The Chicago 900 | Ninja Poodles Local

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

The Chicago 900

Posted By on Wed, Aug 22, 2007 at 6:30 PM

OK, now that I've had...what--3 weeks? to decompress, I'm going to try to write about my experience at the BlogHer 2007 conference in Chicago last month.  Let me just preface this by saying that if you are a blogger, especially a woman blogger, you owe it to yourself to be a part of BlogHer.  (Are you hearing this, Tildy?)  Membership (that's not even really the right word, but it's as close as I can come right now) is open, and it benefits everyone.  Just go to, register, and then list your blog in the directory.  And even if you don't write your own blog, it's a great place to keep up with topical events and leave feedback (or don't leave feedback).

I didn't think I was going to get to attend the Chicago conference this year, because of the cost.  And when I mentioned that in a post one day about two weeks prior to the conference date, my fellow BlogHers closed in on me with offers to help, including some people in the Chicago who were not even going to be attending the conference--heck, a couple who weren't even bloggers.  When I talk about "the blogging community," this is what I mean.  The internet has a way of shrinking the world in delightful ways.  Before I knew it, my husband and mother-in-law had arranged a free flight for me, two blogging friends had invited me to share their hotel room, and a BlogHer founder had even made it possible for me to earn a full pass to the conference by live-blogging some of the sessions.

So it was that I found myself in Chicago at the end of July, loaded down with laptop, MOO cards, and more free swag from corporate sponsors than I could carry--literally.  Following are some things I learned by spending the weekend with 900 smart, unique, and amazing blogging women.

*Live-blogging a panel discussion is HARD.  I learned this quickly in the jam-packed session on technological tools for building blog traffic, where, between the speakers, the questions, and the visual aids, it was a rapid-fire, finger-cramping stress-test!

*Many non-bloggers are blog-followers, and are interested in the process of blogging.  I was stunned at the number of hands that went up in that first session when the room was asked if anyone attending did not yet have a blog.  This probably means that when those people DO start blogging, they'll be much better prepared than I was when I dove in headfirst talking about my husband's affinity for aluminum underpants.  (Although, I must have done something right, since I am still the #1 Google return for the phrase "aluminum unmderpants.)

*While I was more familiar with the ins and outs of The Internets than some beginners, most people seem to know a WHOLE lot more about how blogging works, technically, than I do.  I heard a lot of might-as-well-be-Greek at that first session.

*There are a great many bloggers who honestly and truly do not care about who is reading them or how large their audience is, and are writing either for themselves, for their family, or for a specific, small audience.  There seem to be more people who DO care about numbers, but I was somehow encouraged and left warm and fuzzy by the vibe at the next session I covered, which was in sharp contrast to the traffic-building one: "Small Is Beautiful."   I think I fall somewhere in between the two extremes, but this panel had a much warmer feel to it, and I came out of it happier than when I went in--especially compared to some of my "mommyblogging" friends who attended other panels.

*If you gather a bunch of bloggers together for dinner, that meal will go on and on into the night, the bill will include a comma, and no one will ever want to stop talking, EVER.

*Always, always, always confirm hotel reservations, and have a confirmation number IN YOUR HAND when you go to check in.

*Chicago has multiple hotels that belong to the Marriott chain.  A confusing number of them are downtown.

*Angry women in numbers greater than two apparently frighten hotel staff into being very accomodating, especially after reservations have been...misplaced.

*Things that seem really important, like a question & answer breakfast with Google blogging-enhancement programs representatives, will seem MUCH less critical at 6:30 in the morning than they did the day before.

*No matter how cute you want to look at your conference, walking shoes and thick socks are a MUST if there is ANY question about how much walking you'll be doing.  We did a lot.

*For traveling and live-blogging purposes, that uber-cool media-package 17"-monitor laptop is not nearly as appealing as everyone else's little notebook-size mini-puter.  This is especially true after you have lugged it around for 24 hours.

*People in Chicago seem to think they know what barbecue is.  They are sadly mistaken.

*People in Chicago seem to think they know what good pizza is.  THEY ARE CORRECT.

*There are an amazing number of blogs about the visual arts and artists.  The number of those which showcase impressive talent is ASTOUNDING.  The last session that I was "on the clock" for at BlogHer dealt with these blogs, and was called "More Than Words."

*The thoughtfulness and purposefulness of women bloggers should not be overestimated.

*Corporations and advertisers are paying a LOT of attention to women bloggers right now, and a segment of the population that previously felt unheard is now swinging a lot of weight--behold, the "mommybloggers."  In my own personal opinion, this blogging niche (of which I am happily a part, even if I'm not wild about that term) is well-established now, and while I would have liked to participate in the "state of the momosphere" panel because that's where a lot of my friends were, I don't feel like I missed out on anything earth-shattering for not being there.

*Amy Sedaris is exactly the same in person as she is on David Letterman's show.  Imaginary, tragically-murdered boyfriend, pet rabbit, drug habit, nutty crafting, baking, and all...and she's hilarious.  She autographed my copy of her book, which I just finished reading the other day.  It, too, is hilarious.  She's nuts.  And she called ME "cuckoo," to my face.  This was probably the highlight of my entire trip.  Amy spoke on a panel about craft-blogging.

*Craft-blogging is HUGE.  Enormous.  You have no idea.

*Elizabeth Edwards is every bit as gracious, smart, funny, and just plain quick-witted as I expected her to be based on interviews I'd read.  She was the closing keynote guest, and candidly and thoughtfully fielded all questions on topics ranging from politics to parenting to blogging (when asked by a blogger who identified herself as a conservative, non-fan of John Edwards, "How many people have to read and approve your blog posts before you publish them?" very quickly and adamantly replied, "That's a short answer.  ZERO.")  She then followed the party on to the Children's Museum reception, where she stayed for additional hours, answering questions and visiting with everyone.

*One end of Chicago's Navy Pier is a LONG WAY from the other end, especially if you are carrying a forty-leven-pound laptop.

*All that final-night partying you planned on doing with your friends before you leave town?  Might not look as tempting as a fine bed and a good night's sleep, when it gets right down to it.  This means that you are old, and/or from a quiet rural area of Arkansas.

*If you need to develop an appreciation for the tiny Little Rock airport, just spend some time changing flights in Cincinnati and/or Atlanta.

*After a busy trip away from home, before you get to where your loved ones might be waiting or your car is parked, you'll be greeted by Jermain Taylor, in near-lifesize cardboard-cutout glory.  You will be glad to see him, and will ignore the odd looks you get when you find yourself saying out loud, "I love you, too, Jermain!"


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