As most of you know, I was in San Diego last weekend, attending the BlogHer conference. It was my second blogging conference, but this one was much bigger. Over 3,600 people (primarily women) attended. It was incredibly well-run and organized. Those BlogHer people work hard.
The highlight of the conference was the Special Needs Mini-Conference (SNMC), and deserves a post all of its own. We will be doing a link-up on Support for Special Needs on Monday, so I'll save that post for then.
Call Me @wantapeanut
The conference environment is strange. You introduce yourself with your twitter handle. Popular bloggers are minor celebrities in this world, and you feel like you know them even though, of course, you only know what they've chosen to tell you on their blogs. If you recognize your favorite blogger, a difficult task given that the most you've probably ever seen of her is a very small, square, avatar, you might introduce yourself. Most of these bloggers are really nice and happy to have you tell them you appreciate their words.
There are some bloggers that you may have gotten to know a little better, either through commenting on each others' blogs or on twitter. I can't tell you how many of these conversations started off with "you're much shorter/taller than you seem in your picture." That is, of course, if you manage to find those bloggers, which happens someone randomly. Twitter, it turns out, is not a great way to find people in real-time, and if you don't have a phone number, you'll end up looking for someone sitting "at a table between the buffet and the coffee." Only they were there twenty minutes ago and aren't there now.
Sorry, I don't do product reviews
There is a hug expo hall where brands courting mommy bloggers (and vice versa) give away "swag." There is good stuff there and you could sign up for manicures and fake eyelashes. I didn't take much, though I did feel free to eat Dove ice cream at their booth. Yes, it was delicious (try the peanut butter).
The conference seems to have become about how to make money off your blog. I get it: people spend a lot of time blogging, and want to be compensated. We value the opinions of the bloggers we've come to know, and marketing research has shown that people trust the opinions of other bloggers more than many other sources. I wouldn't mind working for one of those companies running social media campaigns. But I don't plan to make money off my own blog in this way. (Book deals are welcome.)
For the same reason, I wasn't as interested in many of the sessions. Many people didn't even go to the sessions, preferring to explore the expo hall or attend sponsored private sessions and parties that surround the conference. These private sessions provide great opportunities to meet and talk in smaller groups, but also seem to scatter the conference a bit.
It's about the stories
The reason I blog, and the reason I went to the conference (outside of the SNMC) was to meet people and hear their stories. By far, my favorite times were those that featured great writing, including the Voices of the Year community keynote, and the Listen to Your Mother open-mic night. They stories filled me with tears and incredible laughter.