No Fancy Name
Tuesday, August 01, 2006
blogher: on conference logistics/sponsors
[edited to add: here are links to all my BlogHer posts]

Of the posts I plan to write about Blogher, this is definitely the easiest one to write. Before saying anything else, I will say that Jory, Elisa, and Lisa should be applauded loudly and ceaselessly for taking the idea for BlogHer and running with it. Any criticisms I have about the conference logistics/etc are not addressed to these individuals personally.

It boils down to this: it's expensive as hell to do anything here, and when the conference is scheduled (again) the same weekend as a Champ Car race, options are even more limited. Sure, the Hyatt San Jose is not the most upscale conference center/hotel in the history of the world, but the conference fees also weren't a thousand bucks nor were the rooms two hundred bucks each night. I'm sure if the BlogHer Triumverate wanted to make this even more of an elitist conference than it already is, they easily could have done it.

No, I didn't stay in the hotel—I live just a few exits down the freeway, so that would have been dumb—thus I did not experience first-hand any issues with the rooms or staff or crappy hotel food. But really, there are issues with rooms and staff and crappy hotel food at every hotel. Beyond that, I thought the conference accomodations (the meeting rooms, the ballroom, the pool area) were very nice, especially for the price.

The connectivity issue was deplorable. Who was it that made a comment in a session or keynote that there's a difference between 700 people at a blogging conference—who are likely (*gasp*) to be blogging constantly—and 700 businesspeople who need connectivity to check in with the office and glance through email? Yeah. I doubt that the BlogHer Triumverate didn't express the difference, I'll just bet the Hyatt didn't conceptually understand...or believe them.

I think the connectivity issue led many folks who were following the conference from afar, either through the live blogging, chat sessions, or Technorati/Flickr tags, to notice only the fluff (see comments on this post at BlogHer). I find this bit of a comment, from karriew, to be spot on: "[...] because as Mrs. Davis hinted at [ed.—in a comment upthread at the referenced post], it's unfortunate to think that a group of women who want to be taken seriously would not have more to say than 'Duuuuude...I so want to stalk you and your shoes rock my world.'

While there is, in my opinion, a strong undercurrent of 'Duuuuude...I so want to stalk you and your shoes rock my world,' there's also the fact that so many people are still processing the experience...and while doing so are happy to blabbering on about fashion and shoes and restaurants and coffee (easy things to talk about, and I include myself among the people doing it) because freewriting is part of the thinking/writing process. This isn't a conference, or an experience, like MacWorld or [insert name of tech conference here] in which products are announced (Vox not withstanding) and the economy is affected by the masses looking for their Wiis.

Oh wait, products were announced...Windows Live Spaces and Johnson's Mom Blogger Project. For sponsors who paid a considerable amount of money to give their 15-minute spiels before the assembled masses, they sure didn't pay attention to the audience to whom this message was addressed. But it's certainly not the fault of the BlogHer Triumverate that these sponsors did a crappy job, and in the grand scheme of things, half an hour of poor marketing in exchange for, well, all the things that sponsors pay for, makes no nevermind to me. But it is indicative, possibly, of the ongoing (and longstanding) problem with marketing and the creation of user-centered products: it's the rare company that pays attention and listens to their audience. In his post-BlogHer notes, Scoble writes:
This brings me to another point. Companies that listen to audiences like this are hyper rare. They still look at audiences like this as a one-way conversation. Let's just push our crap out to them, and get our messaging in front of them, but let's not send any of our engineers or program managers to LISTEN.
Instead of reinventing the wheel, I'll turn to Barbara Sawhill for a thumbnail sketch:
* Johnson and Johnson is launching its own mommy blogging site to connect women. Er, 5 minutes with any one of the mommy bloggers that attended would tell you they have their connections, thank you, and don't need J&J for this.

* Microsoft has a new blogging tool (Live Spaces) and has launched the interactive blog called Be Jane: the blog for women who are not afraid to take on home improvement. Check out their spokesmodels and tell me if you would trust either one of them with a circular saw in your living room. While they were doing their schtick in front of the audience, with matching outfits and, I believe, $200 suede pointy-toe boots, the live bloggers were tapping away furiously on their keyboards...a sure sign of controversy in the making.
I'd add in Contrex. Sounds like something medical, like an antibiotic or a feminine hygeine product. But no, it's water. Water and a gaggle of minerals in a bottle. The aforementioned Barbara, she whipped out a water testing strip from her purse and confirmed the hardness of the water. It's rare to find me without a bottle of water in my hand, and free water is always awesome, but this stuff gave me a stomach ache. "Calcium, magnesium and other minerals give Contrex its unique taste," chalk. After two bottles of the stuff, I was done.

But what do all these negative comments about sponsorts have in common? The fact that they're comments. People are talking about these things. Would I be talking about Windows Live Spaces if they weren't so far behind the curve and had tremendously condescending spokesmodels? Not at all. So in that respect they did their job, and in return we all got reduced rates for things that otherwise would have cost a gajillion dollars.

Still, I go with what Geeky Mom just said:
I think what it boils down to is that I'm tired of being marketed to. I'm tired of being looked at as a certain demographic and being told that a company understands my needs because they've done the market research. Let me make my own decisions, damn it. I'll watch your ads, but I'm going to turn to the internet and do my own research, thank you very much.
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