Blogher07 Chicago: First day update, including my community panel
Nights before I have to "present" in any way at conferences are always weird. I dream I miss the shuttle bus to the convention center, etc. I was up at 7 am Chicago time (that's 5 am in Seattle) and managed to eat breakfast, get to the keynote/general session, and do our speed dating networking before the panel.
On the panel were Aliza Sherman (founder of Webgrrls/ Cybergrrl company, and now has a multitude of blogs), Carol Lin, a CNN anchor who is now starting her own dot-com dedicated to cancer and health community, Jane Goldman of chow.com and urbanbaby.com. We lost out on Lisa Parrish because her plane was delayed in the horrific Chicago weather. :(
Watching Carol Lin reminded me about the difference between print and TV journalists. Speaking only for myself as a former print journalist, I had pangs of envy over her sheer aura of poise. She can present and debate and evangelize really clearly and elegantly in a very professional way. I will be watching to see how her project goes.
Aliza, who has spoken to corporations etc before, had a very exuberant speaking style; Jane a more no-nonsense but dry wit approach. Me, I waved my arms around a lot and talked about Norbert the cod of conduct. the very raw notes about our panel are here (I have to write Denise, there's a misattribution in there at this writing) but like South by Southwest, people have been very kind in coming up and saying they liked the session. So it was worth the bad dreams about the shuttle. :)
At Birds of a Feather lunch I got to sit with the Maya's Mom bloggers. I got a chance to talk with Ann Crady, the CEO - a former Yahoo person about how our panel ended. She noted the hesitatncy in the audience around making money from community. Since I'm a corporate blogger, the idea that someone would have monetary gain from my blog doesn't faze me, but it was an issue people talked a lot about in our session. There's a tough transition to monetization if you don't talk with your community up front about it, and make them have a stake in the new moneyed world. Aliza talked about the issues when Webgrrls tried to flip to paid membership (gave me flashbacks because while I wasn't leading the Seattle chapter at that time, I remembe that era of controversy. ) Carol talked about the CNN-level standards her new company will have around who can be a sponsor, what does it mean, diversity of patronage. Integrity and transparency are key.
But back to Ann - she explained to me (since I am ignorant of these things being a non-mom:) ) that part of the strength of Maya's Mom has to do with motherhood and parenthood in general being an identity-changing experience. Once you are a mom/parent, your life does this intense switcharoo and being able to connect with others about it is super powerful (I am paraphrasing Ann here, this is not exact). It gfoes back to blogging your passions. If you care, the blog shows it, and its infectious. Passion is key.
(I know as tech people we feel firmly that the launch of a new version of Halo is an identity, even life-changing thing. :) But its this intensity of experience that adds fuel to the mom-blogging movement. Powerful currents are at work. )
To Melanie's point in my prior post, today I actually DID meet many bloggers who were not of the mom/food blog trend, but I would also say many of them defy categorisation. It's easier when you first come to a conference to look for pattern. Today, on Official Conference Day One, it's harder to find pattern. I met women who were grandmothers, from Japan, who blog about sex and romance, who are writers, who are stay at home moms, who are fitness nuts, who review makeup, who geek out and run web sites.
Each blogher's minefield to navigate is also individual. The"Does the blogosphere need an intolerance intervention?" panel that just ended half an hour ago, featured bloggers who spoke about religion, race and who took on the "A-list" bloggers openly. Both it and the privacy panel had discussion about whether women - no matter what topic they take on - needing to have thicker skin because they get more guff. Personal safety boundaries can only be determined by the woman blogging. What's offensive to people is so personal and individual. Transparency about the rules of your blog - and what comments won't be tolerated - is important to establish at the outset.
I got to say hi to Tara "Miss Rogue" Hunt, give Liz Henry a quick hug (this is a more huggy conference than Tech Ed :) and cheer on Elisa/Jory/Lisa, the blogher queens) . I am sorry to miss Grace Davis who is not coming this year.
I'm trying to nail down why this conference has such a different vibe than others I have blogged about here. I think because there is a constant thread of empowerment behind everything that is being presented (YOU CAN DO IT), and a code of conduct that blogher set out from the beginning about how to treat other people at the conference. It's respectful, it's collaborative, it's funny and it's all women. To the people who think that it doesn't matter whether the technical presenter is a man or a woman, I have to beg to differ. You could not get this feeling of "sister doing it for herself" if we were all sitting and listening quietly to men as they told us how to blog better. Which let's face it, we tend to have to do at other conferences. Microsoft employees who got blogging help from me got help from an authoritative woman, and so did the audiences at the TechEds I presented at, but, it's not so common in the outside world of technical conferences. That is sure going to change in this next generation of bloggers.
And what's fascinating too is the corporate sponsors - Prudential is here handing out chocolate begging women to fill out their survey online. They want to know what women think. The other sponsors are here to reach women (the bath ointments and oven potholder in the swag bag didn't escape me. Also, the computer bags we are getting as swag are way cuter at this conference than others I've been to. Coincidence? I think not. ).
Women are online and they control household spending, as Lisa Stone reminded us in the introductory keynote. Things are only going to get more interesting as all this plays out.