Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Online over Print...Amen!

Couldn't agree more with Lena West's guest post over at Yvonne DiVita's Lipsticking about print vs. online articles...and which are "better" to get quoted in. (Lena is she of Technology Diet fame.)

I too find myself unreasonably cranky when a publication wants to quote me or someone else from BlogHer, or wants us to submit an article, and they don't have an online version we can link to. I actually have a stack of a recent Newsletter for which I wrote a piece by my desk. Have I sent out any copies? No. Do I have a "reception area" where I can artfully display the Newsletters? No. Do we even give hard copy press kits to people anymore? I can't remember the last time.

Even worse is when you're the subject of an article or the contributor of one, and they want you to pay to get copies. There was even one recent publication that would have let me pay for a soft copy version of the article to post to the BlogHer site, but you had to pay in time increments, so that theoretically the file would expire after 6 months! I mean, really?

Am I being a big baby?

Is this some huge revenue source that is now going away for publications?

And seriously, why did companies ever pay to get copies of work that their employed donated to the publication?

Funny how I didn't give this a second thought when I was contributing on behalf of a larger company. My role included contributing such work, for which I was well-compensated. And buying the distributable copies didn't come out of my groups' budget. So, I just didn't care!

Not anymore! Give me a hyperlink or let's just admit we're not right for each other.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Blogging Basics in Myrtle Beach

This was the view I had to compete with this week when I presented to the Coastal Advertising and Marketing Professionals group in Myrtle Beach, SC this week. Myrtle Beach seems pretty lovely this time of year...must be a good September vacation spot.

Unfortunately I spent about the same time actually in Myrtle Beach that I spent in door-to-door travel getting there and back...about 18 hours for each.

Since presenting on how blogs are changing communications to the National Conference of the American Advertising Federation in San Francisco this past May I have received several invitations to bring the presentation to local ad clubs around the country. Here's something all we blogvangelists should note: whether at the national conference or at these local clubs, the adoption rate on blogging is very low, and the adoption rate of even reading blogs is only moderate. There is a ton of growth to come in this area.

Why am I confident there is so much room for growth, and that the growth will happen?

Because people get excited when they hear about blogs...they see a tool with which they can be creative about their communications and with which they can try new ideas and messages. The promise of blogging is that it lets non-programmers and non-coders get in the game. And the promise is also that they can experiment with less of an investment than it takes to experiment in other media.

Hearing about blogging and its potential makes little lightbulbs go off over every head in the can see the wheels turning as they imagine what they would talk to their customers about with a little more freedom and a little more informality.

I may start such presentations surprised that there are still so many, even in the advertising and marketing profession, who are unfamiliar with blogs, but I always end such presentations excited by the questions and ideas that come flowing back from such groups.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Quick link: Chris Messina spends a day at the white man's club

Well, not exactly, but he does muse on the subject of diversity and power in this awesome post, The Future of White Boy Clubs.

Miss Rogue must be proud of her PIC today.

The one pessimistic thing I'll say: it will be a wonderful day when we allow those outside the club to talk about the club without accusing them of having a victim mentality.

The Metro cover story on BlogHer

Draw them in with a sensational headline and premise, then get to the more substantive meat of the article. I guess that's the Metro way. (Disclosure: I write a monthly column for the Metro, which I'm kinda surprised they didn't disclose in the BlogHer article.) This week the Metro's cover story is basically about BlogHer, the women who were there, and the larger implications of an Internet where people are really free to express every little thought and feeling.

I'll be honest: When I picked up the Metro and saw the cover pitching some blogging battle between feminists and moms (as though moms can't be feminists and vice versa) my heart sank a little. My concerns weren't alleviated when a picture of me, Lisa and Jory was captioned: "Firestarters." The article hit the trifecta right in the first paragraphs by focusing on an isolated vicious blog post that got way too much attention right as BlogHer kicked off this year.

But then a strange things happens...the article goes on to explore the Internet as a potential liberator for women of all spots and stripes...using as examples women who happen to be mothers, and women who happen to blog about sex and eroticism. The blogosphere is encouraging women to explore their own boundaries, and to demand more openness and less repression..whether they're blogging about their thoughts on motherhood, sex, or both.

Bottom line: I really like what the article really is. I'm not so fond of how the article is positioned. Especially since I know that reporters and photographers often don't control headlines, covers or captions, I'm guessing that this was an editorial call to make the story seem to be about conflicts between women, rather than about how all women are searching and striving to make their own choices and find their own way.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Carnival of the Capitalists is up at View from a Height

View from a Height is the host for this week's Carnival of the Capitalists and has kindly included my post about the value of diversity for a conference experience.

Other posts that jumped out at me:

Over at Scatterbox by Steven Silvers Silvers points out that it's not just bloggers getting bad media pitches from clueless companies. Traditional media folks and journalists have been suffering from same for years. They're just a lot less likely to publicly humiliate said bad-pitch-deliverers. (I think such folks need to attend BlogHer Business '07 to find out how to avoid the fate of ending up in The Bad Pitch Blog that Silvers points to.

Nina Smith from Queercents asks about Netflix and its current employment policies: "Is this a living wage?" I don't know, but now I feel pretty depressed about my Netflix subscription.

So, check out this week's Carnival of the Capitalists and see what jumps out at you!

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

BlogHer Business '07 Call for Ideas: Speakers, Session Ideas, Experts & Gurus

BlogHer Business is still over six months away, but we're getting into gear now.

I just created a new BlogHer Business '07 page on the BlogHer site, and issued a Call for Ideas.

Key excerpt:
We are looking for the following:

Session ideas, with a focus on practical application more than theory

Speaker submissions...suggest yourself or someone else, along with areas of expertise.

Gurus or experts for a potential "Ask the Experts" segment.


Please send your ideas on any of the above. The first, soft deadline is Friday, October 13th, because we'd like to publish a basic schedule in October, and because I like Friday the 13ths.

Please spread the word...and if you don't come to us, we'll be on the look-out for you!

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Reputation, professionalism, talent, experience: how do you choose who to work with?

With all the time I spent recently making speaker recommendations I was planning to write a post on searching for speakers. And then I read this post by Tara, and its theme also fit into the thoughts swirling around in my head. Tara talks about reputation, and wonders if online reputation tools can ever really work...can we automate reputation?

The online world makes it so much easier to raise your profile, to become known, to demonstrate your opinions, your expertise, your skills...there's no doubt about that. But what you do in meatspace still matters. It matters more, eventually. And how you behave in any one professional or even personal interaction can trump your particular skills or experience in a heartbeat. You can have years' worth of intelligent blogging under your belt, but if you bail on someone or don't follow through or don't deliver during a real-world interaction or project...that will likely tip that scale for that person, and hopefully it stops there, but there's always the chance they use this little tool we call blogging to widely distribute their displeasure.

Because one bad off-blog interaction will answer Tara's question "Are you for real?" in the negative for most people, no matter how much traffic you have or links you get.

When searching for speakers using online tools, such as the Speaker's Wiki you are taking a bit of a leap of faith. No different, I suppose, then believing someone's traditional CV, taking it at face value.

So what is the equivalent of a job interview or of what you do when you check the references of an impending hire?

A blog can actually go far in validating a person's claims to expertise in given subjects. If someone claims they're qualified to speak on a subject it behooves them, I suppose, to blog on that subject, at least sometimes. The online version of job interviews and reference checking can also include simply Googling a person's name and try to find people talking about that person, preferably about them as a speaker on the subject at hand.

That's my usual process. I try to search to find speakers who seem relevant to the subject matter at hand. I check out their profiles, their 'About' pages, their blogs, their CVs, whatever they provide, all of their self-identified and categorized data. I may ask some of my colleagues if they know them or have seen them. But I also go searching for what other people say about them...just unfiltered web noise.

Which begs this question: how do you measure the credibility of the folks you find talking? After all, who says they're "for real"?

And this is why conference organizers tend to invite speakers you've seen a hundred times before to speak. That's why success breeds success. That's why we tend to look in our personal network and then our network's network for speakers...because emailing someone you don't know, and/or have never seen speak, and/or has no record of many speaking engagements is a risk. And most of us will take the person with whom we have had actual real-world interaction over a pure virtual connection if we have the choice. Why? Because we've all discovered at some point in life that people can surprise you.

Like the very prominent and popular blogger who speaks all the time, and is by all accounts good at it, but who was very flaky in my one actual interaction with them? Yup, my personal experience will trump all. Probably forever. Fair or not.

Or how about a person who seems to garner raves, and with whom I've never interacted, but someone I know and trust has and warns me away? Yup, I will probably give my trusted connection and their real-life experience a lot more weight than the adoring masses.

Here's an example from long ago and another life that I always use.

When I graduated from college I spent two summers doing summer stock theatre in Michigan to earn my stage actors union card. My "day job" at the theatre was to musical direct and play piano for the entertainment that the theatre apprentices put on every night for patrons in the bar after the show. I, along with a couple of others, changed the show up every 4 weeks or so, and we would hold regular auditions. Apprentices would come and audition songs they wanted to be included in the nightly revue for the next 4 weeks. Solos, duets, group numbers, they could put anything together. As the summer wore on it became clear that some apprentices were just less enjoyable to work with. They were prima donnas. Or they were always late to rehearsal. Or they would phone it in some nights and go all out other nights. Or sometimes they were just arrogant, unpleasant jerks. And it was rarely correlated directly to talent level. I would be lying if I didn't admit that sometimes we picked songs that involved more of the people we "liked" for lack of a better word, and less of the people who were hard to work with. And that sometimes that meant, out of an overall talented bunch of people, we weren't always favoring the most talented.

And I would do it the exact same way if I did it again. Life is too short to work with jerks.

So, I'm with Tara...learn what you can about a person from self-selected tools like blogs, CVs, LinkedIn profiles and the like...but let's face it: it'll always take more to know if they're for real.

Update: Conference diversity, Office 2.0 etc.

After a lively few blogging days right before and during Labor Day weekend I headed into a week where I had to put the nose to the grindstone and get stuff done. But that certainly didn't mean the brouhaha that began before Labor Day over the lack of diversity in the Office 2.0 Conference speaker roster went away. Au contraire, it simply evolved.

If you need to catch up on what went down last week, you can read my two posts on the subject and follow the many other links I included in those posts. A couple of other recap posts are here and here.

I know there are those who think this is the same old conversation, and that nothing has changed. But I did see some differences:

First of all, we had men in the mix: I actually first learned of the unbalanced speaker roster from a guy's post, perhaps the earliest post talking about this particular issue. Other men jumped in too, all throughout the conversation. This was more than the usual suspects. Not only that, but some of the male speakers actually responded and joined the conversation, and I'm pretty sure I haven't seen that before. So, perhaps this is a small sign that everyone is starting to realize as one guy put it that it's time for everyone to step up, men included, and express their outrage.

The second difference was in the response of the conference organizer. Don't get me wrong, I was pretty unimpressed at first, as I blogged in both of my posts. Sure, I thought that it showed blog-savvy to go around and politely and non-defensively comment on every post on the subject, but I also wasn't won over by the response which was of the passive "you're right; I'm sorry; help me" variety. Even that, I have to say, is different that the responses I've seen to similar blog swarms in the past. Let me enumerate the typical responses:

1. Ignore it altogether. That would be the F*ck You response #1.

2. Respond and say that you chose speakers based on competence not genitalia (or color or whatever.) That would be the F*ck You response #2.

3. Respond and say that you have some women, and it simply reflects larger issues in tech or society, and you can't fix that with your itty bitty little conference. That would be the F*ck You response #3.

4. Respond and say that you posted one call for speakers message one time on your one conference blog (read by 10s if not hundreds of people) and if different speakers didn't come to you, well, really that's their fault, not yours. That would be the F*ck You response #4. This one is VERY popular.

and finally...

5. Respond and say that you're really sorry, and that you're so glad this was brought to your attention, and that next year you'll do so much better. And then a year later, it starts all over. This is sort of the time-released F*ck You response.

So, as passive as Ismael's comments seemed to me, the difference was that he was willing to do something right now for this conference this year. And he emailed directly asking for that help...ideas, recommendations, referrals, introductions...whatever we could do. Which begged the question: should we help? Yes, it was late in the game. Yes, it would never have come up if a chorus of voices didn't rise up to rip this guy a new one. Sure, this is crisis containment and a major attempt to CYA.


This is an age-old debate, really, isn't it? If we clamor for progress what do we do when presented with an imperfect path to progress? In my case, I put aside my ambivalence and thought about the outcome. Part of the BlogHer mission is to create or foster opportunities for exposure for women bloggers. The fact of the matter is that if we can recommend a dozen women to this organizer, and if even half of them end up speaking...because they of their own free will decided the opportunity was worth it...then that is serving the BlogHer mission.

After Ismael's email I sent him "homework": an initial list of women with links to their bios, or blogs, or profiles on the Speaker Wiki to review, and we set up a call. When we spoke on Wednesday he described each session to me and the kind of panelists he was looking for. We discussed the other women he was simultaneously approaching on his own. He talked about wanting a woman or women on every panel. I went away and did more searching around. And yes, the Speaker Wiki is really a good resource. It really is. Even to help you flesh out the skills and background of people you already know. (There's another post in the works on finding speakers.)

Finally I got back to him with more specific recommendations and started sending out feelers. In case you're wondering I mentioned to every person I emailed that there had been a blog swarm about gender diversity at this conference. I could totally respect it if that influenced whether or not someone wanted to speak.

Of course he invited someone from BlogHer to speak too, and I will. And we probably could have left it at that. But I spent a lot of time doing speaker research. Contrary to what those who scream "political correctness at the expense of quality" might think: it's not about getting just any women on the's about acknowledging and exposing the relevant women who should be speaking on any number of topics, and aren't.

The result of his work on his own and my additional assistance is that the conference now has 12 women speakers where it once had one. And I know there are at least another half dozen potential additions to that list. It went from a 2% ratio to 20%. And that figure might go up. Some of the additions are people that submitted themselves after the lopsided speaker list was released. Some are people Ismael contacted after seeing the lists of suggestions that people published. Some were people I recommended and invited.

Both Debi Jones and Liza Sabater have talked about using technology to mobilize around events that are woman-unfriendly. Debi talked last year about using SmartMob techniques to congregate outside such exclusive events. Liza talked this year about a similar idea: the Estroswarm.

Well, wasn't that what happened here, online, six weeks before the event? The bottom line is that this was a blog swarm that actually resulted in real-time change. I think that rocks. I've said in my previous posts that it is much preferred for organizers to think of this from day one of their planning. It shouldn't be an afterthought. It should be a P.R. move. But with that horse out of the barn, do we prefer that someone merely learns their lesson for next year, or that they act while there's still time right now?

After consideration, I think it's the latter.

So, that's the update. It's been a busy week, and there were probably a million reasons I didn't need to spend so much time on someone else's event! Nonetheless, I hope in the end there are 6-12 good reasons why I did.

PS-Another idea that cropped up, via Anne Zelenka, during the blog swarm was to do a "podcast jam" coinciding with the Conference, and trying to include other women, like Anne, who couldn't physically make it to the conference. So, according to this post, it is on.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

This month's Silicon Veggie: Help Silicon Veggie go Silicon Vegan

Check out my plea for assistance in this quest here.

And help me if you can!

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

NetSquared session audio recording is online

Tara Hunt, Chris Messina and I were part of a panel (immoderated by Marnie Webb) at the NetSquared Conference about distributed grassroots marketing. The audio recording is online here.

This was, according to some third party accounts, an entertaining and informative session. I showed examples of how BlogHer encouraged its community to feel part of the process of putting on the conference, and how we supported and engaged with our community as they created everything from actual conference programming to online logo mash-ups.

Tara introduced the crowd at NetSquared to her Pinko Marketing theory.

Chris discussed how the Firefox developer and user community exemplify the best of open source potential: both from a product and marketing perspective.

(Now, those are my memories of what we talked would be interesting for me to go listen to the recording and see how memory relates to was 3 months ago, after all.)

We also got some interesting questions from the crowd, so check it out.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

The silver lining can be raised consciousness

My last post was about a current blogtroversy over a local conference with a heavily lopsided speaking roster. To the tune of 52 men and 1 women.

The conference organizer has gamely engaged on every battlefield, including writing his own plaintive post About a Chap. I'll let you read it without much comment, except to say that I'm not sure he does himself much good positioning his event as a bunch of friends sitting around having fun...not when early bird pricing just ended and now the cost to attend is a non-trivial $595. Dude, maybe you should have had an Office2.0Camp, not a conference.

He's asked for suggestions and more than one blogger has responded with suggestions. Perhaps the King of Suggestions is the Head Lemur who not only provided an initial list, but took it a step further and started doing some specific pre-season trading to improve the stats of the team. But the next step is definitely Ismael's...Tara, the Head Lemur, I and others have given him healthy lists...most of those women probably don't even realize their names are being bandied about. It's up to him now to research what they do and figure out where, if anywhere, some of them would fit. That's what conference organizers who are charging $595 a pop do.

But what's the bigger picture? What good might any of this brouhaha do? Well, maybe, hopefully it has something to do with this comment exchange I had on my last post:
Commenter (Vinnie): "Blogging and other social networking tools are such a wonderful gift to us - they should transcend so many historical barriers. I love the fact that I get emails from my blog readers in Argentina and India and Israel. If we can break that barrier, shame on us all if we cannot communicate more locally across sexual, racial lines..."

Me: "Your last paragraph says it all. We have an amazing opportunity with today's technological tools to reach across social lines of all sorts. When I think of the size of my personal network today vs. 10 years ago, it boggles the mind. But, it's still probably a conscious decision that drives us to expand our reach across lines that we don't cross in meatspace. Public debates like this one can raise our consciousness if we're willing to let them."

Here are some steps, and I hasten to clarify: this is not directed at Ismael. This could apply to many many people, situations, evidenced by the number of times I've blogged on similar issues over the last 2 years.

First: Diversity of population results in diversity of perspective and experience and imagination. I believe this is so, and I believe it matters. (And as Vinnie points out...there is more than gender diversity that ultimately matters.)

Second: If you don't believe it matters, just say so. Which means:

a. Please dial back the arrogance of thinking that a simple, single call for speakers on your blog is the equivalent of a test of the emergency broadcast system reaching every netizen.
b. Please stop billing your event as the very best and brightest speakers/thinkers on a subject, when they're really just the ones who are in your circle of friends or in their circle of friends. Please charge accordingly ;)
c. Please consider the subtle 'xx'-ism at play when you assume that proactively seeking speakers of color, or queer speakers or speakers over the age of 40 will result in a degradation of the quality of your event. Either you're saying that NO competent, qualified speakers from those groups exist, or you're saying you're unmotivated to find them...which is it?

Third: if you DO believe it matters too then:

a. Have some diversity on your planning or advisory team
b. Be completely open and up front that you want, no require a diverse population at your event.
c. Make sure that a significant number of your speakers are people you discovered while planning the event.
d. Make sure a significant number of your speakers are people who are not on the speaker circuit...take risks on fresh voices.

Fourth: You still have to live with the consequences. You won't make everyone happy. You still might not have enough of something. Some newbie speakers may turn out not to be polished, hell, some might turn out not to be cut out for public speaking after all. Live with it.

People often ask me what I would say if they planned a BlogHim. I always say this: "If you believe in it and are passionate about it...then do it and be willing to take the heat for it."

We take the heat for BlogHer...from various corners...and it doesn't change our big-picture belief in it. The heat can, however, change various ways we execute on that belief.

If you believe that diversity of population results in diversity of perspective and experience and imagination, and that that matters...then say so. Be that voice that says so. And act.

If you don't believe it...then say so too.

But I keep coming back to Susan Getgood who sees value in the continuing conversation about it, even when it's uncomfortable.

Value in being conscious. That's the silver lining, I hope, for everyone in this conversation.

Friday, September 01, 2006

While I'm in a rabble-rousing mood

Check out Elise Bauer stickin' it to the man over this WSJ article on blogging that seems to be unaware that half the bloggers out there are women.

Elise is so busy with her wildly popular food blog, Simply Recipes, that she doesn't really spend much time on political or media commentary. But man, she does know how to say a lot in a concise way (something I am not famous for, I admit.)

Awesome post.

Conference organizers make my head explode

Here we go again.

Yesterday I came across this post by Matt Homann, a 2005 BlogHer attendee. I followed his links to the speaking roster for the Office 2.0 Conference and my jaw dropped. It's not like this was a small list of speakers with only a couple of women. This is multiple dozens of speakers (I believe there are over 50 total) with one, count 'em one, woman speaker. (And I hasten to add there's little of any kind of diversity.)

Jeneane points this out on Stowe's blog. Tara writes a post on it too. And in each case the organizer, Ismael Ghalimi, who I do not personally know, comments and says, at least on Stowe's post:

"Good point. We would love to have more female speakers at the event. Any suggestions for candidates?"

Says something similar on Tara's too.

To which I simply must call BS. This sounds like damage control and lip service.

I'm really not saying that anyone here is consciously evil or sexist or racist. But don't take the people pointing out the issue for idiots. This event has likely been months in the planning. It is a mere six weeks away from the event. It takes time to secure all those speakers. It takes time to gather all their bios, photos and the like and get them up on a web site.

If indeed any organizer would "love to have more women speakers", then they have to get some. You could have even talked to some of the men on your speaking roster for referrals, for example...most of them know a fine woman speaker or two, I'd wager. You could have even Googled woman speakers and gotten a start.

I'm not saying organizers that end up with very few women actively didn't "love to have more women speakers." Not at all. I'm guessing it simply never occurred to them to care enough. It wasn't on the radar screen enough.

Or, they didn't feel they had the time to make a "special effort" to look outside their own first or second circle of colleagues to find new voices. And they also didn't expect that the lack of diversity would negatively impact their registration enough to make the time.

Or, they thought there would be something wrong with simply saying out loud to anyone that they needed to diversify, and could they point them in the direction of great women speakers, or speakers of color or whatever. Because saying out loud then does put the pressure on.

I just want folks to own "it", whatever "it" is. It's like Susan Getgood says: (paraphrasing) it does no good to sweep this casual or unconscious exclusionary result under the rug. Look at it. Shake things up. Explore whatever led to such a horrible result and most of all: only say you'll do better if you really are going to change whatever process led to the horrible result. Because now there are people who will be watching. Deb Landa posted in June asking for women speakers. She got tons of suggestions. If I had time I'd go check out her current events and see if she used any of them. Maybe I will. She kinda put herself on the future spot there, didn't she?

Just please don't expect people to jump through hoops now to solve your problem and make you look better. I mean I'm all for people speaking up and putting themselves forward for opportunities. But I have written my feelings on this many many times, like:

-It's the conference organizer's job to secure a diverse set of quality speakers, not prospective attendees or even prospective speakers.

-I don't spend my money to attend events where so little effort has been made.

-I think we all should put our conference-attending money where our mouths are.

-It's about prioritizing diversity and most organizers simply don't prioritize it enough.

I'd like to close by saying that I say all this knowing it's not always a piece of cake. For example, this year before BlogHer I had to approach some colleagues and admit I didn't feel I knew enough women bloggers of color and could they point me to some more. You think that's fun? You think I felt good about myself saying that? Too bad for me.

I'd also like to say that there are organizers who are doing better. There is progress being made. And this happens when they think about diversity in the early planning stages, months in advance, and reach out to the many loud voices clamoring for diversity and ask for their help then. Progress does not happen at the last minute to avoid embarrassment or bad P.R.

Listening to the voices of the blogosphere is a start. Chiming in to conversations that are critical is a worthy endeavor. I would take this conversation and the people having it a little more seriously, that's all.

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