Alt Summit 2012 recap

So how was Alt you ask? Not only did I get a fresh perspective on the web, new ideas on how to build my business, I also made a whole slew of exceptionally inspiring and talented new friends. In a word: rad. But I’m not capable of just leaving it at that, so here’s many more words on the experience.

Meh. During our stay at the Royal Garden we jokingly started referring to it as the Bates Motel. I’m not sure how many rooms the conference is able to block out at the uber-posh Grand America, but it’s far fewer than demand. Which sucks because if you don’t book a room IMMEDIATELY upon Alt’s registration announcement you’ll end up paying the same amount of money for the most basic and impersonal of accommodations. If this happens to you, save yourself the cash instead and book a private room at the $20/night hostel that’s half a mile away.

Loved the rainbow Alt-branded pencils and the neon orange toothbrush. Should’ve brought more business cards. SF Girl by Bay wins best handout by far with her temporary tattoos.

My fave new-to-me blogs:
+ The Jealous Curator
+ Cubicle Refugee
+ The Artful Desperado
+ Pattern Pulp

Thursday’s keynote with Pilar Guzman of Martha Stewart Living, Deborah Needleman the former editor-in-chief of beloved Domino magazine, and Maxwell Gillingham-Ryan of Apartment Therapy

+ Most informative: Growing a Readership by Oh Happy Day, Design Crush, Making it Lovely, and Mighty Girl
+ Most authentic/relatable: Kickstarting Your Next Project by the City Sage, Lisa Congdon, Rena Tom, and Say Yes to Hoboken
+ Best slides: From Blog to Book by Grace Bonney, Julia Rothman, Chronicle Books, and Artisan Books

However, I talked to several ladies who didn’t connect well to all of the panels I tend to agree. Some of that is bound to happen of course, no conference can be all things to all people, but shooting for the middle often means that the content gets watered down as well. Specifically, everyone I talked to who went to the Dooce/HGTV/BurdaStyle/Blogstar panel felt these mega-bloggers only talked about themselves without spending anytime scaling down their experiences and offering concrete advice and suggestions small blogs could adopt more readily. A missed opportunity for sure.

Image ganked from Ghostly Ferns’ instagram

Bitbloggers: the Whys & Hows of Small Blogs
Oh, this was so much fun. Me and Kate Singleton of Art Hound have been thinking of how to tackle hosting this roundtable ever since we pitched the idea to Gabrielle Blair last summer. Basically we wanted to create a more accessible setting where folks could feel more comfortable talking through their blogging hang-ups. It turned into a fantastically productive venting and brainstorming session. My only regret is that we ran short on time and weren’t able to give everyone new ideas on where to take their blogs. Luckily Kate & I have created a special Bitbloggers site where all of this content will be funneled. We’ll continue posting on this topic sporadically over there. I’m really excited to start growing this content because I don’t think this is a need that will be going away anytime soon.

Otherwise, I wished for another session of roundtable discussions so attendees could’ve had two of them. There were soooo many choices and most of them seemed highly tailored and very specific, which is good, but having to pick only one was tough. Small groups are always the best way to immediately get into the meat of an issue, ask questions, and get instant feedback so I wish for more of them next year.

Will I attend next year?
I’m not sure yet. As much fun as it was, it’s an expensive trip and I struggled with the intense girlyness of the event. All I kept thinking is that we’ve been rightfully criticizing other technology & new media conferences (like CES and to a degree, SxSW) for being exclusive to women, but Alt skews so far in reverse that precious few guys want to attend as well. It’s equally as harmful in the opposite direction. I’m all for girl-power and giving women a place to act out their blogs in real life, but I’m not into segregating it away from other forms of culture. There were a small handful of guys at the conference, sure, but they stuck to the fringes and weren’t as actively engaged with the content. Most of them looked a bit shell-shocked and I heard more than one quip about them having to “tough it out”. Which is sexist and definitely doesn’t help the issue.

This is further concerning in the bigger picture because eventually this will evolve into a pink ghetto stereotype that blogging is the only way for women to contribute meaningfully to the web. I’m not into that perception, despite the fact that females dominate the design/lifestyle blogging scene and I count myself as one of these bloggers too. But why should design and lifestyle blogging be a girl thing at all? Making one’s life better through design seems like a pursuit that all of humanity can benefit from. I’d love for us to continue to foster that, but let’s also simultaneously focus on spreading awareness of this dichotomy and promote more discussion around it.

For next year the biggest thing the Alt organizers could do to help remedy this would be to host a broader range of speakers. I know the most popular bloggers sell the most seats, but more up-and-comers and more presenters who aren’t necessarily design or lifestyle bloggers would lend a greater variety in perspectives. And more dudes please, just like there should be more ladies presenting at all the rest of the conferences in the world too.

Regardless of my opinions I still consider myself immensely lucky to have experienced Alt. I hold all of the presenters and conference organizers in the highest esteem, I can’t even begin to imagine how much work it is putting such an affair together. I’m really proud I made it happen for myself too because I would’ve always wondered what it was like if I hadn’t gone. Plus, I’ve got a bunch of ideas in motion that will help keep my head in the blogging game and that’s pretty much priceless.

Now, to catch up on sleep and the veritable mountain of client work I’m facing this week. Woof!




Thanks for the update. I’m a bit too far away to go (Australia) but really would have loved to have gone. Its nice to hear an update that isn’t just a few pictures of people fluffing around looking good with no feedback on the content.


Thank you Jenean & Emma! Glad you appreciated this! I could’ve written all about the snazzy outfits and such I suppose, but I just figured it wasn’t really my cup of tea and I’m better off leaving that to the experts. 🙂


Nice, honest recap! Don’t think I’d ever be able to go (pricey trip indeed) so I’ve been living vicariously through others’ experiences and yours is the first with commentary beyond the swag and outfits and fangirling (not that those things aren’t fun. I’d be doing the same). But I totally agree that a more gender-neutral environment is always more educational. I know there are tons of male creatives out there, so maybe potential speakers are approached but turn down the gig because of the demographic of Alt attendees? Anyways, I always enjoy your writing (yikes, isn’t that how a lot of spam comments begin?) so I’m looking forward to your posts on small blogs!

Chelsea C.

Okay, first of all, this is probably my favorite Alt review that I’ve come across. Honest and accurate, and very fair. Obviously it was a completely inspiring weekend (and glamorous to boot), but I’ve been really trying to separate the wheat from the chaff with what I took away from it as well. Your post is making me think.

Secondly, it was lovely to meet you, and I’m stoked that I know Pitch now — it’s super-inspiring and I love your style. (Not to mention the ampersand button on your biz card is adorning my desk.) So good on ya and you have a new fan!


Oh Chelsea, hello new friend!! Thank you, thank you! I’m glad I’ve given you some fuel for thought. Thanks for stopping by, you’ve got a fan in me too!


yes yes and yes. This recap is awesome! Love the photo booth action too, wasn’t it addictive? We couldn’t stop pressing the “take shot” button. thanks for the mention too 😀



Best Alt Summit recap I’ve read. Wonderfully insightful and honest. Thank you!

P.S. I’m so glad we had a chance to meet!

(Thanks for the mention, as well! xo)


Great write up, there’s been a lot of talk about the gender skew, maybe next year I can help make up the numbers. Take the whole family. That would be killer! Thanks for the links, the bit bloggers stuff sounds right up my street will have to check it out.


Killer, INDEED! Thanks for saying hello, Pete! Glad for your comment, and will check out your little internet home.


Dear Margot,
Thanks so much for your honest review about ALT.
It’s the only review. I could find that brings the voice and perspective of the Bloggers world as well as very needed down to earth critic.
I also, find it very disturbing that the blog’s plant is mainly a women-world.
And not a word about the fact the Alt is mainly representing the Amrican blogs and culture…
Thank you again!

Shayna from Pattern Pulp

Hi Margot,

Such a treat meeting you and discovering your site – great write up. It’s funny, all I hear about in nyc is how men are dominating the tech and social media industries (it’s also somewhat apparent at sxswi) – so interestingly, this was a welcome departure to be among so many women talking shop.

That said, you make a very valid point- it would be great to draw a more balanced crowd in the future…it would also be nice for team alt to mix up the presentations, as there were several repeat performances…at times it felt soap-boxy, if not clubby.

Kudos on bitbloggers- we’ll have to stay in touch 🙂



I’m eating these comments UP! Here’s to hoping the Alt movers-n-shakers will catch a whiff of this. So far I haven’t noticed any trackbacks or whatnot, but I’ve got my fingers crossed! @Shayna & @Hagar: HIGH FREAKING FIVES.


Hi Margot,

I found your blog tonight via a tweet by Lisa Congdon. It’s great, and I can’t wait to poke around in here some more.

Your description and critique of the Alt Summit is singular, I haven’t seen anyone else talk about it this way. If I were to go next year, I would hope I would come away with a lot of nitty-gritty-type information. I want to hear exactly how people got the exposure they did, met the people they know, found a blogging community they fit in with, etc.

That said, the inspirational part of Alt was blowing me away as I was following it on twitter. Loads and loads of one liners and bits of really motivating and inspiring advice. Those kinds of things might be worth the price of admission alone. But then again, I got them for free on twitter! 🙂


Wow, thank you Tiffanie! I think Alt is a good experience for sure, definitely what you make of it type things. Also glad you got something out of following it on twitter too. I was sad for the many bloggers who couldn’t attend!


Oh, also, I found The Jealous Curator through all the coverage and I am in love with her and her site, and jealous of it all!


What a refreshingly honest and insightful recap. As much as I’d love to go to an Alt Summit, I doubt I could ever afford it and now I’m beginning to wonder if I’d even fit in. Can I ask you a weird question, how did it feel to be surrounded by so many superstar bloggers? I’d imagine it’d be amazing but overwhelming at the same time.


@Dennise – That’s a really good question. I think it’s worth going if you are at all curious about the culture, it’s certainly one of those things you get out of it what you put into it. And it’s such an enormous group of people there it’s pretty easy to strike up a chat with anyone and make a fast friend. It’s certainly intimidating to be around really successful bloggers as well, but the ones I managed to talked to were all gracious and kind. Most try hard to be welcoming, but I can imagine it’s overwhelming and exhausting for them to get so much attention at the same time. There were a couple of times when I wanted to go say hello, but I didn’t because I couldn’t think of anything else clever to say besides gushing how much I love their blog. I’m sure it’s going to be awkward for both parties on some level. In the end we’re all just people, you know?


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