14 March 2012

When Fitting In Feels Kinda Weird

I spent last weekend in Austin at the Dad2.0 Summit.  It was like most of the other blog conferences I attend in all ways but one.
  • Cool location: check.
  • Corporate sponsors: check. 
  • Big-time keynoters and smart speakers: check. 
  • A gazillion mentions on Twitter: check. 
  • Bloggers I know like Julie, Catherine, Kristen, Rita, and Sarah: check, check, check, check, and check. 
  • Bloggers I read but hadn't met like Jim Lin, Doug French, and Jason Sperber: check, check and check.
  • The luxury of an outsider's perspective: che... WHOA.
I'm typically the person who jumps in and out of online communities and maintains a courteous bit of professional separation. I go to these conferences not just because I'm interested (I really am), not just because I like many of the people there (I really do), but also because it's my job. I go into each conference with a plan and a list of things I want to accomplish. It's not personal, it's business.

So I tried to do what I always do at conferences - stay engaged, try to relate and advocate, but maintain a professional distance.  I feel kinship with a lot of the bloggers at BlogHer because I'm a feminist and with many bloggers at ScienceOnline because I feel strongly about advocating for science - but when I'm asked to speak or provide advice to bloggers at those conferences, I can usually keep things technical.

But this time I wasn't "the guy at BlogHer" or the layperson at ScienceOnline. I don't write about my experiences as a father on my blog, but clearly these were my people. They were focusing on issues I see every day. And while many of these writers had been at it for a while, this conference was really the first of its kind, and there was a lot of discussion about where online dads are as a community, and where they're going, and I was really part of it. I wasn't used to this.  It felt kinda weird.  But it felt pretty good.

So here, when asked to talk about how bloggers can work with brands or expand their audience, I talked about demonstrating your passion first and worrying about the numbers later. I talked about building movements over endorsing brands. I even used religion metaphors.  I was feeling it.

While my personal family life will remain personal, I'll be reading more of these guys.  I'll be finding ways to relate and advocate and organize. I'll be connecting them with people in other communities I've met.

Frankly I think it will be easy.

There was one other thing I noticed that was demonstrably different - the presence of so many people who aren't dads who were there to lend support.  I asked several of them why they were here, and they all said "I'm here for Doug," one of the conference organizers.   Five years ago I didn't see anyone from the outside showing the moms at BlogHer how things were done.  I openly wondered if dads would be supporting moms so actively if dads were the ones with the five year head start. Rita Arens wrote about it, and you should check it out.  Just food for thought.


Muskrat said...

Glad you could come!

Sarah, Goon Squad Sarah said...

The whole conference had a great vibe to it. Doug and John and the other organizers all did an amazing job. Even the food was good!

Anonymous said...

Really good to meet you, man!

Doug said...

Great to finally meet you. Thank you for coming, and for sharing the kind words. I felt the love, brother.

*punches self in chest*


*resolves not to do that again*