Tuesday, August 29, 2006

The blog-copying fun continues

A couple of months back I whined as follows on my personal blog:

If I'm so famous, why can't they spell my name right?

See, a silly spam blog attributed an SXSW quote to me, but spelled my name Alissa. And it made me cranky.

Turns out the silly spam blog is actually sucking content from a real, reputable blog, entitled Quotations Weblog.

So here is the real live person who quoted me and who I think I even remember meeting, catching and correcting my mis-spelled name.

I wonder how Laura even found my whine, given that I had pointed to a silly spam blog, rather than her blog?

Anyway, one more annoying thing about spam blogs that suck content form real blogs: it takes a lot longer for either praise or criticism to reach the real blogger, if it ever does at all.

BlogHer in Red Herring

Finally got a link to the item on BlogHer that was in the 8/14 issue of Red Herring. We're the second item at this link.

They tried to sell us an outrageously priced custom PDF to put on our web site, but a) it was for "limited time periods" only, and why would put something on my site that would expire? And b) I actually prefer the link, because the custom pdf reveals that there was lots of pink on the page (and a big ol' female gender symbol.)

BTW: I tried to pick up a copy of Red Herring at two different Borders Book Stores when this came out, and apparently they don't carry it. Does that strike anyone else as odd?

Monday, August 28, 2006

Carnival of the Capitalists is up at Business & Technology Reinvention

Blogger David Daniels from Business & Technology Reinvention has organized this week's Carnival simply, in order of posts received, and there are many intriguing post descriptions to be perused. He has also kindly linked to my post here wondering why someone hasn't made a real blog conversation tracking tool.

One post that caught my eye:

7 Tip-offs that politics run rampant in your company from Bouncing Back. Of the 7 tip-offs described I would say that I have personally experienced #1 and #6 almost to the letter, and that the general politics behind #2, #3 and #5 are pretty much commonplace! how about you?

So check out this week's Carnival of the Capitalists and read for yourself.

PS-I can't help but notice that only 4 out of 39 submissions are identifiably women bloggers (a few are identified by blog name alone.) This is actually the first time I've submitted in a while, and I've noticed that my own participation in blog carnivals has gone down when my work load goes up. Many Carnivals I participate in off and on seem to be past their peak on number of submissions. Is this a trend? Has the blogosphere introduced so many Carnivals that they're losing their value or significance or capacity to make an impact? I've often said that Carnivals are a good way to expose your blog and its ideas to new readers and get regular bumps in traffic, some of which will always stick around. Do you out there feel that's still true, or are you too observing blog carnival overload and therefore dilution?

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Here we go again...blogosphere: hierarchical construct or meritocratic free-for-all?

One of my favorite subjects, of course, is The Myth of Meritocracy. I can think of nothing that makes me roll my eyes more than hearing people who are basically privileged to begin with ramble on about how free and open and completely without barriers the Internet is. And I'm not even talking about the digital divide, which is a whole other subject. No, I'm talking about talented folks who are very threatened by the idea that anything might have contributed to their relative success other than that talent. But I don't need to reiterate my own points about The Myth of Meritocracy.

I'm going to point you to an ongoing and interesting conversation happening on the topic instead:

Groundhog Day: What Can't Be Fixed
"By comparison, blogs and blogging appear different. But that changed appearance doesn't equate to institutions or organizations (if we take those terms at their most general, regarding "the blogosphere" as an institution for instance), let alone a world, that is not full of gates and gatekeepers and exclusive territories. The terrain may have changed, but the competition to be heard remains the same. It remains unequal and unfair. Perhaps more cruelly so, because the changed appearance gave many people to believe that it might be so, it might be fairer, it might be more equal."

Ethan Johnson: The Compleat A-List
"A-Listers are viewed (and/or accused) as "gatekeepers", ostensibly filtering out (or actively/passively promoting) Z-Listers. In theory, this can't actually happen because the blogosphere, if not the internet at large is a borderless, undefined virtual space that cannot prevent subversion because there are far too many points of entry. Kind of like trying to "protect" the southern US border with 15 people. However, where there is data, there is analysis, and therefore Top 100 lists are fairly easy to generate based on traffic numbers, contextual mentions, and so forth. This in turn, again, depending on the question, means that certain bloggers will be listed in the critical first five to ten Google search results. If CNN needed an expert on say, user experience for an on-air segment, and you were an A-Lister on that subject, your phone will soon be ringing (or equivalent). It is this "visibility begets opportunity" dynamic that seems to fuel the most distrust and flat-out envy of real or imagined A-Listers."

Susan Getgood: The A-List Follies
"Let's start by forgetting the foolishness that the blogosphere is a pure meritocracy. Sure, merit matters, but so do a lot of other things. Assuming that those at the top are the "smart" ones to the exclusion of the rest is plain and simple stupidity. New bloggers, casual readers, everyone, needs to be reminded of this on a regular basis. If that means we have to have the A-list blog debate every few months, so be it.

Don't sweep the problems of gender/ racial bias and marginalization under the rug. Expose them to the light of day on a regular basis, so people are aware. And perhaps take a little more time to investigate, to dig, to find an alternative viewpoint."

I'm sure I could find many more people talking around this subject, but nasty me, I'm going to link to the ones who said something that resonates with me!

Bonus mention:

Shelley Powers: Eat the Red Couch. Not for the post itself which is one big amusing in-joke, but for the best comment exchange EVER:
"Actually Shelley, the more I read you, the less I think of you a champion of people whose voices don’t get heard enough [women, “D-Listers”, whoever], and more as somebody complicit in making sure they stay that way.

Yes, I’m sure somebody like Seth takes comfort in your words [the writing of which, you obviously have a talent for], but I don’t think you’re doing him any real long-term favors, either. Pity.
Hugh MacLeod — 8:28 pm August 21, 2006

Hugh, I have a headache and I don’t speak ‘cryptic’. Explain your comment, please.
Shelley — 8:32 pm August 21, 2006"

Oh. My. God. I am so stealing "I don't speak 'cryptic'" for my very own.

And PS: Hugh did not return to explain his comment. Seems like he could use the kind of conversation-tracking utility I was asking for here, no?

Go read those other folks. They are smart people saying smart things. Me? I said it all in The Myth of Meritocracy, and I really just like linking to that post again and again, as you can tell!

Monday, August 21, 2006

San Jose Mercury makes it five

Five articles originating from BlogHer Conference '06, that is.

The latest is one today by reporter Elise Ackerman, entitled Do Not Fear the Blogosphere. Although it doesn't mention the BlogHer Conference by name (boo!) it does quote me, two BlogHer '06 speakers Kim Holmes (Miss Zoot) and Heather Schlegl (yay!) and two Friends of BlogHer...Phil Hollows from Technology Partner, FeedBlitz and Anil Dash from BlogHer Sponsor, SixApart.

The point of the article is a very nice change for mainstream media. Instead of trying to scare the bejeezus out of everyone about how scary it is to be online, Ackerman points out the many ways companies are making it easier and easier to be online...and offering more privacy options too.

In addition down the left and right side bar of this TechMonday front page article Ackerman lists 8 of the top blogging tools and some key stats about them.

For the record, here are the other four Merc/BlogHer pieces:

Blog world finally gets it: sisterhood is powerful
by Sue Hutchison, 08/02/06

In the Blogosphere
by Elise Ackerman, 07/31/06

How Are Blogs Changing Your World (Page 1C Business section)

It's interesting how I can't find a link to this one above, because it actually had two terrific pictures and a bigger blurb than, for example, the 'In the Blogosphere' mention on the 31st.

Female Bloggers Revving Up
by Michelle Quinn, 07/28/06

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Why won't someone build a real conversation tracking tool?

Among the many conversations I've been engaging in around the blogosphere in the aftermath of BlogHer, here is one that reminds me how far blog measurement and tracking tools still have to come.

This is how it usually goes for me:

1. I find a post about BlogHer or something else I track in my ego-feeds. I click on the link and see what it's about and may or may not decide to join in.

That's the simple part. Now what happens after that?

if I didn't care about the conversation at all, then that would be it. I'd leave my pearl of wisdom, be on my way and never give it another thought. Sometimes, I confess, I do that. but usually I'm fairly interested to know if the conversation continues, and let's be honest, whether my contribution to it had any impact on its continuing path.

I've already blogged that I set up a del.icio.us tag called 'Commented' to track where I comment. I do this because I believe there isn't a better tool for this around. Not as a Mac user. And not a tool that consistently works across blogging platforms. because the last thing I want is to have to use different methodologies to track the conversation depending on what blogging software is in use.

But this is so manual, so non-automated, so prone to human failing. First, I have to remember to tag the post to begin with. Second, I have to remember to go back to my 'Commented' tag and click through on the recent links to see where the conversation has gone.

I remember the first part pretty consistently. Remembering and taking the time to do the second part is a lot tougher.

I realize that some blog platforms allow readers to subscribe not just to the post feeds, but to comment feeds, and even comment feeds per individual posts. I rarely do this. I already track over 320 feeds in NetNewsWireLite, so yes, I resist the idea of adding all of these extra feeds, most of which will have a limited shelf life, to my reader. And again, since not every platform supports that, it would only work for certain posts, and by no stretch of the imagination even the majority.

So, that's just me and my selfish commenting tracking desires. But the bigger issue is simply the conversations themselves.

In the post I mention above. I comment, and someone expresses disappointment that I'm commenting on this post, rather than the "original post" in question.

OK, now I'm confused. I've commented on related posts to this posts, including several of the commenter's. if they don't provide a link to a specific post, how can I know which one they're talking about that I "should have" commented on and didn't. Well, given, again, the reliance on the manual, human effort to create links every time we want to reference something again, I can't.

But...here's my idea, I'm finally getting to it...why isn't there some utility that could show me the network around this post? And something that didn't rely solely on human linking, but on intersections between the participants or topics being discussed. Say, show me all posts that include references to this blogger, the blogger he started out talking about, the commenter, even me or BlogHer, in various combinations.

Some of it seems like simple search combinations to me. But then there's one little hitch. There's not really a search tool, blog or otherwise, that captures and measures comments.

I read some blogs that get dozens and dozens of comments on every post. But if that blogger doesn't link out, or get linked to, their influence, their position as a conversation-generator, remains unmeasured.

So, that's it. I want some kind of tool...a tool for tracking, monitoring, alerting, measuring...that takes into account comments, that gives a more three-dimensional view of a topic, blogger or blog post, that does not rely solely on human, manual effort to link correctly and link every single time.

Is that so wrong?

Monday, August 14, 2006

Voices from BlogHer

There were bloggers with microphones and video cameras everywhere at BlogHer, so here are a few places where you can see and hear (instead of just read) what people thought while at the conference:

Laura Foy from Microsoft has this video piece on the conference. It includes snippets with yours truly. Note how I look completely and utterly wiped out, but I keep trying to gamely match Laura's wonderful energy. Na' Gon' Hapn' I only include this blackmail-worthy material because the rest of her interviews are really fun.

ListenShare, who helped us out with conference podcasting, has posted some of the interviews they conducted, including with Arianna Huffington, Mena Trott, Lisa Stone and even guy Kawasaki. Check 'em all out.

Daniel McVicar, soap star turned vlogger, showed up and interviewed away...everyone from Arianna Huffington to our BlogHeroes at MommyBloggers.com to Lisa and Jory too. He's got his one big recap post with links to all right here, and I just love that he calls it the BlogHer Box Set.

Of course JD Lasica was there, with incriminating photos and video the outcome. Note to self: do not let people video you when you are only a few minutes from the end of BlogHer and can barely hold your head up straight. You will be incoherent and look really really crappy too.

I'm sure I've missed some multimedia folks out there, but this'll get you started.

Monday, August 07, 2006

Cross-post from personal blog: Why I blog here

It has come to my attention that some folks have wondered why I posted my post-BlogHer recaps here and on my personal blog, rather than on BlogHer itself.

Simple...two reasons:

1. I'm a blogger. I blogged long before BlogHer, and I still blog on all my many blogs when I can. I blog about different things about different blogs. I blog as a person, not just an event planner, not just as a BlogHer founder. I retain the right to blog on my own blogs.

2. BlogHer.org is not my personal soapbox. Not every little thought I have is worthy of being on BlogHer, or relevant to BlogHer, or speaks for BlogHer, the organization. I did publish a post there about conference programming issues. I wanted to give the BlogHer community some insights into how programming works, and I wanted to solicit feedback. Totally appropriate for the site. My every little thought and feeling about BlogHer? Really not everyone's cup of tea. I linked to these posts, but I didn't post them there because I'm not planning to hijack the BlogHer site to be all about me.

So, that's why...it makes total sense to me...what do y'all think?

Friday, August 04, 2006

Through new eyes...

I was never really a meeting panner or event manager before BlogHer. I worked with folks on events, but it wasn't my job.

I've often heard bloggers, most recently Millie, say that blogging makes them look at everything through new eyes. I agree. And since BlogHer I now look at events and meetings through new eyes too.

I'm currently at the Crowne Plaza Burlingame for a California Democratic Party Executive Board meeting (I represent my assembly district.) There are numerous caucus meetings this afternoon with official business starting a little later.

So first hiccup is that they changed the schedule without sending out a notification. So I showed up at 1PM but discovered that the caucus schedule had changed, so that my first "scheduled" caucus wasn't until 4PM. I definitely could have used another three hours working at home.

So then I figured I'd buy myself lunch in the cafe. The cafe was only half full, but the maitre d' told me it would be a very long wait since they were so busy. I looked rather skeptically at the many open tables, and he assured me the kitchen was all backed up.

He recommended I walk down the street to Max's Cafe...which i did somewhat begrudgingly.

And all I could think was: dude didn't you know all these folks were coming??

Oh well, I'm visiting caucuses I usually dont't visit, since I'm here. I caught the end of the Arab-American caucus, and now I'm in the LGBT caucus meeting.

These words brought to you by Ogo. Find out more at www.ogo.com

Thursday, August 03, 2006

BlogHer, the recap: Or Perception = Reality

So, it's almost overwhelming to consider writing a post-BlogHer recap. And more than that, since my perspective is about many different aspects of the event, I'm thinking that some thoughts belong here on this blog...which is ostensibly about marketing and the business of blogging and social media...and some thoughts belong on my personal blog. So, two posts it may well have to be.

The introduction that is appropriate for both blogs, however, is that perception = reality for every individual, and I believe that to be a pretty universal truth in our personal and professional lives.

What that means is this:

Objectively, the conference was an unqualified success. We had a huge increase in attendance, a huge increase in sponsorship, a huge expansion of media coverage (and all coverage I saw was neutral or positive) and a huge expansion of topics and sessions. We were sold out on both days, and we received much positive feedback both on-site and subsequently in emails and in blog posts.

But nothing is ever perfect, and I have to say that I am regrettably one of those people who obsessively goes over everything that wasn't perfect...helped along by kindly blog posts, emails and complaints while at the conference too of course! So the reality of objective success is overshadowed by my perception of the aftermath.

What parts of that are relevant to this, my Worker Bees Blog? Let's talk about money, marketing and sponsorship.

-The concept of economic inclusiveness

The concept of the digital divide is an important one. Yes, I totally grant that if you are a) a blogger and b) even able to consider coming to a conference on blogging then you are probably not in a desperate financial situation. Still we acknowledge that many, perhaps the majority, of our attendees are not able to expense this trip to a company, nor consider it deductible from a tax perspective. So, yes, trying to accommodate as broad a number of people was top of mind when planning. Seriously, why do you think we picked a hotel in Silicon Valley that gave us a $75/night rate? What did it matter to us the organizers, right? We don't have to pay for attendees' hotel rooms. Could it be that we were thinking of our attendee's budgets? We certainly weren't thinking it was the best hotel in town. But we expected that our more well-heeled BlogHers would manage, so that a greater number of BlogHer could afford the trip.

I can also tell you that we took on providing meals and snacks and beverages throughout those two days precisely because that would mean that any woman who really *needed* to could avoid spending a single cent on food/drink for two days. So, sure, cap on the water sponsor, but that saved us thousands of dollars. Perhaps we won't do that again, because there were certainly many negative reactions to it, but believe you me, we were THRILLED when we found a water sponsor and wine sponsor...and we were pleasantly surprised when the hotel didn't charge us a fee to bring in outside water (although they will charge our wine sponsor corkage on the wine.)

I can also tell you that we talk to each speaker we invite about their financial needs and try to help wherever we can. Covering conference fees is a start, and many conferences do that for speakers. We also negotiate travel stipends. And I can tell you that most conferences do not do that. We pay no honoraria. No, Arianna did not get an honoraria. Nor did anyone else. I'd love to be in the position some day. Today's not that day. But why bother? Well, because it allows us to invite the starving artist-type or the single mom type or the young yet-to-be-well-established type to share their stories. It allows us to present 95 women speakers, 85% of whom did not speak last year, and some of whom would never really get to travel and tell their stories without some help. We spent tens of thousands of dollars on this. Not to mention the dozens of volunteers who were comp'ed. This is done expressly to improve economic inclusiveness.

I actually hope that this was all transparent to the majority of attendees. But for some people to complain in one post about the quality of accommodations and in the next about how elitist the conference is...well, the reality may not change the perception, but I wish it would.

-The issue of sponsorship in general, especially vs. registration fees

Yes we had sponsors. Many of them. And some of them did a better job connecting to our community than others.

My post on my personal blog is going to go into greater depth about the subject of the Tyranny of the Individual. I heard an inordinate amount of feedback that arose out of a seeming expectation that a conference trying to bring disparate interests and groups together in one place should also somehow be able to please each interest group (not to mention the fact that individuals within such groups aren't always monolithic in their tastes or opinions.)

But I think we can agree that once you have sponsors you give up the idea that every single attendee will approve of every single sponsor. And I doubt a single person there was enamored of every single sponsor, nor was a single sponsor loved by every attendee. GM is being widely praised for their smart, savvy sponsorship model. I happen to agree and had a wonderful brief test drive of the adorable little Saturn Sky. But I have heard at least two attendees who were offended by their presence.

Or there's Weight Watchers. I've used Weight Watchers. In fact 16 years ago in NYC I made my living as a Weight Watchers leader. I admire that company, and I admire their messaging around making permanent healthy lifestyle changes. And lots and lots of women are trying to make those changes. Those women picked up information, and even felt gratified to see WW there supporting the community. Are the feelings of those attendees about said sponsor irrelevant? Are they simply brainwashed, self-loathing victims? I have been really disturbed by what I see as some patronization within our own community that if some of us are *not* offended by something we need to be educated or spoken up for. Maybe some of us just disagree.

Same goes for schwag for that matter. I have gone to many many conferences. I don't need another tee-shirt, another tote-bag, another sqwushy stress-relief ball etc. etc. My usual M.O. is to rifle through the tote bag, pull out the few items I care to keep and chuck the rest. Everyone probably does the same thing, and everyone probably keeps a different combo of schwagalicious items. There were those who loved the schwag, and those who hated it. So, see above.

But back to sponsorship, and why we have it.

Bottom line: registration fees don't pay for the conference. They just don't. Registration probably covered the food bill.

So the very real, non-snarky question (which will go on our attendee survey) is : how much more would you pay to have a sponsor-free conference? And would you be OK if that increased fee kept others less financially equipped than you away, so that you could have an experience unencumbered by seeing the vendor tables?

You think I'm laying guilt on you? Well, maybe. But it's the reality. There are trade-offs. We want the annual conference to be inexpensive to attend. We want to enable a mix of attendees to come. We think it's important. We take many organizational steps to try to make that happen. The reality may not change the perception, but I wish it would.

-The issue of sponsor "commercials" before keynotes.

Oh, yes, we realize there's big controversy here. And lots of decisions on how to handle in future.

Now, this was actually not entirely new to BlogHer. Sponsors spoke briefly before both the lunch and final sessions at BlogHer '05. Last year Caterina Fake was supposed to introduce our final session on behalf of Yahoo, the cocktail party sponsor. She had an emergency and danah boyd stepped in last minute. Our attendees may have been totally oblivious to it, given danah's blogging cred.

This year we had three such general session speaking opportunities, rather than two. plus we had a sponsor announce a contest winner in another breakout. That's four our of a total of 29 sessions. For each we gave guidelines on what the session was about, and a time limit of <10 minutes before we would get up and take the mic back.

Now, here's the rub: how do you balance control vs. ownership? Here's what I mean. We did not want to identify sponsor presentations as conference programming. We wanted to be able to get up there and give attendees a warning in each welcome session that there would be these 10 minute introductions. We didn't want to list their speakers and themes in our conference schedule like it was programming. We had this idea of creating that old editorial vs. sponsor/advertiser wall.

But, and here's the interesting ethical question: if you want to be hands off and not have ownership of their content, can you still ask to control it? We felt we could give them our advice and guidelines, but could not exert editorial control. We felt that crossed a line. Were we wrong on that? I'm interested in what those with experience in event management think. Perhaps we were applying a journalistic approach to the sessions, and the standard for events are totally different? Would love to get input from those who have expertise in that area!

But, all it would have taken to find out if we "green-lit" a specific presentation or message was to ask the question. The reality may not change the perception, but I wish it would.

Side note: Were there other women from sponsors on panels. Yup, sure. We had Yahoo!, SixApart and Microsoft, among others, as sponsors. I, for one, wasn't willing to say that Mena, who came simply as an attendee last year, was disallowed from speaking because her company donated the tote bags. She is a veritable blogging rock star...and a successful women entrepreneur. Same goes for Caterina Fake. And should I not have Heather Champ...photo-blogging's Goddess-at-large before she went to work for Flickr...talk about photography if she's willing to be inclusive of other tools? I don't think so; I really don't. There are other examples, and they all had expertise that fit the particular panel they were on. It was not a speaking slot that arose from a sponsorship agreement. Again, can I hear a shout-out for the 95 women speakers on hand, 85% of whom did not speak last year?

-Money, money, money

I have a whole other post in me about money and attitudes toward it. It's not exclusively a BlogHer issue, though, it's also about my activism within the Democratic Party and the messaging I see at party events that drives me batty. I've got to think that one through more, and it will likely go on my personal blog, not this one. Sorry for the teaser.

I must emphasize again: I totally get that perception is reality. I can, for example, present data to "prove" that the ad network did not unduly influence either our session content, nor our speaker roster. That other groups were, in fact, better represented in those areas than our ad network members or sponsors.

But it wouldn't matter, would it, to people who have a different perception? Past perception is almost impossible to change, isn't it? If we care about the *future perception*, then we have to deal with it, right?

Look, we state our mission to be "to create opportunities for education, exposure, community and economic empowerment for women bloggers." Attendees are holding us responsible for every aspect of their BlogHer 06 experience, from the educational to the social...and while I can whine that it's not fair, we sort of asked for it, didn't we? I get that.

The reality may not change the perception, but I wish it would.

And mostly I'd like to get my perception out there, because I think it counts too.

PS-Oh, and yes, I suck because somewhere there are literally dozens and dozens of posts that inspired this post. They're all collected in my http://del.icio.us/ElisaCam/bloghercon tag, and I just went and looked and got completely overwhelmed, and I'm not doing it, at least now. I guess I'm just trying my best to inspire Shelley to write a post: "Elisa doesn't link" :) Really, I'm sorry.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

UPDATED: Hugh Macleod: incompetent linker?

Hugh has one of amusing cartoons up, inspired by what he calls the "annual BlogHer non-debate."

The post is an interesting study in linking habits. His link under the word BlogHer actually goes to Guy Kawasaki talking about it. His links to *named* women talking about BlogHer go only to women who didn't attend it. Fascinating.

I have nothing else to say. Draw your own conclusions.

[But if only I knew how to find Shelley Powers' Burningbird archives I would point everyone for old time's sake to a post she wrote that was one of my early inspirations for BlogHer. Alas, I'm not sure where she's keeping that old stuff. Anyone?]

UPDATED: Shelley kindly reminded me that Google is good for that sort of thing, and so it was. D'oh!

This month's Silicon Veggie: Ode to local Mexican restaurants

And particularly, this month, Casa Lupe in Campbell.

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