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Blog Day Afternoon

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LAST FRIDAY, on my way to the 2008 BlogSavannah UnConference at the AASU Continuing Education Center, it occurred to me that as a non-blogger I might be heading into foreign soil for the day. Sure, I use the internet and email to gather and share all kinds of information, but when it comes to blogs, I am a “lurker”—a person who reads sites but doesn’t contribute.

I shouldn’t have worried. Of the 100 or so people at the UnConference, many besides me were blogger-curious. So many, in fact, that during the two-hour lunch break, UnConference founder Drew Odom pulled together an unscheduled workshop on Beginning Blogging, attended by about 25 people.

Such spontaneity was the norm for the day, along with a harmonious collaborative spirit and a “don’t sweat the small stuff” vibe. No printed agendas? No problem.

Those slightly more informed related what information they had with the rest of us, until the midmorning break, when organizers handed out photocopies of a webpage schedule. The nametags were ready toward the end of lunch, but by then most people had already made new friends and exchanged business cards.

After introducing some Savannah blogging “stars” in the wrap up session, co-organizer Burton Sauls invited Murray Wilson, CEO of tps Consulting, to give an impromptu demo on the One Laptop Per Child movement, which aims to put an inexpensive, durable computer into the hands of every child in the world, to expand their educational opportunities and communication.

Laptops were everywhere, logged into the AASU wifi system. The occasional two note chime signaling the arrival of email served as a musical backdrop to most sessions.

The workshops I attended were facilitated conversations rather than organized lectures, with most discussion leaders making two or three opening comments as a way to jump start the input from the group.

In his workshop “Perspectives on Blogging and Life,” Orlando Montoya, blogger and WSVH radio news guy, asked “Why are we blogging?” and “Why record our opinions in a public place if having the blog read isn’t important?”

This thread led to a wide ranging discussion on civility in our community discourse, and whether or not we are always on the record as we live our lives.

Friday was filled with new vocabulary words—about one new term per hour for me. During attorney Joe Steffen’s legal issues workshop, a conversation on copyrights taught me “site scraping” (wholesale use of data from someone else’s website or blog, usually without attribution) and “mash up” (combining data from one site with data from another to create a new way to use both data sets.)

Blogger Scott Larson, by day a Savannah Morning News reporter, offered a session on blogging as a tool to affect change in society. It was during this discussion that I realized the UnConference had managed to attract a diverse cross section of the white people living in this area.

There we were. Democrats and Republicans, early twenties and retirees, male and female, Richmond Hill and downtown Savannah and Hilton Head Island, technology buffs and creative writers, conservative Christians and reform Jews, gay, married, mommies, single, social activists and business bloggers.

Yet by my unscientific observation, less than five percent of us were non-white, whether that’s African American, Hispanic, Asian or anything else. Surely there are non-white bloggers in Savannah. Immediate and effective outreach efforts to bridge that gap will assure that the 2009 BlogSavannah UnConference will represent a full range of Savannah’s broadest and richest voices.

Check out these Savannah-based blogs, whose authors attended the 2008 BlogSavannah UnConference:

www.blogsavannah.com

www.aprilgroves.com/beautifulchaos

excruciatinglynormal.com

savannahred.blogspot.com

www.tondeestavern.com

www.yoyenta.com

For more on One Laptop Per Child, visit laptop.org/.

Email Robin at rgunnsav@bellsouth.net.

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