What would you like to hear from me at BlogHer?

At every annual BlogHer conference I’ve given one (or several) talks and workshops. I’ve always gotten a lot of great feedback from my workshop sessions on coding and debugging, blog security and privacy, and other technical how-tos, as well as talking about politics, women’s history, feminism and identity, and how our writing online ties into the letters and diaries and activism from women in the past. Last year I spoke about what it’s like to be a small blogger who suddenly is on the crest of the wave of breaking news and talking with mainstream media. I also try to approach tech support for our bloggers and community as part of my personal feminist activism: tech support as empowerment!

Since I work for BlogHer full time, I’m on call as a speaker to fill in anywhere the organizers need me to, so I could end up anywhere. Still, I like to propose my own panels! I’m considering “A Server of Her Own” or “Feminist Hackers” . . .

If you’re thinking of coming to BlogHer ’12 in NYC next , what would you like me to speak about or teach? Any particular subjects or panels you’ve seen me run before, that you’d like to see happen again? Or, if you’re thinking of coming to speak, what kind of panel or workshop would you like to run *with* me?

me, skye, and tempest

Not that it’s all about me!

If you’re thinking about coming to BlogHer or putting in an idea or a talk proposal… read on!

BlogHer is an extremely friendly and open conference. 80% of our speakers each year are new speakers at the conference! It started with 300 women in San Jose years ago, and now I think our numbers at the annual conference are closer to 4000. Yes! Four thousand blogging women! (And sundry.) The parties are great — the people are the best thing though. Some people are nerdy, some are more writerly, some personal, some blogging on particular subjects, some very commercially oriented and many not at all. As with all the best conferences the sessions are good but the hallway and lobby conversations that happen informally are even better.

Read through Polly’s (very helpful) Call for Ideas, and Jes’s How to Become a Speaker at BlogHer! And if you have any questions for me personally about the conference, feel free to ask in comments or email me at liz@blogher.com.

Related posts:

Civic fictions at conferences

Because of the Amina and Paula Brooks controversies and my part in unraveling them, I spent the last few weeks talking with media and giving talks about online hoaxes, identity, sockpuppets, and astroturfing.

I did an impromptu lightning talk at Noisebridge‘s 5 Minutes of Fame, making my slides right there on the spot. That was a lot of fun — because of the informality of that crowd I was very frank and could have a (bitter) sense of humor about the whole thing.

At O’Reilly’s FooCamp, I gave the talk I had planned on How to Suppress Women’s Coding. But as the Amina story unfolded over the weekend of Foo Camp, I was talking with more and more people about what was going on and at some point actually had a bit of a nervous breakdown on Molly Holzschag and Willow Brugh because of the constant stress and uncertainty about how to proceed and what I was choosing to do. I added in a discussion session “Lesbian Sockpuppet Detective Story” to talk about online identities and think that it went fairly well. People had very good stories about how they detected and fought astroturfers and sockpuppets. Anyway, I could write a giant post for every conversation I had at FooCamp! And might do that — I have pages of notes.

P1140280

Three things really stood out for me as themes of Foo Camp: Big (open) Data and Visualization; our collective imaginary picture of Oof Camp (the “bad guys” doing the opposite of Foo Camp, working to do things we would disapprove of or find deeply unethical) alongside an examination of what we do believe is right and “our” geek culture; and women in tech talking with each other in public about sexist patterns and strategies to deal with them, which isn’t new, but which seemed to me to be scaled up and comfortable beyond what I normally see at mixed-gender tech conferences. On the women in tech front I think Foo Camp and O’Reilly might be progressing, a sense I’ve had building slowly over the last few years. It seems glacial to me but still positive. In short, I didn’t feel tokenized, I felt respected and valuable, I made tons of great connections with women and men, there were lots and lots of women there kicking ass, I didn’t know all of them, and as an extra bonus, nothing creepy happened at all, at least to me. Huzzah!

Media Lab

After FooCamp, John Bracken gave me a last minute invite to the Knight Foundation/MIT Future of Civic Media conference. This was an absolutely fantastic conference. I loved the MIT Media Labs spaces and all the projects I heard about. Ethan Zuckerman led a panel called Civic Fictions, with Dan Sinker, me, and Andy Carvin. The audience questions and discussion went off in some fairly deep and interesting directions. Here’s a video of the panel with a link to a bare-bones summary. I’ll try to transcribe the entire thing soon.

Civic Fiction: MIT-Knight Civic Media Conference from Knight Foundation on Vimeo.

Dan Sinker talked about writing the @MayorEmanuel Twitter story: 40,000 words of satire in 2000 tweets. I later read the entire MayorEmanual saga which was hilarious & compelling. His analysis of identity and online media and history at the end of his talk blew me away which is part of why I want to transcribe the entire panel. Also, Dan absolutely rocks. We had a fun conversation about being unable to describe ourselves neatly or give any sort of elevator pitch to explain why we were interesting to the suits and … well you know.. the actually legitimate people. Dan has a long history of zine making as the founder of Punk Planet and has done countless fabulous things.

Ethan introduced the panel and told his own story of heading up Global Voices & having to determine whether people were “real” or not, including his doubts from years ago about the blogger Sleepless in Sudan and his relief at finally meeting her. I remember him bringing up Sleepless as an example of deep uncertainty in the discussion at my talk on online fictional personas at SXSWi in 2006.

I told some of the Amina/Paula story, my part in it, how I worked with other investigators, bloggers, and journalists to figure out and expose what was going on. In the discussion afterwards I was most happy with my answer to (I think) Waldo Jacquith‘s question about history and truth. I mentioned Songs of Bilitis partly because it’s the first thing that popped into my head. But it’s a good example of a historical literary hoax that was then actually used by lesbians as a name for the first lesbian rights organization in the U.S., the Daughters of Bilitis.

Andy Carvin then talked about his involvement with the Arab Spring and the Amina hoax in that context. When Amina was “kidnapped” by security police and her identity began to be questioned, all his Syrian contacts went silent for over a week. Andy’s thoughts were great to hear and I really enjoyed talking with him and respect his particular skills in Firehose Immersion.

At these sorts of talks we keep discussing ethics. Many people appear to *want* to do such projects, to tell compelling stories for a political purpose to mobilize particular audiences to have empathy & take action for marginalized people. Some people want to try it, or perhaps have already done it and want to hear that they didn’t do something wrong — or maybe just want to believe that something good came of the attention to bloggers in Syria that the Amina hoax brought. There is also a strong thread of “but… what about creativity and post modern identity?” running through the attempt to save something good out of all this.

It was a great conference and there was only one mildly ew-tastic drunk guy who I had to work to escape from (Larry, you gotta hold your liquor better, dude, and not talk about your junk like that to strange feminist ladies well-known for blogging everything.)

I came out of all these talks thinking that many more hoaxes and large-scale astroturfing situations are coming. Elections and political movements are going to be even more confusing. I think there is a field emerging for analysis of online identity, personas, authenticity, and so on — in fact perhaps an academic discipline which might best be part of journalism/new media schools. “Internet Sleuth” will become a profession that needs much better tools than we have now. As better “persona management” tools are built, we need better and easier to use tools to detect those personas — open source tools in the hands of everyone not just government and huge corporations.

I did think of a few great and inevitable ways that civic fictions could exist without being immediately offensive and appropriative. Here are two.

We could have fictional universe reporters intertwined with our own. Basically, crossover fanfic reporting in first person, crossing some media nexus of fiction, preferably a politically complicated one, with breaking news. Harry Potter, for example. If you had freaking Harry Potter, on location, or better yet several Potterverse characters reporting on breaking news, you would attract entirely new audiences to the news. It would provide ways in for young people to talk about politics and to think about politics in a context of stories they’ve thought a lot about. I mention Potterverse because it’s popular, but also because its story *is* politically complex as a story of child soldiers and armed resistance to dictatorship. Well, anyway, that could be horrible and disrespectful if done clumsily, but I think it *will happen* probably with TV show franchises.

We could have civic fictions that consciously and collaboratively explore a real situation. I thought of one for the town I live in, Redwood City. Redwood City has very strong ties with a specific town in southern Mexico, Aguililla. I’m not sure of the real numbers but I’ve read that 40% of the population of Aguillia has at some point lived in Redwood City in a migration, remittance, and return pattern that has lasted for at least 40 years. People could have *many* reasons for not wanting to tell their personal or family stories of migration and return. How interesting it would be to write a collaborative soap opera or epic stretching over time, twittering and blogging it in a network of friends and family (all fictionalized) perhaps bilingually in Spanish and English (or trilingually since not everyone in Michoacan has Spanish as their first language) to show some of the issues and drama in people’s lives — and perhaps to show the relations, friendships, and tensions between Aguillia emigrants and the other residents of Redwood City and Menlo Park. Good idea isn’t it? Maybe someone will take it and run — or do a similar project in their own home town. Keeping in mind firmly the principle of “Nothing about us without us“.

After I got back from Boston I said I’d do an Ignite talk for IgniteSF but then flaked at the last minute out of exhaustion.

Many people have asked me if I’m still investigating hoaxes and if I found more Fake Internet Lesbians. I did find a few including Becky Chandler the sassy libertarian post-modern feminist in short-shorts who wrote a book on how it’s great to spank your children, but other people have already debunked her and exposed her as a creepy porny p*d*phile spanking-fetishist dude, and looking at that whole case made me throw up my hands in complete disgust. Plus, I really had to get back to my real work projects.

I have to mention my employer’s awesomeness in all of this: As soon as the Amina thing started eating my life, I let my boss and co-workers know about it and BlogHer basically gave me permission to do all the media stuff, radio interviews, talk with reporters, go to the MIT conference, and continue the bloggy sleuthing I was doing and delay my Drupal development projects for a couple of weeks. They were very supportive! But now I am back in the saddle and mucking around with code again, which is VERY SOOTHING.

Coming up in August in San Diego at the BlogHer ’11 conference, which is basically 3000+ women who blog and are heavy social media users hanging out with their laptops, I’m going to be speaking on a panel called “Viral Explosion”, giving a Geek Bar workshop talk with Skye Kilaen on what to do if your blog is hacked or if you lose your data — basically on security and disaster recovery — and then one more talk on Internet Sleuthing on You Know What and You Know Who and the tools I used to track all of it (like Maltego, which I recommend you try), a private wiki, and good old index cards. I’ll post again about BlogHer ’11 and these talks and all the kick ass geekiness that happens at BlogHer conferences!

Related posts:

Geek Lab at BlogHer 09: Hold my hand please!

Can’t wait for BlogHer!

I’ll Be Geeking Out
I'll Be Geeking Out

Mostly I’ll be in the Geek Lab area, so look for me there and say hi!

Lately I’m having a little trouble with mobility even in my ultralight wheelchair, so I will be asking people for a push or a holding-hands tow, whenever I can! If you want to hold my hand, I’d be super happy! Just don’t pat me on the head or kick my tires.

Any time I’m loitering in the geek lab or the hallways, please feel free to ask me techie questions, about your blog setup, templates, code, web hosts, and so on. And, of course, about the ad network or BlogHer Publishing Network. I’ll be “on” as much as possible to be helpful to everyone at BlogHer 09! (Picture Lucy from Peanuts behind her advice booth: The coder is “in”.) Yes, I will get down and dirty and look at the back end of your blog, right now, if I possibly can! P.S. I really like chocolate.

Here’s my plan for BlogHer 09:

Friday

8am breakfast with Newbies
9 – 10 Welcome and icebreaker
10:30 Geek Lab! I will bounce between the CMS/Drupal session and the WordPress session.
11:45 Birds of a Feather lunch (which one! Feminist, LGBT, political)
1:15 Geek lab – probably the CSS or an advanced/CMS session – or just loitering
2:45 I will do a Geek Lab session on Dreamwidth, an open source project that forked the LiveJournal code. Want to become an open source developer working on a big project to make great social & blogging tools? Devs are mostly women and very welcoming to newbies.
4:15 Community Keynote (so good!)
ROOM SERVICE PARTY IN MY ROOM lying down exhausted. Are you a hermit? Do you need a rest? Come with me! This is where I weep gently in exhaustion before getting drinks.
6:30-8:30 Cocktail party
8:30 Sweeet & OUT loud – Queerosphere party at the Crimson Lounge in Hotel Sax
Then, more “room service party” for the Lizzard! ie, lying in bed in my room quietly communing with my beloved laptop!

Saturday

8:30am Breakfast
10:45 Geek Lab – either the .htaccess stuff or loitering
12 noon – Lunch! BOF to be determined!
1:30 Geek Lab – definitely the PHP session. Yay phpwomen and oh, how I love php.net function pages as a resource for learning. The examples and comments there are so good.

2:15 STUPID UNIX TRICKS or LOVE YOUR COMMAND LINE – I will give whirlwind tour of beginning Unix and then share some super useful tricks with awk and grep. Grep your log files!

3:00 NOT IN THE GEEK LAB – I’ll be in “Burning Questions about the BlogHer Publishing Network”. It’s my job!
5:00 Closing Keynote – Who We Will Become (I think this is where Eszter Hargittai is gonna talk and I’m totally her fangirl. Don’t miss it…)
6pm is another fabulous cocktail party which I’ll miss because… I’m going to…

ROLLER DERBY !!!!

The Windy City Rollers are playing on Saturday night, about a 10 minute cab ride away from the Sheraton Chicago, at 525 S Racine Avenue, doors open at 6pm, bout starts at 7pm. Buy a ticket and come with me and team member Ada Hatelace! I love how her team number is “1337”. Anyway, come and we’ll liveblog the roller derby!

Windy City Rollers links:

Facebook page
Tickets!

Derby Nerds!
stats

Sunday: Brunch?? and I fly out from O’Hare at 1:30. See you!

Related posts:

Every day is Men’s Day

At BlogHer, when Jocelyn Harmon from Marketing for Nonprofits stood up during the keynote panel to ask Carol Jenkins how we can make stories, and news, and politics, more complicated around race, gender, and class, there were women cheering all over the room.

BlogHer DC BlogHer DC

Now, we didn’t get deep into that subject but I also didn’t hear what usually happens when you say that in a room full of white folks, which is someone stands up and goes “But shouldn’t we all just be colorblind? I don’t see race.” (If you are thinking “what’s wrong with that?” you can start at Angry Black Woman’s post, Things you need to understand #5: Color Blindness.) So I was really, really happy that at BlogHer, we could raise the issue without an immediate defensive racist backlash. Instead a somewhat diverse room full of women *listened* to two women of color talk with each other about the difficulties of everyday racism in media. About not wanting to have to choose a side, or choose an identity. That was a good moment!

Then at the cocktail party I was sitting across from this dude. And hey, it’s a cocktail party and we’re all drinking Cosmos and talking smack. I believe I was outlining a new world order in which we would all get to take turns having sex with Jon Stewart. (Would he satirize the sex during the sex? Or wait till after?) But we were also talking about the rise of mom blogging, the way we love it that people mix up their “topics” and blog about their lives and eclectic interests AND politics. That in the mainstream media story, you are a soccer mom or whatever, and that’s that. But in our world in the blogosphere, we know, more and more, that we have many roles in life. We’re moms or daughters or sisters or knitters or we love to shop for shoes or talk about marketing, but we ALSO have valid political opinions. We are black or white or Latina or Jewish or multiracial, AND we are women, AND we have all these interests and roles and jobs and experiences. In our world, we acknowledge the multifacted nature of ourselves and of all the people we might meet. For me, I don’t even sit across from another middle aged lady on the bus without assuming they have a complicated identity. Sometimes I like to imagine the blog-identity, the internal world and speaking voice, of all the people but especially the women, around me in daily life.

In this middle of this conversation, our intrepid BlogHim, one of the 5 guys at a conference of 300 women, got me all prickled up. He wanted to question the mere fact of having a BlogHer conference, a tech conference meant for women. He warned us he was about to be non-politically correct, in other words, he wanted to try to piss us off. “So, ladies, what about the men? And what about the white men? What I’m saying here is that I can’t be hiring someone and say to my managers, “I really want to hire this white man because he brings a unique and diverse perspective to our product group.” I can’t say that. And that’s just not fair.” There was a sort of pause around the table as we all assessed our level of ability to Deal with this asshattery in the moment, pushing our Cosmotinis out of mind and whipping up some serious coherence, without causing a Scene. I understood that the guy was just trying to get a rise. He was trolling us. And he was doing it with a layer of faux irony and friendliness, so getting mad in response was socially difficult. Yet it was such a stunning example of male privilege and white privilege that I can’t let it pass.

So, I told Mr. What-About-The-Menz a brief story. Here it is.

When I was a kid, about 10 or 11 probably, I remember asking my mom, “There’s Mothers’ Day, and Fathers’ Day, and even Grandparents’ Day. How come there’s no Kids’ Day? It’s not fair!” My mom shot me a really dirty go-to-hell-you-idiot look and went, “EVERY DAY IS KIDS’ DAY.”

Here is the bit of the story I didn’t mention:

I remember suddenly getting what my mom meant, and thinking about everything she did for me and my sister, and how her life basically revolved around listening to us, playing with us, taking care of us, feeding us, supporting us and planning for our future, getting us to school, taking us to the library and piano lessons; our comfort and well-being. A hot flush of shame came over me as I thought about how all the things that were done for me, I was not really appreciating, but took for granted. Like, that wasn’t enough? I want a tiara and a pony too on top of it? Ouch. My mom’s moment of sarcasm and snark was a good educational moment for me. I GOT IT.

I think that telling the first part of that story was an okay response. It quickly made my point which is that he is blind to his everyday white male privilege.

And as described very well in the article I linked to above on male privilege — the instant that men are not the center of attention and the norm, they feel like it’s an *attack*.

The other thing I did was not look at the guy. I continued with all my body language to focus on my sister bloggers at the table. And that helped us to shift the conversation off of the guy, and back onto what we wanted to talk about. Doing this was a conscious effort. I recommend it highly for those moments when your conversation with a group of women is hijacked by a braying jackass who assumes that women owe him every second of their respect and attention. Pay attention to the women. Pay attention to the women in the microcosm of conversation, and in the bigger picture of the blogosphere.

Then, a bunch of us told the guy that he was really lucky to be in a context where he got to experience not being the default normal. He gets to hear conversations and interactions he wouldn’t hear otherwise. What do techy, writerly, blogging women talk about when they’re framing the conversation themselves and not being told what’s important by an array of expert men? What’s it like to be at a tech conference where you’re one of 5 of your gender there, and it’s very noticeable? That’s a rare experience for guys in social media. A bunch of us said that. With a helpful smile.

In short, a table full of women told him, very politely and obliquely, to shut up and listen. If only for one day. I don’t think he got it.

As is so often true, I saw a bunch of women soft-pedal their responses to a guy. And then immediately afterwards (and in fact a day later over IM with others) they all went “OMG, what a jackass.” Again, I felt sorry for guys who are that way, because they don’t have any reality check. I’m calling out the behavior, and point it out, not to be mean to this one dude. In fact, I give him credit for coming to a women’s conference and giving it a shot. I don’t expect him to learn and process every bit of it at once. On the other hand, I can’t let those kinds of statement pass without a mention.

I had no wish to get into a giant discussion of the idea of affirmative action at that moment. But I could do it on this blog.

What would you have said to him “in the moment”? What would you say now, online, with time to think it over and express yourself clearly, to a guy who described his wish to hire white men for their diverse perspective?

Related posts:

Liveblogging take two: BlogHer Boston

Our workshop was for Blogging Basics: personalize, polish, and promote your blog. Danielle Henderson, Alissa Kriteman, and Meghan Garnum joined me on the stage. Kristy got us in touch with Elliot, the hotel employee setting up the projector, who found all the stuff and the cables and hooked everything up. Also, NeoOffice worked like a charm! Around 100 people filled up the room. We took some goofy photos and were having fun chatting before the talk. Everyone in the room was so talkative and intense with their conversations that I had to say “SEX” into the microphone several times to get them to pay attention. After a brief intro and my pep talk about getting your hands dirty digging into your code, we each talked about our experience. Alissa, Danielle, and Megan were full of enthusiasm and confidence, knew their technical stuff, and were great speakers.

Alissa Kriteman is the host for Just for Women: Dating Relationships and Sex. She has a weekly audio podcast show about empowering women. Alissa has been blogging for about two years and is enthusiastic about her future in blogging on WordPress. Hey, Alissa is from SF! I could hang out with her and hack on blog stuff! Yay!

Danielle Henderson has been blogging for 6 years with a variety of hosting platforms. (Bio: Danielle Henderson is a 31-year old college sophomore and freelance writer. She’s been a blogger for close to 6 years at Knotty Yarn, and still has no idea how or if that is applicable to common conversation. Her first book was published in 2004, and she was recently featured in Cringe: Teenage Diaries, Journals, Notes, Letters, Poems and Abandoned Rock Operas.)

Megan Garnhum has been blogging for nine years and has over ten years experience in marketing companies, media, software and online social networking. She also does blog design and consulting. (Bio: It was love at first blog for Megan, who began blogging back in 1999 and hasn’t stopped for a breath since. A hobby at first, blogging has become a big part of Megan’s life. She has taught herself how to create, build and manage blogs on all of the major blog platforms and now designs and provides blog and web consulting for individuals and businesses, through Webundance, her consulting company. )

I’m Liz Henry and am a producer and software developer at BlogHer. In addition to being a poet and literary translator, I’ve been writing online since before 1990 and blogging seriously since 2003. When I started blogging I didn’t think anyone would ever read it. I was so wrong. I blog about my life and about many topics including feminist science fiction, technology, and social media.

We asked the audience who they were.

More than 2 years blogging? (About a third)
More than 1 blog? (Half the room)
Blogger or blogspot? (Most of the room)
Typepad? (5 or 6)
WordPress? (a third of the room)
Tumblr: 1
Twitter, Plurk: 10
LiveJournal: 2
Drupal: 2
MySpace: 2

We discussed those difference a little and dedicated to break groups by experience level.

People who ever have messed with their code beyond a minimum. 1/3 of the room.

I mentioned my experience doing tech support for the BlogHer ad network bloggers. Most of the requests for help with code, the bloggers put themselves down, call themselves idiots or dolts and explain how they don’t know anything. It’s okay, but it makes me a little sad and I want to help people learn the skills to be more confident, and approach computers and approach things they don’t know with a different attitude, not feel bad about themselves. Try not to do automatic disclaimers or self-deprecation. Everyone needs debugging help. I do too. I am often able to walk people through difficulties, but sometimes I just get passwords and fix problems. So if I can persuade you all to feel confident about playing with your blog code I’m making my own job easier. *audience laughter*

Also, the more intimate you are with your blog…

Alissa: Ooo baby, intimate!

… the more intimate you are with your blog, the more closely you can make it be how you want, for self-expression or to better reflect your business purposes.

Pep talk. Examples of some virginal blogs that have never know the hand of woman. The default blogger.com blog. The default wordpress blog.

What would this “generic” blog template say about you to your readers and the rest of the world?

Here’s a myspace blog, very blinged up. What people think is good design doesn’t matter. What is your goal? Clarity, or obfuscation? This is good blog design, conveying a strong identity:

And clearly, this blogger dove fearlessly into hacking her blog’s back end, to express herself.

Look at your code. Engage with it. Print it out, put it next to the pages it’s making. Mark it up and draw on it. Figure out which bits are doing what.
Confusing code is annoying. (Slide of WTF CAT)

It is a good thing my slides are working because otherwise all of us up here were going to act out the LOLCATS. (Alissa and the others make the WTF cat face. We’re a funny crew up here!)

Pastebin.com is very nice. Paste in your code, label what kind it is – html, php, etc. And it will give you a temporary url showing all that code nicely highlighted in color. You can send that url to someone over IM and get debugging advice. This is amazingly useful. Don’t be embarrassed to ask someone else to look at your code and spot obvious mistakes. It’s just like copyediting.

Indenting properly will make your code more readable, too.

It will start to make sense. You don’t need to know everything, to hear blah blah blah STYLE=”width 160″ blah blah blah. (blah blah Ginger) Learn bits at a time, just the bits you need to fix.

Danielle: You should look at the documentation. WordPress, Typepad, Blogger help files are good.

Megan: Yes. Search within the typepad web site. Very helpful. It’s how I learned everything.

Me: We’re all self-taught; that’s very interesting.

Back to my talk. View source on other people’s blogs and find examples of things you’d like to do, cut and paste their code, copy and tweak it, it’s how programmers learn stuff. Backup first, then experiment. Ride it like you stole it!

Onwards to the “Personalize, polish, and promote” part of the afternoon.

Who are you? Reflect it. Whether your identity is actually you with real name, or pseudonym. Contact info. About me sidebar box or page, or both. This is built in to most platforms. In Typepad you just check a box and fill out a form. Same in Blogger. In WordPress you can make a page for it. (Slide with examples of About Me info. Some are short, serious, funny, some long and detailed with every interest of the blogger listed.) Include links to, or content from, other places you “are” on the web.

Who are your readers? Reflect them too! Expose their identities to each other. Readers on a blog are aware of each other, sometimes become a community. Allow readers to link back to their own web presences, email addresses. They can have profiles on your blog. Avatars, icons, gravatars so they have a photo too in their comments.

Why do we care?
This is important not just for touchy feely reasons or SEO.
It is important in the history of literature and ideas. Women’s diaries, letters. Intertextuality. Intellectual crosscurrents and crossfertilization. Your future biographer might like to know who your blogfriends were in 2004 vs. 2008. Or that you regularly read and commented on Pharyngula or Feministe — or on BlogHer. Consider yourself as a writer and as part of history. Represent your connections. It is important in feminist or in women’s history. (Slide with books of letters by Virginia Woolf to Vita Sackville-West, and letters of Francis Ellen Watkins Harper to friends and newspapers, and book covers like “800 years of Women’s Letters”. ) We are in a mass movement where women are writing in a public forum, being part of public discourse. It is new in the history of the world.

What are you writing?

You might set out to write on a particular topic. then shift over time. The life of a blog. identity, subjects change. Tag your stuff. Categorize it. Make your post titles relevant (if you care about that, and want things to be found. If you don’t want it found by a casual searcher or reader, bury it. Top posting buries. Baroque digression buries. Multiple subjects in one post buries the content.

Self-discovery process to tag your content. I went through one of my blogs and tagged, maybe 300 posts. This took me a couple of evenings. It revealed what I was actually blogging vs. what I thought I was blogging. I thought I was writing about poetry and translation, and I was really blogging about politics, feminism, the internet, and social media. WordPress has a very nice plugin called Simple Tags that lets you machine-tag all your entries at once. You can batch tag in detail, then combine tags to get higher level categories.

Tag, tag, tag. Tag clouds! Delicious (murmur of agreement from audience.)

Megan: Make your links relevant. When you make a link, don’t put it around the words “click here” or “link”. You want to put it around “really great shoes”, or whatever- some text that is related to the meaning of the link and the content of the page you’re linking to.

Me: Your future biographers will thank you here, too. The text you choose to hyperlink is probably important so in any textual analysis it would be weighted as more important. Your future biographers don’t want to know that you’re blogging quite a lot about “click here”. They want to know you blog all the time about really great shoes. Anyway, any meta information about your content is great!

How to do this stuff?

1) Look through all your blog’s settings and options. There may be built-in “About Me” or Recent Comments options.

2) Javascript widgets!
* Copy or download scripts from other people.

Blogger: Widgets, Gadgets
* Search for interesting widgets or code snippets
* Copy and paste into the “Javascript/HTML” box.

WordPress: Plugins
* Download/upload to your server
* Unzip the files
* Activate them in the wp-admin panel

Typepad: Typelists (basic templates)
* Create a “Notes” Typelist. paste in code
* Select content – check off a box to include
* Order content – drag and drop sidebar widgets

Hack with your friends!!! Thinking about gender, it is my observation that men tend to grow up doing projects together. Guys in middle school flail around in linux or whatever, programming together, learning stuff, not embarrassed to know nothing, they have no shame. Girls, not so much. In my little feminist techological utopia we would all be hanging out programming together and learning stuff. You don’t need an expert to learn from. Peer mentoring, just having someone to look at stuff with, it is good for moral support. Another pair of eyes for debugging is great. Get together with a blog friend and work on your blogs together over coffee.

Questions and statements from the audience. Why is everyone switching to WordPress blogs? Are they better? Is that just a trend? How to compare platforms? Panelists explained that Typepad cost money, Blogger was free but slightly less flexible, WordPress more setup but much more flexibility, Moveable Type good but have to get into the code more. You can search “compare blogging platforms” and see what comes up for an explanation. As consultants (or just friends) we tend to advise beginning bloggers who don’t want to do a lot of setup, to use Blogger or Typepad, or hosted WordPress. Then migrate up only if you need more features than what you get for free. Or, try all the platforms (it is easy to set them up) and see which you like best. Look at a blog you like and see where it’s hosted.

Statement from audience (I think this was Christy Matte): What Liz said about putting your own email address on your blog, in the clear, she disagrees nand thinks we should mention contact forms. You can set this up on any platform. Plugins or a third party service. Or you can obfuscate your email address to try and confuse people who harvest your email and sell to spammers. I commented that obfuscation isn’t really going to stop screen scraping and email harvesting and it’s better to fight spam with filtering in your email reader. I think Danielle or Alissa recommended using gmail as its spam filtering is quite good. Captcha and recaptcha were also mentioned for comments and so on.

Question from audience: How do I find someone to just redesign my blog and make it nice? How much should I expect to pay? How do I know if they’re any good? Answers from panelists. Megan: Well, I do that for my business, Webundance, so you can ask me! Megan’s rates seem very reasonable for basic work. Me: If someone is trying to charge you a thousand, two thousand dollars, you’re being ripped off. Alissa: Students or kids might help you for very cheap. Me: Look at someone whose blog design you like, and ask them who did it. Ask the designer or web developer for client referrals and examples of their work and ask their clients if they’re happy.

Question from audience: What the heck is the difference between tags and categories? And how can I get my blog search widget to stop searching my sidebar? Because it detects the tag cloud and category list for every single post, so it thinks all 500 posts on my blog are about pumpkin recipes. Answer: Ugh. We are not quite sure. There must be a better search widget for your blog. We’d need to look in more detail what you’re using and how it’s configured. Try the Geek Lab?

Our last half hour was spent in breakout sessions. We split up the room by level of experience. Alissa went to the back of the room with newbies. People who considered themselves fairly experienced in getting into their code were at the front.

Other notes:

Hacked with leadingfromtheheart.org a long time on her wordpress recent posts plugin. We modified the plugin code that she’d already modified. We broke it, she re-installed it, then we ignored the plugin and went for fixing the styles of the stuff that the plugin spits out:

 li, h3, ul, and a

. The mysterious space before the recent posts turned out to be a top margin on

h3

that was 3em, not 3px. Whoops! I showed her how, if you view source on someone else’s blog, you can search on “css” and find the link to their style sheet, and then paste it into the address bar to see their whole style sheet in the browser. So, for example, I used my spying skills to find her stylesheet: http://leadingfromtheheart.org/wp-content/themes/unstandard/style.css . Anyway, she’s a good hacker and has an amazing, amazing blog about teaching high school. Give it a read.

Talked with Consuming Lilly who is super-de-awesome, about her blog, about the history of food and feminism and cookbooks throughout history, and we looked at her blog coding issue: she has customized her blogger.com template to the max and lost her way a bit. We looked at it for a bit and I ended up telling her to print it all out and mark up each section so she would know exactly what bit of code controlled which page element. Recommended Firebug and Web Developer Firefox plugins. (Not for the last time!) A bunch of us were gathered around looking at her blog template. Did I mention that it’s pretty!? It is!

Someone, I think Lilly, gave a good warning. Look at your code, if you get a template from someone’s web site, because template-makers slip Google adsense code in there that pays out to them. On the one hand, you got a free template from them. On the other, it is unethical not to be upfront about it if you’re doing that in your template. Be warned!

Talked with: chestercountymoms, bestisyetunwritten (debugging, ad network questions)

There were more people I helped out for a minute or two, or that I got talking with each other.

Long talk with Megan’s Minute about design and usability. Hey! I heard about people liking her handbag of the month thing. (Though I don’t use handbags.) She asked me for advice on what to put in the sidebar, and where? She hacks her Typepad sidebar a lot. I said to put in polls, most popular, content of the recent comment not just person + post title; put TV show reviews up high because they are a particular focus (Lost, Survivor, etc) and her readers love them; shorten headlines that are long and go across more than one line.

Megin from Chester County Moms wants to put an rss feed of all her blog contributors in her WordPress sidebar. We looked at the built-in widget (design tab, widgets, click “add” to add it to sidebar, then edit to add the feeds.) She wants a fancier feed with some randomization because she has 25 contributors! Annette Krasow suggests some aggregation tools.

Megin told me she got her header graphic from a photo, and then — I missed it in the confusion — there is some iphoto plugin that builds caricatures? Or was she saying she paid someone to do the caricatures from a photo?

Talked with Christy from about.com family computing. She’s really fun and intense and I wish we got to talk more!

Talked with Megan Taby from Freepress.net and savetheinternet, about feminism and net neutrality. I look forward to talking with her more!

I left the workshop very high off of it, feeling like everyone got something useful from it. Also, I was glad my slides worked and my lolcats got a laugh.

Talked with ecochick.ca about her javascript and css issues, very convoluted, not possible to solve, depended on a 3rd party. I gave some advice on how to frame the problem to their support folks, and recommended for some other layout issues that she get the web developer Firefox plugin.

Talked with Megan Garnum some more. We were laughing about being very social and outgoing but then needing to get with our computers and shut up. “Could I just crawl inside you, laptop?” she said. I agree. We were both crashing and burning and needed to shut up and blog. So, of course, we talked about that. I think we might have also twittered it. Not really…

Looked at Sexpertise, Isis Inc. Talked about Planned Parenthood use of mobile apps and texting. Sarah and I sent a question to ChaCha: “My condom broke. What should I do?” and they sent us a dangerously stupid answer: to put vitamin c tablets in our vaginas. What horrible misinformation. I will be writing to ChaCha about it.

Looked at nakedanarchist blog. A kindred spirit, I think!

Gossip with Sarah Dopp about Geek Lab and what people’s blogging questions or issues were. Lots of rss feed questions: how to aggregate and post feeds on blog sidebars, how to set up a feed reader, how to put rss feeds on your blog (answer: they are already there, probably) and how to tell what your feed address is. How to put plugins in sidebars at all, in various platforms. I also got that question a lot, but more often I got very specific questions about css or “what plugin would do X thing for me.”

– Keynote panel by Elisa Camahort. I got too tired to take notes.

Cocktail party! I sat with a fun table of bloggers and gave them lots of stickers from my secret sticker collection! Tracy from leadingfromtheheart, Liz Davis, Sherry Pardy who has twins with the same name as Tracy’s sister’s twins, almostfoodies, Melissa from thecollectionspace whose husband writes about music. She told us a great story about the Tape Guy who makes sculptures of people out of scotch tape and who her (mystery industry discreetly not identified) conference was going to hire to be sort of a quirky entertainment to perk people up, but unfortunately the Tape Guy broke his hand and couldn’t do it. We all exchanged cards. Someone (almost foodies) reacted in mock horror that she might be accidentally hanging out with *mommybloggers*. Really, you can hardly tell who we are when we’re drinking cosmopolitans and in stealth mode. THEN WE BUST OUT THE WALLET PHOTOS. Muahaha!

I’d like to say that all my co-pilots, or co-panelists, were amazing, smart, great speakers, very pro-active about grabbing that microphone. Everything they said was a great contribution. In fact, everyone from the audience who raised their hands and spoke up had great points. There was some lively discussion of whether to put your email address in the clear on your blog, or not, with strong audience and panelist support for using contact forms. (While I am in favor of just putting your email addy out there.) Other people made great points and shared relevant information!

Am now decompressing. Sarah and I are laying around blogging and trying to be as antisocial as possible. I consider declaring a pajama party with my room number on Twitter. Would that be a mistake? Am I too tired? Should I stop typing? Someone hose me down.

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BlogHer Boston, liveblogged

Morning:
I hit the breakfast and the swag. Scored: fresh pineapple, pastry, coffee, starbucks jar ‘ o coffee to carry around (very handy for a wheelchair user!) Scored a laser pointer usb drive ballpoint pen, Springpad notebook and good conversation about social media and “personal project management”, tiny cute retractable cord mouse, I entered about 5 contests before I finished my coffee.

Elisa has given a good talk about the current state of blogging. I’ll link to her slides later!

Jory thanks the sponsors for keeping the conference affordable and for all their support.

*more to come – we are lining up in 2 lines facing each other to talk for a minute, then rotate*

greetings! blogher boston

Talked with Consuminglilly, lindisima, racismreview, leadingfromtheheart, wendiaarons (humor blog), the woman from stonyfield farms, and so many more! I remember blog names better than real names.

I talked with at least 10 people in our rotating li neup of meet & greet. Lots of cards! I’ll put in the links in a while.

At geek lab – css and plugin hacking with leadingfromtheheart.org (Tracy). She has majorly hacked her template.

going to drive in a red convertible (saturn??) with Halley… wooo!

(our workshop from 1pm – 2:30)

Talked with Balkan Explorer (who is carefully pseudonymous) about her plans for her blogs, and Danielle about feminism, BlogHer, blogging, girls and mentoring and education and the lack of support for young girls worldwide, about different cities, and more about blogging platforms. She loves Squarespace!

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BlogHer in Second Life

The BlogHer Conference is coming up next week! We’ll have tons of people in BlogHer in Second Life where there will be an entire conference track. Take a look at Erin’s outline of the BlogHer Second Life Conference schedule.

Would you like to transcribe one or more of the voice sessions in 2nd Life for the IRC relay? If so, please contact Erin Kotecki Vest aka Queen of Spain, queenofspainblog@yahoo.com.

I am especially happy that the schedule includes Jen and Aleja from GimpGirl, an online community for women with disabilities. I go to their 2nd life meetings (though I attend only in IRC and not in Second Life itself) and there’s been some great presentations and conversations.

Here’s the schedule!

BlogHer in Second Life ’08

DAY ONE, Friday July 18th

9:00-9:15 AM (live from San Francisco, CA)
Welcome to BlogHer ’08 from the Westin St. Francis Ballroom in San Francisco

9:15-10:15 AM
“Speed Dating” for BlogHers in Second Life

10:30-11:45 AM
Second Life Break-Out Session #1: The Intersection of Blogging and Second Life
Led by Cybergrrl Oh (aka Aliza Sherman), and featuring:
Ana Herzog (aka Nancy Hill)
Gidge (aka Bridgette McNeal)

12:45-2:00 PM
Second Life Break-Out Session #2: Second Life and Security
Featuring Padlurowncanoe Dibou, formerly in charge of Hillary Clinton’s in-world HQ

2:30PM-4:30PM
Second Life Activity in Exhibitor Area

4:30PM-8:30PM
SecondLife Open Mic and Party
More details on how to be part of the Second Life Open Mic

DAY TWO, Saturday, July 19th

9:30-10:30 AM (live from San Francisco, CA)
BlogHer ’08 Morning Keynote: Hybrid Media

10:45-12:00 PM
Second Life Break-Out Session #3: SecondLife as Educational/Training Tool
Featuring:
Padlurowncanoe Dibou
In Kenzo (aka Evonne Heyning, Creative Director and Interactive Producer for Amoration)
Fleep Tuque (aka Chris Collins from the University of Cincinnati)
Dannette Veale (from Cisco)

1:45-3:00 PM
Second Life Break-Out Session #4: Using Second Life for Good
Led by Susan Tenby and featuring:
Connie Reece
Jennifer Cole and Aleja Ospina, the women behind GimpGirl.com

3:30PM-5:00PM
Second Life Activity in Exhibitor Area

5:15-6:15 PM (live from San Francisco, CA)
BlogHer ’08 Closing Keynote: Living the Truman Show

http://www.blogher.com/blogher_conference/conf/2/agenda/1

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What happens at BlogHer… goes on teh Internets

Uh oh, I had a beer in front of a videoblogger!

In which I tipsily endorse Batman Pez for President, since he will be my puppet.

I wasn’t the only one, but where are the videos of other people making asses of themselves? Then you can see it properly in context.

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People I met at BlogHer; and the swag

Here is a giant bigass post with links to all the people I met at Blogher. It was often a blur of meeting people who recognized me because I am recognizable with the purple hair and all. But then I would forget their names unless they had badges on or I already knew them from long conversations from previous years. And then people who I sort of know or felt like I should know better than I actually remember knowing. And already it’s been a week since the conference, so I’ve forgotten what were at the time very cool connections. YOU KNOW HOW IT GOES. (Talking to someone 5 minutes secretly thinking omg who are you who are you i totally know who you are but your hair is different now until it clicks, thank god because I often can’t fess up that I don’t know.) Sometimes, I was smart, and made a note on the business card of what we talked about and what I intended to do as a result. “email to her Sondra’s info” or “damn this guy is pushy” or whatever.

What I really want is for all these fabulous geeky women to come to BarCampBlock in Palo Alto, August 18-19. Come! I’m helping to organize it! Sign up on the wiki, on upcoming.org, on the Facebook group, and/or on EventBrite. Also, I’d like to see them all again at She’s Geeky in October, — Oct 22-23 in Mountain View!

First and perhaps illogically the people I already know. My amazing roommates at the W, SJ of I, Asshole who I have known online since my first days of blogging. And her friend Shauny whose name I only knew peripherally from years of seeing it in SJ’s sidebar as her web host and I think blog-mother — Shauna who is like a rock of sanity and interestingness and I could just wait for the next hilarious sarcastic thing to come out of her mouth. And I love SJ’s business card: “Generous Lover + Writer + Dope Bitch / Super Jive at your Service”. This year, we refrained from the secret topless photos of last year, but I could not help down-blousing her a couple of times. Someday the world will be properly at her feet. She will be like Molly Ivins, except boozier and dirtier.

Blogher

Annalee Newitz from Techsploitation and I hung out a lot. We did at SXSWi as well. There’s a funny balance at conferences between hanging out with new people and hanging with people you already know who are from your hometown. You want to be around the people you already know, and connect up with them because you don’t see them enough. But on the other hand if you do that too much you never meet anyone new! And then I’ll go through a process of thinking “Oh well if I want to see Mary then I can just call her the hell up, why don’t I?” and vowing to call her when I get back home. But with Annalee, because we know each other so well, it’s like being in a warm bath. So when I get overwhelmed by conference or need to process it all with someone super safe, you will find me texting the shit out of Annalee with “Where r u” until we meet up and can hang out and relax. I was super happy she came to BlogHer, and so proud to hear her being smart and articulate as hell at the keynote with Esther Dyson and Rashmi Sinha. Anyway, it’s a long way since the days when she would go “Blogging? Why! Full of drama! Just be a professional journalist and get paid!” And she kicks so much ass! And so I was happy to see her see that BlogHer is one of those places you can be all the parts of yourself at once, asskicking, geeky, and human. I really liked what she said about BlogHer; I feel the same way, and this sums it right up.

There were tomboys, mommies, punks, tarts, ladies, bitches, nerds, and girls. There were professional women in suits and perfect hair, and grubby rockabilly gals in tattoos and tight dresses.

Because so many of us were there, we stopped being women and just became humans. This is an incredibly rare experience in the tech industry.

I have three different cards from Mur Lafferty. I am totally going to stick my tentacles into Mur’s brain. We could not talk for more than 30 seconds without shrieking “NO! I must see that! Send me the link!” I vote her Person I Most Want to Be New BFF With. I will let her ride my bike, and chop the hair off all my Barbies, and post in my group blogs, and and and. I will also buy a “Mur’s Bitch” tshirt and wear it with pride. I wish I had spent more time just following Mur around, and especially with laptops open and the links flying, but the hanging out we did do was so nice it felt like we had known each other forever.


Possibly the nicest down time at the conference, me, Annalee, Barb Dybwad, Mur (whose novel thing you can find at Heaven seasons 1, 2 and 3, Gina, Jason from Lulu.tv, Marshall, and then later SJ, Shauna, and Susie. Beer in the sink! Computers at hand (but no good wireless)! Pizza on the floor! Conversation flying! Screaming laughter!

Onwards!

I hung a bit with Beth Kanter, whose blogging I admire and who is just Fun. She laid a whole bunch of stuff on me at my request about blogging and wikis and nonprofits and in fact she has some enormous wiki squirrelled away that explains it ALL. I will link to that and write it up separately when I have spare brain cells. Amusingly… one of her Moo cards was a photo I took of her lying on the floor upskirting me at the FIRST BlogHer. Yes we are very very rowdy when you take 95% of the men away. Women’s tech conferences are like a huge frat party but with more giggling and craft projects and light flirting. Just as you always suspected, guys!

I talked a bit (never enough!) with Dave Coustan and I’m linking to him even if it is a link to his benign corporate overlords. He is “extraface” on twitter if you want his personal life. And surely some of you do!

I hung out with my homie and fellow Woolfcamper Jen Scharpen, who works now for BlogHer Ads and for BlogHer itself!

And ended up with a card for Beth Blecherman who I know from meeting the Silicon Valley Moms Blog folks! Jill Asher was at the conference too I think, but I don’t remember seeing her. OMG maybe she changed her hair and I *did* talk with her and she’s one of the people I should totally know and yet only have met in person twice. I also don’t know Beth super well, but always enjoy talking with her!

Deb Roby – I do not have her card on me, but know where to find her! We sat across each other at dinner one night at the W hotel and had a grand old time with the gossip.

Georgia Popplewell from Global Voices and Caribbean Free Radio, someone I’d like to know better, and didn’t get that heart to heart talk with, but at some point I know we’ll do that! Oh, she’s fantastic!

You see the problem with BlogHer. It is full of amazing people to the point to where your head explodes. If you love to talk with smart, clueful geeks and writers, it’s like being a kid in a candy shop.

Laurie White of Laurie Writes. We talked at dinner at the W about education and community college teaching and social class. I was trying to recommend the book “A Framework for Understanding Poverty” by Ruby K. Payne to Laurie. This is my reminder to do that! Or maybe she’ll vanity-technorati and find this and will make a note of it. Also, you should all buy it and read it. It’s a very good explanation of social class and of its hidden rules, and ways to translate culturally between classes.

Karen from Trollbaby/Vodkarella was so much fun at sushi… We and Queen Tureaud aka Erin (whose blog name for her kid is, get this, Queen Peanut Punk as Fuck) and whose writing I also read with interest elsewhere, Anyway my point was we were eating sushi and drinking sake and joking massively about bi-curious mommyblogger dynamics. I know what you are thinking … when do these blogging chicks NOT talk about sex? I’m not sure but not when I’m around that’s for sure. Seriously though, Karen rocks, and I am still very appreciative of the great blog redesign she did for me!

Okay, that is the people I already knew reasonably well, or at least the ones whose cards are right in front of me.

More later of all the other people, but this post is already way too long.

Just one more thing.

SWAG! The best stuff I got at BlogHer was the bags, as usual. The glowing martini glass entertained me for a while. And the AOL memory stick was also nice and made me feel warm and fuzzy, but I left it in a geocache at breakfast yesterday. Tiny hand mirrors and a couple of magnets, also good, and they’ll stick around rather than being thrown away. So I am left with some stickers and flyers, and the main tote bag, and the awesome AOL body (?) laptop bag. I don’t know what AOL body means, and don’t care, but I think kindly of them in a general way now, instead of hating them for the litter of “free online access” CDs that infested the world some years back. The cocktail party food at the Childrens’ Museum party rocked. That stuff was delicious!

Someone’s missing out big time on the geeky-slogan tshirt selling opportunity, and the fact that everyone wants to mod up and decorate their laptops, and have a fancy unique laptop bag. I also agree with Lisa Williams that if they’re going to give us hand lotion, which I like perfectly well by the way, it should have LEDs in it. YES. Just throw some girly shit at us, like laptop bags that look like robotic parts with rivets, AND sparkles, or light up hand lotion with a control panel, or futuristic star trek salt and pepper shakers that also have GPS in them. Ipod cases, etc. We are GEEKS and like gadgets, and little thingies to decorate gadgets, and useful things to put things into, at BlogHer!

I wonder how many tiny cute laptops and iphones Apple would have sold if they had set up something at BlogHer? What do you think?

Tools, also. Tools and gadgets that are cute and portable. I am thinking of how Radio Shack had a table at Maker Faire, and was selling fabulous small toolkits for 10 bucks. I bought one for the trunk of my car. NOW when I am trapped in an earthquake on the highway I will not only have moldering powerbars and boxes of raisins and bandaids! I will also have a full set of wrenches!

Cars were a really good idea too at BlogHer 2006. I bought a car last year, and I hated the process with white hot blinding passion and I had to deal with slobbering sexist jerks at the car dealership.

I’ll write more later or tomorrow as this is part 1 of at least 3 posts on BlogHer. Part 2 will be the other people I met. Part 3 will be the panels I was on and that I went to! No wait. I need Part 4 for the Unconference in which I talked about wikis for like 6 hours. That’s it, peace, out.

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In which I am cranky and grateful about access in Chicago!

(I wrote part of this before BlogHer but forgot to post it!)

Anyone other people with disabilities going to BlogHer, by the way? I have not tried to mobilize to find out, but I’m wondering.

I am going to be able to get around town pretty well with regular taxis. My wheelchair folds up and fits in a car trunk and I think my hotel is close (though I have not actually checked! ) My main concern is that sometimes I just need to lie down somewhere. And I am fine with getting out of the chair and getting on the floor for a nap, which tends to freak people out. “OMG are you okay! Do you need help getting up! Did you fall?”

***

So, at BlogHer, the access was more or less okay.

The conference center at Navy Pier was very spread out, which means it’s exhausting and sometimes time consuming to get around. For example, there was no bathroom on the same floor as most of the panel rooms. The first time I needed the bathroom, it was hard to find one and I went way off in the wrong direction, and then had to take an elevator to it. Plus, you’d have an event on one side of the conference center, and then another event on the other side, separated by a giant crowded hall and two elevators.

I loathe Moscone Center for this reason as well. It is just Too Big and spread out. WisCon, in contrast, is in a hotel that perfectly fits 800-1000 people. The elevator problem is still there, but the exhaustion of moving around a huge space is eliminated!

Buildings in downtown Chicago had worse access, on the whole, than ones in downtown San Francisco. There were more tiny custom-installed lifts, and less ramps.

Lifts suck because they are almost always locked or not working or both. They’re loud, conspicuous, fussy, isolating, and clunky, and often they’re installed in the backass end of nowhere of the building while your friends are all going somewhere else, either because it doesn’t occur to anyone to keep you company or because they’re not allowed in the tiny awful lift.

The main problem, though, is that they’re kept locked and turned off. I flounced around Chicago telling building managers and security guards that it was illegal to keep the lifts turned off and locked. I don’t know if that’s true! But I can’t imagine that it’s not. It sucks, whether it’s illegal or not. I’ll go look it up and edit this entry later.

I ran into the “just two blocks” issue a few times. Someone would tell me somewhere else was just a couple of blocks away. It is always a mistake to believe this! It ***never*** is. Instead I found myself braving traffic and curbs and wheeling uphill 12 blocks over cobblestones, chain link fences, bricks, shark teeth, hot lava, and paths made of swords and darkness. Next time I will have prepared much better, with maps, and more phone numbers of taxis.

The big hotels were halfway okay. I became totally furious in the W Hotel when there was a ramp down from the lobby to the bar, but the ramp ENDED IN STAIRS. What the hell, people! I bitched. And rather than listen to anyone I told the hotel people to go away while I hobbled down the steps. I can totally do steps but it’s somewhat painful and after all day sitting up in the chair, I was not in the mood. It is awkward, and people stare, and I’d rather they stare at me and think “Oh Cool” while seeing me in a confident moment rather than seeing me limp and lean. Not that limping is bad mind you. Just that I was NOT WEARING MY PITY SHIELD that evening.

So then at a super fun fancy-ass dinner with a gazillion bloggers I had to swear my way into a dark pantry closet with some manager with a key while all the other employees and various random people stared and thought “Oh look the crippled chick is going to go and pee…” And was vastly annoyed and told them to leave the damned lift ON… with a light on… and with signs that say lift this way and bathrooms upstairs with a nice blue and white disability access logo.

Screw them!

I won’t even go into the Tale of the Sushi Restaurant and the Security Guards and the Building Lift and Chris Carfi helping me up the stairs! GAH. But I was grateful to the nice busboy who shook his fist at the non-working lift and who repeated my “fuck you!” that I yelled up the stairwell at the totally not-there security guard with the mythical lift key.

At City Centre hotel in contrast, I spoke to a polite manager once… and she was sympathetic. And the next time I came back to the hotel, I found this:

BlogHer

THE KEY in the lift!

That was so exciting, and it has never happened to me that a polite complaint has resulted in a policy change of this kind!

It was heartening beyond the happy convenience of being able to pee, get food and drinks, and talk with people upstairs when I wanted to… at my convenience… without fuss or frustration or delay.

Thanks, nice hotel manager!

BlogHer - nice hotel manager

About a week before the conference I think Elisa asked me if I knew any other bloggers with disabilities who would be there and what the issues might be. She was worried that I would not be able to ride the shuttle buses! I appreciated that concern. But the issues are sort of more complex than that!

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