Blissdom Canada takeaway messages: Part 1

by DaniGirl on October 18, 2011 · 6 comments

in Meta-blogging

In my post yesterday, I mentioned that I left the Blissdom Canada blogging and social media conference feeling newly inspired. There were a lot of things that didn’t engage me at the conference, but rather than gripe about those, I’d like to tell you about the things that did inspire me, and motivate me, and remind me of the potential magic of blogging.

Blissdom Canada had two “tracks” with congruent sessions going on in different rooms: the art track and the commerce track. Of four time slots and eight sessions, I spent three-quarters of my time in the art track, which coincidentally (or not?) is fairly representative of the blog itself, I think.

The first session I attended was called “Finding Your Muse: The Art & Science of Finding Inspiration – And Using It.” I have to be honest, I might not have attended this session if I weren’t such a fan of the brains behind it: Bonnie Stewart, Elan Morgan (aka Schmutzie) and Tanis Miller (aka The Redneck Mommy), people I have admired in a bloggy way for many, many years. But here’s the thing – the conversation quickly evolved way beyond finding your muse and into a discussion on inspiration and identity, and I found that absolutely fascinating. I’ve spent a lot of time lately thinking about online identity and personae and how they reflect and affect your IRL identity.

As the session went on, I tweeted some of the more salient sound-bites and messages. Here’s the best bits, copied more or less verbatim from my own twitterstream:

To find your muse, start with your goals. Where do you want to go?

Social media and identity are deeply integrated to our sense of self, but don’t let that completely dictate how you see yourself.

Don’t let the metrics, comments, klout score, etc affect how you see yourself. They are not reflective of who you are as a person.

Take yourself seriously if you want others to do so.

Twitter is crack. It’s great for community but way too easy to let it sidetrack you from your goals and make you think you’re doing something when you really are not.

You are more than the sum of things you’ve blogged about.

Turn your sense of inspiration into a change for good. Educate, amplify the message of others, create community.

If you are feeling uninspired, reach out and elevate someone else.

Look outside yourself when seeking your muse. Find it in connection and community.

And this, something I must really work on and kind of wish I’d had tattooed on my forehead the first time I ever hit “publish” on the blog: don’t shy away from blogging in tough times, but wait until you are through it and have some perspective.

Great messages, eh? Can you see why I was reminded of the power of the blog? The next session, while completely different in tone and topic, speaks equally to the power of blogging. It was called “She Works Hard For The Money (And So Do You): Why And How You Should Be Making Money From Your Blog,” and featured my old friend Andrea Tomkins, as well as Janice Croze, Susie Erjavec Parker and Corinne McDermott.

Andrea started out with a message that I totally love, which is that blogs have many kinds of value, including as a family scrapbook, a way to earn ad revenue, a portfolio, and a stepping stone to another career. What’s missing from the list, IMHO, is simply the value of community and connection, which is what I’d say is the key value of blogging for me. And, erm, the value of a captive audience!

Like the session before it, I went in not sure exactly what to expect or whether there would be a lot of value in the session for me. After all, I’m already quite comfortable with my sponsors, I know how to solicit more if I want them, and I have a professional understanding of both the inherent marketability of the blog and its PR value. But like the session before it, the session evolved into something different and something extremely interesting for me, with a lot of simple but valuable business tips. I think this is particularly relevant for me now because while I never really saw myself as a small business when it was just the blog, now that I have the photography business bringing in more significant amounts of money I’ve started thinking in these terms.

The most interesting one is an argument I’ve seen recently about the value of a blog versus a presence on Twitter and/or Facebook. The problem with both Twitter and Facebook is that they’re transient in nature. The conversations on Twitter disappear almost instantly, and Facebook is capricious. Once you own a domain, however, it’s yours. It’s your property, which is a powerful tool. Facebook fan pages can disappear overnight if you inadvertently break one of Facebook’s many rules (or even if there is the perception of a broken rule) but that will never happen on your blog.

Here’s some of the other tips I found interesting from that session:

For a personal blogger, each time you hear a message about protecting your “brand” substitute the word “reputation”.

There is a place for working for free, but “booty calls rarely turn into relationships”.

If a PR firm contacts you and wants to “pick your brain” ask them “what’s your budget?” Your blog and your time are worthy of compensation.

Think ahead to how you want to end your business. Do you want to be able to sell it to someone else? This will help you set your goals.

Buy your first and last name domain (ie danielledonders.ca) as well as your business or blog domain name and redirect it to your main site. People will search for you in many different ways, make it easy to find them and make it difficult for competitiors to subvert or undermine you.

In the social media world, value is “cost per influence” not “cost per click”.

The last session of the day was a panel called “Canadian-ish: Being Canadian In A Borderless Digital World.” I have to admit, the direction of the conversation in this one annoyed me more than inspired me, as tired old stereotypes about Canadian identity (Tim Hortons and poutine, for example) were trotted out. Even more troubling, though, was an assumption by some panel members that the Canadian identity doesn’t really matter, and doesn’t really inform or influence who we are. In fact, I’d argue (rather passionately, in fact) that being Canadian is a huge influence on my online — and offline — identity. The first word of my twitter bio and third word of my Flickr profile is Canadian, for goodness sake!

It was interesting to me, too, that Catherine Connors (aka Her Bad Mother) stated that blogging helped her “escape the local.” For me, blogging helped me “discover the local.” When I first started blogging, I had to go outside of my community and mostly outside of my country to connect with other bloggers. Way back in 2004-2005, there were only a couple dozen of us, and I found my likeminded community largely populated by American academic parents. As the blogosphere grew, so did the Canadian community. It was really only through comments on my own blog and later through Twitter that I felt I was connecting with the strong local community here in Ottawa.

You can see why I felt like my brain was ready to explode by the end of day one, with so many new perspectives to consider. And I didn’t even tell you about the amazing chat a few of us hard-core CBC fans had with Anna Maria Tremonti (of Radio One’s The Current) after the final session. Hers was the voice I respected the most throughout that session, and meeting her afterward was one of the highlights of the weekend for me. I’m not in this picture, but I took it, and that makes me equally happy! (She’s third from left in the picture below, with @zchamu, @scarbiedoll, @bonstewart, @AlisonJette, @capitalmom and @ottmomgo.)

294:365 Anna Maria Tremonti fan club

So what do you think? Were you there? If so, I’d love to hear what you think on my take of the highlights. And if you weren’t there, I hope this is helpful and interesting. I wanted to go beyond some of the “lookit the cool swag I got and all the people I rubbed elbows with” kind of messages I often see coming out of some of the big conferences.

I can’t wait to share my day 2 observations – that’s when things got really interesting!


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{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

1 SleegsSkees October 18, 2011 at 11:54 am

I really liked following your tweets during this conference and in particular the comments about not getting hung up on metrics, but staying true to yourself.

2 Krista (@kristahouse) October 18, 2011 at 1:11 pm

I walked away with pretty much the same feelings. I believe we attended a lot of the same sessions. The Canadian-ish session threw me for a loop too. Social media and blogging allowed me to connect with people in Ottawa that I would never have met! It was an interesting session indeed, but I was happy to attend.

3 Paula October 18, 2011 at 2:29 pm

I wasn’t there but I am enjoying reading what you took away from the conference.

4 Harriet October 20, 2011 at 4:52 pm

I wasn’t there but heard all about this Canadian discussion. I think that blogging has taken me BOTH way outside my geographical boundaries (I’ve connected with adoptive families from across the US) and also made me deeply localized (I post about all the things we do in our community). Twitter has become my local anchor. In one evening on Twitter, we arranged a Tweetup at a local pub with over 20 people expressing interest. We all want to meet in real life and in my current world, most parents have little kids and can’t make it to conferences.

5 Mel Gallant October 20, 2011 at 8:02 pm

Hi Dani,

The booty call advice stayed with me too. It’s what made me realize I may not be ready to work with brands because I don’t yet know the value of my time.

While it’s not social media focused, I’d love to see a business-focused track at next year’s event. Really getting into the nitty-gritty details of what it means, especially if women out there are trying to earn a living by writing for brands and publications and/or monetizing their blogs.

It was great getting to know you at the conference. Looking forward to seeing you around Ottawa. :)

6 Karen October 20, 2011 at 10:38 pm

These are some great highlights and I’m glad you delved into the Canadian-ish session some more. I know we touched on it briefly that night as I was curious about your feelings. As I mentioned, I didn’t see it the same way, but I lack the sensitivity to Canadian stereotypes that I think can develop from growing up here, but I know American stereotypes bother me, so I relate to your feelings in that way.

I thought the interesting part of the discussion was being able to identify with the original author of the Canadian-ish blog post, Kyran Pittman. After going back and reading the post, I realized that she and I aren’t necessarily on the same page with it, but I don’t feel insecure about my American identity – never have.

When I first started using social tools – way back before they were called social tools – I, too, went outside my locality and ended up moving to Canada. So, I can’t begin to tell you how absolutely awesome it is to start over with twitter and connect with such an incredible – and local – community. It makes Ottawa seem that much more like home. And I think this community wears its Canadian well and with pride. No worries of being Canadian-ish at all.

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