BlogHer — Not a Social Club

Why did I go to BlogHer? 

Here’s part of the essay I wrote to the mommybloggers, applying for their scholarship, without which I would not have been able to attend:

I am a woman by birth, a mother by choice and a blogger by need and sometimes sheer insanity.  Blogging has suddenly made me a writer when 8 months ago I was content to think of myself as a mom who puttered with the idea of maybe writing something someday when the kids were all in school.  It gives me power and it gives me a reason to reach daily into my Dr Seuss-ridden brain and try to reconcile my life experiences with the world around me.

I decided not to go to BlogHer the same way I had decided not to be a writer.  I wasn’t ready.  I wasn’t one of the big kids.  I was too new, a wise-cracking mommy blogger with a few readers.  Next year I’d go, when we had more money, when my blog had really “taken off” – whatever that means.

The more I learn about the conference, the more I regret that decision.  I didn’t wait to start a blog until I had something sublime and life-shattering to share.  I shouldn’t be waiting to go to BlogHer until I’ve “arrived.”Â  In some ways I hope I never do.  Then I won’t have anything left to write about.  Blogging has created this boiling need for discovery, this urge to uncover, to draw parallels, to open myself up to new truth (and sometimes public ridicule), to connect with people I never would have met otherwise.

Now I think it’s time that we should meet in person.  BlogHer is about strong women sharing their thoughts with the world and, through their writing, hoping to change it or at least declare their existence in it.  It’s an organization that encourages personal expression and freedom of choice. I want to go to BlogHer to show that “mommy bloggers” are witty intelligent women with as much validity to their existence on the internet and in the “real world” as any woman who has taken a different path in her life.  I want my worlds to collide.  I want a fresh outlook and new skills to fuel this passion.

Not many of my regular readers attended BlogHer this year.  I was advised not to annoy them by blogging too much about the conference when I got home.  Who really wants to hear ad nauseum about the party they weren’t able to attend?

I wanted to talk about the technical things I learned that could be useful to my fellow-bloggers but didn’t want to “waste time” on this site where many of the readers do not blog and do not care about how the cogs work.

So instead, I wrote a list of a few things I learned at the conference over at mommybloggers.  I was planning to let it go at that.  Since then, I’ve been reading more and more commentary on the conference, how people felt, what they got out of it, their feelings of disappointment or excitement.

Many people seem to have left the conference more confused about their place in the blogging world.  Some favorites are closing up shop.  Some are having trouble deciding whether and what to blog. 

The conference organizers have received all kinds of flack for what did or did not happen, whether it was the dream love-fest of the century or (gasp!) a conference about blogging.

I think offering suggestions for improvement next year is valid.  Lisa did a fabulous conference breakdown, talking about the way things could go differently in Chicago.  I think expressing heartfelt emotions is also important.  I loved Jessica’s honest posts about her experiences. 

I can honestly say that my expectations were met and exceeded.  Dan and I decided to pay for my plane fare and chip in $1.00 for my hotel room because we saw the conference as a great opportunity.  It was an opportunity for networking.  It was an opportunity to learn more about my craft and to improve my skills and sensitivities about blogging.

The social aspect was purely secondary and that was more fun than I had hoped for as well.  Nearly everyone I met was kind and intelligent, although many were much more shy than I would have imagined pre-conference.  I think that shyness was sometimes misinterpreted as snobbery.  Let me just say that being a good writer and having thousands of daily readers does not necessarily a social butterfly make.  We’re all sitting in our computer-filled nerderies typing our thoughts out onto the internet.  Two plus two, people.

My hope for people planning to attend next year is that you will think of the conference less as the social event of the year (although a great social event it was if you went in with the right expectations.  Maybe I had an easier time of it than some because I didn’t go expecting anyone to know who I was.) and more as a…I don’t know…conference. 

Meriam-Webster online:
Conference:  noun:  1 a : a meeting of two or more persons for discussing matters of common concern b : a usually formal interchange of views.

It’s not a blogging sleepover party.  Although Chris did end up with my curling iron and some earrings that she suspiciously has not mailed back yet.  You’d think she was busy or something.

It’s not a blogging convention, a place where people would go to have their ears surgically altered to look like Heather, dress up exactly like Alice in her banner photo, or stand in line for 10 hours to get Eden’s autograph on their iBook. 

With the rapid growth of the blogosphere, particularly the increasing number of women bloggers, there are a lot more pressing issues we need to be concerned about.  Many of these were explored at the conference but have been forgotten in the post-conference feelings.

When will we stop being referred to as “Women Bloggers” and just be “Bloggers”?
How can we be better at what we do?
When will we learn to start promoting each other, rather than competing, that together we will only be stronger?
What skills and technologies do we need to stay current in the coming years as the internet rug is consistently pulled out from under us?  Will blogs even exist in their current form 5 years from now?
Is blogging a means to an end or is it the end itself?  Are the terms “blogger” and “writer” mutually exclusive?
What are blogging ethics and integrity?  How do you define “safe space” in the blogosphere?
Seriously, where are my earrings?

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