The first Dhaka bloggers meet kicked of in style as about 20 bloggers gathered in Maqsood Bhai’s house in Niketon in the afternoon on the 4th of February, 2006. The atmosphere were great, the participants were well knowledgeable and free and frank and Maqsood Bhai’s hospitability was superb. We even had talented bloggers like Misho, who is joining Microsoft, USA shortly. The bloggers who attended were:
Shafi, Khaled, Zico, Hasan, Naser, Zabir, Nazzina, Wamy, Hasin, Yawar, Rifat, Misho, Arild, Munshi, Maqsood, Mahfuz – a journalist from the New Age news paper and a few more.
Me and Rifat arrived within 4 PM. But the guests had started arriving after 4:30 PM. After some sporadic talks, everybody went deep into blogs as Mahfuz, the New Age feature writer wanted to know about blogs. It is not surprising that in Bangladesh blogging is still an unknown phenomenon to many. He was slowly told about blogs, issues of citizen media vs. mainstream media and more. Bangladesh is still lagging far behind in the internet usage comparing to the developing countries. In reply to his question that why people blog, he was told that blogging is a part of the digital life. We have embraced the technologies as a part of our lives and now we can easily express and share our thoughts using this technology. It is really a form of expressing oneself and sharing among the community. He was also notified about the various forms of blogs.
When he asked what is the credibility of the bloggers, we asked him back what is the credibility of mainstream media who thinks of commercial interest first. Maqsood Bhai told a story that GrameenPhone sold thousands of faulty mobile SIMs and one day there was a riot like situation when people queued up in GrameenPhone’s office. Apparently no press covered this in fear of loosing advertisement revenue as they were dictated by GrameenPhone. Maqsood Bhai vowed that the Bangladeshi mainstream media do not so far read blogs but they rather should be. Because the online newspapers update after a day, while the blogger can share news to the international community instantaneously. He told how one of his posts was picked up by Reuters within 15 minutes of publishing in his blog.
Mahfuz was delighted with all these information and promised to read more blogs and contact every blogger who attended the meet for further information.
Then Arild, the MD of Somewherein.net took the lead. He explained how the Bangla Blogging platform of his company “Bandh Bhanger Awaz” revolutionized Bangla blogging. As of today they have 437 registered users and 27000 page views in its aggregator in a day. That means there are a growing number of blog readers also. Rifat and some others raised some issues like the viewing problems and absence of linking and option of writing in English side by side. The main developer Hasin explained that this limitation is due to not implementing Unicode. They thought that many users are not aware of the configuration required in the browsers to view Bangla. Somewhereinblog’s easy typing interface can be used by any novice but it is very time consuming. Some raised the issue that its feed cannot be viewed in RSS readers like bloglines.com and the contents cannot be picked up by search engines. The somewherein team said that they will think about implementing Unicode. Some raised the issues of filtering the obscene contents in the aggregator which picks posts automatically. Arild said that there might be some garbage alongwith some good blogs. But in the end only quality blogs will prevail.
Arild also suggested launching a group blog of some selected bloggers which will provide quality content and other interactions.
Then there was an elaborate introduction part where everybody had to say a few things about themselves and how did they started blogging, what are the future plans etc. Rifat was the lone blogger outside Dhaka, who raised the issue of slow internet in many parts of the country. However everybody agreed that in Bangladesh blogging is in initial stage and it is going to explode as soon as the optic fiber submarine cable line starts working. Please read this to know more about the limitations of Bangla blogosphere. Maqsood Bhai thought that there are many opportunities for the bloggers to get international acknowledgement. And as he work from home in data mining field, the next era will be dominated by persons working through one’s own PC, not in someone else’s office. Everybody interacted with each other freely and it was really a great discussion with many things to learn.
The one resolution we took is to explore possibility of arranging a seminar on blogs, with multimedia presentations and live demo. Nazzina said she will try to get sponsorship so that it is well publicized and people can take it seriously.
Maqsood Bhai had arranged Singaras, Pithas, cold drinks, tea etc. I brought some pastries and cold drinks. So there was no shortage of food. The grand finale was Maqsood Bhai’s delicious Pulao with Beef and mutton, salad and drinks. The discussion could go on the whole night even the consequent day. Everybody had so much to share. But we had to leave that place as most people had to leave for other appointments. Thanking Maqsood Bhai the meet broke by 8:00 PM with more enthusiasm than what we had before the meet.
Update: More pictures in Shafi's blog. Hasin also has some wonderful photos in Flickr.
Wamy has posted about the meet with his perceptions about some of the bloggers. Check it out. (Oh and it was not my birthday but anyway if everybody needed an excuse to eat those pastries I would rather born again on the 4th of February ;).
Some bloggers could not come but had sent their best wishes. Sadat wrote a poem on blog for this meet and sent from Rajshahi. We missed you people.
"We see, we write
We think, we fight,
For the truth
The life, the light.
We write, we show
We love Bangladesh."
- Sadat Shahriar