So, after a brilliant week away from it all, laying on a beach on an island made of lava, surrounded by the Pacific Ocean, we hopped another plane to the windy city to attend BlogHer Conference '07 - A World Of Difference.
The only bummer about that was that, because of a 6 hour time difference, a red-eye flight and an additional late night arrival, we were pretty exhausted and missed most of the morning sessions. Otherwise, it was the perfect quotation at the end of that novel that gives me all sorts of insight into the meaning of life.
I had never been to BlogHer.
I know, it seems sort of ridiculous in hindsight. Actually, it seemed sort of ridiculous in foresight and parallelsight, too, but I hadn't. Part of the reason, I think, was because somehow I didn't think I would actually identify with many of the women bloggers there. What an odd thought! I suppose I had spent so many years playing in a man's world that I felt I had more in common with the boys that I struggle to be equal with than with women who did...I don't know...women's things? Whatever I thought, I seriously denied a big piece of who I am in that assumption. I do think that in my journey, I needed to identify more with the boys for a time...to know what it takes to make it in that world. And yes, we live in the same world, but there are different rule sets for different sets of communities.
To put it all into context, here is a snapshot of the rules I was getting well versed in:
- Numbers matter. Oh yeah, we know they don't really matter, but we need some sort of stick to measure against so that we are well aware of what matters and what doesn't.
- It's about the rockstars. The internet famous. If so-and-so says it, it MUST be true. Authority comes from volume. Volume breeds more volume. See #1.
- Link link link link link link link link link link link link link link link link link link link link link link link link link link link link link link link link link. People will link back to you and read you more.
- Coalitions, coopetition, collaboration...we gather to win.
- Meritocracy is the way to go. You can speak when you've proven yourself a contributor...of course that contribution will be judged by a particular measuring stick.
But as I sat on the beach and finished reading The Gift: Imagination and the Erotic Life of Property, Stumbling on Happiness and Out of Our Minds: Learning to be Creative (amongst a few other stinkers), that sort of stuff ceased to matter.
Not that ideas like collaboration and linking are bad, per se. I think that stuff is essential...but to a different end. Of course, it could be the sun and sand and the large hollowed out pineapple filled with slushie that was speaking, so I made some notes and prepared to go back to real life. Instead, I went back to a nicer form of it...BlogHer.
The entire time I was at BlogHer, I didn't hear one single person say anything about numbers of readers or influence or coalitions or the like. I'm sure there was something there that was rooted in competition...in measurement, but even when women stood up and talked about their highlights at the end of the Open Day, they told stories about moments where they were changed. People they had been dying to meet because they did something wonderful and inspirational. And new friendships.
Success to everyone I observed was about connecting. Not for any sort of gain of power or money, but for the sake of connecting. And I would connect with one woman and she would begin that conversation telling me the most wonderful story of her most recent connection with another woman, who I would, of course, want to go and meet.
But to put it all into context...to weigh in with the overall paradigm of this group, I would say the new rules I was getting versed in were:
- Stories matter. Numbers were inserted here and there to make a point when talking about dire need or how a person made a difference, but they seemed like more of an afterthought. The story was the measurement: how much trust was there? How much was revealed? Did we identify?
- It's about kindness. And it seemed that everyone there had it in spades. Or maybe we were all in the same boat...slightly nervous that we wouldn't be accepted for who we were, then overwhelmed with gratitude when we were, so it spread.
- Share share share share share share share share share share share share share share share share share share share share share share share share share share. If that includes linking, then so be it. It isn't for the kudos, it's for the connections.
- Community, cooperation, collaboration...we gather to make things happen. Because we NEED one another. We can admit that we can't do it on our own. Or at least, it would be much more fun together.
- Mentorship is the way to go. Newbies need encouragement. The surest way to measure the success of a community is how fast someone moves from newbie position to mentor position.
It's a very different approach to interaction and one that I couldn't put my finger on until I saw it in action at BlogHer 07. This is what matters and, I think, will be a growing paradigm for everyone over the next years. In every book I'm reading and every second person I'm talking to, I'm hearing the desire to move in this direction. More events and examples like this will validate that desire.
And not to make rockstars out of anyone, but the women who made this event happen, who have put years of heart and soul and time and sweat and tears into making this event and this organization a reality should definitely be recognized for this. It isn't easy. Jory, Elisa and Lisa - thanks for everything!