Wednesday, 8 July 2009

Blog House: Mutually Exclusive Real And Virtual Worlds?

Blog House was a real building located at 66, Lorong Setiabistari 2, Damansara Heights. A nice address in a somewhat exclusive area; the home of the National Alliance of Bloggers (All-Blogs) and was the brainchild of journalist, Ahiruddin "Rocky's Bru" Atan. It was perhaps meant to mirror the National Press Club of which he is both a past and current President.

"Blog House" the concept, did not last as long as the two-year lease on the building; it was dead months before the keys were handed back to the landlord. Yet, when it was conceived, virtually every local blogger worth mentioning bought the idea. There were a number of memorable events held there and I attended a few. Notable among them were the
official launching which was done in conjunction with Haris Ibrahim's "Bangsa Malaysia: The Way Forward" forum at the venue, the All-Blogs 100 Days commemoration, and the candlelight vigils for ISA detainees. I was initially impressed by the seemingly seamless interactions between people of differing social status, religious faith and political loyalty in an almost laissez-faire environment. I thought I had stumbled upon a liberals Utopia. But why is Blog House no more?

Looking back, I suppose the idea of Blog House to give All-Blogs a physical home was doomed to be a failed initiative by the promoters. Noble ideals notwithstanding, the promoters of All-Blogs (membership is open to all bloggers) were a rag tag bunch of individuals with their own respective agenda and motivations, "forced" together in common advocacy of item 7 of the MSC Bill of Guarantees; no internet censorship.

Lofty ideals are easy to declare but maintaining standards and consistency is a different ballgame! Blogosphere is generally populated by the alter egos of opinionated individuals from diverse backgrounds who preach to their respective choir. The more popular ones get more hits because they are more credible or they somehow pander to the baser instincts of the masses or just that they have a bigger choir. In the tangible physical world, the mien of bloggers seldom reflect their respective virtual persona; there must be something about an "electronic veil".

After a few meetings with fellow bloggers at Blog House, I could not avoid feeling skeptical about the genuineness of the sodality and being cynical about whether individuals from the virtual world can co-mingle genuinely in the the real world. I began to have my doubts about the Blog House concept. Apart from funding exigencies, in the absence of a formal Constitution there was always going to be the human factor adversely affecting interaction and cohesiveness of visitors to Blog House...there were just too many fundamental differences. These differences naturally spilled over to their cyberworlds. When things got personal, a minor blogger war was even sparked off.

Somehow, not many bloggers apart from the promoters felt a sense of belonging in the physical Blog House or even a great inclination to be aligned to the virtual All Blogs; banners have long since been removed from many blogs. Rocky himself has gone home to the mainstream while some of the others have moved on as Rocky puts it:

"Where will the All Blogs go after this?

Maybe nowhere, but the people who made up the Alliance have moved on: interim vice president Jeff Ooi has gone on to become a Member of Parliament for Jelutong, (DAP) exco member Elizabeth Wong is serving the people as an Adun for Bukit Lanjan, Selangor (PKR), and pro-tem secretary Nuraina A. Samad has gone back to the Umno-owned NST as its managing editor. Some of the exco members have vanished from blogosphere and from my life while a few, including Tony Yew and Li Tsin (who has stopped blogging), still keep in touch.

Perhaps it is time for a closure to a chapter ...."

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