Saturday, March 05, 2011

Frequently Asked Questions: National Bloggers Association and Professional Bloggers Association

Last January 31 and February 1, I asked readers on the idea of forming a National Bloggers Association and Professional Bloggers Association. There were questions posted at that time. However, things turned lately to a different level, even got confused on how far the discussion has gone, and I hope that this FAQ will help clarify any misconception.

1. Are you forming a bloggers association? Why?
I am now open to the idea of having a National Bloggers association and Professional Bloggers Association.  The Internet and Mobile Marketing Association of the Philippines (IMMAP), where I am a founding and current board member, will be updating its Internet and Mobile Marketing guidelines that shall include blog advertising either this year or next.

When that time comes, rather than having limited opinions from individuals, I feel it is best that interested bloggers from all over the country can have its own discussion on these matters and form position papers when needed.

However, I recognize not all blogging groups are into policy development. Hence the suggestion of forming a national and professional association separately whose initial focus is to interact with other groups planning to release policies that will have impact on blogging, directly or indirectly.

IMMAP, an AdBoard member, will need all the inputs it can get. To date, hardly any blogger is a member of the association and having my 1 vote out of the 15 board member slots can be a challenge. However, if there is a national and/or professional bloggers association in place, the discussion can be on a different level.

2. Who will lead the association? Won't it be manipulated by a few?
I think the stage now is who would like to be part of it. From there, let the group decide on who will be its initial 15 board members.

Ideally, these are people who can take the initiative and make time on policy matters. It needs bloggers who see themselves as pro-active contributors in the process. Those who are bold in embracing changes in the days and years to come as blogging and social media becomes mainstream in the Philippines.

To avoid leadership monopoly, the charter board can set guidelines, based on members input, on who can be nominated and set terms on the number of times they can be board members.

3. What is your role in these associations?
My role is to help facilitate its formation and will support the organization (and its voted leaders) in the best way I can.



4. What is the role of Tonyo Cruz in these associations?
Two years ago, Tonyo expressed interest in forming a national bloggers association and committed my support. This is the same moral support that I have given to bloggers and groups in different parts of the country when they were organizing themselves. As I always say, we need leaders and support those who have the best intentions that can help the community.

Tonyo, based on my discussion with him, saw that there are a lot of proposed policies to date that deserves a much broader participation. Without an association, the voices of the popular few will only be heard and may become the de facto on what the community thinks.

With an association in place, I think policies can be set up to ensure that there won't be a monopoly of ideas from the popular few and give those with potential an opportunity to be of service to the members of the association.

Tonyo picked up the ball after my video interview with him. His effort to gather bloggers' support was his initiative already. However, when I got attacked, I realized that a decision has to be made on my end. That is whether I would support or not. Recalling as well what happened two years ago when Tonyo made first attempt in pushing for this.

So this time, I decided to give my full support but had to be clear on what level.

5. Will the association(s) censor what can be blogged or not?
I don't think any association for that matter, even these planned ones, can do that. As bloggers, I think we all share a common belief for freedom of expression and responsible blogging. We should eye the creation of a Level 5 Tribe.

6. Are the planned associations gaining support already?
Many have welcome the idea. I say let all like-minded people move forward and help shape what these association(s) shall become.

7. What can you say to those who are saying that this / these association(s) should not be formed?
I am not open to forming an association just for the sake of it. However, with #1 happening anytime soon and with Tonyo's (#4) observation, my perspective change and I believe it is important to have one.

Definitely, this is a go. It is just a matter of encouraging interested stakeholders to join. I will spend my time with stakeholders who have a buy-in with the idea more than converting people who have closed their minds as soon as the idea was brought up.

8. If I express interest to join, what happens next?
Tonyo Cruz just made a sign-up form in his blog post. He will set up an open / public discussion group to discuss next steps. I request those who volunteer to be part of its formation to help in inviting others and clarify any misconception that is perceived in these groups' creation.

9. There are anonymous attacks posted online that I assume refers to you and Tonyo. What can you say about it? Aren't you afraid that this will destroy you - as what others who have tried forming this earlier have experienced?
I think people who are willing to go out of their own way to ask people - if they are in favor of forming a national bloggers association and professional bloggers association - deserves response from those who can own up to their opinions and converse as industry or professional peers. These efforts are for the interested members kaya sana walang personalan.

I have two beliefs that serve as aid whether I will respond to another person or not:
a. "If we find we cannot help others, the least we can do is desist from harming them."
b. Not to take things personally.
(In short, we all have the option of picking battles that are worthy. "Bad thoughts and actions can never produce good results.")

The least I want is for Tonyo to lose momentum just because I got attacked. Hence the reason for this FAQ with the intent of giving the necessary clarification.

10. What was the bloggers manifesto about?
Tonyo came up with a manifesto and was thinking of encouraging those who are interested to join to sign it. If I am correct, I think this was inspired by other blogging groups whose expression of interest to join is by electronically signing a manifesto or post it on their own blogs.

Tonyo circulated the manifesto to get inputs from people on its content before it will be posted online. I guess to prevent any miscommunication in the future from those who received (and then forwarded to peers for further insight), a discussion group will be necessary where ideas can be discussed and people can interact openly.

11. Will this group have a bloggers certification or special activities like blogger olympics in the future?
There is no discussion on that at the moment.

12. Will the group be mandatory for all bloggers to join?
Nope.

13. Will there be a fee for joining?
In its organization phase, none. In registering the association, there are fees that needs to be paid for by founding board members. Let the founding board members decide from there on the next steps.

Although most associations have a minimal membership fee to support its administrative operations and annual filing report to government agencies. They can also raise funds through sponsorship rather than membership.

14. Will there be restrictions on who can join?
I gave suggestions on minimum membership requirement for the Professional Bloggers Association. Although again, let the founding board members eventually decide on that. No discussion yet on that for the National Bloggers Association.

15. How do I make sure that these groups won't go into undesirable activities or release position papers I am not in favor of?
Take part. However, be sport enough when outvoted by the majority. (That is easier said than done for I am not good in that either. Continuously learning.)

16. Instead of forming an association, why not just expand existing associations like IMMAP and let them include bloggers?
Bloggers can join IMMAP if they want to. There is a membership process flow in the organization. If more bloggers will join IMMAP, I think that will be cool.

During the Big Bad Blogger issue, it seems IMMAP scope right now is more on how should advertisers deal with bloggers. In terms of blog content, that would fall under the scope of the Public Relations Society of the Philippines (PRSP).

So rather than be put in a situation where associations will decide on how to deal with bloggers on an advertising and public relations perspective, then bloggers responding individually, it seems to be more proactive to already form a body who can interact with these associations, arrive at an agreed position, should situations need to be addressed in the future.

17. Do we need to have a majority vote from all the bloggers in the Philippines to get this organized rather than having a few decide in forming it?
I have been part of several organizations in its formation that intends to encourage membership nationwide - using the word "Philippines" in its organization name. They were formed by 15 people or less. That is why an online fora is being arranged to get more people to participate. This is a long process and won't just happen in weeks. May even take months to get the nitty-gritty done.

Whoever will take interest in its formation can also include in the discussion the final name of the group. In short, nothing is fixed as of this writing as what we have at the moment is call for interested parties to organize.

18. How about expanding Digital Filipino to accept bloggers as members to be represented in these discussions?
There are members in DigitalFilipino Club that are bloggers. However, it is a club rather than an organization.

19. I got the impression that you are promoting Effective Measure in the Philippines. Will you be using the association to promote them?
I am not sure where folks got the idea about this. Sorry to disappoint but am not connected with them. Just got the opportunity to write about the "MOU signing of Top 7 publishers in the Philippines with Effective Measure" as I was there when it happened representing IMMAP (board members got invited during the said event).

Seeing that traditional online media will be adopting a common standard for online audience measurement, I added that in my post for possible discussion as the same advertisers / ad agencies may sooner or later look for something similar in blogs where they will like to advertise. Regardless of tools, I think it is more on the presentation and data format where concerned members can agree to in the future.

20. Can the National Bloggers Association focused on "helping bloggers become better bloggers" or knowledge-sharing in a sense? Take out the "political" parts in the manifesto such as the "better Internet" movement.

My personal bias. Being exposed on policy-making, this is a task that can't be underestimated and has long-term repercussion. To be able to voice out concerns and opinions requires consultation, structure, credibility, and organization legitimacy.

On "better Internet", I believe all of us wants to have a better Internet infrastructure in the Philippines. At this point, I don't see anything wrong that by joining the group, you also want to see improvement in the Internet infrastructure and do your share. As to what they are going to be exactly shall be decided upon by the group.

Also, if it is focused as knowledge sharing body, then I will likely be the first to say that it doesn't have to be referred to as a national bloggers association and maybe redundant as the various blogging organizations throughout the country are doing that already too.

21. Does this body have political aspirations - like run as a party-list?
I don't think bloggers are a marginalized group in the country. I suggest to those who are not familiar on the election process not to confuse people by suggesting scenarios that are not possible in the first place.

22. There are similar "national" associations that were organized in other countries that failed due to its inability to muster support. Are you ready for that scenario?
That is the reason why the purpose for its creation needs to be explicitly clear. I mentioned upcoming issues that require attention and proper representation. It is also the reason why this organization will not be dependent on number of people joining. It is the quality of members, insight and time they'll give, that shall matter.

It also takes strong leadership (from the founding members) to organize a national organization. I would rather see one that tried and failed - than not try at all.

24. The beauty of the blogosphere is in its diversity. By creating a non-mandatory organization that is national in scope, it creates exclusion. What do you think?
Not all folks can be forced to join the group. However, members can be encouraged to help spread the word on policy papers and other positions about to come out. In the process, help in getting opinion from non-members on what they think. All the inputs gathered can help make the group better in coming up with position on various matters. Hopefully, it will also attract non-members to see value in being part of the group in the future - when they are ready to take part.

25. I noticed that the proponents of this movement have poor organization skills. How will you be able to pull this off?
It is fair to say that this movement shall happen and will not be dependent on one or two persons only working. The founding members have to combine their strengths to help each other and make this possible.






Changes in the Philippine Blogosphere


Blog marketing for SMEs (Blogs as alternative to traditional online media ads)

If you have further questions, kindly post it here. Thank you for your patience.