What I learned from BlogHer

I think it’s interesting that I met two of my favorite bloggers for the first time at BlogHer (both of whom are men, Guy Kawasaki and John Battelle).

But, that beside, what else did I learn?

Heather Champ, community manager of Flickr, did a great session on digitial photography, but she demonstrated how important it is to listen after the session is over. A group surrounded her and wanted to know more. She introduced us to filtrs, which is a very interesting concept I hadn’t considered before.

Let’s say you have a cell phone camera. And you want a black and white photo, but your cell phone camera doesn’t do that. Well, you email your photo to a different email address that takes your color photo, strips out the color, and then uploads that photo to Flickr.

The problem is only one guy (Aaron Straup Cope) I know of has some Filtrs of his own (he wrote them and runs them on his own servers for his own use). That makes Heather (and me) very jealous. You can see an example of one of his Filtrs in this photo he made of Flickr founder Stewart Butterfield.

Other things I learned from BlogHer?

That the stereotypes about women are true (they talk about things like mothering, cooking, sewing, and soft stuff like feelings, sex, relationships, along with broader things like books and movies far more often than I usually hear among the male dominated groups I usually find myself in after conferences). But, the fact that they are true gives women HUGE economic power and content power that the tech bloggers simply won’t touch.

DSC_2370.JPG

Saturn did about as good a job of marketing to this group as I’ve seen a company do.

Seth Godin wrote that all marketers are liars. But Saturn taught me that you don’t need to lie, or even write a story. What a good marketer should do in today’s world is let people write THEIR OWN story about the product.

How did Saturn do that? They brought several prototypes, along with some cool ass convertibles. Then they said “here’s the keys” and stood back.

I watched as group after group came back with smiles on their faces and, more importantly, as tons of photos were snapped:

A Row of SaturnsTest driveJeremy test drivingBlogHer SaturnsLittle Red SkyErica gets ready for her test drive

Not every company did it right, though. MSN Windows Live Spaces didn’t improve its position with this audience. I took careful note of what people are using here. My wife’s blog is the only one I saw that was done on MSN Spaces.

This brings me to another point. Companies that listen to audiences like this are hyper rare. They still look at audiences like this as a one-way conversation. Let’s just push our crap out to them, and get our messaging in front of them, but let’s not send any of our engineers or program managers to LISTEN.

If they were listening they would have heard just why almost no one here uses Spaces. And why Six Apart’s Vox product is doomed to fail (Mena, why did you give a product pitch when asked on stage “what do you think the future is going to look like?” That got you scorned by women at dinner afterward that I, and my wife, talked to). More on Vox soon.

My wife, even made one of Spaces’ most negative things (that you need to sign up for Passport to comment) into a positive (it keeps away most of the trolls).

But Spaces’ feature set demonstrates that they aren’t listening to this audience. Buying a sponsorship makes everyone feel good, but the story that the conference goers I talked to are writing is “that was nice, but use WordPress or TypePad cause they are better tools.”

Oh, and BlogHer attendees, they don’t listen to me either so welcome to the crowd. (I gave them a list of things that they should do, starting with “improve your HTML quality” and “get tagging” and they didn’t do any of those yet, which demonstrates a lack of listening on their behalf).

Other things I noticed: the men were quiet. For the most part. Some women complained about Marc Canter’s interruptions during one session. Christine Heron took that to mean that men weren’t heard from. Well, I came to listen, not to speak. The other men I talked to felt the same way. It was refreshing to work on listening skills again and learn something from a group of people I wouldn’t usually be with.

Why don’t I take notes anymore at conferences? Cause of people like Christine Heron. Wonderful reports. Technorati is brimming over with great reports from Blogher. Interesting how our conference attendance behavior has changed. Now the first question I hear isn’t “how do you get on wifi?” but is rather “what’s the conference tag?”

Or people like Lynne Johnson who wrote up the panel Maryam was on in exquisite detail. Amy Gahran is another great reporter that was there.

The BlogHer blog has a LOT more.

As to Vox, the idea is great (expand blogging to more “regular people”) but I’ve gotta wonder how successful it’ll be. Microsoft’s Bob taught the world that no one wants to be a beginner, or seen as one. I think it’s condescending, don’t you? If you’re going to get dragged to learn to ski, don’t you want to get off the beginning slopes and hang out with your friends on the intermediate and advanced slopes?

The world doesn’t want a ski resort that caters to beginners. Doesn’t work.

Same for blogging tools.

Mena shouldn’t have used her time on stage to appear visionary to pitch a product, especially to position it for those people who don’t have the technical chops to join Blogher.

Instead she should have laid out a real vision for blogging for 2010. How do we get half a billion people blogging? What will that look like? What will it look like when I can put my blog on top of a map? When you’ll read my blog on a portable device? How will video blogging change and/or improve? What will advertising systems look like in 2010?

Mena had an awesome opportunity to lay out that kind of future. Instead she did the thing Microsofties usually do: she pitched her product. What a disappointment.

What did you learn from BlogHer?

Well, I have to go. The women are Ponzi is calling and I’m still Maryam’s driver — we’re heading to Berkeley today with her. :-)

143 thoughts on “What I learned from BlogHer

  1. I gave them a list of things that they should do, starting with “improve your HTML quality” and “get tagging” and they didn’t do any of those yet, which demonstrates a lack of listening on their behalf.

    I think you’re confusing listening and disagreeing here. It’s ok, you’re a guy.

  2. I gave them a list of things that they should do, starting with “improve your HTML quality” and “get tagging” and they didn’t do any of those yet, which demonstrates a lack of listening on their behalf.

    I think you’re confusing listening and disagreeing here. It’s ok, you’re a guy.

  3. Wait, someone who runs a blogging business is aksed a question about where the future of blogging is going and they respond by talking about a product they have personally been working on for months? What the fuck do you expect?

    On one hand, we want people to be passionate about their companies, products, and their customers, but on the other hand, we shush them at any mention of that company or its products. Why don’t we be a little smarter about it and try to figure out who’s truly being a shill and who really has ideas and is proud of the products and companies that those ideas represent. From what I heard, Mena talked about Vox in response to a *single question* in a *75 minute* panel. Doesn’t sound like shilling to me. Microsoft bought keynotes at conferences on your watch; where was our beloved unappointed WWW watchdog then?

  4. Wait, someone who runs a blogging business is aksed a question about where the future of blogging is going and they respond by talking about a product they have personally been working on for months? What the fuck do you expect?

    On one hand, we want people to be passionate about their companies, products, and their customers, but on the other hand, we shush them at any mention of that company or its products. Why don’t we be a little smarter about it and try to figure out who’s truly being a shill and who really has ideas and is proud of the products and companies that those ideas represent. From what I heard, Mena talked about Vox in response to a *single question* in a *75 minute* panel. Doesn’t sound like shilling to me. Microsoft bought keynotes at conferences on your watch; where was our beloved unappointed WWW watchdog then?

  5. Businesses don’te want to cater to beginners? Where did you ever get that idea? Beginners don’t want to hang on the the intermediate slopes because they don’t want to look stupid. Nor do the intermediates or advanced want them hanging out because they don’t want to get hurt. Quite the ridiculous example you used.

    Even in the tech world, beginners that hang out or use tools by the more advanced users generally get ridiculed or shouted down by those with more experience. I mean, you even saw that with Cody.

    I think you are completely off base with your “beginner” theory.

  6. Businesses don’te want to cater to beginners? Where did you ever get that idea? Beginners don’t want to hang on the the intermediate slopes because they don’t want to look stupid. Nor do the intermediates or advanced want them hanging out because they don’t want to get hurt. Quite the ridiculous example you used.

    Even in the tech world, beginners that hang out or use tools by the more advanced users generally get ridiculed or shouted down by those with more experience. I mean, you even saw that with Cody.

    I think you are completely off base with your “beginner” theory.

  7. Hi Robert:

    To be honest, I don’t care one way or another about the cars or marketing issues. For me, the great value of BlogHer was the intimacy, the diversity of viewpoints among women bloggers (who are often characterized as if we were all the same), the opportunity to meet terrific women (as well as guys like Robert, Dave Weiner, and Guy Kawasaki), the friendships made, and the overall good feeling that blogging is a good and worthwhile activity on so many levels.

    Jan Kabili
    http://www.tuaw.com

  8. Hi Robert:

    To be honest, I don’t care one way or another about the cars or marketing issues. For me, the great value of BlogHer was the intimacy, the diversity of viewpoints among women bloggers (who are often characterized as if we were all the same), the opportunity to meet terrific women (as well as guys like Robert, Dave Weiner, and Guy Kawasaki), the friendships made, and the overall good feeling that blogging is a good and worthwhile activity on so many levels.

    Jan Kabili
    http://www.tuaw.com

  9. Geez, I’m tagging my posts as fast as I can! It’s only been 24 hours, y’know.

    I must agree about the MenaGate affair. I use Typepad so I was quite interested to hear what she thinks the future is going to look like. To hear it only extends as far as this fall and is all about Vox…well, that’s just sad.

    Signed,

    Sheila (“So I take it you were some big mucky-muck at Microsoft?”) Livingston

  10. Geez, I’m tagging my posts as fast as I can! It’s only been 24 hours, y’know.

    I must agree about the MenaGate affair. I use Typepad so I was quite interested to hear what she thinks the future is going to look like. To hear it only extends as far as this fall and is all about Vox…well, that’s just sad.

    Signed,

    Sheila (“So I take it you were some big mucky-muck at Microsoft?”) Livingston

  11. GM was a platinum level sponsor and brought a fully loaded Cadillac Escalade, a Saab 9-3, and a variety of Saturn Sky convertibles and (unreleased) Aura sedans. They had a Vue hybrid and a hydrogen prototype I don’t think was available to drive.

  12. GM was a platinum level sponsor and brought a fully loaded Cadillac Escalade, a Saab 9-3, and a variety of Saturn Sky convertibles and (unreleased) Aura sedans. They had a Vue hybrid and a hydrogen prototype I don’t think was available to drive.

  13. Spaces could have been so successful- as well as Yahoo’s 360 , and MySpace blogs -

    but people apparently do not want to be locked into a Blog Identity as opposed to social networking

    Apparently Bloggers want complete freedom and customization abilities – the INDEPENDANT SPIRIT of bloggers is say, different from those who join Social Network communites – or the early users of Geocities.

  14. Spaces could have been so successful- as well as Yahoo’s 360 , and MySpace blogs -

    but people apparently do not want to be locked into a Blog Identity as opposed to social networking

    Apparently Bloggers want complete freedom and customization abilities – the INDEPENDANT SPIRIT of bloggers is say, different from those who join Social Network communites – or the early users of Geocities.

  15. Robert,

    Great, energized post. Thanks. Sounds like the perfect booster rocket for your new job. (Now to check Christine Herron’s)

    As for beginners, I agree with you: the trick is to make their first few steps easy and rewarding without limiting them. Give beginners a good result quickly and show them a path to great results. Don’t isolate beginners at the Children’s Table.

    Beginning skiers, skip the Bunny Slope at your peril. If you”re lucky enough to hear Larry Miller tell his Ski Trip Story, you’ll understand the perils of plunging–and I do mean plunging–right in. (Where’s that Long Tail when you need it. HBO has the program. They air it now and then. But can you buy it anywhere? Rent it? Steal it? No.)

  16. Robert,

    Great, energized post. Thanks. Sounds like the perfect booster rocket for your new job. (Now to check Christine Herron’s)

    As for beginners, I agree with you: the trick is to make their first few steps easy and rewarding without limiting them. Give beginners a good result quickly and show them a path to great results. Don’t isolate beginners at the Children’s Table.

    Beginning skiers, skip the Bunny Slope at your peril. If you”re lucky enough to hear Larry Miller tell his Ski Trip Story, you’ll understand the perils of plunging–and I do mean plunging–right in. (Where’s that Long Tail when you need it. HBO has the program. They air it now and then. But can you buy it anywhere? Rent it? Steal it? No.)

  17. I thought Maryam was wonderful on the panel and that Lynne’s liveblogging is a very accurate account of the discussion. I thought it was a wonderfully overwhelming conference, maybe next time I’ll do more chatting… er, networking. I’m already looking forward to next year’s in Chicago.

  18. I thought Maryam was wonderful on the panel and that Lynne’s liveblogging is a very accurate account of the discussion. I thought it was a wonderfully overwhelming conference, maybe next time I’ll do more chatting… er, networking. I’m already looking forward to next year’s in Chicago.

  19. I think what I like most about Vox is the low barrier to transformation. It can be about marathon training this summer, and then about your favorite college football team in the fall. (Not that this example has *anything* to do with me, mind you.) Switching templates, post content sources, and heck, even the blog’s basic title/description is so easy, you don’t feel paralyzed by the “greatness of your original design.” I know you can make all of these changes with TypePad and Spaces, but something about Vox just seems much more flexible.

  20. I think what I like most about Vox is the low barrier to transformation. It can be about marathon training this summer, and then about your favorite college football team in the fall. (Not that this example has *anything* to do with me, mind you.) Switching templates, post content sources, and heck, even the blog’s basic title/description is so easy, you don’t feel paralyzed by the “greatness of your original design.” I know you can make all of these changes with TypePad and Spaces, but something about Vox just seems much more flexible.

  21. Christopher’s absolutely right about “ski resorts that cater to beginners”. The world needs those, and they often do better than their advanced counterparts.

    Blogger caters to beginners. Myspace caters to beginners.

    What we don’t need are products that cater to idiots, which explains Microsoft Bob. (The “for dummies” books are being ironic. They don’t cater to dummies either.)

  22. Christopher’s absolutely right about “ski resorts that cater to beginners”. The world needs those, and they often do better than their advanced counterparts.

    Blogger caters to beginners. Myspace caters to beginners.

    What we don’t need are products that cater to idiots, which explains Microsoft Bob. (The “for dummies” books are being ironic. They don’t cater to dummies either.)

  23. I am currently trying Vox, and frankly I quite like it. It’s not perfect, but for sharing absolutely useless information with my family, friends and the world, its a good platform. I doubt I would ever do any serious blogging with it (I am too much of a control freak), but for getting pictures up, journaling a vacation instead of sending my parents email every day, etc etc, its ideal. It’s early, but I do think there is a place for it.

  24. I am currently trying Vox, and frankly I quite like it. It’s not perfect, but for sharing absolutely useless information with my family, friends and the world, its a good platform. I doubt I would ever do any serious blogging with it (I am too much of a control freak), but for getting pictures up, journaling a vacation instead of sending my parents email every day, etc etc, its ideal. It’s early, but I do think there is a place for it.

  25. Vox seems pretty cool. Haven’t played around with it as much as I’d like yet. Dragging and dropping your flickr photos in 20 at a time though doesn’t really work for me. I’ve got over 6,000 photos on Flickr and I’d rather a way to get them all moved over to Vox. A tabblo type import feature would be a slick tool to add.

  26. Vox seems pretty cool. Haven’t played around with it as much as I’d like yet. Dragging and dropping your flickr photos in 20 at a time though doesn’t really work for me. I’ve got over 6,000 photos on Flickr and I’d rather a way to get them all moved over to Vox. A tabblo type import feature would be a slick tool to add.

  27. “Great reporter?” Awww, gee thanks Robert. Sorry we didn’t get a chance to chat, I meant to introduce myself. Maryam invited me to join your group for dinner, but I was pretty fried Saturday evening and went to bed early. Anyway, I’m sure we’ll be at the same conference at some point, so I look forward to having a chat with you then. Best of luck with your new gig and your move.

    - Amy Gahran

  28. “Great reporter?” Awww, gee thanks Robert. Sorry we didn’t get a chance to chat, I meant to introduce myself. Maryam invited me to join your group for dinner, but I was pretty fried Saturday evening and went to bed early. Anyway, I’m sure we’ll be at the same conference at some point, so I look forward to having a chat with you then. Best of luck with your new gig and your move.

    - Amy Gahran

  29. However, the passport issue on spaces keeps out just as many non-trolls as trolls. Assuming that people who aren’t trolls don’t have a problem with Spaces’ requirements is silly, and the entire passport thing reeks of “Yes, let’s see who logs in so we can use ever commenter in our next marketing push of ‘Look we have 290487502945878 people using Spaces!’”

    Sorry, but I know quite a few people who don’t like the idea of being tracked like that because they chose to comment on a blog.

  30. However, the passport issue on spaces keeps out just as many non-trolls as trolls. Assuming that people who aren’t trolls don’t have a problem with Spaces’ requirements is silly, and the entire passport thing reeks of “Yes, let’s see who logs in so we can use ever commenter in our next marketing push of ‘Look we have 290487502945878 people using Spaces!’”

    Sorry, but I know quite a few people who don’t like the idea of being tracked like that because they chose to comment on a blog.

  31. The world doesn’t want a ski resort that caters to beginners. Doesn’t work.

    Oh really? What explains the runaway bestselling ‘For Dummies’ books then? And what explains the success of Northstar-at-Tahoe, Calif. and Sunday River (Bethel, Maine) or Buttermilk, Colo. and Solitude, Utah. Being that a good deal of ski’ers are casual, it helps to cater to them, not exclusive no, always have an upgrade path, but an entrance ticket is always good. Having lived in Utah, I disagree strongly, the world wants beginner but smart concepts, not childish Microsoft Bob things. Beginner yes, stupid no.

    If they were listening they would have heard just why almost no one here uses Spaces.

    They don’t need to listen. It’s been dead-obvious from the get-go. Uncool-Microsoftish-corporate snow-slush aimed at hyper-active 14 year olds on MSN IM, about as hip as Walmart’s MySpace copycat. Not throwing out Dares eyeballs’ish marketshare numbers anymore, eh? ;)

    Passive branding? Oh you buzzworded dopes. Freebieisms has been aparta marketing from the get-go. Giving extended product tours or giving away freebies, people feel obligated to say nice things. Which is why Consumer Reports is trusted, as they don’t play that game. It’s all just celebrity journalism, you are doing the marketing work for them. They just have to pitch it to bloggers in a buzzworded-up soup. I mean I would, throw in some scalable extendable transitional-reductional, optimizing-agility participational grassroots leveraged-flexibility, passionate viral-marketing stickiness, all enabling experiences…and bingo, we have a winner.

    As for Mena blowing a speech or cussing someone out, and Marc being an interruptional-gadfly cashew-nut, I mean is the sky blue?

  32. The world doesn’t want a ski resort that caters to beginners. Doesn’t work.

    Oh really? What explains the runaway bestselling ‘For Dummies’ books then? And what explains the success of Northstar-at-Tahoe, Calif. and Sunday River (Bethel, Maine) or Buttermilk, Colo. and Solitude, Utah. Being that a good deal of ski’ers are casual, it helps to cater to them, not exclusive no, always have an upgrade path, but an entrance ticket is always good. Having lived in Utah, I disagree strongly, the world wants beginner but smart concepts, not childish Microsoft Bob things. Beginner yes, stupid no.

    If they were listening they would have heard just why almost no one here uses Spaces.

    They don’t need to listen. It’s been dead-obvious from the get-go. Uncool-Microsoftish-corporate snow-slush aimed at hyper-active 14 year olds on MSN IM, about as hip as Walmart’s MySpace copycat. Not throwing out Dares eyeballs’ish marketshare numbers anymore, eh? ;)

    Passive branding? Oh you buzzworded dopes. Freebieisms has been aparta marketing from the get-go. Giving extended product tours or giving away freebies, people feel obligated to say nice things. Which is why Consumer Reports is trusted, as they don’t play that game. It’s all just celebrity journalism, you are doing the marketing work for them. They just have to pitch it to bloggers in a buzzworded-up soup. I mean I would, throw in some scalable extendable transitional-reductional, optimizing-agility participational grassroots leveraged-flexibility, passionate viral-marketing stickiness, all enabling experiences…and bingo, we have a winner.

    As for Mena blowing a speech or cussing someone out, and Marc being an interruptional-gadfly cashew-nut, I mean is the sky blue?

  33. Which of those Saturns was a prototype, or did you just not take pictures of anything but the Sky?

  34. Which of those Saturns was a prototype, or did you just not take pictures of anything but the Sky?

  35. Being unable to spend time with delightful female bloggers, I merely posted today exactly along the lines of what you write about letting people write their own stories. I call it passive branding and Saturn were doing exactly that.

  36. Being unable to spend time with delightful female bloggers, I merely posted today exactly along the lines of what you write about letting people write their own stories. I call it passive branding and Saturn were doing exactly that.

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