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August 12, 2010

10 Things About Blogher '10

Last weekend we attended the BlogHer conference in Manhattan. BlogHer is a community for women who blog (you know, hence the name and stuff) and this was our second year attending this totally unique, crazy, fun, sparkly, inspiring event. The weekend is basically a whirlwind of attending workshops, partying, networking, drinking, getting swag, drunk networking, blogging, tweeting, drunk tweeting, attending workshops while hungover, and then doing it all again. As a result, it can be a little hard to recap, so we're going to divide it up into convenient list form.

#1 - The Hotel

This year the conference was held at the Hilton New York, and while we don't think any hotel can ever really be prepared for the craziness that is BlogHer, the Hilton did a really good job. The staff was nice and helpful, they were active on their twitter account all weekend answering questions, holding contests, and announcing fun stuff like free brownies in the hotel bar. They even offered to "send a team" to help us when we mentioned on twitter that we were having WiFi issues. Taken out of context the tweet is pretty funny:

Quick, send a team, some evil sluts are in need of help!

The only minor complaint we had was that our room was on the dark side. Even with every light on, it was just dim, like mood lighting or something. Which isn't so bad if it's early in the morning and you're getting ready while tired and hungover, but not so great if you're trying to get work done. But again, overall our stay was great.

#2 - The Sessions

We went to some great sessions. First up was a session on the FTC guidelines for bloggers that featured BlogHer co-founder Lisa Stone, marketer Susan Getgood, blogger Kimberly Coleman, and Stacey Ferguson from the FTC. (We tried to keep the 'what's it like to be in the Black Eyed Peas?' and 'where's Josh Duhamel?' jokes to a minimum.) With all of the rumors and confusion floating around about these guidelines, it was great to hear the real deal directly from someone who works at the FTC. Basically it's just honesty plus common sense. Keep disclosures short and in your own voice. And no, the blogging police isn't going to show up at your front door to issue a $10,000 fine because you messed up a disclosure.

One thing that we didn't entirely buy though was the answer to a question about why magazines aren't held to the same standards as bloggers. The answer was that allegedly they are, and that the average magazine reader understands the way that magazines deal with brands and advertisers and receiving free products. We don't think that's entirely true, and it seems like magazines get more leeway because they're "real" publications, while blogs aren't necessarily taken as seriously yet.

Next up was a panel from the Change Agents track called Creating Tangible Social Change: How to Move People to Action. This was one of those rockstar panels: Beth Terry from Fake Plastic Fish, Gina McCauley from What About Our Daughters and Blogging While Brown, Stephanie Himel-Nelson, Director of New Media at Blue Star Families, and Melissa Silverstein from Women and Hollywood. We met Melissa briefly and attended one of Gina's panels at last year's BlogHer, so we already knew that they were both awesome, and this workshop didn't disappoint. It was a great conversation about how to create achievable goals, use the tools at your disposal creatively, deal with the inevitable haters, and keep your readers motivated. You can't help but get fired up after hearing Gina say stuff like "give me 10 people and I can take down anybody".

Of course we had to go to the panel about Sex Blogging, which featured Twanna Hines from FunkyBrownChick.com, AV Flox from Sex and the 405, Genia Stevens from Sisters Talk Radio, Kristen Chase aka the Mominatrix, and Tess from Urban Gypsy. This was one time when we didn't have to worry about having 'your blog is called what?!' moments with anyone in the room, and we really enjoyed the conversation about openness, anonymity, where to draw the line and what to do when your neighbors or relatives discover your slutty blog. And any workshop that you leave with a bag of new sex toys can't be half bad.

The last workshop we did was on humor writing with Awesomely Luvvie, Daily Show co-creator Lizz Winstead and the hilarious Jessica Bern of Bernthis. We laughed, we cried, we learned, we laughed some more, we talked about vaginas, we laughed, we joked about Sarah Palin, and we all left happy. It was the perfect way to end our BlogHer workshop experience.

#3 - The Parties

BlogHer is as much about the parties as it is about the workshops. There are so many official, unofficial, and private parties that it would be impossible to hit all of them, but we did our best.

~SocialLuxe - The SocialLuxe Lounge was the first party we went to. We stumbled on it accidentally before last year's BlogHer and were totally won over. It's a great event with a swag bag to end all swag bags, and this year was just as fabulous. Our only complaint was that it was crowded and a little hard to move around, but it was understandable with a full guest list and massive swag bags. Because they had to check in everyone from the RSVP list, we ended up waiting outside in the gross heat and humidity for almost an hour. Could have done without that. But the party organizers did come out to assure us all that it would be worth the wait, and they were totally right. (They also apologized and explained the situation in a post-party email, and sent out a survey so they can continue to make the party better each year, so major props to them.) Sponsors from Avery to OPI to Ghirardelli helped to make it a really fun event...even though we ended up not winning any BlogLuxe Awards. There's always next year. We also think it's cool that the organizers partnered with the non-profit Drop In & Decorate - cookies designed by bloggers at the party were baked and donated to the Center Against Domestic Violence of New York. Much love for SocialLuxe.

~People's Party - One of those parties where we ended up sort of accidentally sharing a table with some totally awesome people. That happens a lot at BlogHer.

~Queerosphere - Hosted by Deb on the Rocks, this was one of our favorite parties last year and even though the vibe was a little different this year now that it's an official BlogHer party, we still had a blast. We knew we would find "our people" at this one.

~BlogHer Voices of the Year Gala & Art Auction - This year the official official BlogHer party went from your standard cocktail party to a gala with interactive and performance art, body painting, rooms full of balloons, karaoke, an art auction to benefit The Nature Conservancy's work in the Gulf, and more.

~The Mouthy Housewives - Open bar + free vacuums + rad hostesses + hot waiters + magical colorful squishy orbs = a great time!

~Bloggy State of Mind - First party we went to on Saturday night. Hosted by Blogalicious. Awesome music and a great way to get the night started.

~Sparklecorn - Oh, Sparklecorn. You had us at the life-sized cardboard Jonas Brothers and the "Judy Blume didn't prepare me for this" t-shirts, and then you added the glow necklaces and the Pop Rocks and the amazing unicorn and castle cake from Charm City Cakes and the unicorn glitter and the music. We danced the night away. Yeah, I really just said "dance the night away". I'm owning it. Nobody puts the ESC in a corner.

~CheeseBurgHer - The last party on the last night. McDonald's cheeseburgers, a dance floor, and beds in the ballroom - basically, everything we could ask for after a night of drinking and before heading home.

#4 - The Old Friends

BlogHer is really all about the community, so half the fun is seeking out all of those blogosphere friends that you only get to see once or twice a year. For us, it's not really BlogHer until we get to yell "it's Deb on the Rocks!!!!" across a crowded room/elevator/dance floor, usually followed by a group hug. She is amazingly fantastically awesome and we love her a lot. We're Team OnTheRocks for life.

We were also really happy to see the hilarious Jessica Bern, who rocked the humor panel, gave us hair products, bitched and moaned with us in the badge reprint line, and shared appetizers with us at the People's Party. We also ran into Jennifer Pozner, founder of Women In Media & News and author of Reality Bites Back. What's not to love about someone who can dance her ass off and critique The Real World at the same time? We also have to give shoutouts to our fellow New Yorkers Megan Smith and Briar.

We also have to mention two women who weren't there: Linda Lowen from About.com's Women's Issues blog, who couldn't make it for scheduling reasons, and the Queen of Spain, who couldn't make it for health reasons. It wasn't the same without them!

Queen of Spain was with us in spirit

#5 - The New Friends

The other half of the fun of BlogHer is all of the new friends that you meet. (There's more fun stuff than this, of course. BlogHer is at least 187% fun.) So we have to give some shoutouts to all of the awesome new people that we met this year. They're listed in order of how much we liked them. Just kidding. We love them all. And there are probably more people that we met and loved that aren't on this list that we're just not remembering right now. We're still not fully recovered. That's also why we're being so creative in describing everything as "awesome".

~Carrie from Carrie Actually

~Connie Roberts aka Connie Foggles

~Robyn from Robyn's Online World

~The crew from Kiss My Country

~Holly Buchanan from Marketing to Women Online

~MaryMac from Pajamas and Coffee

T-shirt from Kiss My Country

#6 - The "Only at BlogHer" Moments

~Showing up at breakfast on the first morning, overtired and hungover and desperately in need of food and caffeine, and being greeted by some very perky women cheerfully saying, "Bruce Jenner is here! Would you like to meet him?" Bruce Jenner? Random! We politely declined as we have a rule about not encountering any cast members from Keeping Up with the Kardashians before we've had our coffee.

~While we're talking about celebrities and "celebrities", there were a few at BlogHer in addition to Mr. Jenner: Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, Padma Lakshmi, Veronica Webb, Nate Berkus, the Rachael Ray show, and more. But this was the guy that we were really excited to see:

Yes, it's the Sun from those Jimmy Dean commercials. Yes, we're big dorks. Those commercials are fucking cute, okay?

~We stopped by the RePhresh booth, and while we were talking to their rep about their products, she mentioned the possibility of us doing some kind of giveaway or coupon thing if we decided to blog about them. When we did our obligatory 'our blog is called Evil Slutopia but it's not an adult blog the name is tongue-in-cheek we really blog about feminism and stuff is that a problem for you?' disclaimer thing, she gave us a classic 'bitch, please' look and said that it wasn't an issue at all because "we're talking about vaginas here!" We love her.

~After the closing keynote, we happened to run into Gloria Feldt in the ladies room, so we got the chance to thank her for a great panel and chat a little bit about feminism and her new book No Excuses: 9 Ways Women Can Change How We Think about Power. We're sure that almost everyone would have liked to talk to one of the panelists after that awesome keynote, but we actually got to do it by being in the right ladies room at the right time. That's BlogHer.

~BlogHer pro tip: If there's anything that you didn't attend but really should have, like one of the keynotes, just pretend you were there and describe the experience as "inspiring". Also, retweet one or two people who actually did go. For bonus points, find a tweet about how inspiring it was and kill two birds with one stone.

~Really, this tweet from Deb on the Rocks sums up the whole "only at BlogHer" thing perfectly:

#7 - The Swag

Yes, there is a lot of swag at BlogHer. A whole lot. We brought home a lot of cool stuff. (We also brought a lot to the swag recycling suite.) To try to capture just how much stuff there is and how random and diverse it is, here's a partial list of items that we received:

Filtrete water bottle, Avery custom binder and labels, Skullcandy headphones, bar of soap and earrings from Cambria Cove, Aveda lotions, Ouidad hair products, OPI nail polish, Tempur-pedic pillow, Crayola crayons, Kissa glass vibrator, StriVectin facial scrub, Crest Spinbrush, RepHresh tampons and probiotic supplements, Play-Doh kit, Jimmy Dean alarm clock, box of Hamburger Helper's Whole Grain Helper and a foam Lefty, Dr. Seuss DVD, LG vacuum, box of Orbeez, bottles of Eucerin lotion, 1-800-Flowers gift card, Ghirardelli chocolate, honey bear and Wheaties t-shirts, Mr. Potato Head, 100 tubes of lip balm, and 10,000 coupons.

#8 - The Raves

A few things that we especially liked and/or thought were improved from last year:

~The swag situation seemed to more under control this year, thanks to new rules for sponsored bloggers (which we thought actually were a little too restrictive) and more BlogHer control over some of the bigger parties. The disorganized overcrowded mad dashes for swag bags that we witnessed a few times last year were pretty much eliminated.

~They also did a better job of keeping sponsor stuff more separate from workshop stuff, by having sponsors of individual workshops camped outside the room rather than right in the session, and eliminating stuff like the over-the-top red and yellow Ragu lunch extravaganza from last year. (None of this really bothered us last year but we can understand why other people objected to it.)

~All of the official BlogHer parties that we attended were awesome, and this year they did a better job of making sure that all of the parties and workshops were in rooms that were big enough to hold everyone.

~Last year the International Activist Scholarship Recipients were featured in a regular workshop session, but this year they listened to feedback and turned it into a keynote session for the whole community. Awesome.

~This year we felt like there were better workshop options with more diversity. Less focus on mom bloggers (no offense to any of them, but good for us) and the addition of entire tracks focused on writing and being "change agents".

~The closing keynote Use Your Voice, Your Platform, and Your Power fucking rocked:
Need to Know PBS anchor Alison Stewart moderates a powerhouse panel: Marie Wilson, Founder and President of The White House Project (and creator of Take Our Daughters to Work Day!), author and activist Gloria Feldt from Heartfeldt Politics and P. Simran Sethi, Emmy Award-winning journalist, blogger and environmentalist.
Deb on the Rocks (have we mentioned yet that we love her?) described it best: "Powerful women on stage, amen-ing women at my table, giggling baby behind me-- this is a revival meeting!" It was like a big feminist come to Jesus (or come to Goddess or whatever you want) sort of thing and it was great.

#9 - The Complaints

Obviously we know that it would be pretty hard to make a conference this big and complex run perfectly smoothly. Overall we think that things went really well, but there are just a couple of things that we would file under 'constructive criticism':

~This year BlogHer mailed everyone's conference badges home ahead of time to save time with on-site registration. Really good idea, except that for some reason they decided to go the fold-and-tape route rather than the safely-inside-an-envelope route, so Lilith's badge arrived torn. We were going to go and have it reprinted when we got there, but had to give up after waiting on a long line that wasn't moving at the reprint desk. (The fact that registration opened several hours late didn't help.) Every other time we passed by for the rest of the weekend, people were lined up and/or arguing with the women behind the desk. So next year, envelopes please? If it's a green issue, personally we'd rather have recycled paper envelopes and have our badges arrive safely than waste paper on reprints for destroyed-in-the-mail badges.

~A lot of the rooms that the workshops were held in didn't have any tables or places to plug in laptops. At a conference where like 75% of the attendees have laptops with them, this was pretty annoying. Not the end of the world at all, just inconvenient.

~We've reached the point where we're more annoyed by some of the people who bitch about the swag than we were about any swag frenzies of the past. If you don't want it, don't take it. It's really that simple. And in this economy we're sure that many women worked hard to save money in order to come to BlogHer in the first place, and some probably felt guilty about spending money on something that was just for them and not for their kids or families or whatever. So if some of those women want to take some free items and coupons that can help their families when they get back home, who is anyone else to judge?

We love that Corolle's baby dolls are anatomically correct.
(And uncircumcised!)

#10 - The Post-BlogHer Recaps

The BlogHer fun continues after you get home with a million and one recap posts. Here are a few that we like:

See you next year at BlogHer '11 in San Diego!


this week for dinner - jane maynard said...

awww, thanks for all the kind words! we're so happy you were able to come to the party and that you had a great time...and maybe next year you'll take that award! :) thanks again!!!

Carrie said...

just in case the new friends are actually ordered by how much you like them, i'm glad i'm listed first

Kate, aka Guavalicious said...

Ah, wish I had gotten to meet you guys. I was the mic wrangler in the creating change session you attended though so maybe I can just lie and say I did?


Jane - You're welcome! SocialLuxe is one of our favorite parties and we know how much hard work it must take to make it so great.

Carrie - You know we loved you!

Kate - You can totally lie. We'll back you up. Next year!

Wendi said...

We were so happy you made it to the Mouthy Housewives party! You guys are great! Don't eat the Orbeez!

ConnieFoggles said...

You two made my first BlogHer complete. I felt so comfortable with you even after I got your biz card. I still remember how one of the women I was with reacted to it. I ditched her after the first night.

Wish I read about your tweet idea earlier I sure could have used it since I only went to one session.

Emma said...

Sounds awesome. I'd love to go next year, wish it was on the east coast again!

Condo Blues said...

I'm so glad we met up in person. When you gave a Condo Blues shout when we met up, I felt like I was Norm walking into Cheers except we didn't have beer at the time although I would have settled for canollis because NYC does kicking pastry.

I didn't know the Sparklecorn cake was a Charm City Cakes cakes. I fell like I touched grateness. Anyone who uses chainsaws and blowtorches to make cake is more than awesome in my book.