BlogHer reaction for Saturday
Saturday felt more relaxed, and I was feeling more in the groove of BlogHer 2007. The groove? Relaxed and flexible. Don't like a session? Session too crowded? Pop out, get coffee, find new friends, get a demo, play with someone's kid... And yes, the sessions themselves weren't quite as engaging for me today. And, of course, there were the people: Chris Carfi, Amy Gahran, Josh Hallett, and Laurie Ruettimann (finally, at the closing talk - she's the wife of a former boss). And just about the entire gang from Edelman's social media group. Update: I totally forgot a couple local Chicagoans: David and Liza.
The day wrapped up with a party in the Chicago Children's Museum thanks to the sponsors. The view from the balcony to the west was lovely. The best nibble was the small brownie sundaes - I had two.
I've got more detailed thoughts this time, so I'll put them below the fold this time. I sat on the opening Experts Breakfast panel, the Women Across the World session, two Business Blogging sessions, and the closing Q&A with Elizabeth Edwards.
Experts Breakfast Panel
The breakfast panel was advertised as having something to do with artificial intelligence, which was exciting for me. However, the bulk of the discussion with the panel (Esther Dyson, Annalee Newitz, Rashmi Sinha) was around various aspect of technology and how women interact in that world.
Intuitive design came up, and people mentioned that they don't tend to read manuals on new gadgets. Esther Dyson specifically said she leaves the manual alone in order to discover how the gadget is supposed to work by trial, error and serendipity. I have to agree that I frequently learn new things this way. The other aspect of intuitive design, that "intuitive" means different things, depending on the context of the person who is interacting with the thing.
Is blogging elitist? Is there still an echo chamber? These topics seem related. The panelists suggested that blogging has gone away from being elitist to something that anyone with access to the technology could do. And then they moved to the issue of digital and literacy divides, which are probably more critical. As to whether there is an echo chamber, I think one can answer this by looking at the questions asked and discussion during Elizabeth Edwards' closing session. (Questions were primarily in line with the general Democratic platform.) But the panelists suggested that the blogosphere is big enough that the echo chambers have broken and fractured into interacting micro-spheres.
Being in the minority at the conference, I appreciated the questions about women and women in technology, but I don't connect to them as deeply as the majority attendants.
Women Across the World
I sat in the back of the Women Across the World session and was amazed at the number of resources / websites that are attempting to provide a source for womens' voices around the world.
Professional Blogging: Ways and Means
The first of the two business blogging sessions I attended was on being (or transitioning to) a professional blogger. The definition of "professional" ranges all over the map from a hobby becoming a money-making endeavor to blogging for hire to blogging within a company, and in the nooks between.
The best part of this session was the 16-year-old panelist who turned her fanaticism for Neopets into a blog and a decent business, Neopets Fanatic.
A good portion of the discussion was closely related to issues around building blog traffic and advertising, which makes a lot of sense in a conference on blogging. There was also a good bit of discussion of how to "go professional," either by becoming a blogger for someone or getting into a blogging network somewhere. There was discussion about how to use past blogging experience, including traffic and Technorati rankings, as a means to show readership and following when pitching blogging work. This can even be used as part of the pitch for a book.
Professional Blogging: Art and Commerce
This panel was focused on the tax and legal aspects of blogging professionally.
TaxGirl provided a useful distinction between "hobby" and "professional" as the IRS sees it. Essentially, the professional (blogger) is doing it to make money. And the "professional" designation is important if you are worried about carrying forward deductions. You have to pay tax on any income you earn, whether professional or hobbyist. She also referenced her Seven things that every blogger should know about tax on ProBlogger.
There was some discussion of taking advertising and the ethics and decisions around doing so. Once again, there is a contextual element to this decision, as ads are looked up differently. Personal blogs might appear to be selling out (are you pimping your kids on a mommy blog?), whereas on an informational blog, the ads can be considered part of the information. Someone reminded the audience of Esther Dyson's quote from the morning panel: "Companies automatically start to look better" when you take money from them for advertising.
Elizabeth Edwards' closing keynote
It wasn't completely obvious why Elizabeth Edwards was at the conference. So, this was the first question from Lisa Stone, the moderator (and BlogHer co-founder). She said something to the effect that she runs into bloggers as she travels and that the blogosphere acts as a town square - maybe replaces the town square - and that she wants to get her / the campaign's message out to this community.
Mrs. Edwards came across as a very knowledgeable person. None of the audience questions (that were asked - many questions didn't make the time limit) were challenging in the way the popular media portrays open political exchanges. Many of the questions were about policy, and it felt like the room was mostly in agreement with what she had to say. One person did speak out that not all BlogHers are liberal.
It was interesting to hear Edwards talk about her various technology experiences: blogging, reading blogs, Deja News, ... She either has a lot of technical experience, or she did her research before coming to the conference. She was able to use the terminology in the right context and at the right times. Interesting to this audience.
And of course, people asked about a variety of campaign policy / her opinion questions. She seemed to be answering the questions asked, rather than the classic "redirecting" answers I cynically imagine of politicians. You can probably read about those elsewhere.
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