Thinking

A number of you have emailed and asked me how BlogHer ’10 went — you know, aside from the Martha party, the 5K, and the trip to the American Girl store — and I thought about doing a full recap, but I’m guessing that the majority of you are not interested, so I won’t inflict it on you. Instead, I’m going to share some thoughts that have been rattling around in my head for a few days now.

This year’s BlogHer was massive — around 2,500 bloggers. As someone who does not like large crowds and is not going to dive right in and start networking and handing out cards, I found the sheer size of the conference overwhelming.

Of all the blog posts I’ve read in the past few days and in years past, the people who have the most fun at BlogHer conferences are the ones who run around with a friend or a group of friends — thereby giving them an automatic social group with which to hang out.  I spent one day of the conference with a friend and the other one on my own and I can confirm that BlogHer is a lot more fun if you have a friend.  Seriously, if you think you want to go to BlogHer ’11, go with a friend.  I’ll never go into one of those conferences alone again.

On the other hand, I will say the energy is amazing.  To be surrounded by so many creative people who have interesting ideas to share is exciting and I came away with lots to think about.

Unfortunately, my main impression of BlogHer ’10 was how unbelievably commercial it was.  From the first minute I walked in, I was absolutely assaulted by advertising, including the signs on the revolving door to the lobby, the lanyard for my nametag, and the back of my room key card.  As someone who goes through life intentionally ignoring ads, the constant attack was unsettling.  Every time I turned around, there was a new sign to look at or a new table set up and someone encouraging me to take, take, TAKE some of their products.  Um, no thank you.

I understand that sponsorship is necessary to bring down the conference costs and I also agree that a little bit of swag is fun.  Getting a new water bottle or maybe a t-shirt is a neat way to remember a great weekend.  On the other hand, a veritable landslide of stuff is excessive and obscene.  It’s kind of like if someone gives you a box of four high quality truffles that you savor because you have a limited quantity.  However, if you were given a 10 pound box of those same truffles and then you ate them in a short amount of time, you’d feel sick and the joy of the gift would be lost.

Here’s a quick list of the things I can remember being offered to me:  Jello pudding, PUR water bottles, Jimmy Dean sausage, McDonald’s apple slices in little plastic bags (no thanks, I’ll just eat an apple), nursing supplies, faux Spanx, sodas, plastic light-up rings, honey-in-straws, cookbooks, various types of stress balls, tortillas, chips, pens, pads of paper, magnets, USB drives, Weebles, Play Doh, Got Milk stuff, s’mores skewers, candy, mints, gum, coupons galore, various plastic tchotchkes, t-shirts, paint, stationery, mayonnaise, cookies, magazines, plastic food containers, hand sanitizer, mugs, “energy drink” powder, an egg in which you could grow herbs, shopping bags and more shopping bags, granola bars, cleaning supplies, lotion, and soap.  That’s just a tiny fraction of what was there and available, if I had been interested, which I was not.

Time and time again, I heard people raving about how much free stuff they had gotten. The unbridled materialism was sickening.  Seeing people stand in a long line in order ship their new piles o’ crapola home really bothered me.

Luckily, BlogHer had a room where people could turn in their unwanted crap and that’s what I did with nearly everything.  (Except for the package of Kraft mac ‘n’ cheese that I got at the Martha event, because Pete smuggled it into his suitcase and I didn’t realize it until it was too late.) I let my girls collect a couple of small things, but said no to most of it.

Environmentally speaking, BlogHer ’10 was not all that great, in spite of the promises made by the event organizers to improve on last year.  There are inherent issues when you get over 2,000 people together in the same location, so I knew that this was not going to be an eco-friendly event; however, there were a few things that could have easily been done that would have gone a long way in making things better.    I’m working on a post for Eco Women next week, along with constructive suggestions for next year and will let you all know when it’s up.

Lest you all think that I had a terrible time, let me say that I am glad that I went.  I did learn new things in the sessions and came home with lots of ideas.  I finally got to meet a dear friend of mine and also met a lot of other nice people, including some bloggers I had wanted to meet for a long time.  My family had a great time doing their own thing in the city and, when we were together in our tight little unit of four, we had a fabulous time.  And, of course, I now consider myself to be a total bad ass for running in Central Park … while wearing the freaking tutu.

But will I attend BlogHer ’11 in San Diego next year?  I don’t know.  Pete and I are talking about it — some people here in Jenworld are thinking they’d like to tag along with me and check out, oh I don’t know, maybe the San Diego Zoo or Legoland — but I want to give this more thought.

But tell me what you think:  Have you ever been to a BlogHer or blogging conference?  Why or why not?  Are you thinking about going to BlogHer ’11?

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0 Responses to Thinking

  1. I have not.

    1. I am too cheap.

    2. I am not sure I understand the purpose of such a conference.

    3. I identify myself as a blogger, period. I am not a big fan of identity politics or anything that smells of such. (Although if they had a conference for “Bloggers who hope to be discovered by a big publishing house and then become best-selling authors so they can move to Miami for the winter and their husbands can retire early,” I might be interested.)

  2. Kristabella says:

    I honestly wish no one had to experience this BlogHer as their first one. It’s just so different now. And so big. And while I love going because it is the one time I get to see all of my online friends in one spot, it is just overwhelming now. This year was like 100 times MORE than last year.

    But I also work in marketing. And my company goes to trade shows like that. And I know that the Expo was a huge ROI for so many of those companies. And they spent a lot of money to be there, because hi! Perfect demographic for most of those companies.

    It is too commercial. I appreciate free Spanx as much as the next person, but I no longer look at this as a blogging conference about community and all the things BlogHer says they represent.

    For me, it is my annual trip to hang out with my friends.

    I wish I could have seen you more!!

  3. Jennifer Krieger says:

    As one social misfit to (you sound like , in this instance ONLY) another, I gotcha. Crowds intimidate me, especially when everyone else knows everyone else.
    And your accounts of the loot resonate here. My husband is pretty active in networking groups here and he’s always bringing home something they’re giving away. The odd notepad here or there is fine, but we have mugs enough, and who needs all the dreck cluttering up the house?
    You did rock the tutu, by the by.
    Jenny

  4. karen says:

    Jen,
    I would have totally hung out with you as your friend, all weekend, if my family’s last minute plan didn’t put a kibosh on mine (I would have preferred your family’s last minute plan of coming to NYC than my family’s plan of taking me AWAY from NYC…just this weekend).

    I heard this criticism from a number of green bloggers about the conference. And like you said, when you gather 2500 people in one bldg in one weekend, companies see $$$$ signs…or potential $ signs anyway. I doubt I’d trek all the say out to the left coast to attend something as commercial as this when I can network right here in the East Coast. Yeah, it’s fun and in some ways, it gives us validity because we are bloggers but may be there should be a conference for green bloggers and show BlogHer how it’s done. Now, if that happens, I’m there!!

    I’m sorry we didn’t meet up. But I know we will. Soon.

  5. Yeah, I kinda figured it was like that. There are so many bloggers I’d like to meet. But big conferences like that usually leave me feeling overwhelmed and empty. Glad you had the family there.

  6. I’m possible thinking about it because I love San Diego and the bloggers I have already met there. And if you go…we could hang out with the cool kids like Jenn and Mrs. G.

  7. I would never be able to afford to travel to NYC, but San Diego I could and would consider driving to. I’d love to meet you and some of the other women I have been reading and talking with online. I don’t know much about the conference and the cost, but assuming my finances could stand it – I would love to go!

  8. Wow, that’s a lot of swag. When I used to have to exhibit at PeopleSoft conferences and attended on MicroSoft conference, there was swag, but not NEARLY like you’re describing. I’m talking post-it notes, the odd t-shirt, and stress balls.

    As for going alone — I was going to go to BeadFest next week, but my class got canceled, and faced with spending two days shopping alone, I actually canceled my entire trip. Even shopping alone, in that huge of a crowd, made me tense. And I think I would have been sad, too. Last BeadFest I went shopping with friends and had a blast. So there you go.

  9. um, that’s *one* Microsoft conference

  10. nina says:

    The feedback I heard was that it was geared toward “MommyBloggers” which is great if you are a mom, but maybe not so much if you aren’t.

  11. Jen says:

    Nina, there was definitely an emphasis on mommybloggers. I might be a mother, but I definitely don’t consider myself a mommyblogger.

  12. karen says:

    The green soiree on Thursday night was very well organized and I chatted with Beth (Fake Plastic Fish), Siel (Green LA Girl) and whole bunch of other green bloggers. And came home with a small bag of green stuff that I gave away to my neighbor who’s a new mom and a hubby’s co-worker who just had a grandchild. I feel as though I educated those two important people as a result of my attending the soiree so that was good.

    A blogger conference should be like that – an opportunity to learn and to teach others – and not be inundated with commercialism.

  13. Come to San Diego. I’ll make sure you’re not alone. :)

  14. Susan says:

    I would like to understand the purpose of this conference (like the first commenter said).
    Do you go to classes or something? Or are there ideas seminars? Do people share favorite blogs? Favorite posts?
    What goes on? –besides giving out and hoarding of {crappy} freebies?
    I go to these professionally–for Continuing Education i.e. classes…but for blogging?
    It seems like something that could be fun–meeting lots of bloggers etc….but is it pointless?

  15. Diana Lee says:

    I’m at the point where I wish there was a way to go to the sessions and skip every single other part of it. That many people in one place does not agree with me.

  16. Julie says:

    my very first thought upon reading of the useless swag crap was that it should be donated. Period. Useless, cheap, unnecessary (if you’re going to this thing, you’ve got enough money to buy any of the swag, I would hazard to guess) and if you’re an eco person, wasteful! But, I grew up very poor, so someone else’s crappe, is sometimes, someone else’s treasure. Or dinner. If you think in these terms, then the donating part becomes a lovely gift to someone not as fortunate. If you’re attending the blogher, I would think that even trying to use half a brain cell to figure out HOW and WHEN and WHERE you might be able to donate it all in bulk, would become a problem, and an issue. Easier to just toss in the bin. Then, I read where there was a room to drop the crap off in, and I let out a sigh. Someone else has already figured this angle out, and thank God. Waste is needless. Even in America!

  17. Kim Kasch says:

    I have not gone to a blogher conference but San Diego you say…? Maybe 2011 is the year for me then.

    Plus, I LOVE that freakin tutu!!! 2 cute tutu

  18. Marijean says:

    I would go (and it helps to have been before, and to be informed about what you’re about to encounter.) I agree with you that going/being with friends while you’re there makes a huge difference. When I went in 2007 I had a bunch of PR friends to hang out with (2011 would be the same I think). Most conferences have piles of crap available and I rarely come home with anything — I have an apron that survived from BlogHer 07 and I think some makeup samples made it home but I’m definitely with you on the gross materialism. Ick. However, this year I went to JUST BlogHer Business hoping to avoid all of *that*and to focus more on the serious side of blogging. For the Business attendees there was NOTHING – not a t-shirt, a pen, NADA. Now the price tag for the Business 0ne-day session is three times what the BlogHer conference costs so go figure.
    I’m just saying – a t-shirt would have been nice.

  19. I love your not-a-recap recap. Next time bring back the faux Spanx for me and hold the mayo. Mayo? What? They were giving out mayo? :-D

  20. BlogHer is one of those conferences that is going to be what you make it. But bottom-line – in the past two years I’ve met some of the most intelligent, amazing women…women who’ve written REAL BOOKS and write REAL COLUMNS and are REALLY FUNNY. If you ask me, its worth the money to travel just to meet them all…

  21. You know, it might be a good idea for Eco Women to organize a party in SD next year, emphasizing NO swag, just fun, and a dozen green exhibitors with simple ways for people to go a little more green at home…vendors to support because they are green certified…stuff like that.

  22. Kirstin says:

    The highlight of BlogHer for me was meeting you!!! Yes, the talks were informative and I’m glad I was there for them but I had tons of fun hanging out with you and meeting Pete, Graceful and Elegant.

  23. mollie bryan says:

    I’d like to go to smaller event, with less crap. Though I don’t mind some free (but useful) things being offered, like cars, vacations, and spa-packages. I could totally write-up any of those freebies on my blog. Which brings me back to knowing that I have a lot to learn and would appreciate a nice small conference where I could learn a thing or two.

  24. Hi! Even though I felt the same as you and blogged about very similar issues (http://fakeplasticfish.com/2010/08/blogher10-conference-recap-keeping-it-real/) I had a great time with all my friends, and I know that made a huge difference.

    If you go to San Diego next year, I’ll hang out with you and we can rant about the commercialism and swag together. :-)

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