This may be quite possibly the longest entry I have ever written. I actually wrote the majority of this on the plane back from California (4.5 hours ... wheeeee!). And I think I'm too lazy to add all the links to the random people I've mentioned (although there are still a ton). So while this is something for me to reference in the future, it's loooooong. You've been warned.
Rich and I had a nice dinner on Thursday evening, and there were plenty of other attendees around. But we were tired from having flown all day and jet lag was getting the better of us. So we turned in early and didn’t do much socializing.
I registered that morning and received my bag of schwag. I got the distinct impression I was not the target demographic for the goods they were giving away. I now have two baby bibs to offer to my friends as well as some Alexa brand condoms in cases. I also have two free three-month trials to Weight Watchers and a magnetic dry erase calendar with cartoon characters on it (which I may give to Mom just because it’s stationary and I know how she loves her some stationary). I will say, though, that the bag itself and the bags that came inside it were very cool. Those I’ll be keeping. Oh and the wine bottle openers too … those are keepers.
Internet connectivity was an issue for the entire conference. I don’t think the hotel was really expecting that many women to show up with laptops all requesting ip addresses all day long. I would have used my Sprint cellular card, but reception was crap in the hall as well.
The welcome session was pretty abbreviated and just some housekeeping items. I felt awkward pretty much the whole day. I felt like I couldn’t quite find my demographic in the crowd. I got the sense that everyone around me already knew each other (except for me). And those who didn’t already have a gang of best friends didn’t seem but so interested in talking to other people (versus sitting and reading blogs at the conference tables). It reminded me of the comments about BlizCon where thousands of gamers would meet up in one place to talk awkwardly with each other when they would rather be back in their basements gaming online.
I sat at a bad table in that there were two women there who had NO idea how to get on the network and were obviously there to sell their business. Apparently I was a neon sign over me inviting vendors to schmarm on me as they're the only folks who talked to me most of the day. If I heard one more person tell me that “oh, I think I’ve been to your site” I was going to scream. No, you haven’t read my site. My own friends barely get around to reading my site. I have a readership of 20 (plus the other folks on LJ who I love dearly). You and your research corporation are not one of those twenty.
Oh, and while I went out to get a bottle of Contrex water (which sounds very unfortunately like a herpes medication), I met Amelia Zontini. So I flew across the country to meet someone I went to high school with and lives in Virginia Beach. Just one more way this morning felt like a flashback of junior high school and trying to fit in.
9:00-11:30 – Primp Your Blog
I also got the feeling that there were a LOT of Mac zealots. I understand that it’s all a matter of what they’ve gotten used to. But I saw plenty of Macs doing fucked up stuff during presentations as well and didn’t really want to hear about how much cooler they were.
11:30-1:00 Lunch Keynote with Caterina Fake and Meg Hourihan
I accidentally got in line behind Mrs. Kennedy and in front of Caterina Fake (as well as Mecca Ibrahim). I had forgotten Caterina was the woman I wanted to pick up and bear hug for creating Flickr. It really is one of my favorite web tools in the universe.
But there was still more of that social awkwardness in that I couldn’t really pick a decent place to sit and inadvertently sat at a table with mir and the other recording folks who clearly had jobs to do. They were all very nice, but again, not an opportunity for me to meet people I might talk to again any time soon.
I sat directly in front of the “cool kids” and felt deeply sad as though I were stuck in some flashback to junior high school, trying to find a place to sit at lunch. It was pretty humbling since I consider myself to be a very outgoing person and pretty easy to get along with.
Meg Hourihan did say something very neat when they asked her about what she thought was “next” for blogging. She said that it would be awesome if your program could remind you about items you’ve already written in the past to keep you from repeating yourself or make it easier to self-reference. I thought that was a fabulous idea and I can’t wait for that to exist one day.
1:15-2:15 – Audio Podcasting
This session was not really what I was expecting. They wanted to split us up into three groups – the beginner podcasters, the “advanced” podcasters, and those interested in publicizing their podcasts to get the word out.
I’m beyond a beginner since I’ve spent thousands of dollars on equipment and actually done some podcasts. And I’m not ready to publicize because I don’t have enough to talk about yet. So I picked the “advanced” area.
First, Nicole Simon is super cool. She’s from Germany and has done a lot of podcasting. Most of the other folks wanted to know about Skype-casting and so I chimed in saying “yeah, I want to know more about that as well.” But really I haven’t played with Skype AT ALL. So really I want someone to show me how it works and explain it in small words. Maybe I’ll figure it out myself and do a video cast of it to explain it to everyone else.
So really that just gave me some homework of looking up Nicole Simon, finding out if I want to buy an Edirol R9 (
I don’t think I do yet but I've already ordered one and it does look neat in that it has AC power options but also takes AA batteries), and going home to figure out how the hell skype works.
2:30-3:30 – Audience Building
I did manage to sit at a table with nice people who seemed to be in a similar blogging situation as I am. Most notably, I sat next to EverydayGoddess.net’s Liz, but everyone at the table was very cool.
I enjoyed listening to Elise Bauer’s presentation. She seems like a hip lady. I need to go back and look at her Learning Movable Type web site to get some tips on it for my own site. The one thing she said that kind of made me sad was something to the effect of “pick one topic or theme and stick with it.” Basically, she was saying that in order to build traffic, you needed to focus your blog on a particular area. That is SO not how I work. I want my blog to be about me and I’m a pretty multidimensional person (which reminds me, I never saw Koan Bremmer while I was there and I wanted to do that). But we’ll touch on this topic again later.
I did enjoy her information on how to make your web site more “google-able” and I think I’ll try some of that in the future.
4:00-5:00 - $$$ Generation
I stuck around in the same room for Jennifer Slagg’s talk about generating money from your web site. But this was a bit beyond me as well. I took some notes on some web sites that had options for ads etc, but I think I’ll save that all for six months from now or so. First I need to generate some content.
5:15-6:15 – VideoBlogging and CSS (I multi-tasked)
I started out in the videoblogging room, but I was getting really run down. My brain was full and it was a long day. Ryanne Hodson and Zadi Diaz talked about the video blogs they do and how it was so easy. I was sort of surprised to find out they just used point and shoot digital cameras like my Cybershot and nothing fancier. Then again, they were doing much smaller snippets of time than what I think I would want to do. I need to look into that for the future.
So about half-way in, I dragged myself over to the CSS session to see what they were talking about. The class looked very cool but I had started in the middle. It was all stuff I can figure out on my own as well and renewed my enthusiasm to clean up the inabottle.org web site. But at the end of the day I was again feeling shitty for copping out and using a table to format my site, which occasionally bites me in the ass, and not biting the bullet for CSS. That was a lot of biting in that sentence. I guess CSS is another project for a few days (months) from now.
6:30-8:00 Welcome Reception by the Pool
I actually left the CSS session a little early. I wandered back to the hotel room feeling stupid and ugly. No one slighted me, but I just was frustrated by my inability to connect with people like me. I felt like the only professional woman without kids who doesn’t cook that often, isn’t on MovableType/TypePad/WordPress, and is stuck somewhere smack in the middle between 20 and 40. How did I manage to fly out to California, hoping to be around a huge group of like-minded women, and end up feeling utterly alone?
I moaned to Rich a bit and he really did make me feel much better. He reminded me that there were lots of people at BlogHer and I just needed to get back out there and I would find some folks I liked and who liked me back.
We went back out, used both our free drink tickets on liquor, found some decent food to snack on and invited ourselves to sit at a table of strangers.
My day finally started looking up. I met four wonderful women who all were funny, smart and incredibly cool (Lauren, Laurie, Kat, Courtney and Brittany). Rich saw Laura Foy from G4TV (who I later introduced him to) and we all had a good time chatting and comparing notes. Apparently there really were personal bloggers there. And I could tell people that I had a personal blog and never say “oh, it’s just a personal blog” as if that meant I didn’t count.
Rich and I still went to bed early around 11pm, since I had a big day the next day as well.
7:00-7:45 – Yoga with Mollie Guillemette
The session was really small but it still felt very good to get up and stretch. It helped my overall mood. I also was encouraged that I was feeling more comfortable around everyone else and the buildings and I could see new folks coming in for Day Two who were still getting acquainted. It sounds silly for me to be pleased that I was more clueful than others there, but it did help my self esteem a bit that morning.
After yoga, I went back to get dressed and head back for some breakfast and to hear the opening session (again).
8:30-10:00 – Welcome Session and Opening Session (How are Blogs Changing Your World?)
I can’t remember who led this discussion, but we heard from Cooper (?) who talked about her blog beenthere.com and how they started a Hurricane Katrina relief effort. That was inspiring and interesting to listen to.
There was also an example from Shuna at Eggbeater talking about her food blog and how she had taken some risks and talked about some things other than food (like the migrant workers who work in her kitchens). So that was interesting and made me think I’d like to read her site.
10:00-11:00 Birds of a Feather
I started out going to the gadgets section but quickly bailed in favor of finding the feminist discussion. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find Brittany anywhere. They really shouldn’t make the short people the ones you’re supposed to follow.
But it worked out pretty well in that I got to talk to two very interesting women who were also lost and looking for the feminists. One was xeroxpoetbikerchick.blogspot.com and one was drshellie.blogsome.com. Both of them were very nice people and a worthwhile chat. Also, both were folks like me who had less than 20 readers and were okay with that. Finally some similar voices!
Oh, and I got another chance for my Tide pen to shine. Shellie spilled tea on her nice shirt and I pulled out my pen to the rescue. It would make the fourth time I had used it that weekend, both for myself and others. I need to remind the BlogHer organizers to get Tide to donate pens for the schwag bags next year. Or maybe only give a pen to every fifth person to encourage people to mingle with each other.
11:00-12:30 – Identity and Obligations
I’m so glad I went to this session! I finally started hearing great discussion about things I found fascinating!
A lot of the discussion was about race, but it also touched on sexuality, interactions with our audiences and lots of other great topics. I almost cried, though, when an Indian woman stood up and said that she had several identities and she felt it would be a disservice to only talk about or profile one of them. She also mentioned a book by Sen called Identity and Violence. The idea is that if you only identify as one aspect of yourself (Christian, lesbian, mother, black) that you deny all your other aspects. And that denying your other aspects inevitably leads to violence because you alienate yourself from everyone else around you. Her point was great and she really helped validate me in comparison to the previous traffic and money sessions talking about how I needed to focus on one thing because the people who care about my diabetes posts won’t care about my library posts or my podcasting posts. I hated to think that was the case and I felt good all over knowing that it wasn’t.
12:30-1:30 – Lunch by the pool
I wolfed down my food and sprinted to my next room because shade was hard to come by and I could feel my skin crisping in the sun.
1:30-3:00 – Let’s Talk About Sex
I admit I went to this because I really love Susie Bright and I just wanted to be within ten feet of her. I really should have had my picture taken with her, but hindsight is 20/20.
This was another GREAT session. I even contributed with a question about how we’re supposed to talk about sex, but that involves also talking about those we’re having sex with. It brought up some good discussion and I felt useful and clever.
It gave me some great ideas for some podcasts that Rich and I could do about pornography, sexual relationships, expectations and honesty. One thing we need to talk about more was why men don’t talk about sex online.
3:30-5:00 – Next Level Naked
Yet another great session. I really enjoyed hearing from Mecca, Lauren and Maryam (as well as chatting a tiny bit with her husband,
George Robert Scoble). Nicole Simon had some more great comments about community and I yet again contributed to the discussion when I mentioned it was very hard to me to talk about my divorce or really anything during that time period because I wasn’t getting support in my comments section or emails and I was only getting a lot of third hand “why did you write that?!” kind of comments from others.
Shuna talked again about how she thought BlogHer was designed for girly straight moms and that she felt out of place. Even just her saying that made me feel better for some strange reason.
I also drooled over
George Robert’s HD camcorder. He said it was around $4000, but it just looked so damn cool. I’m not ready to spend money on something like that until it’s paying me money.
We left there and headed to the banquet room for the closing session.
5:15-6:30 – Closing Keynote
I’m really pleased I got to hear from Arianna Huffington and Mena Trott. Caroline Little and Grace Davis were great too, but there were just a lot of things that Arianna and Mena said that resonated with me.
Arianna said that her mother told her “coincidences are the miracles that God performs anonymously.” I thought that was a really good quote. I also enjoyed hearing about her relationship with this man who was 20 years her senior and how she left the country to end the relationship.
Mostly I really enjoyed hearing Mena talk. I totally understood when she said that she was a CEO at age 24 and said “where do I go from here?” And after hearing so many mommy bloggers all weekend, it was really refreshing to hear her say “I’m terrified to have kids!”
I even worked up the courage to go talk to her. I told her that I really enjoyed what she had to say about being young and professional and trying to fit it all in. And I told her that I use LiveJournal and I totally love it. She sent me to find
6:30-9:00 – Swap Meet and Cocktail Party
I went back to retrieve Rich and we headed out to check out the Swap Meet and find some food. The food was more of the snicky-snack variety and the drink line was incredibly long. I’m glad we used up our tickets the night before.
We went to the very small swap meet area and ended up picking up a free calendar from Breast of Canada, a free tiny envelope from Doug of tinyenvelope.com and talked to the folks at Body Impolitic. Mrs. Kennedy was there selling t-shirts but I already have one and she was a bit swamped. I was reaching social overload.
Rich and I sat by the pool and talked about our days and had a really pleasant recap. And then I told him I was interested in dinner at a quiet restaurant where we could pick exactly what we wanted to eat as opposed to eating what they brought us. I had been around fascinating strangers and I was ready to spend the rest of the night with my fascinating Puddin’.
We went to Pizza California and had fantastic breadsticks and a pretty good pizza (note to self – get the small pizza next time). We talked more about our days and all the great stuff buzzing in my head. And I was just so glad he came with me so I had someone to share it all with.
The Morning After
We slept in pretty late considering the time difference and prepped ourselves to head out.
We got bagels at the bagel place (which were very tasty) and then headed over to the Egyptian Museum where Rich had been the day before. I took a ton of photos and enjoyed the beautiful weather with my favorite guy. We made it to the airport in plenty of time and I call the entire trip a success.
I think it was a worthwhile trip. There were approximately 720 attendees for Day Two, half of which came for Day One as well. I know more about what to expect next year and I think it will affect what kind of crap I carry around during the day and how I dress. I also think I’m going to give some feedback to the BlogHer folks about how to make it easier to mingle rather than just throwing 700 women around a pool and telling them to get to know each other.
I met a ton of wonderful women, both in conversations and on panels. I think I spoke fairly clearly to those people I did talk to. And my business cards were a big hit.
So I’ll be back next year and I hope the Puddin’ comes with me as well.