Well, actually post-BlogHer, but hey, if I could have found the time (and WiFi) to post during the conference, I would have. Instead, I stopped worrying about Internet access, read my email on my Blackberry and enjoyed talking to people. You know — face to face 🙂
So here’s the report, in somewhat random order.
First, I think our session, Business Blogging Case Studies Unpanel, went very well. Every single one of our pre-conference volunteers made it, and they were all wonderful. The conversation and questions after the brief presentations were great — lots of good material, everyone answering each other’s questions, and asking new ones. We’ve got pages and pages of notes to distill into our "tips and traps" document. Watch for a draft sometime later this month.
Toby, Yvonne and I are very grateful to everyone who made it possible — the BlogHer founders Elisa, Lisa and Jory and all their support staff, the case study volunteers, and everyone in the session, with a very special thanks to those of you who took the time afterwards to tell us how much you enjoyed it.
The conference itself. Last year, it was a bit of an experiment. This year, BlogHer is all grown up. It is a real, true, pink (not blue) blogging conference that happens to be focused on women bloggers. I think it was very successful, and certainly seems to have accomplished the initial goal, which was to let everyone know just where all the women bloggers were. Like any conference, it also had its good points and its rough spots.
Let’s start with the good:
- Last year, there was a great deal of tension from and about the Mommy Bloggers. This year, I didn’t sense that. In fact, it felt like the Mommy Bloggers had really come into their own, realized their market power and were ready to flex their muscles. To quote the 60s anthem, "I am woman, hear me roar." To that I say, good for you. Ride it all the way, baby. The sponsors sure understood mommy buying power, didn’t they? (Subsequently I did read one woman’s anti-mommy rant, but while there I did not feel it, so I’ll stick with my comment).
- There have been some criticisms about the number of sponsors, the fact that they were given the podium before certain sessions that they sponsored and of course, the size small t-shirt from the condom company. Except for the Microsoft Janes on Saturday morning, and about them, I agree with Amy Gahran — blecchh, overall I thought the sponsorships and how the sponsoring companies were handled was well done. In fact, generally better than at most conferences. Sponsors got value for money, attendees weren’t hammered in the head by the sponsors, unless they chose to engage, and the GM cars were REALLY cool. BlogHer didn’t pick the sponsor’s t-shirts or the size, so let it go. Most importantly, BlogHer seeks sponsorships so it can have a great conference, with food and drink and parties and swag, while still keeping the registration costs down. Very few other conferences do that. If we have to put up with a little marketing to have a conference where full boat registration –all days, all events — is about $250, what is there to complain about, hhmm????
- Closing Keynote. One of the best keynote panels I have ever seen at ANY conference. Chris Nolan was a superb moderator, and the four women on the panel Arianna Huffington, Grace Davis, Mena Trott and Caroline Little were funny, open, honest, witty, wonderful. In fact, I hereby add them all to my personal list of Wonderful Wicked Women Bloggers even though I have only met Chris and Grace, and briefly at that. Lisa Stone has a great wrap-up.
- No more lists!! When asked by a "BlogHim" what men could do to help women bloggers, Mena Trott said No more lists! Speaking of Mena, she took a little blog-heat for talking about SixApart’s new VOX product when asked about the future. To that I say — what’s wrong with that? If that is what she is passionate about, and really believes in, what’s wrong with her saying so. Obviously SixApart thinks this is the right direction for the future, otherwise they wouldn’t have committed so much to it. And she was clear to say the product was not for the BlogHer audience, but rather for the large numbers of folks who just want to share among a smaller audience of family and friends. I think people just like to pick on her because she’s young and sometimes less polished than her older counterparts in the industry. Just my .02.
Now to the rough spots. This is just my opinion, and YMMV.
- Overall the sessions I attended were good. But, the technical sessions seemed perhaps a bit too basic, and there was even less "Business Blogging" content than last year. One of the reasons people told us they liked our Unpanel was that it was one of the few business-focused sessions on the agenda. There was quite a bit of talk about perhaps suggesting a second track of advanced or business topics to the BlogHer organizers, which I would certainly support. I’m also going to think about where else I can suggest this Unpanel format. It had an energy that I really liked, and I’d love to do more of them. But…. as I’ve said before, I do believe the session has to have some structure and a collective product. Otherwise, it’s just a chat.
- On a somewhat related theme, I did feel a bit overwhelmed by the mommy and food bloggers. There really weren’t that many of us "business" types there (except of course the "Hims" and I’ll get to that in a minute). Chicken/egg. Did business bloggers not come because there wasn’t enough value or was the audience predominantly personal/small business bloggers, so therefore the agenda was developed for them in the first place. I really like BlogHer but I also want to find an event where the topics I am most interested in (business blogging, citizen journalism, using the new tools in business, etc.) are discussed in the same open, participatory manner that I so appreciate about BlogHer. Some have suggested the New Communications Forum. I plan to check it out.
- In response to the same question mentioned above about how male bloggers could help women, Chris Nolan replied LINK LINK LINK. Which is why I was really disappointed this morning when I read these opening lines on Robert Scoble’s blog: "I think it’s interesting that I met two of my favorite bloggers for the first time at BlogHer (both of whom are men, Guy Kawasaki and John Battelle)." The rest of Scoble’s post was great, and it is his blog so he can do whatever he pleases, but it just kills to see it start with links to other A-listers after the conversation at BlogHer. Then, when I went wandering over to Kawasaki’s blog, I found that pictures taken of him with Scoble and Winer (3% of the Technorati 100) seemed to be what floated his boat. Again, someone I respect and enjoy reading but it seems like maybe he missed the point??? Apparently I am not the only one who’s noticed this — check out Chris Carfi’s post where he relates that about 70% of the BlogHer related posts on techmeme this am, starting with Dave Winer’s somewhat misogynistic screed, were written by men, while the percentage of male attendees at the conference was somewhere just north of 10%. Hhmm. The explanation from techmeme (in the comments) is that techmeme has a tech skew. Again hhmm. Not good enough. It seems white men can’t dance, but they still can link. To each other. This is what has to change for interesting women tech and business bloggers to break through.
A completely non-comprehensive list of some folks I ran into/chatted with at BlogHer:
- Beth Kanter, shoe and handbag blogger extraordinaire;
- Robert Scoble. I’d never met him before and even though I kind of pick on him above, I was glad to meet him, and found him to be a delightful, generous person. After the closing keynote, I was chatting with Erin Caldwell from Forward Blog (and Edelman) about her sightseeing plans for the following day. Scoble joined the conversation and proceeded to give Erin some wonderful travel hints for San Francisco. I also chatted with Patrick Scoble in the buffet line (about how boys like watermelon — he agreed) and he seems like a really nice kid.
- Evelyn Rodriguez. I wish I had more reasons to chat with Evelyn on a regular basis. Her perspective really helps you sharpen your own.
- Mary Hunt, author of In Women We Trust
- Tish Grier, my fellow Massachusetts and Corante blogger
- PR/Marketing pals Josh Hallet and Jeremy Pepper
- Nancy White who interviewed me in the podcast session.
- Elisa from Breakingranks
- Amy Gahran has created a wiki for BlogHer posts.
- Nellie Lide
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