Webzine 2005, San FranciscoWebzine 2005 kicks off in San Francisco this weekend bringing together more than 500 independent bloggers, journalists, techies and web activists from the independent publishing scene.

The two-day conference features has around 30 events including photoblogging and podcasting workshops, case studies on popular blogs and a key discussion session on the tensions between old and new media.

Speakers include Niall Kennedy of Technorati, Joshua Breitbart of Indymedia New York and Daniel Terdiman from CNET News.

For people that can't attend in person, the Webzine site will provide webcasts of key sessions in real time as well as podcasts, RSS news feeds and an instant chat channel (IRC). Organisers are also looking at projecting the IRC conversation inside the venue so that delegates can see comment from virtual participants.

Webzine has a policy of being as inclusive as possible, most noticeably by offering an entry fee of $22. Other conferences within the media and technology industries typically charge several hundred dollars for major conferences, so delegates are usually funded by the corporate sector.

Webzine is run as a not-for-profit event and is organised by volunteers.

"We're doing it for the love of making our own media, to inspire others to create their own media," said organiser Eddie Codel.

"We're mostly a ragtag set of bloggers, geeks, artists, hackers, journalists and activists. Many of us have corporate day jobs but seek a soulful outlet to express ourselves."

The first Webzine event was held in San Francisco in 1998, but this is the first conference since 2001 when documentary maker Michael Moore gave the keynote speech.

"The time is ripe for Webzine 2005 for a number of reasons. There are so many people doing interesting personal projects now - blogging has exploded, digital and video cameras are cheap and many new and easy to use publishing tools have sprouted up," said Mr Codel.

"Community is at the centre of a lot of this - just as we're seeing with Flickr, del.icio.us, upcoming.org, social networks and group blogs like Boing Boing."

Despite the recent high profile of blogging and citizen journalism, Mr Codel suspects that much of the traditional news industry still doesn't properly understand the independent publishing movement.

Mainstream media has expressed little interest in the event, and two requests for press passes were rejected: "We are all the media and everyone gets treated equally," said Mr Codel.

"However, the big players are finally taking notice of 'personal media' and independent online publishing."

Rupert Murdoch's recent purchase of blogging network MySpace, Google's purchase of Blogger and Yahoo!'s Flickr buyout all indicate that the corporate world is waking up to the potential of web-based publishing communities.

The growing interest in personal media could also mean that Webzine sparks similar events in other countries, and the organisers are particularly keen to hear from interested web heads in the UK.

Webzine runs from 24 to 25 September at San Francisco's Swedish American Hall.

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