Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Sightings on a Typical Day

It's not easy trying to work from home. I sometimes fantasize about having a cubicle somewhere, removed from all the chaos of three sticky little kids. But here are a few of the things I saw today that I wouldn't have seen from that magical, misty cubicle:

1) Pebbles trying to comfort a screaming Toth while he had his blood drawn for his 1-year checkup. Imagine a 3-year-old gamely trying to stroke the head of and speak calmly to a baby who's tossing his head and doing his best to scream it right off his neck.

2) Pebbles meeting her nursery school teacher during the traditional home visit, making conversation like a champ, and later saying wistfully, "I wish Daddy could meet Donna." (He will, of course, on the first day of school next week.)

3) Nutmeg, having been sent down the outdoor basement stairs to come in through the cellar door since she got so dirty at the playground, discovering a web with a spider and egg sack stretched across that doorway. Instead of being scared, she was intrigued, and together we leaned in until we saw, to our amazement, a hundred or more teensy baby spiders moving around on that web.

4) Toth wanting to ride Pebbles' scooter like he always does, then having it tip over and clunking his head on the sidewalk, ok that's not the part I was glad I didn't miss. But after I hugged him for a moment and dried his tears, I set him on his feet to make sure he was still functioning properly. He immediately stopped crying, walked over to the capsized scooter, set it upright, and got back on it, grinning.

And that was all on a day when I was basically ignoring them all in an effort to get a little work done. Nonstop action, and we don't have to give equal time to the stamp-pad ink and baking soda combo all over the dining room table, or the strawberry toothpaste spread over the inside of our gleaming white tub. We can go ahead and let those parts recede into the mists of time, while holding onto Nos. 1-4 for, I dunno, forever?

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Hugs and Kisses

Have you met my 13-month-old? It must come as somewhat of a shock to hear that I have one, when you never heard a peep about his first birthday. OK, it happened, it was great, loved ones celebrated. Done.

And now, he's giving hugs and kisses. To me, to Epu, to his sisters, and even to dollies.

Today I was here, typing away, when I saw out of the corner of my eye that Toth was climbing up on something. When I got around to making sure he was safe (mother of the year), he was sitting on the doll bunk bed, feet dangling, passing out the Toth Love.

The best thing about when Toth hugs you is the noise he makes. It's his version of the little "awww," I say when I hug him, except with his breathy little gusto miniman voice, it sounds kind of like the Bud Light "wasssup?"

But in a cute way.

Here is where I admit that my journalistic restraint is lax when writing about my own family. He didn't start kissing the dollies until I modeled it for him. But then, he kissed them a lot.

And wait, what's he doing now? Call the authorities! Or at least Mothering Magazine!

(OK, I think this pose is a coincidence and not an attempt to breastfeed the dollie. But I dunno, that satisfied look on his face? Looks like pure oxytocin to me.)

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Pony Love

I was one of those horsey girls. Those girls who drew horse heads in the margins of every spiral notebook, who wrote dramatic stories about horses who died in the 6th grade, and who read all the Gypsy books and every other book for horsey girls I could get my hands on.
Do I fantasize about going out horseback riding with my girls? Obviously.
So today was a treat. We attended the birthday party of one of Nutmeg's classmates, and the family was nice enough to invite Pebbles along too for the big surprise:

PONIES! !!!!

I was surprised by Pebbles' lack of fear and utter delight at riding that tiny little pony alongside our neighbor's house and back.

Nutmeg was hoping that once she got out to the street, there would be some members of the public standing around to gawk at the strange sight of a mounted rider in Oak Park. She was disappointed in that, but as you can see her spirits were still riding high.

Safe to say that my daughters are now horsey girls themselves. Now, who's going to buy us some ponies of our own and a place to pasture them?

Thanks so much to our friends for inviting us, and happy 6th to the birthday girl!

Thursday, August 12, 2010

5 Reasons This Was My Best Blogher Ever

Did you know I have become a BlogHer old timer? This didn't really hit me until people at the conference this weekend would ask me if this was my first BlogHer, and I'd answer, "Oh, let's see ... it's my fourth, and I reported on the first one, and I think that's all of them!"

(No one corrected me, but now that I look, the first one that I wrote about in the Chronicle was in 2005, and I first attended as a blogger in 2007, so I guess I missed 2006.)

Although I enjoyed and got something out of BlogHer every year, Blogher '10 was hands-down the best conference I ever experienced. For one thing, I believe BlogHer put on its best conference ever, fixing some problems from past years and innovating some great new things.

But there were also personal reasons that made my experience the best one. Such as:

1. I didn't bring any kids.

Sorry kids, but when the daycare ends at 6 p.m. just as the parties are starting, you are a total buzzkill. Also, not that I drank so much that I performed any regrettable karaoke numbers complete with striptease, but I was able to enjoy a few glasses of wine or commemorative BlogHer cocktails (sometimes while wearing a pretty paper hat and lying on a giant cheeseburger) without having to worry about testing my breastmilk.

2. I stayed on site at the Hilton Towers.

Again, this was about being carefree and enjoying evening events more. No need for a late-night commute, plus ability to drop into the room for a mid-morning nap or to dress up my outfit for evening. Last year, I'd come home from BlogHer at 11 p.m. or 1 a.m. and see that we could really use some clean towels, and end up staying up to do a load of laundry. Never again.

3. I had awesome roommates.

I so admire Caitlin of Pacifier in My Pocket for being organized and brave enough to book our room when the discounted rates were still available, even though she didn't know who she'd be sharing it with! (She was also organized, connected and energetic enough to be invited to and attend a staggering amount of parties and events. The girl has stamina!)

When roomie Sara and I checked in and saw that we'd be sharing itsy bitsy full-sized beds, we agreed to be bedmates and I didn't regret it. Not only does she not snore or hog the covers, Sara is a fun gal, a low-maintenance roommate and an excellent conversationalist who writes The Football Wife. She does hilarious impressions of her own 2-year-old daughter, and of the words my breastpump seems to be saying while its motor churns (We can't decide if it's "Wayne's World" or "Redrum.")

Had I done even the slightest research on my roommates before flying to New York, I would not have been surprised to see that roomie #3, Tara, is tall, gorgeous and fit. After all, her blog is called Tall Tara and she writes about fitness a lot.

The thing I learned about Tall Tara is that I'm kind of in love with her. There, I said it. She's just so warm, cool and game and hey, she's friends with Meagan Francis and Meagan is only friends with the best.

All of my roommates were good sports, none were complainers, and though we all had a good time no one needed me to hold her hair while she puked. 'Nough said.

4. I met up with lots of people I already knew but don't see enough, people I wanted to know, and great people I didn't even know had existed.

During my first BlogHer, I hung out with two gals I already knew the entire time. That was great because those two women are two of the awesomest women you'll meet, but at the same time, the three of us sat together and meals and didn't really give ourselves much chance to meet other people.

During my second BlogHer, I went as a reporter and spent nearly the entire time chasing down people I didn't know for interviews, only getting the chance to connect with friends from Chicago Moms Blog and Wise Bread briefly. That was a great conference too, but mostly work and little play.

Last year I had homies to catch up with from (the recently defunct) Chicago Moms Blog, and that was nice. This year, my Chicago Moms Blog buddies have become my girlz, and I was also able to meet up with people whose blogs I have long admired, like Becky of Suburban Matron (she took that photo up there), and even A-list blogebrities like Jenny, Alice, Eden and Maggie who were so kind and even remembered when we had met before or at least were classy enough to act like they did. (Kind of reminded me of that Saturday Night Live sketch with Paul Simon where he remembers every fan who ever sat in the 10th row of every concert, ever.)

Oh, and I could go on naming names and linking to blogs forever. Bottom line, I went up to lots of people and talked to them, and the result was rarely disappointing. I didn't act very shy. Am I outgrowing being shy, finally? Not really, but as I get older I get better at powering through it.

5. I struck the right balance between doing what I should be doing and goofing off.

This is how BlogHer is: During the two conference days, there are three sessions per day where you have a panel or something talking about some Important Blog Topic, lasting 90 minutes or a couple of hours. These are bookended by opening and closing keynotes, and interspersed with breaks and of course mealtimes.

I learned from my roommates that not everyone attends three sessions a day. I always have. I figure, I paid $300 to attend this conference, not to mention the expense of flying to NYC, rooming there (even at four women to a room, it wasn't cheap), and the extreme imposition I put on the kindness of my in-laws of leaving three children with them for two days before Epu could get there to help. So yeah, I went to six sessions.

However, I skipped both days' opening keynotes and one day's closing keynote. I caught part of the other closing keynote, the one where bloggers read stuff they've written and the audience passes the Kleenex to one another between sobs. And I didn't attend every minute of every session.

Extra-curricular activities I indulged in when I could have been doing "official conference business": got a pedicure, got a reflexology foot massage, chatted with The Bloggess in the Serenity Suite without realizing who she was, which is the perfect way to chat with someone famous, checked out the Expo and collected coupons for free products, and relaxed in my room (OK while pumping, but it was still relaxing and quiet in there).

I also got the chance to do some fun things outside the Hilton like see a Broadway show, eat at the Shake Shack, peoplewatch in Central Park, eat at Le Pain Quotidienne, eat in Hell's Kitchen (which is a much nicer neighborhood than it sounds like), shop at Duane Reade (NYC version of Walgreen's), shop at the MOMA store, see a parade, and observe New York women's fashion.

(Here is my observation: New York women put on a nice sundress or a romper (I'm coming around on those things) just to go out to brunch on a Sunday. I approve.)

I went to just a couple private, off site events, but I enjoyed those I attended very much. For those not in the BlogHer loop, in recent years the most desirable events have been private parties and meals hosted by companies, to which bloggers get invited somehow or other. For me, there has usually been some kind of dinner or get-together for blogs I'm working with, like Wise Bread, UpTake or the Chicago Moms Blog, so I haven't had time to worry that I didn't get invited to such things. This year I actually had no colleagues to meet up with, but I did attend a nice brunch hosted by RedPlum and Inexpensively called Bacon, Eggs and Coupons, where (even though I overslept and showed up an hour late) I got to chat with other money-saving bloggers.

So. Those are the 5 reasons this year rocked. The only negative things I can say about my weekend away are that I didn't get to meet up with either of my friends in New York, since one was in San Francisco for the weekend and one was at a baby shower in Brooklyn.

Oh, and as always, I left the sessions feeling like I could have learned more. Most of the things I learn about freelance writing and blogging at BlogHer, I learn during conversations in between things. Maybe I should have spent time in the Geek Lab.

Then again, maybe I did everything exactly right. Still, I think I'd better go to BlogHer '11 in San Diego just to make sure it's not possible to enjoy BlogHer even more.

Pebbles is on the Chart

People, I have several posts in progress going here -- a recap of my four-day NYC BlogHer whirlwind and a month-late post about Toth turning one.
But today I just had to pop on here to announce that Pebbles has found her way onto the growth chart for both height and weight.
Instead of being "below the curve," or, I suppose, by definition, first percentile, Pebbles is now in the 25th percentile for both weight and height.
She had a checkup today to get her ready for preschool. I must say I was pleased. She still looks like a wisp of a thing and she still hates eating (I know, most of us would volunteer to do her eating for her, right? And I pretty much live off stuff she's left on her plate as it is.). But the doctor reassured me that there appears to be nothing wrong with her since she has gained four pounds already this year -- from 24 pounds this spring to 28 pounds now.
This gives me hope for Toth, who had his one-year checkup a couple weeks ago and is still in the bottom part of that 1st percentile. At first our doctor thought he was weighing in at a solid 10th percentile -- until she realized that she'd been using a girl's chart for him all along.
But he, too, is growing with no leveled-out periods, so we're not worried about him either.
Maybe we can make some extra money for college by having them star in their own flea circus.
Oh, and ps! I am giving away a $100 gift card to the Chicago-area restaurant of your choice over on Frugalista today. W00t!

Saturday, August 07, 2010

Liveblogging BlogHer '10: The Evolving Publishing EcoSystem

I dropped into the publishing writing lab session just in time for the Q&A

The panel: Kamy Wicoff, Florinda, Penny Sansevieri, Carleen Brice.

Unless it's in quotations, everything here may be paraphrased.

What is SheWrites?
It's based on sharing info. You have to be careful because there are lots of people who prey on writers. so they wanted to create a community where the people they work with are vetted and are not predators. Like the publishing publicity world in general, it's moving more towards niche groups to get the book in front of the people who are interested in readin git.

Panelist: Publishers do no consumer research before they publish. They publish for the bookstore shelves. If you are looking to market for yourself, more is not (always) better. Do it in the right places, hire people that you trust.

(Audience member in the back is saying, "No, no, no!")

Question from Jill @ Babyrabies.com: The blog to book concept. "I have diahhrea of the fingers on my blog, so I've told everything. But I think there's a story in there that I can piece together. When I talk to a publisher, are they going to say, 'But you already blogged about that.' "

Gretchen Rubin of The Happiness Project that became a bestselling book answers it on request. "It was a book in my mind, then a blog, then it sold as a book... u need to show them that it's going to be a book .. u need to make the case when you're writing the proposal it needs to feel like it's taking a diff shape. ... i had to make a case to my blog readership that even tho they've been reading my blog they" still could read my book "i had to make the case that this is really diff in book form..."

Panelist recommends "How to Write a Book Proposal" by Michael Larson.

Shirelle @ funkydivagirl.com. "what do you think of sites like blurb? that help you self publish and then you sell on the site?"

panelist: what do you want to know?

Shirelle: do you see that as different than ebooks, a legit way to publish or no?

panelist: do you have illustrations?

Shirelle: i have photographs. i made a book on Blurb for my own purposes and to give it to my chidren. and now i'm questioning if the publication doesn't work out, should i go that route with the hopes that eventually it will get picked up by a publisher to have illustrations and not photographs...

panelist: I've looked at books from CreateSpace (an Amazon co.)... the top 5 books selling on the iPad are chidlren's books.

Ellen: Confessionsminutegirl.com "i work in publishing ... we're not all evil, we're not all stupid ... self publishing ... is not for everyone" "i have a 6-figure market research budget... i do a lot of consumer market research" (this is the woman who was saying "no" in the back "you are presenting only one part of the picture. there is a part of the picture" of commercial publishing house editors "who enjoys working with authors" spend 50% of their time talking with authors and believe in the blogosphere. (she's with Wiley and they publish an online marketing guide for authors as well.)

panelist: for years that was a perception that everything that comes out of self-publishing is junk, and that's not true. ... you're right, wiley's one of the cos that does spend a lot of money on consumer research... my books on internet writing, they come out and 6 mos later they need to be updated. that would be really hard for me to do through a regular publisher

Jennifer Posner, blogs at Women's Voices. First book coming out: "Reality Bites Back" my question is about "the Amazon factor" I keep hearing that pre-orders on Amazon, ranking are incredibly important. but i never wanted to support Amazon, linked to Women and Children First and Powells.com.

panelist: my publisher said the authors have to list to many sites that sell the book in order to help the relations with the bookstores. "i support my indie bookstores and make sure on my blog an web site when someone's doing a signing to promote that. it's not fair to the book to only link to indie bookstores."

411247 text ameauthors and your email address and it will send you a publishing guide to your email address.

BlogHer.com opportunity: Email rita@blogher.com. You should send her your four or five best posts fromt he last 12 weeks with URLs, link to her blog and a little about yourself, and they may pay you to publish it.

Liveblogging BlogHer '10: How to Control Your Digital Footprint

This session is in the Geek Lab, presented by Rosemary Jean-Louis and Kristen Kuhns

Unless it's in quotes, the following is mostly paraphrased:

Why is it important to you to preserve a digital legacy?

Kristen: "Because there's info about you, and you're not always going to be able to control it, don't you think" that it's important that your grandkids will be able to read something you left behind online?

Rosemary: you should take an inventory of your digital life. Centralize your digital legacy. Consolidate your log-ins with OpenID or Facebook connect. "that's something to consider to make your life easy so you don't have all these usernames and passwords floating around.

AUDIENCE QUESTION: Is it less secure because of that?

Rosemary: It's actually suppposed to make it more secure.

Kristen: OpenID is an open coalition, as opposed to Facebook which is just one company

AUDIENCE Q: But aren't we supposed to change our passwords from site to site and from time to time?

Kristen "when you log in thru openid all the back-end ... is encrypted" so it's safe.

Kristen: "if you found out that your great great grandmother had kept a diary ... even if it was kind of mundane, ... what if someone had just thrown that out or if it got destroyed in a housefire? how mad would you be? then how mad would you be if u found out that your great great grandmother had a facebook profile, but facebook doesn't exist anymore"

think about what will happen to your blog in the future, even the companies say now that they will keep them forever

If you send Google a death certificate they'll send you a CD copy of the person's emails!

Other steps for your legacy:

-- consider adding username and password info to your will
rosemary "i know it's kind of strange but ... if you're a blogger and a blog is your business ... your loved ones would need access to it in order to close out your business.

AUDIENCE MEMBER: in my family we have sent a sealed envelop to everyone with all usernames and passwords.

R: That's a good tip.

R: there is a co. that creates digital wills for you. this main co. that i found is called Entrustet.com. you fill out different forms that allow you to list where you've been online, what usernames and passwords you have and who you want to entrust with this information. when you pass on, this info is sent out to the people you're entrusting it with. and it deletes email accounts that you put in the system that you want deleted once you pass on.

R: Online vault sites such as DataInherit.com, or just backup sites like OnlineStorage.com, can help you back up your info in a way that can be saved for your legacy.

K: remember that not all file formats will be available forever either. some of your digital videos may need to be converted to newer technology before it's too late.

K: "These things will be priceless to you and your family later."

Liveblogging Blogher '10: Morning Stats Session

The panel:
Adria Richards. Hard-core geeky girl.
Stephanie Stiavetti, works with beginners
Keidra Chaney former reporter turned geek, now expert in Google Analyics


Adria: We created a character called Susan, a blogger about cupcakes and former city desk reporter.

Stephanie: Susan recently was asked what her influence was, and she didn't know how to measure it.

Moderator: What's the value of high traffic and if yo udon't have the traffic you want how can you give yourself a bump?

Keidra: For a really long time after the focus was on "hits," then for a while it was "page views." Now we're starting to look at having unique visitors be the real goal for your blog. Unique visitors means individual visitors means ... how many human beings are reading your site... and then looking at the activity of the individual on your site. "Rather than looking at big raw numbgers of page views, starting to drill down to how long people are looking at your site and how engaged they are."

Stephanie: I't sreally important to look at how people are getitng to your blog. Are they coming from Google and what are they searching for? Are they coming from a link? "is your bounce rate 90%?" which means that 90% of people who come to your site leave immediately?

"You go to star wars sites, and every user loads 30-100 pages. it's really imperssive."

Keira: there are actions you're trying to funnel people into. "seeing how many people are going thru that funnel could detemrine content..." design.

mod: influence. reach vs. influence. "reach is that nice 600k unique visitors. the influence" is more of a call to action. "they're there, but ... can you motivate people to take another step. whether that step is taking a purchaes, or " friending you on facebook.l

keira: "influence to me means if u ask people to take action, they do" if Susan recommends a new bakery and there's an influx, if they say "Sunday, Monday, it was ridiculous. after you did that blog post? we" are sold out.

Connect Google Analytics with Twitter. Tool called URL Builder where you tag your links from your blog, put them on Twitter and then see how many people are coming into your posts from Twitter versus other places.

Adria: looking at your referral sources and seeing if those convert to sales for you is huge. maybe you're getting a lot of traffic from facebook but they're not converting? that's why it's good to generate reports instead of looking at a big cloud of numbers on Google Analytics.

Moderator: remember

Steph: use Google Analytics' filtered keywords tool. you can see if your seo tactics are working or if older posts drawing in more google traffic?

Keira: Look at your referring sites and the corresponding metrics to those referring sites. Like if you have a site that's brining in a lot of traffic but it's a 90% bounce rate, figure out why. "What's the story behind that and why aren't those visitors sticking around?"
Look at keywords in the same way. "What keywords are bringing in traffic but those folks are staying around, downloading things? those wil be your most valuable users."

Steph: bounce rate. "people who get to your site, look at the one page and leave.... most of the reoprts you run in google analytics, every one of them will have a bounce rate so you can drill that down. ... you can see the people who come from your personal facebook page and where they're going."

Adria: reach out to writers with high page rankings

What is google page rank?

Adria: It ranks the influence of a web site... most blogs are between 0 adn 3. if you're a a 5 your site's doing fairly well. the top 100 blogs are all ranking 7, 8, 9, 10.

q: how do you find out what yours is?

adria: install the google toolbar (in firefox or maybe ie). or try compete.com or alexa

steph: links from highly ranked google sites are more valuable than smaller sites, but an accumulation from smaller sites will also help. "sites that get a ton of traffic, those links are going to be invaluable."


Steph: improve your inbound link rate by being active in the community. you'll be listed on blogrolls if you chat with people on twitter.

Adria: "People link to unique, high quality content." if you're telling a story, sharing an individual experience, or giving instructions. people are on google to SOLVE A PROBLEM

Keira: "Write clear headers. Write a header that clearly explains what your blog post is going to be about. put your KEYWORDS on your header."

if you have the platform or plug-in that allows you to have 2 titles, you put the keyword-laden title in the actual header and your clever title in the one that shows at the top


Q: Melody Sheridan. There's no way on BlogSpot to write the two different kinds of titles?

Adria: Switch to Wordpress.

Keira: "Just move to Wordpress. It'll be worth it in the end."

Liz from Hello Ladies: what do you trust for traffic?

moderator: something strange happens sometimes where u ask a blogger for their traffic, and they won't give it to me, then i go to compete.com and look it up. not necessarily as accurate as what the blogger has access to, but an estimate.


Keira: bounce rate isn't always bad. it depends on the goal. "say you have a lot of ads on a aprticular page. the reason why it has a high bounce rate is becaues people are clicking on the ads." that would be good.

Steph: i've worked for sites that require at least 3 internal links per post. as in, link to another post on your site on a similar content.
using google analytics "goals" tool is good, because you see where people drop off in the process you're trying to get them to do. for instance if you are trying to get them to download an ebook, you can see how many steps they got through before they quit.

steph: "the internet is all about karma. if you don't link out to anybody, nobody's going to link to you." "you don't want to give sites like amazon.com a ton of links because that will decrease the value of your site in the eyes of google." instead, link to other bloggers.

"one of google's goals is to figure out what you're about and categorize you properly... one of google's primary objectives is to filter out the crap on the internet...

Adria: "when people solicit you" to link to them "check their traffic, check their google page rank, and see if it's beneficial. do they have an audience? instead of just a link exchange, figure out if something you can collaborate on? what are you trying to get your readers to do?"

Keira: make sure it's not a covert spam site.

Adria: put a call to action on the site. put a button asking people to share the post on Twitter

Steph: contests work well. subscribe to my RSS feed to enter.


Keira: "comments are a great way to measure engagement. i don't think it's the only wya, but it's something that should be considered... to measure your own influence. to not have comments is a mistake, if you really want to be an influential blogger." then again don't obsess over it. sometimes there's just not that much to comment about if you wrote an "information rich" post.

"No one metric stands alone."

Adria: There are guy bloggers out there pulling in good money. Remember the lifetime earnings discrepancy between men and women, which increases with every year of education. They are getting big consulting gigs and other career success and women can do that too. (So don't be afraid to promote yourself.)


Steph: I'm in the truncation camp because i've had my feeds stolen. and google might think the stealer is the original author and boot your original site off the registry. "So I personally truncate my feed and recommend that all my clients truncate their feeds. At the bottom of every truncated posts is a link to you. so if someone steals your feed, they're actually doing you a favor."

if they can read the whole post on the feed, they have no reason to visit your site and they're much less likely to comment.

Keira: understand that people may not click over to finish the post. think about writing specifically for it if you truncate.

Steph: I believe in just giving them the whole feed because if you have accumulated all these subscribers, at least you have influence ovewr them and "a line into their daily focus." "And when you do that call to action, if they do it, great. I think it's about building the relationship and the trust. It's not as trust-building if you give them only part of it. It's like a tease."


Adria: If you do internal linking, you'll get a ping when people steal your content. and that's free.

QUESTION: OUR PAGE RANK WENT FROM 8 TO 4 BECAUSE WE LINKED TO A BAD SITE. someone with a 0 page rank asked us and we linked to them, and we can't get back up to 8.

Steph: "If Google suspects that you are selling links ... Google will penalize everybody that links to them, because it looks like you're unfairly trading links. they want it to be organic. ... if they even remotely think you are" maniuplating that pracice they will ding you

moderator: "It's time that we start practicing safe linking."

Conversation shifts to how bloggers get noticed by PR firms for opportunities.

3M rep stands up and says that they look at a blogger's connectivity.

Moderator: Bloggers are less attractive if they do every giveaway that comes along. You need to protect your own brand too.

Suggestion from the audience: use free tool Postrank.com


Keidra: Use Clicky and Getclicky.com. "it's really good if u do a big social media push because u get metrics immediately. Also Mopera. Google Analytics is really great but those are other great alternatives. also Facebook Insights. "If you have a Facebook page for your blog or community," you need to be looking at this "Facebook Insights is an unbeleivably valuabel tool for connecting what you're doing on Facebook to what you're doing on your blog and it's really improved in the last 6 months."
And HootSuite.

Adria: FlowTown. "it reverse engineers info that people leave on facebook, linkedin... then you can start really targeting people. say you are a speaker and you're going to be in california. you can target the people on your list who are in california" to let them know about your appearance.

Clicky lets you ping someone when they're on your site. the mobile analytics on Clicky are really excellent. you can get feedback in just a few hours instead of 24 hours like Google Analytics.

Gretchen Rubin from The Happiness Project. What should you be aiming for with these analytics?

Steph: It depends on your goals. "There's no real number."

Gretchen: "But is 2 minutes a lot of time or a little time?"

Steph: "if your bounce rate is 50% that's good." if people are spending 4 min on your site and viewing several pages, you're doing good.

Moderator: Have a 5-year goal for your blog

Keira: Your goals can change. First you might have had the goal of having people download your ebook. Later it might be more about community engagement. Have everything you do flow from that goal.

Steph: If you're treating your blog like a business, it makes sense to write up a business plan. If you don't know what you want, you're never going to figure it out.

Keira: Or just write a mission statement. One paragraph.

Moderator: I really like that idea. A good goal for all of us: write a mission statement.

Friday, August 06, 2010

Blogher '10: TMI Session

The session I'm liveblogging now is called Authenticity or Just TMI? When Does Blogging the Personal on Your Professional Blog Hurt Your Brand?

The panelists are:
Shireen Mitchell (moderator) @digitalsista
Stephanie Bergman @stephaniebambam
Sarah Granger @sarahgranger
Jessica Lee @jessica_lee HR manager


Shirleen: My personal and professional brands are actually the same.

(From me: I'm interested in this session because it's something I've struggled with myself. Can you have a "public" brand and a "private citizen" online identity? Would you want to?)

Is there such a thing as TMI?

Jessica: It depends. As an employer, I have to make sure you're not putting something out there that hurts the company -- but it depends what job you have.

Stephanie: Yes there is such a thing as giving TMI. I hosted a show for women playing video games. Another Web site ran a contest where contestants posed naked using only a Quake video game box to cover parts. She entered and came in second. IT CAME UP AT A JOB INTERVIEW. "YOU CAN'T EVER GET THIS STUFF TO GO AWAY. I'M LUCKY ENOUGH THAT ... THE PLACES I'VE WORKED HAVE NOT REALLY CARED ABOUT IT."

SARAH: There are still ways to be authentic without sharing every detail. "some people can get away with talking abou ttheir vagina on twtiter and that's fine and that's part of their brand, but i wouldn't advise it with most job seekers."

Shireen: I know of pepole who did not get jobs in the Obama administration because they did Facebook searches and they had things on their Facebook pages. (It's asked about as part of the White House job application.)

Jessica: "Having a sense of what's important to you from a culture perspective is something you should really take the time to do." If you're someone who wants to put themselves out there with pictures online, find an organization that's accepting of that. If you interview with a company that never wants to see a pic of you holding a red cup on Facebook, do you really want to work for someone that conservative?

What are red flags?

Jessica: Since I hire communications people, if I see you can't put a sentence together that would be a red flag!

Questions: Annie from PhD in parenting. Have you considered maintaining separate online identities? I have a separate id on Twitter, etc. It's not nec that i'm embarrassed by what I'm doing, it's more strategy. If an employer is searching my name I don't want them to find page after page of activism, I want to them to find my accomplishments.

(At this point I, Carrie, Googled my full name and was glad to see that while this blog is no longer anonymous, it does not come up in the first two pages of Google results. I, too, would rather employers see my online accomplishments first.)

Stephanie: companies are learning not to let a single person become their entire online personality. At Yolo "we have tried to somewhat de-emphasize the individual personalities" when Tom leaves MySpace, it's in the New York Times.

Q from Lucretia: What about friends who don't respect what I'm NOT putting online. How do you address people who talk about you and disclose.

Question: What should HR people avoid looking up? And what should we tell young people coming into career world to do?

Jessica: Legal might tell them not to Google anything but in reality the hirers will do it. ... Tell people you're a brand and you need to take care of that brand.

Stephanie: "The first thing I do when I get a resume is look on Google and on LinkedIn. On LinkedIn I'm looking to see that your resume matches your LinkedIn page. On Google I look for examples of your work" ... I throw out a lot more resumes than I used to. (Because she can see that their work that's up there is crap.)

Sarah: I tell young people that everything you put out there can usually still be found, unless you get it down within a minute or two. On Facebook, even if it's really just your friends, if it's something you woudln't want to see in the NYT, don't put it up there.

Stephanie: I do a lot of job fair stuff (like The Ladders) "Make a conscious decision what you want your top Google search to be." "Make up your midn that you know what you want people to find when they look for you on Google. Don't just leave that to chance. Every month or so, check." Last month Spokeo was the top search result "My top search result was someone else's Web site and not mine. I had to do some" playing with meta tags.

Sarah: You have to pick your battles. Personal stories matter and carry personal weight, so sometimes it's time to lay your cards on the table.

Stephanie: I am pretty much the opposite of Sarah, where there is very little personal about me online. At Yahoo I ran Yahoo Chat an we were always fighting with hackers. They thought it would be awesome to pull up persona
l stuff on Stephanie and humiliate her.

Jennifer: I blog about HR and recruiting issues ... it's actually turned into a really great platform ... candidates google her and "they come into the convo for an intervew with more of a perspective on how does Jessica think as a recruiter.

Shireen: Me putting myself out there has changed things for me. I get a lot of requests to come out and speak. "They'll tell me we don't know how to find anybody, but they can find me."
"Because I've constantly put that out there, someone always comes up to me" and akss for assistance "i get a lot of that from all my TMI stuff."

Q: I have been the face of several brands online. i was the voice of wonka, i'm the face of KitchenAid. Do you think it tarnsihes my presonal authenticity ... the voice of wonka is the voice of kitchenaid

My question: Is it a good idea or too risky to go into a job interview knowing stuff about them from Twitter, and bring it up in conversation?

Jennifer: I think it's really smart because it shows that you've done your homework. I think you should continue diong that.

Stephanie: I don't mind when someone's looking me up and knows where I worked before. But when they talk about things on Twitter like, so, you had chicken for lunch today? It's too personal. I try very carefully to stay away from personal in job interviews. Some people will say how are your cats?

Sarah: with a job interview you want to keep everything on a certain level of discourse, no matter what the platform.

Jennifer: If you're going to go on a date with someone and you've stalked them on Facebook, and seen your photos, when you go to the date, you suppress some of that. You don't want them to know.

Shireen: Everything you see me say is what I would say to you if you meet me. Some people are looking to use the Internet as a way to be antoher personality. It's what works for you. ... "When I look at this, I don't see TMI, I see me."

Liz Rizzo, EverydayGoddess.net. "I don';t think it's inauthentic to write about puppies on the day you know everyone's going to be looking at your blog ... as long as you like puppies ... to choose" the timing "is just smart." "in my last job hunt I was perhaps not writing my raciest material on the most recent pages of my blog. that's not inauthentic that's just being smart."

Q: Maybe the issue is Facebook and not blogging. You can play around with Google and search engine results. You can hire someone to make (the bad thing) go down. "It seems like Facebook is the common thread that seems to be the rpoblem. we should be approaching fb profiles more as pages and less as profiles."

Shireen: "The platform itself has nothing to do with it." Should u have a profile on every social network and connect them all? ... "It is your brand and you have to control your brand."

Stephanie: I have different levels for who is a friend where because of the information we share. Twitter, anyone ... Facebook, I've met you in real life ... If I'm with you on Foursquare, I'll have you at my house."

Shireen: I only use Foursquare for events like this -- I do not use FourSquare for anything personal.

Stephanie: I love FourSquare for traveling. I will check in everywhere i go because then I have a record of everywhere I went on vacation.

Q: LegallyHeidi.com: at her college they told her not to put anything online that you woudln't want an employer to see. Do you think a lot of younger workers are learning this the hard way?

Jennnifer: They're starting to be more savvy. It depends on the area you're going to be in. If you're going into communications and you don't have the judgement to avoid these situations, it's a problem... I think they're becoming smarter but it all depends on the kind of job you're looking for, and your industry.

Shireen: I've seen people use social media to get jobs...

Wrapping it up:

Someone in the audience points out that laws about your religion, sexuality, etc. still protect you. then again, they might still discriminate against you. "employers have the responsiblity... i get (internatinal) resumes with height, weight, race, marital status, children ... you wouldn't beleive the things that people put on their resumes."

Stephanie: it is the kind of thing you should talk to your co. about. "Always ask first."

Sarah: if you work in government they won't let you write anything.

Julie from Mabel's Lables: we have a lot of young workers who tweet and blog but we insist they take our social media course. 'If they're going to bring us into it, they have to follow the rules."

BlogHer '10: FTC Guidelines Session

Here are my scant notes from the FTC Guidelines session at BlogHer '10 Friday morning.

When you get free stuff, your disclosure on your blog should be clear and unavoidable. That doesn't mean you have to disclose exactly the value of what you received, or how much money you were paid. It's enough just to say that the event you're describing is sponsored. Blanket disclosures are not enough; you should disclose in the individual post or even in an individual tweet.

You should also disclose when you use affiliate links. You can use hovertext like Mir Kamen does on Wantnot.net. You don't have to disclose that ads are affilliate links -- it's assumed.

For more info and ideas, go to blogwithintegrity.com and BlogHer's community guidelines.

I'm at BlogHer 10 and I Have Danish Flags on My Toes

I am typing this while waiting for the first session to begin at BlogHer 10. New York City, baby!

My journey started Wednesday when I drove the kids up to Milwaukee to stay with my wonderful and daring in-laws. I say daring because although Epu and I tried our best, we did not quite get Toth sleeping through the night before this big weekend. Yes, well. I guess it won't be the first sleepless night they've spent with a baby, since they had four themselves. Thanks, guys.

Thursday morning at dawn I hugged a sleepy Nutmeg goodbye and kissed the others while they slept, hugged my mother-in-law, and then my father-in-law drove me to Mitchell Field. Do you know how easy it is to fly somewhere without children? I booked a Super Shuttle with my new Droid smartphone while sitting on the runway, waltzed right out of LaGuardia onto the shuttle upon arrival, and after a sweaty hour of claustrophobia and carsickness, there I was in the heart of NYC.

Last night I got to see Bernadette Peters and Elaine Stricht in "A Little Night Music," comped, thanks to Meagan Francis' mad organizing skillz. It was fantastic! I met up with some more of the moms of the former Chicago Moms Blog, now of The Chicago Moms. Then after midnight (first night, so I turned in early) I crept into the room I'm sharing with three until-yesterday total strangers, Sara, Tara and Caitlin, and got a few hours of sleep.

Then this morning it was up and at 'em to get the Danish flag painted onto my toenails at the Ecco shoes suite!

Oh yes, lots of serious conference business being done here. Stay tuned. Or, if you want to follow my Blogher adventure in real time, follow me on Twitter as @carriekirby. I can't promise a zillion Tweets because I am still learning how to use my new Droid phone, but ya never know. I could become an expert by this afternoon.