Sorry I didn't post during, for those of you living through me. It was just so much. It was crushing, overwhelming, intimidating, relaxing, joyful, terrifying, beautiful and crazy, with a side of maybe some PMS thrown in for fun. I want and need to write about it. I'm sorry if you don't want to read about it, but one of the things I learned this weekend was that you really need to blog for no one but yourself. So, this is for me. I'm dividing things up, since there is so very much to process.
There has been a lot of comments, a lot of tweets, and I am sure a lot of posts to come about the swag. I'll admit it, the thought of people wanting to give me things for free is a little exciting. I like being an early adopter, I like learning about new products, and well, I'm a bit of a consumer. I fight it, but unless you've been living in a hole, we are all consumers. There is the "cool stuff you can't get anywhere else" factor coming in to play as well. That being said, what I saw this year made me sick. What may have been an "ooo, cool swag bag" at a party another year turned in to violence this year. Hand shaped bruises on Mommy Need's Coffee's arm, stories of babies that were elbowed in the head, swag stolen off of luggage carts before it could reach a party (and individual blog owners who were to get bags in return for sponsorship being left out) and suites that trapped unsuspecting people, almost left me with a change of heart about blogging and BlogHer. For all of my appreciating the swag, I have never once felt I was entitled to it. That clearly wasn't how everyone felt.
I heard the new bloggers being blamed for all of the ills of the swag and other things. The problem I have with that is that if you want to get technical, I'm a new blogger. However, while I want my opinion to be valued and requested, I don't want to be a corporate shill. While I'm not above entering a contest here and there, I don' think I will ever want you to give me free stuff because "I'm a mommy-blogger".
There has to be a way for it to work. I think bloggers add value to the whole product process. I think we have power to support and encourage small businesses. The kinds that can't afford a PR firm but that support us in return. I think we can bring about change (I hear something good came out of Camp Baby). I think BlogHer, being a huge gathering of bloggers, is a great way to reach us. Something has to give however.
There has to be something that allows the sponsorships of the conferences, the support of bloggers, and the dialogue, without selling both us and the companies themselves short. I saw some little things that worked. I saw things given without pitches or obligations. Things I was excited to see and try out. I was allowed to give opinions and feedback to brands I love and ones I have issues with. I saw parties turned to no swag zones (I still hope you take my idea on the women's shelter donation) and swag given out late in a party to encourage you know, actual partying.
Sometimes I think that things have to go horribly wrong before we figure out how to find balance. I hope that this was the extreme. I'm sure people sponsoring and giving out swag don't want to be judged by the actions of few either. We need to talk about this so things can change.
ETA: Part two.