Sunday, August 03, 2008

Can't. Stop. Looking.
DailyKos Commenters Discussing BlogHer '08 (And Getting Almost Everything About It Wrong And Making Me Very, Very Crazy)

Updated: Elisa commented on the thread and was all articulate
and pleasant and not screechy, unlike my rant below.
You can
read her response here.

It is very hard to straddle the personal/professional blogging line. I don't specifically blog here, on my personal site, as an Official BlogHer Representative.

Except by nature of our company and my job and who I am and how I define myself, I am always an Official BlogHer Representative. I don't ever really take the hat off (Web 2.0+ just doesn't work that way). If I don't blog/comment anonymously -- and I don't -- I can always be linked to my professional persona and so.

So.

So when Kos goes and writes a pretty darn interesting post about the current BlogHer '08 NYTimes coverage and its backlash, I watch the comments roll in and try not to have a stroke.

I do not comment there for lots of reasons, mostly because I don't want to fan the flames. I don't want to come across as defensive (which I am, though arguably with reason). I don't want to shout into the void. And also I don't want to say the wrong thing and piss the wrong person off.

But I can spout off here, as me. Right?

Please take my words as my own, and (as much as possible) not those of someone who works for BlogHer.

(Or, you know, as someone who spent the last year of her life planning this event which several commenters are now waxing philosophical about without having the slightest idea of who we are or what we do.)

* * * * * * * *

The gist of what's going on is this: BlogHer had a conference. (Perhaps you heard about it?) It got all kinds of media coverage, including a piece in the New York Times. The New York Times article was written by a Styles editor, and so/then/therefore the article appeared in the Fashion & Style section of the paper.

This suggested that the Times didn't take BlogHer '08 as seriously as it could have.

Meanwhile...

BlogHer '08 happened during the same weekend as the Netroots Nation event. Netroots Nation is a progressive, political blogging convention that took place in Austin. (It used to be called YearlyKos.) Given that it is a popular, liberal political event, Netroots Nation had bigger-named politicos in attendance than BlogHer did.

It was interesting then, to compare the New York Times' coverage of Netroots Nation to the New York Times' coverage of BlogHer.

Except:
- Comparing the Netroots Nation event to the BlogHer event is comparing apples to oranges.
- Comparing any media coverage of the Netroots Nation event to the BlogHer event is also comparing apples to oranges.

HOWEVER, and also OH MY GOD, here is where this discussion takes a bad, unfair, maddening and downright condescending turn -- when the "discussion" about the coverage of the events goes something like this:

Netroots Nation is important because it's political. BlogHer can't expect to be taken as seriously because it's about women bloggers or something.

Thankfully, Markos himself seems to suggest (and I'm paraphrasing liberally) that a political event is easier to cover "seriously" because it is a political event. It gets written about by political journalists. It goes in the politics section. Done and done. BlogHer '08 has many a purpose and many stories within it; some are, in fact, about "trends." But some are also about politics or parenting or business, and that's --arguably-- just not as easy to capture in a headline.

But the comments on Kos are making my eye all twitchy and my heartburn all flarey.

My overall frustration and disappointment is that many of the commenters are making these horribly ill-informed assumptions that, while intended to be kind, are the very root of the problem. They are assuming we're small, under-represented, in need of help.

None of these things are true.

So let me ask: why do you think they think so?

Ultimately, the comments do a great job at illustrating the extent to which the foremost community of women bloggers is not taken seriously. Several well meaning, well intentioned, progressive, liberal folks -- even self-proclaimed feminists -- are commenting in defense of BlogHer, and still demeaning the organization. They are making assumptions that stem not from fact, but from their own interpretation of Kos' post...and their own personal, embedded beliefs.

As below.

* * * * * * *

It's too bad BlogHer planned their event for the same weekend as Netroots Nation. Maybe next year they'll learn.

- BlogHer and NN were in discussions about our respective proposed conference dates well before either date was set. BlogHer announced its dates and location six weeks before Netroots Nation. NN knowingly hosted their conference on the same weekend as Blogher did, due to some unavoidable venue/logistics issue on their end. It is amazing to me how many people assume BlogHer was clueless about when NN was going to be, and/or that we planned our event after they did. Where does this assumption come from?


If only BlogHer knew how to market themselves, they'd have more people interested in attending...

- BlogHer's event is not exactly a cute little undertaking, eclipsed in size by the giant Netroots Nation. NN, from my understanding, had about 2000 attendees. BlogHer had well over 1000 attendees registered, and a wait-list of close to 250. We were turning people away at the door. (Side note: WORST FEELING EVER.) Our venue simply couldn't hold more people. The point is that we are far from hard-pressed to get people to come to the event. (Why would we be?)

Also, um...
- Market ourselves?

- Market ourselves?


"Politics" is simply more "interesting" and "newsworthy" than whatever it is that goes on at "the BlogHer..."

According to what or to whom? And, uh, why?

- BlogHer is not a political event per se, though politics is certainly one of our focuses. (And sure, I think a grassroots assemblage of any minority under-represented (ed: thanks, El_Gallo, hope this is a better term) group is pretty darn political.) BlogHer is an omni-partisan organization. Also, for what it's worth (in response to the too-many-to-count commenters who are practically laughing about the idea of BlogHer ever getting any "serious" political coverage or speakers): BlogHer's editors have, actually, appeared on CNN several times. In 2006, Arianna Huffington was a keynote panelist; in 2007, it was Elizabeth Edwards. In 2008, BlogHer got an exclusive interview with Barack Obama and Michelle Obama is one of our newest bloggers.

- The event is also not specifically for MommyBloggers (although let's not even get started on the "mommyblogging isn't as serious as political blogging" debate). Lots of moms attend (and several dads, too) and we have sessions related to them. We also have lots of non-moms, politicos, geeks, singles, etc etc etc etc. in attendance. Of the 30 -- yes, THREE-OH-- break-out sessions and four keynotes plus a full-day of OpenSpace, a whopping total of FIVE sessions were devoted to issues under the MommyBlogging umbrella.

- The BlogHer organization/founders did not bring about this comparison of news coverage. In fact, no "official spokesperson" for BlogHer did. The coverage issue was brought about by the community. I do, personally, think we should have gotten more/better press, but it's not like we didn't get any -- there was plenty of media covereage, and much of it was wonderful.

- LASTLY, I just want to say that it is beyond frustrating to me to read comments from folks who think BlogHer is purposeless, without an agenda, unfocused and/or floundering as an organization based on the "fact" that they have never heard of us. I will bet you dollars to donuts that for every member of the Kos community who's never heard of BlogHer, there is a member of BlogHer who has never heard of Kos.

I did appreciate the commenters who took the time to post our mission, to explain what we're about, to help keep the conversation civil.

I would love to hear your thoughts.

32 comments:

  1. I've never heard of Kos or NN. But I've certainly heard about BlogHer for years.

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  2. good response. I think it boils down to an assumption that things women talk about/ care about are obviously not important or newsworthy. I do think comparing coverage of BlogHer to Netroots Nation is tricky, because of the things reporters care about. It's also important to note that there are plenty of women bloggers who attend NN and were included in the coverage.
    On the other hand, I was a bit offended by the way BlogHer was diminished in the Times article. I didn't attend, but as a member of the ad community, I get the impression that BlogHer members are savvy business women and regular people who are interested in creating online communities and helping each other out. I think that's pretty serious, and get pretty pissed when other people act like it isn't.

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  3. And sure, I think a grassroots assemblage of any minority group is pretty darn political.

    Here's my nitpick: the above quote seems to suggest that women are a minority. They're not. They're the majority of people in this country and on this planet.

    Given that, I'm amazed at the Isn't it cute those little gals are puttin' on a show -- maybe we could help 'em out -- they're so cute an' spunky attitude from the DailyKos comments. They're the type of stereotypical aggressively clueless comments that (with a dash of racism and scatology) I'd expect to read on Craigslist Romantic Advice forum.

    I think the Times doesn't get it, and I'm disappointed that dKos commenters are on the same page -- which in this case would be the Style section.

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  4. Thanks, all.

    El_G, I changed "minority" to "under-represented." I think that's accurate. And also, yes! WTF? Why is the assumption (from the most well meaning of them) that we *need* help? Argh!

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  5. ...I changed "minority" to "under-represented." I think that's accurate.

    That's totally accurate. And totally depressing.

    I honestly don't know how women put up with the overwhelming amount of casual sexism in the world. Has nobody read Judges 4:21 ? Could BlogHer get sponsored by Home Depot?

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  6. I was at BlogHer 2008.

    I was NOT at whatever bullshit political event Kos is talking about.

    Therefore, BlogHer matters.

    That is all. :)

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  7. I've never heard of Kos.

    I read an article recently about how the blog world is dominated by men, and it totally took me by surprise. I don't doubt the validity of the statement to some extent: Probably there are more male bloggers, but it annoyed me a bit that it was just stated with such abandon. Dominated. It's not my personal experience that most blogs are written by men. In fact, I would've thought the opposite: I have 70 blogs on my feed, and 6 are written by men.

    As for the BH/NN coverage discrepancies, I think that media writers are lazy. Or readers are lazy, so media writers cater to that. Or a combination thereof.

    I've personally been involved in three events that made national headlines, and in every single instance, I felt like the reporting (both TV and newspaper) got it wrong. Sometimes there was blatant wrongness, like when the incorrect yearbook picture was displayed as the face of a killer on national news for several days, despite the corrections of multiple people at every broadcast. But most often, the wrongness is more subtle. The moods are reported incorrectly; the opinions of the town are shifted a little. The reporters want a story to be neat and tidy or sensationalist, and they will find the witness or pick and choose the words until they get the angle for which they're looking.

    And for Blogher, the angle is most likely: "Look! Women together, and they all write as a hobby in this weird voyeuristic way! How cute." It's harder to have an angle of a conference when there isn't a clear political or monetary agenda. If you included a seminar where the women decided on their stock picks for the year or who they're going to vote for, that's a story a reporter would jump on. But without a traditional front page angle, it's going to make it to the Style section.

    Next year, have a bra-burning bonfire. I guarantee front page.

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  8. This is why I should read links before commenting; I see now that my thoughts are not original.

    Also, I should clarify that I do not suggest you change a thing about Blogher to get different coverage -- just expressing wryly what it would take.

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  9. Personally, I had to go LOOKING for male bloggers, so I don't know where this male dominated nonsense is coming from. I have never heard of Kos, in the blogging community or non-blogging community. I didn't even know that there was another blogging conference going on until I overheard someone at BlogHer mention it.

    Most of the guys (and girls) I know that are non-bloggers were jealous that strangers are interested in what I have to say and that I was able to go to San Francisco to hang out with them. I think that I'm surprised when people take me seriously has more to do with my insecurities than what others actually think of me. (An Instyle Magazine editor handed me her card in the fashion bloggers breakout session and my first thought was, "Really? Are you sure?", but I pretended that was something that happens all the time. It doesn't.)

    The rest of the media world will figure it out eventually. Meanwhile, it's their loss, not ours, because BlogHer isn't having trouble finding members, or sponsors, or interests to discuss and that's why I love it so much. Where else can I connect with thousands of women, many of them just like me, from all over the country?

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  10. People who have to push others down in order to lift themselves up are not worth debating. Kos-ites...er, Kos-ians...uh, Kos Klones, I'm not mad at you. Just disappointed.

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  11. How dare they! ...of all the outrageous, underhanded, over the top, indecorous, elephantine, unconscious mispreconceptions

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  12. reading the comments on the kos posting (the posting itself was interesting and well articulated, even if i don't entirely agree with it), my opinion of that particular forum is confirmed: interesting posts and a devoutly vocal following of commenters who have a much higher opinion of their political importance than reality supports. i'm generally supportive of the political positions, but the "we're in the cool kid clique" dismissiveness of other communities and opinions is nearly as corrosive to the tactical furtherance of those positions as is the current administration and congress.

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  13. Kristy, I feel your pain. I have banned myself from reading comments about anything BlogHer related (ok, except this post) because people WHO DIDN'T EVEN GO TO THE CONFERENCE love to jump in with all of their assumptions about how everything they suspect to be wrong with it is all the product of a diabolical plan of some sort. It's bad for my blood pressure.

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  14. You know, I can't quite wrap my head around it, but your post and Elisa's response were great. I don't read KOS daily, and I would never go to Netroots Nation because I'm not uber liberal and I've got no interest in a purely political conference, although I did go to a political session at BlogHer. Their conference seems much more niche to me than BlogHer.

    The NYT article was grating because it was all like "oh, funny girl stuff, hehe," but I think what we're really battling is the assumption that if something contains anything remotely feminine, it is instantly relegated to a lower class, which is really quite strange. I mean, why are lactation rooms remotely belittling? Why is it framed that way? Why don't all conferences have lactation rooms and child care?

    And as a nonmother myself, any comment about BlogHer being all about mommy bloggers really just makes me think that the person writing it is a little slow.

    DIVERSITY is what BlogHer is all about (and the number one reason I love BlogHer). If someone is going to jump on BlogHer and see a sex & relationships article and immediately dismiss all of BlogHer as fluff - Well, then, they are blind and they just don't get blogging. A lot of people just don't get it. Penelope Trunk writes a handful of personal articles, and suddenly she's got nothing to offer people that think like that. They don't get the combo, the personal and the professional running simultaneously - you know, the way they do IN REALITY.

    It's a rather old-fashioned way of thought, to me.

    I don't know, I'm on and on here, but basically, BlogHer is forging ahead in new waters, creating a new world, and as such, it's not surprising that it's often misunderstood. The only thing to do is to hold fast to our vision and what we know is true, and continue to rock.

    As you, Kristie, always most surely do.

    Rock and joy,

    Liz

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  15. And then I spelled your name wrong.

    Because I am utterly brilliant.

    End scene.

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  16. I've never even heard of NN or Kos, until I read your post. I wish I could be as articulate and amazing as the women/men of BlogHer. I started reading that Kos article and the comments, and completely lost interest, whereas every post by a BlogHer blogger keeps me captivated. Maybe one of the reasons the NN convention got more coverage is because it's political, and 'tis the year. Betcha next year NN will be small potatoes.

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  17. I'd never heard of Kos or NN until this entire uproar.

    I have, however, heard of Blogher. And Kristy.

    And I adore both.

    Kos who?

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  18. Yeah, I'm totally over the whole 'i didn't go to blogher but it sucked' phenomenon this year. Tired!

    I also had never heard of KOS until the conference when I heard someone talking about how they were disappointed that they were happening the same weekend.

    And I add a hearty Here! Here! go beth's comment about writers/reporters just getting it wrong.

    For example one of my graduate school projects was to study communities, the class broke into groups and half of them studied my community and the report back to the class was that I lived in a 'dead' community. There was no economy there were no jobs, there was nothing to do.

    Which kinda blew since my husband and I grew up there and we returned there after college to raise our kids on purpose because we loved our town, (which we both had jobs in ) and we have lots of friends and do lots of activities

    So it was kinda a shock to hear that my town sucked so much.

    But by who's standards? By a bunch of people who interviewed shoppers at the local safeway at 10am on Thursday...Surprisingly those people didn't have jobs! or felt depressed. Gosh. Weird. Did they interview anyone working at safeway at 10am?

    I thought Blogher rocked. Which I realize is not very professional sounding but, my session were well run, and led by dynamic speakers and isn't that the point of a conference? Keeping the interest of the attendees?

    I was most dissappointed by NY Times calling Dooce's blog a snarky mommy blog. Because...i thought pretty much summed up how uninformed people looked at the blogosphere as a whole and at blogher specifically. And the whole thing left me feeling disappointed that women would read about this amazing conference and they would get to the 'snarky mommy blog' bit and that would be it they would stop reading further..I would. I don't want to be a snarky mommy blogger. I want to be a writer who is inspiring to other, women and men (apparently we're in this together) and a woman who is a mother but who is many other things because I'm raising boys who will be many things besides MEN.

    And that is why this conference is so important and why my blog is so important to me. I find blogs that support me and who I want to be. I read blogs that inspire me and who I want to become. And I blog to connect to those amazing people who make me think and make me proud of what I do.

    Thank you kristy for the conference and for all you work and also for this post

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  19. Oh my God...no wonder you were so overwhelmed with work right before the conference. I didn't know you worked for you know. I just loved to read your blog because it is, well, funny and bright and I just really like it and the way you talk about Ish is sweet.

    Having had small parts in huge productions in the past I know how frikin hard it is to coordinate all the sessions and well, everything. And don't get me started on getting a date a year in advance.

    Well, I'm sorry the NY Times has sucky reporters and that people are acting all nasty and well, bitchy about it all.

    I never heard of KOS or NN either.

    I think you have a big heart and are smart as everything to pull off such a huge convention...and listen to the crap.

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  20. Wholeheartedly support your right to rant, in any forum not just your own blog, about something you worked so hard on. Here's my personal mantra, stolen from Sondheim:

    Stop worrying if your vision is new.

    Let others make that decision, they usually do.

    Just keep moving on.

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  21. Well, I had heard of Kos, and used to read DailyKos until I couldn't stand it anymore during the Democratic primary. By and large, the people on Kos (who get the most approval) tend to be fauxgressives, and have SERIOUS trouble dealing with strong women. I don't link there, I don't click there, I don't read there now.

    I wish I could have gone to BlogHer. I don't need to be associated with anything connected to Kos.

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  22. Um, proudly saying that you have never heard of Kos, kinda makes you sound ignorant. Seriously - you need to read the NYTimes and WSJ more and Dooce (who IS snarky as hell)less. Just saying.

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  23. I'm glad to read your post on this because I did read the NYT article when it came out. I believe it was linked to on TalkLeft.com (a better progressive political blog than dailykos, in my opinion).

    I haven't been able to read dailykos since Markos and almost everyone else on his site started their Hillary-bashing and continued to the extremes. Their worship of Obama was similarly over the top. The site lost all credibility to me at that point.

    My reason for saying this is to point out that the people commenting on that site OFTEN opine vehemently regardless of how uninformed they are. They often seem to trust their intuition about topics rather than seek out facts. And the "facts" they do consider are often limited to those that support their intuition and/or bias.

    So while I completely understand feeling frustrated, angry, hurt, exasperated, etc. by what you are reading there, know that it is all much more a reflection of those posters than it is of BlogHer.

    The underlying sexism of their views is ENDEMIC to that site. That was abundantly clear in the treatment of Hillary. So BlogHer has fine company on that front.

    I liked your post and am glad you wrote it.

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  24. I agree. Yup.

    My position on your question, "Why do you think they think so?" Because they're ignorant. And I don't mean in a name-calling sort-of way. I really mean that they are ignorant.

    Either by choice, or their focus is simply in places where they cannot see to learn or simply do not care to learn about what is happening here.

    That is why I fell madly in love with the BlogHer conference. I met people who understood and had a passion for what I love. I am very guarded here at home with how much I talk about my blog and other blogs I read. When i say, "Oh, I read this post on (insert topic here)...." I get wonk-eyed stares or some folks just look away. They don't know how to handle "blogs" as sources? Maybe? They think I am trolling MySpace for young hotties? Maybe...

    The fact is... some folks just don't get "it". And some folks, well... they're just snotty.

    I hope to acquire enough info to perhaps offer a "blogging basics" through my local parks and recs department at some point (I just wish I could nail down a "target" date for this morphing dream). It's my grass-roots attempt/hope to find and encourage "the locals" to learn and understand "this blogging thing".

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  25. This is a very deep and large subject, and I am off my game because I am starving and my brain has turned to mush.

    I can relate to this on a personal level, though. The people who marginalize me and don't take me seriously? Are proven wrong and generally regret underestimating me. That's how I see the whole BlogHer thing on a much larger level. People will always marginalize and underestimate. The only question is- how long will it take them to regret it?

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  26. Okay, I'm stuck at works and feverish. But I'm going to chime in with a question, and I don't want this to be taken the wrong way. I am a political junkie, and I do read Kos, in all its irritating glory, regularly. I also read a bunch of other political blogs. In that world, male bloggers do dominate (Huffington, FireDogLake and Digby being major exceptions). That is very significant, because , strange as it may seem, the elite political bloggers do have power in the political world. Issues that might otherwise have been ignored percolate up from the blogosphere and get attention from people in political office, people who can actually make real-life changes. The lack of female representation in that blogging world is serious.

    I also read a lot of food bloggers, since that is my other major interest, and particularly bloggers who write farming, the food supply, ethical eating, etc. The gender split among those bloggers is pretty much even.

    Now, if I could attend NN, I might, though I get enough politics in my work and personal life that I might take a pass. I would certainly attend a food blogger conference, because that is the world I am moving into professionally, and I would like to network. But I'm not sure if I would attend BlogHer. I thought about it when the voting was still going on to determine the location, and I might well have decided in favor of attending if the conference was local to me. But ultimately, I have a harder time understanding why I would have anything in common with other bloggers just because they're women. Sure, I'm a woman; I blog. But the two things are particularly linked for me. I don't blog about feminism. But maybe there's something I'm missing. Maybe BlogHer would be as much a "home" to me as a food blogger conference? I don't know. But I would be interested in hearing what people who went found resonated for them, specifically in terms of meeting other blogging women.

    I don't really know if what I am writing makes sense. Did I mention the fever? But there it is.

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  27. pyewacket - Your question is valid, though I would want to rephrase it. I believe you're asking, essentially, "Why would I want to attend BlogHer?"

    I don't think the right question is, "Why would I want to attend BlogHer just because I'm a woman?"

    BlogHer isn't just about being a female blogger at all. The agenda is rich and diverse, and covers myriad topics that women are blogging about. It's a robust *blogging* conference.

    It's about the things that women are doing online -- not about the fact that women are doing them.

    We have tons of foodies attend, and hosted a meet-up for the foodies, too. BlogHer provides an opportunity for bloggers (niche and otherwise) to meet other bloggers who blog on their topic, to learn from each other, to discover what other things are out there, to learn new tips and tricks (like SEO and monetization), etc.

    I hope that's helpful...?

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  28. pyewacket - I don't think you attend BlogHer because you will have things in common with all the attendees just because they are women - In fact, for me it's the contrary. BlogHer exposes me to the diversity of women as individuals. The nature of BlogHer allows the diversity of women to shine through.

    I go to BlogHer because it's an awesome conference and there's a bunch of sessions I want to attend and I'm going to hear and meet *a lot* of people I can't hear or meet anywhere else.

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  29. Okay - I get that there are lots of interesting speakers and so on. But why then is it for women? Why not just a general blogging conference? There has to be some reason for a blogging conference specifically for women, and I don't quite understand what that is. Underrepresentation in the blogging world? That might be true in some areas, like political blogging, but that doesn't seem to be the focus of the conference. I'm not trying to be difficult (believe me, I'm difficult enough without trying!) I'm just trying to get at what might lead people to have odd views about the conference, a lack of understanding of why exactly this conference. Obviously, it's very successful, so it fills a role and there are lots and lots of people that really want to be there. But from the outside, it's not necessarily that obvious what the reason for the conference is. That may be why you get this strange misinterpretations - oh, it must be about "girly" things and mommyblogs or oh, it must be a struggling feminist conference or something like that.

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  30. I wish I could have gone to the BlogHer conference, I am a "member" (is this the correct term?) of BlogHer and even though it apparently makes me sound ignorant I have never heard of Kos.

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  31. Never heard of Kos. Definitely heard of Blogher- really wanted to go but couldn't. Oh well.

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