blogging

Post BlogHer Post

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Well, I am back from a whirlwind weekend away at the blogging conference that is BlogHer and I haven’t written until now. It takes a lot of work to step out of our lives for even a little while, and while it is easier for me than for a mom with young ones, it was still challenging. I had (first time) sleep away camp to prep for (she packed herself while I was away – well, with help from Dad) and only forgot one thing which I actually had in the car. By the seat of my pants, I tell you.

Here is the thing, I started this post days ago and have hesitated to hit publish because I wasn’t expressing the over-riding feeling I have had from BlogHer. Gratitude. Exhaustion and Gratitude.

Sometimes I have a gratitude problem. It is true. Many of us do. It is easy to criticize, to correct, to suggest ways to improve on something (and I have plenty of suggestions for the organizers, if they care to ask), but here is the main takeaway:

I am lucky that I could go – it is an expensive trip and lucky that my family is supportive.

I learned things (about blogs, social media, conferences, expectations, how to present myself, how to give an elevator pitch).

I met interesting, kind and generous people willing to share their knowledge and experience at the sessions, on the expo floor, in a cab, in a restaurant. Everywhere.

I got to travel in a Blogher Bound bus (Thank you, McDonald’s) to an exciting place that I love and don’t get to often enough.

I won prizes. What? Prizes, you say? Yes. Prizes. Like what? Let me say that as a Blogher newbie, I didn’t even know there would be prizes. I had heard about the swag but really had no idea that it was anything and certainly not why I went.

But, what did I win? A $100 Best Buy gift certificate. I was walking down from the suites on the 42nd floor (TMobile, Hershey’s) because the elevators were so very busy when I got the call and I didn’t realize the expo floor was closing. By the time I got there, the super nice rep from Best Buy was alone in the almost empty hall waiting for me to claim my prize. So nice! Above and beyond, Best Buy! Thank you!

I also won a folding bicycle (a very sweet ride from Gotham Bike) from the lovely people at Advil for taking part in their scavenger hunt. It is really cool and I can’t wait for it to get here! I’ll take my own pictures when it arrives, and I think it has already been claimed by my children.

I got a ride with McDonald’s on their bus bound for BlogHer and learned more about them, and that was really nice. Thank you, McDonald’s.

More, yes, there is more. A $25 Pet Smart Gift card, and some Lysol products. bags, pens, notepads and zip drives. Am I done? Kind of. The stuff wasn’t why I went to Blogher but it’s what I tally when I get back. That and the stack of business cards I am still puzzling over (I did not write on them as I was advised to do. Next time I will).

I met people from Newton, Needham, Boston, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, New York, California and Canada. I enjoyed every conversation and meeting. I had two breakfasts on Friday, the one for newbies and one with McDonald’s. Here is a link to Honest and Truly blog and a transcript of the Question & Answer session at breakfast. I got a recharge massage at TMobile (their tech stuff is awesome).

I went to Getting Gorgeous, had my hair straightened (thank you, GG and CVS, and I love my Extracare card) and it held up in the humidity, and have some more great stuff there. Okay, I’ll share! Super cute dark wash boot leg jeans from Coldwater Creek that make me look smaller than I am, a pair of gorgeous shoes from Naturalizer, and a gift card from Diet Pepsi! There is more but I think that may be another post.

So…Blogher in NYC. Huge. Overwhelming. Loud. Crowded. Busy. Both the city and the conference, so imagine them combined. I like the chaos for a while (as the oldest of five, it is my natural state of being) but then I need a break which I took in the form of a run through Central Park on Saturday morning.central park imagine strwaberry fields nyc manhattan capability mom blog

It was wonderful to connect with bloggers from Boston Parent Bloggers some I met for the first time on the BlogHer Bound bus. We had plenty of laughs (especially at the rest area where seven other buses stopped at the same time, yes, I said seven) and we got to know a little bit about each other, and found out we shared some connections other than blogging (even though that would have been enough). I had a Martha’s Vineyard connection with one super nice, grounded blogger and learned about more about Kegels than I ever thought I would know), talked to another BPB Blogger who is running the Falmouth Road Race to benefit the Melanoma Foundation of New England (something I am into, too) and I met someone who is funnier than I am (it is rare because I think I’m really funny – ask my family).

Once we got there, it was super crowded and chaotic. The elevators were jammed and it didn’t help that FFaNY was in the building (all the rooms on our floor were shoe showrooms except for ours and one across the hall). What a confluence that could have been. Women with sore feet and 14 stories above people selling shoes. Next time, FFaNY, bring shoes to sell. Seriously. Twitter was full of people looking for other shoes because they only packed cute heels.

But I digress. The conference proper is kind of hard to tease out of the side events. While it was great to meet so many people with a shared interest in blogging, writing and playing nicely with social media, it it does seem like it should be easier to find and schedule things.

One of the sessions was so overcrowded (so great that so many people wanted to learn about turning posts into published essays) that I stood against a wall trying to find enough air to breathe, never mind trying to take notes. I think PhD in Parenting was there,too, but couldn’t confirm. That was my main celebrity sighting* and I’m not even sure it was her. I may have been lightheaded from lack of air.

As always, NYC is a great destination and there could never be enough city love time. I wish that some events were “off campus”, as in not in the Hilton (as nice as it is). It is a shame to not explore such a fabulous city.

Pragmatic Mom and I found a great local restaurant (Thank you, Hilton concierge) and had a wonderful dinner where we met some lovely shoe people from FFaNY. We may even have a shoe giveaway with them – Stay tuned!

Best things about BlogHer? The people, the sessions (although they need a better system), the location (more recess time needed if you are in the city), and the sponsors are interesting and varied, which is always good. I saw Advil, Clorox, Lysol, CVS, Verizon, Best Buy, Disney Jr, Poise, Dannon, Samsung and so many more. I’ll go into it later or this will be the longest post ever.

I liked connecting with people, brands, bloggers, seeing new things, learning something new (so like Martha), trying something new, and sharing it all. Did I love every minute? No, I am no Pollyanna. Some things were size and location related, some easy fixes, some more complicated. If you really want to know, comment below! I promise to share and even over share!

*Correction – I did get to see Jeannie Mai, host of The Style Network’s “How Do I Look?” She looked great. I was in a button down and a pencil skirt. Ehh.

Lest this post makes it sound like I was careening hither and yon getting swag, I was not. I went through the Expo Hall and stopped at booths where I engaged in a dialogue with brand representatives and happened to get lucky. I found great new finds and will write about them when I sort through the bag of note and paper…too much paper!

A learning curve – blogging, social media, advertising

Who says you can’t teach an old dog new tricks? I am old (enough) and just learning how to make my site look the way I want it to look. I had it down (kind of) when it was hosted by WordPress.com (great way to go – lots of options and support and it is free). Then I decided to monetize my blog (so far I can buy a cup of coffee – not a fancy one, just a regular) and I wanted a little more of a technical challenge (I did? Really?).  So I moved (though I procrastinated for months) to WordPress.org but then I needed a host (you have to pay for this – not very much but still).  Luckily, GoDaddy (yes, that is their ad in my sidebar – because of their wonderful customer service) was terrific – read why here. Another great customer service rep walked me through my most recent needy request – trying to get Google Affiliates connected – and did it kindly and professionally.

I am a not-so-secret geek – always a word geek now a social media savant (feel free to place “idiot” in front of savant). Examples? Here is one from when I first put up my blog…

Pragmatic Mom says, all excited, “Hey, how did you get Digg and Delicious on your RSS feed?”

Me: “You are supposing that I know what an RSS feed is…”

I’ll take a minute here so you geeks can snort laugh at me and the rest of you can eye-roll in disdain that I actually have these conversations. Let’s be clear, I also talk about shoes and other important things like what I am going to have for lunch or maybe dental issues.

So, just recently a friend asked me to help put a Facebook Networked Blogs badge on her site. I (as usual) did not remember how I did my own but it is an fairly easy cut and paste procedure. So I did it for her blog. It didn’t take very long and I am so much more comfortable with WordPress.com that it was easy. This is compared to adding a video feed from YouTube to a post on WordPress.org – I tried and tried and finally (see idiot above) realized (long learning curve) that it is not the same as WordPress.com and I needed a plug-in…please do not get me started on plug-ins.  They are great until they are not. Okay, some of them are always great. A plug-in is an application that some person developed for easy functionality on your site – like RSS Feed or Ad Square boxes. So far the YouTube one isn’t working for me I added a plug-in (or three) and it still doesn’t work so I quit trying for now. I will figure it out eventually but I am fried on it for now. Any write-in help is appreciated.

Still Capability – just a different look.

notebook theme wordpress.comI decided I wanted to try a new theme for my blog and I really liked the notebook idea (as did my youngest).  I’m not exactly sure about the color but I tried it anyway.  I can always change it back to Simpla (the theme I had before). Sometimes you get involved in the mechanics of the blog and it can be a slippery slope. I spent the morning adding categories. I, the newbie that I am, didn’t really see the value of them or, frankly, even the need for them.  Once you have a significant number of posts it is easier for readers to search by category – so – about halfway there. That is when I trolled around wordpress.com and looked at new themes. You can preview your site in each theme and it does drastically affect how you approach the blog. So – vote and let me know what you think. Is it easier to navigate? Are you freaked by the change? Do you care?

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