Highly energized Bloggers Meetup in Karachi

March 7, 2009 at 3:30 pm 32 comments

ifaqeer-projected-on-screenCIO Pakistan and Badar Khushnood of Google Pakistan finally held a Bloggers Meetup at a time that I was available in the country and although the schedule yesterday was a crazy one (when isn’t it?), there was no way that I was going to miss it.

So off I went to Royal Rodale at 4 pm to meet up with about 40 bloggers (and some imposters/wannabe bloggers). 🙂

While we waited for the event to begin, I had a chance to chat with the bloggers who were there – some I hadn’t seen for a long while, and others whom I had never met.

alis-tableSome of the bloggers were coming straight from work and so a little delay was understandable. Rabia Garib began the proceedings by explaining that the reason for the Meetup was for “active” bloggers to have a discussion on how they could support each other, how they could help increase the number of bloggers in the Pakistani blogosphere, and how they could work together to brand Pakistan positively.

iFaqeer (Sabahat Ashraf) joined the event via Skype and through the Justintv stream that Rabia had set up. Ramla, Mystakool, Haris, DjFlush and several others were linked in via Twitter etc because of the unsatisfactory quality of the audio. Awab Alvi (Teeth Maestro) and I were tweeting  some of the discussion as it was going on although some of the time we got so completely into the discussion that we stopped twittering. Byawab-and-jamash the way, Awab has the most disgusting Panasonic laptop you have ever seen – strange thing is that Rabia and Ammar both fell in love with it! No accounting for taste I tell you! 🙂

Anyway, back to the discussion. Each of the bloggers introduced themselves so that we could put names to faces and then the suggestions started pouring out. Some felt that bloggers needed to be more responsible about their projection of Pakistan – that they should only project what was positive. There was even a suggestion that some regulatory body should play a part.

networkingMany of us were dead against that. Who were we to tell any blogger what he or she should, or should not, write about. It was their personal space to do with what they please. The serious bloggers exercise a sense of responsibility, ethics and balance in any case. They research a story before posting it. They do not post sensational photographs of innocent parties, especially if they are personal – Governor Salman Taseer’s families’ photos being a case in point. Wheras public figures are answerable to their constituents, their families should not be targeted. If certain bloggers use their space consistently to attack particular segments of society, or people with particular political affiliations or insinuate and spread untruths, very soon their following drops and people move on to more credible sources of information. So the filtering takesfarihas-table place naturally.

There are some good things about Pakistan. Why do most bloggers not write about those? Why do they only focus on the negative? Fair enough. There should be balanced content out there so those of us who feel that we know of good things that are happening in our cities and in our country, we should highlight those. Let’s put up more photos so people out there know that we do not live in caves, that although we are different, yet we are also the same.

Batool suggested that there should be more about our culture and our music. Great. Let us either put it out there ourselves or encourage people who have a specific interest in that area, to do so. Let us help them get started if technology is a barrier. The T2F blog and Danka does show some of what is happening on the cultural scene but much more of the art, fashion, literature and culture needs to be put up.

avid-listenersFariha and Jamash were of the opinion that social issues needed to be highlighted not because we wanted to sensationalize them but because we need to find solutions for the ills in our society. There are problems in every society. To tackle them requires creating an awareness and coming up with answers.

Fariha, for instance, wants to start a blog/forum on which she wants to discuss women’s harrassment issues. We are not the only country with this problem. So what is the harm in talking about it and seeing what people have to say, whether it’s ways to handle yourself in such situations, or helping create gender policies that are implemented in work places or whatever. Some people may even talk about organisations that are case studies of a balanced and gender friendly work environment. Others may talk about support groups that are available.badar-and-batool

Some of us are already highlighting the innovation in our technology industry. Whether it is the CIO Pakistan Webstudio (my ITLOW webcast being one of the elements that makes the webstudio so interesting), TechLahore, the P@SHA blog, my own blog, Desi Back to Desh, IT Tazee, Green & White, Babar Bhatti’s blog and so many others, there is good material that is available out there. Perhaps we should be cross-linking some of what is already on blogs and websites. Tea Break, Bloggers.pk and Alltop Pakistan have aggregated a lot of the blogs from Pakistan but let each of us link to our 5 or 10 favourite local blogs so that we can create a buzz.

abid-belis-tableAll Things Pakistan already exists (where there are both the positive and the negative about developments in Pakistan), Abid Beli said he had already started a blog to present the Pakistan perspective, but was still in the process of creating more traction for it. Badar Khushnood pointed us in the direction of a blog called “Alive and Well in Pakistan”. This is what the site owners say about their effort:

Fawad Butt and Ethan Casey provide independent reporting from and about Pakistan, humanizing Pakistanis for a global audience and giving Pakistanis worldwide an honest, sympathetic portrayal of their situation in the contemporary world that goes beyond the headlines and cliches, in film, print and other media such as short videos, still photography, and audio.

me twittering awayThere were a lot of concerns about the ethics or lack of them. Awab said there was no reason to reinvent the wheel and pointed us in the direction of the Electronic Frontier Foundation which has information on bloggers rights and responsibilities. Some of this may not be relevant because of our unique laws. Maybe the thing to do is become aware of what is acceptable globally and then, if necessary, start advocacy for the same rights and protection that is available to bloggers elsewhere.

Action items that were agreed to included:

1. Farzal Dojki will come up with a list of “talking points” about the positive thinks that are happening in Pakistan.

2. Usman Sheikh will put up a wiki where everyone will add on their resolutions and resources.

3. Taking more photos of people, flowers, scenery, animals, culture and putting it on Flickr.

4. Tagging everything that we post so that it is available in search engines.

5. Finding something positve to write about every week.

6. Creating a brand that could be used for viral marketing

7. When an inaccurate and negative story about Pakistan appears anywhere, doing our research and commenting on it so that the truth is out there.

8. Two of the bloggers committed to adding 500 bloggers each to the Pakistan blogosphere – Ammar Yasir was one of them. I can’t remember who the other one was. Good luck. I hope your powers of persuasion are good.

the dreamerThere was a suggestion that perhaps people who did not have an education and were not literate would not be able to contribute to the blogosphere. Nothing could be further from the truth. Podcasting allows them to have a voice, to express their opinions and to share the wealth of indigenous knowledge that they possess.

Oh by the way I must tell you this. We had a dreamer in our midst – none other than Salaina Haroon of CIO Pakistan. Her suggestion was that all political parties in Pakistan should set up a joint PR wing that could brand Pakistan. Errr Salaina, what are you on? Surely not just Red Bull! 😉

Anthony Mitchell who has been following our tech industry for several years has sent these suggestions:

Reporters, bloggers, and other public figures in the West and India could be tracked and contacted to help them create more and better content about Pakistan and its people.  The results could be maintained and updated on a closed website that would function along the lines of what an export-oriented business would set up for its sales force to track clients and potential clients.

A civilian defense customer-relations-management (CRM) system would maintain contact information of outside parties, record interactions with PK bloggers, and contain notes on interest areas and the types of information that could be pushed out to outside parties—with their permission (annually renewed).

Outreach work could be divided up to limit the time demands on bloggers in Pakistan, provide continuity, and build bridges between people with similar interests.  For example, offroaders in Pakistan could reach out to editors of offroad magazines and offroad-oriented websites in the U.S. and offer to provide photos, content and other information that would show American readers some of the beauty of Pakistan. These exchanges would draw more readers to blogsites in Pakistan.

Technology for video conferencing provides exciting opportunities for a virtual speakers’ bureau.   Bloggers from Pakistan can use video links to engage in discussions with civic groups in other countries.  Civic groups can include rotary clubs, churches, political parties (of all persuasions), world affairs clubs and youth groups.

Pakistan’s prominence in the news gives it a ‘hipness’ that can be used to its benefit.  Through video links, students at all levels could make presentations to classes in the West and India, learning communication and leadership skills and providing a sense of relevance that is not always present in routine academic assignments.

Perhaps this post has become a bit lengthy :). And I still haven’t said everything I had to say. Oh well! Let me close by saying that discourse such as this is much needed. We may not always agree with each other but let us give each other the right to have a viewpoint. Let us increase the size of the Pakistani blogging community so that we have a voice but let us do so with a sense of responsibility and integrity.

Credits: I have used some photos taken in this post that were taken by Batool.

Entry filed under: Posts. Tags: , , , , , , .

Fariha Akhtar on ITLOW Audio Edition The places we end up at!

32 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Faisal.K  |  March 7, 2009 at 3:44 pm

    I couldn’t join you guys yesterday but am totally on board the whole positive Pakistan campaign, there are lots of forces looking for anyway to malign this lovely country and we need to protect what is ours, we should form and support each others views and come out with a common topic each week to blog about so that we represent a unified view!!

  • 2. MystaKool  |  March 7, 2009 at 3:55 pm

    Glad to see this up… great summary.

  • 3. iFaqeer  |  March 7, 2009 at 4:09 pm

    I love Ethan and Fawad like brothers, but if what they do is “sympathetic”, how is it independent?

  • Highly energized Bloggers Meetup in Karachi…

  • 5. Farhan Janjua  |  March 7, 2009 at 4:13 pm

    Read through the post! awesome roundup this really is.

    I wanted to be there but couldn’t make into it.

    Farhan Janjua

  • 6. Jehan  |  March 7, 2009 at 4:41 pm

    @Farhan your name came up during the discussions – or at least Guppu.com did 😉

  • 7. Jehan  |  March 7, 2009 at 4:42 pm

    @iFaqeer, touche!

  • 8. Ayesha  |  March 7, 2009 at 5:13 pm

    I missed it 😦

  • […] This cup of tea was served by: In the Line of Wire […]

  • 10. Farhan Janjua  |  March 7, 2009 at 7:00 pm


    I know ma’am 😀 I saw ur tweet abt me. btw, your review of my startup aarpix.com is still pending 😛 remember ??

  • 11. Daily Links-06 « HRM Course Blog-2009-IMSciences  |  March 7, 2009 at 7:16 pm

    […] Highly energized Bloggers Meetup in Karachi […]

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  • 13. minhaaj ur rehman  |  March 8, 2009 at 4:17 am

    I hope you consider my blog a Pakistani blog Jehanara, even if that doesn’t support mainstream 🙂 Couldn’t find it in your aggregated list 🙂

  • 14. Sadia Maqsood  |  March 8, 2009 at 7:44 pm

    great..i wish such event would held in Lahore and i can join…

  • 15. Em  |  March 8, 2009 at 9:40 pm

    Oops! Missed it..

  • 16. Salman  |  March 8, 2009 at 11:13 pm

    was it advertised anywhere?! 😦
    I wanted to join ;d

  • 17. Babar Bhatti  |  March 9, 2009 at 1:08 am

    Wow … this is impressive … I can feel the energy and wish that I could be there. Perhaps Pakistani bloggers abroad should try to join via conference call next time.

    I only have one point to emphasize – keep blogging with a purpose, you never know who is reading.

  • 18. Teeth Maestro  |  March 9, 2009 at 3:41 am

    This panasonic Ugly laptop will come into play specially in Karachi god forbid I have to dodge a bullet -its a ruggerized Panasonic Tough book – can stand a massive drop or even wack a robber in the midst of his crime –

    show respect or else this thick thoughbook will come hunting for that cable !!!

    Great report – you missed the best part which was the barefoot bowling later on

  • 19. Bloggers meet up Karachi ‘09. | Tea Break  |  March 9, 2009 at 6:21 am

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    […] Highly energized Bloggers meet in Karachi […]

  • 21. Ali Chishti  |  March 9, 2009 at 7:41 am

    Khawab Khali Ke Hadd Hotee Hain 🙂
    You wrote,
    “The serious bloggers exercise a sense of responsibility, ethics and balance in any case. They research a story before posting it. They do not post sensational photographs of innocent parties, especially if they are personal – Governor Salman Taseer’s families’ photos being a case in point. Wheras public figures are answerable to their constituents, their families should not be targeted……..” ……..you can not be serious….!!! LOL

  • 22. Jehan  |  March 9, 2009 at 8:10 am

    @Babar iFaqeer joined us via Skype but there is some tweaking that needs to be done to improve quality of sound, etc. We are planning to try and arrange videoconferencing available next time. You are right about not knowing who is reading, I hear even the walls have ears & maybe eyes too! 🙂

    @TeethMaestro, Panasonic Tough Book – appropriate name for it. Everyone else loved it I know but you must admit it is ugly but if you are going to throw it around, it is best you have something like this. Hey don’t threaten me with the Tough Book. Have you not seen the Mac vs PC transformer video at http://www.youtube.com/watch%3Fv%3DuLbJ8YPHwXM?

    @Ali, lawyers are born cynics I guess. Blogging is still new in this part of the world and as maturity sets in, you will see more and more bloggers being even more responsible and balanced. Give it a chance for heaven’s sake. BTW I forgot to include the fact that you generously offered free legal assistance to anyone who is charged under the Electronic Crimes Ordinance. That is really nice of you. Help us spread the word regarding the changes that are needed in this ordinance. You will save more time that way. 🙂

  • 23. Zakintosh  |  March 9, 2009 at 10:56 am

    Missed it … Just flew in from Islamabad and had to help with my wife’s trip 4 hours later to USA. Next time, I guess.

    Have just scanned through this (intend to read the full thing later and add comments) but here’s a start:

    1. The crazy suggestion of a regulatory body is informed deeply by our parental, governmental, feudal, authoritarian culture – one that has even altered the spirit of Laa Ikraaha FidDeen to forcing everything upon us from lengths of our trousers to the shape of our beards. Shun all regulation other than self-regulation! And not just for blogs!!!

    2. “There are some good things about Pakistan. Why do most bloggers not write about those?”

    If most bloggers don’t write about it it may be because most don’t want to, or it’s not their turf, or it isn’t their reason for blogging. The question should not be put to bloggers, but to others: If you, as a Pakistani, are really concerned with the ‘image’ and find some good stuff going on, why don’t you become bloggers, reporters, YouTubers, citizen journalists, writers and spread the word?


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  • 26. sickscorpio  |  March 9, 2009 at 4:50 pm

    I feel sorry to have missed the meetups, hopefully i’ll get the chance to meet with all you wonderful people come next time..
    For the positive pak thing, would love to discuss it further, but still count me in..

  • 27. salaina  |  March 9, 2009 at 10:24 pm

    wow..that is a detailed report…*grins..Red Bull, does not help the dreams Jehan..:)…Lemon Fanta does!

  • 28. عمار - aMmAr  |  March 10, 2009 at 1:58 am

    Well I have this thing for vintage items, no wonder the Panasonic laptop u mentioned caught my attention. But Apple Mac Book air is the best undoubtedly, if only I could afford it 😉 or Santa brings me one this XMAS 😀

    Nice post, we missed u at the bowling session btw 🙂

  • 29. Tazeen  |  March 11, 2009 at 1:15 pm

    Missed it. Looked like a fruitful meeting.

  • 30. باسم  |  March 13, 2009 at 11:44 pm

    اردو بلاگنگ کی بارے میں بھی کچھ بتا دیا جاتا

  • 31. Freedom and Education « Munir’s Blog  |  March 22, 2009 at 9:58 pm

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  • 32. Sarah  |  April 4, 2009 at 7:13 pm

    I recently came across your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I don’t know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.




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