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Third Thoughts on BlogHer

I’ve had two or three days now to marinate with my thoughts and discuss the trip with others. This was my fourth conference, which definitely made for a different experience.  The first two came back-to-back and I was definitely wide-eyed and excited.  I met probably 200+ people that first conference.

The third conference came last year in Chicago and I was in this perfect space to both connect with people I knew only through the computer, see old friends I met at prior conferences, and meet new people.  I probably came home with over 100 business cards again and spent a week or so diligently looking up new blogs to read and adding Twitter feeds.

This fourth conference made me feel old.  Not old in the grey-haired sense of the word (though yes, I noticed as I stood in the bathroom and stared at the other women sharing the mirror that I had more grey hair than anyone else washing their hands at that time), but old in the blogging sense.  I’ve been around the block.  I’ve seen bloggers come and go.  I’ve written through five summers by this point, and it can make you a little Eyeore-ish as you approach a month for the fifth time around and need to keep it as fresh as it was back in the mid-aughts.

I was also coming off a month of stress and upheaval in a summer that was going to be an emotional one regardless.  I was depleted before I got to the Hilton, and I know that plays largely into the lethargy I felt when I arrived.  I am usually overwhelmed in New York.  Throw 2400+ bloggers in a hotel with a low-energy woman and you have the makings for a perfect crying storm.

I didn’t actually have a perfect crying storm until I hugged Eden, but still, you know what I mean.

After the festivities Thursday night, I stayed mostly in the hotel.  I went to a bunch of keynotes and a lot of sessions.  I swung by the sponsor room for about a half hour and got overwhelmed by the poor Hillshire Farms people who were trying so kindly to get me to try some sandwich meat.  I learned a lot about photography, but you wouldn’t know from the pictures I’ve taken since.  I attended some panels.  I met up with a lot of ALI bloggers.

Looking back over the last few paragraphs before I continue, “overwhelmed” seems to be a running theme.  But I own that–I don’t think it’s the fault of the conference.  Truly, the only part BlogHer plays in that is that the conference has gotten so incredibly large and popular that it is difficult to navigate the stream of people.  I came home with 15 business cards–I only met 15 new people.  It is just too hard to latch onto conversations as people swarmed past.

But what is the flip side–to limit attendance?  No one would be happy with that either so it’s just a fact about the differences that come from 1000 people vs. 2500 people.  And frankly, I get a little cranky when people write snarky BlogHer-sucks posts when they get home.  You just got to partake in this fantastic opportunity and to get hung up on small details feels a little bit as if you’ve taken an enormous dump on the conference planner’s breakfast plate.

And with that image in your head, back to my mood.

My mood made me want to scream out something wholly inappropriate and I’m not sure why.  You know how you have those daydreams during math class such as “what would happen if I pulled down my pants and danced on my desk right now” (what?  Am I the only person who wondered these things?)

I felt very much as if I was blob of oil traveling through everyone else’s vinegar and I wanted to scream something and create an emulsion.

Of course, I didn’t.  Because I’m sane.  And because I also didn’t want to get asked to leave the conference before I got a chance to learn how to use Photoshop.  And because wonderful people such as Lori and Sheri and Calliope and Briar and Liza kept me grounded.

And despite my mood, I had a wonderful time.  On Friday, the ALIers got together for lunch and on Sunday, a much larger group got together a second time, blending every room of the blogroll into one enormous chat-fest in the lobby of the hotel.

After the first two conferences, I came home and raced head first into a dozen blog projects.  After the third conference, I came home full and happy.  And this time, it was like an old woman finishing her tea, a small ritual, necessary for staying grounded, and now refreshed, able to return to what she was writing before she started letting the tea leaves steep.

I do the conference differently every year, and this year, I remained the truest to myself.  I went to a tiny sliver of one party, I avoided the swag, and I just spent time with old friends.  And that is perhaps the best road for me.

You may need to click twice on the image to see the larger version.

Top: Calliope and EvaKir* and Me.  Me and Lesbian Dad.

Middle: ALI Friday lunch.  Eden, Tuesday, and Me.  Lori, Eden, Me, and Tuesday.

Bottom: Sparklecorn cake.  Lori and EdenLori and Eden.

* One of the highlights of the trip was meeting the always amazing, Kir.  She is one of the first bloggers I ever read (as in July of 2006–that’s how long we’ve been together, babe).  I didn’t get to spend nearly enough time petting her and reminiscing about the old days (or covering the new beyond what is written in our blogs).  I know I’m going to see her again, but I’m glad we snapped this picture from the first time.


1 Kir { 08.11.10 at 9:42 am }

you can’t know what it meant to finally HUG you…to have you in my REAL LIFE..”you make blogging fun”
and you’re BEAUTIFUL (inside and out) to boot.
my copy of our pic is already on my desk at work!!!

love ya lots

2 a { 08.11.10 at 10:15 am }

I’ve been to a few professional conferences, and they are all overwhelming – even if they’re small in scale. Once you add a large social agenda into your desired educational agenda, it easily becomes too much. So, you hit the high points, take what you can, and go home knowing you enjoyed yourself, and you learned something.

(I wouldn’t worry too much about the feelings of the conference planners – they know their audience, and they know someone is always going to be unhappy. My sister does meeting planning – I don’t think she ever worries about criticisms other than to use that for new ideas.)

Excellent pictures! I didn’t realize Lori was that tall!

3 It is what it is { 08.11.10 at 11:39 am }

Yes, this seems to always be the problem with good ideas that go viral…the thing that made them special in the beginning gets lost in the mammoth size/volume of the event.

I would likely never go to a national conference like this, but are their regional versions? That is something I would like to do…

Glad you are home and hope the blogging about your experience has set all things right.

4 HereWeGoAJen { 08.11.10 at 1:08 pm }

One of these days, I am going to organize an ALI conference. And since I will be organizing it, I can plan it down the street from my house. It will be great.

5 Baby Smiling In Back Seat { 08.11.10 at 1:10 pm }

One-on-one Mel is an entirely different person than big-group Mel. I wonder if it feels that way to you on the inside.

Always happy to see any version of you.

6 jodifur { 08.11.10 at 10:24 pm }

BlogHer was really big this year. But I had a better time than last year. I think it is because I feel more secure in where I am as a blogger.

I think next year I’m doing mom 2.0. I hear it is a smaller, more intimate conference.

7 Kate { 08.11.10 at 10:29 pm }

HOLY BANANAS! There exists in this Universe a picture of me – sandwiched between Eden and Mel – I believe I can now die happy. WOOHOOO!!
It was an absolute pleasure to meet you!
It was because of YOU that I even met Eden, and she is a treasure…so therefore, I treasure YOU.
I have mixed feelings on BlogHer – but I think it was the facets of my personality that made it difficult – not the conference itself. I am still trying to formulate a post, but the words don’t seem to be coming easily. It was..insane.
I hope we cross paths again some day!

8 jrs { 08.11.10 at 10:34 pm }

what, no picture of your parrot? I guess she was just as shy as you. If I had gone I hope I would have been one of those lucky 15 people you met.

9 Kristin { 08.12.10 at 9:55 am }

I loved meeting you guys!

10 JJ { 08.12.10 at 10:13 am }

Totally agree on the snarky posts post-blogher.

Love seeing all you beautiful women together!

11 WiseGuy { 08.14.10 at 4:28 am }

Amazing pictures!!!

I loved the group pic! I never realized how tall Lori was before this…and yep, she has awesome earrings!

And Kristin’s purple hair…awesome! That pic is for keeps!

12 Bea { 08.20.10 at 6:45 am }

You always make me a little wistful about not having been there.


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