I’ve been so busy with day job and consulting work that I haven’t been able to post here for some time but thought I’d cross post this write-up on the fantastic Blogher conference I just returned from in Chicago. It was so much fun! I got to meet a number of web pals face to face for the first time, including the super cool PR guy Jeremy Pepper. Jeremy, who’s been to every Blogher since the conferences began, says of the Blogher scene – “You won’t find a better community where stuff actually gets done.”
I got to go to the 3rd annual Blogher conference on women bloggers in Chicago this weekend and it was awesome. Though this was the first time I was able to go, I’m told that year after year the conference doubles in attendance. I can see why – it was well worth the trip.
For my contribution to the discussions that went on there, I thought I’d post a few things here. To the right you can see I’ve built a very simple Blogher channel in SplashCast. I used the Blogher logo at a channel preview image, then put in two shows – one the most recent videos on YouTube tagged Blogher and the second the same tag on Flickr.
Some of the things I’ve been thinking about since returning home yesterday:
* Different rock stars. I was surprised that the session on blogging more efficiently was not packed with attendees despite being put on by Gina Trapani of Lifehacker and Barb Dybwad of AOL’s Engadget and Joystiq. As Liz Henry pointed out to me on Twitter, though, the Blogher community has a different set of rock stars than the tech blogging community I’m most familiar with. Confessions of a Pioneer Woman gets more comments per post than any blog I’ve ever seen – and I’d never heard of it before! Did you know that Elise Bauer’s Simply Recipes has over 232,000 (!) subscribers by RSS and email? Mommy bloggers have another community altogether still.
* Blog atmosphere. One classic dilemma on any web site that allows visitor comments is whether some comments should be deleted because they are offensive. People who feel they should not tend to think it’s the most obvious thing in the world but I heard someone express another perspective at Blogher better than I had ever heard it expressed before. When you allow comments that are read as oppressive by people of color, women and others to remain on your blog it requires members of those communities to prepare themselves emotionally for a hostile environment before participating in conversation. That’s not something I want to ask of people who are already outside the dominant power paradigm- so I’m going to make it a practice to delete comments like that if and when they appear on posts I write anywhere.
Though that opinion was expressed well at Blogher, there was hardly consensus around it. For example, I heard a number of women say things that I personally thought quite oppressive – from “retard” and “ching chong” jokes to shutting down question askers with “you just don’t get it” arrogance. In other words, it was hardly one big perfect PC-fest.
* Powerful women. Blogher co-founder Lisa Stone is a great interviewer, keynoter Elizabeth Edwards was better though at answering her questions than she was at being interesting in response to audience questions. Hopefully the interview will be posted in video online so you can see one way to do a great interview. After hearing people talk all weekend about how much smarter Elizabeth is than her Presidential candidate husband John Edwards, I’m sure I wasn’t the only one in the large audience that was grinding my teeth a bit every time she said “well, my husband’s position is this…” It’s not fun to listen to anyone use a phrase like that more than once or twice in a conversation.
* Blogher seemed very well sponsored. GM, Dove, Yahoo! and Google were all major sponsors. Butterball (yuck) sponsored the food sessions (food blogging is huge) and even PayPerPost was there. One of the recurring themes of the sessions, though, was the need for financial support in underrepresented online communities, women bloggers outside the US in particular. Perhaps they already have, but I think it would be nice to see some of these sponsorships come in the form of donations to international organizations in Blogher’s name.
* Social media production. Blogher is not just a yearly conference, it’s also a great place to read womens’ blog posts throughout the year and an ad network for blogs all around the web. Judging from the photos and videos uploaded quickly to the web tagged Blogher, one outside organization has done a particularly good job of producing media content arround the conference. Check out the player above and you’ll find a whole bunch of interviews with speakers from the conference produced by an organization called The Experience Project. Experience Project is a privacy-centric social networking service and anyone who is searching for Blogher video on YouTube in the days after the event will now be exposed to their company and their approach to engaging with related issues. It appears they are collaborating with podcast network Podtech. Way to go Experience Project!
Blogher was a great conference to go to and something I will do my best to go to next year. So many tech related conferences are completely imbalanced with 90% or more male attendees and speakers. It was fantastic to be at an event that was split the other way. Conversations were very friendly, the content was broader in concerns addressed than at many tech conferences and there were any number of psycho-social ways this conference was different that I as a man won’t even try to describe. It was great and I highly recommend attending next year’s conference to anyone able to do so.