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August 12, 2011

10 Things About Blogher '11

We just got back from the BlogHer conference in San Diego. This was our third year attending this totally unique, crazy, fun, sparkly, inspiring event for women bloggers. The weekend was 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, as usual, we're going to divide it up into convenient list form...

Disclaimer: Apparently we think we are cooler than everyone else and hate everything, so read at your own risk. (This is the recap that is going to earn us 15 new fans and at least 75 new enemies. Bring it on.)  We honestly did have a great time at BlogHer '11, we just have a lot to say this year about, well, everything. So let's get to it. 

#1 - The Hotel and Conference Center

This year the conference was hosted at the San Diego Marriott Marquis and Marina, a beautiful hotel in a beautiful area with a beautiful pool. We don't think any hotel can ever really be prepared for the craziness that is BlogHer, but they did a really good job. Everyone was so nice and helpful... and we couldn't believe how quickly they responded to our request for extra towels. There was a knock on the door and for a second we were like "who is that?" because it didn't make sense to us that it could be the towels so quickly. Then they called our room to confirm that we got the towels. They were so nice that it almost freaked us out.

The only complaint we could make ABOUT the hotel staff is that they seemed to be really overzealous about removing food from the meals and parties when they were over (or almost over). On Saturday we arrived at lunch a little late and although it wasn't scheduled to end until 1:30, they were already clearing sandwiches and cookies away at 1:10. We actually said "can you wait until we grab some lunch before you take it all away?" but they ignored us and continued to load the carts up. The only tables that hadn't been cleared yet didn't have the best selections, so we ended up getting lunch from some of the sponsors instead. That's a minor issue, but we were annoyed because we're always extra cranky when we're hungry.

Our other minor complaint isn't really the fault of the hotel itself, nor was it a huge deal... but it's worth mentioning. We were a little disappointed about the massive amount of walking that went along with having a separate hotel and convention center. It's not that bad for a normal conference, but with the potential for conference attendees to be carrying heavy bags of swag, the possibility that some of the attendees are out-of-shape from spending too much time in front of the computer (no names) and the amount of dancing and drinking likely to occur the nights before... it just felt like a lot of walking.

We always stay at the official hotel when we attend conferences like this, because we know that we have trouble motivating ourselves to get up and get out. (We also like having the option to stop in at our room between events, when possible, so we can have our laptops at sessions but don't have to lug them throughout meals.) So for us, the ideal conference has meals and sessions literally downstairs from our rooms. Both the hotel and the conference center were lovely and everyone was awesome... but we won't deny that we're still kind of excited that we'll be back at the Hilton in NYC next year. (And not just because that means no 5-hour-flight!)

#2- The Sessions

For the first time, we had some actual real complaints about the sessions. We really didn't feel like there was that much for us this year, which was disappointing. To be clear, we're not complaining about the quality of the sessions or speakers, every session that we attended was great and we've read the live blogs for quite a few others and have yet to see anyone who seems to have sucked... but we thought the selection was weak this year and we had some issues with the way some of the sessions were categorized.

Look, we know we can be very critical people at times (maybe it's our inner obnoxious New Yorkers)... but when we go to BlogHer we try to soften that part of our personalities and appreciate where we are and remember that it's not WAM! or Momentum... it's BlogHer... so there are a lot of different kinds of people with different kinds of interests. We don't expect everything to be for us. However, we do expect that our type of blogger will be represented because we know there are a lot of us. And honestly, feminism is something that all women should be able to relate to, even if it's not the primary focus of their blog. This year, we felt kind of let down by how little there was for us.

Just to illustrate the kind of stuff we were hoping for, this was our favorite session of the weekend...

Change the World: Media Literacy: Today's Most Necessary Skill
Knowing that misinformation, misleading pranks, and mistakes can be spread rapidly and globally, where corrections or retractions may never reach you, Jenn Pozner and Sofia Quintero will teach you how to validate a source, double-check the veracity of an item, and, perhaps most difficult of all, find context when it seems to be purposely withheld. Media literacy is a necessary life skill in this new information age. Get it. And hand it down to your kids. [Live blog]
This was one of the sessions that we felt totally made sense being on the 'change' track. We're already pretty media literate (well, we have read Jenn's book Reality Bites Back, so we already know what's up) but this was exactly what we want and expect from the 'Change the World' category. Note to BlogHer'12: more stuff like this please!

And now for the complaints.

In particular, we had a lot of problems with the "Change the World" track. Anyone who reads our blog could probably guess that this was the section we checked out first. (In fact, after our first BlogHer conference in '09, we specifically said we wished that there were more opportunities for political and feminist discussions, so we were psyched about last year's addition of the "Change Agents" track.) However, this year we found some of the choices both puzzling and kind of annoying. We also felt that some of the sessions were a little too similar to each other... which is probably great for the people who were into those topics, but for us, it was just two sessions that didn't apply to us.
  • Change the World: Cyberbulling Isn't Just for Teens: What to Do if You're the Victim of Trolls, Haters... and Worse
“Ignore the trolls,” as we like to say at BlogHer. But what if harassment crosses the line into something that should not be dismissed? When does a troll become a stalker, and what can you do about it? This is not a session about what we should do to protect our privacy or set boundaries. It’s about what to do when enough is enough. [Live blog]
We think this is a really important issue to tackle (we've also had a little trouble with a troll who toed the line of stalker) and we absolutely adore Erin Kotecki Vest, who moderated the session. We're definitely glad that BlogHer had a session like this on the schedule... but... why on the 'Change the World' track? Perhaps if the session had focused more on the creation of new laws to protect people online or focused on what we can do, as a community, to fight against bullying and stalking on a societal level (possibly touching on things like the It Gets Better project), it would have fit better into this category.

Now, to be clear, we are not criticizing this session or the fact that BlogHer chose to include it in the agenda. We are really glad that they did. We just think that it should've been elsewhere on the agenda because it took the spot of a session that could have actually focused on social and/or political change and while this session was great, it wasn't about changing the world. This is the same complaint we had about a few other sessions on the 'change' track... the sessions weren't bad, they just weren't about changing the world. If BlogHer has to work this hard to make their sessions fit into the categories, then just forgo the categories and offer quality sessions that are of interest to everyone.
  • Change the World: Our Food Future: Kids, Cooking, and Health
The odds are stacked against kids today, when it comes to food. In this encore of a panel from last fall’s BlogHer Food conference, you’ll learn how some bloggers are out to change not only how kids think about food, but also what they’re eating. We'll discuss why kids face so many obstacles to eating healthy (some of the reasons may surprise you) and what you can do–in your home and in your community–to start to change the odds in our kids' favor. [Live blog]
Okay, we're not going to say that fighting childhood obesity isn't important, but unless Michelle Obama was going to show up carrying a plate of vegetables, we weren't really interested so we skipped this session. (Speaking of which, if we're really going to try to tackle the issue of childhood obesity, why didn't BlogHer try to get in touch with someone from the Let's Move! campaign?) We do think it's an important issue, it's just not really one of our pet issues - we had hoped for more feminist types of sessions, rather than the usual plethora of child-centric mommy blogger type stuff. You'd think that women's rights would be an obvious angle for BlogHer because it's one thing we can all get behind, regardless of whether we're liberal or conservative, married or single, with or without kids, etc.

Also, there were two food blogging sessions on the agenda... the other was Food Photography That Will Feed Your Soul from the 'Change Yourself' track [live blog]. While they were definitely completely different sessions, the fact that it was a food photography workshop instead of just a photography workshop, was limiting. (Also, we weren't exactly sure why this was in the 'Change Yourself' track either... it seemed more like a niche topic and should've probably been in one of the 'Birds of a Feather' tracks instead.) BlogHer already has it's own separate conference devoted to food blogging (BlogHer Food '11) so it just seemed excessive.
  • BlogHer '11 International Activist Scholarship Winners
Our third annual International Activist Blogger scholarship highlights the work of women who are galvanizing social change and social justice across their communities–and by the very public and distributed nature of the Internet–across the world. For some of them, this work is not without risk, yet still they continue. Because raising their voices is not a luxury or a whim or an option. It is a necessity. [Live blog]
We have to be honest, we were really disappointed that the scholarship winners were downgraded from Keynote to session. In Chicago, at BlogHer '09 everyone raved about what they had to say and begged BlogHer to give them more of a showcase... last year, they gave them that, and then promptly took it away this year? Why? We think everyone should have the opportunity to hear these inspirational women speak, so next year we hope to see them back at the Keynote and the sessions should be reserved for more nuts-and-bolts/hands-on learning opportunities.
  • Owning Your Beauty: If We Change the Conversation, Can We Change the Culture?
BlogHer’s year-long Own Your Beauty project has been ongoing for several months and has many more to go. It has clearly struck a chord with the BlogHer community, encouraging change in the way we think and the way we feel about ourselves. Now, how can we push that change out beyond our own perspectives? If we truly change the way society perceives women and their beauty, will it have much much wider ramifications? In this case, the personal might be political, cultural, and socio-economic! [Live blog]
Changing 'the culture' is something we can definitely get behind, but we wish this session was more focused on changing the culture by actually changing the culture (that is, holding the media accountable for how they portray women, demanding better advertising campaigns, holding companies accountable for their sexism, ageism, sizeism and racism, etc.) instead of just focusing on owning our own beauty. We're definitely all for women building their own self-esteem and self-acceptance. We just think that belongs more in the 'Change Yourself' track than the 'Change the World' track.

In fact, there was a very similar session on just that in the 'Change Yourself' track - Your Perfect Imperfections: Blogging Your Way to Self-Acceptance [live blog]. We do think that this is an important issue to tackle and the two concepts are inextricably linked, but it felt excessive having two separate sessions that focused on self-esteem. The 'Change the World' session should've been more of an unofficial 'part 2' companion to the 'Change Yourself' self-esteem session, picking up where that session left off instead of focusing on many of the same points.

We were also total confused by the Patriarchy! session in the 'Birds of a Feather' track. There was very little information given on what this session would actually focus on. The description merely said:
Denise Tanton will host this informal meet-up for attendees blogging about patriarchy!
It was just so vague. Attendees blogging about "patriarchy"? Well... what about it? (And apparently we weren't the only ones who were confused.) Also, we're feminist bloggers, but we'd probably never describe ourselves as bloggers who write about "patriarchy", although we obviously do that a lot. We'd much rather frame the conversation from a pro-women's rights kind of angle, instead of an anti-patriarchy one. Yes, it's the same conversation, but feminists are already unfairly stereotyped as man-hating... it just seems counterproductive to frame the session in terms of "patriarchy". And the description should've mentioned the specific issues that would be discussed (feminism, women's issues, equality, whatever... but "patriarchy" just didn't have the same mainstream appeal).

The session really should've been titled "Feminist Bloggers" or "Women's Rights Bloggers", just like most of the other 'Birds of a Feather' sessions were titled... "Patientbloggers"; "Boomer Bloggers"; "Faith Bloggers"; "Humor Bloggers"; etc. And seeing that while not everyone who goes to BlogHer necessarily calls themselves a feminist or blogs about feminist issues, it's pretty safe to assume that most of the attendees at least agree with the concepts of women's rights and gender equality... so this doesn't belong in the 'Birds of a Feather' track and should be in a bigger 'Change the World' session.

#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 gave it our best attempt at stopping by every event that seemed like the right match for us. (Note: We really missed the Social Luxe party this year. Hopefully they'll be back next year!)
  • Babeland Sex Toy Mixer
We were invited to this unofficial, off-site party by Toy With Me. We basically heard "sex toy party... at BlogHer?" and decided we were in! It was a really fun time too - we got to check out some of Babeland's products, have a few drinks and fruit with edible chocolate body cream... and meet some cool people, including the lovely Krista from Babeland. We will officially go to any party that Babeland throws, ever.
  • The Kiss Our Sass Party (Powered by Match.con)
We're sure by now you've heard about the suckit3M situation, no? Well, 3M must have been kicking themselves because the Kiss Our Sass party was tons of fun! (And we heard that the "3M Luau" was pretty dead.) It was great finally meeting the hostesses Melysa and Jamie and they are as awesome in person as they are online. This party was by the beautiful pool at the Hard Rock Hotel and it was really a great time. We are very grateful to them for all the hard work they put into making the party awesome (and also really grateful to them for posting a video of their hilarious drunken walk home).
  • Queerosphere
Hosted by Deb on the Rocks, this was one of our favorite parties at our first BlogHer (Chicago '09) and we always know that we will find 'our people' at this one. So we will always make an appearance at the Queerosphere party every year, no matter how exhausted we are. And we were plenty exhausted... unfortunately, this party was the last official event on our first night in San Diego, so by the time we got there we were completely and totally wiped, still being on New York time. But we couldn't resist stopping by for a little bit before we went to bed. We got our group hug with Deb and got to see a drag show, which is really all we need in a party anyway.
  • The Swagbucks Swag Nation Celebration
The "Only the ESC" moments were in full force at the Swagbucks.com party. We were just extra silly at this party... making friends with random swag-buckers and bartenders and drinking Corona. We were the first ones to spin the wheel of swag so of course, Lilith broke the wheel. No really. She broke that mother. It was still usable, but it definitely set the tone of the night - and that was that the evil sluts are a force to be reckoned with!
  • Softcup Sunset Cocktail Party

This was one of those events that perfectly illustrated the delightful randomness that is BlogHer.  This was a party hosted by Instead, makers of the Softcup - if you're not familiar with this it's a disposable cup that you can use when you have your period.  The lovely people at Softcup were nice enough to secure not one but two "celebrity hosts" for this party.  One was Olympic swimmer Amanda Beard, and the other...Mario Lopez.  (There was also a performance by Ryan Cabrera, but who cares?) We don't know about you, but we always think "what would A.C. Slater do?" when we're making those tough period-related decisions.  Even if this party had sucked (it didn't, it was very nice and I drank way too many of the coconut cocktails they were serving), it would have been worth it just for the reaction that I got from Lilith when I told her that I signed us up for a Mario Lopez Period Party.  Only at BlogHer.
  •  You-Phoria
    Hosted by Itemize, PR Couture, One2One Network and Moms & the City, the Youphoria party probably had the coolest location of all of the parties that we attended - it took place at the Museum of Contemporary Art. We didn't get to stay at this one too long because our schedule was pretty packed, but Itemize and the One2One Network definitely put on a great event. And they're so nice! We were running late at lunch so we didn't get to meet the One2One ladies at the pool to get our O2O pins (that would let us cut the line at the party) but Malia was nice enough to meet up with us and bring us pins, so we wouldn't miss out! Thanks again!
    • Sparklecorn

    Sadly, Sparklecorn - which last year was easily the best party of the whole conference - was a big letdown this time. It wasn't terrible, we still had a good enough time, but it was still pretty disappointing. We have a lot of feelings about this party, so bear with us while we get it all out. They set the bar too high last year and then in their attempt to match that, they sort of fizzled out. Except for the massive unicorn cake, there was almost no food (they had soft stale pretzels, dry hot dogs, and bags of popcorn and peanuts).

    This year we really felt that the cake was overkill. The past two years, the cake was cute... and yeah, we get that the unicorn is their trademark or mascot or whatever... but it seemed like this year it was all about the unicorn cake and the party itself was sort of an after-thought. We heard a rumor that the cake cost $11,000. We can't confirm this, but based on the average cost of cakes like this, it's safe to assume it was at least a couple grand. We've seen a lot of commentary about this fact... you know, if they want to spend that exorbitant amount of money on a cheesy cake that will mostly go to waste, that's their choice. What we're actually curious about is what the budget for the rest of the party was?

    Like we already said, the food was... adequate, but not great. There was no liquor at the party and even the selection of beer and wine was minimal. Again, their choice, but we're sure it was partly to blame for all the headaches everyone complained about the next day (and we also saw quite a few people talking about a "stomach bug" the morning after Sparklecorn... possibly the combination of cheap wine + designer cake?) Now look, we know beggars can't be choosers. If this is the group that BlogHer is going to give thousands of dollars to to throw us a party, then fine, we won't look a gift horse (er, unicorn) in the mouth... we will take whatever they give us and have as much fun as we can, probably by getting as drunk as possible. (Drink tickets, our savior.)

    But really, the biggest issue with the Sparklecorn party - one that really does have to be said and is the top factor that can make-or-break an event - was the DJ. We've already gone over this in an extremely drunken blog rant entitled DJ Skribble: Worst DJ Ever but we'll continue it here, because he was really that bad. Those of you who used to watch MTV in the '90s might remember DJ Skribble and well, apparently he's "famous in Vegas" now. (You know who else is famous in Vegas? Criss Angel... Carrot Top... Donny & Marie. It doesn't take a lot of talent to be "famous in Vegas"!) We don't know if this D-list celebrity from the '90s was expensive or if there was just no money left for a decent DJ after that cake, but he just fucking sucked.

    He was really way too caught up in his own alleged awesomeness... He may or may not be a skilled DJ, but he was the WRONG choice for a party at BlogHer. He was too into his remixes - he played unrecognizable, boring slow intros to songs and then when the good part of the song actually started, he'd cut it before it got past the first real verse. That may fly at a club in New York or Vegas, but this is fucking BlogHer. Just play the songs you know we want to hear - the pop hits, the '80s throwbacks, and the '90s jams. We want Lady Gaga and Madonna and Prince and Michael Jackson and Vanilla Ice and Sir Mix-a-Lot. And we want to hear the songs all the way through. And we want to actually hear the song (not scratching). And we probably want to sing along. This is what makes a BlogHer party fun. He didn't know his audience and he was not open to suggestions. Anytime anyone made a request or God forbid asked him to play a certain song all the way through he not only refused to do it, but he was a total dick about it. (And we're evil sluts from New York, so we've dealt with all kinds of attitude.)
    Jezebel: There must have been some other '90s has-been DJ who could've done a better job.
    Lilith: Definitely.
    Jezebel: Spinderella?
    Lilith: DJ Jazzy Jeff?
    Jezebel: DJ Tanner from Full House.
    Lilith: Um...
    Jezebel: The cartoon cat from the Paula Abdul video. Wait.. I think he was an "MC", not a "DJ".
    Lilith: Next time they spend that much money on a fucking unicorn cake, it better be able to work the turn-tables too.
    We moved all around that dance floor and almost every person we spoke to felt the same way we did, not just our "friends". We're loudmouth New Yorkers (and we were drunk) so we were bitching openly about how bad the DJ was... We may have been the most vocal, but we know we weren't alone. Everyone who overheard us, said they agreed and how. We tweeted about it and got a bunch of DMs agreeing. We told one woman that we had tweeted about it and she actually said  "you tweeted about it? I was going to do that but I was afraid." We couldn't believe it. Afraid? Of what? Backlash? We know that Sparklecorn has this aura of "it's the best party of the year" so if you somehow don't agree with that, your opinion can't possibly be valid, you're just not "in" with the cool kids, you must be wrong. You know, it's okay to disagree with the masses. If more of us did it, then the masses might not be the masses anymore.

    We've already seen some defensive responses coming from the MamaPop crew who organized the party. Yeah, we know, it sucks when you try to do something nice for everyone and it gets shit on. So we don't blame them for being pissed that we're all a bunch of ungrateful bitchy complainers. We know it's their party and they can do whatever they want and we have to just accept it and be grateful and try to suck it up and have a good time. And obviously we know that their intention was to throw a party that would be a great time for everyone. But we also think that if BlogHer is choosing to sponsor this party (in lieu of others) for the entire BlogHer community with BlogHer community money, then they should at least be open to constructive criticism and suggestions for next year. They definitely put a lot of time and sweat and love into this party and we do appreciate that... we'll just appreciate it even more if they take some of our comments and suggestions to heart and help next year's Sparklecorn party (if there is one) return to its former glory.

    I know plenty of people still had a good time and still danced and still got drunk (and then there were the incredibly drunk women who danced hilariously on the stage) because we are adaptable, so we can totally rock a party no matter how sucky the DJ is... but the essence of Sparklecorn was missing. It's not just about the unicorn cake.

    [Note: The Sparklecorn video came out really great. Props to the person who put it together. It made the party look like a ton of fun (more fun than it actually was for a lot of us) and captured the essence of Sparklecorn that we wish there had been more of at the party itself. Nice job. Also good call editing out all the footage of people like us standing around awkwardly, scowling at the DJ.]
    • Social Fiesta
    This party on Saturday night was so great. It had a very classy vibe to it and who can complain when there are margaritas, right? The food was amazing (possibly the best food we'd had all weekend) and the music was fun and there were hot Latino guys there to dance with us. Now that's a party that has thought of everything! We were also really happen to hear about the BlogHer-Latism partnership.

    The only complaint we have about this party, had nothing to do with the party at all... it was about the guests. Just a few specific guests in particular. We won't name any names... but there was this one group of loud, rude bitches talking and laughing throughout the entire announcements made by the hosts. It really pissed us off. (If you've met us you know how loud and obnoxious we can be so the fact that we were annoyed should demonstrate just how rude they were.) These are the women who have brought us here and this is the reason we are here. Show them some fucking respect and shut the fuck up while they are speaking. There's a time for your loud, drunken bullshit and that was not it.
    • Aiming Low
    We didn't spend a lot of time at the Aiming Low party, because we spent so much time at the Social Fiesta (before) and CheeseburgHer (after) but we did stop in for a few minutes to check it out and say hello. The name was a tad misleading. They didn't aim that low at all! They had an awesome spread of food and lots of fun stuff going on and tons of awesome people hanging out. And how you not like a party that gives out stickers like this...

    • 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 on the last night of the conference. This party was everything that Sparklecorn should have been. The DJ was awesome. We don't know if he was good at mixing and scratching, because we don't care about that shit when we're at BlogHer, but we can say without a doubt, that he provided an awesome soundtrack for a really fun party. He knew his audience and he catered to us. He may have thought it was beneath him to play songs like "Baby Got Back" and "O.P.P." but he knew where he was and he gave us what we wanted. DJ Skribble could take a lesson from this guy. We finished up the rest of our drink tickets at CheeseburgHer and danced til we dropped. Then we grabbed some burgers and fries and sodas and brought them back to the room. (We may or may not have eaten them while laying in bed watching TV. Don't judge us.)

    #4 - The Old Friends and New 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. 

    Like we already said, for us, it's not really BlogHer for us 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. If there was a conference called DebCon that was just us hanging out with Deb at her house for the weekend, we would attend every year.

    Jessica Bern - Jessica is another 'it's not BlogHer until we see her' person for us.  We love her and she is fucking hilarious.  If you don't know her, get over to BernThis right now and start watching her videos.

    Annie from PhD in Parenting - Annie is one of our favorite mom bloggers and one of our favorite bloggers/activists.  (You may remember her anti-Nestle activism from last year's BlogHer.) We had a hilarious drunken conversation with her outside the CheeseburgHer party about us coming up to Canada and whether Canada would be ready and/or willing to accept an ESC invasion.  

    Jennifer Pozner, founder of Women In Media & News and author of Reality Bites Back - We're friends with Jennifer in real life so seeing her at BlogHer wasn't that exciting. (Just kidding, Jenn. We love you.) What's not to love about someone who can dance her ass off and critique reality TV at the same time?  As we mentioned before, her media literacy workshop was one of our favorites of the weekend, and she was also a founding member of the Coalition Against DJ Skribble. 

    We also have to give a shoutout to our fellow New Yorker, Briar from Unwellness, who we almost didn't see this weekend but luckily ran into on the last night.

    Erin Kotecki Vest - We were beyond thrilled to see the Queen of Spain at BlogHer this year with her husband Aaron. We were a little drunk when we ran into her at Sparklecorn so our offer of support to her family was very...us.
    Jezebel: So if there's ever anything that a couple of evil slutty girls can do for you guys, just let us know.
    Lilith: Jezebel, I don't really think they're into that.
    Jezebel: Dude, I didn't mean it THAT way.
    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 or whose business card is lost in our big swag pile or our luggage that we still haven't finished unpacking. We're still not fully recovered. (That's also why we're being so creative in describing everything as "awesome".)

    #5-The Sponsors

    Jimmy Dean officially won us over this year as our favorite sponsor of the conference. Not only was everything they gave us absolutely delicious, but we would've starved on Saturday had it not been for them, because we were totally unhappy with the official breakfast and lunch options. Their sausages wrapped in a pancake on a stick might be the most amazing thing we have ever tasted. And everyone who was working there to represent the brand was so great and friendly and helpful. They didn't hold back the samples just because we'd already had one the previous day (and yes, they did remember us) and they went above and behind to help us when we needed it. Our camera glitched out and lost our photo of us with the Jimmy Dean sun (no we won't be posting it here, but we will be framing it and keeping it forever) but they went through four of their different camera phones to find it for us and make sure we got a copy. Some of the brand representatives at BlogHer didn't really seem totally psyched to engage with all of us, but Jimmy Dean was 100% awesome every day. They definitely earned two loyal customers for life.

    As always, we love any brand that feeds us (we're not that hard to please!) so we definitely appreciated all the yummy goodness that we got at the Expo Hall from brands like Hillshire Farm, Twizzlers, Hershey (yet again they had their awesome S'mores suite), King's Hawaiian, Dove, McDonalds, Kudos, Pepsico, Dole, and Chuck E. Cheese's (for their awesome cotton candy machine) and more.

    Not only were the reps from Snapfish and HP super nice and helpful, but one of us actually won a free HP mini 110! Really! (We never win anything!) Thanks again!

    We stopped by the Hot Wheels suite and mentioned to one of their reps how we felt about the "toys for boys" slogan on their new Twitter account. She agreed with us and was really understanding and said that she would send that feedback to the powers that be. (And she gave us each a free little car!)

    There were a couple of sponsors that seemed like they didn't really know what they were doing there... like Yankee Candle. They had tons of candles set up but no free samples, no coupons, not even a catalog with a list of their new products or a business card for bloggers who might want to work with them. It's not that we expect a handout from everyone (well, it is BlogHer, so maybe some people do expect that) but it seemed like they were just standing around a stack of candles with nothing to say and nothing to offer.

    Overall, we had a good time in the expo hall this year and had some really good conversations with brands.  (As always we had a few of those "your blog is called what?" moments that we've become so used to, but they were at a minimum this year.)  We're pretty sure it remains the only place in the world where you can eat cotton candy while talking to the Pine-Sol lady or take a picture with a guy dressed like a giant piece of dust while holding a tote bag shaped like a chocolate-covered strawberry filled with coupons for toilet cleaners and coffee creamers.  Only at BlogHer.

    #6 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:

    A vegetable peeler, a box of Softcups, a box of crayons, a giant hairbrush, a pair of Quaker Oats flip flops, a Got Milk? latte mug, a SinuSense system from Waterpik (because nothing says 'this is going to be an awesome conference' like thinking about squirting water up your nose), a foot sander, a first aid kit, a Hershey's lunch tote, approximately 14 iPhone cases (neither one of us has an iPhone), a vibrator and lube (it's not a conference for us until we get some free sex toys), three t-shirts, 12 notebooks and notepads (give or take), a banana pen, two pairs of sunglasses, a whole mess of coupons, and 37 bags of PopChips.

    Lilith literally got lost in her swag pile while sorting it on the bed

    #7 - The Causes

    This year the sponsors were about way more than just coupons and swag. It seemed like every company had its own charitable program this year and we have to say we have a lot of respect for them because of it. It's nice to see these huge corporations giving back to the community and doing good. (Yes, we recognize that they're still huge corporations trying to make a buck and not charities, but we still feel like it's better that they're doing something more than just handing out coupons.) Here's just a partial list of all the 'good' that's being done by some of the companies we talked to at BlogHer:

    #8 - The Celebrities

    There were a ton of celebrities (and pseudo "celebrities") at BlogHer this year. Just to name a few... we spotted Jane Lynch (!!!), Wendi McLendon-Covey (from Bridesmaids), Mario Lopez, Amanda Beard, Ryan Cabrera, Candice Kumai (of Top Chef Season 1), Ricki Lake, Giuliana Rancic, Bob Harper (from The Biggest Loser), DJ Skribble, the Pine Sol lady, the Jimmy Dean sun and the piece of dust guy from the Swiffer commercials. Obviously quite a few of these do not deserve the title "celebrity" - cough, cough, DJ Skribble - but for the first time in this post we'll go ahead and be charitable.

    Obviously, we were more excited to see the Jimmy Dean Sun than anyone else at the conference.  He was flattered when we told him that we considered him to be one of the only worthwhile "stars" there...and luckily we were out of earshot of the Scrubbing Bubble at the time because he would have been offended and he's really fucking big and...scrubby.  (Have we said "only at BlogHer" enough times yet?)

    #9 The "Only At BlogHer" Moments

    While we were waiting online in JFK airport waiting to board our flight to San Diego, we joked that we should get on the plane and yell "anyone going to BlogHer!?" The woman in front of us turned around and said "I'm going to BlogHer." Then when we got on the flight, our entire row (and parts of the rows in front of us and behind us) were all women attending BlogHer. Maybe it was just a coincidence, but we thought it was a very good sign.

    Apparently there was a "flash mob" at BlogHer this year. Or well, they called it a flash mob. A large group of women "spontaneously" started doing a dance to Lady Gaga's "Edge of Glory" one day during lunch. It looks like they had a lot of fun and we know that a lot of people really enjoyed watching it, so we're not criticizing them at all... but... we wouldn't necessarily call that a FLASH MOB either. It was a group of women dancing at lunch. That's just part of the quirkiness that is BlogHer. When you're at a conference where one of the sessions is about learning the "Single Ladies" dance, it's not that shocking to have a "flash mob" dancing in the lunch room. We would've loved to have seen them bust out with their moves in the middle of the Gaslamp district or something.

    This isn't a criticism, like we said, it's just that being from New York, we've seen some real performance art and real flash mobs (and we've seen plenty of random dancing in random places) so this, while totally fun, didn't exactly thrill us. Call us jaded. But we're happy for anyone who had a good time - it is definitely an awesome, empowering feeling to dance in public - and it was nice to see so many women from the community come together. Next year, we want to see some fresh choreography though. We're talking about the Running Man, the Roger Rabbit, the Cabbage Patch, the Kid 'n Play Dance, and anything Carlton from Fresh Prince of Bel-Air would've done.  We're confident that the Blogher Dance Crew will top themselves next year.

    This is probably more of an "Only the ESC" Moment than an "Only at BlogHer" moment, but it wouldn't have been possible if not for the awesome sponsors at BlogHer... Just as the Expo Hall was coming to a close on Saturday night, we had picked up some awesome food storage containers from Glad and were munching on some delicious sandwiches from Hilshire Farms and sausages Jimmy Dean. Then a lightbulb went off! Why not sneak the leftovers that we can't finish into our Gladware and bring it up to our rooms? Since we had gotten so comfortable being provided with free food all day Friday and Saturday... what else were we going to do on Sunday when the BlogHer gravy train shut down? So we popped some yummy food into our mini-fridge for the next day. Don't judge us.

    Or at least don't judge for that, judge us for not leaving the hotel room at all on Sunday after the conference ended. (There was a lot of Law & Order episodes, leftover food, and packing going on.)

    #10 What We Hope to See Next Year

    We are sooooo psyched about BlogHer's return to New York for 2012! Nothing makes us happier than being able to represent NYC (and not have to fly across the country!) We're very happy about the fact that we will be going back to the Hilton too because they were so awesome last year.  Any hotel that offers to "send a team" when we have a problem is always going to be at the top of our list.

    Even Twizzlers is ready for NYC!!

    But in case we didn't already do enough bitching already, we do have a few more 'suggestions' for next year (and hopefully, years to come)...
    • Mail the badges in envelopes
    Yet again, BlogHer mailed everyone's conference badges and yet again bizarrely went the fold-and-tape route rather than the safely-inside-an-envelope route. Yet again, our badges (and drink tickets) arrived in less-than-stellar condition. After the fucking nightmare that was the reprint line last year, we didn't even try it this year. 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.) So like we said last 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.
    • Serve bacon at every breakfast
    We were really happy to see that there were full tables of vegan and gluten-free options at every meal this year... and we'd love to see that continued. However, being neither a vegan nor allergic to gluten, we were still psyched to see lots of eggs, bacon, sausage and potatoes at Friday's breakfast. (Thank you Jimmy Dean for sponsoring!) So imagine our disappointment on Saturday morning when we got to breakfast (this time sponsored by Quaker and Tropicana) and it was basically just oatmeal, fruit, muffins, pastries and um... round bread products with holes in the center. (Sorry, we're from New York - so we can't call whatever the hell that was "bagels".) We know that Quaker was repping their oatmeal, but some of us need a little protein in the morning in order to get through the day... all those carbs and sweets just weren't going to give us the start we needed. (Luckily, we survived because we stopped by our favorite sponsor's booth for a Jimmy Dean breakfast.)
    • Offer some privacy consideration for anonymous bloggers
    Everywhere we went there were cameras in our faces. The people at the booths in the Expo Hall were really great about asking "Can we take your picture?" "Can we post this on our Twitter/Facebook?" "Can we tag you in this photo?" Everywhere else at BlogHer? There were absolutely no privacy considerations. Basically, if you're at this conference, you can expect your face to be plastered all the fuck over every website for the rest of time. (This goes for the parties too - we don't remember anyone at the parties making an announcement that photos and videos are going to be broadcast everywhere but yet go on Twitter and there are a gazillion slideshows up). Luckily, our photo-dodging reflexes have gotten really good lately, so we were able to avoid most of the roving cameras... but we have to say it was pretty damn annoying. Based on all the pseudonyms that we saw on various badges, we know we're not the only ones who don't blog under our own names and faces. (There was at least one panelist who was anonymous and requested that she not be photographed and there was an entire session devoted to bloggers who have had issues with stalkers.) I know this is a strange concept to a lot of the BlogHer community - where many women blog openly and publicly about their personal lives, spouses and children - but we all know that this is the Internet we're talking about, and some of us have our reasons for wanting a little more privacy and safety for ourselves and our families.

    We do appreciate that this year we were able to choose what name to display on our badges (instead of requiring it to be our legal name, as it has been in past years.) We realize that we go to BlogHer at our own risk, but it'd be really awesome if BlogHer could follow the example that the Momentum conference has set and offered color-coded badges based on willingness to be photographed. Basically, when attendees registered they checked "Photographs Okay" or "Please No Photos". Badges were color-coded green or red ('go' or 'stop') based on this preference and then people just knew to not photograph anyone with a red badge (at least not without asking permission first). Such a simple solution to what is a very serious issue for some of us.
    • Loosen the restrictions for sponsored bloggers
    We weren't sponsored this year, but we think that the sponsored blogger guidelines have gotten a little too excessive. It seems really unfair that sponsored bloggers aren't allowed to give out any products or information about their sponsoring brands. We've heard a few stories about people forcing stuff on others unsolicited, but we have yet to ever witness this phenomenon. Honestly, 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. What is so hard about just saying "No thank you" if you don't want something? It sucks that some bloggers have had to sneak around with their offerings or that we've had to track down people who had a product we wanted to check out. We agree that there should be some guidelines, but we think that the current guidelines are just overkill.
    • Allow men to attend the conference but please no all-male panels.
    This year BlogHer didn't have any all-male panels or panels devoted to men... but we felt this was worth mentioning because we know they did have a "Men of BlogHer" session in the past and we saw some people (male people) complaining about the fact that BlogHer chose not to have this session again this year. So we just wanted to put this out there, again, that we're glad there were no "male perspective" sessions. Yes, the male perspective is a valid one, but it's one that we get at almost every social media conference that is male-dominated. We have no problem whatsoever letting men attend - we think it's great that some men want to come to BlogHer (and we like most of them) - but this is still BlogHer. It's not discriminatory or sexist to have something that is "ours". We are more than happy to share this event with some men, but hopefully those men remember where they are and stay respectful. It's only when male attendees start to get an attitude and act like this is about them and we need to accommodate them, that we get annoyed. (To be clear, this is rarely the case, but it has happened. We won't name names though... you know who you are.)
    • More activism and cause-related opportunities

    Like we already said above, we'd love to see the 'Change the World' session to be expanded to... you know, actual world-changing stuff. We also mentioned above, that many of the sponsors are working towards social change right now. Also, every year BlogHer tries to be very "green" and this year they held a blood drive, which was a great step in the right direction. We'd love to see them go even further and do even more next year. Perhaps they can donate all of the food that is leftover at the end of the day to a local homeless shelter? There's a lot that could be done next year. Maybe we'll take it upon ourselves to come up with a list of ideas for the BlogHer organizers (or we'll just take it upon ourselves to get our own plan going as well).

    Bonus #11 - 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:

    There are new recaps popping up on Twitter (under the #blogher11 hashtag) every day, so if we missed any of them... well, we definitely missed a lot of them. So please feel free to leave your own links in the comments!


    blaugra said...

    I love the Evil Slut Clique. Very thorough review. I think I was too tanked on bad white wine to realize how awful DJ Skribble was. How awful could he have been when he played MICKEY by TONI BASIL. My complaint about Sparklecorn is it shouldn't be in a cavernous space with empty tables. Put it in a place like Cheeseburgher and it will be more fun and cozy. Rock on

    Natalie said...

    How have I never been here before? I just instantly fell in love with ESC!

    Great review of BlogHer...very honest and everybody should read it.

    Thanks for the shout out back to my post -- I appreciate it. I'm also stalking you on Twitter & FB now, so I'll see you around.

    Deb said...

    You two are a force of Evil Slutiness! The world, and BlogHer, are better just because of the way you both pay attention to it. You know you are too brilliant for your own good, right? xoxox

    Swistle said...

    I read this post with great interest. All the bloggers I read do posts that are basically "WHEEEEE BLOGHER AWESOME LADIES WHEEEEEEEE!!!! SO FUN!!!" and I can't ever get an idea of what it's actually LIKE there.

    Sarah Manley said...

    Holy ass! Love you, sluts. I wish we'd had a chance to hang out. I should have insisted. Wait, I do insist. Next year. In your hometown.

    Mommyfriend Lori said...

    OMG! Loved your post, like a whole lot! Why haven't I met you yet? What's up with that? Anywho, thanks for such a detailed recap, I was there and didn't know half that stuff! And obviously, thanks for linking to my BlogHer '11 post, you sluts rule the school.

    Kristin said...

    OMG, I am officially in love with y'all. I've been biting my tongue about Sparklecorn (cause I really love some of the ladies in charge) and it's so refreshing to see someone else shares my opinion. We left way early because of it.

    Don't know if you heard rumors about the crocheted penis attending the conference parties but I have a post about it here: BlogHer with Beanis.

    Mary said...

    Great post, and I'm so bummed I missed the "Doing Kegels as we speak" button. Also, as one of the organizers of the flashmob, I gladly take you up on your challenge. Next year. NYC. #OperationTimesSquare. Would love for you to join in! Cheers!

    Anonymous said...

    "It seems really unfair that sponsored bloggers aren't allowed to give out any products or information about their sponsoring brands. "

    BlogHer is a very low-cost conference (when compared to say, SXSW or other shows) and that's because it is so heavily subsidized by its sponsors. It's not fair to companies that pay thousands of dollars in sponsorship fees to have to compete with private sponsored bloggers for attention. BlogHer can't bring the kind of sponsors and money it does without all those rules on sponsored bloggers.

    Condo Blues said...

    One of the reasons I didn't go to Blogher this year (and missed you both terribly) is that the session titles were more vague than usual. Although I will disagree that food activism might be suited for the Change Track. I started a food blog because I was sick and tired of hearing people complain that healthy meals take too much money, time, and special skill to make. I try to show people that they can make quick healthy meals on a budget. Oh and booze infused Popsicles because that kind of thing is important to maintain the well being of society. Ahem.

    For next year, you might consider have a pin made that says "please no photographs." I never thought about how important that issue can be for my fellow bloggers until now.

    Lindsay said...

    Great wrap up, Ladies! It was so nice to meet you at the Kiss Our Sass Party. Thanks for the shout-out! See you in NYC!

    Anonymous said...

    @Anonymous- As far as I understand, sponsored bloggers were always allowed to give out information and samples etc up until last year. The new rule was not out of consideration to the sponsors (although that does make sense) but rather due to claims that people were leaving stuff around unsolicited. As long as that line isn't crossed, I don't think there's any reason why sponsored bloggers shouldn't be allowed to give out cards/coupons as much as unsponsored bloggers are allowed to give out their own personal cards, etc. Having a single person ask "would you like a _____?" is hardly much competition to having a full spot in the Expo Hall all weekend.

    Alyson said...

    Loved meeting you ladies as well and glad you won the HP Mini 110!

    We'd love to work with you on a product review/giveaway!

    On behalf of Snapfish

    Anonymous said...

    Anonymous (er, the 1st anonymous... or, oh hell, both of you)...

    This is from the rules for sponsored bloggers (emphasis mine):

    "One of the most widespread complaints we received about BlogHer ’09 was that sponsored bloggers were distributing unwanted materials to other attendees. We received overwhelming feedback that unsolicited materials from sponsored attendees were unappreciated [...]

    Therefore no sponsor swag, gifts or literature may be distributed within the conference space or the host hotel, directly or indirectly."

    This is really excessive in my opinion. I agree with the original complaints and I see your point about the conference sponsors. I agree that they should not be allowed to hand things out unsolicited or leave things laying around the conference center, but this goes above and beyond what is reasonable. They're not allowed to give out anything (even a business card, unless it's our OWN card) even outside of the conference rooms. The rules apply even during your own time at the hotel.

    So if I'm seen giving a gift to a friend outside my hotel room (not in the conference rooms) and someone makes an "anonymous complaint" about that, I risk losing my badge and being ejected from the entire conference. It's not like sponsored bloggers are trying to set up a booth in the Expo Hall or are standing up making announcements in sessions or leaving things all over the hotel. What's the big deal if someone is sponsored by a company that I'm interested in and I'd like to get more info so I ask them if they have a card or other material (or gasp, a small sample product)? Who does it really hurt?