Saturday, August 01, 2009

BlogHer'09: The Good, The Bad and The Meh

  1. I liked seeing all my online friends in the flesh. Just wish there had been more time and opportunity to really sit down and talk. That there wasn’t, I think, is a function of the size and intensity of the conference. Not only is the BlogHer schedule jam-packed, but the number of outside parties and such seemed endless.
  2. The sessions—so many choices, so little time. Just wish they had been less general. I know that BlogHer prides itself on the conversational tone of their conference sessions. The emphasis for speakers is less on presentation and more on dialogue with the audience. That works very well when it’s a small group. But when it’s a lecture size audience, allowing the audience members to determine the flow of the topic ends up being a crapshoot. Will the probing questioners get to the mike? And if a question sparks a dialogue, will the dialogue be allowed to continue—or will it be truncated in the interest of others getting a chance to speak? The answers to those questions at the sessions I attended was “probably not.” Consequently, there’s no real depth to the sessions.
  3. Swag. This is good, bad and meh all together. I know there’s a debate going on on Twitter about Too Much Swag. To me the amount of swag wasn’t the issue. The focus on the commercial aspects of Blogher was. Lisa said at one session that she, Elisa and Jory founded BlogHer with four purposes in mind: exposure, community, education, and economic empowerment for women bloggers. I think the economic empowerment head is now leading the beast.
  4. When my panel was announced, I couldn’t figure out what we—one shopping blog, one lesbian blog, one the-personal-is-political blog and me, the midlifeblogger—had in common. What was our reason for being? Then during the preconference phone call, Elisa stressed that we were the panel to give voice to those not often heard. That confused me further because I don’t feel particularly marginalized in the blogosphere. But then I got to the conference and looked around, and I understood—within BlogHer itself, we are marginalized. The emphasis of the Conference is on sponsorship and the sponsors are focusing on one particular demographic; that leaves the rest of us out in the cold. I can’t tell you how many times during BlogHer’09, midlife bloggers came up to me and asked, “Where are we in all this?” I could only shrug. I dunno.
  5. Two years ago in Chicago, Butterball was a sponsor and handed out oven mitts as their swag. There was a lot of flack from bloggers about that—“what? You think all we do is cook?” This year it is obvious that the sponsors think we have a shitload of laundry to do. And meals to prepare. And we’re pinching our pennies so we’re willing to ignore Walmart’s business practices to save a cent or two in their stores. (I’m building up a head of steam here, so if you’re delicate, you might want to leave now). Talk about allowing the marketplace to define us! I have no use for Ragu's nifty wheel that allows me to plan meals for my non-existent family. Nor am I cherishing the gift bag left in my room by Tide|Bounce which contained stick on dryer sheets, all wrapped up in pretty orange paper. The one sponsor that did speak to me was Microsoft Office|Bing, and I spent more time in their suite than anywhere else. They had fantastic pastries, coffee, and their swag seemed for grownup women, rather than Mommy's.
  6. I just read Lisa Stone’s post about Valerie Jarrett being at Blogher’09. She was? Where was I at the time? Why didn’t I even know about it?
  7. For me, what is missing from the conference is substance. Did I say that before? It bears repeating I went to BlogCon Blog World Expo last year and found the sessions there jam-packed with information. It was very obvious to me that people were there for information, to learn from the experts. The sessions that I attended at BlogHer’09 were much more general, the questions more abstract, the responses much less satisfying. This may be a function of the fact that I’ve been blogging for four years and this was my fourth BlogHer Conference. Perhaps there’s a shelf-life for bloggers attending the conference, and I've passed it.
  8. I’m on the fence about BlogHer’10. If it’s going to be another hoo-hah Mommy-PR extravaganza, I’m not particularly enthusiastic. There has to be something more there for me to make it worth the cost of going.