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#BlogHer12 — A Retrospective

This was my first year at BlogHer. I suspected it would either be phenomenal or terrible. It was neither, it was somewhere in between, closer to the “satisfying” place on the spectrum. In the opening address, BlogHer’s founders promised that we would “find our flock” and be surrounded with people who finally “get it.” My experience was slightly different, but no less enlightening.

1. I learned a ton of awesome stuff, tech wise

I blog using WordPress, and I know the basics of it, but don’t have the time to really mess around and teach myself much. I attended small, focused sessions on the WordPress platform and on WordPress plugins. Although the sessions were too short to really get into the meat of the subject, they provided exactly what I needed to point me in the right direction to get this blog more in order, tech wise.

I also attended an awesome iPhoneography (iPhone photography) panel, where I learned all about quick and easy apps for photo editing. Since getting my iPhone, I’ve ditched my 5-year-old digital camera, and with all the amazing apps and technology available, I’m convinced that was a rational choice.

I’m just not able to set aside the time I need to get my head wrapped around these things, and this was a perfect opportunity to do so. Even though I didn’t learn all the details I need, I was provided with the foundation and direction to easily find those further things myself.

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2. The blogger economy is not my economy.

I really did not appreciate the scope (and depth) of sponsorship offerings until I attended BlogHer. I met an Australian blogger who was fully sponsored for an 11 day trip to NYC (FROM AUSTRALIA) for her and her husband. There were TONS of other bloggers who came from the US and Canada on someone else’s dime. I knew bloggers are offered free products in exchange for an online review, and are also frequently paid for reviews, but the extent of this practice was lost on me until I came here and started talking to people.

Private sponsored parties were also in abundance. I met people here, started following their twitter accounts, and immediately started reading about all these fun, fantastic parties by all kinds of different sponsoring parties…none of which I was invited to. I admit, I felt left out and a little sad. I’m not a sponsored blogger. I don’t even run ads. This is by choice, it would cause too many complications with my day job. But all the “cool kids” of BlogHer have tons and tons of followers, and are sponsored to the gills. It made me feel left behind. But I’m not like them, and I’m not going to be like them.

Not surprisingly, most of these massively sponsored bloggers do not have day jobs. Blogging is their “day job.” In blogging, time is the currency. The more time you can invest into your site, into scouring the internet and commenting on other sites, and driving more traffic to your site, and optimizing your SEO, the more traffic you will naturally receive. In the economy of time, I am impoverished. Even without revenue, I love to see my site traffic go up and up and up, it’s purely an ego boost. But I have to be at peace knowing that there will be limitations on my ability to build traffic, simply because there are limitations on the amount of time I can put into this little hobby.

Yes, up against these “big time” bloggers, I felt a little inadequate. Then I realized that my feelings were RIDICULOUS. Feeling inadequate undermines all the hard work and accomplishments I have devoted to my professional life, where I’m lucky to be involved in prominent cases, and make my mark on the legal landscape on a national scale. With all the elbow grease and dedication I’ve put in my career, it is absolutely ridiculous for me to feel sheepish in comparison to moms, who have all day long to tinker with their sites and get their traffic sky-high.

3. I know my flock.

BlogHer is not all mommy bloggers….but it is a lot of mommy bloggers. I’ve spent so much time scouring the internet for the working, blogging moms. And specifically, moms that work demanding, high-hours jobs. And I have had little luck finding these people, presumably because they are WORKING instead of blogging. OK, we lawyers and doctors and phamacists and engineers are not working ALL the time, but when you work a time-intensive job, there are limits on how many hobbies you really can pursue, and while many people in this position enjoy playing sports or similar endeavors, there aren’t a whole heck of a lot of them who are really into blogging.

So when the speakers announced in the BlogHer opening that I would “find” my flock this weekend, I wondered where that flock was hiding. And after mingling with and meeting bloggers over the last few days, I know exactly where my flock is– all around me at home in Pittsburgh. I am so blessed to have so many people who understand me, and where I come from, and the challenges I face. And these people are not online, they’re all around me, in real life. I’m lucky to have a great group of friends who understand the challenges of a demanding job. I’ve got my friend Christine, who is always up for a Clarks show and a beer, and my friend Sandy, with whom I can email with day-in day-out about the frustrations and triumphs of raising headstrong toddlers, and even my friend Krista, who I can call up and have a total meltdown over why does everything I write still have typos, even though I’ve proofread it 178 times?!?! I don’t need to FIND my flock, I HAVE my flock. They are all around me, and I am so lucky about that.

4. Folks need to learn some PERSPECTIVE

BlogHer isn’t just for Mommybloggers, It’s for all bloggers. But there sure are a LOT of Mommybloggers here. Mommyblogging, by the nature of the industry, is egocentric. You’re making money talking about yourself. Combine that with a massive expo with tons of freebies, and it’s like a wrathful god dumped all of the Costcos on the planet together on sample day in the Hilton NY. Mommybloggers make money (or at least get free stuff) from their writing. I get that. I get that writing is effort, and is work, and is valuable, and should be compensated. But I overheard entirely too many elevator conversations about the “absurdity” that such and such a vendor would think they’d deign to write about the product, just because they handed out a product for free, but not “working with” (i.e. paying) bloggers.

This came to a head when I was watching the #BlogHer12 hashtag feed on Twitter. During the session on how to price and value services, there were all kinds of enthusiastic tweets about how valuable writing is, and how a blogger shouldn’t sell herself short, and she should get a good contract with whatever company she’s working with, and make sure it compensates her fairly. Then came the tweet about how bloggers should get those contracts reviewed by a lawyer FOR FREE.

Wait.

What?

YOUR writing about the marvelous scrubbing powers of P&G’s latest creation is so valuable and meaningful that it’s beneath you to put hand to keyboard without a check on the way, but I spent over $150,000 on a legal education, have worked damn hard in a cutthroat industry, and have developed meaningful expertise and I should review your contract for FREE?

Sorry ladies, the world doesn’t work like that. The Mommyblog bubble lacks serious perspective about the give and take of the professional world. It’s to be expected, when the main tasks in your life are chasing after little ones, testing new crafts and recipes, and sorting out which humorous anecdotes about your humble existence wrangle the most page hits.

I recognize that this last bullet point probably just made everyone I met at BlogHer hate me now, but whatever. I do have some comfort in the fact that my pals in out in the real world do have some perspective, and don’t make my hair light aflame with anger quite so often. Phew.

So where does this leave me with BlogHer? I am glad I went. Would I go again? Maybe. This year, BlogHer made up half of my official “vacation,” and I wouldn’t spend my vacation again on the conference. Next year is in Chicago, and I could catch a night flight there, and only miss one day of work. The conference itself is surprisingly inexpensive, so I’m certainly not ruling it out. This year it made sense for me to spend my vacation at BlogHer– Baby Beez is too young to behave on an airplane, I wanted to check the conference out. All the pieces fit together. But next year I need a vacation that involves snuggling with a (hopefully better behaved traveler) Baby Beez. So next year is a “maybe” on my attendance, but I’m certainly counting this year as a good experience, and an eye-opening one.

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