A few thoughts about the 2007 Brooklyn Blogfest

May 12, 2007 by
Filed under: Area 51 

As some of you know, I attended the 2nd Annual Brooklyn Blogfest this week. Although I found it enjoyable (despite being VERY crowded) I feel compelled to write about a few thoughts I had about the experience. Although (to paraphrase something Dope on the Slope emailed me) the origins of this event are largely to blame for its distinctly South Brooklyn flavor, I felt there were some greater issues at hand. Issues I would like to share with my fellow Greenpointers (and any other Brooklynites who might be reading this). The purpose of this exercise is two-fold:

  1. to offer up some constructive criticism
  2. to initiate an amicable dialogue and/or hear what you think

The previous having been said, here we go…

I read a lot of comments on a number of different blogs yesterday about the Blogfest. The most common criticisms to be found were:

  1. lack of diversity
  2. this event was nothing more than “mutual backslapping”

More often than not, the comments I read of the above nature were worded in *a hem* a very hostile and belligerent manner. Although I disagree with the way these people chose to air their grievances, I agree with the point they were trying to make. Being someone who is friendly to what the Blogfest is trying to do (but has some very serious concerns) I feel compelled to give my two cents. Here they are.

Regarding above point #1

Although race was brought up often, I think geography and/or lifestyle are the real issue. Actively courting other ‘nabes (and the up and coming blogs to be found in them) may help address this problem. Dope in the Slope’s idea of having meet-ups in different ‘nabes is a good one as well.

As I said before, the origin of the ‘fest does predispose it to having a distinctly South Brooklyn flavor, but (and this is a big BUT) the roster of speakers could have been tweaked and/or pared down to mitigate it. Which brings me to…

Above point #2

The amount of attention given to real estate issues (READ: Atlantic Yards and Bruce Ratner) was excessive. Enough so that it even struck me (she who seethes over 110 Green) as being ‘mutual backslapping’ or clique-ish. While I believe the awareness-raising/fact-checking the Atlantic Yards Report does is both laudable and very necessary, I all too often found myself asking “But what about Coney Island, Kensington, Sunset Heights, Flatbush, Greenwood Heights, Bedford-Stuyvesant, Bushwick, Williamsburg, Greenpoint, etc., etc.?” In other words:

What about everyone else?

In particular, Norman Oder (of the Atlantic Yards Report) said something that really disquieted me. It was something to the effect that there are enough blogs that feature criticism (and/or were of a personal nature) and what was needed were more blogs featuring real news. There is a value judgment embedded in the previous statement— and it is one I vehemently disagree with. While I understand that Mr. Oder is entitled to his opinion and his interests and/or ambitions are directed towards journalism, my (and many other’s) interests and/or ambitions are not. I am entitled to my opinion too. *Whoop* here it is…

I am an artist (by education) whose favorite avocation is being a jackass. Dishing out the dirty deets and duplicity about the Atlantic Yards Project may be his cup of tea but featuring festering piles of diarrhea is mine. Neither of the previous endeavors is any better than the other; they are simply different. As are our respective purposes and (in all likelihood) readerships.

I honestly don’t care what the subject matter of a blog is. Just as I would critique any other work of art or letters, my only concern is whether or not it is GOOD. It’s a matter of craftsmanship, not content— and I have seen a lot of blogs (of a journalistic flavor or otherwise), that are downright awful.

The issue I am trying to get at this: what qualifies one as being “Brooklyn blogger”? Does earning the sinecure of being a “Brooklyn blogger” require writing about Brooklyn or is simply being a resident of Brooklyn who happens to blog sufficient creds? Speaking as someone who is both of the previous (mostly the latter), I think the answer is both. It is much better to err on the side of inclusionism than exclusionism. And there was (albeit unintentionally) much exclusivity to be had at this year’s the Blogfest.

Hopefully next year’s event will address the above issues. I understand that this being only the second time the Brooklyn Blogfest has been conducted it would be unreasonable to expect geographical or topical parity. Moving forward, (speaking as someone whose readership includes a number of very talented artists in the Greenpoint/Williamsburg area who often have their own blogs/web sites), I would strongly recommend that more effort should be directed to welcome blogs that are outside the realm of local current events.

The boro of Kings has a lion’s share of amazingly talented and interesting people— many of whom also happen to have blogs. These people usually do not identify themselves as “bloggers”. I don’t. But does that make their contributions (or my own) to the Brooklyn blogosphere* any less significant?

I have lived in Greenpoint for some time and I have a pretty good feel for the people who live here. More importantly, I have a clear idea of what interests my ‘nabes. And Ratner-bashing and waxing philosophical about the role of bloggers (as journalists) are not among them.

Miss Heather

*Apparently Clinton Hill is the ‘bloggiest’ neighborhood in Brooklyn. I beg to differ. Greenpointers, Williamsburgers and (last, but not least) Bushwickers unite! Anyone up for a starting a North Brooklyn blogger insurgency? I am! Let’s set aside our respective differences, build a web ring and kick some brownstoner ass!


6 Comments on A few thoughts about the 2007 Brooklyn Blogfest

  1. Matthew on Sat, 12th May 2007 11:16 pm
  2. As someone who spends entirely too much time reading ‘real-estate’ related blogs (which I seem to do for no reason other than getting myself in a rage over greed-driven bad development that may manage to match Robert Moses in a fight for who can fuck this city the most), it seems to me that the lot of them have turned into nothing more than a breeding ground for whiny home-owners and brokers in disguise finding new ways to tear each other and everyone else down every day. There is far more talk of the amenities that the quickly rising monstrosities have to offer than of what they mean for the neighborhoods they are being thrust upon. And as big of a deal as Atlantic Yards may be, it pales in comparison to what the rezoning of North Brooklyn’s waterfront means for the city. Almost all of the city’s current problems can be summed up in the rezoning of our ‘hood (and its more popular neighbor to the south), from loss of manufacturing and industry (Ferrer, who ran again bloomer last mayoral election estimated the number of manufacturing jobs lost or displaced to be a minimum of 4,000), loss of artists’ and creative spaces, ever-shrinking affordable house, loss of immigrant communities, and careless, dangerous, greed-driven construction of out-of-character condos. No doubt about it, NYC is well on its way to becoming an inverted suburb of itself, and most of these folks are too busy worrying about what the real-estate market means for their resale values, rather than the city itself. Of course, they’re not all a loss, but there is much, much to be desired.

    That all said (and I am pretty sure I said too much, but that always happens when I get on this tirade), the last thing anyone really needs is another Brooklyn real-estate blog…it could probably use a few less, just, uhm, better ones. I think AY report fellow might be missing the point (if one even exists) of blogs if he thinks their content should shift toward news coverage.The only thing a blog need be is interesting, whether it be about rage-inducing real-estate or the shit stained streets of our lovely ‘hood. It’s too bad I swore off my blogging days years ago, otherwise I would be happy to contribute to a North Brooklyn Blogging Insurgence!

  3. missheather on Sat, 12th May 2007 11:29 pm
  4. Damnnnnnnn!

    If I wasn’t married I would camp on your doorstep. Even tho you are not ‘blogging’, spread the turd.

    Oh, I meant WORD.

  5. Xris (Flatbush Gardener) on Sun, 13th May 2007 9:21 am
  6. I can’t tell if my comment “took”. Here it a second attempt.
    Thanks for this. You express many of the same sentiments I felt at the event. (Is that back-slapping?!)

    The references to “South Brooklyn” confuse me. I don’t even think of myself as being in “South” Brooklyn. When did Atlantic Avenue become the boundary between north and south?

    I haven’t seen anyone writing about the gender diversity which I observed. Perhaps the reason no one is writing about it is because it wasn’t an issue. I think we should observe the successes as well as mind the gaps. I don’t know what the breakdown was, but it seemed the audience was about 40% women. This is unheard of in “technology” gatherings. Clearly it’s no longer about the technology. This underscores your point that many or most of those who attended don’t identify as “bloggers.”

    Are bloggers journalists? Not inherently, and not necessarily. Should they be? Should they have to be? Absolutely not. Most of what I write about on my blog are no more than I things I notice, that make me laugh, that make me want to know more. That said, the activity of writing for the Web in this format is shifting my perception of myself and my role in community. When Dope on the Slope interviewed me, I was surprised when he asked me gardening questions! Even though I’m not a news reporter, I did join the Garden Writers’ Association this year. When I went to the compost giveback yesterday, I was prevented from taking pictures at the site. I caught myself before I complained “But I’m a blogger!”

    The discussions about real estate serve as proxies for other, broader and deeper issues. Those are the conversations we need to generate and sustain. That would provide some balance. Beyond real estate, there’s land use, environmental justice, the inter-relationships of the built environment and physical, mental, and social health. In addition to race, ethnicity and national origin, there’s class and access to services, representation, and justice. There’s the balance of private privilege and public responsibility, and how to avoid continuously repeating the tragedy of the commons. These are some of the issues I’m trying to write about, however personal, provincial and idiosyncratic my perspective.

  7. exilegrrl on Sun, 13th May 2007 5:51 pm
  8. Miss Heather-

    I couldn’t agree with you more. Brooklyn doesn’t need anymore real estate blogs. I do think its a travesty what’s going on with the Atlantic Yards, Williamsburg, and of course the bullshit going on in your hood. Gentrification is a slippery slope. On the one hand if you clean up a neighborhood and encourage people to move there you do get better schools and services, but bringing new people in takes away from what make the neighborhood colorful-I use that term loosely. I hate to see neighborhoods become sterile and turn into Chez Whitey.
    I really don’t think that we need more blogs that feature real news. What exactly constitutes real news these days anyway? I subscribe to the Times for my real news-or as real as they can make it. Don’t get me wrong I think people need to be informed on what is going on in their neighborhood, but why does it have to come from a blog? I like to read blogs that give you some type of insight into the author’s psyche and what makes them tick. My own blog is filled with my retarded ramblings on life, my unnatural obsession with music, and of course the pets who actually run my house. I like your blog because it makes me laugh-the picture of the dude passed in the street almost made me wet my pants. I think the world needs more Jackasses like you and me.
    Also since when did Brooklyn get divided into North and South by Atlantic Avenue? I live down in Bay Ridge with the hillbillies and this was the first time I had ever heard of a “DMZ Zone” in Brooklyn. I think you should get your buddies in the North Brooklyn to put a blog beat down on those smart ass kids who live in the Slope.

  9. NormanOder on Mon, 14th May 2007 2:39 pm
  10. Miss H–

    I don’t think we’re as far apart as suggested–and I think what I said was more subtle than has been summarized.

    I was quoting Times executive editor Bill Keller as trashing bloggers because the Times (in his words) does the journalism of verification and bloggers just comment. I said he was more right than wrong, but that, in some cases, we’re more right than wrong.

    (His phrase, which I didn’t mention on Thursday, was that bloggers “practice the journalism of assertion.” He was referring mostly to bloggers who criticize news coverage rather than to the blogosphere in general.)

    My most specific reference, of course, was to Atlantic Yards, but it could extend to other subjects/issues in which bloggers–via documents, photos, and personal observations–present credible details and evidence.

    While I stand by the argument that, in the blogosphere as a whole, there are a lot of blogs that are just armchair musings and not particularly credible, I wasn’t saying that the bloggers in the room were that. And I wasn’t saying that more bloggers should try to be professional journalists and provide “real news.”

    I meant that bloggers, whatever their stated goal, should aim to make their work credible and ensure that their information, to the extent possible, is verified. Yes, I could’ve made that point more clearly.

    In other words, I think credibility is part of the craftsmanship you mentioned. (And it’s part of being “interesting,” as Matthew suggests should be the goal of a blog.)

    Sure, there are cases and blog subjects in which credibility is less of an issue than creativity. But in the case of your blog, for example, it’s the, uh, documentary evidence that helps provide a base for your commentary, criticism, and art.

    PS. As for the rezoning of N. Brooklyn’s waterfront, Phil DePaolo has been keeping tabs. See for example: http://www.gothamgazette.com/article//20070507/200/2173. His web site (tnycc.com) isn’t active just yet.

  11. begonia44 on Tue, 15th May 2007 9:56 am
  12. miss heather, as a fellow greenpointer, i’m behind your flight of the brownstone bloggers! i thoroughly enjoy reading your blog and love your photos. we must live like right next door or something. there’s something about greenpoint, i’ve lived in the buroughs for the past five years i always seem to end up back here, maybe it’s the drunken polish men, or the smell of sewage everytime it rains, i can’t say, but it’s something!

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