The Year that Shame Died

Last week, the brilliant Busy Mom tweeted that 2009 is the year that shame died. I jokingly responded that no, I think that was back in 1983 when Madonna introduced lingerie as outerwear. But her quip has stayed with me ever since.

The BlogHer conference, as always, was phenomenal in so many ways. A chance to be in a room with 1400 other people who don’t need me to explain exactly what it is that I do? Awesome. Having attended now for four years, I’ve seen it grow and change in fascinating ways.

I will be honest, I was concerned going this year that the marketer infiltration of the event was going to be problematic. But the reality is, I couldn’t have been more impressed with how the marketers interracted with the attendees. They were respectful, they were enthusiastic, they were so engaged that they attended panels. It was a tribute to the efforts of Jory and the rest of BlogHer, who clearly worked tirelessly to make sure brands Got It Right.

And by God they did.

After three years of working to convince marketers that bloggers are an important force, conference sponsors like Pepsi, Suave, Nikon, GM, Clorox Greenworks, Tide, Ann Taylor and especially smaller brands like Blue Avocado were stellar evidence of the fact that indeed, women bloggers are an important force. (Yes we are!) I walked up and down the expo floor and thanked each of them for attending, and for making it possible for so many women to attend a $299 conference instead of a $2299 conference. And here I want to thank J&J and the most excellent (and hello? Eco-friendly) OB Tampons for covering my own expenses with a scholarship, as a beautiful and much-appreciated show of support for what it is we do here.

Much to my surprise however, what turned out to be the problem at BlogHer was not how the marketers acted, but how so many bloggers acted. Without pulling punches, I will say it was shameful.


The countless bloggers who combed the expo floor with the purpose of asking marketers for expensive free items (and of course, an identical one to giveaway to a reader).

The shameless swag frenzies at parties that led to a blogger with an arm so bruised she looked like a heroin addict, and a baby in a carrier who endured his first ever sharp elbow to the head. (Really hope those free PBS Sprout stickers were worth it.)

The blogging consultant who crashed two invitation-only sponsored networking lunches to pitch her own business, taking away time from those of us there to learn about the gracious sponsors who paid for the lunch in the first place.

The “sponsored” bloggers who were so inept and amateur with their outreach, they simply shoved products into your hands, however irrelevant, or interrupted conversations and interviews to tell you about their sponsor’s VERY VALUABLE GIVEAWAY.

The sponsored bloggers who took the money and ran, all but ignoring their obligations to their benefactors over the course of the weekend.

The empty cardboard boxes that unapologetically polluted the halls outside rooms of bloggers there to hand out swag as the Sheraton’s overtaxed janitorial staff struggled to keep up with it.

(Edited to add) The blogger who literally threatened to blog about a sponsor’s competitor if he didn’t give her free product.

A simple misunderstanding at an off-site cocktail party that led to an egregious misuse of Twitter, ostensibly to assert the power of mombloggers. F*ck with us, we’ll bring you down. Oh, and by the way…can I have a free camera and maybe an identical one to give away to a reader?

And, once again, the whispering by the other bloggers at the conference that ugh, there go those mommybloggers again.

I think that hurts me most of all.

I often felt, throughout the weekend, like the Indian crying over a once beautiful landscape.

I’m not the only one. I’m already seeing similar sentiments from bloggers like Kristen Chase, Christine Koh, Chris Jordan and Steph, who beautifully expressed that the hugs she received “were much more valuable to me than the samples of laundry detergent.”

At the panel I spoke on about brands and blogs, there was the beginings of an excellent discussion about relationships, and how to build and maintain them. It was pointed out that bloggers like Jaden of Steamy Kitchen (a brilliant woman and also my fellow panelist) and Cool Mom Picks are successful because of the focus of the blogs and the relationships that they build with marketers that transcend giveaways and freebies.

Bloggers can continue blogging about their passions–be they the products they use or otherwise–or they can use a blog as a tool to get free stuff. I have to (have to!) believe the latter group will sort itself out soon enough, when there is no audience for that sort of drivel, and no more marketers left to engage with them.

In fact, I would challenge marketers to start thinking good and hard about who they work with and the return they’ll actually get on their investment.

That said, none of this not the fault of the marketers. Or the marketing. Or the giveaway blogs. It’s the fault of blog posts that offer up ten tips on becoming an A-list blogger while defining A-list as someone who gets free stuff. People are starting to blog with entirely the wrong motives, then wondering why they’re disgruntled and burnt out and shaking their fists at public relations. Or why everyone is pissed at them when they elbow a baby in the head to snatch a free tote bag with a corporate logo on it.

Let me just say there’s a reason A-list celebrities aren’t the ones lining up for free swag at the Golden Globes Boom Boom Room every year. It’s not Angelina Jolie, it’s Mrs. Scott Baio.

(Edited to add: I want to clarify this is not a class judgment. I am in no way saying that popular bloggers don’t like free stuff or that you should be ashamed for wanting some free dish soap. I publish a site that gives away products daily and I love how happy it makes people. What I’m saying that blogging “success” shouldn’t be defined by the amount of stuff you get. It’s about what you put out, not what you take in.)

The wonderful thing I did see this weekend, at least at my panel, is that the majority of bloggers seem to want to get it right. They want to learn better ways to engage with PR and marketing, and do it in a way that benefits their readership. They want to blog with integrity. They want to wake up excited by what we all do here, and they too were horrified by some of the behavior on display this weekend.

In fact, one of my favorite conversations of the weekend was with a blogger I’d never met before, Jill of Charming & Delightful, who told me that she didn’t understand the need for the Blog with Integrity pledge last week, but now she did. In fact, she reiterated our discussion on Kristen’s post in comments.

My thoughts here are not in any way a condemnation of the conference or its organizers, and man, I’ll be bummed if the comments here end up taking the tone of “Glad I wasn’t there.” I was glad I was there. More than glad, I was overjoyed. I can’t even wait until next year when the conference will be held in New York (whoo!) because the connections I make, the friendships I solidify, and the things that I learn at BlogHer are always invaluable.

Even if what I learned, once again, is that our words have power, and our actions–for better or for worse–do reflect on the entire community.


164 thoughts on “The Year that Shame Died”

  1. I adored meeting you, if ever so briefly.

    A lot of this conference made me sad. (Beyond my first foray into super massive anxiety issues.)

    At one point a man at a booth asked me if I was a mommy blogger and my words caught in my throat. I just stared at him.

    Another woman at the booth laughed knowingly and looked at me and said, “what, you don't want to get lumped in with all the drama and fighting?”

    I grinned a little. “I'm just a writer I guess.”

    BlogHer was at times lovely and at times disappointing.

    I'm still processing my thoughts.

  2. I am beyond glad to have had the chance to go and meet and love on and interact with SO many of my friends and new friends.

    I did learn, however, that many people have the misconception of what it means to be in the company of great women. Not just the 'big' bloggers, but everyone contributing to the integrity of writing, sharing, and opening our hearts.

    Yes, it's fun to get free stuff. But it's not an entitlement. I can admit that I was disappointed to not receive the 'swag' bag promised by doing exactly as I should, but it was more of a disappointment towards the lack of organization more-so than not getting my free stuff.

    I had an INCREDIBLE time with my friends and meeting new people. I learned more about my authentic self than about blogging which, in turn, will make myself a better blogger.

  3. Yes, I saw some shameful behavior this weekend, too.

    I did however, see many, many new friendships forged. It makes me sad that the message will all be lost as everyone who hates BlogHer anyway will latch onto the message that we were all just greedy, swag-grubbing whores elbowing each out of the way for the sweet lure of a free tube o' lube and some cleaning supplies.

    Dammit! There was so much more than that going on this past weekend! Sad, just damned sad that a desperate few painted us with such an ugly shade of green.

  4. The expo hall allowed us to be marketed to in our own terms.

    The shoving of swag, press cards, and giveaway announcements by bloggers themselves was not.

    I was approached by ONE person marketing his own business outside of the expo hall. And it was a lovely conversation (albeit a pitch).

    What sucks is that the good stuff, the hearty laughs, the messy cries, and the amazing moments spent in the company of the women (and men) that I love most and now do love was completely overshadowed.

  5. As you know, it broke my heart that I couldn't be there. It also breaks my heart that bloggers behaved so badly.

    None of this is a reflection on BlogHer – the organization or the conference. Nor is it a reflection on marketers or company representatives.

    It's time for the perpetrators to take responsibility for their actions, if only by never behaving in such a manner again.

    I still don't want to be called a mommy blogger anymore.

  6. I only engaged with a few of the marketing reps, but I likewise was impressed. More so was sitting at a table with a few over breakfast and realizing that their badges said which companies they were there representing and? Their company/brand/product never was part of the discussion. They were truly just listening.
    On the other hand, I found it odd that I simply wanted to grab a Minnie Mouse pin for my daughter and was handed a press kit instead. Now I understand she must have misunderstood that I was asking for one of the little computers…and one to giveaway.
    I could go on and on, but with you at the helm of this conversation, well I think it's headed in the right direction. Thank you for that.

  7. Absolutely with you (not surprisingly).

    And yes, one of the things that kills me is that all of this SHIZ detracts from the awesomeness of BlogHer and what Jory, Elisa, and Lisa worked so hard to assemble.

    I have heard people tweet/email about not wanting to go to BlogHer – I'll be following up on this because I don't want that to be the case. All of this crap aside, I had such a spectacular time. I'm so glad I had a chance to finally meet you. -Christine

  8. TOTALLY agree with you all that I don't want it to detract from the good stuff. Hopefully that post is coming next. But I really had to get this off my chest because it really did color my weekend.

    Next year maybe I should get off the business track and stick with the storytellers!

  9. Well said, Liz. This year's BlogHer Expo was the most professional and exciting yet – indeed props go to BlogHer organizers.

    I encountered a woman who appeared to be simply roaming in search of swag. She asked me for directions to a “swag suite” and then not once, but TWICE, asked me if I could give her one of the 5K swag bags (which were meant only for the attendees who paid $5). Sigh.

    Unfortunately, I don't think some bloggers see this space as a “professional” space. There are no barriers to entry (anyone can start a blog) and for some, BlogHer seemed to be a big sorority party. I think it's great that anyone can start a personal blog and find support and friendship, but if you're going to ATTEND a professional event like BlogHer, please act accordingly.

  10. I'm new to public blogging and I wasn't there.

    I'll be honest, it both sounds like something I would love and something I would hate. I would love the forming of friendships, the panels, the crying with others (gets boring crying by myself), but man I would hate the crowds, the bad behavior and so forth.

    I'm still debating whether New York is a good idea for me. I have a hard time there to start with. To do it after reading this would require a level of courage I'm not sure I have.

    However, I believe that BlogHer is bigger than some bad behavior and I think that there are a lot of people who got it right and a few people who just don't get it.

  11. Thank you. I rarely read- and do not engage- in the “mommyblogger” universe, because we often seem to have so little in common. And I'll admit it I am often made to feel somehow freakish because of this. So I have never visited your blog before though we are both hugely involved with BlogHer. And, yes, I often commented on “those mommybloggers” while at the conference. I assigned perhaps too much of the blame for poor behavior exhibited by mainly young, inexperienced clique-ish bloggers, and assumed they must be “mommybloggers” as what else would drive them to be there.

    Hey, I'm 57. When approached as asked if I am a mommyblogger, perhaps I should have taken it as a huge compliment that I don't look my age, rather than a “you are here so you MUST be lumped in this catagory” kind of insult.

    Gah. Back to the point:

    THIS BRILLIANT post points out the very good and very bad from the past weekend from a marketing approach.

    I was embarrassed for the behavior of many bloggers there (I had to go back and change that from bloghers. In my mind, many of those who acted shamefully do not understand what a BlogHer woman is.)

    I was embarrassed enough that I would almost endorse the concept of a “swag-free” conference next year.

    And looking at what I've written here already – before I'm fully caffeinated and thinking- I must take my thoughts on this to my own blog (and my 27 readers) and voice it there.

    Maybe next year we get a chance to say hello over coffee.

  12. The best thing I heard all weekend was your comment during the brands and bloggers panel, “You don't work for PR, you need to make PR work for you.”

    I think that there is so much focus on the negative aspects of the blogosphere that we're losing sight of what's important. I love “Blog with Integrity” and I think it's a great first step to try to bring everyone back to what brought us here in the first place – and for most of us, it wasn't a promotional mousepad!

  13. Liz,
    I wasn't there and posted about not being there — all prompted by the fiasco I read about on Twitter and Linked In. And by fiasco, I mean, mom bloggers going postal because there was a PR snafu. OK, a major one. But the entitlement issue is what gets to me with mommy bloggers. It's the “I can because I am” attitude – the gimme-gimme that so many write that they diffuse in their children, yet they develop carpal tunnel by holding out their hands grasping for goodies.

    There is such a proliferation of inappropriate behavior, imo, in the mom blogosphere, that I was compelled to stay away and enjoy a very, very quiet online weekend.

    Thanks as always for your honest and thoughtful post.

  14. I was never more embarrassed to call myself the Redneck Mommy than I was this past weekend.

    And for once it had nothing to do with being a redneck and everything to do with the 'mommy' part in my moniker.

    Shame on those women.

  15. I was all prepared to actually attend blogher this year until I found out I couldn't afford it after all. A sponsorship was basically out of the question for me as I'm not a salesperson and I'm the quiet type anyway so that wouldn't work for me.

    It's embarrassing to hear about all of this going down at blogher and sad that all of us are lumped into this same group. What happened to being professional? I think much of the marketing is directed towards the wrong people anyway. That's just my observation anyway.

  16. I agree with much of what you said.

    I'll only say that I assume that what happens that is bad behavior is most likely coming from being in a place of some desperation: financial desperation being at the forefront. I wouldn't discount the current Medium Depression going on. Not an excuse, but, I think, a valid explanation to consider as to why this BlogHer was different.

    Not everyone can get sponsors. A lot of women were very candid about having to have made huge family and financial sacrifices to get to the event. To some, the swag is getting a little back that is a need to offset their being there at all; to others, it's just a nice perk. When there is a perceived need, actions are more easily self-justified, even when those actions drift into the realm of “bad behavior”.

    I don't know what the answer is. But I think it behooves us to begin thinking of the “why's” behind the behavior with the assumption of some positive intent gone wrong, and then find ways to fulfill the positive need in a positive way.

    If some women really need the swag to offset their own personal costs, i.e. “My husband won't get angry for the next month about our financial woes from me being here and give me hell and the kid hell if I bring back some swag” or “I can justify to my family that going to BlogHer is important, that my writing is important, but I'll have to prove it to them with stuff because that's what they understand” then, while I don't excuse the pain caused to others through pushing and shoving, well, at least there is an explanation I can work with, to understand so that I can change what happens next time in a positive way.

    I know that what you said needs to be said to highlight the problem. I just think that some people won't be humiliated or chastised into behaving better if they are weighing that chastisement against their perceived emotional and personal needs. Yes, some will, some will have a real hand-to-head moment of “what was I thinking”, but again, for the woman who is acting from some place of real desperation, the answer will be “you don't know what it's like to be me and why I need to do this” – a subjective, not objective reasoning to be sure – but one that makes extinguishing behavior more difficult. Saying “you're greedy” – even if exhibited in action – will get a back to the corner response and more of the same. Again, trying to discover the positive intent behind the actions and then brainstorming positive ways to meet those “needs” might help circumvent a repeat next time.

  17. Debra, thank you so so very much. I always love when I wrote a post that connects with non-moms because the truth is, I was a non-mom for a whole lot longer than I've been a mom. I agree you should take the query as a compliment about your looks!

    Maris, Thank you so much – during that panel it became clear that bloggers who work with PR have a complete misunderstanding as to the relationship. It's causing conflicts between bloggers and PR, and bloggers and each other. Hm, another post I guess.

    Amy, I will only say Nikon actually wasn't a major snafu in the least. Indeed it reflected more poorly on the twittering moms than the brand.

    If you were invited to a wedding and showed up with your baby without having asked beforehand, and then were told that there were no babies allowed at the wedding, would you issue a campaign to destroy the reputation of the bride? Because that's what it seems happened.

    And by the way, the mom turned away apologized quite graciously. It was everyone else who grabbed their pitchforks and torches who need to follow suit.

  18. I wasn't able to attend BlogHer. I did try to follow on Twitter and BlogHer's website.

    I have found myself examining my own heart the last two days.

    I'm a special needs blogger. One of my goals is to get Brands to advertise directly to families of children with special needs.

    And to use children with special needs in their advertising, etc.

    I truly believe this kind of partnership welds powerful advocacy.

    There is such a gap of uncomfortabe between many towards those with special needs.

    Hearts are good, but the experience base is wobbly at best.

    I believe that if the world could see kids with special needs just being kids, wearing crocs, playing Nintendo, ……..just like their typically developing peers, that maybe society could see that kids with special needs are more like their kids than not.

    Kind of a way to build a bridge with shared interests.

    As such a niche blogger I have at times felt as though I needed to yell louder.

    But perhaps what I really need to do is write stronger.

    I'll tell you one thing though, I would have LOVED to have been on the panel with Pres. Obama's health care representative.

    If I regret missing anything it was that.

    Tammy and Parker
    @ParkerMama on Twitter

  19. Joset,

    You're a genius. Points all very well taken.

    And don't bring calamari in my room ever again.

  20. Very well said, Liz. I could not have been more impressed with the PR reps and marketers and made some great contacts.

    I was, however, embarrassed to be lumped in with the “mommy bloggers” who abused the system. My roommate Lotus got ATTACKED at her Room 704 party by greedy bloggers trying to snag up the swag bags.

    You are so correct–I DO care about what others are doing in the blogosphere because it reflects both positively and negatively on the rest of us.

  21. I loved Jozet's comment. I was with a friend who *loved* the swag. She wasn't obnoxious about it, but she admitted that times are tough, and she can really use some of the things that were offered. So there's that.

    I think, too, that we have to be careful about how what we read into people's accounts of what happened, because all of these accounts are colored by one's personal experience and perception. For example: this baby getting elbowed in the head story has gotten so much play, it would be easy, if you weren't actually witness to the event, to think that the entire conference was full of screaming, sweating women, knocking old people and children over to get a reusable Walmart bag. But the reality of the elbowed baby is way more complicated, even though explaining the whole thing in appropriate detail makes it lose its writerly punch (not that I am advocating baby elbowing or trying to minimize it).

    Same with the Nikon story. If you listen to everyone's accounts of what happened, there's a way in which you can see it as not nefarious and irresponsible on anyone's part. There is just so much misunderstanding swirling around about all of these things, because if you weren't actually standing there as a witness, you only have other people's memories and perceptions to base your judgments on, and those aren't necessarily always dispassionate renderings of events.

    This isn't directed so much at you, Liz, but at all of us who are reading and commenting without direct experience of the events. It's like this game of telephone, you know? You whisper “elbowed baby” into someone's ear and 400 people later, someone is asking what a “Vibrators for Jesus” is and how she can get one.

  22. Thank you Liz for your most eloquent words and sophisticated analysis. Sometimes I fancy myself highly analytical and a good writer and then I read your shit and I'm like, damn…

    As I told Liz the morning after, even though I've been blogging for 5.5 years, BlogHer09 made me want to quit blogging. My situation is kind of unique because I'm currently a blogger without a blog having sold Celebrity Baby Blog last year to and officially left the site after my year contract ran out so I don't have a blog to quit — more like I don't feel like starting all over again.

    The blogging world has changed in the last five years with the barrier to entry really changing everything. It used to be that I would talk to companies at tradeshows and they would look at me puzzled and almost accusatory about why I might want their marketing/publicity person's business card (um, because I think you have an awesome product and want to write about it. for free! no strings attached!) and at BlogHer09, companies were here by the dozens, throwing flash drives and coupons and samples at anyone who walked by.

    The blog world has changed in that I feel like creating a new blog will put me on the same level as the women who are starting new blogs with the entitlement of A-listers but without the savvy, traffic or professionalism of the women who have been in the trenches for years OR at least the relatively new bloggers who have figured it out quickly.

    I loved meeting the bloggers I've heard my friends mention for years and look forward to seeing them at the parties at BlogHer10 in NYC and of course reading their blogs now that I have a lot more leisure time (at least until baby boy is old enough to leave with a nanny when I rejoin the workforce) but my original thought about consulting with brands and bloggers is making me wonder… do I want to commit to working with a community who behave as if it's every (wo)man for themselves, who feel entitled to swag because everyone else is getting it, whose receiving expensive samples and marketing will never have the desired effect because their blogs are little more than an excuse to get free shit, who are embarrassing the writers of BlogHer by the association?

    Ugh. I'm glad I have the next 7 or so months to figure it out and watch this space and see if things change or if it's going to be more of the same or worse.

  23. I never read your blog until I followed a link from the PR blackout thing. I love it. You always seems to hit the nail on the head and tell it like it is.

    When I worked as a special events coordinator, goody bags, swag bags made our events better and were expected. It also gave the sponsors an opportunity to get the word out and possibly show off their products. But it was always a perk because the real reason people were coming to our events was becuase they supported our organization. Just as the real reason people should be going toany blogger conference is to learn about blogging.

    Hell I love free stuff but I draw the line of elbowing babies.

  24. I believe in authentic marketing. To me that means starting a conversation with someone because you believe they'll enjoy what you do as much as you. I do it for a living, and as a marketer I see the importance of blogging as much as I know its importance as a blogger. But, my god, integrity goes both ways. If bloggers want to be approached genuinely and treated like human beings and not easy advertising, then we all need to act like grown adults with no confusion what we want to stand for.

    I couldn't be there this year but am thrilled to go next year. It's awesome to make connections with people from all walks of life, whether they have a new product I may love or a story about their kids that'll change my day.

    It should start and end with the desire to improve our lives and our relationships with people. And then to share those lives and relationships with the world. Hey, lives include great products, no matter how we come about discovering them. Lying and pushing and showing in order to get to those products and to get them for free, yeah, that's where it gets gross.

    What I really want to know though: How on earth were all these people so excited about the free stuff, when they still had to pay the luggage fees on their way home?

  25. Liz-

    As a pioneer in the mommy blogging universe, it's only fitting that you're at the reigns of this worthwhile call to action along with the best and the brightest in blogs. I will gladly spread the word to my community and my media peeps about this groundbreaking initiative.

  26. Liz, it was great to meet you this weekend. I'm so impressed with your eloquence on the topic. I feel similarly, and wrote about it on my blog (something of a departure for me, but I feel strongly about it). You are a powerful voice of reason and maturity in this community. Keep it up.

  27. I am guilty on two fronts. I gave things away in the lobby, but I hope I did so without intruding on people's good time.

    And I literally lunched on the expo floor. I was so happy to see fresh fruit that I couldn't stay away from the Kiwi Fruit booth.

    Sorry if folks seemed amateurish to you. I thought they were brave and lovely, and trying something new.

  28. I am so glad you ended your post the way you did. I have read so many of these types of posts and, while I agree that there was plenty of shameful behavior, it simply didn't color my experience the way it did other bloggers. If my children ever nap, I'll blog about that, but for now I just want to say… yeah, there was bad, but there was oh-so-much more good. Let's not let the actions of the few bring us down, or convince others they shouldn't attend. Oh, and by the way, I loved the swag (although I don't think I elbowed anyone to get it).

  29. Jessica, I love people handing things out! The Kirtsy girls handed out chocolate bars, some personal bloggers handed out homebaked cookies, Pepsi handed out soda – all fabulous. But I think there's a right and wrong way to engage, particularly when you're working on behalf of a sponsor who's paying you, and therefore your behaviors reflect on them. My guess is you did it right.

  30. This was my first year at BlogHer. It was an absolutely incredible experience in ways I didn't expect. I've returned excited and inspired about blogging! There's so much I can't wait to do! Still, I was also disappointed with some of what I had seen.

    I will admit, I picked up my fair share of swag. And I was pretty jazzed about some of the items I'd get to take home and share with my family. That said, I didn't grab up things I wasn't going to use. It wasn't about getting stuff for the sake of getting stuff. However, there were some parties I'd attended that had made it a point to tell us in their invitation that there'd be lots of swag. And I think when your message is, “Come to our party and get great free stuff!” that's what people are going to do. I thought the expo floor was very well done and some of the friendliest and most interesting people I'd met turned out to be marketers.

    In years past, when the post-BlogHer posts would pop up and I'd read about controversy specifically with the mommybloggers, I couldn't understand it. What's wrong with mommybloggers? Now, I guess I get it. I've been thinking a lot about it. It seems to me that a person's motivation for blogging seems to have something to do with the way they behave in a situation like BlogHer. Some people blog to escape their lives and see BlogHer as an opportunity to get away from everyday responsibilties, and I think maybe some go too far and abandon all personal responsibility, too. The people I met that seem to see blogging as a way to enhance their lives (rather than escape it) were ones that I perceived to behave in a more acceptable way.

    I'm so glad I went to BlogHer. I enjoyed it, (including your panel. I was there!). I learned SO MUCH, even from the less attractive aspects. There was something to gain.

  31. In a way, I think this is just the latest milestone in the growth of this community. It's now big enough to have shameless sacks of, well, you know. There are so many great people and topics in the community, but it's inevitable that the seedy side of the community would jump out. I'll be very curious to see the reaction from the ranks of flackitude.

    Frankly I'm wondering if there will be backlash that goes too far now. But the community will find equilibrium at some point, I'm sure.

    great post.

  32. I am so fascinated by the post mortems I'm reading and I always come to your blog to get the most level-headed, honest take on any given blog-related situation. This post is no exception.

    Marketing? PR? Swag? Expo? I feel sick. Why aren't I hearing more words like: Community. Friendship. Personal Connections (of the non-business persuasion)?

    One needs only go back a year to post- BlogHer08 posts to see that those were the catch phrases, not to mention a lot of drunken antics.

    Even the panel that you sat on is year seems dramatically different than your involvement in years past. I'm glad your voice of sanity and experience was heard, but maybe you're right. Maybe we all need to be more concerned about giving away our stories and experiences, not detergent.

  33. Though swag can be fun, it totally took away from the experience this year. My children were thrilled with the potato head and the notepads and lollipops, but that really wasn't the reason I went. I went to learn, and am pretty disillusioned at what I came away with.

    I loved meeting friends and making new ones, but over all have a bit of a bad taste in my mouth. The search for swag, the popularity contests… I don't want to write a negative post, but am having trouble coming up with a sunshiny, happy one. And that is telling.

    It was, however, truly a joy to meet you. 🙂

  34. I wish hugs could be packaged, shipped home on FedEx and opened when we really needed one.
    Just as fresh as when they were packaged away.

  35. Thank you for this post.
    Sometimes I feel like I straddle the fence because I blog about marketing with women and at the same time I find myself counseling brands about dipping their toes in the blog world. I'm relieved to see that the marketers were well behaved! I was a little nervous when I saw how branded up things had gotten and I feel like it could have gone either way. Thanks for making me feel like I was there (and for making me feel okay with missing it)

  36. I keep reading about that poor baby and the shameful way some bloggers acted. Such a disgrace and honestly, for someone who has yet to get to BloHer, it makes me question whether or not I want to witness that.

    I hope those at fault take to heart some of the posts, like yours, and behave next year.

  37. VERY well said. It was simply insane and I was dumbfounded at the “carnival” attitude. The lines, the elbows, the cutting looks.

    I found I almost got sucked in. I took a moment to step back. To look. I saw what was happening… sure it was neat to receive fun free things… but as I watched the sharks circle the bloody carcasses of swag I thought… “I didn't come here for stuff!”

    I went for relationship. To meet women I adore. To meet new women (and men) to adore. I went to learn and I went to find more joy in a personal passion that has been growing in leaps and bounds.

    I gladly accepted the dryer bar at Bounce, because I love the smell of Bounce. I also begged them to make a room spray. Really, I LOVE the smell of Bounce:) I hung out at Pepsi cuz the Izze drink rocks. I went to Picnik cuz I hoped I'd get an extension on my premium subscription and I am a Picnik whore because I cannot use Photoshop cuz I don't have them skillz.

    So, I did partake, but… I filled most of my time talking. Instead of using break time to rush to find more free stuff… I hung out and talked… Instead of skipping session to find this room or that room… I stayed and listened. And learned.

    I paid to go to BlogHer to meet and to learn and to be silly with my “online friends”, spray glitter, to touch the real skin of people I never see, but adore as much as an IRL friend I have ever had.

    Thank you for writing this… and for writing it so well. I met many people who shared your same perspective, and I love reading through the comments. It's encouraging to know not everyone was there to be a shark. It was hard to see through the frezy.

  38. Liz, excellent post!!! As always your words invite us to step back and look at the situation through a different(and more reasonable)lens.

    This was my 4th year at BlogHer as both a sponsor and attendee and I've seen enormous changes. But what hasn't changed is the amazing women who I have met over the years and those I met at this BlogHer. I'm so glad we have a chance to visit. You're a rock star!

  39. A well-thought, well-put post. I felt a little of this negative vibe, not as specific as what is outlined here, but I didn't go to all of the parties and took much needed breaks every now and then to feel the sunshine outside.

    It did creep up on me as I listened to the beautiful souls on the International Activist panel though. I thought, here are women making amazing changes in the world, and in the halls are swarms of women wasting energy on which party is going to have the best swag or handing out business cards to every stranger they pass.

    Maybe the trick next year will be to better balance the commercial with the sorts of panels that set your skin on fire and make you want to go home and write, create & make change in the world.


  40. I'm looking forward to going to my first BlogHer next year in NYC, even though I've read some pretty horrible stories about it! First of all, I don't want free laundry detergent or stickers, because seeing as it will be in NYC, I'll need room in my suitcase for new purchases, like maybe a new purse!
    I want to go to BlogHer so I can meet in person amazing bloggers (like you) that I have been reading for a few years. I want to sit on panels and listen to discussions and yes, have a good time with some wine at some parties.
    Also, I'm not a blogger who has ever done a giveaway, except a few months ago I had my own giveaway – I gave away a 30 dollars Coach gift card that I bought myself to one of my readers as a thank you for well, being so great at blogging, at being supportive, etc.
    You know what would really depress me? Being excited to meet a blogger I admire and whose blog I loved, only to be treated badly and ignored. I know this has happened to some people, and they're nice and won't say who was mean, but I have a feeling if this happened to me – they'd be exposed! 😉 Even though I'm just little me…

  41. Sounds like an experience! I was wondering what the conference was like, being new to the blogging and all. I joined blogher about two months ago (about the same time I started my blog) and have been hearing about the conference ever since.

    I didn't even realize,until after I started blogging, that people use their blogs as a way to get free things.

  42. @Mom101 my guess is that I did it wrong… 🙂 I interrupted and whatnot, but my gifties were so friggin cute that no one would care.

    Should I go for the queen of tackiness and name them now?

    but more importantly, have you seen this???

    (feel free to delete this comment if you feel like it takes you off topic)

  43. I read Steph's post over the weekend and it made me glad I wasn't there. Of course, I'd love to see everyone and learn new things in the sessions.

    I'm on the fence about NY and honestly, I know you didn't intend this, but this post makes me hesitate. This year I considered attending a writer's conference instead of BlogHer(are there any real writing sessions at BlogHer, that aren't about 'content to attract comments/sponsors/subscribers'?) because to me, that's what matters ultimately. That and relationships. I mean if someone wants to give me free shoes I'll be delighted, but I'm not standing in line or fighting anyone else for them.

  44. One more thing. This is my 4th BlogHer. At earlier cons. L,E,J always made it a point to remind those of us attending to WRITE AND THANK THE SPONSORS for supporting us – and making the conference affordable.

    Wonder of those fighting/craving swag this past weekend will take the time to express their appreciation to the sponsors? Personally, I thanks a number of them in person. But those sponsors that were not present WILL get a note from me thanking them for their support. Thankfully for me, my list is fairly short.

    Wonder if some of those rabid swag-hags will even consider what gifts they got and be thankful.

  45. Excellent post and the comments are so insightful. I had a conversation with a friend that mirrored Jozet's. I've been struggling with whether I will finish the post I started writing at BlogHer about my experince. I thought maybe since this was my first conference I could be misinterpreting or making an incorrect assumption. I don't want what I'm feeling to seem like a knock against the BlogHer team, because I think they did a great job. I feel like I need a little more time to process (as Mommy Melee said) before I write so my post comes out the “right” way.

  46. I think SquareGirl has hit the nail on the head: “Maybe the trick next year will be to better balance the commercial with the sorts of panels that set your skin on fire and make you want to go home and write, create & make change in the world.”

    I too was at the International Activist panel, and it was such a powerful experience. The things these women are posting about make all those “struggles” over free gifts look shocking and truly shallow.

    I posted about it on my blog yesterday. I'm definitely going to volunteer next year if there's a way to encourage organizers to provide more of the substantive and non-commercial offerings that really make a difference in the world.

  47. Very well said. I must admit I was somewhat insulated by the negativity partly because I spent my time with a camera in my hand taking pictures of people having fun.

    This was our first BlogHer conference, and as regular attendees, we were torn about how to represent ourselves appropriately. In the end we opted for very low profile and only brought business cards. We even sponsored one of the bloggers mentioned in this post whom we feel represented us very well by her discretion. Thanks Stephanie!!!

    I made many great friends and finally met so many whom I only knew through Twitter or e-mail. For that, the investment in the conference more than paid for itself many times over.

  48. I'm not worried about the marketers at all. This was all a cheap win for them. I wish they and bloggers would have silenced the tweeter expo calls during the community keynote, but I know I don't have the right to wish for that. The pictures in my head of bloggers in circle swags– swagging each other and taking pix for sponsors–made me shake my head.

  49. I'm glad I was there. And it's kind of fascinating to read the many different perspectives that I'm seeing today. For me, it was about the people. I missed most of that nonsense, or was just oblivious. Because there were my people to talk to, to hug, to revel with.

  50. I so wanted to go to BlogHer09 but must say after reading this and hearing from others… I'm glad I did not attend. Because I have been upset with the way “mommy” bloggers have been portrayed lately, so this would have just sent me over the edge. 😉

    I refuse to let a few “bad apples” ruin the name of mommy bloggers. There are by far more great moms who blog with integrity each and every day.

  51. People, I took home a seriously sweet pork-themed mouse pad. And I'm going to build a robot out of thumb drives. The robot will serve me drinks and tell me all about the benefits of Michelin.

    On a non-stupid note, I think next year's BlogHer should have an emphasis on blogger-PR relations and additional panels on writing and creativity, in the vein of Dooblehvay and Neilochka's panel on Saturday. That was the real meat of the conference for me. That and pork. The other white meat, according to my new mouse pad.

  52. I want to be clear that my post wasn't merely about swag. I actually have no issue with free items per se. It's just that they seemed to have overtaken the actual purpose of the conference. @jessicagottlieb that's probably my actual issue with the way some people were handing things out. If someone recognizes that most of us aren't there for a chance to win a prize but for the conversation, then it's unlikely that they'd interrupt one of those conversations to talk about the chance to win a prize.

    As I listed, there were a lot of incidents that I thought were pretty gross, plenty from those who should know better. It wasn't all about greed. Some of it was just about selfishness or lack of common decency.

  53. FYI, Amy's baby was not the only one shoved in the head over swag. The woman next to me at a lobby party also had her baby — held very close to her, in a sling — bumped in the head, right after the bumper bumped me in the arm.

    We were so upset by that, several of us left on the spot.

  54. This was my first Blogher, and I was awestruck at the greed and downright meanness of some of the women I encountered over swag. I was happy to get what I got, and that did not include the luxury swag bags at a couple of parties.

    I attend professional conferences several times a year, and never in my life have I seen anything like this — outside of the Wal-Mart rush for the “it” toy at Christmas.

    I am unsponsored. I do not have PR people contacting me to pimp their clients' products. I almost wished there was a Tivo-like fast forward available so I could skip through the commercials.

    For me, Blogher was a mixed bag. I'm still gathering my thoughts about how to describe it. But the swag hags–i know exactly how I feel about them.

  55. Wow.

    I wasn't at BlogHer. I'm pretty new to this racket and wasn't ready for this conference this year. I haven't put myself in a 'class' of bloggers yet. I'm not really a writter. I'm a mother, but I really don't write about my family too much. I mostly write about myself. I write for myself. If I were to group myself somewhere though,it probably would be with the Mommy Bloggers.

    I'm really excited that I'm going to BlogHer 2010. I'm looking forward to learning, sharing and meeting people that I admire; especially the one's who are becoming friends.

    I have worked in the Trade Show field since 1996 and inevitably at any show (be it trade only or public) someone or a group of people become idiots about the free stuff. A pen, a gadget, a sponsored cocktail party… it doesn't matter, there's always someone spoiling things and missing the point.

    I don't abhor “swag” of sponsored events. It's a core piece of PR for these events and their sponsors and exhibitors. I agree it shouldn't be a focus. I hope that in 2010, cooler more mature heads will prevail and see that a bunch of free 'stuff' is great, but real value is in making connections and gaining enrichment.

    I also hope that I won't be sneered at for being a mother who blogs.

  56. It was so nice to meet you at the conference. This was my first Blogher. I missed previous conferences due to pregnancy and then nursing.

    I started blogging in early 2007 to raise money for charity after a friend had a baby with a heart defect. We've been able to donate thousands of dollars in ad review to charity and also many carloads full of toys and other products. We were never in it for the stuff, the swag or the ad revenue. And we do disclose on our blog when we get something.

    But at the conference, I kept hearing about the PR Blackout, blog monetization and tales from marketers about how pushy people are for samples…and it made me sad.

    I was so excited to meet many of the “A” list bloggers since I've read and admired their writing for years. Most were wonderful. Some were cold, and I got the sense that they didn't respect bloggers who wrote about products as opposed to personal issues. The issues that you list in your post have contributed to the perception that mommy bloggers are just out for free stuff. While that may be true for some, I don't think it applies to the community as a whole.

  57. Not only was BlogHer a mixed bag, as Lynn says, sponsorship itself is a mixed bag. Corporate sponsors are clearly vital for supplying funds to get the event going, but their presence can bring out the worst in some people. Sponsors are like booze – good to get the party going, but some people just can't handle their liquor.

    But why did BlogHer invite the Baby Elbowers Guild anyway? Those people get paid by the baby. That's just asking for trouble.

  58. Ah, thank you for summarizing so much of what is in my brain post BlogHer. Although I feel differently about the Nikon party thing, mostly because I know the mom that initially tweeted what she hoped would be a joke did NOT want to start the firestorm that happened. But as I process I'm realizing it wasn't the big sponsors that bothered me, it was the non-BlogHer selling that got to me. Thank you.

  59. @palinode the Baby Elbowers Guide has a very very strong union. It's hard to exclude them right now with all sorts of lawsuits and complications.

    (And you're brilliant.)

  60. @Cecily, I agree, the orig Nikon mom is a sweetheart and a class act and it was the subsequent pile-on that ensued that upset me. It's hard to tell marketers to take us seriously when we behave like the mean girls in the high school bathroom.

  61. I wrote a very similar post, (but yours is a 100% better) and I could agree more. This was my first blogher and I was very dissapointed in the commercial nature of it.


    I see a button there.

  62. Liz it was heartbreaking for me not to be there this year and it sounds like it was a milestone in many ways. Anything that grows has glitches – they call it growing pains and it's so impressive that you all are working to get past it so quickly. We are a wonderful tribe and nobody can change that.

    All love from London where all the ladies are in black leggings and funny-looking tops.

    Miss you all

    New York next year – how cool is that?

  63. You've become my “go-to” woman on this topic. Thank you for another balanced and insightful post on the mom blogger/marketing phenomenon.

  64. I, too, am very glad I was there, and I'm glad also for the conversation you and I were able to have at the cocktail party. I am going to take your advice and consider how to take those ideas and make a session next year to actually talk about building new communities instead of tearing down pre-existing ones. As for the rest of it, I'm hoping that bloggers will find a way to work well with marketers and PR folks, so that we can all remember that it CAN work, if we keep the right attitude.

  65. I read your post (and all the comments–whew!) and other after BlogHer posts with great interest. I have two “little” blogs and write for the DC Metro Moms but don't have any sort of ads on my own blogs at all. I've been trying to figure out why I didn't feel like I had a place at BlogHer.

    I'm not looking for the latest SEO tip or ad network tip, etc. BUT, I do love meeting other bloggers and love learning how I can do my own thing even better.

    So, maybe I should have gone (should go next year) and maybe if more bloggers like me–who just want to write well and connect–feel like we have a place at BlogHer then it might balance things out just a bit.

    I do hope you'll write more about the great things that happened at BlogHer–I'd love to hear it!

  66. I have never seen such well thought out (and long) comments. It warms my heart.

    You always get it so right, and I'm glad I was brave enough to talk to you. Totally worth it.

    I honestly feel that the most valuable thing I can get from a company is not their stuff, but the ability to be heard by them. I want to be able to tell them what I think they are doing well, and what they need to work on. In return I am willing to hear what they have to say and see what they have done. I want my opinion to count and not be marginalized like it has for so long. Isn't that what we have been working for all along?

  67. i wasn't there, but i suspect the actions of a few tainted the water for many. and that's a shame. hopefully those people will learn and this won't be an issue again.

  68. As one of the sponsors of the conference and as a corporate representative in the world of blogging, I just wanted to say thank you for this post. I appreciate the counsel you offered.

    I agree with David when he says that eventually a good equilibrium will be reached — both by marketers and by bloggers & conference organizers.

    Again, love your post.

    Christopher from GM

  69. This was my first BlogHer; I've only been blogging for 16 months or so. I have no idea how to sort out my very ambivalent reactions to most of the conference, but I wanted to chime in with squaregirl and expateek that the International Activist panel was for me the highlight of the sessions (also, what a coincidence that 3 of the 14 people who were at that session have commented on this post!) I don't have ads or PR or sponsors (or, hell, readers, for that matter) so much of the rest of the conference was me trying to overcome social anxiety and just engage with other people (note: I failed at this but I don't blame anyone but myself) and maybe find new writers to read. It wasn't anything like I thought it would be, but I'm still glad I went (and behaved myself. No baby-elbowing for me. Although I did see a few I wanted to om nom nom.)

  70. I was happy to have met you, however briefly and this was a great post.

    The Nikon thing was ridiculous – most of the other stuff you speak of wasn't all that obvious to me though I think it was because I met a concerted effort to stay in the shadows a little this year.

    All of the grasping and striving to reach the top of the mommy blogger pile seemed particularly repulsive to me this year.

  71. Interesting. I've read quite a few posts that were pretty much only about the swag, and I wonder, if I go next year, could I make it home swag-free?

    I just think it's kind of gross that companies like McDonalds and Pepsi sponsor a women's conference – companies whose products directly correlate with some serious women's health and environmental issues – and are embraced so totally when they give out free shit.

  72. Karen in defense of the sponsors, PepsiCo was there (we're using the common term Pepsi) to promote products like Trop50 which is 50% less sugar and new healthy products from Quaker. I didn't find it to be a disconnect at all. I didn't spend time at the McDonald's booth but it seemed they were promoting lower calorie menu options and healthier choices for kids like Apple Dippers.

  73. David thank you so much for your comment. It's much appreciated. I think we're all muddling through this new relationship together and I hope that by putting our heads together we can find what works best for all of us. Email any time if you want to further discuss.

  74. in all honesty, i'm not surprised. at last years blogher i noticed a HUGE influx of “bloggers” who started blogging with the SOLE PURPOSE to getting free stuff. i mean, they admitted that that was why they started. to make some money and get lots of free things. and htey are getting free things- and the moment i start to get envious at all the fucking free trips and vacations and shit they're getting, i remind myself that that was NEVER EVER the reason i started blogging in the first place.

    but it sure is ruining the whole fucking thing if you ask me.

  75. Excellent post. This was my first Blogher and I did meet so many great people (unfortunately, I never met up with you). However, I did occasionally get a sick feeling in my stomach.

    Fortunately, I was usually able to dismiss those feelings by avoiding the swag lines and spending that time meeting new people.

    I did hand out things as well (I was my own sponsor) for two reasons: I thought it would be nice to give people something (if they wanted it and only 2 out of 200 didn't) and I thought it was a quick way to introduce my company. It is a very fine line between marketing and annoying and it often goes back to whether the “victim” likes the product or not.

    And I gave my “swag” to the exhibitors as well as attendees as a sign of my appreciation for what they were doing. (I mean, I drank Diet Pepsi all weekend and I'm really a die hard Diet Coke fan- but Pepsi was there and Coke wasn't!)

    So, I also left with mixed emotions, but all in all am letting the great people I met override the negative. It may be Pollyanna-ish, but I'll just ignore the yucky part.

    At BlogHer10, bicycle helmets for the children might be great swag.

  76. Great post! Although I missed BlogHer I am looking forward to it next year.

    I've been blogging for about 5 years now, only 3 of which I've been a mom. Before that, I never even knew bloggers got free stuff. I just blogged because I had a story to share that people seemed interested in hearing.

    Anyway, I also love your 9 Tips…I've been saying for a while that someone needs to do this. It is great to provide solid guidance to people who are starting review blogs.

    One thing I will say about the Nikon issue is that there were VERY FEW mom bloggers tweeting in earnest with that hastag. So, I'm not sure that there was ever a mob with pitchforks–but perhaps that was due in part to Kristen's swift intervention and the primary party's quick apology for using an inflammatory tag?

    @Jozet at Halushki Thank you for an important reminder that our issues may not be the same as another blogger's. That is a very sympathetic way to look at others' actions. I aspire to that standard of compassion although I confess I fall short.

  77. @Candace I'd look forward to meeting you next year!

    I will say while it may have been a small number of people using the hashtag, those tweets led to posts and press inquiries (I was asked to give two interviews about it by the next day) and a crisis call from an earnest and talented young PR rep to her client.

    I don't think we can overstate the power we have, and our obligation to wield it responsibly.

  78. First, I'm glad I got to meet your briefly on Saturday at the cocktail party.

    I don't know if it is because I work in marketing and public relations or not, but I didn't feel overwhelmed by sponsors. Yes they were everywhere and we had a trade show at BlogHer, but like you said, it's so we can continue to pay $300 to attend a conference that is bigger and bigger every year.

    I loved having the expo this year. I enjoyed talking to the vendors (again maybe because I'm in marketing and was working a show just two weeks ago). It was nice to get free things! Who doesn't love free things? But that doesn't make my conference good or bad. I go for the people.

    The fighting over swag and the shameless greediness was sad and disappointing. And I'm kind of glad I didn't witness it first hand.

    Because honestly people, most of that swag that you elbowed babies for went into the trash.

  79. I couldn't agree with you more. I'm just so sad that I didn't get to meet you.

    I was one who was left with swag after a few didn't fulfill their obligations that they were being sponsored to do. Shameful. In saying that I was left carrying a lot of it around in search for the sponsored people and on numerous occasions was approached by people wondering if they could have a bag.

    Thankfully I missed the beginning of most parties so didn't have to endure the swag hogs either. I would much rather have a quiet dinner with a few new friends that jump over others in order to get the good stuff. Oh and I'd like to add that those people who only turned up to parties to obtain swag and then hightailed it out of there were also pretty shameful. That's not to say that I didn't enjoy the swag I did get. My kids absolutely loved the things I brought home for them.

    As for the resulting tweets from the 'offsite' party that you are referring to. That party was amazing. I was honored just to be invited … and no, I didn't get a free camera and I'm okay with that.

    I am also very thankful that I didn't witness any of the drama that I've since heard about.

    BlogHer should not have just been about parties and swag. The panels I attended were fabulous and a wealth of information, as were the classes in the geek lab. I feel like I came out of BlogHer learning so much and hope to be able to pass that on to those who were not able to attend. Not to forget the amazing new friends I have made.

  80. Unfortunately, I think that no matter what kind of conference with that many people, those folks are always going to be there. They're rude in every aspect of life. I was raised to vacate my seat if there was an elderly, disabled, pregnant person standing. Some were not and that's a shame.

    That said, I only approached the tables of the companies I was genuinely interested in. When I neared the Bounce display, the woman there blocked me, physically, and informed me that if I was staying at the hotel, I would receive the free sample in my room. I simply wanted to see what it was. I guess that was a testament to how people had been behaving prior to my arrival. I left with very little in the way of products and a whole lot of new friendships, contacts and good feelings about the conference, in general.

    I will review products ONLY if I can write a post that fits the rest of my blog. It's not often, but when I do, it's genuine. I see too many people throwing a hundred links and pictures in their posts and if I wanted to be bombarded with advertisements, I'd watch television.

    I have no idea where this discombobulated comment is going, so I'll just say “ditto!”

  81. Here from Chris's site. I'm totally ignorant about all this blogher stuff but after reading Chris's entry and the others she felt were well written I have to say that I'm glad I came here because I do think that the focus needs to be on how to get it right and I'm glad you are glad you went.

    Cheers for all the readers who know why it is we read… the writing!

  82. Liz, what an amazing post, thank you.

    I think you all are having a really important conversation here and I'd like to make sure as many people as possible see it. One of the challenges that Elisa, Jory and I have each summer is providing an archive of community feedback. Would you all, if you write a BlogHer '09 round-up post, please link it here:

    Thank you! Now digging back into this terrific discussion…

  83. I’ve been writing my blog for a little over a year now and with my modest little following didn’t feel it made financial sense to attend. When I heard blogher ’10 would be in New York, I did me a Snoopy Dance because I can drive there. At the same time I’m petrified. Would I, could I, have the balls to go alone?

    In my mind I would be packing a bag and headed there to hopefully hear some great speakers, learn way to better my site, and meet some people like my self whose company I could enjoy. From the pictures, the tweets, Flickr, Facebook, and the many posts about last weekend, it sounded more like a crazy party/marketing extravaganza than what I thought would be a networking seminar.

    What I’m getting from a lot of the comments here, is that the fabulous women (in all sincerity, many wonderful writers) who have been doing this since it wasn’t the cool thing to do, are becoming tainted. Anyone can go to this conference. It is a blessing in that it is a celebration of the right to express your self, to learn, and to share in this vast community that we call the blogosphere. It is also, it would seem, becoming a bear; bigger than ever and at the same time a shadow of its former self.

    What makes me sad is I feel like I’m too late. That maybe someone like myself who is just starting out, but loving every single minute of it, has no real place at an event like this. It almost makes me forget that the reason I began writing was in and of itself. Regardless, I crave the exchange and the sharing, and I feel like the kid sister who wants so very badly to follow her older sisters around, but is just so totally un-cool. As much as I want to go next year, I’m really starting to wonder if it's even worth it.

  84. Yes, yes and yes. I was lucky enough to win a Wii Fit (Woo!) and get the GAP jeans, but other than that I brought home three Mr. Potato heads from the BlogHer registration bag (To friends gave them to me so each of my kids could have one).

    I was there to hug my friends and see the city a little. As were all of those that I spent my time with. Overhearing conversations of others honestly made me cringe.

    Thanks for writing this, Liz. It was great to meet you, too.

  85. i was both awed and disappointed at the same time.
    i couldn't believe the behavior. i'm not going to go into it, i already posted about it on my blog…
    but…i still loved it. because i got to finally meet my friends. i made new friends. and that was the part of blogher that really is what i expected. not the stupid crap.
    excellent post as it seems i'm starting to expect from you every time i come here!!

  86. @mometal You just said in three paragraphs what I tried to say in about a million! Except for the very last one…of course you're not too late.

    One of the things I've noticed over four years is that the brilliant ladies of BlogHer take feedback seriously and no doubt there will be changes to guarantee some of the problems go away and that what's wonderful remains.

  87. Mom et al – you are never too late. There's always room in the conversation for good voices with stories to tell. A love of writing and storytelling will always come through, and will make you a welcome part of the community. You have a place in all of this.

    I should back off and watch the rest of the conversation evolve now, but was touched by your comment and wanted to respond.

  88. I probably shouldn't comment here. I have never attended BlogHer. I sometimes make fun of BlogHer. I write an ad-free blog that has the sole purpose of entertaining me and the few people who read it…no matter how quaint that purpose seems these days. So BlogHer isn't intended for me. Nevertheless, I love to read the write-ups.

    So I shouldn't comment. But I will, because this line, “Let me just say there's a reason A-list celebrities aren't the ones lining up for free swag at the Golden Globes Boom Boom Room every year. It's not Angelina Jolie, it's Mrs. Scott Baio” kind of hit me in the face.

    So did some of the language on the blogs you linked to. It went something like this:

    “WE certainly didn't act that way, because WE know how to behave.”

    “I don't know why those women were so greedy. Maybe they are poor and therefore don't know how to behave?”

    I think one of the great tragedies of blogging is that it convinces middle- to upper-class women that their reality is the only worthy reality. And I think that classist statements such as these just heighten the problem. I'm sure people's actions were shocking, and disappointing, and unprofessional. But to constantly couch your objections in these “Us vs. THOSE PEOPLE” terms seems no more helpful. I'm sorry people didn't act the way you would like, but that doesn't mean they are D-list or poor or uneducated. It means that they are rude. You can't make any other judgment than that.

    Sorry, but the blue collar girl in me is sensitive to these issues. I have a hard time letting them fly by unchecked.

  89. Great post! I was NOT at '09, but have already bought my ticket for BlogHer '10. My goal is NOT to get free stuff – my goals are to meet some of these wonderful folks I have made friends with online – which includes some of the PR folks and also to learn more about all of the blogging universe. I do hope I get some sponsors to help cover my expenses from a company that fits me and that I fit for them – and I don't want to just be a hand-out person for them.

  90. This was my first BlogHer and I knew I'd get out of it what I put into it. I was excited to meet people, hear their stories in their own words and attend some sessions. I got that but at times found myself overwhelmed by the negativity.

    As public librarian I am used to seeing people hip check each other on their way to the computers or latest DVDs, but I didn't expect it from grown woman seeking a cheap plastic trinket or a chance to enter a drawing. But what did it matter because at several booths, vendors cut the conversation off once they learned I wasn't a mom blogger, which apparently means I don't eat, clean, shop or I have nieces or nephews?!

  91. Alias Mother , I'm not sure where you think I'm saying that is a class or an economic or an us-v-them issue. It's an issue of common decency (as you said – rude) and I won't apologize for believing there are people in this world who just don't Play Well With Others.

    Please re-read my A-list reference carefully. What I said is that there are posts misinforming bloggers that the definition of so-called A-list blogger status is the ability to get stuff. And so people try and achieve that by even rude and unethical means which brings us to some of the uncomfortable things I saw this weekend.

    Trust me, some of the people I saw behaving badly have plenty of money.

  92. Andi, that's just gross.

    Those marketers need a lesson in talking to ALL their customers equally.

  93. Our sponsors for the 3 parties I co-hosted were accommodating and generous. We were respectful and appreciative in return. After all, they were giving us MONEY to have a PARTY with our FRIENDS. Those of us who blog for the community appreciate that because after all, that's why we're there: for the friendships.

    For me, the heart of your post was here: “In fact, I would challenge marketers to start thinking good and hard about who they work with and the return they'll actually get on their investment.”


  94. @AliasMother: As someone who attended Blogher with an overdrawn checking account, I can assure you my behavior with my fellow attendees and with sponsors had nothing to do with societal class and everything to do with my dignity.

  95. Very well said! I started thinking about my relationship with sponsors when I met you in Las Vegas in March, and I solidified in my mind where I stand during your panel at BlogHer. So thanks for sharing your wisdom with the rest of us.

    I'm still sad about all the ugliness I saw amongst the bloggers at the conference. But I was impressed with the marketers. I had a good time wandering the expo and finding out about the different companies and what they're doing. It was nice to be able to approach them when I wanted to, rather than having to deal with being approached with an onslaught of “Dear Blogger” emails.

    Hopefully we will learn from this year's conference and next year's will be even better.

  96. I was thinking this same thing…I wonder if this whole thing will be done in a year? Will marekters stop hawking their goods at bloggers? Will it just dry up soon? I think blogging, mommy blogging & companies reaching out to them is so new that no one really knows the best way to do it.

    Anyway, great post. Thank you having a positive attitude about the PR people AND the blogosphere.


  97. Mmmm….yeah. We are misunderstanding each other. My point isn't that there was a class difference. There wasn't. What there is is language being used that tries to make it sound like there is. It's not just you; all of the posts I've read seem to use this language. The feeling being given is that the grabby women were uneducated and desperate for cash, while the “well-behaved” women were higher class.

    Just an observation. Like I said, I shouldn't have commented.

  98. I admit reading many of these posts I was a little glad I was not there, but I'm probably just making myself feel better 🙂 I'll still call myself a mommy blogger since my blog is “because I don't scrapbook” and love showing off my kids – I may change the title of my blog.

    I wonder how many people have been to other conferences. At college career fairs for example the freshman come out the last hour purely in search of swag – annoying but expected, and sometimes we're eager to give it away at that point so we don't have to mail it back, but also want to get out of there. I've done the same at semiconductor conferences, to grab a few stuffed toys for my kids, but there isn't a lot there, especially in this recession. Young engineers do the same thing, so mommy bloggers may be in good company there. I don't have a lot of tradeshow experience, but at Semicon the technical seminars are kept very separate from the tradeshow part.

    I think it's hard when you know someone else got something expensive, or you've never gotten free stuff so you really want that free pen or t-shirt.

  99. Alias mother, I'm glad you commented! Don't apologize. I just want to clarify that I don't think this is a class issue and I apologize if I've used any language that would lead you to believe that it is.

  100. Amazing Liz. AMAZING.

    I'm deeply saddened to read about the behaviour of some of the attendees, and as a participant at many of the parties, I was shocked to witness, first hand, the behaviour of many of the women there. Jaw hit-the-floor shocked.

    And the class issue? I think that's just ludicrous. There were many many women of considerably different 'social standing' which is – by far – not an excuse to behave in such a greedy and self-absorbed manner.

    As Lena said,

    “I can assure you my behavior with my fellow attendees and with sponsors had nothing to do with societal class and everything to do with my dignity.”

    I cannot agree more.

  101. I just read what happened to George. I can't understand what the hell is happening to people to suddenly lose any sense of morals (that is, if they ever had any to begin with).

    Once upon a time, I once came across a woman's blog who wrote in her “bio” she had created her blog merely to get free stuff, to be wooed by big companies like Disney, for their free trips and lavish showerings of 'free stuff'. Her words “It's time for me to get mine.” Oh boy. So this is what it's come to for some? “Ooh, let's start a blog and get free shit” {smacks head}

    I was reminded of that blog and of that line when I read the tweets and saw the bruises (both physical and mental) from the transpirings of this weekend (not to mention George's tale). I was reminded of the greediness I've been seeing as of late, with online Twitter parties and contests galore, where people enter and say “I just want to win something, anything, a CD, a mug, ANYTHING!” who aren't there for the right reasons. Meanwhile others attending were there not for the presents, or the contests, but for the company and time spent with friends. That's what's lost in all of this. It's always been about the people, the voices, the company, the friendships. Not the swag. Some people just aren't getting that fact.

    By behaving like this, it's beginning to pigeon-hole all bloggers into something those of us not conducting ourselves in this way want. Lately I've been seeing many bloggers say “I no longer want to be considered a 'mommy blogger.' ” It's so sad to see our community dividing because of people's greed and lack of common decency. How you handle yourself both on and offline garners us credibility, too, which is why there is a need for community and for functions of this sort, so that we stand together, undivided, despite our different opinions and societal classes, because whether we may or may not be after the goals, we are the same in that our words transfer from our lips to our fingers onto the typed page online, with readers, journalists, the FTC and companies watching what is said and done. Whether they realize it or not, many are paying attention now that never did before. This isn't something to take lightly. It is disheartening, to see a bunch of grown women reduced to squabbling toddlers, bashing fellow bloggers in the head, arms, or worse, innocent children nearby, all in an effort to snatch something being given for free, for crying out loud. Patience. Wait your turn. Calm down, already. (All things I say to my children, mind you. Having to say it to grown women? Absurd!)

    I am unsure what needs to happen, here, in order to fix it (other than the obvious, for those offenders – to start conducting themselves like ladies, and not bull dogs, perhaps?) But something like Blog with Integrity is a good start.

  102. Wow, some people, huh? I'm new to blogging, but I thought the point was to write & share information and thoughts with everyone…hmmmm…who knew it was to try and get as much free stuff as possible 🙂

    I think that would have been neat to attend. I have been wanting to make my blog better and learn more, that sounds like just the place to do it! Thank you for sharing your experience.

    Hopefully some of the people participating in the more shameful actions will read blogs like these and realize that maybe-just maybe-they didn't behave so great.

  103. I haven't read all your comments but I want to say that I am very leery of ever attending BlogHer. I know it's not BlogHer's fault, but I don't think I could deal with the greed and the rudeness. I do hope that this is relatively limited in the people who are doing it, but the way it sounds it seems like there were several.

    I do like free stuff. I can admit that. Not enough to stand in line for hours or (seriously? Sheesh!) hit a baby in the head for it. Most of the time I'd prefer that companies didn't send me a product to give away because I don't like to eat the postage cost with my teeny blog. If the company will send the winner the thing, well, then I might do it.

    I don't think I'll ever want something bad enough to threaten bad PR. That includes a plasma TV. My husband may be a different story, but he doesn't blog or twitter or anything online so I guess we're safe there.

  104. It is so sad that the actions of some reflect on an entire community. It makes me crazy that all of the negativity makes “news” and good is overlooked. So I agree that I wouldn't want your post to result in “I am so glad I wasn't there” attitudes. I LOVED being at BlogHer09!

    I had such a fantastic time visiting with friends and meeting new friends and I was so busy interviewing outside of the parties, that I missed most of the bad behavior. I only saw a bit of it in passing here and there. Mostly I am just hearing about it in posts now.

    I hope that these are just growing pains of a new media and things will sort themselves out. There is so much good out there!!!

  105. I was so glad to end up behind you and Kristen in line for the Nikon shindig. I wish I'd gotten to talk to you both more. This was my first blog event (if you don't count the travel blogger trip to nearby Hutchinson, Kansas) and the thing I kept thinking to myself was “Wow, I can't believe that's someone's mother.” I found myself marveling over snarky women in the airport shuttles, women bitching about the swag bags being gone at SocialLuxe when the event had been going on for three hours already, women standing in doorways gabbing, oblivious to others trying to get by, women pushing each other to get to free crap, women drinking too much and puking in the hallways of the Sheraton, women fighting amongst themselves and even coming to blows. Many of these women are, indeed, someone's mother. And I hope they don't pass their charming values on to the next generation.

  106. @Candace

    Well, I have my own aspirations for my own better behavior and better ability to look beyond behavior and find the “why”? I don't always succeed.

    I just firmly believe that when people feel good about themselves, they behave better toward others. This is true of children and it's true of adults. People who live in some fear or who have low self-esteem or feelings of low self-worth tend to act at a survival level, no matter that they are carrying a $3,000 designer bag and just had lunch. They become “bullies” in some way because it's their last grasp at power, and power = survival. Again, when someone is operating on some level of fear or anxiety, telling them to “stop” is like telling someone to not sneeze mid-sneeze.

    There are two ways to deal with people like this: sanctions and punishment or helping them to recapture their dignity and redefine their self-worth. The first is simple and solves my problem (for the time being) but not their problem – and so it will eventually become my problem again in another venue; the second way is harder, but eventually solves both our problems. The longer I live, the more I'm a firm believer that beatings (figuratively) to improve morale only have the opposite effect. Do I still engage in them? Yes. I'm human and need to vent.

    However, the question of “Why would an relatively well-off adult woman in a wealthy society knock over another person for an object?” has a more complicated answer that involves, I think, entire cultural and societal issues, at least. Product as self worth. Consuming as worth. Winning/beating out someone else as self worth. That's what drives it. “I am what I own” as a very base sort of identity when nothing else is left, and it's not a very happy place to be, no matter how many water bottles I can grab.

    And although the behavior drives me batty and I have a right to express my anger, ultimately, I can't beat dignity pr god behavior into someone; I can only assume without judgment that their need is great and figure out ways to help them meet that need in more a dignified way. Fake it until they make it. Confer dignity by acting toward that person as if they are worthy of respect, and, usually, people rise to that level. Easier said than done, which is why I have to keep reminding myself.

    I'll stop writing novels here. I've just been thinking about this post all night at work and turning thoughts over in my head. Need to get them out.

  107. Liz, I loved your post.

    I truly hope that the sentiments I hear reflected here do not last long, that so many people seem to be of the opinion that BlogHer isn't for them, or isn't a professional business conference for women bloggers. I hope people can realize that the problem did NOT stem from BlogHer. I want them to realize that BlogHer's sponsors behave and carry themselves respectably, and these problems arose from unsponsored vendors that were NOT affiliated with BlogHer.

    I know that you know all of this, but I just wanted to say it somewhere. BlogHer did, does, and will keep doing it right. The companies, bloggers and PR people that want to participate would do well to follow their example.

    The swag crap had nothing to do with the conference. The nikon thing didn't either. The conference was incredible, educational, funny, moving and probably the most diverse Ive seen yet. Big things happened at the CONFERENCE. Ridiculous things happened AFTER. There's a big difference.

    Sorry, soapbox. I loved seeing you again. 🙂

  108. I commented on somebody's blog that I didn't really mind not going to blogher '09, but that if I went, it would be for the “free stuff.”

    It was mostly joking, but after following the twittering and reading the blogs about it, I didn't see much education that would be relevant to me. I don't get paid by anyone for my blog, I don't do reviews or get any products free. I have been blogging for a year and a half because I want to write and blogging gives me motivation and an outlet for writing.

    It seems like most of blogher is about maximizing SEO and working with PR people, and all kinds of things that don't interest me, as a small-potatoes writer with no dreams of grandiosity.

    However, if people want to give me free stuff, what the heck? Who doesn't like free stuff? Is there a way to get free stuff that is more honorable than another way? OK, I get that elbowing babies out of the way is wrong, but other than egregious incidents like that, how can you tell who is a greedy “swag-hag” and who is someone happy to receive what companies are begging them to take?

    I go to a writers' conference every year where there is NO swag, no free stuff, no sponsors. Just writers and readers and lots of talking about writing and reading. It's heaven.

  109. I was unable to attend the conference, and felt slightly disappointed about that. But following the blogs and tweets about what happened last week, I'm a bit glad I didn't go.

    I think I also didn't fully understand the true nature of the issues as previously discussed on your blog (and others) about sponsorship. Now I do.

    Thanks for championing the cause of blogging with integrity. Whatever our take on motherhood and whatever our reason for blogging, I do hope we can pay attention to the honesty and authenticity of our content.

  110. This is a great post, and the comments are fascinating. To those who are saying they are now glad they didn't go, I want to scream “DON'T SAY THAT!”. Every blogger – whether she has five readers or five hundred – should be able to experience BlogHer at least once. I couldn't attend this year due to other financial priorities, but I was able to win a trip last year to attend. It was eye opening! And heart opening…and yes, a bit exhausting – but happy exhausting.

    Also – if you aren't into swag or parties with the self-proclaimed “cool kids”, you simply don't have to engage. You CAN quite easily soak up the sessions and connections and leave the rest behind. One of my favorite moments from last year was actually an intimate dinner w/two other bloggers who are now an important part of my life. NO swag or party will ever be able to compete with that!

  111. I just saw the Twitter page in reference and wow. People are very hatefilled. However, I will say I wasn't comfortable seeing these cute little ones up at 11pm or midnight. I found one of the parties way too crowded and loud for a baby. I'm all about routine and sleep for the baby so that's why I left my son at home. 10 pm wasn't appropriate for him to be hanging with me (although he would bring the house down with his cuteness). I just think people got out of line on both sides. But saying the word “hate” (like hatenikonbabies or hatekids) is a douchebag thing to say. For what? A misunderstanding, party, disagreement. It doesn't look good on us as women (i.e. we're petty, drama-filled, psychos). Come on, people.

  112. Liz, thank you for these comments. As usual I agree with all of them! The session you paneled that dealt with sponsorships was amazing–I wish that you had gone to the one the next day that was on the same topic, as it was much less amazing. Both panelists, inexplicably, were on the same side of the issue, which was to complain that “the men at the FTC are going after us because we are women and they think we are stupid” and that we shoudl all feel free to do whatever. When I spoke up to say that a) as a feminist I think it's counterproductive to say that “boys are being mean to us because we're girls” rather than dealing with the actual issue and b) we're NOT the only ones the government is targeting, as they are going after the medical professional with zeal (most of whom, by the way, are MEN), and c) teh FTC is not itself entirely composed of men, and d) I started my blog TO WRITE. THe panelists were angered by my comments. But many in the audience agreed with me and I made some great friends out of that! . It was disappointing to see a conversation steered in such a strange “let's bitch about boys picking on us” direction in a room full of grown-ups. THere was such a huge difference between the day one panel and the “Room of Your Own” panel. Nature of the best, I suppose.
    I was totally taken aback by the number of women out with their TINY babies at 11pm at parties. More power to them, I would have gotten a babysitter but that's just me, i dont; fault them for that. I kind felt a disconnect though–I am a blogger and a mom, but like MommyMelee said, “I'm just a writer I guess.” I don't only blog about my kid, or parenting. Still looking for that identity I guess. Have already regsitered for BlogHer10 so maybe I'll have ti figured out by then!

  113. Alias Mother, I think I know where you're coming from. Perhaps “class” isn't the right term, because what I hear isn't really about social class, about who has money and where they live. I don't even know what the right word is; maybe it hasn't been invented yet. But there is a thread stringing through what feels a bit like sanctiblogging, honestly, about the “right” kind of people/bloggers, and how those people act and how everyone else should act accordingly. And the people who are talking about this most are the bloggers who are perceived as being some kind of celebrity, whether they have money or not.

    I realize a lot of it comes down to manners, but when the people who are moderating the conversation are the very ones who are perceived as being “popular” or “big bloggers,” I think that's where the uncomfortable issue of “class” comes into play.

    Please understand, Liz, that I am not saying that “popular” bloggers (geez, could I use more quotation marks?) are necessarily Mean Girls, although I'm pretty sure the larger group includes some because, hello, sadly Mean Girls still exist and for all the reasons that Jozet (who I would like to adopt as my mother now) discussed. I'm saying, instead, that people–women especially–come to these events with so much baggage about popularity and beauty and body image and whether the pretty people can help it, those preconceived notions play into how others feel about them and their actions and words.

    All that gobbledygook to say that I think, perhaps, I understand the “class” issue you're talking about, Alias Mother.

  114. It's so funny… I was sooooo busy during BlogHer that I didn't not notice ANY drama! I was constantly having amazing conversations and meeting with old friends and new friends – and of course interviewing tons of folks – and I did not catch any of the drama.

    I think the solution is to be too busy to notice any drama. LOL

  115. Gwen, I don't think there's a way that the “right bloggers” act but I do think there is basic common decency that was sorely lacking this weekend. If that makes me sanctimonious so be it. What can I say, I'm the etiquette bitch.

    One thing that's great about blog with integrity is that it acknowledges there are lots of ways to blog but we can still, as a community rally around common-sense standards of decency. I am not the arbiter of ethics, just someone helping to start a community discussion. People often yell that bloggers bitch about useless things and don't take action to actually try to fix it. Well, this is my way of trying to fix it.

    There have always been badges and pledges for bloggers to rally around – Kind Bloggers, Christian Bloggers, Prayer bloggers and so on. I'd hate to think that just because so-called popular (ugh) bloggers are initiating this discussion that it's any different.

  116. I can't say enough about mommy bloggers like yourself. Two years ago you blogged about my book and I was able to donate the proceeds to domestic violence in the Boston area….little do people know that woman are so very important to the economy and social issues. We readily share information to make life a little easier and a LOT more fun along the motherhood journey.

  117. I wasn't there (sob–Valerie Jarrett!! MOMocrats representing!). Wish I could've attended. But I could easily picture the Swag stampede given my BlogHer '08 experience.

    Wonder if handling official swag-bag distribution concierge-style, coordinating it with the conference hotel staff, would help? (I suggested this in greater detail on my blog.) Keep it in daylight, with no alcohol around, extend the hours that people can pick up swag. Minimize scarcity and a limited-time only ticking clock. Maybe this is how to encourage better behavior.

    However…inept, graceless, one-on-one “sponsored blogger shilling”? No idea how to get around that.

  118. I read many posts about this issue and have to say that while I read a lot about substance over greed I was saddened to see that the one panel that really spoke about international bloggers who are doing amazing work in their countries only had a few people in it .. there were other ways to make the experience about substance…
    But I personally had a wonderful time and met lovely women! Too bad I missed you but I got to hang out with Kristen a bit 🙂
    Next year!

  119. So many conflicted responses… too bad I can't weigh in due to the fact that I was not there.

    I will offer up any and all opinions next year when blogher comes to my next of the woods, NYC. WAHOOOO!

    Thanks for reporting back.. the good, bad and the ugly.

  120. Yep. Just, yep.
    I can see the marketing overtaking the content on some “A-List” blogs, but it's much, much different than seeing it brought to techno-color life spiced with a dash of entitlement. The ones who looked as though they needed swag the least were the ones working the hardest to get it. It made it more clear than ever that none of us blog in a vacuum. Poison spreads. But there's an antidote: Respect for community. History of it. Knowledge of what is and isn't kosher. And yes, integrity.
    This was my first BlogHer, and overall, I had an amazing time. I enjoyed getting to see some real life friends, meet some blog heroes, and conduct some business. The part that I'm choosing to remember as my hallmark is the International Scholarship Winners Panel, where women from India, Malawi, Bolivia, and Zimbabwe discussed how their blogs came into existence- for service. And how they continue them, at personal risk and expense, for that reason. Their grace and humility was a striking counterpoint to the would be shakedown artists, and I'm grateful I witnessed them. Hopefully, the pendulum will swing back and right itself soon.

  121. One of my top reasons to go to Blogher 2010 is to meet you. So there. I'd easily give you my “favorite blogger” award.

  122. I think the actions you mentioned by some bloggers are shameful and beyond ridiculous. It just hurts me that it has come to that for some.

    However, I am also so delighted that I was able to attend. For me, it was about MEETING my online friends and hugging them in person, really looking them in the face and getting to know them better. And just being in the presence of so many people like me, who “get” the blogging thing.

    I'm sorry I didn't get to meet you… Maybe next year! : )

  123. Even if you did see the bad and ugly, I think that is a part of the good that comes out of events like these.

    It can bring to you a realization of just what you want your blog to be and where you want to go with it.

    Glad you enjoyed it even with all the chaos.

  124. I love that your posts, like mine, are not just three sentences! I don't care what anyone says about brevity… if a subject merits length, then it should be written longer! This is so in-depth and well-researched.

    I considered BlogHer this year, but couldn't with four new arrivals. Hope to catch up with you in New York.

  125. I attended the first BlogHer conference in 2005, and every BlogHer conference up until this year; this year I didn't go.

    Sure, the BlogHer conference has changed quite a bit since the first one in San Jose where there were no real “stars” and the mens' rooms in the small conference center got, uh, repurposed. That first conference meant a lot to me, and the fact that BlogHer not only exists but is big and successful still means a lot to me. Sure, over time I came to feel that the things that defined me and the things that defined BlogHer's core demographic drifted apart. Every swag tells a story, yanno? What started out as laptop stickers and damn few of them became a surprisingly technical array of cosmetics and baby gear.

    But wasn't that inevitable? As BlogHer became bigger, it seems only natural that the central themes of the conference, and, perhaps, the company, shifted to ones that were more broadly shared across the mainstream culture. After all, more women have motherhood in common than, say, web programming.

    The demographic that responded the most strongly to BlogHer — mothers — are also the mother lode of consumer spending in the US. Lots of conferences have as many attendees as BlogHer, but very few have the kind of pull that can create a conference that is as heavily subsidized as BlogHer. Just take a look at how much it costs an attendee to go to an O'Reilly conference, or SXSW.

    SXSW is, I think, an interesting counterpoint. SXSW is huge, drawing thousands of attendees. Tickets to it are expensive. There are tons of parties and lots and lots of swag. But the scene around the conference has not drowned out the conference because as SXSW got bigger, they did two things:

    1 They recruited stars. (EG, the guy who founded Facebook, the annual — and always amazing — closing keynote by Bruce Sterling, etc.) Panels came to share space with sessions with a single speaker who really could hold everyone's attention — in fact rapt attention — for a full hour.
    2 Panels were developed and picked by attendees. Panels are rated — and rated fairly ruthlessly — by attendees, and panels that don't score well never get repeated.

    As I write those two things, I think: BlogHer with stars and American Idol style ratings? BlogHer with an entry fee 3X or 5X what it is today (to lessen the impact of sponsors and to pay travel for speakers who are heavyweights)?


    But: does anybody believe that getting both bigger AND better doesn't involve hard choices?

    I don't.

  126. So many great ideas Lisa! Thanks so much for such a thoughtful comment. Make sure you share it on the blogher suggestion thread so they can be heard by the right people.

    Although I will say, Tina Brown isn't a rock star enough? I thought she was! But then, we're probably united by a lower common denominator as you suggest, than those at SXSW. I guess Tim Gunn should have been up on that stage, huh.

    I also don't know if I agree about raising the entry fee. I just love how Blogher is open to so many more productive members of the community because of the subsidized cost. Maybe there just have to be clearer rules (and penalties?) for attendees, however they earn their airfare.

    If anyone can solve some of the challenges from this year, my money's on Lisa, Jory and Elisa.

  127. @Mom101 Perhaps “stars” isn't the right word…maybe “cult favorites” is closer to the mark? That is, people who are very highly regarded by others in their field but may not be widely known outside it. After all, neither Zuckerberg nor Sterling are widely known outside of tech circles. Take a look at TED or PopTech, for example: the speakers aren't famous in the pop-culture sense, but they have a passionate following among the people who know them. Tina Brown is accomplished, but does she really have a cult following?

    Sigh. Perhaps this is a notional dead-end? Who would qualify? I think, early on, Heather Armstrong. Now?

    I know women who I would gladly sit in rapt attention and listen to for an hour; Judith Donath springs to mind, for example.

    & As you point out, the sponsors subsidize the cost of the conference. I suspect that many attendees of BlogHer don't go to any other conference (which is kinda cool in and of itself). But that means they really don't know just how expensive other conferences of similar scale are to attend — that is, over $1000 just for the ticket, *before* airfare and hotel.

    So? It's a tradeoff. If you want to keep the ticket to ride under $500, you're going to have sponsors and you're going to have swag and some of that may be alienating to some of the people some of the time. Shrug.

    I do wonder if there's a connection between the price (and thus the exclusivity) of the conference and what kind of speakers are motivated to both attend and REALLY prepare for a session. Not everybody gets to go to Davos, for example, but those who are invited to speak A) accept and B) prepare like it's D-Day.

    Is there a way to make *SPEAKING* more exclusive while not making *ATTENDANCE* more exclusive?

    Hm. Thinking.

  128. [Oh, crap. I'm supposed to be working and all I can think about is alternative future BlogHer universes. Dammit.]

    Is the answer to create a track that, in its own way, is deliberately in counterpoint to the main crowd?

    I note that many people noted the International Activist panel with approval.

    BlogHer has worked because it celebrates, even ennobles, the lives of ordinary women in ways that make a political point. I am am a mother and I blog, however, I do not consider myself a mommyblogger. But I abhor the condescending attitude I hear over and over again towards mommyblogging, as if the subjects treated there are somehow uniquely unworthy of serious attention. (I will know the revolution has arrived when the back pages of Forbes have knitting patterns rather than beauty shots of the latest four-wheel-drive monstervehicle).

    Yet, perhaps it is time to celebrate the exceptional alongside the norm. Deliberately find women who ARE unusual, either because it is very rare to find someone of their gender in their position, or because they have led exceptional lives.

    (Oh: and material or career success should not be the only criterion by which we consider someone exceptional. A prisoner of conscience who has nothing may be just as exceptional as someone who has reached the pinnacle of a profession despite living in a world were sexism is the norm).

    OK. Internets, begone! I must work now!

  129. Lisa, As you probably recall, Dooce spoke last year and that certainly wasn't without its own drama! Elizabeth Edwards came the year before,and Arianna Huffington before that. I don't know that any of them are better or more targeted than Heather per se…just that the audience was more interested in what they could learn and not just what they could get.

    I don't know how we change that. Some mom bloggers feel so entitled that they complain on public forums about not getting enough free products at a party, it gets floated to Ad Age,and suddenly the story is “look how entitled the mom bloggers are.”

    I think as I tried to say here (although who can tell by now!) the only thing that makes us look better is how we behave. I don't think it's more writing tracks or fewer sponsors.

    If it were up to me, I'd encourage more people to just buy the cocktail party tickets and stay out of the main conference areas during the day.

    It felt a little like trying to study in college when your roommate is waving Absolut bottles in your face.

    Or was that just me being a dork?

  130. I was talking to a friend the other day who is a food blogger. I wondered if she was getting tweets about BlogHer like I was. Her response was a sour, “I don't run in that mommy blogger circle.” At first I was confused. BlogHer is a conference for ALL women bloggers, right? Then, hearing the echo of distaste in her voice, I realized that merely affiliating BlogHer with mommy bloggers may be seen as negative by the larger female blogging community. Because of THIS SHIT. Not to throw stones, but, these gals have to get it together stat.

    Liz, I already wrote this in response to your article on the PR blackout on BlogHer, but I think it's worth reiterating here: PR is not the enemy. Selling out is. As far as I'm concerned mob mentality (or in this case the stupidity that comes with being in a large group) is no excuse for undesirable behavior. Adults rushing expo table to snag free detergent is completely unacceptable. Have people no decency?

    And to echo Momtrolfreak, though I would NEVER condone the elbowing of babies, and I myself hail from Brooklyn, the baby-wearing capitol of the western world, I don't see how a mom could possibly benefit from BlogHer with a baby in tow. And I feel like bringing a baby to a late night cocktail party could be easily seen as a fuck you from mommy bloggers to everyone else. It's like saying, “I'm a mom. Here's my baby. Deal.” to a group of professional women who are trying to improve their work. I get the whole supportive conference for women by women thing, but I gotta say (as a Barnard grad, no less) that women have the right to attend conferences alone purely for our own edification. Seeing other women with their babies at the same conference just promotes guilt. Do moms have to be moms all the time and push their mom-dom in the faces of others? As a mother of 2 young kids, even I would have felt alienated by the presence of babies at BlogHer. I love 'em, but for the love of God, leave 'em with a sitter!

  131. Thanks Kami, of course I agree with you on the whole decency issue. And it's sad that people think BlogHer=mommies or that BlogHer = assholes and I'm feeling guilty for whatever part this post may have played in all that.

    But I have to defend those who bring their babies to blogher. I went with Sage two years ago when she was an infant and my mother joined to babysit. Here's my post about it. Read it and you might find a different perspective.

    Of course then it wasn't about sponsored cocktail parties and crazy swag grabbing – just 900 or so women attending panels, chatting in the hallway and occasionally abusing their passed out friends and posting the photo evidence.

  132. Having not been there, I can't really comment on that aspect. But I always like reading your perspective on the PR thing because I think you – and others you work with – have the right attitude about it.

  133. Wish I'd had a chance to meet you! I was glad to be there, to witness both the good and the bad–I've been blogging for years, but this was my first BlogHer. I feel like a better part of the community for having been there and witnessing it all.

    I'm choosing to focus on the positive this past weekend held; it was really amazing in a lot of ways.

  134. I've said it a few times in different places already, I'm tired of defending myself as a mom blogger because of the actions of a select few. I'm real tired of hearing moms don't belong at BlogHer and people feel it was geared only to us. It was geared to all women, no matter what you write about.
    I came on my own dime. I came to attend sessions, learn some new information and get ideas, meet people in real life and yes, I got some freebies. But I did not blackmail, elbow, grab or intimidate anyone for it. I did not spend the whole time hunting for swag. I love to write for the craft, but otherwise I'd throw in the towel and give up.

  135. Did I miss something? When did blogging become about something more than expressing an individuals self. I'm so tired of seeing blogs that are about showing off other blogs or taking something someone else did and making it looked like, “Oh look what I found, yay me!” or about products. The blogs I like most are those that are genuine, creative and are just honest women speaking their mind and you're right, the others will get weeded out eventually. I may not know alot about blogging but I know what I like to read. I would have thought that a convention of Blogging Women wouldn't have been so much about marketing and chaos and more about how to be better bloggers. Or did I miss that part too. Not sure it sounds like something I'd like to go to but more be a fly on the wall. Good luck next year!

  136. Enjoyed reading this. I didn't get to go – wasn't able to come up with a sponsor fast enough and I had a newborn (that I wouldn't have wanted to get elbowed). 😉

    I would have loved to be there, though. It's sad that people get so catty and high-schoolish online. It just shows the differences in those who grew up and those who didn't. I think that eventually the sponsors will see the difference – by watching how we blog, how we act, etc.

    No matter how popular a blogger is, it isn't worth sponsoring them if they aren't going to be mature and level-headed. I know that I don't pick blogs to read based on their audience or numbers. I pick blogs that are run by bloggers that I would want in my living room. 😉

  137. I read your post on the long long long long drive home to San Diego from Chicago. I was so thankful and relieved to read your post and others like it. I was in tears at some points over the weekend. I wasn't sure what had happened to the community I loved. Seeing the posts gives me hope that things will be back to our beautiful blogging some day soon.

  138. Homespun Threads, there actually were tracks on how to be a better blogger and the like. I'm sure my own experience is a bit colored by the fact that I was on the business track.

    But as I told NPR this week, people used to have their writing sponsored. Now they're writing for sponsors and that's changed a lot of things.

  139. Liz, thanks for taking the time to respond to my post. That's one of the many awesome things about you. You read all your many comments carefully. It's something I valued about you from the moment I met your blog.

    Ok dude, I read your article about bringing Sage to Blogher as a wee lass and the three generations of women together and clearly it screams EMPOWERMENT from rooftops to attend a conference for women by women in which one doesn't have to choose whether to be a mom, a writer or a woman, but can in fact bask in the opportunity to be all three simultaneously. Those chances are few and far between and balancing it all is the great challenge (and is actually what my blog is all about).

    I appreciate your experience. I vow not to spit on, curse at, pull the hair of or baby elbow any women who choose to attend BlogHer '10 with their babies next year.

    I, myself, plan to use the conference as an opportunity to focus solely on my blog, my writing, and my experience by connecting with all the rockin' women bloggers out there and absorbing all I can. To do that, I need to attend sans my family. And, I deserve it. (even though I got to go to Thailand by myself for a week this summer.) Taking care of everyone else leaves little time to dive into my own passions. Selfish? Absolutely. But all parents need to be a little selfish sometimes. What's good for the goose is good for the gander, right?

  140. I have nothing substantial to add to this. I just wanted to say that I agree. It bothered me, all of this bothered me. This was my first time and it made me wonder about some people. Stealing bags? That is just uncool, but I know it happened.

    I did not go for free stuff. I went to spend time with amazing friends and meet tons of new people. Maybe even learn something while I was at it.

    Okay, so I'm for sure going next year. (that took what, two days?) I'll have to do a better job at finding you then.

  141. I feel like I just had an education in a world I am a part of yet know nothing about. I will be checking out this BlogHer conference next year.

  142. I was oblivious to most of what's being lamented in this post and am glad.

    I'm also glad I met you and the other 371 ladies I didn't know in real life yet.

    I did get upset the last night when someone stole a doll I'd been gifted by a blogger who had a son at home instead of a daughter. As it turned out, my girl was happy with the pink ball Avitable gave out anyway.

  143. PS – I met Iron Eyes Cody at an Indian Pow Wow in 1985 that I attended as research for a paper I had to write on Indians. You know, but before the internet, when children actually went into the world to learn about it.

    He didn't cry when I met him. I think he liked having a little white kid interested in his heritage.

    I got an “A.”

  144. I wondered about Blog Her, at one point even saying I'd never go. But as I've gotten to know some in the community more, I decided that I'm not going to let the ones with bad behavior win and plan to go in 2011 (NYC is just too far). Hopefully by then things will be better.

    Personally I think all that I would learn and the people I would meet are worth far more then any swag bag.

  145. Heather, I think Heather has behaved with nothing but grace and class. It's the pile-on crowd calling for the pr agency's firing that I took issues.

    I hope it's clear that I have no issues at all with Esther who assures everyone that she meant the original hashtag as a joke and had no idea that it took on a life of its own.

  146. This is why I haven't joined BlogHer. I've blogged 7 years off and on, not for money or gifts or popularity, but to meet like-minded people willing to listen to my online voice.

    I would love to make money doing what I love – writing – but I won't compromise my blog to do so. And I have watched many mommybloggers do just that for the sake of money.

    If I thought that BlogHer could give me the opportunities I am wanting, help me connect with other women who write via their blog, without the negativity that seems to hover over it and some associated with it like a black cloud, I would join in a heartbeat.

  147. This was my first BlogHer. I felt ignored, popular, an insider, and an outsider throughout the conference. I learned that when it comes to blogging I am Sybil. I also learned that this is normal for BlogHer.

    I went to network, learn how to promote my blog better, and even volunteered for 2 committees because I like to help people. Fortunately the above kept me so busy that I missed a lot of the SwagGate drama (I wasn't invited to private parties or suites) and the spotty wifi meant that I couldn't monitor the #blogher09 back channel. Ignorance is bliss. I can't say that I wasn't disappointed that I didn't know about some of the private things because a few of those companies are the ones that I personally use or wanted to ask questions about because it would be of interest to my readers. In that case, it was frustrating because it reinforced that I wasn't promoting my blog as I should be to my readers and unfortunately, there didn't seem to be an emphasis on how to do that or build relationships (sponsor or readerwise) in any of the articles I read on BlogHer or about BlogHer or for that matter at BlogHer. If this were a work conference, I'd know what my my role was when talking to companies in the Expo hall. As a consumer? A media outlet? What? As it stood, some wanted to get to know me and my blog (big thank you to them!) while others wanted to stuff a sample in my hand, pat me on the head and send me away because I don't have mom in the title of my blog.

    I think we need to focus on educating ourselves as a community on how to deal with other bloggers and companies responsibly and professionally. There's this notion that since a few hardworking and lucky bloggers out there are able to make a living blogging (even stories about it on my local news) that it's the next get rich quick scheme now that flipping houses is over and down with due to the economy.

  148. I was looking for a new “mommy” blog this week. I googled, and all I could find for pages were give aways. Now I'd like to read something worth reading, like how to make toddler pajama pants out of t-shirts in 30 minutes, or 13 clutter free grandparent gifts, not how to win a free macbook. That's just me. It's frustrating as a reader, I'm glad you addressed it.
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