Reflections on BlogHerFood 11
BlogHerFood 11 crept up on me so quickly. With the move from October to May, it seemed like just yesterday I was in San Francisco at BlogHerFood 10 inundated by swag, food bloggers, and enough enthusiasm and education to overwhelm any mere mortal.
So it was with great anticipation that I chose to attend again only 7 months later and 2500 miles away in Atlanta.
Delta burst that bubble right at the outset by stranding us in the San Francisco airport for over 5 hours. Luckily I was with wonderful people – food bloggers and BlogHer staff, who made the situation ever so much more tolerable.
And there were many high points once we safely arrived in Atlanta:
- Getting to know my roommate, Lana Watkins, who writes a wonderful blog called A Hungry Pen
- Dinner Thursday night with many unfamiliar but very friendly faces who all welcomed us after a long day of flight delays
- The session on blog design by Sabrina Modelle of TheTomatoTart and Irvin Lin of EatTheLove and the session on Simple and Affordable Tools and Techniques to Improve your Food Photography with Sarah Olson of Sarah Olson Photography and Alice Currah of SavorySweetLife
- Sharing a great bottle of wine and conversation with new friends
- Meeting Donna Pierce’s father, Eliot Battle Sr., who studied under George Washington Carver
- The interviews with Molly Birnbaum, author of A Season to Taste, who lost her sense of smell in a car accident; and with Laurie David, author of The Family Dinner and Asata Reid on raising children who care about food, health, and the environment
- The visit to the Sweet Auburn Market offering a chance to see the regional differences in food and eat barbecue from the Sweet Auburn food truck
- The chance to eat at Empire State South and enjoy Hugh Acheson’s and Ryan Smith’s fabulous food and southern hospitality including an engaging discussion on sustainable food and food values (photo courtesy of Elaine Wu)
But as I navigated through the sessions, keynotes, and various gatherings this past weekend, I heard rumblings of discontent occasionally too, some concerns bravely spoken into a microphone, others spoken in hushed tones in small group conversations.
- Concerns about blogging cliques – the in-crowd vs the newbies, the bloggers going to hush-hush sponsor dinners, the “successful” bloggers vs the rest of us
- uncertainty about what defines success in the world of blogging
- concerns about how traditional media and new media are merging and working together
Since I live in Silicon Valley and am old enough to remember when there were no computers, I have lived through the entire Internet boom (bust and boom again) and have witnessed the evolution of the semiconductor industry as well. So I am no stranger to fast-growing business and the uncertainty and concerns that naturally arise during periods of rapid growth. And clearly blogging is still growing rapidly as nearly 80% of the attendees listed themselves as new bloggers.
As I reflected on the conference, it occurred to me that it is our responsibility to not only use our blogs and our communication abilities to facilitate change in the world, but also to positively impact our own food blogging community. We need to break out of our comfort zones and cliques and meet new people. We need start using Follow Friday on Twitter not just to recognize those we already know but to seek out those we don’t.
Just as we eagerly share our food intelligence on our blogs, we need to use our blogs, blog gatherings, and Twitter presence to educate and welcome new bloggers. If someone misuses a recipe or photo, take the high road first and assume it was an innocent mistake and therefore an opportunity to forge a relationship and share your knowledge. There is always time later on to get angry if the intent was really malicious.
And when traditional media reaches out to us, grab hold and participate. A good example is Jeff Houck of The Tampa Tribune and Rene Lynch of The Los Angeles Times who have created a Monday morning ritual on Twitter to share #weekendeats. I drop by every Monday morning to share what I cooked or ate on the weekend and drool over everyone else’s contributions. In return, Rene and Jeff retweet our contributions and provide a URL to post our photos. Rene even featured one of my photos in the printed food section recently.
But why should we be agents of change in the blogging community when we can all barely keep up with our own blog, our family and work responsibilities and of course, the big world issues we all want to help change? Because if the quality of blogging as a whole is improved, all bloggers will benefit. The stronger the blogging community appears to the rest of the world, including traditional media, the more leverage we will have with brands, publishers, and the general community and the more our messages will impact the communities we wish to reach.
So a huge thank you to BlogHer for creating a platform that has fueled the wild growth of the blogging community and for providing venue(s) for us to gather and learn. And to the many food bloggers who already share their knowledge, ideas, and enthusiasm easily – you have made my decision to pursue a new career in the world of food an easy one. And as much enthusiasm as I’ve witnessed, it’s natural that we will all struggle occasionally too.
But let’s not allow our frustrations to quell our enthusiasm. We are lucky to be participating in this exciting communication medium and if we support each other along the way, we’ll navigate the changes together and continue to share our boundless enthusiasm for food with each other and the audiences that we reach.