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!


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