Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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July 31, 2005
By: Kevin Drum

BLOGHER WRAPUP....Due to a technology meltdown of spectacular proportions spectacular in terms of raising my already dangerously high blood pressure, anyway there was no blogging from the BlogHer conference yesterday which was all for the best, probably, since I've never been a big fan of liveblogging anyway. I realize that blogging is all about being live, unedited, and in the moment, but surely there's something to be said for taking at least a couple of minutes to gather your thoughts before beaming them out to the masses?

But first things first. Was I really there? Despite the lack of liveblogging proof, yes I was, and I have conference goodies to prove it. Pictorial evidence is on the right. In addition, I got one of those plastic slinky doodads and a copy of Red Herring. Boy did that take me back.

Here are some miscellaneous takeaways:

  • First and foremost: wow! There were over 300 attendees, and more than half were from outside the Bay Area. Especially considering that this was v1.0 of this conference, that's really astonishing. I talked to people who had come from Baltimore, DC, New York, Great Britain, Atlanta, Seattle, Montreal, and a dozen other cities.

    Note to people who are interested in making money from bloggers: there is a definite business opportunity here.

  • I met frequent commenter Spacebaby, which was cool. It's always nice to meet people who read the blog. Oddly enough, it turns out she's not from space. She's from Boston. How about that?

  • There were about a dozen small breakout sessions in the late morning, and I chose to sit in on the group talking about politics and feminism. I figured, wtf, might as well get right into the belly of the beast, right? Besides, it was either that or a group talking about why the mainstream media sucks, and I really didn't think I could stand another round of that.

    Anyway, the first question out of the gate came from Liza Sabater and was directed at me: why did I have trouble finding women bloggers, anyway? You could see that one coming a mile away, couldn't you? The answer, of course, is that I've never had any trouble finding women bloggers and never said so, but like Al Gore and the internet, I suppose I'll be stuck with that tag forever, so I might as well learn to joke about it. In any case, I certainly have a lot less trouble finding them these days.

  • Note to Ogged: Dude. Please. You're embarrassing us.

  • Surprisingly (to me), a considerable part of the main morning session ended up getting devoted to the question of whether you should care about getting links from other bloggers, and particularly whether you should care about links from A-list bloggers and the mainstream media. Technorati is apparently something of an obsession with a lot of people, even the ones who supposedly don't care about links.

    This struck me as a peculiarly arcane discussion because the answer seems so obvious. For some bloggers, links from high traffic blogs are worthwhile because their goal is to influence public discourse in a broad way. For others, links from specific blogs are worthwhile because they want to be part of a specific conversation. For others, who blog for other reasons, links don't really matter. What's so hard about that?

  • On the other hand, if your goal is to influence public discourse, then links and traffic matter whether you like it or not and I think it's important not to kid ourselves about this, especially among people who are having trouble making their voices heard. It does matter whether there are women in Congress, women on the Supreme Court, and women writing op-eds in the New York Times. After all, a necessary part of changing the world is engaging with the world that currently exists.

  • I met two women at BlogHer who were working on PhD dissertations. Coincidence?

  • As near as I could tell, the conclusion of the "Political Blogging Grows Up" session was that political blogging hasn't grown up. You can read liveblogging of the session from Donna Mills and Jill Fallon.

  • As it turned out, though, BlogHer attendees were largely uninterested in standard issue political/current events blogging. The vast majority of the sessions were on other topics, and while I didn't look in on every session, the most popular room seemed to be "How to Get Naked," a session about "identity blogging." This was a new term for me, and apparently refers to blogs that are specifically about the blogger's personal life and personal issues. The session was liveblogged by Ellon and Melissa Gira.

    Unlike all the other sessions I looked in on, this one actually produced some consensus from the panelists: they pretty much agreed with the common sense notion that if you're going to blog about your private life on the web, you ought to give some thought to who might be reading it. Sure, it can be a liberating thing to do, but you can also cause yourself a considerable amount of pain when you let the entire world know exactly what you think of your mother, your boss, your friends, and your husband. So before you write something, pretend these people are sitting in front of you and decide if you'd say it anyway. Wise words. (Or, as Koan Bremner put it, "think of the worst possible person who could read your post, and then assume they're probably going to read it.")

  • I know that we're supposed to avoid broad generalizations about sex and gender differences, but jeez, there sure were a lot of Macs at this conference.

  • "Suffragette Journalists: Op-Ed Pages of Our Own" (liveblogged by Cathy Kirkman) largely turned into a discussion of whether bloggers are journalists. Personally, I find this so tedious I could scream, but luckily I probably don't have to: Jay Rosen was at the session, and I imagine he'll find something of Rosen-esque length to say about it. So we can just wait for that.

    On the other hand, I will say this: for a group of people whose contempt for mainstream journalism is so furious you'd think they'd all been abused as children by Dan Rather, bloggers sure do spend a lot of time kvetching about not being considered journalists. Here's a hint, though: if you've never picked up the telephone to call some newsworthy figure and ask a question, you're probably not a journalist. Just a thought.

  • Pamela Sellers of CNN told me that CNN's "Inside the Blogs" is due for some changes. I don't think you can do any worse than sticking a camera in front of a computer screen and reading text from a bunch of blogs, so I guess this is bound to be good news.

  • It turns out that Chris Nolan and I share an affection for Carey McWilliams. So with that in mind, here's a book recommendation: Fool's Paradise, a collection of McWilliams essays written mostly between 1940 and 1970. They're organized so that the book becomes a short, impressionistic history of California from the late 1800s through the early postwar era, and you can hardly do better. McWilliams writes with tremendous depth, an elegant style, a genuine sense of humor, and a real understanding of the soul of California, which is both more complex and more interesting than the usual stereotypes.

Thirsty for more? Click here for a list of BlogHer sessions and follow the links to the session posts and the livebloggers. Then follow those links to even more stuff. In addition, some of the attendees and their blogs are listed here. Go meet some new people!

Kevin Drum 3:44 PM Permalink | Trackbacks

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