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Monday, July 27, 2009

BlogHer Wrap Up

This isn't really the true BlogHer wrap-up because I will post notes once I have those ready this week and when video goes up for the sessions I attended, I'll link to them. But these are my final (I hold the right to say more) thoughts on the conference.

This year differed greatly from last year. Last year, I likened the conference to visiting Wonderland and then having to return home, knowing that the white rabbit and red queen were still going to be existing without you. This year, it was more like the spinning tea cup ride at Disney World. It's fun--it's absolutely fun--but it's also chaotic and you can only catch snatches of things and it makes the world feel like you can't take it all in. Everything is just spinning by you too quickly to be sure of things.

And that's sort of how this conference felt.

It was fun, and I learned a lot. But it was exhausting and everything kept moving without down time unless you decided to sit something out. And I sort of have this approach to amusement parks too. I figure I'm finally there and I don't want to miss anything. So instead of sitting things out and going back to the hotel to rest, I go on all the rides.

And I went on all the freakin' rides at BlogHer.

I met hundreds of bloggers I read and hundreds more that I now will read. I went to five sessions--one from each track and a Geek Lab. I wrote posts and tweeted and updated my Facebook status and uploaded photos (sorry, Denise, not to Flickr yet). I went to parties this time...sort of. I collected swag this year. So much swag that I needed to get another suitcase to get it all home. It is mostly not for me--I have it separated out into multiple bags right now so I can pass it along to others. But still. I had meals with friends and saw celebrities (Paula Deen, Dave Lieberman, Tim Gunn!). I cried. A lot. I laughed. A lot. I got no sleep. I felt like my entire nervous system was inflamed by the time the conference ended.

There are people who bitch about BlogHer, who leave unhappy, but I really believe that with a conference that size, a lot of it is what you make of it. I went to a school with 40,000 undergraduates, and some people walked out saying it was a great school, and others walked out saying it was a terrible school. But when you are speaking about an enormous entity such as a school or a conference, I really think that a lot of it becomes what you make of it. Did you actively seek a change when you became unhappy? Did you ask for help? Did you wait for people to come to you, or did you walk up to every person you could and start a conversation?

Because we're all writers there--no one is better than anyone else. And if you're going to come with the attitude that you're owed something--owed attention because you have a certain amount of readers or owed accolades for your writing, you're going to leave disappointed. Because, as I've already said, we're all writers. And everyone thinks their little blog is special. Instead, all that should be left at the lobby doors and people will get the most from the conference if they turn to everyone they meet--from the random person sitting next to them at a panel to the other woman washing her hands in the bathroom--and start a conversation. Ask them about their blog. Hopefully they will ask you about your blog. A conversation begins.

Was the conference more commercial this year? Certainly. There were more sponsors and there were more business-y people walking around, trying to promote their business while interacting with bloggers. Was it a little annoying? Yes. But again, it was avoidable. And I could also choose to try to engage the speaker as a fellow person rather than follow their agenda to tell me about their product by asking them questions about where they're from or if they've ever been to Chicago. And, sometimes I just smiled to be polite and took their card and then moved on rather than eating up more time explaining that I'm a kosher vegetarian and while their custom jerky business sounds cool, it just isn't for me.

I saw some pretty sucky attitude on some people, comment-worthy sucky attitude. And like I did with my big college, I took my big conference and I avoided that suckatude because it wasn't worth getting upset about. I left the party or I shifted spots and I used my time to find the most kick-ass people in the world. I freakin' met Kathy and Io and Emily. I got to see Cecily and Sarah again. I spent time with Alexa and Aurelia and Kate and Briar and Magpie and Julia. I got to see people from DC and my fellow BlogHer CEs and some of my favourite bloggers I met back when I did book publicity. I took Nora's head around the conference and took pictures.

And you know what, that sucky attitude that I witnessed in person, I also witness it every freakin' day in the blogosphere. It is not a problem with the conference; it is a problem with human beings. People who won't help you out unless they think they can get something out of it, or who think they're better, or who ignore you...that happens every place in life. And BlogHer is not immune to it.

But it is an amazing place to be. Before I left, a blogger (I will keep her anonymous in case she doesn't want me to tell her words) leaned in and whispered in my ear, "you saved my life." I went back up to the room and cried and cried. It was a complete catharsis that I couldn't reach on my own because I was so damn tired. But she brought me there because she said the most important reason why I blog and why I read: because we are saving each other.

When we write the words out of our heart and take them off our chest so they can stop eating us alive, we're saving ourselves. And when we comment on another person's blog, letting them know that their words matter, we're saving them. When we reach out and support another person, we are literally saving their life. And I'm not talking in the hypothetical sense. Humans cannot live without contact, without interaction. Blogging makes the world less lonely, the world less difficult.

It is that Irish proverb--two shorten the road. And carrying each other's burdens simply by listening, by saying with our actions, "I care"--that is not just shortening the road. That is saving a soul.

That is why I go back to BlogHer and why I walk away each conference saying that I had an amazing time. Because I go in looking to connect with other humans--not fawn on them or hope that they read me too--and I connect with other humans. And I walk away feeling full from the experience.

68 comments:

a Tonggu Momma said...

My absolute favorite post about the conference. Thank you for sharing your perspective.

Cassandra said...

At professional conferences, the first few times I tried to do everything. Nowadays, I often go to just a few things and spend the rest of the time hanging out with my friends and seeing the city.

I wonder if, years from now, you'll take it easy at BlogHer or if you'll continue to run around frantically, taking it all in.

I suspect the latter, because you're a suck the marrow kind of girl. Which is no easy feat for a vegetarian.

Liddy said...

Excellent wrap up.

I love the comparison to the large college. I went to a large college at first and hated it, then I went to a smaller college and loved it.

But today, even though I would not trade my college experience, I would not trade the opportunity to hang out with 18,000 other educators at the National Technology Conference.

Here is hoping that I can go next year.

battynurse said...

Great post. I'm glad you had a good time and thanks for explaining what blogher is about. It helps me understand it a bit more. I guess I hadn't thought of it from the perspective of being a writer because I don't see myself as a writer. I see myself with a need to talk to others whether I do that in person or through my computer.

areyoukiddingme said...

Yeah, I find the social politics of conferences to overshadow all of the benefits of attending. I went to a professional conference (filled exclusively with people who are supposed to be the cream of the crop in terms of integrity and honesty) and witnessed a) the behind-the-scenes drive to remove someone from a leadership position so he wouldn't become "too powerful" and b) a middle aged man punch another middle aged man regarding that drive. Sigh...that's why I usually try to take in all the tourist stuff!

Glad you were able to separate the wheat from the chaff.

Mrs. Gamgee said...

It seems that if you get more than three people together in a room, there will be someone who will walk away cranky about being slighted somehow... Good for you for recognizing that attitude is a choice and the choice is yours. Thank you for sharing your experiences at BlogHer with us.

Katie said...

I love this post

Lavender Luz said...

What Katie said.

I love, love, love your last 4 paragraphs. It fits with what I'm going through this week. The interconnectedness of everyone and how exquisitely incredible it is.

Please make sure to visit the Perfect Moment link today by the Perfect Moment Project. It may make you cry tears of joy/love, like it did me.

Kristin said...

Absolutely, unbelievably perfect way to look at the conference and life. Way to go chica!

Vee said...

Great post! I am so glad you had an awesome time.

PaleMother said...

"When we write the words out of our heart and take them off our chest so they can stop eating us alive, we're saving ourselves. And when we comment on another person's blog, letting them know that their words matter, we're saving them. When we reach out and support another person, we are literally saving their life. And I'm not talking in the hypothetical sense. Humans cannot live without contact, without interaction. Blogging makes the world less lonely, the world less difficult."

Damn, that was great. Thank you for that.

Glad you are home.

XXOO

Stacie said...

Beautiful post, Mel. You are an amazing woman!

luna said...

you are a true hub of interconnectedness, mel. helping all of us save ourselves and each other along the way.

VA Blondie said...

Great post. Thanks for reminding us that we are all connected. That connected-ness is what makes this community so wonderful and supportive.

Artblog said...

Now wouldn't it be nice if there was a European blogher convention, don't you think :)

just think of all us Europeans you'll never get to meet ;)

LJ said...

Those last paragraphs had me tearing up too. So totally true, really.

cheryllookingforward said...

I second what Luna said. You've helped all of us help each other. Thank you.

SassyIfLady said...

Great post. I truly believe the "saving" part. Each of us are helping each other in extraordinary ways. It's all very meaningful in the greater picture. Also, heard an interesting breakdown of the event on NPR yesterday. Did anyone else catch that?

ifcrossroads said...

Wonderful and beautifully written post! Other conference attendees should take a page out of your blog and take your advice next year - because it really is all about what you take away from the event. Learning, sharing and connecting.

Caroline, staff to Romeo the Cat said...

Wow, loved this post. You nailed it. I was amazed by the BlogHer experience as well and you're right - spinning tea cups and no sleep! But a wonderful experience I cherish. xo.

WiseGuy said...

Beautiful Post...and I like the analogy to attending the college....not everybody comes out with the same lessons.


Who knows? Maybe I will attend a BlogHer conference someday too!

Kathy said...

Beautiful post Mel! Just perfect. I share your attitude that life/the world/school/conferences/experiences are what you make of them. Again, it was so great to meet you on Friday and then to follow along with what was happening before I got there and after I left through your posts here. I am glad you had such a wonderful time! It does sound exhausting, but it seems like you got some much out of it that it was worth it! I am proud of you! (((HUGS)))

Bluebird said...

This post - is wonderful. And you're exactly right about your observations. We do need each other, and it is what you make it.

blaugra said...

Awesome post!
I wish I hadn't been so tired so I could have connected with more women and taken advantage of allll the learning opportunities, but I'm excited for next year.
It was good to see and hear you!!

KuKd Chick said...

Really nice post. This is inspiring! I know what you mean about the attitude suckage. I don't know any other bloggers because my blog is like this tiny little sliver of my life, somehow separate from my "real life" in my head. The one or two that I've met in passing have definitely had this marketing, groveling-for-self-promotion, Amway-scheme-selling kind of vibe that makes me uncomfortable. I think if I went to BlogHer conference I might be the one feeling claustrophobic and ditching mid-day to go have a cocktail. But it sounds like you made the most of it - glad you had an awesome time!

Belt said...

Yours were the only Blogher reviews I was reading. :) I wish I could have attended this year since I actually live in Chicago. Wasn't in the finances this go around, but I am eager to make one of these some year.

Thanks for all the updates!

Piccinigirl said...

that was a beautiful post and the last three paragraphs were pure joy. YOU save all of us with your words and with your understanding.

JJ said...

Im glad you made the most of it, my dear--no doubt you were there for the right reasons. Im sure it was a LOT to take in, but I know you are glad you did!

Cagey (Kelli Oliver George) said...

I've been going to BlogHer since the very beginning and this, by far, was the best one for me. Why this particular one?

Because of my own damned attitude. Because I told myself I was as good as anyone else, regardless of traffic. Because I told myself that I was just going there to have fun and connect with people.

And because I did precisely all of that.

Excellent post.

McafeeCyberMom said...

Well said. When you wrote "When we write the words out of our heart and take them off our chest so they can stop eating us alive, we're saving ourselves. And when we comment on another person's blog, letting them know that their words matter, we're saving them" - wow! That's about all I can say. I tried very hard to talk to those who complained about how clicky blogher was and try and point out that they gave up Friday morning at breakfast before anyone had had their coffee! (in a nice way of course) You get back what you put out there. So I hope I didn't come off as to corporate for y'all - just trying to give out some software love. : )

Dana said...

Fantastic post. Spot on, about more points than I can count.

Adventures In Babywearing said...

You have said this so very well. And your analogy about riding all the rides... I did that too. Next time I'll be taking it more slow, hopefully. And I hope what you've said here trickles down into the rest of the blogosphere and we start to see a change.

Steph

Binkytowne said...

Beautiful. Thanks for reminding me.

calliope said...

such a refreshing perspective. reading other posts out there was making me sad- but this just reaffirms why I so want to go to the conference next year- I just want to hug people that saved me and helped me through.
awesome post!

Lena said...

Officially my favorite post about the conference. The End.

Rachel said...

Absolutely fabulous! So glad to read another positive post about BlogHer!

I had a wonderful time and I'm glad that you did, too.

jen said...

This was my take away as well. I have been to every BlogHer, and this was my favourite.

OHmommy said...

Thank you for such a positive post. It will make people considering going a nice perspective.

Angie [A Whole Lot of Nothing] said...

Yes Yes Yes Yes and Yes. I made of it what I wanted. As a 1st-timer this year, I know how to make it even better next year.

Aurelia said...

It's ok to tell, it was me, and yes you really have saved my life, you really are special.

Scuse me while I tear up again.

Drew G (Eden Fantasys) said...

Great post !! I wish I could have met you there. It was my first BlogHer and I had a great time meeting so many amazing people. Too bad I missed out on you. Email me anytime would love to talk more.

Caryn said...

This is spot-on -- I'm still processing everything I saw, learned, realized at BlogHer. It was great to meet you and so amazing to hear your keynote. I hope to now get to know you better through your blog!

Megryansmom said...

It was exhausting! But I'm glad I went and if I go next year this experience will give me that much more confidence.

Polly said...

Amen, sister!

So many statements of yours in this post I eagerly nodded my head to. About the stuff people didn't like, my favorite of your summary statements was: "It is not a problem with the conference; it is a problem with human beings." And likewise, the good stuff was simply the good stuff about human beings, that you articulate so well at the end of this post.

I, too, went to big schools (30,000 undergrad, 40,000 grad) and totally agree with your analogy. It's like the Rashomon effect times 10,000.

Thank you for this, thank you for giving of yourself during your Keynote reading, thank you for the community you continue to foster here.

Ann's Rants said...

I only "met" you through your beautiful, hilarious, painful, victorious reading at the keynote.

It thrilled me, and I'm swallowing down tear bubbles right now even recalling it.

Thank you so much for your contribution to that evening. Wish I'd had the chance to tell you in person, but I couldn't figure out how to get off the tilt-a-whirl.

laurie said...

You rock, in so many ways. I'm so happy you live near me. I already thought so, but the keynote made me think so times infinity. I hope we see each other soon. And I'm with you here, entirely. This is turning into the best thing in my year and I wouldn't trade the way I feel right now about the people I know, the work I'm managing to do and my little corner of this community for anything. Thanks for expressing it so well.

Lorza said...

Has anyone ever said "what a horrible post?" LOL! Once again, AWESOME!!! I think that people are people no matter where you go- that that is what is so sad.

I agree with what you said about the community of blogging and the importance of comments. This is how we reach each other- even just a few words can make the difference.

Thank you for all the hard work you do in making sure there is community out there for us IF-ers.

Michelle said...

This is such a great post! It sounds like it was so much fun. I wish I could of been there.

Dora said...

"we are saving each other"

YES!! YES!! YES!! Thank you with all my heart.

Hyla said...

Fantastic post!

astral said...

Reading your thoughts about going to the conference I feel as if I traveled there with you. Thank you for bringing so much home with you so people who couldn't go could also benefit from it. I cried when you said that a fellow blogger said you saved her life. Truly you are an amazing person Mel!!!

Billy said...

What you said about saving - so true!

Natalie said...

I'm considering going to BlogHer next year. If I can.

I do that at conferences too - try to cram every single thing in, all the early morning discussion panels and late night parties. Oh my god would I come home exhausted. But joyful.

CanCan (Mom Most Traveled) said...

You summed it up perfectly. Really.
And I wanted to say that your part of the keynote was probably my favorite thing. I laughed until I was breathless and then I cried. A beautiful emotional roller coaster!

Lisa Stone said...

Melissa, such a writer you are. It was such a pleasure to see you, if only briefly. Thank you for these ideas.

Gwynn said...

Such a beautiful post. So accurate and so poetically written.

The truth in it brought me to tears.

Al_Pal said...

Awesome post! Here via VDog's tweet. [RT?]

Great stuff...makes me want to read more!!!

angie said...

mel, i read your post the other night when you posted it, and since then, i haven't been able to shake it. i get moved to tears thinking of that whisper. i know exactly what she means...with love

Shelli said...

I will SO be there next year, and i can't wait to meet! And hopefully, have you over for a SCRUMPTIOUS and Kosher Shabbes dinner!

Paz said...

sounds incredible!

RookieMom Heather said...

I had a fantastic time too. I really enjoyed your reading in the keynote (as I said when I ran up to you in person and gushed while you were trying to eat and talk with friends). Glad to hear the good times outweighed the bad ones.

Barb said...

Now why did you have to go and make ME get teary huh? :)
xo

Bea said...

A great wrap-up.

Bea

Jen Mueller said...

Very nicely said. This was my first Blogher and I was not disappointed.

Aunt Becky said...

I'm so glad to have met you. One of the highest points of my trip!

(lowest point? Alex's orbital cellulitis)

sweetsalty kate said...

It was such an unexpected thrill to meet you, Mel. I was so proud of you up on stage... you were brilliant. I read your recent post thinking "Oh god, please tell me I didn't crane or feign niceness only when I knew who she was..." because I remember meeting you, and then a pause, and you looked at me and said "Stirrup Queen!" and I went all !!!!!!!!! on your ass.

I was just so happy to be there. To see you, to be invited to a spontaneous picnic lunch with other loss mamas on the lobby floor. It all felt so serendipitous and wonderful.

And I have to say again. You were great. You kicked it in fishnets.

Caro said...

Great post

WiseGuy said...

Even though I have commented on this post before...I would still rate it as one post that everybody should read.

It is very easy for me to verbalize that you have a very sensible take on so many complex issues, but what sets the edge of this post is that it allows for acceptance, and allows for there to be a positive look at the whole event without slanting it with a rose-tint.