It’s that time of year again —time for the annual pre-BlogHer internet kerfuffle! Since I’ve been attending BlogHer (this year will be my sixth!), there is always some sort of online discussion that starts a controversy that carries into the conference.
This year’s discussion started with this post by Jen of The Martha Project, addressed to the host hotel for BlogHer. She was surprised that the reservationist at the Sheraton in Chicago this year’s conference hotel didn’t know what the BlogHer ’13 conference is, and thought it might be a good idea to explain it to them.
It’s a collection of online writers (blogs and otherwise) who gather to learn more about the art of blogging. It’s about 99.8 percent attended by women. The few men can be found carrying a flask to offset the estrogen hurricane they just entered. The Blogher conference covers many different aspects of blogging including writing, photography, technical, design, and probably lots of other stuff that I don’t do or understand.
It’s also so much more. For me, it’s the annual pilgrimage to meet online people that I read all year round. I can get my geek on and have not a single person think I’m strange. And I am strange.
Frankly, I think she nailed the description. But another blogger, Deg Ng (former conference organizer for Blog World / New Media Expo), felt that the post was completely unprofessional, particularly when Jen recommended leaving excess swag items for the hotel cleaning staff, and wrote her own post in response.
Here’s an idea: instead of putting the onus on housekeeping to find a home for your left behind swag, how about you don’t take it all back to your room? I assume you know how much luggage you brought with you. I assume you can eyeball everything you’re carrying back to your room. If it doesn’t fit, don’t bring it upstairs. And if you did bring it upstairs and it’s looking like it won’t fit, bring it to BlogHer’s swag exchange room where you can leave it for someone else or the people at BlogHer will donate it.
Way to get out from under the “swag whore” myth, there.
Ouch. As a blogger that has, yes, left some swag in the hotel that just didn’t fit in the suitcase (because by the time I packed up, the swag exchange at BlogHer was closed, alas), she’s got a valid point. But a point Deb makes later in the post is the real sticking point, judging by the reaction. Jen wrote the following warning to the Sheraton:
You should expect from them as you would any other customer unless you piss them off. Then? Expect your social media to BLOW UP LIKE YOU’VE NEVER SEEN BEFORE. You should warn whoever* runs the twitter and or Facebook page now. Really. And buy them a bottle of vodka for each of the 3 nights that the conference is going to be there.
Deb referred to that as “social media blackmail” which I’m sure wasn’t Jen’s intention; I think she honestly was trying to be helpful, but it’s easy to see how that could be misconstrued.
Since I know both players peripherally, I feel like I get what both are trying to say but I will say this. The Sheraton is well-positioned to host BlogHer, and is highly experienced from hosting the conference in 2009 (it was a lovely, lovely hotel). In fact, BlogHer wrote yesterday about why they chose the Sheraton, and I think their logic is sound. I suspect when Jen called the hotel she dealt with a reservation office that isn’t even onsite (and deals with Sheratons from all over the country), and therefore it’s not surprising that the woman taking her reservation had no idea what BlogHer was she’s probably booking rooms for hundreds of conferences around the country.
Did Deb go too far by calling Jen unprofessional? Maybe. I think Jen’s intentions were good, but suggesting that a huge hotel with extensive event experience needs to get a clue isn’t kind. But what do you think? Does Deb have a point, or did Jen get it right?