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October 17, 2008

I Had A Blast At BlogHer Boston '08, Part 2

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Boston Waterfront 2Bloghertour You've already heard about my trip to Boston, or rather to Burlington for BlogHer Boston, now it's time to get to the nitty gritty, the conference itself.

First thing in the morning, I got my name tag, introduced myself and plopped down at a table up front in the ballroom.  The breakfast spread had plenty of choices:  from fruit to pastry, to cereal to egg sandwiches to excellent coffee.

I was pleased to meet Candelaria Silva since I've read her thoughtful comments on BlogHer and have checked out her blog as well.

I took a look at the sponsor tables and got a bit of swag.  Katie Greene of Playtex was there.  She was one of our pub mates from the night before in Fitzwilliams.

Over breakfast, we all listened as founders Elisa Camahort, Lisa Stone and Jory des Jardins explained interesting statistics about women bloggers and some of the attendees.  Next was the BlogHer version of speed dating so bloggers could get to know each other.  There were two lines and after three minutes, one line would move and you had to speak to each blogger opposite you.  As in San Francisco, it was a great ice breaker and allowedBoston Hydrangea everyone at the beginning of the day to feel like they weren't on their own.

I went to the Blogging Basics:  I Blog, Therefore I Am, Figuring Out Your Blogging Mojo, session primarily to hear how those particular panelists, Candelaria Silva, Susan Getgood and Christine Koh got started.  Jory played Donahue and brought the mic up and down the room so attendees could ask questions.  I was particularly interested in their conversation about maintaining your privacy while still being authentic.

After about 45 minutes, I decided to catch the tail end of the Social Media Can Save Media session.  I'd been following some of that on Twitter and decided they were chatting about some things I wanted to hear. First I needed to stop in the ladies room and as I was leaving, I started up a conversation with a woman named Sharon.  She was there with her daughter Jane and her adorable little grandson Henry. 

Monarch Butterfly We ended up spending the next fifteen minutes chatting about blogs, BlogHer, and what we write.  The conversation swung around to Daisy and I found myself telling Sharon all about my little doggie and how I'd recently lost her.  Sharon was a huge dog lover and very sympathetic.  By the time we left the ladies room, the Social Media session was over, but I felt that conversation with Sharon was as valuable as anything I could have learned in the session.

Since lunch was next on the schedule and I wasn't hungry yet, I decided to beat the crowd and test drive one of the Saturns that GM was making available all day.  I picked the bright red Outlook SUV.  Getting behind the wheel, once I figured out how to pump up some dance music, I was on my way.  It was a gorgeous day and though at first I went off the assigned route, I straightened myself out and drove around the pretty tree-lined suburban streets with the windows down and the music blasting.  I pretended that I owned that lovely brand new car smell and the car that went with it.  With the Fall colors on full display, it was great fun.  Thanks GM.

Once my ride was done, I went to check out lunch.  The spread was excellent.  There were salad fixin's, grilled vegetables, grilled shrimp, turkey, some very tasty sour dough bread, and any kind of drink you might want.  I sat down at a table with Candelaria, Velma Smeddling of A Smeddling Kiss and several other ladies.  

Charlene Prince Birkeland of Yahoo's new site for women, Shine, gave us some very good tips for writing a better blog.  Things like making sure your blog design is easily readable, writing on a consistent basis, making it easy for readers to contact you and to subscribe.

The first afternoon session I went to was Blogging Basics, Six Steps to Personalize, Polish and Promote Your BlogSome valuable sites discussed:  Word Tracker, Have A Mint, and Paste Bin.

Liz Henry conducted it and though I found it helpful, I didn't realize the session was going to break up into segments.  The group was broken up by level of blogging knowledge and I went with the group who were using CSS code on their sites.  Since time was short, it was a little difficult for Liz to address everyone's concerns but I managed to steal her away long enough for her to give me an opinion on what I can do to improve the layout of my site. I mistakenly called her SJ because BlogHer Contributing Editor SJ also has what I thought was purple hair.  Actually, it's more bright red.  After I apologized, Liz gave me some great feedback about improvements I can make to my sidebar.  You'll be seeing some of those soon.

Next up was Beth Kanter conducting the Blogging Basics:  Managing Information Overload.  Beth had us fill out a quiz to test our information overload.  She then used a slide show and handouts to illustrate tips for managing increasing emails, bookmarks, and blog reading.

Some of the things I learned: The website co-Comment manages your comments on a variety of blogs.  Bloggers can use All Top to help find Bridge Bloggers---bloggers that are top bloggers in your niche and can help you build your community. Blog Carnival is a site that will help you create your own blog carnival.

Finally there was a snack spread of mini corn dogs and pretzels before the final keynote, Change Your Future, Change The World.  Unfortunately, I think most attendees were in a mini corn dog coma because the enthusiasm in the crowd waned during that session, but speakers Elisa Camahort, Dana Rudolph and Isabel Walcott Hillborn gave it their all.  They discussed how they use their blogs for fundraising and how much luck as opposed to hard work they feel was involved in their success.

The cocktail party capped off the day and after going to my room to drop off my laptop, I headed over there.  With chardonnay in hand I hob nobbed with my fellow bloggers.  I finally met fellow BlogHer Contributing Editor Suzanne Reisman, whose posts I always love.  She was egged into joining Twitter at the end of the day and I razzed her, saying she should have joined at the beginning of the day.  We're both in the New York area so we made plans to get together soon.

I caught up with Lisa Stone, Laurie of Laurie Writes, got to say "Hello" to Kalyn of Kalyn's Kitchen, and while we're on the topic of food, scarfed down some of the delicious goat cheese and hot appetizers that went around the room.

Afterward, a group of us headed back to Fitzwilliams for more drinks and blogger conversation.  The Red Sox were playing so our conversation was punctuated by roars from the crowd whenever the Sox were doing well.  I had a great chat with Sallie B about politics, Iraq and where the country might be going---not bad after three glasses of wine.

Boston Waterfront Then all too soon it was over.  After my craziness getting from Boston to Burlington I had a definitive plan for getting back to Boston from Burlington.  I packed, had breakfast, and had the hotel order a taxi to take me to Alewife---see I can spell it and pronounce it now.  It cost $57 including tip and I figured if I split that between two trips I was close to the $25 taxi rides I had been hoping to pay for in the first place.  With my Charlie Ticket in hand, I then took the subway back to South Street station. 

Since I was an hour early for my train, I took a walk outside, wheeling my suitcase behind me.  I discovered the nearby waterfront promenade and two very pretty garden plazas right in the middle of high rise buildings.  There were beautiful monarch butterflies and honey bees in the gardens and the sights and scents were wonderful.

I sat by the water for about fifteen minutes and enjoyed the lovely day.  When it was time to go I got in line for the Acela and made sure to get the quiet car again.  I had to chuckle when I saw people running out of the car once they found out it was a quiet car.  Heh.  Definitely not the people I wanted to spend three and a half hours with.

I've been so busy this week I still haven't had a chance to open my swag bag but I'm looking forward to taking my time over it this weekend.

Here's a list of more of the fabulous women I met: 

Angela of Mommy Bytes

Kimberly Dowd of Lady Gypsy

Dina Lynch Eisenberg of This Marriage Thing

Megan Garnhum of A Girl Must Shop

Alissa Kriteman of Personal Life Media

Susan Somers of Dirt Makes Fat

Diva Toolbox

I know several ladies I met didn't have business cards, so if I've left out or forgotten anyone, please let me know and I'll be happy to send you some link love. 

Now if I can just get some time to read all the live blogs and tweets from BlogHer DC, I'll be doing something.

Thanks again to Elisa, Lisa, Jory, Kristy Sammis and everyone else involved for putting together such a successful conference.

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