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Vloggercon: Where everyone's the media

Mothers, peace activists, filmmakers looking for distribution are all part of a DIY video-publishing movement.

Up on stage is the team from Rocketboom, the wildly successful video news blog that has evolved into a viable business model.

In the audience is Stephen Voltz, who is just beginning the process of setting up a video blog. He got a little sidetracked when making a video that went viral this week of a Bellagio-style fountain created by Mentos candy plopped in Diet Coke bottles.

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Video: A mint version of the Bellagio Fountains
Crafting a replica from Diet Coke cans and Mentos.

These are two of the very different faces of Vloggercon, a video-blogging conference going on this weekend in San Francisco. And in what perhaps is an example of the "democratization of the moving image," as video bloggers call it, it turns out that Rocketboom featured Voltz' clip on a newscast last week.

The sold-out conference, which has attracted more than 350 people from around the globe, kicked off Saturday with a speech from video blogging, or "vlogging" pioneer Peter Van Dijck.

Van Dijck described his vision of a future in which you can sit on your sofa watching "The Simpsons" and then switch the channel to an uncensored video blog from China. But it won't get there, he said, unless people encourage models that aren't based on popularity.

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Video: A spotlight on Vloggercon 2006
CNET News.com's Michelle Meyers delves into the world of video blogging.

We don't want it where "everyone is just watching funny stuff and downloading TV shows," Van Dijck said. "I think we can do more."

Some other Saturday sessions, which were streamed live and will also be made available after the conference, focused on political vlogging and social change, the art of storytelling, community vlogs, and on how Rocketboom got where it is. But much of the activity took place outside of the forum halls, where people schmoozed and talked up their format of choice.

"When you (video blog), you're making a declaration," said Dave Toole, who is a video blogger and also runs a video-sharing business called Outhink Media. "You're telling people what's important to you."

Erin Nealy, whose video blog is mostly about her two children, said her friends at home in South Carolina "don't really get this."

"They're all into scrapbooking, when I'm into the video side of that," she said.

Noah Bonnett, who has been successful with his 88Slide video blog and podcast--a daily 1-minute trivia challenge--said video blogging allows him to bring his property "directly to the consumer," for $15 a day. And he wants to be there ready when mobile content extends beyond iPods to wristwatches and the backs of headrests in trucks.

And Voltz, whose Mentos-Diet Coke fountain video has already been seen more than a million times, said he sees great potential in video blogging for filmmakers like himself.

"Video bloggers can do something like we did, which is create something...and there's a place to put it, and people can see it all over the world," he said.

This is the second Vloggercon, which happens to take place just a week before Bloggercon. The first conference, a one-day event attended by about 80 people, took place about 18 months ago in New York.

Back then, there were only a couple hundred video bloggers, according to Van Dijck, who heads up vlogger directory Mefeedia. Today, Van Dijck estimates that there are between 5,000 and 10,000 active video bloggers.

The growing numbers have been fueled of late by improvements in broadband, software and hardware. Another major factor was the release last October of the first video iPod and the subsequent hosting of video podcasts on Apple Computer's iTunes online store.