OK, let me begin by saying that I am not trying to be critical. I am trying to understand.
But I still don’t get it. I have been loosely following Dave Winer’s reports from BloggerCon, as I have loosely followed reports from previous conferences.
I give around 12-20 speeches a year, usually at either legal or real estate conferences. These conferences are attended by real estate lawyers, brokers and business people, during the work week and at the expense of their companies. Why? Because the attendees get continuing education credit, which is required to keep their law or broker license. And because other people in the business will be there and you can network and even make some deals. For example, after one of my speeches a month or so ago, the general counsel of a big real estate company walked up, introduced himself and hired me on the spot to do some legal work for his company. That doesn’t happen every time, but it doesn’t take too many encounters like that for my firm to conclude that conferences are good places to fish for business.
Business. That’s the word that I keep thinking about.
Now, back to the blogger conferences.
I’m sure they are fun for those who are really into blogging. I’d love to go to one, but I would have to travel a great distance on my own nickel and burn precious vacation time. Don’t a lot of the attendees have real jobs? Are their employers letting them go to these conferences on company time? At company expense?
What is the benefit to a company of an employee attending a blogging conference?
Do these conferences provide continuing education credits and if so for who? If not, how do they attract a business audience?
Since most of these conferences are on the west coast, do most of the attendees come from nearby, or far away? I speak on the west coast 2-3 times a year, but if I started attending conferences out there (as an attendee), my firm would quickly tell me to find somewhere closer and cheaper to get my continuing education hours.
Who decides the topics? I like Doc Searls a lot, but I have to say that it would be a little hard for bloggers to change the world, since 99% of the world either doesn’t know what a blog is or considers it an online diary.
I could see a business use for these conference if vendors/potential sponsors had something to sell to companies, or even to a large base of consumers. But almost all of the blogging-related tools and applications are free. So there’s nothing to be sold (other than ads, and I won’t go there today).
It seems to me (and again I am not being critical) that a lot of the conference buzz begins with some smart and lucky people who got rich in tech, don’t have to work at a traditional job and are looking for something to do. Sort of an alternative to fishing or playing golf. In other words, people with time to kill are trying to dress blogging up as something serious and business related. So far, I’m not buying it.
All of this is not to say that I don’t value blogging. Obviously I do. I just think some folks are trying to make it more, or at least different, that it is.
I think blogging is pretty worthwhile as it is, without the need to dress it up like something else.
For example, one commenter at the BloggerCon Emotional Life sessions described one of the great beauties of blogging:
“Something I’ve found is that I’m shy and not quick to walk up to people, so blogging was very helpful as an ice-breaker. I now come to a place like this where i know people already, with common things we can talk about.”
One of the things I like about my blog is that it allows me to converse with and become friends with people all over the world I would otherwise never have met. From Steve Rubel and Robert Scoble to Phil Sim, Tom Morris and Mathew Ingram to Rick Mahn and OmegaMom. It’s not about how many readers you have. It’s about what you have to say, and so many of the people on my blogroll are profoundly interesting. I am blessed by knowing them.
Nobody, and I mean nobody, I know in the real world is the least bit interested in tech. I am, and my blog provides me with a large, diverse and knowledgeable group of people to talk with and learn from about tech-related topics. That’s a wonderful thing.
But it’s still not a business.
Another thing I use my blog for is a learning aid. Right now Darren Rowse, Richard Querin, Thomas Hawk and others are helping me learn about my newest passion, photography. I am reading a great book on photography right now that someone suggested to me in a Comment. I really need somebody to tell me how to use the light meter on my camera. I don’t know anyone to ask in the real world. But I just asked hundreds of people and I suspect I will soon get a kind and patient answer.
Beautiful. Fun. But not a business.