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Blog Indiana: I am not the only blogger in Indiana. Who knew?

Blog Indiana badge with social tagging

As I was standing in the hallway at the Blog Indiana conference last week waiting for a session to end, two men were chatting next to me about burning down the place where I work.

“Yeah, I hate PastaQueen’s workplace,” one said. “They’re evil.”

The other man got out his business card and said, “I agree. I’d love to take them down.” He handed his card over.

“I’ll help you go down there and torch the place some night,” the first man replied.

Wow, I thought as I stared through the glass door willing the session to end. I’d better not mention where I work. And next time I’m at the office I’d better take careful note of the fire exits.

Despite this flaming start, I enjoyed hanging with Hoosier bloggers last weekend. I wasn’t sure what to expect from a first-time blogging conference where the main focus was our location. Indiana is known more for its corn than its blogs and physical location seems irrelevant when it comes to the web. Many people blog because they can’t find people to connect with locally. The Internet is about globalization and the ability to meet friends who don’t necessarily know to avoid the 86th street bridge construction project or that Shapiro’s Deli has a great corned beef sandwich.

But, unbeknownst to me, Indiana has a local blogging scene. When I attended a panel led by Feed Me/Drink Me blogger Renee Wilmeth, she said hi to a local blogger that she seemed to know. In the hallways and at the cocktail party that evening, other bloggers seemed to know each other too. Which is when I started looking around and thinking, “Have there been local blogging parties that I haven’t been invited to? Am I supposed to know who these people are? ” I have been so focused on my global communities of women bloggers and health and fitness bloggers that I never noticed there were people down the street typing entries into Movable Type and WordPress too. It made me realize there is a niche for local blogging and I’m going to try to be more active in this community.

Now that I’ve attended two BlogHer conferences and a Blog Indiana, I’m starting to learn how to work these gigs. For instance, the next time I go to a conference, I should consider bringing candy. Then I won’t have to think up conversation starters or approach strangers, I’ll just spread mints on the table and people will flock to me. That’s what the lady from the Indianapolis Museum of Art did, which is how I found out there is an Indianapolis Museum of Art blog. They have a rather well designed site too, with lots of interactive features that I’m going to have to explore further when time stretches out like taffy and I have all the free time I desire.

It’s also good to remember that you never know what someone’s background is when you start talking to them. Just like the guys in the hallway didn’t know I work for the evil empire when they were plotting to destroy the Death Star, I did not know that Ray Pawulich used to work for the local alternative newspaper Nuvo when I started dissing their web site. Oops! (I’m still pissed that I never get notifications when I win free movie tickets on that site, so they deserve the bashing.) Ray doesn’t work there anymore, and instead is running Wake Up Naptown. (It’s called Naptown because we’re in India-NAP-oplis. This had to be explained to me because I am dense.)

A good way to get new readers is to become a conference “star.” You can be a star by doing things that make people pay attention to you. For instance, there was a Twitter board in the main hall. This was a screen that displayed any tweets on Twitter with the phrase “Blog Indiana.” Much fun was had with the board, but there were at least 3-4 people I never met, but am now aware of just because they tweeted a lot. Another good way to get noticed is to ask questions in panels. People will remember you if you say something smart or interesting.

I also found myself talking to some nice guys after the blog monetization panel, only to discover they were Republicans. Oh, noes! And one of them, Josh Gillespie, is so Republican he has a whole website about local Republican politics called Hoosier Access. I would never have gone out of my way to meet a conservative blogger, but I had a nice chat with him, he didn’t sprout demon horns or cloven hooves, and I helped him with his BlogAds. That’s one of the nice things about these conferences, you meet people you would never have met otherwise and they turn out not to be the devil.

Other delightful people I met included:

  • Jim and Kari from Jeffersonville who are thinking of starting a blog for their seasonal company which sells haunted houses and Christmas ornaments. Kari writes descriptions of all the Precious Moments figurines for their web site. Pray for her. Or just follow her on Twitter. If you need Christmas stuff, consider buying from Santa’s Ornament Shop.
  • Krista, who is about the same age as me, but is a VP of Marketing at Photrade which makes me feel like an underachiever. Can I be Vice President of the Internet or something? We had a great chat at the networking event, though I hated that it was called a networking event. Call it a mixer or a cocktail party, but not a “networking” event. That makes it sound like we’re all going to suck up to each other so we can use each other to our own advantage later. And while there may be people there doing that, I was more interested in meeting interesting people whether they have the keys to the universe or not.
  • Casey, who writes Moosh in Indy and has a heated thread on her blog about whether eggs should touch syrup. Let your opinion be known!
  • Kristen Leep, Jennifer Hughes, and Tedra (who doesn’t have a blog!), a triumvirate of lovely ladies who I had lunch with on the second day after meeting them at the party. Kristen (spelled with an e) has different pairs of stylin’ glasses and is a professional photographer.
  • Hope from Indy Theatre Habit who really wants you to see local theatre, so why don’t you do that already?
  • Bob from Around Indy, a daily podcast about what’s going on – take a guess – that’s right! – around Indy.

I also led a session on the morning of the second day called, “How to reach bloggers (Without pissing them off)” which was an excuse to show all the really bad press releases and pitches I’ve gotten from public relations companies over the years. I got some great tweets after the presentation. Nichole from The Lonely Lesbian said I was freakin’ awesome and that they should hire me again. Lesbians love me! I enjoyed talking about something not related to weight, and even a PR guy from Endelman, Phil Gomes and his wife Leticia (I hope I spelled that right) liked the presentation. I just hope no one thought I was complaining about being popular enough to attract all this mail. While most of the stuff I’m sent is poorly targeted and composed, like the Fantasy Football pitch I received yesterday, I am grateful that my blog is successful enough to warrant the attention.

It was also nice to be reminded that I know so much about blogging. The people at my full-time job are so amazingly good at what they do that I sometimes feel functionally retarded in comparison to their skills. But, I know so much more about blogging, social media, and design than most people, which reminded me that I am not as stupid as I feel sometimes.

One negative thing about the conference was that a couple presenters started shilling for the companies they work for. I don’t come to sessions for infomercials. If someone is interested enough in your product, they’ll track you down. Soft sells work better than hard sells. The other criticism I had is that there should have been a newbie track and an advanced track. Some people were beginners and would ask, “What’s WordPress?” while other people would ask, “What web 2.0 social media tools are best for improving my pageviews and SEO?” Of course, it will probably take a few years to work out all the kinks. You can never anticipate all potential problems in advance.

All the attendees had an interest in blogging, but that in itself is such a wide interest that it attracted an odd mix of people. As one attendee, Tom Britt said in a post:

…blogging is just a technology that is used and adapted by many people in many different ways. We might as well had a hammer convention and had Lowe’s, Home Depot, and Sears sponsor it.

“I use my hammer to knock down walls.”

“I paint winter scenes on hammer handles and sell them at craft fairs.”

“I’m going to the 2012 Olympics to participate in the hammer throw competition.”

“I use hammers to correct my kids.”

Everybody has a different reason for blogging, everyone has a different community to build, and everyone wants everyone else to read their blog.

True, that. However, I liked meeting people from so many different backgrounds who were using blogging in different ways. But I think there must be a way to better focus them so everyone gets more out of the conference.

Overall I thought the event was awesome. I didn’t know what to expect, but the whole thing ran amazingly smoothly, especially for a first-time conference. Thank you to, Noah Coffey and Shawn Plew for taking on all the stress of putting this thing together. I nearly had a breakdown planning a simple book release party. Planning a blog conference would make my brain splatter on my monitor.

Until next year!

Chocolate & Vicodin: My Quest for Relief from the Headache that Wouldn't Go Away
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22 Comments

Sara • August 23, 2008 at 12:30 pm

I want to be you when I grow up/

Sounds like it was an interesting new experience, and you made great strides in the execution of goal #2!

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Josh Gillespie • August 23, 2008 at 1:13 pm

Believe it or not, there are actually nice conservative. There are at least two or three of us out there. :) Thanks for the plug on your site.

As a shameless plug, I’ve actually teamed up with a liberal blogger, Jen Wagner to write a blog called Stop Governing Like This! Check it out: http://www.stopgoverninglikethis.com.

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MizFit • August 23, 2008 at 1:18 pm

Im with sara

and thank you for the brainsplattering reminder as Im oft temped to git one together where I live.

I love all the writing conferences I do—-so I need to go to a Blogher conference and STAT I think.

dc?

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Johanna • August 23, 2008 at 1:24 pm

Sounds like you had a great time at the conference! And I agree with Sara above about taking on goal #2. It sounds like you met a lot of great people, and some great guys, with the exception of the republican part. :)

I like your one comment about bringing candy as a conversation starter. It’s amazing how people are joined over the love of sweet treats.

Hope you’re enjoying your weekend!

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Gwendolyn • August 23, 2008 at 1:32 pm

Candy works great at luring people over to chat!!! I found this out a couple years ago when I filled a huge jar from Target with lots of popular chocolates and sat it on the edge of my desk. People that had barely said hello to me in the 8 years I worked there were suddenly stopping by my desk to grab some candy and they were super chatty and friendly as well.

Note: For anyone that has a weakness for yummy wrapped chocolates – do not try this! :)

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Shelly • August 23, 2008 at 1:42 pm

Hello from a fellow hoosier blogger…as a food blogger I love Renee over at feed me drink me, but I too had no clue how many of us there were until awhile back InTake did a write up…of coures if I were not featured in the write up I would not have know…so bad I know, but there are some awsome blogs here in NAPTOWN…I had been reading your blog for some time and then was so excited to learn you were in Indy! I don’t know why it took me so long to figure it out….you do mention it from time to time. :)

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Alexia • August 23, 2008 at 2:36 pm

Wow, why did they want to burn down your workplace??? (I’ve only recently discovered you, so maybe I missed some posts!)

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K • August 23, 2008 at 4:01 pm

Well, even I know of at least one other blogger from Indiana.

Sounds like fun – though I share your distaste for the term “networking”. The Twitter board sounds clever. I must work out whether I have time to Twitter; it seems all the cool people (and some ordinary idiots like me, too) are doing it already.

There have been blogmeets in Edinburgh where I live, but they’re nothing like as formalised and businesslike. I’ve always been too shy to go – strangely I find it much easier to go to a conference than to meet a few people in a coffee shop…

Well done on the meeting people front – and the session-leading. Doesn’t sound very underachievery to me.

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Mal • August 23, 2008 at 5:12 pm

Personally, I’m just jealous that they seem to have spelled your name right!

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Amy • August 23, 2008 at 9:27 pm

Hey, I was at BlogIndiana too. And I was in Renee’s presentation. So now I’m racking my brain to figure out which person was you :). Thanks for helping me make the connection of who Moosh in Indy is (recalling her from Renee’s session). Ditto about the folks hawking their own businesses. I couldn’t attend on Sunday. But as a new blogger, thought Saturday was definitely useful.

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Kari • August 23, 2008 at 10:26 pm

Thanks so much for the shoutout/linkage (and the prayers…haha). That’s nuts that people were talking about burning down your workplace…now I’m wondering why people would have such strong feelings about it. Sheesh. Yes, definitely take note of the fire exits…

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Nichole • August 23, 2008 at 10:56 pm

Of course lesbians love you! :)

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Dinah Soar • August 24, 2008 at 10:41 am

I’m one of those ultra conservative Republicans–and I read your blog regularly. I won’t hold it against you that you’re Democrat(?) i.e. not Republican. I’m open to how others think and I’m always seeking truth and wisdom in every area of life. Shouldn’t we all do that?

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moosh in indy. • August 24, 2008 at 7:09 pm

Wanna hear my confession? I loved LOVED that you have a book out about

losing more than half of yourself and yet you ate. Food. Like real

food.

Silly huh?

Adored you.

Let’s hang out.

Make a little niche of our own.

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Erin • August 25, 2008 at 8:45 am

SMALL WORLD. Kristen Leep is a very good friend (was maid of honor in her wedding) with one of my very good friends Jen Hughes (totally not a blogger and not the Jen Hughes you mentioned up there, but MY Jen, also knows that Jen…).

Who would have thought that little old me in NYC/NJ would be connected to you via two different circles. :-)

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Hope Baugh • August 25, 2008 at 9:38 am

Hi, PastaQueen – thanks for the shout about my blog! I enjoyed meeting you, too.

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Amy • August 25, 2008 at 12:47 pm

I like poking around at the local blogs… didn’t see myself at this particular event but maybe someday! Glad you were able to go and give us a report. :)

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Lisa • August 26, 2008 at 7:19 am

I’m admirer, regular reader, half-assed book buyer, and a PROUD Republican. We avoid stereotypes about being overweight, how about avoiding stereotypes about Republicans?

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PastaQueen • August 26, 2008 at 8:37 am

I’m getting the impression my hyperbole on this subject was not fully appreciated.

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Lydia • August 26, 2008 at 4:06 pm

I’m an independent (or would be if Indiana required people to register with a party), but I know lots of nice Republicans! And I know a lot of nice Democrats, which is most of my family! Stereotypes be damned.

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Lisa • August 26, 2008 at 4:18 pm

@PastaQueen, You’re right, I should have been more light-hearted about the whole thing. I thought about making a joke about polishing my horns ;) Anyway, you’re always appreciated! Forgive me for jumping to post…

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Ray Pawulich • August 29, 2008 at 8:46 pm

Thanks for the shout-out and link-love, PQ. To be mentioned in the same sentence as the Death Star is an honor. I promise when Wakeup Naptown starts giving away movie passes, you will always be notified.

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Comments are now closed on all PastaQueen entries. The blog is an archive only so I don't have to deal with spammers. For fresh discussions please visit my new blog JenFul.

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Jennette Fulda tells stories to the Internet about her life as a smartass, writer, weight-loss inspiration, chronic headache sufferer, and overall nice person (who is silently judging you). She does this at JenFul now, but you can still have fun perusing her past here.

Disclaimer: I am not responsible for keyboards ruined by coffee spit-takes or forehead wrinkles caused by deep thought.

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