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Poland: Blog Forum Gdansk

Categories: Central Asia & Caucasus, Eastern & Central Europe, Azerbaijan, Poland, Digital Activism, Economics & Business, Freedom of Speech, Media & Journalism, Technology

Blog Forum Gdańsk 2010. Photo by Rafał Czajka

It was a great feeling to sit in a room with over 100 bloggers, lecturers, panelists, scientists, journalists from the main Polish media and people of all kinds of backgrounds at the Blog Forum Gdansk [1] event, the first ever bloggers’ conference held in Gdansk [2], a city in northern Poland, discussing freedom of bloggers and overall issues of Internet communication. The city’s principal philosophy – “Freedom of Culture, Culture of Freedom [3]” – was also the motto of the conference.

The two-day event took place on Dec. 11 and 12 at the Institute Sztuki Wyspa [4] (Wyspa Institute of Art), which used to be a shipbuilding school back in the day at the Gdansk Shipyard [5]. You can still see the old massive cranes standing in the shipyard, for some strange reason reminding me of Pink Floyd’s famous song, “Another Brick in the Wall [6].”

The forum was split into panel discussions and presentations given by such speakers as Global Voices Advocacy [7] director Sami Ben Gharbia [8], or a popular blogger from the United States Brian Solis [9], as well as different speakers from Poland. One of the notable presentations was given by Jarek Rybus [10], who is now in the process of making a documentary on the state of the Polish blogosphere, called “Bloggersi [11]”.

It was interesting to follow up on the reflections by Polish bloggers and here is what I came across.

Kuba Filipowski [12], a young Polish entrepreneur and blogger, writes [13] a week after the forum:

Doskonała organizacja. Robiłem kilka eventów w swoim życiu i wiem jak dużo pracy trzeba włożyć w to, żeby potem ktoś na blogu mógł napisać, że był świetnie zorganizowany. Do tego zadbano o nas jak o vipy co było bardzo przyjemne ;). […]

Excellent organization. I've done a few events in my life and I know how much work you put in it, so that afterwards someone could write on a blog that it was perfectly organized. And we were treated as VIPs, which was very nice ;). […]

He then writes of various issues persisting in the Polish blogosphere, one of which was whether making profit off a personal blog makes a blogger “amoral” – does it mean you lose your independence the moment you place ads on you blog or can you continue what you like the most – blogging – without getting caught in the “amoral” side of placing ads and profiting from them?

This argument was, perhaps, one of the hottest at the forum. In fact, the panel I was invited to speak at – “Can Bloggers Be Free?” – was when this question was raised and discussed, going as far as to question authors of these “profiting” blogs as bloggers in general. However, it was this discussion also that in a way made Polish bloggers appreciate the freedom they have, especially as I spoke of the state of the blogosphere in Azerbaijan and the price some of the young activists there pay for expressing themselves freely on their blogs or elsewhere.

Adam Przeździęk describes [14] [POL] the first day of the forum on his blog as “a little chaotic in terms of lectures and panel discussions” – perhaps as the result of “discussion topics raising pressure” leading their way to “unnecessary arguments [referring to the discussion on freedom of bloggers once they place ads on their blogs]”. According to this blogger, advertising on personal blogs and profiting from this leads to “innate jealousy” among people in Poland.

While writing of the second day panel discussions, Adam mentions the whole ‘bloggers-are-narcissists’ argument that was mentioned during one of the panel discussions that day:

[…] blogerzy bywają narcyzami, co po części też jest prawdą, ale dlaczego nie cieszyć się z sukcesów i nie chcieć następnych?

[…] bloggers can be narcissists, partly it is true, why not enjoy the success [of your blog] and want more?

Unfortunately, Adam concludes, the event was too short and too many things were left unsaid.

Similarly to Adam, another blogger by the name of Segritta questioned the whole concept of placing ads on one’s blog and profiting from this. According to Segritta [15], having ads on someone’s blog cannot be a reason to question the author’s lack of freedom:

Ale nazywanie tego brakiem wolności? To właśnie wolność daje nam, blogerom, możliwość wyboru, czy z daną firmą współpracujemy. To wolność pozwala nam na zerwanie umowy. To wolność daje nam prawo pisać cokolwiek chcemy. Nikt z nas nie jest spętany reklamą na blogu. Nikogo się do niej nie zmusza. Żadna firma nie ma prawa nakazać nam lubienia ich frytek, komputerów czy usług bankowych. […] Nie dziwi to w telewizji i prasie. Dlaczego dziwi w blogach? Wydaje mi się, że chodzi o zwykłą zazdrość.

But to call this lack of freedom? Actually, it is freedom that gives us, bloggers, an opportunity to choose whether to cooperate with a given company or not. This freedom allows us to terminate the agreement. This freedom gives us the right to write whatever we want. None of us is chained to advertising on the blog. Nobody is forcing us [to place ads]. No company has the right to require us to like their chips, computers or banking services. […] It is not surprising to see ads on TV and in the press. Why should it be surprising on the blogs? It seems to me that this is a simple jealousy [to call a blogger not free and dishonest]. […]

Ewelina Golba, author of a blog called PunktSocialny, wrote this [16]:

Szczerze mówiąc miałam nadzieję na ciekawą dyskusję i nawet na początku taka ona była, jednak niestety przerodziła się w rozwiązywanie “problemu” reklamy na blogach:/. Padły nawet określenia, że osoba która ma reklamy na blogach nie jest blogerem, co dla mnie jest absurdalne… Jeśli blogerzy mogą zarabiać na pasji to tylko można im tego pogratulować, a pamiętajmy, że nie jest łatwo stworzyć bloga, który nie tylko przyciągnie czytelników ale i dużych reklamodawców. […] Jak dla mnie blogerzy są wolni i cenię osoby, które sa w stanie pisać regularnie i ciekawie o swoich pasjach.

Frankly, I was hoping for an interesting discussion, and it was, at the beginning, but, unfortunately, it turned into solving the “problem” of advertising on blogs :/. The question of whether a person who is advertising on blogs is actually a blogger seems absurd to me. If bloggers can make money on the passion you can only congratulate them on this, and remember that it is not easy to create a blog that not only attracts readers, but large advertisers as well. If readers would have avoided each blog with banner advertising is not guided by its valence, and some strange reasons. To me, bloggers are free and I appreciate people who are able to write regularly and interestingly about their passions.

A different touch to this event that’s worth looking at is Marcin Stachowiak's blog entry [17] [POL, ENG] that takes readers on a short photo tour of the forum and the city of Gdansk with its legendary shipyard where the forum took place.