This post may not be interesting to some of you, but many people have expressed some curiosity about what specifics were discussed at BlogHer. I'll hit some of the highlights and give you more links than you could ever want--my apologies in advance for the carpal tunnel syndrome you'll develop if you click on them all.
First, because I know some of you aren't familiar with the whole deal, BlogHer is the world's largest blogging organization for women, and membership is free and open to anyone. They hold a yearly conference chock full of panel discussions and speeches; interestingly, they reported that it's the world's largest blogging conference, regardless of gender (I believe there were around 1,000 attendees this year.)
Here are the sessions I attended (if you click on the title of each session, you can see the live-blogging record. For a master list of live-blogging from the whole conference, go here. Or, you can go here to see the post in which Chilihead has posted her typed notes and totally blown my mind):
This was one of my favorite sessions. One of the speakers was Ree from Confessions Of a Pioneer Woman, a blog I've enjoyed for a long time. Birdie Jaworski was also a very impressive panelist. Don't miss her series on writing at BlogHer.org (can't find the link, but I'll add it in if I do).
I attended this session primarily because my good friend Kathryn was a panelist. (You can see her impressions of the experience here.) I wondered, going into this discussion, if a panel of women from such varied backgrounds talking about tolerance might dissolve into some sort of shouting match. It didn't, and excellent points were made by everyone.
I could write volumes about this one session--there was no shortage of opinions! I was interested to hear many mommy-bloggers vent their frustration that they're not "taken seriously" by other bloggers (I have to admit that, even if it's true, it doesn't particularly bother me). Moderator Jory Des Jardins drove home the point that regardless of what other bloggers may or may not think, corporate America takes mommy-bloggers very, very seriously.
There was rigorous discussion of how PR firms might approach mommy-bloggers with more sincerity (instead of "Hey, how are was your vacation, wanna try these ginsu knives?"). And in one of the more interesting turns of the weekend, general disdain was expressed for the system that is PayPerPost (discussed by panelist Chris Jordan here). The PPP issue was raised more than once through the course of the weekend, an interesting turn of events, since they were a corporate sponsor of the convention.
And of course the question was raised the way it must always be raised when a group of women do something: is the momosphere like high school? Panelist Catherine Connors was one of the most articulate speakers I heard all weekend, and she answered this beautifully in the discussion, and then later on her blog.
Book to Blog and Back Again (notes not yet available)
This session was very interesting, and it confirmed what I'd already suspected: if you're betting between getting a book published and being struck by lightning, bet on the lightning.
Without a doubt, this was the most helpful session I attended the whole conference. It addressed some of the business-oriented aspects of blogging, including tax considerations, copyright/trademark management and other legal issues. All the panelists were excellent, but TaxGirl was especially informative (not too mention funny--who knew tax code could make you laugh?)
A few general observations about the weekend....
I was amazed at how many women are writing (or at least contributing to) MANY different blogs. It was staggering, actually. Some of these women had six or seven blogs listed on their business cards. And I'm overwhelmed with just one...
Here's a new buzz-phrase for you, if you want to sound all smart and techie: search-engine optimization, or SEO for short. Basically, this just means getting more people to your blog via search engines like Google. And that's all I know about it, so don't ask me anything else--I just wanted to use the phrase search engine optimization one time in my life.
I had heard reports that BlogHer '06 was rather clique-ish, but I didn't experience that at all this year. Everyone was very kind and approachable, even though it was clear we were all from a WIDE variety of persuasions and lifestyles and shoe choices (meaning others' were fabulous, mine were comfy). I was encouraged by that.
Even though I already knew what a vast place the blogosphere is, it was still mind-boggling to see a slice of it up-close. I know I get content in my happy little corner of the blog world, occasionally forgetting how many people are writing (really well!) on such a vast number of topics. Though I've always enjoyed reading the blogs of people who are from different walks of life, I came home with a renewed interest in finding out what is out there.
I feel a little sheepish sometimes, when I admit to my non-blogging friends that I have on-line friends I've actually (gasp!) traveled to meet in real life. But that's okay. An evening or two with these girlfriends is plenty to remind me that they're the Real Deal. I love those blogging buddies of mine, I really do.
Lastly, I'll leave you with a couple of pictures to prove I was really there. Here's Chilihead and me on Navy Pier, the great skyline of Chicago in the background (aren't we just a couple of Mary Tyler Moores?):
Did I mention how much I love those girls?