Blogher, Part One
July 27, 2009
(Wow. So I originally planned to write about the entire conference in one post. HOURS AGO, I planned that. HOURS, I have been writing this and it really gets away from me at the end and I think I use the word "community" in a totally unironic sense and basically I'm going to publish this and write more tomorrow, because now I have to go punch myself in the neck.)
DAY ONE, THURSDAY
Part One: Not Off To A Real Brain-Trust-Like Start
I woke up at...oh, 4 A.M. in a dread pirate panic over things I had forgotten to pack. I should point out that I was still at home. And had many, many hours left before my flight to pack these things. No matter, I clearly needed to get out of bed and pack them RIGHT THAT SECOND, or ALL WOULD BE LOST. If a blogger goes to Blogher without her business cards, is she really at there? Does she cease to exist? These are the deep thoughts I had at 4:30 A.M. when I found out that not one, but BOTH of my babysitting leads had fallen through, and that I didn't have a confirmed sitter for the Mamapop party after all.
Some people might think: I know! I shall contact a reputable sitting service in the Chicago area! I shall use my SitterCity account! I shall ask the hotel concierge for recommendations!
I thought of none of those things. I contacted Twitter instead.
I...yeah. I know. I KNOW. Very very bad and irresponsible and boneheaded parenting, finding babysitters on Twitter. Except when you find a babysitter like Annabelle. Who was just SO lovely and sweet and Ezra and I both adored her. (I did like, you know, meet with her ahead of time to get a read on the whole "are you going to steal my baby and/or all the hotel room furniture" thing. She passed! I have terrific instincts.)
Anyway, my Twitter babysitter was totally better than your babysitter. I also remembered to pack my business cards.
Part Two: I'm Sick Of These Motherfucking Babies On This Motherfucking Plane
After reading all of your comments and suggestions for airplane-related entertainment for Ezra, I packed a small treasure trove of crappy cheap toys (and toy-like substances) that he'd never seen before. He ended up playing with 1) the laminated emergency procedures pamphlet, 2) plastic cups from the beverage cart, and 3) Jodi.
Jodi warned me that she was a nervous flyer, so our agreement was that in exchange for the baby-wrangling help, I'd do my best to distract her from the fact that we were in a rickety tin can 37,000,000 miles off the ground.
Part Three: I Went To Blogher & All I Got Was Your Elbow In My Face
After getting to Chicago and to the hotel and into my hotel room and meeting my lovely roommate and eating a burger topped with cheddar cheese AND bacon cheddar cheese sauce and watching my baby sneeze hamburger meat directly into my lovely roommate's face, I was already Hearing Things About Swag. My Twitter stream was full of swag bag descriptions and people were whispering stories about other people getting gross and ugly and grabby and ditching parties as soon they got a bag and pwning wristband systems in order to steal more swag. I mentioned that last year I brought home 1) a tire pressure gauge, 2) a bottle opener keychain and 3) a magic 8 ball. I was informed that this year was PROBABLY going to be a little different.
I stuck Ezra in a sling and decided to check out the People's Party. It was loud. And crowded. Insanely crowded. By the time I filed into the room and realized OH MY GOD, the room was easily three times too small for the number of people crushing through the door, I was kind of stuck. I spent a few bewildered moments shouting at people I knew before I realized what a huge mistake it was, bringing Ezra in there, and that I absolutely had to leave. This realization was cemented when someone abruptly pushed past me towards the swag bags, I saw Ezra's head kind of...jerk to the side, and when I looked down at him his eyes were wide with surprise...and fear...AND PAIN. He dissolved into a wail.
People, someone goddamn elbowed my baby in the face. While rushing for SWAG. At a party sponsored by freaking PBS Sprout.
At the time, I 100% totally and completely blamed myself. I was horrified that I'd unwittingly brought my baby to a party where he wasn't SAFE. I mean, Twitter babysitters aside (which...you know I'm taking a little creative license with that, as I absolutely would never leave him with someone who I didn't believe was responsible and trustworthy), I take my care of my little people very seriously. I felt stupid for even thinking that this was a good idea. And I left, taking my own swag bag only after Jenny insisted I take one. ("But I'm not staying! Is that okay?") I Twittered about being stuck alone in the hotel room feeling sorry for myself, too embarassed to admit that my baby got hurt because I wanted to wear a pretty dress and get a drink ticket.
Part Four: We Used To Blog Uphill In The Snow, Both Ways, Hand-Coding CSS Until Our Fingers Bled, And We Liked It
I still blame myself, in part. The room was crowded and hard to navigate and while Ezra wasn't the only child there, I was asking too much of him, after a long day of travel and super-short naps and a heapload of sensory overload. And really, he's FINE. He's not bruised, he didn't get a black eye, maybe the mystery elbower had to pee, or something. Once we got back to the hotel room he was all smiles.
But as the weekend progressed and the swag thing turned into a Swag Thing (to the point that I commented how nice it was, since I didn't miss Noah as much I thought I would, what with being surrounded by toddlers), the Elbow Incident became oddly emblematic of the whole attitude. People completely disregarding other people's personal space and hard work (seriously, planning those parties takes EFFORT, you guys) and just goddamn common decency. Would let your kid show up at a birthday party, grab a handful of cake and a goodie bag and leave? Would you let him cheat at the games at Chuck E. Cheese, just so he could get more crappy prize tickets? Would you sit by and let her bitch on Christmas about not getting the gift she REALLY wanted, or whine that the gifts she got didn't cost enough?
God. I feel old and finger-waggy, but get a fucking grip, people.
I've gone on some nice trips, I've gotten some really nice gifts from companies, I've gotten laughably bad product pitches that I would never in a million years want or use or "review." I've alternated between being delighted by the attention and annoyed by the way it's changed our community, I've struggled to keep that balance between wanting my blog to be "successful" and wanting my blog to be...you know, MY STUPID LITTLE BLOG.
And yet, even I need the occasional dose of perspective.
When I started writing online, signing up for a brand-new service called "Typepad," nobody really liked the word "blog." The people I read wrote journals or diaries. There was a still a wide gap between the two groups, a definite sense of old guard vs. new upstarts. Moveable Type was taking over the old hand-coded clunky sites, your free blogging platforms were Diaryland or livejournal or Blogger and when Diary-X went down, people lost everything because the entire service existed on one dude's hard drive that he'd forgotten to back up. Oh, man. There were A-listers and people who wanted to be the A-listers and people who spent most of their time complaining about the A-listers. People fretted over whether the new generation of "bloggers" were ruining the community, now that it was so easy to start a site. If you had your own site the hosting could cost you a fortune, since there was no Flickr or Vimeo, but there was still endless debate over whether an Amazon Wish List or PayPal Donate button made you a tacky sellout. Are bloggers even writers? Are all web writers bloggers? No! Yes! Sometimes!
When Google text ads started showing up on PERSONAL WEBSITES, the wank level went through the roof.
In summary: six short years on the Web and I'm a freaking dinosaur, apparently, but I guess my point is that there has always been something threatening the community. We have been on the brink of sellout-y destruction for as long as I've been doing this, and I'm pretty sure me and my weirdly-named blog and TWOP-aping writing style were once considered harbingers of literary doom and made fun of on some old-skool message board. Now we all just get to overreact on Twitter.
In other words, it's all going to be okay, as long as we at least stop elbowing each other in the face.
(I promise this entry is the only one where I'll get preachy and philosophical about Blogher. I had a fantastic time and did a shitload of stupid things that did not involve people beating up babies for free pens.)