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BlogHer – What’s the future?

standard July 28, 2009 13 responses

Once upon a time, when there were just a handful of women blogging, the BlogHer conference was a perfect place for those few to connect. They needed to know they weren’t alone. They needed to geek out with other women who understood their language. They were strengthened by their community. Even if they blogged about radically different things, the “women doing it” common thread was enough to link them tightly together.

Now that blogging has gone mainstream things are changing.

Last year I still felt the need to mask where I was going when I left for BlogHer. I told my friends and coworkers that I was going to a writer’s conference. They knew nothing about blogging. Or maybe they knew just enough to be suspicious of it. I didn’t want to be scrutinized, looked up, and judged on my words, my thoughts, my daily outpourings. And I really didn’t want to have to face that blank stare of complete and utter incomprehension.

But why would you blog? Why would you let the whole world into your head? Isn’t it dangerous? Aren’t there crazy people online?

Now everyone has a blog. My friends and ex-coworkers all know about my blog. And for the most part they don’t care. (Except for the few awesome ones who are faithful readers!) There are fewer blank stares. Less need for long explanations. And really, no longer such a need for a conference where the only common thread is our sex and our hobby.

Last year I met a wonderfully diverse group of women bloggers. One blogged about movies, another about food. There was the girl who blogged about politics and the one who only talked about travel. It was amazing to connect with people who expressed such different opinions and thoughts through the same medium. It felt great to be by their side as one of the early adopters.

This year I didn’t meet too many bloggers who lived outside of the Mommyblogging sphere. There were too many sessions. Too many options for self segregation.

I missed that feeling of belonging to a larger community.

But at the same time I understand the evolution that is taking place. We are too diverse a community to all be held under one roof. Especially if the numbers keep growing.

I really feel that we’re almost at the point where there’s no need for BlogHer to be a conference for all female bloggers. I think that we’re almost at the point when it could be about topic or affiliation, not genre. It’ll be BlogHer for the Mommy bloggers, BlogHer for the Foodie bloggers, BlogHer for the Politcal bloggers, BlogHer about Social Networking, BlogHer for those who just want to blog for fun, BlogHer for those who aspire to make a living from their craft…

When you expand the attendee list you create more space for self segregation. A small group of women who are all focused on a different topic can still find common threads they hadn’t expected. A large group of women has more trouble connecting, it’s just too easy to stay with your tribe and not venture out. And that’s when groups start to feel marginalized or even ostracized. And when marketers push their way in, focusing on the largest group, it exacerbates the separation.

Last year I loved the homey close feel of the conference. This year I was overwhelmed by the amplitude. Strange as it might seem, you can connect better with 999 other women than you can with 1599. I felt guilty to be one of the people PR reps were anxious to chat up. I felt sad that I couldn’t find a way to reach out of my group.

I don’t know what the solution might be. Kick out the sponsors? Then none of us could afford to go. Keep the attendee list to a minimum? Then you’ll frustrate the sponsors. Restrict the number of speaker sessions? Maybe, but with the large numbers the sessions would be unwieldy. Keep the session topics as inclusive and diverse as possible? Maybe, though it’s hard to find topics that interest everyone.

I love my mommy blogging friends, both the real ones and the virtual ones. I always have fun when I hang out with them and this weekend was no exception. It’s just not what I headed to Chicago to do. I think that next time I’ll have my expectations adjusted, or maybe I’ll just try to find smaller conferences where I’ll experience those connections that I so loved last year.

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13 responses

  • Good points. I’ve expressed similar sentiments in the last 72 hours. If I want a blogging conference on a massive scale, I can get it at BlogWorld Expo. If I want something where I can connect and be connected, support and be supported on a more intimate level, BlogHer may no longer be the place for me.

    Great hanging out with you, even if were in a group of mommybloggers. 🙂

  • I hadn’t been to any of the other big BlogHers so I can’t compare this one to them but I can compare it to the much smaller BlogHer Boston. I loved both, and they each had their benefits and drawbacks. I guess it just depends what you’re there for and how much chaos you’re comfortable with.

    I do wonder what it would be like to have a conference just for writerly types of any genre. No pr, no seo, etc. Just focus on good blog writing.

    Loved meeting you!

  • Great post! Change is always bittersweet. I think that as one conference grows, smaller ones will spring up. That’s what happens with writing and teaching conferences.

  • I guess it’s a good thing you ended up sitting next to a non-mommyblogger on both flights huh? 😉

    (Also? My word verification is ‘hysticra,’ which I think is a secret way for the computer to tell me it thinks I’m hysterical.)

  • I so want to go next year. I haven’t been to a blog conference yet!

    I hate feeling left out. LOL!

  • Interesting to watch the babies grow up and leave the nest. I remember when Elisa was telling us about starting the BlogHer conference (in a group we’d all been a part of -SFWoW, San Francisco Women of the Web) and many of reacted like “Say what? a conference for bloggers? women bloggers? Will there be enough people to attend?” And now it’s gotten huge in a short period of time – very big success. But with success comes all the problems that you bring up, and they’ll wade through them. Maybe it will start to have smaller niches or more specialized sub-sets. I’m sure the 3 founders will listen to their peeps, whatever happens. They’ve worked way too hard not to.

  • There are smaller conferences geared just toward mommybloggers (Mom 2.0 Summit, TypeAMom, etc). BlogHer is meant to be a congregation of us all. Just as the site itself boasts topics from books to safety to motherhood to law to politics to food and so on, so do the bloggers lives and personal blogs. I celebrate that, large numbers and all.

    If BlogHer would start segregating, I don’t know where I would fit in. Sure, my main blog is falls under the heading of mommyblog but society fails to accept my adoption blog as a mommyblog… so where does that leave me exactly? Segregation of such nature would only do even more harm to the issue than bring people closer. “Why can’t I attend the foodie conference? I post a recipe per week,” and so on, would be the chatter.

    Let the bloggers get together, find their niche and make their way.

    All that said, I’m sorry you felt that way at this year’s conference. I’m never great in large social gatherings myself but fully celebrate the concept of BlogHer which is why I am already paid up for next year. 😉

  • I too felt let down a tad but like you said, that was because of my expectations. Once I adjusted my expectations to the (sometimes unfortunate) reality of BlogHer I had a better time. My regret- I didn’t get to meet you in person =)

  • I’m thinking another day, make it 3 days instead of 2, it seems to all be smuched together and gets overwhelming.

  • Great post and I feel very similar sentiments. I loved meeting so many women bloggers, but I was disappointed that there were so many mommybloggers. If I had met a few that would have been fine, but at the speed dating I met 10 in a row.

    Agree with Adrienne that it should be 3 days, not 2. Too much to do and I would have loved a little more structure in the sessions. I was in an advanced SEO session where someone asked what a title tag was, which doesn’t seem very advanced.

  • Love this post. I was saying all weekend that an extra day would be great. I loved the size and excitement of this year’s conference, but felt I didn’t get to do everything I wanted to do and definitely didn’t meet everyone I wanted to meet (I’m lookin’ at YOU!).

  • This really resonates with me. It took me a little longer to say … but I totally agree with almost every point you made.

    It’s a big conference now. Really big. And we’re not all the same, so it’s not going to be perfect for everyone. It’s just not.

  • I almost didn’t go to BlogHer because I’m not a mommyblogger even though I read a lot of blogs written by moms and they read me. I didn’t think I’d have a place at the table. I’m glad I went though. In the beginning I felt a little lost in Mommyland, because I carpooled and roomed with Mom bloggers and met their friends first – who rock. We quickly connected as multi-faceted women though and I learned how to fit in with the Mom tribe – as The World’s Most Fabulous Aunt.

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