August 03, 2005

Blogher: Getting it by being a listener

I was thinking today that really, I have to give Scott Rafer, Jay Rosen and Mena Trott a lot of credit. Different reasons. But I give them a lot of credit.

All three showed up to Blogher and listened. All three of them weren't so busy that they came late, or left early, or had other plans.

Jay flew out from NY to check it out, and he asked a lot of questions, was genuinely interested and warm, and really cared about what people had to say. He does this everywhere I see him, but a lot of other bloggers who report didn't show up at all, and so, I give him some credit for wanting to know first hand how things are a little different for female bloggers than they are for men, although not always. And he was there to figure out the subtleties around these differences, to learn.

Scott, as CEO of Feedster, could have been too busy making deals or come in late and leave early or yaking on cell, but instead he came down from SF for the Friday night dinner, spent time talking to folks, listening mostly, as I observed each time I saw him engaged with attendees in a very quiet, respectful way. And saturday, he was there early, stayed late, never discussed Feedster in a session, and listened in really such a nice way.

I didn't see any other management from any other blog search companies. Yes, Technorati sent Niall Kennedy, its community manager. But it's not really the same as sending the decision makers to hear first hand what's up with people, to listen and take in the subtitles, to allow people to tell them in their own words what they think, instead of getting the filtered version from others, 2nd hand. Over 50% of the attendees had never been to a conference like that before. It was their first shot at it. They aren't geeky. They aren't early adoptors. They are the future target market of many online companies.

I think it's really important to hear how attendees aren't well informed (read it this way: companies online overall do a really sucky job of communicating with users on those company sites, and designing services that make sense to people other than geeks and early adopters. This audience was misinformed because they have never been given good information from most of these companies). They also have intense emotions, expectations and connections to blogging, blog search and discovery and blog tools, because it is their mode of self expression, a tangible route to freedom and something they spend serious time engaged with. How this happens for these attendees was often deep in the subtext flowing underneath their statements. Getting that subtext was important. I haven't seen many blogposts that conveyed even a couple of those subtexts.

Mena I only saw Saturday, but she spoke from the heart, during the opening session, and otherwise, that I could tell, listened to what people had to say. She talked about not really wanting to be CEO after a while, because she was 26 (subtext: why in the world does she even have to defend this, and she's right) and being happy to have Barak run things while she evangelized the company. She talked about being a woman in public view and being criticized publicly (often it appeared to be for the same stuff men never are criticized for, when they form and run companies).

But I give those three credit because they took the time, spent the money, and came down and mostly listened, only talking once or twice to share their personal, helpful or heartfelt observations and experiences. It was very very cool. I could name a list a mile long of people who make, or hope to make their companies successful based on these types of attendees, that didn't show. Their companies would be better for having have showed, without an agenda, ready to listen and take it in.

Posted by Mary Hodder at August 3, 2005 07:38 PM | TrackBack

Thank you for taking the time to observe other folks' efforts while you were working so hard to suppport Blogher 1.0's success. Feedster's relevancy algorithms are being built in a fashion that resembles the community relevancy proposal you made. We're working to help searchers find the most appropriate bloggers and micropublishers, not just the most popular ones. If Feedster's leadership doesn't show up and participate in the community whenever possible, we won't build the software that will make our business thrive.

Posted by: Scott Rafer at August 3, 2005 11:32 PM

Mary, this is a lovely post, and one whose sentiments I share.

Posted by: Elisa Camahort at August 4, 2005 04:55 PM

I've been listening to the sessions from this conference over on IT-Conversations. It sounds like you had a great group, and I could hear the genuine appreciation that some of these folks showed up. Your article definately brings home the importance of participation in our community. Nice.

Posted by: Hank Lynch at October 13, 2005 10:58 AM