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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17 Responses to BlogHer — Not a Social Club

  1. Very interesting. I had planned to go and then had a scheduling conflict, so I couldn’t. Having read all the post-BlogHer posts, I was kind of glad I didn’t. But I may go next year anyway. Who know what the year between will bring. Thanks for sharing your perspective.

  2. jeana says:

    I’m glad you wrote this. It seems like a really balanced view.

    Sorry, I couldn’t think of anythign brilliant to say.

  3. jeana says:

    Wait, here’s a question. If the goal is to be known as bloggers and not women bloggers, is a conference called Blog HER really the best way to accomplish that? :-P

  4. Jeana. Tee Hee. A focus of the BlogHer Org is to empower women bloggers. I’m not saying we’ll forget we’re HERs. I’m just saying it would be nice in the wide world if we could be known simply as great writers without a gender qualifier attached. When I hear, “What a great woman blogger!” I tend to think, “What a great blogger, even though she’s a woman.”

    Just because I don’t think we should identify everyone we talk about by their race, doesn’t mean I think that various ethnic groups should not have their own organizations to strengthen and look out for the best interests of their specific community.

  5. I don’t know that there’s anything wrong with the differentiation of “woman blogger” – in light of other people’s posts, maybe it would be better to have a special mommy blogger conference (so childless by choice women are not offended by our labor stories, lactation stories and poo stories).

    I have to admit to feeling the occasional twinge of jealousy when reading an excellent post I couldn’t come close to writing. Sometimes it keeps me from visiting those blogs. You can only hang around genius for so long before you start to feel woefully inferior. Is that a girl thing, or an artist thing?

  6. allysha says:

    Oh, the big, wide world of blogging. It’s such a funny thing to me. I’m not sure if I am, or even if I want to qualify as, a serious blogger. Sometimes I’m not sure if I understand the rules and etiquette that seems to exist in the blog universe.

    My blog does a few things for me. 1-It’s a mental exercise of sorts, which is important to me (and my sanity). 2- It gives me a place to write and have some sort of audience. Which is what a lot of writing is about. If I didn’t want any audience I would just write in my journal- but how much of an audience do I want? I don’t know. I’ve been thinking about that. Do I want as many people as possible clamoring to read my every word? Well, Sure! On some level. But how quickly does it become a way I measure my self-worth? Was I better on tuesday than I was on monday because someone decided to comment on my tuesday post?

    Although I had never heard of Blog-Her before you mentioned it, I’ve read some about it. It seems that the difficult thing is that for some reason in our world there has to be “a best” and that one of the ways we measure that is by celebrity; this number of people know who I am so I must be better than Joe Schmoe, but not as good as, say, Jennifer Anniston?

    Anyway, maybe this is slightly off topic, but the questions you asked at the end are things that have been on my mind and I haven’t figured them out yet.

  7. Mary Tsao says:

    Great post.

    Last year I went to BlogHer on a whim. I didn’t know anybody and didn’t even fully grok the whole Blogoshpere and Community aspect of blogging. If you can believe it, I didn’t even know who Heather (dooce) was before last year’s BlogHer.

    But I loved what I saw and I enjoyed being there. I knew it was “my people” and I liked the fact that there was a conference for what I liked to do. As a SAHM, it helped me to understand that blogging was meaningful. I could justify blogging after going to last year’s BlogHer.

    And this year’s conference was a blast for me! Wow, all of these women bloggers that I had been reading and lots of new ones that I couldn’t wait to read. Technical information, informative presentations, people talking about what I.Love.To.Talk.About… Blogging! It was a great time and I can’t wait until next year.

    A blogger recently wrote me about BlogHer. She didn’t know if she wanted to go because of the posts afterwards. I haven’t yet answered her because I wasn’t sure what to say. I think now I’ll just direct her to your post. Thanks!

  8. Great post. I think I am one of those people that is more shy in person than online. Hence, the reason I didn’t introduce myself to you! It was a major step for me to even GO to the conference at all.

    I did really enjoy meeting people that have visited my blog and vice versa. Since I was only there for Sat evening, I missed the conference, but would have liked to have attended the sessions. As a relatively new blogger, I think that next year’s conference would be more fun for me. Maybe next year, we can have a drink together. :)

  9. Nettie says:

    Wow. I didn’t even realize there had been any particular BlogHer dramas. Or so many deep thoughts about blogging. I have yet to hit the hardcore blogger state yet, I guess. I don’t know who Heather Dooce is. And I haven’t thought such deep thoughts about “us” bloggers. Just egocentrically twirling around in my own little world, writing posts for fun. Kind of like how I never know the latest about movie stars or fashion.

    I have to say I like the idea of being WOMEN bloggers. Maybe that is an unnecessary label, but I think it is something to be proud of. More like, she is a great blogger AND a great woman!

    And as for the future of blogging. All I want is to be able to mention blogging without people looking at me like I’m some incomprehensible creature.

  10. Jane says:

    I liked the bit about not waiting until you have arrived. I think I do that in regard to my whole life. I’ll go to my class reunion when… I’ll apply for that internship when… I’ll take that class in photography when… I’ll be happy when… etc.

  11. surcie says:

    Clearly, the problem with blogging is. . .other people’s blogs.

    Hey! So maybe I should stop reading other blogs altogether, in order to stop feeling like mine’s somehow not worthwhile “enough”!

    Like I could ever do that. I definitely couldn’t stop reading yours, K.

  12. Rebecca says:

    Just reading about the BlogHer stuff makes me want to stop blogging, makes me feel self-concious and weird. My blog exists solely as a creative outlet for me, because I’m too frazzled and short of time to write novels and too untalented to craft. It doesn’t make me think of myself as a “writer”, although I think that it can help some people with the process of writing.
    Do I think that blogs will exist in five years? Nope. I think that it’s a bit of a fad, like CB radios. I don’t mean that in a nasty way, though – I think that the best bloggers will go on to writing careers, and that the other bloggers, like me, will find something else to do.
    But is it news to anyone that women can be cruel and dismissive to each other? I’m not surprised at all to hear the hurt feeling fall-out from the BlogHer conference. I am sorry, though.

  13. Angela says:

    Quick clarification: I announced my retirement to a few people before I went to BlogHer. Sure, there was a bit of weirdness there, but it had nothing to do with my decision.

    This was a really refreshing post. Thanks!

  14. Caryn says:

    I’ve heard several people mention their surprise at how introverted many of the bloggers were, but I totally understand, even if I wouldn’t have expected it, either. It’s easy to sound confident and at-ease on your own website. You get to say what you want on your own blog, and comments are almost always positive.

  15. Susan says:

    I want YOU to autograph my iBook.

  16. chris says:

    I agree wholeheartedly with your post. I had a great time. but I also went with no preconcieved ideas that people were going to be a certain way towards me. I read post after post about people feeling like they were somehow treated poorly or ignored and wonder if I was even at the same conference. Every single person I came across was friendly. And you are just the queen of extroverted goodness. And I love you for that.

    Uh, earrings? what earrings? (quickly pulling hair down over ears…)

  17. blackbird says:

    Well said.

    well

    said.

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