by Reb Akiva at Mystical Paths
I'm home from the 2nd Annual Jewish Bloggers convention in Jerusalem, and here's my impressions and a recap...
Batya the ShilohMuse made a comment to me, "it doesn't seem like it did last year". Indeed not. Much more crowded, much more press, much more professional. Blogging is a big deal and as an aggregate having a big impact. Last year it still was a hobby and the main stream media could (try) to ignore it.
The panels and the high profile bloggers were more or less liberal and not-religiously-observant. But the crowd was 60% kippah wearers or women with head coverings. (Further, the crowd was 60% female.) A decent amount of ultra-orthodox bloggers, and an even higher number of "settler" bloggers were in attendance.
The crowd was spiked with non-bloggers but operators of Jewish web sites of various types. (Jewish news, community news, a charity site, Jewish dating site, Jeiwsh classified ad site, etc.) Lots of main stream media present, print, radio, TV.
Panel session "experts" for the most part weren't. Most of the experts selected where the either high profile or high success bloggers (high by traffic, not by making a living). A few of the experts were selected simply due to their Nefesh b'Nefesh relationship. One thing is clear, generally those who have been highly successful don't really know why or rather don't know how to teach it to others.
A few exceptions were the Muqata, who understands exactly the kind of posts that drive him big traffic and what doesn't and how to explain it, Jacob Richman who understands how to manipulate the Web 2.0 tools to drive traffic and how to explain it, and Tova Serkin from JGooders who presented a thorough picture of online tzedakah patterns. Tova was a particularly good surprise as a Web 2.0 panelist who actually had a coherent picture to deliver.
Israeli PR approaches continue to be a joke. The government people were almost begging the bloggers to suddenly self-coordinate and solve their hasbara (Israel PR) problems for them, while stating the current situation is very severe and very dangerous. They'd like this to happen while offering no support, no background info or PR feeds, and disowning the process if it doesn't perfectly match their message. The fact their current PR efforts aren't working is "the media's fault for reporting the wrong message". Ahh, yeah right.
The conference was run most professionally, just like a conference for software or real estate or insurance. But what's lacking are experts demonstrating methods and repeatable processes that one can use to develop or improve one's blog.
For me, the truly valuable speakers where those in tangential fields which provided insights that may apply...David Horovitz of the Jerusalem Post speaking on the online impact to their bottom line, Yonasan Rosenblum speaking on responses to his articles from the charedi community, Tova Serkin speaking on online charity use patterns and where those patterns are relative to the Jewish community (outside of Israel versus inside Israel).
With all of the speeches and talks, not a single word of Torah or Rosh Hashanah was shared. Blogs are impacting communities, including communal relationships with the rabbis and thoughts toward Torah, avodah, Hashem, and Moshiach. Some for the positive, some unfortunately for the negative, and some who's future impact is yet to be understood.
Bloggers need to understand the power of the medium to do good or (G-d forbid) the opposite. That's an issue worth discussing.
Perhaps next time.
Video from the convention...
BS"D - בסיעתא דשמיא