|Dark rum and ginger beer. Image courtesy Mummy Barrow.|
For a 'dark and stormy' debate was what greeted me on my late entry the introductory Keynote panel: 'the new Wild West - What kind of internet do we want?' and 'dark and stormy' was a fair description of the atmosphere pervading the room several hours later in the 'Can you be a mummy-blogger and still be a feminist?' one!
Both were quite heated and, unfortunately, due to my childcare situation (when dropping your kids off at a friend's at 7.30am and picking them from another's at 7.30pm is already pushing it) it meant they were my first and last impressions of an interesting day, which is a shame.
Internet trolling and it being better policed / controlled / or not by social networks and whether this is possible logistically / legally / morally was a discussion raging between Toby Young and Stella Creasy MP, who has humiliating and terrifying experience of it. The nature of the subject vs. free speech - and, as well, the details that emanated from the chairperson, Richard Bacon who has documented tracking down his own stalker - are shocking and really did not make for a wonderful welcome.
The best bit, however, was watching the #blogfest Twitter feed on a big screen behind them where bloggers added their strong thoughts, intelligent suggestions and witty observations to what they were all saying, taking the talk into the whole room.
The sessions in between - Social Media, Monetizing and How To's perhaps weren't the best choices for me when improving your writing (reportedly brilliant) workshops were on offer, but these were in specific relation to blogging which you can't get anywhere else other than these events and they're where I lack confidence the most, so it made sense to attend them, although they were a) impressive but a bit over my head b) didn't cover the crucial follow / no follow links business and time was too limited to get my question about it heard and c) a bit scary on the technical language front, much of it only relevant to one platform, which renders it irrelevant to some of us.
Lunch was quite good - fish chowder, meat pie or polenta and eaten standing up by most which was an irritating surprise because I'd have thought they'd have rectified that after last year. We do enough of that at home!
I was sorry not to have been able to attend the 'Shaping the debate: how blogging and social media can change our world' 'Breakout' but was aghast to then see the acknowledgement of the power of our 'pens' being contrarily undermined by raising this entirely unnecessary question about feminism. It wasn't surprising to see some people walk out of that later talk as a couple of the panel members were uninformed or a bit clumsy with their points and audible gasps were heard at a couple of seemingly outrageous statements.
The worst bit, however, was watching the #blogfest Twitter wall being taken down. This was wrong and it made me wonder about the purpose behind adding to such contentiousness. It upset a lot of people and I found it regrettable enough to email Mumsnet myself and ask them why they felt the need to do that. This was their reply:
'We turned it off because it was obvious from pretty early on that it was distracting and not helping the debate - both because of the volume of tweets, and because the audience were responding to something the panel couldn't see without stopping their conversation and turning right round (which is what happened with the Sodastream comment, when lots in the audience started laughing and the panel were completely bemused and stopped their conversation dead in mid flow). We then asked the chair to go to the floor for questions (earlier than planned) to allow folks with something to say to say it, which they duly did!'
I'm not sure this is going to wash and it is still considered quite controversial, sparking another debate which is better explained in an expansion of her comment below on this post by HelloitsGemma. I'm not really interested in the feminism one because the whole event epitomised it and Jo Brand, the famous comedienne, who followed this debacle with the unenviable task of lifting sunken spirits plus placating enraged ones, by all accounts, summed it up in relation to blogging perfectly, advising us to 'go forward with a bit of righteous indignation,' (and if you don't mind some strong language you can see her Keynote Speech here).
Unfortunately, having had to take my leave, I missed her in person and, instead, rifled through the lovely goody bag on the train home, feeling slightly stunned, the need for another kind of 'Dark and Stormy' and a holiday.
As it happens, Mark Warner are asking for top tips to win a truly fab one for the family in their competition and I can't resist joining in, so mine would be to research, research, research - something that we could all benefit from before venturing to conferences like these, no matter which side of the stage we're on!