My experience at Blissdom Canada 2010

I attended my first blogging/social media conference last week. I’m finally starting to catch up with the cool kids on the interwebs!

I even lived to tweet about it.

I went to Blissdom Canada 2010 here in Toronto. Billed as “Canada’s first social media conference for women” it came with a lot of hype, and some high expectations. Tickets sold out very quickly so I was extra grateful to get my earlybird tickets. I would have been kicking myself if I had missed such an event taking place in my own city.

The conference ended on Friday so I’ve been processing it for a few days now. I’m struggling with how to put my feelings into words outside of “I had a fabulous time and learned a lot“.

It was great to be able to meet women who care about writing – and writing online – as much as I do. Matching faces to Twitter avatars is always fun – I joked that people would recognize me if I turned my head a certain way. I met and spoke to so many people I hoped to meet. I met and spoke to people I didn’t know of until we met, and now I have tons more blogs and tweets to follow.

Watching the smartphones and laptops going nonstop during the conference was a neat thing to watch. Some people are really great at live-tweeting or live-blogging an event or panel, which is really valuable for those following along at home. I tried to keep that to a minimum because I’m not great at it – I find I tweet one thought and miss the next one. I wanted to be sure I heard everything so I tried to keep my communications to a minimum during panels. It was neat to check my email and discover that my table mates had already started following my Twitter account. An extra bonus is that I’m already finding that I’m having more conversations on Twitter. I hope to keep that up. The fact that so many people are still using the #BlissdomCanada hashtag days after the conference ended says a lot about how much people got out of it.

What I wish that I had done differently

I wish that I had spoken up more! I have a tendency to speak less and listen more when I’m around people or situations I don’t know well. This is not a bad thing but listening to a conversation without contributing more than the bare minimum doesn’t show my best side. Once I warm up a bit, I can usually jump in and out as necessary, but I may end up saying something stupid or awkward. I know everyone does this, but I’d love a few less facepalm moments in my life.

I wish that I had asked more questions at the panels! This is related to my first point. I tend to not ask the questions I want to ask until close to the end or not at all. I want to listen to everyone else and see if they ask – or answer – my questions before I have to ask them. That doesn’t always happen so I need to learn to speak up for myself, whether it’s a question or a point I’d like to make.

I wish that I had a better “elevator pitch”! People would ask me about hellomelissa.net and I would say “I’m a personal blogger”. The next question would be “how long have you been doing this?” and my answer would be “over ten years”. I’m a dinosaur by blogging standards (and to a lesser degree, by Twitter standards, seeing that I started tweeting in 2007), and sometimes it shows. I was a little embarrassed that I depended on my longevity in the medium to try and legitimize myself. (I’ve struggled with this for awhile now as the link to a post from earlier this year mentions.) I struggle with the whole “elevator pitch” thing in real life too though so this is not a new thing for me.

I don’t want to be completely negative on myself so here’s some good stuff.

What I’m glad that I did right (for me)

I’m glad I mingled. I tried to sit with different people for each session. I came alone (and got a smiley face sticker to prove it) so it wasn’t like I had a group of friends I could hang with by default. Since I wasn’t staying in the hotel (hometown advantage! or disadvantage depending on how you look at it), I didn’t have roommates or travel mates. That left me free to sit with and talk to whomever I wanted. I spoke to lots of people – many of whom I may not have gotten to meet if I had sat with the same people all the time. When I went to the panels, I always sat at an empty or near-empty table and welcomed anyone who wanted to sit with me. That’s probably a passive form of networking, but it was networking  nonetheless. If I wanted to go lone wolf and do things on my own, that didn’t hurt anyone’s feelings either.

RockersI’m glad I dressed up for Halloween party. I was having a hard time trying to figure out a costume for the closing party. A frenzied trip to Value Village on the Wednesday before got me the stuff I needed. It wasn’t a fabulous costume, but I made an effort and that’s what really mattered. The fact that I ended up accidentally meshing with a couple of other costumes was a happy accident. Rockers unite!

I’m glad I sang karaoke at the party. I love karaoke, and I don’t get to do it often. I could have taken the easy way out and let everyone else do the singing. I’m fine once I get up there but I spend the time until they call my name super nervous and wishing I had never signed up. Once I’m done, I’m dying to go up again. I’m not the best singer by any means – I follow the “if you can’t sing it well, sing it loud”  school of thought. But getting out of my sometimes shy, take a while to warm up, listening self to get up in front of people and potentially make an ass out of myself is a great way to get out of my comfort zone. That and I have a secret rockstar living inside of me.

In Summary

A+++, will attend again. You should come too.

Need inspiration for your blog posts? I have an idea.

Like many personal bloggers (and probably more than a few professional ones), I sometimes have trouble coming up with good ideas for interesting posts. When I used the now-defunct Vox blogging service and two of my favourite features of that service were the Question of the Day and the Vox Hunt. Both features provided prompts that encouraged users to write or share media related to the subject they posted. The questions were often user-generated so there was usually variety. You can see from my previous posts in these categories (QoTD , Vox Hunt , and several more posts that didn’t get categorized when I moved) that I answered several of them and they often led to writing on a topic I wouldn’t have considered had I not followed the prompt.

I also really enjoyed reading other people’s answers to the same questions.

I’ve been searching for similar writing prompt sites and my Google-fu is failing me – I keep coming back to the same sites over and over. They are usually static or long-abandoned and often only consist of one person’s ideas. The 30 Days of Truth meme going around right now intrigues me but that’s only 30 days worth of questions, and some of the questions on that list don’t interest me, which is why I haven’t started participating in it myself. I’ve enjoyed reading those posts immensely.

I’d like to create a site devoted to reader-generated blog prompts (in word or picture/media format), but I’d like to figure out a few things first:

  • I want lots of people to contribute ideas, because more ideas equals more content. If I opened up a site and asked for contributions, would you consider contributing an idea or seven? No idea is too small or too silly. Those are often the easiest to answer quickly.
  • If you looked at this potential site and found a prompt interesting, would you write about it and link back so everyone else can read what you wrote? Would you consider leaving a comment saying “hey! I wrote about this on my site!” or would you want to use one of those link widget things? I want to be able to read any posts that come out of this and it’s always nice to have a little promotion somewhere, right?
  • What is the best platform for this? I want this to be easy to manage for me as an admin and easy for any contributors that may want to share content. I also don’t want to spend a pile of money on hosting if I didn’t have to at this stage. I love the flexibility of WordPress and the simplicity of Posterous. How would you do this?

What would you do to make this work? I’d like to keep it fun, low-pressure, full of variety and completely opt-in. If you participate in every post, that’s awesome. If you participate in only one, that’s awesome too.

I’m always on the lookout for new things to write about and you probably are too. Would you participate in something like this, at least once in awhile? Let me know in the comments.

Anonymity, Authenticity and Being Brave

Last week, I posted this to my Twitter account:

[blackbirdpie url=”http://twitter.com/mpricemitchell/status/14874104424″]

As you can see, I’ve been fantasizing about creating anonymous alter-egos to vent online about stuff I’m too chicken to associate my real name with on Google. The idea of doing that bothers me because I’ve always prided myself on being transparent and “authentic” by curating nearly my entire online presence under my real name.

But really, are my thoughts any more authentic because I’m willing associate my name with them? Should the people out there writing really painful, emotional stuff (or any kind of stuff, really) under pseudonyms get less respect and have their experiences considered as less real just because I can’t find the writer in the phone book? That’s not fair, and it’s an insult to anyone who writes about anything online. It’s an insult to anyone that writes, period.

Even though I write under my real name, I still question if I am being authentic enough. Sometimes I think I sanitize things a little too much. If you know me in real life, you know that I speak with a lot more “dude”, swears and slang than I do here. I believe in the “write like you talk” method, at least some of the time (and a personal website is probably one of the best places to write like you talk). Why am I not using that method more? It’s not like I’m writing incredibly highbrow stuff here.

I want to be brave. I need to be braver. I don’t want to write about every detail of my life. No one would want to read it, and I don’t have the time to write it. I just want to be braver about the stuff I do share with the world.

Do you write with the same voice you speak to your closest friends with? Do you want to?

Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.5 Canada
This work by Melissa Price-Mitchell is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.5 Canada.
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