ and have become respected media properties, their editors often interviewed by mainstream media outlets such as Fox, CNN and ABC in the USA.
On… Professional Association
I do believe in the need of a centralized organization, representing both values and needs of professionals and will advocate the creation of such a union for bloggers world wide. Regnard Raquedan, a former contributor to Splashpress Media, does a better job than me at explaining the principles and values of a professional association, and the conflict in generalizing the term:
…I believe that a group for professional bloggers can help the industry. The setting of guidelines and standards can help protect the bloggers, advertisers, and readers. In an ideal scenario, this organization will elevate the state and professionalism of bloggers who do it for pay. This body can also be the “ethical police” where maligned customers can report errant bloggers.
This group should not pursue bloggers who are blogging as a hobby and as a means of expression. And clearly, the group should present itself as a representative of the professional bloggers, not all bloggers in general. Making such a claim would be downright wrong.
I believe no one group can represent the Philippine blogosphere– it’s akin to attempting to represent all those who can express themselves. But I believe that a group focused on one aspect of blogging, that is professional blogging or blogging with an agenda, can be helpful in legitimizing Philippine blogging as a practice.
The true question in the #NBAPh case though is still: “Who and What is a blogger?”
The truth is that most people making an actual and relevant earning from their online publications are media. Looking around the Pinoy blogosphere I see sites with many thousands subscribers and high traffic, sites such as Yugatech. These sites are newsworthy and provide the visitor with more (niche specific) news than many a respected mainstream media outlet. Other blogs do provide more commentary and opinions than platforms such as The Inquirer.net which often resorts to the publication of the AFP feed.
We are media, whether newsy or by commentary. This is the true fight of the professionals and that is why we need a Code of Ethics, a best practices standard and maybe even a national union. Most ‘bloggers’ don’t need this though and don’t care about this matter either. Will we be documenting a best practices for Facebook profiles next? NO.
If the aim of the NBAPh is to protect and stimulate every blogger in the Philippines and OFW, how come I feel excluded already? I am not a Pinoy but do live here and am a professional publisher online. And I feel excluded already.
On… Association Again
To make the Association and its values more believable and especially more open, the creation of a voluntary collective would be semantically better. This Collective could publish a Wiki with its Manifesto and values, as well as its Code of Ethics and Best Practices Standards. A wiki, publicly questionable on site and editable in the Wiki Talk Pages.
I am going to be blunt and say things out loud, according to #1 on Allen Jenkins’ Code of Ethics(1):
There is no doubt about that the founding editors and members of the NBAPh are interested in saying that they were founding members of the 1st National Blogger’s Association and thus will raise their own profile.
I challenge thou…
I challenge exactly these people to start a collectively published, managed and maintained online publication competing with the respected daily mainstream media outlets and thus prove the value, strength and quality of the Pinoy Blogosphere. Let’ start the 2011 equivalent of a pirate radio station and show the MSM our value. All while accepting contributions of anyone instead of sticking the small contributor in the ‘Letters from Our Readers” section (often the most interesting section in daily newspapers).
This might seem like a monumental task and some might immediately fear loss in revenue but it is possible and if the brightest minds in the Pinoy Blogosphere wish to prove how strong, good and valuable we are as a centralized organization, there certainly is a way to do so by actions rather than paper work and red tape.
Any profit generated should be used to organize free workshops, lobby for cheaper internet and hosting and when needed to protect the rights of online publishers, both professional and leisure publishers.
I challenge thou.
Relevant Reading Around The Pinoy Blogosphere
- Janitor Al
- Janette Toral
- Tonyo Cruz
- Jayvee Fernandez
- The Marocharim Experiment
- Aileen Apolo
- Jonas de los Reyes on Yahoo! Answers
- Regnard Raquedan
- Mommy Bloggers Club
- Viloria.net & Viloria.net again
- Blogie Robilo
- Juned Sonido
- Sonnie Santos
- Carlo Ople
- BlogWatch’s Take
Please leave a comment if I have left a link to your related article.
- I will not barter my words or my silence(↩)