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就著Punch Party HK 這個將網路上的blogger 帶到現實生活中走出來出席的活動, 令作風極之傳統的South China Morning Post (SCMP / 南華早報) 都有興趣小弟參與籌備的工作作出訪問及報導

SCMP 16MAR09 PUNCH PARTY 5.jpg by you.

Power grids

Punch Parties are bringing bloggers out of cyberspace for the high of interfacing with the real world

SCM_Features_SCMP_16MAR09_FE_PUNCHPARTY_NEWSPAPER by you.
Joyce Siu
Mar 20, 2009

The clock is ticking and Sheta Chow’s heart is pounding. For someone more used to expressing herself through blogs, presenting her views to a live audience is an adrenaline rush.

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Chow, a sound engineer, and another six bloggers in different jobs were invited to each give seven-minute presentations last month at a Punch Party – a fast-paced, themed event at which they share experiences. The first such event for Hong Kong included a teacher, a firefighter and an IT entrepreneur, and tackled the topic “Profession. Blogger” before a large crowd in the Quarry Bay offices of an IT company.

“I freaked out when I saw more than 100 people show up,” recalls Chow, who blogs about music and her life. “It’s really difficult to maintain a smooth pace when you’re in front of people who are reacting spontaneously.”

Punch Party is a modified version of Pecha Kucha – gatherings first organised in Tokyo to allow young designers and artists to socialise and give quick presentations of their work (also within about seven minutes) in an informal setting.

Taiwanese blogger Carol Lin started the Punch Party rolling two years ago, inspired by the quick-fire exchanges and lively atmosphere at a Pecha Kucha (Japanese for chit-chat) night she attended in Taipei.

The idea, she says, is to bring bloggers with different expertise together.

“The blogosphere is a diverse place. Bloggers have their particular interests and build their own channels and readerships. I hoped a Punch Party could be an embodiment of this diverse community,” says Lin, who blogs about lifestyle and internet culture. “By bringing online movements into the real world, anyone with a laptop and name card can bridge the gap [between the real and virtual worlds] and introduce new ideas and concepts.”

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Lin’s demonstration of a Punch Party at the Chinese Bloggers Conference in Guangzhou last November fired up Jonathan Sin and his blogging friends so much that they decided to stage similar events in Hong Kong.

“The fast-paced, lively presentation suits Hong Kong, where attention spans tend to be short,” says Sin, head of Mobile Radio, an online station.

Some people confuse them with otaku – obsessive geeks with poor social skills – Sin says, but most bloggers enjoy face-to-face interaction.

Andy Chun Hon-wai, a computer science professor at City University, says it’s no surprise Punch Parties appeal to bloggers because they offer an opportunity for real-world social interaction and a chance to promote their blogs.

“Although blogging is a modern form of publishing, it is also a form of social networking in disguise,” he says. “People write blogs to express opinions, but also want to find like-minded people to interact with, forming virtual communities through comments.”

Promoted on Facebook, blogs and online radio, last month’s Punch Party drew a crowd mostly from IT and advertising who shared an interest in blogging.

Primary school teacher Marie Yuen King-yin usually blogs about her use of IT in teaching, but adopted a more personal tone with her presentation.

“Blogging is an open avenue,” she says. “You can’t control how people interpret your comments, and people who disagree with your views sometimes write back to attack you.”

But in the greater intimacy of a real world gathering, Yuen felt comfortable sharing her feelings. Her heartfelt description of classroom dramas and the stress that education reforms have put on students and teachers resonated with many in the audience, drawing both laughter and sympathetic nods.

“Such reaction isn’t something you can see in a message box,” Yuen says.

Internet Society chairman Charles Mok Nai-kwong was struck by the warm atmosphere at the Punch Party. “It’s good to see the blogger community start to form a sense of comradeship,” says Mok, who blogs on IT development.

“While people think of online activities as free and unrestricted, real-world meetings tend to be somewhat confined to themes or formats. But people enjoy it all the same,” Mok says. “The convergence between online and offline and the formation and evolution of the culture is interesting.”

For Punch Party participants, short presentations go a long way. Conversations begun at the gathering have continued online, through blog messages, Facebook exchanges and Twitter postings. The idea is also taking off on the mainland. Last week, computer programmer Zhang Yang organised his first Punch Party event at a spacious cafe at OCT-Loft, a community art park in renovated factory buildings in Shenzhen’s Nanshan district.

Lacking a theme, its presentations ranged from mundane personal observations to the patter of businessmen keen to broaden their contacts. Dongguan property executive Liang Xiaozhi stood out with his stand-up routine. Liang, who has hosted manga festivals, received a big round of applause for his spiel about his passion for stand-up comedy, indie movies and Hong Kong culture.

As Liang sees it, Punch Party is an opportunity to see and be seen. “Blogging is kind of a self-branding. These gathering are a way to promote your blog and for people to know more about you. People in the online community also need word of mouth,” says Liang, who blogs about youth subculture.

With the proliferation of blogs on the mainland, bloggers wield increasing influence. But Liang says attention is mostly focused on celebrity bloggers. “Their opinions always attract waves of feedback,” he says. “But if you’re not famous, you hardly get any response because there is so much competition.”

Replies tend to be brief and often lack substance, Liang says. “You might receive only a smiley icon for a long article you’ve written. It’s easier to strike up a conversation at gatherings and get feedback.”

Zhang, who works for a media company, hopes the event will provide stimulation, whether for business opportunity or new ideas. “In this economic downturn, we need to be more proactive,” he says. “We can’t sit in front of a computer; we must go out, network and seek opportunities.”

Zhang plans to invite bloggers from across the Pearl River Delta to future Punch Party gatherings to generate a greater buzz.

In Hong Kong, organisers hope to unite bloggers through Punch Party events to set up a Bloggers Conference, where participants can consider ways to strengthen the blogging community and extend its influence.

Although there are an estimated 700,000 blogs written in Hong Kong, Punch Party committee and technology writer Jansen Lu Tsan-chu says the potential of such platforms has yet to be fully utilised. “Blogging is more than writing a personal online diary. It can have an impact on social issues and government policies,” he says.

For instance, exposure of the covert dismissal of attorneys deemed disloyal to the Bush administration on Talking Points Memo, a blog by magazine editor Joshua Micah Marshall, eventually led to the resignation of US attorney general Alberto Gonzales.

However, such influence relies on building a public following for the blog, Chun says.

“Events such as Punch Parties and conferences will increase awareness of this new medium among the public and policy-makers who might not be frequent blog readers.”

Sin and his committee have yet to settle on a theme for the next Punch Party in May, but say topics will revolve around the internet in daily life and hot issues in technology.

Whatever the theme at a Punch Party, Sin says they plan to keep things lively. “It’s a party and meant to be fun.”