10 November 2013

Dark and Stormy - Mumsnet Blogfest 2013.


Dark rum and ginger beer. Image courtesy Mummy Barrow.  
'Dark and Stormy' was the name of a cocktail on offer on the Mark Warner Holidays stand at the Mumsnet Blogging Conference called 'Blogfest.'  Not only was it quite delish, it was remarkably prescient.

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!

*Cocktail*

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!

33 comments:

  1. Interesting post Anya. I had to sell my ticket as I have family over to stay but I'm not entirely sure I would have gained anything had I gone along? There's a lot of ruffled feathers this morning

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    1. Thank you Mari. Those who attended the writers workshops gained a great deal I believe - and - the core of blogging to some of us!

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    2. I liked the day except for the last session- that was just... below us is the only way I can describe it nicely

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  2. Wonder what happened to my comment. I said it's a shame the opening and closing was like that for you. I was in the working with brands session and didn't mind not hearing about follow/no follow as it was more about PR and affiliates rather than SEO. The writer session I went to did not clash with that one, so not sure which one you missed. You were in the FAB one with the husky Lionel Shriver right? Anyway, like I said in other comment was great to see you albeit ever so briefly. I hope I tapped your badge with mine ;-)
    Liska xxx

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    1. Can't find your first comment sorry Liska! I really wanted their opinions on the follow / no follow tbh and was frustrated that such a basic and hot potato of a subject was not addressed. I missed the Lionel Shriver one but heard she was great and I was really sorry not to see more of you - the highlight of these things are always the other bloggers! xxx

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  3. I know this is petty but EVERY conference expects their guests to stand up or sit on the floor to eat and I'm not sure it's ever going to be resolved.
    The twitter feed was also interesting - I know you don't get all the info from that but there was definitely some disappointment in certain sessions. People are spending hard earned money (which extends WAY beyond their ticket price) so the best effort should be taken to ensure that the best panellists are sourced who can cater for the audience in so many ways (terminology, level of interest, information disseminated).

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    1. Interesting! As it happens, there were some tables and I was lucky to be seated for my lunch but they were not easy to find and eating during the latter half of the break I'd been really irritated to watch hundreds of others have theirs standing up! And you're right that these events are quite expensive and I didn't feel catered for when raising a question, which other Blogger users felt was dismissed and I don't understand why we're made to feel wrong for it.

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  4. Actually I think that session could have been immensely positive had the panellists taken more time to think about their audience. It was a classic case of ego over professionalism. That said one or two of the panellists showed themselves to be immensely intelligent women, capable of holding their own opinions whilst learning from others. One or two of them didn't.

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  5. What that last discussion should have been about was how the experience of being a parent blogger can push the agenda of inequality etc forwards, how we can strengthen our voices as women and parents, which is a feminist issue .... that would have been far more inspiring and would have brought a feeling of togetherness in the room, not the division it caused. As for closing down the twitter feed... don't get me started - that was a contradiction to the whole point of social media, to have a voice. X

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    1. I heard about the twitter feed being closed down and tweets being removed. I thought (hoped) it was a vicious rumour but apparently not. That's really disappointing.

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    2. It was Nickie, that's the one thing I got fired up about.

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    3. I completely agree with what you say, Sarah and that would have been a natural continuation of the 'Changing the World session. Have re-written my taking the Twitter wall down bit so it's clearer because, as I said, that was the worst bit of the day, let alone the session!

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  6. My video shows the wall going down x

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  7. My video shows the wall going down x

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  9. I completely agree with Older Mums point and I think the whole title of the session was mis-judged, it was poorly chaired and some members of the panel did not know their audience. There was a slight time delay on the twitter wall, which suggested that there was some monitoring of what was going up. It seemed at the time, that it was removed because it was a distraction from the panel. My increasing issue with blog conferences is there is actually significant expertise in the audience. I started the session happy to listen to the panel and began tweeting when I realised some of them did not 'get' blogging. I am becoming less and less inclined to listen to an "expert panel" what I want to listen to is the bloggers in the room, they are the experts, a twitter wall gives me a voice and let's me 'hear' the voice of others. To remove it suggestions the panel knows better. This is not always the case. Particularly, if the panel aren't all bloggers or don't read blogs. I think Sarah Ditum was mis-understood but my greater issue with her was around her comment on the commercialisation of blogging and using our families as commodities. I think this is a particular area where the audience knows more. Women's experiences aren't simple, the commercial aspect of blogging is complex (before we begin the follow/no-follow debate) but it is significantly bound up in women's experience of access to the workplace and to affordable child care, which are feminist issues. I am pleased feminism is being discussed, I have read intelligent and insightful posts following that session. I am disappointed to be reading posts that use that session to illustrate why they are not a feminist. For me Jo Brand represented Feminism in a much better form, I felt no need to challenge her comments or add my own. She 'got' her audience, she understood the power of blogging to amplify women's voices and that matters. She was massively inspiring. Mostly, I am very sorry I didn't catch up with you Anya.

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    1. Thank you Gemma and I'm glad to see you've expanded that into a whole blog post raising more questions! I agree with you and am sorry not to have met up with you too x

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    2. Hi Gemma, in response to " I am disappointed to be reading posts that use that session to illustrate why they are not a feminist". I have done exactly that, but like you I LOVED the Jo Brand session so perhaps all is not lost xx

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  10. Interesting post and perspective on the Twitter feed being taken down. I'd assumed it was because it was too distracting...it almost became the debate, which is interesting in itself.

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    1. Thank you - and the Twitter feed was generally a welcome distraction in every session, just particularly so in this one I guess!

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  11. I think it is a real shame that this end debate is what is being seen as so important and talked about when there were so many more pressing issues that personally I found we should have been tackling. Are you clear on the follow/no-follow question now?

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    1. I think it's the principles it raised really and I'd be interested to know what issues you'd have liked to have seen being tackled. I am clear on the follow / no follow rule - it's just the practices! x

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  12. In all fairness their reply about the wall makes sense. You can see a panel member turning round being distracted by the wall in my videos. We had "the wall" during the opening session in the morning, but how telling that it was not distracting then x

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    1. I think it got a bit heated and out of hand and thereby too distracting so seemed the right thing to do at that point, unknowingly causing a truly negative reaction!

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  13. Mumsnet blogger events always sound so eventful. Always seems to go with a massive bang. I tend to get the feeling they set out to be deliberately provocative for the publicity, although aside from that it sounds like it was a good blogging event too.

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    1. This is often said but I'm not sure it's the case! Yes, it was a good event despite its controversy. :)

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  14. Very interesting post and reactions! As I was not there, I cannot however contribute to the debate. It is a shame you had to leave, I would have loved to read your full account. xx

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  15. It was an intense and interesting day - thank you though :)

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  16. Wouldn't have been a mumsnet event without a bit of controversy. I would have got quite het up had I been there. I read and commented on Gemma's post too.

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    1. Agreed! Some people got more het up than others and not necessarily about the same thing! :)

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  17. Really interesting Anya - I wish I'd been there now (and caught up with you)!! X

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    1. Thank you - it was much bigger this year and would loved to have caught up with you too :) x

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