Wednesday, August 19, 2009

The Kottu Magazine

So Indi's come up with this idea of a print version of Kottu and it's stimulated some discussion and argument, some thinking and creativity. Which is nice. Here's my 0.02 worth.

First let's get the crap out of the way. One bloke has gone off on one about the viability of registering Kottu as a name, about the use of the word and all sorts of intellectual property issues that may or may not arise.

It's just not a debate worth having with respect to the overall idea of Kottu in print. If there are intellectual property issues then the name can be changed to something like "The Sri Lankan Blog roundup" or "Lankan blogs" or anything. I'm no copywriter, but this bit is just not a dealbreaker.

Indi says that there are two key points pertaining to an editorial policy; intellectual respect and selection. These have generated most of the discussion in the comments on his blog post.

As far as the first one, intellectual respect goes, I would be confident in Indi's integrity on this. It would seem reasonable and ethical that permission would have to be granted by the bloggers for our work to be reproduced and, as Indi says, this could be in general or for specific posts. Obviously getting permission each time for each post may be impractical so the far easier option would be for each of us to say yay or nay to being included. Failing that we can always say yes or no. I like to give options.

The Lankan press has had some bad, well, bad press over the issue of blogs and intellectual property in the past and it's a potentially sticky area. While I and I suspect many others would feel confident with someone like Indi in charge of this, there's an intrinsic problem in having confidence in a system because you trust the person and not so much the system. This, I think, would need to be addressed.

I saw a comment in which the writer said that bloggers writing under a pseudonym might be worried about revealing their identity to Indi or the Sunday Leader. I can understand this but feel that anyone really concerned could just decline to be included in the print concept and that would take care of that one. Indi says that identities would have to be revealed and an amount of trust given in order for the writers to be paid. It all makes sense but the possibilities of paying to charity, friends or even not paying, if the blogger was happy with that, all exist.

Some have said that many bloggers would be uncomfortable with the implicit association with the Sunday Leader that publication in print would cause. On the one hand this is entirely valid, particularly for a blogger who might write political posts or anything hard hitting. I think the mention of the Sunday Leader has come about because of Indi's association with it, but the principle would apply to whatever newpaper or publisher that might be involved.

Another side of the coin is that there would surely have to be some editorial influence from the paper or publisher. Reality would dictate that, were the Sunday Leader to be the "parent" and I wrote a post slagging off the Sunday Leader for something, then it would be unlikely to make its way into Kottu Mag.

One of the features many of us like about Kottu is the lack of editorial muscle it exerts. There are a few rules but they're mostly to do with not offending Indi's Grandmother and we're pretty much left to write what we like. Unless his Grandmother publishes newspapers I think Kottu Mag will be a bit more policed.

David Blacker has made what I consider to be one of the most important and relevant points to the viability of Kottu Mag; that with words being on paper rather than on screen, there'll be no links and the thing will lose the dynamism. I suppose this would be why many of us, the bloggers and people who spend so much time sitting at a keyboard, would rarely treat Kottu Mag as a substitute for the computer. We all enjoy the journeys when we click this then that and end up in some random corner of the internet, usually nudey women drum related.

The lack of links would make some blog posts that are positively the dog's bollocks onscreen totally impractical in print. I'm not saying that these are the dog's bs, but my "lately in the Lankanosphere" ones are an example. Excepting the fact that there'd be no reason to put one in a print format that's essentially in itself doing a "lately" thing anyhow, I do know that many like the fact that it's a bit of a roundup, albeit of the posts I like, and that I bung all the links in for people to click on and see what they may have missed. It would be useless in print.

However, if we take the approach that Kottu Mag would be a means of presenting some of our posts to an audience that probably wouldn't be reading us on the net, then surely the end result is a positive one, even without links.

If the concept is viable then that's when we should look at selection. There's been a fair amount of talk about fairness, objectivity and opportunity for all. People are discussing whether the top clicks on Kottu can be taken as an indicator of what's popular and if that should be used to decide what goes in Kottu Mag.

One fellow told us about code or something that can be used to change the top clicks on Kottu and that's something I know nothing about. But I do know that there are perfectly "legal" things we can all do to make our posts clickable. Chuck certain words in your title, write about the flavour of the month and people will click and read. It's not cheating, it's just working a system. The fact is that those posts are the popular ones, for whatever reason.

I say forget about all that, leave fairness out of it. The way forward in this kind of thing is to leave it to a person to decide. He, or she if things are really desperate, chooses what goes in and what doesn't. Then in the longer term, if the readers are unhappy with the choices, the editor should be replaced. This way there's no vague attempt to be portrayed as fair or objective, it's about what a person likes.

My conclusion is that Kottu Mag is a great idea, with caveats. It wouldn't be an alternative to reading the blogs we love on our computers, it would be a means of accessing a wider audience, which most of us want. If we don't, then we'd be able to opt out. I'm slightly apprehensive at the thought of newspaper reading Aunts sitting and flicking through the Sunday paper and reading one of my posts, then realising that I'm RD, but it's also quite exciting.

We'd still have the online Kottu and most of the objections to Kottu Mag are simply dealt with by asking not to be considered for publication.

And I thought of a final irony to this that has made me smile.

For people like me, who live outside of Lanka, we'd be unlikely to read a print version in our home towns, what with having to wait for the post and all. We'd probably log on and look at the net version of Kottu Mag, where we'd see a PDF or something of the print version of our blogs.

That's a bit mad isn't it?

I guarantee most of us would though.




Sachintha said...

LOL at the last thought RD.
I myself was thinking the same, that since I won't probably get the real mag, I'd be seeing an online version of the print.
Doesn't make much sense, does it?

But I agree, as I too commented on that post, maybe Indi alone, or just a committee can be appointed and then go on with the thing. If these things are going to be considered through and through, they usually don't happen. So I'd say lets just go on with the thing and how it works out. If people are not satisfied, we can change things...

mommythecook said...

RD, This wager sounds exciting and ever so slightly scary at the same time. I guess we just find our comfort zone on here and after a while feel like its no big deal & we're just exposing our thoughts to our 'familiar blogging buds'. To think a publication of our goofy thoughts are out there in Colombo for 'just anyone' to read/ analyze & pass judgment makes me a tad nervous ( it shouldn't... but it just does...) This virtual world has been so kind to me with very little ridicule thus far... is all of 'Colombo' going to be equally kind or will they be all judgy judgy judgy ?!

Either way this idea sounds like FUN more than anything else... :)

Sam said...

video killed the radio star

Rhythmic Diaspora said...

Sach - I think the committee idea would be a lot of effort, which in turn might make it an unworkable idea. However it's done I think it would be great to just try it and see.

M the C. Yes, I totally understand your thoughts and share them, nerves I guess. Perhaps it's also a bit presumptuous of us to think we'll get published eh? I too am excited about it.

Sam - But in his dreams Indi has a plan....oh no, wrong song, sorry

mommythecook said...

he'nt mean to sound like an ego maniac ! hhmm...the mag will need a cooking section though won't it ? (all good magazines have a foodie element going for them ...don't they?) ;)