Photo by Veronica Foale
Below are ten dot points of things I learned or reflected on at the Aussie Bloggers Conference on the weekend. I didn’t really have a great time and so I’m a little nervous of writing my honest thoughts down about it but decided, after talking it over with a couple of friends and Sean, that I can only tell my story, my perspective. I mean no offence or to have a go at anyone. It’s just my perspective. And it’s a little longer than I normally write in a post but I had stuff to cover. Stick with me if you can.
- A lot of people had an amazing time and I don’t want to dump on that. A lot of people got a lot out of it. A lot of people found their kin. I didn’t. But then I wasn’t the target audience.Even though we’ve now established I’m a personal (knit) blogger, the conference was primarily for and by a large group who all know each other (online at least) very well – or at least many of them do. They were speaking to each other. It felt a little like eavesdropping sometimes.
- For the most part it felt like a big meet up of nearly 200 online best friends. That’s ok. Online friends meet up and have amazing real life experiences together. But they should call it a meet up, not a conference. Maybe. Especially since a lot of people have declared they were more interested in meeting their blog friends than the content. Maybe next time it won’t feel like 150 best friends getting together for a big weekend because it will be targeted at all Australian Bloggers, not just a niche group.
- Since I wasn’t there to meet 150 friends I’ve known for years (good for those who were), I was really hoping the content had a lot to offer. In some ways it did. There were some moving stories told; There were some cautionary tales I found alarming and challenging about online privacy and how things can go wrong when you lay yourself out there. Take home message: the internet is forever. Be warned. (Side note: at the same time as this event was on, a similar event called BarCamp Canberra 2011 was held – same number of people, same discussion about social media but with a focus on open government and social media. I do kind of wonder if I’d have been more at home there. Look out for its sister events in other major cities if you’re interested).
- I learned that, just like the knitting blog community, the mummy blog community derives great strength and inspiration from its members. I learned years ago that linking up to like minded people, sharing ideas and inspiration, just telling our stories is a powerful thing. Find your tribe and make the most of it. Just remember, there are other tribes out there, too.
- There was a real sense that blogging is changing in Australia, that it’s growing in scope and diversity. I do really wish that diversity was more represented there. There were many references to the power of Australian blogging. That power lies both within and beyond the borders of mummy and personal blogging. It’s in food blogging, political blogging, Indigenous blogging, tech blogging just to name a few. Great writers everywhere are writing outside the mainstream media and doing amazing things. No one says you have to read blogs from all over the place, but please don’t lay claim to being the core Australian blogging community. That was probably the biggest sticking point for me from the day.
- The fact that I wasn’t a mum was only part of my discomfort on the weekend. It wasn’t painful, at least not in the way I thought it would be, it was only a bit frustrating that so much conversation was peppered with references to ‘our kids’. An outsider with fertility problems can’t ever really feel at ease in that environment. Frequent reference to practices and styles of parent blogging was made all day and that was fair enough, given the audience, but for a non-parent blogger, it felt like visiting a foreign country. The conference was apparently styled on the US version, BlogHer. I hope next year they make it more about women in blogging generally (if they want to keep it gender specific; although there were a couple of men present: I imagine they felt even more like a fish out of water). Organisers, if you’re reading: it was really lovely of you to say ‘sure, people outside the core group are welcome’ but I think it was a mistake.
- It made me imagine a knitting blogger conference. I imagined the Yarn Harlot standing up there talking about knitting as wonderfully as she does. Even as a fabulous communicator who is open, intelligent, welcoming and oh so funny, much of what she would speak about would go over the heads of anyone from outside the knitting world who stumbled across the conference. Even just referencing Ravelry, knit alongs and any of the big fibre festivals would go over the head a non-knitter. She would probably get up, walk out, decide it was all like listening to someone speak Mongolian. That’s how it was for me. Only I didn’t leave.
- There are bloggers out there who are really, really earnest about it. They have strategies, goals, the need to grow and achieve a lot with their blogs. They’re hoping to make money, start new careers, conquer some part of the world and use as much online media as is available to them to do it. Now, I love blogging. You can probably tell. I’m serious about it in that i like to write well, I’m pleased when I’ve put something out there that’s engaging. I’m serious about being part of an online community and celebrating the blogs I love to read. I decided I’m not earnest about it. Good for those who are, but I learned there’s a difference.
- I learned that trying to knit, listen and follow along with the concurrent twitter discussion all that same time was silly. I gave up, even though I felt very cool using our new iPad to do it.
- I learned that if you stand aside at the dinner dance because you don’t dance, eventually you’ll find someone else who also doesn’t dance, but wants to drink wine and talk for ages about anything and everything. Thank you Susan, from Reading Upside Down. That was great fun!
So, you know, it wasn’t all bad. I had a great time with my friend Ally on the drive up and back (let’s not discuss my map reading skills….) and appreciated the stopover at the home of Gabfran (not her real name) of Law and Shoes. There was much late night hilarity there involving lessons in corsets and vintage stockings.
I was just really glad to get home and think about all that happened and why I would think twice about going again. Great work by the organisers, really. In terms of logistics the day seemed to run beautifully – professionally and with no visible or serious glitches, other than some time constraints. So that deserves thanks and acknowledgement.
But on the whole, it really wasn’t my kind of day. That’s ok. You get that.