This past weekend, the annual BlogHer Conference took place in San Francisco. You may have heard about it somewhere – going or nor going to BlogHerCon has been quite the topic of blogversation lately, although no one but me has called it “BlogHerCon,” as far as I know (no, wait, someone has); most peple just call it “BlogHer,” and its “official” short name is “BlogHer08” (this year’s model). But since BlogHer is also the community for women who blog that organizes the conference every year (and which provides the ads in my sidebar), I’m going with BlogHerCon. Maybe it will catch on next year. Hey, my nerd factor is a matter of record – every conference or convention is a “something-con.”
If you normally spend your time in parts of the blogosphere where the topic of BlogHerCon rarely, if ever, came up, and you’re wondering what this is all about – well, wonder no more! And it’s not just the conference itself that gets people wound up; it’s the parties and mixers and face-to-face meeting and networking that surround it too, as hundreds of women bloggers get to match a face to the words. Many of the blogs I subscribe to are women’s personal blogs, and last week, a lot of them were talking and Twittering about BlogHerCon – either they were excited to be going, or they were regretful that they weren’t. The excitement and the regrets seemed to be at least as much about the surrounding socializing as they were about the conference content. And many of the attendees kept up the talking and Twittering with live updates from BlogHerCon – the sessions, the parties, the swag – once the event was underway, keeping everyone informed.
If you’re wondering why I haven’t mentioned it here before – well, I didn’t go, and I really didn’t have a whole lot to say about that beforehand; therefore, you may be wondering why I would have anything to say about it afterwards, given that I…well, wasn’t there.
I first became aware of the conference last year, but felt like far too much of a blogging newbie even to consider going. This year, on the other hand, I did give it some serious thought. In fact, I thought about it for so long it ended up being too late to do anything about going. Procrastination over a decision sometimes winds up making the decision for you, I’ve noticed. And in this case, in some ways it was a relief to have it decided. My introversion and discomfort with in-person networking are as much a matter of record as my nerd factor, and the idea that I would willingly step into a situation that’s so heavy on the networking is …well, at least a little out of character. And given the fact that this year’s conference sold out, with literally a thousand registered attendees, I can easily see being overwhelmed by it all.
As I said, I’m somewhat relieved and not sorry that I didn’t go this year. I’ve read some attendees’ dispatches from BlogHerCon, and have most appreciated the live-blogs and reports from particular talks and panels. That’s the real meat of a conference, and to be honest, there’s a fair amount of it that I would have been interested in hearing. Besides, when you’re in an auditorium or conference room listening to speakers, you’re there for a reason, and in a crowd of unknowns, I’m much more comfortable with structure. At the same time, I got the message from some people there that it was all very big, crowded, and could indeed be overwhelming.
It’s the surrounding social stuff that makes me more nervous. Some attendees admitted, via blog and Twitter tweets, that they were spending more time at parties than in sessions. That’s worthwhile; bloggers come to feel like we know each other because we share so much online, but actually meeting in person and spending time together makes our relationships truly personal. However, reading about who was at which parties, and who else was there, and what people were wearing loses its appeal for me after awhile – it can start to sound more like name-dropping and “look at what I got to do!” than “let me share this experience so you’ll know what it was like.” That’s too much like the outside-looking-in high school experience that I prefer to forget, thanks. I think that’s also one reason why some bloggers who couldn’t attend, or chose not to, just get tired of hearing about it all, or outright backlash against it.
The vendor handouts – the swag – don’t really excite me, and honestly make me just a bit uncomfortable. Some attendees talked about getting three or four goody bags, from various parties as well as the conference itself, and they weren’t full of trinkets and cheap T-shirts. There has to be an expectation that people will blog about what they got – this is a big marketing opportunity, clearly. You know, I’m still writing most of my reviews here about books I bought myself and movies that I’ve seen on my own (well, usually with my husband, but you know what I mean); I don’t seek out freebies. I’m still getting used to the idea that people offer to send me books for free, and I probably decline more than I accept, because it’s still interest-driven for me. I’m really trying to keep it that way.
But despite uncertainty, reservations, and the backlash, I’m seriously thinking about attending BlogHerCon next year – location, timing, and cost all permitting, of course. I’ve never been to a blogging conference, and I do take this seriously enough that I think I could learn a lot. As far as the social side of it goes, thanks to my new association with the LA Moms Blog (oops, I’m guilty of a little name-dropping there myself), I actually will know a few bloggers in person by next summer, and that will help make it a little less intimidating. Would any other newbies be interested in taking on BlogHerCon 2009 with me? Let’s start talking about it soon. And if you went to BlogHerCon this year, what’s your advice?