BlogHerCon post-mortem, in absentia

For the record, this is Post #600. Yikes! 

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?

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  1. I didn’t go either. 🙂 I have so wondered what something like that woulb be like. A bunch of people you’ve never met in person, yet you know. I would imagine it to be surrel the first time; but fun!

  2. I wish you could have come – it would have been great to meet! Yeah, I went and was a thousand times grateful the entire time. But I am still just trying to decompress from it all. I am almost so overstimmed, my blogging flo is kind of bound up and needing a good re-boot. Anyway, posts about it shal come. If I ever get lucky enough to go again, maybe we will meet next year!


  3. Arg. I just wrote a very long comment and it got eaten but basically I said that it was overwhelming but good. I spent a lot of time hiding in bathrooms, downing xanax and crying from panic but I also grew from it I guess sometimes you have to face that kind of struggle to “find your tribe” and realize you aren’t alone. If you do come, come and find me so I can meet you. I’ll be the girl hiding in the bathroom.

  4. Hey girl!
    I just posted a comment but blogspot says “Your OpenID credentials could not be verified.” That’s a first. Anyhow – I couldn’t have loved your post more. A lot of the same issues were daunting to me as well. But I’m committed to going next year. Perhaps we can fly up together?!

  5. First off, apologies to anyone who’s had trouble posting a comment today – I’m sure it’s Blogger’s fault and not mine :-), but I’m sorry for the inconvenience.

    And BTW, I’ve already put a bug in my husband’s ear about going to BlogHerCon next year, but I won’t commit before there are some details about it.

    Mike – And I’m sure you have a very good excuse for not being there, too :-D.

    Since I met my husband online, I think I’m slightly less intimidated about meeting blog-folk in person – as you say, it’s really not like they’re strangers. I’m much more comfortable with smaller groups, though, so the size of the crowd IS still intimidating.

    TCMom – I’ll look forward to reading about your BlogHerCon experience once you’ve decompressed, Caroline. I know how excited you were about being able to go!

    Jenny – Which bathroom :-)? Save me a stall in there, please, because chances are I’ll need to do some hiding myself.

    Laura – It’s a view from the outside, obviously, but as someone who wasn’t there either, I’m glad you enjoyed it!

    Lucia – Donna (SoCal Mom) has told me I HAVE to go next year, and I bet she’d tell you the same :-). When it gets close enough to plan, maybe we can talk about coordinating travel arrangements.

    I’m very glad to know I’m not the only one who worries about this stuff! 😀

  6. On one hand, I had a blast. On the other hand, the large crowds and loud noises and not having a buddy to hang with sometimes got to be a bit much. I did meet some great bloggers and sat in on a few informative sessions. The swag was fun (of course) and I was thrilled to win a purse at the closing party at Macy’s.

    Good for you for planning on attending next year. I think that’s what I did this time last year as well. I’m thinking that next year, I might head out to BlogHer Biz to see what that’s like – I have a feeling it might be more my speed.

  7. LA Blogger Gal – It’s the crowds (and their sometime accompaniment, the cliques) that make me anxious. If I do go next year, I’ll know some people among the Moms Blog group, but both my blog-reading and -writing cross over into other areas, so I’d hope to be able to mix it up. Assuming I had the nerve to talk to anyone, that is…:-)

  8. I really agree with what you’ve said here. I definitely ignore more offers for review copies of books than I accept. And I think that the only way to really feel like you can read those books when you want and react how you want is to put up a notice with your contact info saying you may or may not review the books, and reviews may or may not be positive. I feel I have to say this ever since I got a memoir about a woman with allegedly mentally ill children and I was completely convinced the woman herself was the mentally ill one, pathologizing and drugging her kids for symptoms like mild introversion! I didn’t know what to do. Make a Crazy Lady Alert post? Not post at all? She kept emailing me to ask when I’d review the book, so I finally worked up the nerve to say I wasn’t going to review it because the review would be very negative. She actually responded to that in such a calm way that I was really surprised. But anyway, I know people who think it’s practically prostitution to take gift certificates from Mother Talk and Mom Central for reviewing books, but they have certainly never objected to negative reviews so far.

  9. Dewey – I know a lot of book bloggers actively solicit review books, but I can’t see myself ever doing that, at least till my “regular” TBR collection shrinks – so, really, that’s probably never. I’ve been a MotherTalk book reviewer, and would be glad to be one again IF and WHEN they offer a book that I would choose to read even if it wasn’t a freebie. I think I’d been blogging for months before I realized that book bloggers got offered unsolicited books for review :-).

    I think we have to be honest in reviews, positive or negative, and there shouldn’t be fallout from that – but I’m sure sometimes there is.

  10. This has been helpful and interesting. I’ve wondered if going to the BlogHer conference would be a good idea. Though, like you, I don’t much like conferences. They are exhausting and expensive. But. . . . .maybe next year. My book will be out then and I guess I’ll need to get out there and flog it!

  11. Working Girl – Maybe you’ll get lucky and they’ll have next year’s conference in Seattle :-). But since this year was in San Francisco and last year’s was in Chicago, I suspect it’s a more eastern city’s turn next time. And I agree that flogging the book is probably a good excuse to make an appearance!

  12. I’d love to go to the conference, but I live so close to SF that next year’s location will probably be cost prohibitive for me. 🙁

  13. Trish – I’d say chances of it being in the Bay Area two years running are probably slim – except for the fact that BlogHer itself is based there, so you never know…