Aussie Bloggers Conference: A Mixed Response

Sydney and Aus Blog Con 078 (2)

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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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).
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. 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. Β I decided I’m not earnest about it. Good for those who are, but I learned there’s a difference.
  9. 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.
  10. 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.

Bells

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94 thoughts on “Aussie Bloggers Conference: A Mixed Response

  1. I love this post, and am so happy to have found it. My blog isn’t a mummy blog either so I did come away feeling like I didn’t get that much out of it. I completely get that if you are in a group of bloggers that are all connected to each other, and have a history of social networking with each other then the social aspect of the conference would be a huge. I was happy to meet the 2 bloggers I “knew” but I was disappointed with the content and did feel it was geared toward the Aussie Mummy Blogger peeps. The organisers did an amazing job, and it probably is too much to expect a broader content range in a one day conference, especially given that it is the first one. However, perhaps the marketing could have specified that it would be focused towards a specific niche.

  2. Pingback: Wrap Up – and some pretties « Bellsknits

  3. Hello! I think its great that you have posted and there is nothing wrong with constructive advice, it only makes for a better conference or event or whatever next year. I loved it and enjoyed meeting the people who I have blogged with……

    I think something that would be good for next year is perhaps breaking off into groups and networking and discussing certain topics as there wasn’t enough audience interaction..and time to connect with others…The day went very fast…..

    I do hope to see you next year xox

  4. It’s a shame that the weekend was a bit of a bust for you. While I am a “mummy” and a “blogger” I don’t feel I am a “Mummy Blogger” and would have felt as out of place as you did. I’m glad that you have put up an honest account from your perspective of the event, everyone is different and while for some it would have been exactly what they were after, for others it clearly was not. Kudos for being honest in your assessment without being accusatory or negative.

  5. two things – wow problogger replied to your post:) and a knitting conference….bring it on! I always see the great events they run in the states and think wow! how much fun!

    I’m glad I got to meet you:) We have the sew it together weekend here in sydney which started up last year as a get together for crafty bloggers (mostly sewers) which is so much fun, a shopping trip, a day of craft at a conference venue, dinner out and then there is a trip to a patchwork store the next day. It’s so much fun and last year I loved it. Last year was melbourne, this year sydney, next year brisbane! maybe the knitters on ravelry need to set up a yarn one:)

    Corrie:)

    • Hi corrie

      There are quite a few knitting events each year. There’s knitting camp in Wollongong; lots of sydney/Wollongong/Canberra knitters go to that. There’s the bendigo sheep and wool show which i went to last year and numerous other smaller weekends and days. People are pretty active!

      Helen

  6. I was once in a big and very close forum and in a long conversation we discovered that everyone felt there was an in-group, and everyone felt they were outside it. I think that’s part of the online or even just social world. That experience has always given me the confidence to take a deep breath and talk to people, I find it very hard but I know they’re probably feeling as out of it as I am.

    I filled in the feedback form and there’s one thing I needed to add – I get how enormous this would have been to organise. And my (and others’) suggestions would be an order of magnitude harder. So if we/you/they/us/Uncle Bob want next year to be different, there’s going to have to be more people involved. I found it quite clear on the site and in the advertising that it was going to be focused on personal blogging and that was my main stumbling block about going, I questioned whether it would be relevant to me.

    A question I have for people who were attending, if you weren’t sure or aren’t serious about blogging, why were you there? This was a huge commitment for me – with travel and accomodation plus the conference fee it was very expensive and then my husband and kids had to do without me for a minimum of 3 days because it takes at least a day’s travel each way (in fact thanks to the weather it was more). I’m hoping that blogging will help me build a new career so it was a reasonable investment, for me personally it wouldn’t be worth it if I wasn’t ‘earnest.’ Perhaps my view is biased because of where I am, if I lived in or near Sydney it might not have been such a big deal.

    • I’m sure people attended for lots of different reasons. And I can understand the thrill of going along to meet people you’ve admired online for a long time.

      My comments weren’t out to condemn the ‘earnest’ bloggers. I recognised the difference between what I hope to achieve and what others hope to achieve, that’s all.

      • I didn’t feel that Bells! And I’m sorry if my question made you think I thought that, if that makes sense πŸ™‚ I’m genuinely interested to hear from others what they wanted out of it, I think that would also be helpful in planning the next one.

  7. Thanks for this post. I attended the conference and felt the general buzz was warm and positive. Although there was obviously a core set of people who knew each other, they were friendly and tried to be inclusive. I should have done more research before attending, but I assumed the event was marketed at Mummy bloggers only, this tripped me up a few times on the day…

    I’m a British blogger living in Australia and came away thinking this was the reason I felt a little β€˜out of it’, but reading your thoughts and realising it wasn’t just me, made me feel better! Thank you.

    That said, I also left feeling inspired to work hard and develop my blog, and pretty impressed by the standard of blogging in Aus (mummy or not!). I’d attend the conference again and agree with your other comments; the event organisation was slick, an amazing achievement for a first-time event, sorry conference πŸ™‚

  8. I don’t think you said anything wrong at all – you spoke of how you felt, and didn’t say anything rude. I read an interesting story in our paper here on making IRL friends out of internet ones, and how it doesn’t always translate… I think many of my disappointments in these conferences was discovering that fact for myself: thinking I knew someone because I read their blogs and then realizing I didn’t. Funnily enough, the problem was never quite as acute with knit bloggers, though they are shy-er… Anyway: I felt like what you described was exactly how I would have felt at BlogHer… which is why I couldn’t bring myself to attend. But now you know, right? Sometimes that’s the best you get, unfortunately. But I’m sorry it wasn’t more fun.

  9. I am proud of this post: honest and brave I think. I love reading your blog (I knit) and your photos are just lovely. I heard on an old episode of the Knitpicks podcast that flying out/in to Australia flight attendants tend to confiscate needles during the duration of the flight. Have you flown recently to know if this is true?

  10. Of course be honest! It’s wonderful!

    I had a great time at the conference. We said “hi” but I don’t think we crossed paths again :(. I don’t dance either. I ended up talked about writing with Glen from The PR Report which was fascinating! And also with Suzanne from Aussie Writers.

    I knew no one personally at the conference (only Cath/SquiggleMum I had met before) so I was nervous but I’m pretty comfortable talking to people I haven’t met. I didn’t really learn much from the conference content wise either. But then, I had a feeling I wouldn’t, after looking at the program. However, the networking was fantastic! I did get a wonderful sense of feeling from the conference about being authentic, knowing who you are and doing what you love. This was the key thing for me. Be passionate about what you write about and be you.

    Next year I’d love for there to be some workshops that cater more specifically to certain people. So for me, I’m a very picture orientated blogger and would love to learn more about linking pictures and words to tell a story. Or a writing content workshop. That kind of thing. Plus, I too think it would be wonderful to have a wider range of bloggers represented. I didn’t feel like it was overwhelmingly Mumsy though (not that you said it was either).

    I can understand the exclusion part too. I would call myself more of a reader blogger than a blogger blogger. Does that make sense? I don’t think many bloggers would read my blog. I actually confided in my husband this very thing before going: that I was worried because many of the bloggers would know each other so well. But it was a lovely surprise to meet many wonderful people.

    Thanks for your thoughts Bell.

  11. Bells, you raised some very valid points . Thanks for sharing honestly. I know of others who felt similarly.

    I also fall into that category you mentioned, more there for people I wanted to meet less there for content.

    #4 – yes it is relevant to the community /niche you are in…”linking up to like minded people, sharing ideas and inspiration, just telling our stories is a powerful thing”.
    I do get inspiration from my friends online and from many different blog genres.

    I wasn’t sure about attending for many reasons.I didn’t buy my ticket till the last minute (2 days) and I got the chance to attend the dinner dance a few hrs before.

    I am under no illusions that I am a great blogger nor do I want to be well known or successful. I’m not that earnest either.I still felt a bit of an outsider at times but I had fun.

    I did learn a few things about blogging but my favourite sessions were the My Blog/my story and the blog readings. It was so diverse and powerful.

    I wish I’d got to meet you too…I’d love to learn more about knitting/craft.

    PS As someone who suffered infertility for over 16 years too, though I now have children, I can imagine how uneasy it feels in ‘mummy environments’.

  12. Hi Bells

    I don’t think you should apologise at all for your post. You’ve written everything in a very intelligent and thoughtful way, with some valuable feedback here.

    Look, I really enjoyed the conference, but I’m with Kim in saying (as I did in my follow up post) that I was there mostly to meet other bloggers. Don’t get me wrong – I enjoyed the content very much – but, essentially I was curious to meet everyone. And I’m really glad I did. Now, when I read tweets and blog posts, I can see the person behind the computer, and that has added to my pleasure in reading other’s work.

    I hate to think that people felt uncomfortable there though. That’s not an ideal way to spend a Saturday! But I think it will be interesting to see how the conference takes off. I’m sure, together with your posts and feedback forms, there will be some changes etc and it will evolve. I think it’s very hard to cover every type of blogger out there (there are so many!), and I believe there was a genuine attempt to do that. Craft, food, pop culture etc were represented.

    In any case, thank you for your post. You should never apologise for giving an honest opinion, and I’m sure it will be helpful when planning future conferences. πŸ™‚

    Jodie
    x

  13. Great considered post. I was there, I am a mother and grandmother but not a mummy blogger and I too felt a little worried about not fitting in. However, I actually got a lot out of the content and as someone how was lagging in my posts through lack of motivation, it sort of kick started my brain again.

    Given it was the first, and the fact that Brenda and others on the committee may have a ‘mummy’ focus, I think one can understand that maybe there would be some slight bias that way – but only slight I think.

    A 2-day Conference would indeed give time to explore more avenues, and maybe you should put your hand up to be on the next Committee – or if not you, then others who blog about different things. But you have to start somewhere and this was it. Hope you attend next year and we get a chance to meet.

    I too don’t dance (or drink) so felt a little like a fish out of water at the Dinner, but I was lucky enough to be sitting with some great ladies, including the lovely Kirrily and Tenielle, and boy the food was just lovely.

  14. I have to tell you I have never been more nervous about anything that turning up to this conference where I was sure 170 people already knew each other. But I forced myself to participate, smile, engage. It killed me to think I’d have no one to talk to but I in fact found that many people were in the same boat and therefore were so gracious and generous.

    Personally, I never knew that the conference was for anything other than Mummy Blogging (which might be why a Fiona has referenced me above? Not sure what that is about?) so forgive my ignorance on that. And maybe that is also why I felt I got a lot out of it, because it was geared to my interest.

    You’ve provided an interesting appraisal, and good for you for being honest. I’m sure if you took nothing else away from the conference then its that blogging is a very personal, unique experience for everyone who does it. As long as you have your own voice, and enjoy your blog (and it looks like you do, which is great!) that’s all that matters x

    • Yup! That’s why I referenced you, because your wrap up post CALLED the conference the “Aussie Mummy Blogger Conference “, and mentioned “a melting pot of all things Mummy Blogging is bubbling away. ” and “Yesterday was but the tip of the wave that we will all be able to ride into the sunny future of Mummy Blogging; watch out rest of the world -”

      Which just showed the point that while perhaps it wasn’t meant to be a mummy blogging conference, many thought of it as such to the point of refering to it as its title πŸ™‚

      • Yep, lots of people seem to have just assumed it was a mummy blogger conference. Such a limited take on things.

  15. Loved, loved to have said hi. And now I’ve read through all the comments I think everyone is of the same thought – just the start, room for improvement and growth etc.

    Also, I think there will need to be some major decisions – is it going to be an Australian version of BlogHer or something quite unique in its identity. I certainly don’t know the answer to that but love this discussion you’ve triggered through your own reflections and experiences.

  16. I think you raise some really salient points. I walked away having met some people I was desperate to meet in real life but, totally unexpectedly, met a group of bloggers from my geographic locale which was rather cool.

    When I first decided to go along I had my doubts it was really going to be for me so I was pretty darn stoked to have the awesome time I did. But I must say, I fall into that category you talk about, less there for content, more there for people.

    But I think the way to view it is that it’s just the start. Next year i’d love to see a much broader church in attendance – crafters and foodies for example. Also, more depth and range of panels – intellectual property, SEO, HTML, networking etc.

    You’re right, blogging in Australia is about to totally take off and that, in and of itself, is pretty darn exciting.

    Finally (!) can’t believe I didn’t know you were there, would have lived to say hi and had a chat.

  17. Reading your considered thoughts on the conference reminded me I had hoped to find you on the weekend and say hello. I really liked your last post too. I am a mum, I blog, but do not really identify with the mummy blogger tag. I got a lot out of the conference as I am really inspired by the stories and the writing. However, I was disappointed craft and other specialised blogs were not represented and made my suggestions via the feedback form. I was also hoping to get a bit more technical information. However, it was the first conference, organiser did an amazing job and I am excited about what next year’s conference will be like. I really hope you come along next year. I would really love to meet you x

    • I saw you get up to speak and so picked out who you were. A pity we didn’t get to meet. Yes, here’s hoping the feedback shapes a stronger and more inclusive event next year.

  18. Thanks for the post, I was wondering how it was, and I think your summary was fantastic. Sorry it wasn’t amazing, but glad you had some fun…

  19. To be honest I don’t really get this whole “Mummy Blogger” thing. Why do they insist on using that term? And who are “they”? Just because I am a mother and I blog, I should be lumped in with all other bloggers who do not neatly fit in elsewhere?

    I felt a bit like a fish out of water through the whole conference. Mostly because crowds and noise just exhaust me, but also because I felt like I was on the outer. Hardly anyone knew who I was, but some did and that was nice. While I managed to exchange words with some of my favourite bloggers, my social awkwardness made any real conversation quite difficult. And they were more interested in chatting with each other rather than meeting new people.

    My other issue with Mummy Bloggers is that they are also Wife Bloggers. Being recently divorced and having endured 18 years of psychological abuse from my ex made it really hard to connect with all those happily married women. I may be a mummy, but I don’t write about mummying much.

    Still, the conference helped me to clarify what I did and didn’t want to achieve with my blog and opend my eyes to some of the opportunities that are out there.

    Thank you for your post. I haven’t written one about the conference yet, probably because I would have found it hard to be all gushing about it….

    • yes there are all sorts of reasons why it’s possible to feel excluded in a large group. I admire the people who were able to ‘work the room’ and just meet everyone. I can be extroverted, but only when I feel comfortable in the first place. I wish I had been more able to be outgoing on the day. It was fairly overwhelming!

    • I felt on the outer also, and am comforted to know that I was not the only one. I am not a “mummy blogger” and have only just joined Aussie Mummy Bloggers since the conference to find out what it is all about. I only met one person who knew of my blog because i am only on the very fringes of this niche. Maybe there should have been tables for non-mummy bloggers, or a table that said “feeling overwhelmed? sit here!”

  20. I think you made a lot of really valid points.

    Despite being one of the mummy bloggers there I did feel it was a bit of a mixed message as to who the conference was targeting and I think perhaps there will be lessons learnt on that front for next time. Not that a ‘mummy bloggers’ convention is a bad idea… just that I think it needs to be clear if that is what it is, and if not then it needs to be marketed and promoted in slightly different ways.

    You are right blogging in Australia is certainly growing and changing and I think the organisers did a great job with this first event and I am sure they will change and grow for future events…. hopefully making them even better.

  21. Aussie bloggers are all so different that I’d think it would be hard to have one conference that defined you all. And why does there need to be? You all seem to share an appreciation for your country (and a deep abiding love for it) and a willingness to get together and get to know others. A blogging conference that was just about blogging as a whole and didn’t cater to any one subgroup would be fascinating but enormous in scope.

    I wonder who would be willing to organize and plan an event like that? It sounds like you made the best of an okay situation as you do.

  22. Hello, Bells. You’ve published a well written and considered post. It took guts.

    I attended with the Indigenous speaker on the weekend. Neither of us have children either. I encouraged him to attend, because we are both learning about the internet and trying to get our blogs working; he in particular, as an activist, has a message to get out and cause to fight for. We got a few ideas, learned a few concepts and met a lot of people, which is what we were looking for. We are also both fairly shy, especially him; had I known you were ill at ease, you could have joined us, sitting swilling wine at our table and chatting about silly things!

    We had a great time, but I can see the branding problem with the conference. Nevertheles, for a first effort run by organisers scattered across the country, I was impressed. I think they tried to be all inclusive; the papers from Carly, Blak and Black and FrogPonds Rock indicate as much. Once we focussed on the strategies bloggers were using rather than the content of their blogs, we got more out of it. I hope that future conferences can expand on the range of blogger themes (e.g. human rights, politics, environment, craft, etc.) and sessions can be planned that look at the technical issues beginners, immediate and advanced users may find of interest.

    BTW, your knitting is gorgeous. Perfect place for woollens, Canberra!

  23. a shame that it wasn’t your cup of tea, but pleased to see you made the best of it. i think i have similar feelings about blogging as you, and understand your opinions. sounds like there was a very strong audience for this conference, but it wasn’t marketed (or named) as helpfully as it perhaps should have been. however, that imaginary knitting blogger conference sounds great!

  24. For the exact reasons you listed above, I turned down an offer to go to the conference. After looking at the program and website, I realised that it was not going to be for me and that it was not going to offer anything new. You can meet blog and Twitter pals anytime. A conference is to learn and be inspired.

    For the next Aussie Bloggers Conference may I suggest this; make it about AUSTRALIAN BLOGGERS of all sorts from all fields of all ages groups. Something that informs, educates and inspires, and something that in inclusive of everyone.

  25. well i feel the same way.
    No one knew who I was………..
    I didnt get anything out of the day,as in I didnt learn anything.
    I felt really out of the loop.ie not one of the popular bloggers.
    and did spent part of the day in the loo shaking.
    I sat next to you at lunch but felt so shellshocked by then I wasnt able to make decent conversation.
    I didnt go to dinner as I felt it would be too overwhelming.

    hugs

    • I wish I had met you then! I was dying inside but had to make the most of it and just dove on in. If you read this comment, please email me (via my blog), I would love to get to know you.

  26. Thanks for writing this – as someone who followed the event on Twitter and watched it with interest in the lead up I think it’s good to see this kind of reflection. While there were obviously a lot of people who felt it met their needs there’s always going to be other opinions and experiences – they’re all valid and should be heard.

    I can’t wait to see what ABC evolves into – having done a similar day long event for bloggers I know I learned so much from the experience and will do the next one differently based upon the day and feedback from different perspectives so while this post might not have been easy to publish I think it’ll only make next time better..

    I also learned you can’t meet everyone’s needs in a event and I guess you need to make some decisions about who you will and won’t try to serve (and to communicate that effectively). It’ll be something I guess the organizers will have to keep thinking through. I’m sure they were aware of the issue before – but sometimes its hard to know how it’ll impact it until things happen.

    All in all I’m sure Brenda and the team will evolve the conference in 2012 – looking forward to watching how it goes!

    • Darren – it’s good to hear you say you learned so much from the experience and that you will do the next one differently based on feedback etc. I hope the organisers still feel as though they achieved something amazing. Perhaps they will introduce some new ideas for the next one to make it bigger and better without feeling as though their first attempt was not appreciated or not a success.

  27. Thankyou for being honest – I’ll admit, while I am enjoying all the OMG I LOVED IT posts, I really like posts that make me think about how I do things and how things are perceived, and what could be done better.

    I wish I’d had more time to talk to you, I spent some of the dinner in my hotel room because it was all a bit much. I can’t dance (bad joints) and I don’t drink, but talking with you and Susan sounds like it would have been fun!

  28. Great diplomatic post Bells. Totally fair enough for you to report your experience of a conference, even if it is not as the organisers intended.

    If I were an organiser I would thank you for such honest feedback.

    EB

  29. Hi Bell,

    This is Brenda and I am the founder of the conference. Thank you for your insightful post.

    One thing that I would not necessarily agree with you on is point 2. I believe it’s only fair to call our event as a conference and not a meet up. After all, a meet up won’t cost over $30K to produce and I personally would not invest my own unpaid time and effort, 8 months worth of unpaid time and effort actually just for a meet up.

    I sincerely hope you understand where I am coming from.

    Cheers,
    Brenda

    • Hi Brenda,

      I didn’t go to this conference, but a few years ago went to Melbourne’s Emerging Writers’ Festival and had a similar experience to Bells in that I felt it didn’t quite live up to my expectations and hopes. That’s a personal response of course, and the organisers can’t possibly be expected to please everyone, but I hoped that the constructive feedback I gave to the organisers would be received in the spirit in which it was given at the time. I think that was Bells’ intention with this post.

      To call your event a “Conference” does set some kind of expectation in the minds of the attendees. I wasn’t there, so I don’t know what it was like, but the word “Festival” used for the Emerging Writers’ get-together allowed the organisers to schedule lots of different kinds of events – seminars, workshops, Q&A sessions with publishers, and social events like Drinks and Poetry Slams – and to keep the tone of the weekend fairly light and even celebratory. Perhaps you could think about re-defining what it is that you want your Event to ‘feel’ like. A Festival, a Conference, a Meet-Up, a Workshop – whatever you like. But it seems as though many people who attended AusBlogCon2011 enjoyed it as much for the socialising aspects as for the workshops and seminars you organised. Now you can plan 2012 knowing that this is a mix that people are going to appreciate.

      Finally, I am quite sure that Bells didn’t mean to diminish the hard work and effort you put in over the past 8 months and I am equally sure she didn’t mean to suggest that all your unpaid work has been for naught. Negative feedback is very difficult to take on board without seeing it as a personal attack but I think Bells went to great lengths to avoid insulting any of the organisers personally (and the other feedback she has received from this post suggests that she achieved that).

      You have obviously worked extremely hard to organise this event, and the sense I get from reading other bloggers’ opinions is that it was a huge success in many ways. I don’t think you should feel that your effort hasn’t been appreciated because the response hasn’t been 100% positive. I am sincerely sorry that you don’t feel as though you have received recognition and thanks for your hard work, but if you read between the lines of all the favourable comments and remarks you should be able to find some. Look what you did! You brought together so many people from so many different backgrounds, for a national conference on Blogging. I struggle to get my kids out the door in time for school every morning. I’m quite in awe. And I will be at next year’s “event” whatever you have planned.

      Sincerely,
      Trish

  30. Nice post.

    I feel similarly about mummy blogs, being in this weird sort of limbo land I didn’t know existed (years of struggling with infertility but ending up with the prize).

    I still react to blogs (or in-person conversations, for that matter) that heavily emphasise all things baby/mummy the same way I did when we were going through IVF, and I don’t feel I have any kind of place commenting on them. Nor a place commenting on IVF-related posts (although I have done in a couple of cases).

    I’m interested in point #3 about privacy, as I’m staggered by the amount of information parents (mostly mums) will put out there about their kids – names, birthdays, pictures, enough information to figure out where they go to school or shop, pictures of their house… and the kids (particularly if little) don’t really have a say in their whole life being out there for others to see.

  31. I think it would be very hard to expand such an “event” to include those bloggers that fall outside of the mummy/personal bloggers, unless the organizing panel expanded to include people from all niches to see what each one wants to achieve from it. Which would perhaps make it more difficult to pull off, I don’t know.

    Even talking to those from the target group after the conference there was a feeling that perhaps there could have been more. A two day conference with many more shorter courses with things like learning to work with html (I could probably use that), starting and using a facebook page, and I am sure there are many others. So, perhaps smaller, more focussed sessions would help? But then, you also have to keep the sponsors happy for without themit again becomes unmanagable.

    Admittedly, the best of what I came away with was the meeting and the relationships with the faces that I had met online. The content did give me things to think about, but my reason for going was 50/50, which I think for a forst one is probably fair enough, but in the case of future events the learning would be of a higher value.

  32. You have done a great job of providing a balanced review of your experiences and are to be commended for that. Especially for doing it in such a tactful way. For many, that would be too difficult to do.
    I didn’t attend this year due to being so new to the blogosphere, but hope to be there next year. As with everything, there’s always room for improvement and hopefully that comes for AusBlogCon2012. It’s important we continue to learn and we can only do that if people, like yourself, provide honest critiques. πŸ™‚

  33. The ultimate authority on life, Billy Connolly, tells a perfect story. While in therapy, he was sitting in the waiting room. Two sisters-in-law are there having joint therapy because they don’t get on. Connolly says to them ‘you are obviously great individual women, but why did you think that you should get on?’. What strikes me in life is that administrative categories (blogger, mother, daughter, teacher) bear little relationship to the psyche of the individuals within that category. My loneliest moments have been in the company of mothers/daughters/landscape architects etc with whom I share little apart from a descriptive noun.

    But here is the magic when you hit 50 +/-. It stops mattering, and if it still does, there’s always Billy Connolly πŸ™‚

    • Oh Susan you are spot on! I was just explaining to a friend that I think I will do better off when I am no longer tethered to mom’s groups or nothing. (I’m still nursing, so it’s hard to get out without at least one child, which fairly limits my social options to groups that welcome children.) I think I phrased it that I will do better making friends when we share a commonality that’s not necessarily being a mom. Right now I’ve chosen “nothing” over mom’s groups–as you put it so aptly, many times we share nothing other than a descriptive noun.

      • Amy – I remember having a baby and thinking ‘isn’t this wonderful, we’ll all be the same – we mothers’ ‘. As you know, you couldn’t get more difference between women than in how they approach this role.

        But you can still enjoy this if you accept the differences and, importantly, people accept yours. My mother-in-law, whom I adored, told me she loved the colour white when I said that I was painting our doors aubergine/eggplant. I, of course, meant purpley-black. But we loved each other dearly, none the less.

      • Yes – donna lee – exactly. And the other great plus is that you start to enjoy what you aren’t good at and incredibly grateful that someone else is. I guess this is another way of what you are saying about being more your self πŸ™‚

  34. I had an idea that you weren’t enjoying yourself, from your Twitter feed. Feeling like an outsider isn’t a lot of fun. I am glad that you found someone to drink wine with at the end though.

    I am happy that you were honest about your experiences. It does seem that it was aimed squarely at ‘mummy bloggers’, and in reading your account others might not waste their time next year, knowing that it isn’t for them.

  35. I think a balanced review of the conference is extremely important. Your feedback will make next years conference better. So I’m glad you shared it.
    I like the sound of the BarCamp conference. interesting – will check out the sister ones.
    I think there were a lot of mummy bloggers because the conference idea came from the creator of aussie mummy bloggers website. I’m sure next year there will be a wider catchment which will make for more varied content.

  36. I think it’s awesome that you were honest about it. I’m a newbie blogger and I’m thinking about attending next years conference and while I’m a mother I don’t really consider myself a mummy blogger as I don’t really enjoy writing about my kid (I’m with her all the time, after all). So this is a perspective that I will take into account before making my decision to attend. Thanks for being honest and not being scared πŸ™‚

  37. Thank you for a well written post that expresses your honest reaction without going over the top. It was interesting reading for me. Like Jane, I look forward to the knitting progress shots (or was it the knitting you “gave up on”?)

  38. That was a very clear and honest post about the conference.
    I am hoping to go next year and I have considered that a large part of my desire to go is to meet all the people behind the blogs I read and comment on.
    I am guessing the focus on Mummy Bloggers came about because the people who organised it are mostly Mummy Bloggers, so their thoughts about what might be exciting and educational who gently trend to that area.
    If you could choose a relevant topic to be approached at the next conference, what would it be? (Since I am also a Mummy/Craft (I love Ravelry!)/Personal/*bad*Poetry blogger, my perspective is more with the organisers).
    Blogging is something I have done since 2000, just because I need to write and share. It has been way more fun since comments were added!

  39. Great honest post.

    Thank you for the link to BarCamp that sounds really interesting.

    I’ve heard about conferences about using social media for social change which seems to be where my blog is heading… Very unintentionally as it started out as a cross stich blog.

  40. Very well written post, and I find myself agreeing with a lot of points. I had expectations due to the event being marketed as a ‘conference’, unfortunately I didn’t come away from it having learnt something new. Maybe the SEO/nuffnang session could’ve been a main event, but that’s just me sooking because I missed out on a spot πŸ˜‰ The panel chats didn’t work for me either, hard to hear and follow. I did enjoy myself though, the networking was great and I got to meet some online friends for the first time. So a being a meet up is a far call for an event name I reckon. Thank you being brave enough to post your thoughts, I hadn’t blogged about it myself because I was a bit chicken πŸ˜‰

  41. I didn’t know hardly anyone at the conference. I “knew of” a lot of the people there though. So I just cruised about the place introducing myself to as many people as I could. But I found that easy to do as I am a people person. I also stayed fairly near my daughter Veronica (one of the organisers) as she suffers terrible social anxiety and I wanted to keep an eye on her.

    As for learning anything at the conference. No I didn’t learn anything new about the hows and how-tos of blogging. But I did find out what people were interested in learning about blogging that wasn’t covered on any on the panels or wasn’t covered in depth and I have a couple of posts brewing about that.

    I am most definitely NOT a mummy blogger but I am a Mother and I am sorry if talking about my experiences as an isolated mother made you uncomfortable in any way.

    cheers Kim

  42. I am in total awe of your balanced and honest account. I would have been pissy, snarky, and full of the sour grapes whine. You were reasonable and fair-minded. Excellent report!

    Please continue to share your life with us. Your blogposts brighten my day!

  43. I can understand your trepidation in writing this post, but I think everything you’ve written has been constructive. I really hope the organisers take note.

  44. Excuse me, but how great do you look in a corset??

    And I enjoyed reading your Frank but not Earnest run-down of the event. It will be interesting to see in which direction the event grows, don’t you think?

  45. I can relate to your feelings on #8. It does seem like so many bloggers are striving in a way that I find unattractive–in the sense that I don’t want to do it, and in the sense that I find it unappealing when I come across it on a blog. I’ve more to say on that, but it’s probably too off topic, and I haven’t had enough coffee yet this morning to articulate myself clearly or well.

    I’m glad you posted about it, and I’m glad you were honest, because honest feedback should be welcome, and if it’s not, that’s also revealing about the conference and its purported goals. And then, there’s always the idea that if there’s a conference that you’d definitely like to attend but it’s not out there, you could start it. πŸ˜‰

    Oh, and I keep wondering when the blog bubble is going to burst. I started the kids-art one as much for myself as for anything else. But I recently toyed with the idea of starting one to share my own crafts, now that I have a little more time, but I thought, Does the world really need another craft blog? And I kind of thought, no, probably not.

  46. I followed the conference happenings on Twitter and went onto the Conference site to get info. I was indeed surprised at the number of female participants (as opposed to males) and the number with ‘mummy’ (etc) in their blog title.

    As a single woman without children (not by choice), I skim over blogs that focus on parenting and children (because I find them a painful reminder as much as their irrelevance); so I also wondered how non-mummy bloggers coped in such an environment.

    I found it interesting that so many participants were mummy bloggers and if the proportion is as great in the blogger population – ie. if mothers (parents) need the outlet so blog more than other individuals; or if mothers were keen for a legitimate escape from kids and partners so were over-represented in conference attendance.

  47. I can understand why you worried about writing this post, but it’s a constructive opinion about an event. It was the first time the event was run and I’m assuming that the coordinators will be looking to evaluate the event and learn from it so these comments will add to that growth.

    I had originally planned to go and then when it became clear that it would be predominantly mummy bloggers I on-sold my ticket and I’m glad I did. I attended ProBlogger’s event and I still don’t think I’ve internalized and built on what was discussed there and that was pure blogging, not niche blogging.

    I understand, as much as someone can, the infertility bent that you also bring to the event. I would have been the same. As much as I try to be Little Miss Sunshine about children, having a day filled with mummy blogging tales I think I would have lost my bundle.

    I enjoyed reading this and I’m glad you made the post. Sometimes hearing what someone doesn’t like is as insightful as hearing about the things they do like. Good post!

    • Hi, I just wanted to interject and say I am one half of an infertile couple. I went and it was not a day full of mummy blogging tales. Just had to put a bit of balance in, from another who has suffered many infertility-related blows and who was also in attendance. Cheers.

      • Hi Kirrily

        I didn’t say it was a day full of mummy blogger tales. I was, beforehand, concerned that being in a room full of mums would be hard for me. I noted in this post that it wasn’t painful like I thought it would be.

        There was a real sense of being in the middle of the mummy blogger community though and for that reason I wished there was more diversity.

        Thanks for commenting.

  48. So much of what you’ve written resonates with me, and you’ve written it in a way that I don’t think I would be able to do. You’re honest and constructive without being bitchy.
    You definitely have a way with words πŸ™‚

  49. Great post Bells, I think you gave a fair and equitable account of the event. I’m sorry that you felt a little left out – it’s never the nicest feeling.

    As for BarCamp, I went last year and my experience was similar to Rish’s. We stayed until the first break and then left. It was very tech/government heavy and totally not what I expected.

    I also went to one Ctub event which I found to be a totally odd experience which I’ll tell you about in person some day soon. πŸ™‚

  50. I saw one of the organisers, I think, on TV today and it sounded as if it was a very Mummy blogger based conference, but she had a strict regime of posting and had even planned posts months in advance!! Wow, that’s planning.
    I am glad you still found some kindred spirits!!

  51. I know how you feel, and I’m sorry we didn’t get to connect other than briefly over twitter.

    Neither am I a mummy blogger… or a mum… or a wife/girlfriend/significant other so I too was in a minority and would have loved to see some significant space/air time for others who didn’t fit the mummy niche – however, I was surprised and delighted to have been really welcomed by lots of girls who were. So ended up having a great time anyway.

    I guess I went with few expectations and a whole lot of, “actually I have no idea why I’m here” on my mind and so for it to have been such fun was a bonus.

    Having done one, and if the feedback continues to be honest, there’s lots of scope for building the conference into something really significant for everyone.

  52. Hi,

    I sat with you at lunch and enjoyed chatting with you. I didn’t know a single person at the conference but felt that everyone I met was pretty nice. I enjoyed all the sessions too, but also felt that there were no specific answers for a lot of things, the answer is often, just to do it your own way.

    Which is what you are doing too. Your discussion about attending a knitting blog conference is accurate, I would find that of no relevance to me, but would hope they were still good company.

    As for dinner I spent lots of time sitting with different non dancers (but the red wine was a bit average!)

  53. It’s a shame that it wasn’t what you had hoped – but even so, you took some good stuff away from it, and hopefully got a fair bit of knitting done at the same time too (where’s the progress shot??!!)

    (I think a knit bloggers conference would be great – but really would be just an excuse to sit around and knit all day, heh!)

    • I’m with you on a knitting conference … Generating a lot of laughter, swapping, eating and drinking … Having said that you have provided a rather balanced assessment of the event and I agree with the comments by drknits. Thank you.

  54. I’m sorry you did not have a brilliant time.

    It sounds like the event should have been marketed in a very, very different way because, to me, it sounds like the conference had a way too narrow a focus for something which was named “Aussie Bloggers Conference”.

    Self-awareness may have been lacking – your comment about “please don’t lay claim to being the core Australian blogging community” rang true to me because I hear similar lack of self-awareness from other social media users in different contexts.

    Can I also say that the branded banners behind the panel give me pause for thought?

  55. Great wrap up, Bells. What chaps my ass though is them saying ” people outside the core group are welcome” Weren’t bloggers the core group?? Sounds like you learned some things so it wasn’t a total waste of time.

  56. It was lovely to meet you and get the chance to chat at the dinner/dance. I’m sorry that the conference wasn’t more relevant for you, but I think you’ve written a very balanced and reflective post that highlights some of the limitations of the event while still offering some positive feedback. Well done.

    I agree with some of your points. I think there were several groups within the larger blogging group and I admit that I didn’t feel that I fit with any particular group. I had a lovely time though and I found that there were a few specific comments made thoughtout the day that have really helped me to clarify my thoughts about what I want to get from my blogging and writing online. I am grateful for that and the opportunity to spend some time with people who understand why I enjoy blogging and what I get from it personally.

    It would be great if AusBlogCon2012 offered some more specific sessions on big picture issues or tech challenges. I imagine that next year will be more complex/comprehensive.

    Either way, I’m glad that we have met and I’m looking forward to following your blog and chatting with you on Twitter.

  57. Very well written post – I’m interested, given the content and the fact that it was more of an onilne friends get together that it was billed as a conference. I went away to York for the weekend this January with a group of knitting and spinning friends that I have met through blogging and Ravelry. It’s our second year and there were about 50 of us but we were under no illusions that it was a conference. There was cake, cackling and an enormous yarn swap – would you like to come next year?

  58. Totally get it – I felt uncomfortable for a lot of it, which combined with my panic around the amount of people in the room, meant that wasn’t super enjoyable for me.

    I’m sorry I didn’t get to meet you on the day, but thanks for posting your honest comments. I couldn’t put my thoughts about the day and the content into coherent enough words, so didn’t touch on that part.

  59. Thanks for sharing this. It sounds like you learnt a lot really, that you’re comfortable where you are, confident in your blogging, with nothing to prove to anyone. Given the fact that anyone (esp welloff white people) can start a blog, that there’s no peer review, no quality control, is what makes blogging problematic, but also exciting. And we’ve seen the real power of social media lately in places like Egypt for example. But I don’t get the whole blog star thing. If any of us think any of our little blogs are going to change the world in any meaningful way, then we’re all delusional. Humility, perspective, honesty, they go a long way. That’s why this is such a great post.

  60. I believe that I may be referenced in number 3. πŸ™‚

    I did speak about a child (well almost adult) in that speech but pretty much never again throughout the entire conference.

    I wish we would have met, I don’t have little kids so DEFINITELY NOT a mummy blogger. And I don’t dance either. You could have shared a bottle of red with me…

  61. Thank you.

    Rish went to Bar Camp Canberra. for about 2 presentations, then walked out. He felt the first presentation on “giving a kick arse presentation” was poor and ready to set the tone for the day, the last one he went to he felt was actually on a topic he could get something from, but it was skimmy and basic.

    But then he also felt it was organised and attneded by a bunch of people who knew each other (via twitter) already.

    Thank you for sharing your post. (I have my stick if needed)

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