Women Wearing Shoes

I read several postings related to Blogher this weekend. I imagine most will come out in the next week, as I gather hotel connectivity was quite poor during the event.

The photos of the event show a lot of happy people, and shoes for some reason. I guess this is becoming a tradition: wearing colorful shoes to Blogher. It’s a fun tradition–a variation of shaved heads and dyed hair for O’Reilly events. Funniest caption for a photo is with this one.

The events of the first day received nothing but positive reviews. Good, practical sessions providing good, practical advice, and a chance to meet some of those more well known is a win/win combination. The second day’s coverage seems much more mixed.

I thought Liz Henry’s coverage for the Huffington Post was some of the best. Through it I found that Lauren, formerly of Feministe, is now blogging under a male pseudonym. We used to ponder whether a woman would receive more response and respect if she wrote under a man’s alias, and it would see Lauren is taking this idea for a test drive. I haven’t been reading Feministe since she left; I’ll have to check back in, see what’s new.

(Question: what’s with all the Liz Henry “Obey Me” photos on Flickr?)

There was no activism, per se, at Blogher. Most of the discussions about being a woman weblogger seemed to focus more on the anecdotal. There was a great deal of coverage on how women can promote and market their weblogs. I noticed it made one long time weblogger, danah boyd, a a little bit uncomfortable:

The other thing that i’ve realized is that i’m not a “blogger” in the sense of the word that others here use. The women here have been so empowered by their blogging – they joined a movement, connected with people, built a community… They love the actual act of blogging, are excited to be bloggers as a primary identity. There’s so much interest in getting an audience, in figuring out how to build a business from it, in figuring out how to attract ads. I blogged before there was blogging because i needed to get my internal neuroses out there.

I didn’t start weblogging to necessarily get my internal neuroses out there, though I imagine many have leaked through over the years. I can understand where danah is coming from: this being a weblogger as a ‘be all end all’ is a new way of looking at things. But, as danah also discovered, it’s a fresh, new perspective, and this is good. I also have not thought of food blogging as a political activity, and would like to hear more on this subject from eggbeater.

I was disappointed, though, of what little I heard of the Deeply Geek breakout session. According to one live blogger on this event:

One of the panelists just gave a possible reason for why there are so few women in the tech world, which is because of those doing the hiring. Instead women are met with various stereotypes that hinder their progress in the tech field. The remedy? Besides getting angry and bitchy is to stick to your guns and start your own company.

I can agree with the discussion on the hiring, but rather than being ‘angry and bitchy’, starting your own company is how women are supposed to deal with these issues? That’s like telling Martin Luther King, “Relax Martin. Rather than get in whitey’s face and make him all uncomfortable, what you need to do is start you own country. Then your people can get all the equality they want.”

I think I’d rather be angry and bitchy. Another ten years of this not rocking the boat and women will give up the vote.

I thought it telling that Guy Kawasaki’s favorite photos of the event were either of the shwag received or pictures of the A listing males in the audience. So why did he attend? To sell Filmloop.

Speaking of which, that was a predominant theme I picked up from postings and photos and what not: there was a lot of marketing going on at Blogher. I mean a lot. This included car test drives, bottled water (which tasted like ass according to one conference attendee), condoms, and most particularly and one that surprised me, companies given a chance to ‘sponsor’ particular sessions and then being allowed to brand such sessions–including doing presentations before the actual event. It’s been a while since I’ve been to a conference, but I’ve never seen such bleed through of marketing to event.

The San Fran Chronicle wrote a story specifically on this:

At the convention, brand-name companies lined up to greet their potential business partners. The lunch break was sponsored by Weight Watchers. Funding for the keynote seminar was provided by Johnson & Johnson, which also used the event to launch momver sations.com, an upcoming “virtual park bench” for motherly blogs. And the sex talk forum was sponsored by Elexa, Trojan’s line of “sexual well-being products created from a woman’s perspective.”

Very little push-back at such marketing. One Blogher attendee thought the product placement was one of the better components of the conference.

The marketing extended to the new Blogher Ad Network, which formed one of the actual sessions. The philosophy is that a company could place an ad with the network and have their brand appear on several relevant weblogs. Not a bad idea, but those who participate have to sign an ‘editorial standards’ contract. No, this isn’t censorship–only the government can actually practice censorship. But it is not a good trend. Especially when applied to women in the weblogging, who have a hard enough time being heard.

Still, I liked much of what I read of the conference. I appreciated what Maria wrote about the outreach among the women, something I have never experienced at any of the tech conferences I’d attended. What would it feel like to be one of the majority at a conference–to fit in, rather than feeling somewhat like an outsider? I enjoyed what I read in one post (I can’t find the original post, now christine.net): the ratio of men to women at Blogher is the same ratio of women to men at most tech conferences. There’s actually a Men at Blogher photoset something that would-never, ever–happen at an O’Reilly conference. I still think the best conference, though, would be one where the ratio between men and women is about 50/50. There’s something so lifelike about that ratio.

Looking forward to reading more views as people return home to better internet connections. Rumor has it the next Blogher is in Chicago next year. Now that’s a break from the norm.

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4 Responses to Women Wearing Shoes

  1. Guy Kawasaki says:

    I’m glad you figured me out.



  2. maria says:

    I haven’t had time to assemble my notes from BlogHer into a coherent post yet, but most of them do contain references to the budding relationship between blogs and branding. Last year’s sessions seemed more concerned with identity issues (naturally, since it was a first-of-its-kind gathering). This year’s sessions seemed to draw the kinds of bloggers who wanted to explore not just the intrinsic value how to make themselves heard through their blogs, but also the kinds of extrinsic and tangible value they could get in return from being heard, or from a targeted audience of sorts.

    Okay, it’s a bit dense the way I put it above, but my point is that, these days, for many jumping on the bandwagon, blogging having gone mainstream, it is just one of the many tools to shape a public and professional presence (as opposed to serving as a platform for the personal).

  3. Denise says:

    Liz and “obey me” – just Liz having fun, showing her underwear. It’s what she does, and one reason I like her. :-)

  4. Shelley says:

    Guy, yup, read your post, manning Filmloop table all day is kind of a dead give away. I blogger. I smart this way.

    Maria, this Blogher did seem to be focusing on this. I guess that is the way things are now.

    Ahh, Denise, I thought there was some other giggle or inside joke associated with the words or something.