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BlogWorld v. BlogHer: the Differences are Apparent

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Several months ago, I explored the differences between SXSW and BlogWorld. I did this because many conference attendees only have room in their budgets for one conference and want to know which conference best suits their needs. Also, I wanted to show that we’re different than the other conferences and that we may even be a better fit for most bloggers.  That post was well received, allowing attendees to make an informed decision. I thought I might do the same today after spending the last few days in New York City to attend my first ever BlogHer conference.

The BlogWorld team was there in force too; Rick Calvert, Patti “New Media Patti” Hoskings, Chris McCaffrey and I took to the floor and mixed and mingled. We made connections, observations, and yes, met lots of new friends. We helped to premiere new wines, sat in on sessions, enjoyed the most amazing Italian food and drank a lot of caffeine. Also? I learned more about the conference business and the politics, business and fun of it all by hanging out with this amazing team. So thanks, guys. Because of all of you all, I can do my job much better today. I hope to join you at more of these events in the future.

Here are some of my observations.

The “Her” Part

On my first day it was clear BlogHer is more about being a woman and a brand ambassador than it is about blogging and social media. In fact, if not for the sessions, I wouldn’t think this conference had anything to do with blogging at all.  Despite claims that BlogHer welcomes both men and women, there were very few men (who weren’t from brands or P.R. agencies) to be found. In fact, I only spoke to two men who were attending the event to learn and grow as bloggers. One of them told me he felt very out numbered and out of his element.The lobby had a sorority party feel and there were plenty of crying & cooing babies in sessions. Rick Calvert had a near miss with a vomiting child and instead of tech demonstrations some attendees were treated to pedicures and makeovers. BlogHer is not a celebration of social media, it’s a celebration of sisterhood. That isn’t a complaint, mind you, it’s only an observation.

Obvious Differences

If you’re looking to learn how to use social media to build your personal or business brand, or how to blog for a living, this isn’t really your conference. You may learn how to court a brand for sponsorship, but most attendees admit to not being there to attend the sessions. They’re there for the camaraderie, the parties, and yes, the swag.

Here are some of the things you’ll see at BlogHer:

  • The trade show floor at BlogHer has nothing to do with blogging or social media whatsoever. It doesn’t even pretend to be about the blogging. Brands such as McDonalds, Hillshire Farms, and Laughing Cow are there with plenty of free samples and gifts. (For more information read “BlogHer From the Eyes of a Reluctant Newbie: Part 1 – The Exhibits.” )
  • BlogHer has a shipping center so attendees can send home their huge and heavy swag bags. I read a tweet from one attendee who just made it on a plane with her “48 pound duffle bag of swag.”
  • Instead of tech demonstrations, BlogHer attendees are invited to suites to receive strappy sandals and massages. In fairness, Microsoft had a suite to show off the new Windows Phone, but they were lunching when we visited and didn’t get to learn much about their product. Firefox also had a suite to premiere their BlogHer toolbar. Aside from those two suites, I saw no tech, blogging or social media items.
  • Round tables for the keynotes meant attendees were more interested in having a conversation and because of this, many attendees even had their backs turned to the speakers. As is becoming the trend with most conferences, attendees appeared to be more interested in their gadgets than the talks.
  • At BlogWorld you can have your picture taken with Chad Vader, Kevin Pollak and Guy Kawasaki. At BlogHer expect to see Dora the Explorer, Mrs. Potato Head, Padma Laksmhi and Ronald McDonald.
  • Very few, if any, big name superstar bloggers or social media experts. If any of the major players were at BlogHer, I didn’t see them, nor were they speaking.

Light on the Blogging, Heavy on the Brands – Except for the Sessions

It’s not until you attend the educational sessions that you realize that  BlogHer has something to do with blogging and, admittedly, most attendees don’t attend the sessions at all. However, much of the content is educational in nature and beneficial to those looking to learn about blogging. I attended some very helpful sessions and some truly awful sessions, but I find that this is the case with most conferences (though hopefully this year there won’t be much sucky content at BlogWorld.)

While at BlogWorld we’re making a conscious effort to recruit female speakers, BlogHer only had one male speaker – the first ever. It will be interesting to see if more male speakers will be included in the future.

Sessions and panels include:

  • “This Year You’re In! Fashion Blogging is Serious Business”
  • “Pitch Me!” ( A very informative session about how to create an elevator pitch to receive products and brand sponsorships)
  • “Latinas in Social Media” ( A case study.)
  • “Radical Blogging Moms: Don’t Even Think About Not Taking These Moms Seriously”
  • “Transforming Online Places Into Art Spaces”
  • “Bringing Sex Out of the Closet”
  • “Blogging Autism: Shattering Myths, Opening Your Eyes and Finding Your Tribe.”
  • “Usability and Beginning Bloggers”
  • “Offline Networking for Bloggers”
  • “How to Use Your Blogging to Make You a Better Writer”

This Isn’t a Bad Thing

Overall, BlogHer is a unique experience. I hesitate to call it a blogging conference because, aside from the sessions, there really wasn’t much to indicate it had anything to do with blogging at all. For me, the most obvious reasons to attend BlogHer is to enjoy the company of other women and build up a relationships with brands. Make no mistake, there were many connections being made – both personal and professional. I’m not sure many of these connections involved ways to make money, however. Most transactions included the exchange of products for brand ambassadorship. I’m not saying this is a bad thing,  but I will say BlogHer isn’t necessarily the conference to attend to learn how to earn a decent living as a blogger, at least I didn’t see it that way.

I enjoyed my first BlogHer experience. If  I only had to choose one conference this year, I don’t know that BlogHer would be my choice only because I’m not looking to court brands for sponsorship or products. My reasons for attending conferences are generally to receive an education and to network with social media professionals and potential clients. I also want to learn more about blogging and monetizaton. I would attend BlogHer for the sisterhood and BlogWorld for the education and important connections.

BlogHer also allowed BlogWorld to fulfill another mission of ours – to bring women, especially as speakers, to BlogWorld. I’m happy to say we’re accomplishing that mission.

Update: August 10, 2010

I took a bit of heat for this post, and while that was to be expected, I really didn’t think I was being disrespectful. However, if you were offended by my BlogHer post, I apologize. The truth is, it wasn’t meat to slam BlogHer, it was meant to display the differences between our conference and another.  Differences that aren’t a bad thing, depending on your purpose. Value is a subjective thing. Sometimes value is in the education experience and sometimes value indicates bang for the buck. For me, BlogHer’s value came in the personal and I don’t want you to think I walked away with a negative impression. I had an amazing time at BlogHer. Sure, there are some things I found surprising, and some things I didn’t quite agree with – but that happens everywhere I go.

Let me share how BlogHer was a valuable experience for me:

  • I had a bit of lunch and attended a session with a book editor, leading to her people contacting me to write a book or two for them.
  • I met some wonderful women who will be speaking at BlogWorld in the fall.
  • I (and the BlogWorld team) were the guests of the Kendall Jackson wineries and attended a wine tasting and dinner, thanks to their gracious hospitality.
  • I met people I have always wanted to meet.
  • I enjoyed enlightening and pleasant conversation.
  • I learned about new products and services.

To add some balance to this post, I thought you might want to read another. BlogHer 10 Recap: 2400 Descend on Manhattan, which covers some of the things I missed.

I’d like to also thank all of you for your kind and thoughtful comments, tweets and emails.

Do you attend BlogHer? If so, tell us about your experience. If you don’t attend, tell us why not.

Deb Ng is Conference Director for BlogWorld and blogs about blogging and social media at Kommein. Feel free to follow her on Twitter @debng.


Feedback

51
  • Andrea aka Heathen Mom

    This year was the second time I attended BlogHer. Thank you so much for writing about the differences between the conferences. I would love to go to a conference where there is more “geek” content. I am tying to learn more about the geek side of blogging/social media.

    My approach to BlogHer is simple…I pick and choose what to attend in an effort to make it work better for me. I don’t pick things to attend based on swag like some do. Perhaps I would have a different view if I focused on product reviews on my blog. I write about education, so my perspective is a tad different than many of the women I meet during BlogHer.

    Coming from a background in academics, I expect more content during the sessions. I attended one that had a great topic, but became more of just a weak conversation between the panel and audience with no real plan or content to share. I would love to attend a blogging conference where the sessions had content that I would find more usable.

    Will I go to BlogHer11? Probably, but I will go knowing that many of the sessions will leave me with a wish that they contained more content.

    I plan to look at the possibility of attending BlogWorld. A trip to Vegas might be in order. Are there many attendees who don’t blog about tech related subjects?

  • Amy Parmenter

    Had thought about dropping in on BlogHer but the timing just wasn’t right. Thanks so much for the review. It let’s me know what I missed, and what I didn’t miss. Looking forward to BlogWorld! And proud to be among the female speakers — though I know it’s the quality that counts!

    Amy

  • Shannon Hurst Lane (

    Deb – Great points and a well-balanced post. To me, the big three conferences are BlogWorld, SxSw, and BlogHer. My blog is my business. I have to take into account the cost of the conferences and the takeaway value. Out of the three, I gain the most personal education and benefit from BlogWorld. The first year I attended, I learned so much useful tech information that my blog went from just my mom and my contributor’s moms reading the site, all the way to one of the top travel blogs in the world, in a little under 6 months. Plus, with BlogWorld, I didn’t detect any competitive drama with attendees. Blogher was still fun, though, and does reach an entirely different demographic. Thanks for your comparison.

  • Zchamu

    I can’t get away from the fact that you keep saying “except for the sessions” it had nothing to do with social media. Isn’t that sort of the whole point of a conference – the sessions? Yes, the sponsors were companies who target market women. They pay the bills, and they provide fun. No harm. And if people didn’t network, surely that was by choice? I made plenty of connections that I’m very excited about working with.

  • Jennifer James

    I echo a lot of your sentiments. This was my second Blogher and while I was in NYC I was really on the periphery of things. I didn’t buy a ticket, so I couldn’t attend any of the official Blogher events. I went to see my friends and attend outside brand events.

    At this point in my blogging career I really need meaty content to sustain me. I think BlogWorld Expo will provide the serious substance I crave.

  • Deb Ng

    @Zchaumu – You said:

    “can’t get away from the fact that you keep saying “except for the sessions” it had nothing to do with social media. Isn’t that sort of the whole point of a conference – the sessions? Yes, the sponsors were companies who target market women. They pay the bills, and they provide fun. No harm. And if people didn’t network, surely that was by choice? I made plenty of connections that I’m very excited about working with.”

    You would think that the conference is about the sessions, right? But I didn’t see that at all. The majority of the women aren’t there for the sessions and they admit it too. I understand that these were companies that target women, but this is supposed to be a blogging conference surely you’d see some of that in the vendors?

    As for paying the bills, I don’t know that I saw that either. Most of the women I spoke with earned very little in exchange for the blogging. They earned a lot of free stuff from sponsors and for product reviews, but not many (who I spoke with) earn a substantial amount of money.

  • Anonymous

    This is obviously a very biased piece of reporting by BlogWorld. The sessions, which you seem to think are a small component of the conference, is where the “meat” of the conference happens.

    Maybe next time you should spend more time in sessions than on the show floor and at outside sponsored events.

  • Deb Ng

    Hiya, Anonymous,

    Actually I did spent time in the sessions, but as I mentioned, most BlogHer attendees don’t attend sessions or only attend one or two. If this is the case, how can it be the “meat” of the conference?

  • Lisa Barone

    I was really curious to see what Deb’s impression of BlogHer would be and I have to say, it greatly matches my own. If you’ve attended tech conferences or BlogWorld in the past, attending BlogHer is definitely a different experience. The focus of BlogHer is the solidarity between the women and the community that lies there. That’s not a dig, it’s an observation and what makes BlogHer unique and worthwhile for many women bloggers. But it also makes some uncomfortable. I don’t overly identify as being A. GIRL. so I was a bit taken aback by how “mommy” focused so much of the conference was and the babies in the sessions. For some, that’s the best part of BlogHer. For others, it’s a bit of an adjustment.

    Depending on why you’re attending, the sessions can hold some meet. But I agree with Deb that the focus really is on the networking and sharing experiences with other women.

  • Rick Calvert

    For the record I would have never written this post. Being a founder of BlogWorld, I don’t think it’s my place to offer more than casual comments on other social media events. I have attended BlogHer for the past three years and have never written a post about it, good or bad. It is obviously a fantastic conference. Look at the impressive list of sponsors and exhibitors. Look at the attendees who absolutely love it. No matter what the focus is, the BlogHer community loves BlogHer. That in the end is what is important. We as a company and I personally think very highly of the BlogHer team. Elisa and Jory have both spoke at BlogWorld.I have not had the pleasure of meeting Lisa Stone but I have been very impressed every time I have seen her speak or conduct at interview at BlogHer. They are very smart ladies who offer real value to their community and to their sponsors. Erin @Queenofspain has spoken at BlogWorld multiple times and has supported our event in numerous ways. I consider her one of my better social media friends. (We all missed you this year Erin).

    Deb on the other hand is in a unique situation. She has attended all three BlogWorld Expo’s and several SXSW’s events and she is of course a woman and a mom. This was her first BlogHer and she just started working for BlogWorld part time (that’s arguable) 4 months ago. We hired her exactly for that reason. She is a professional blogger / freelance writer. She has made her living as a blogger for several years now and has successfully sold two of her blogs. She is our prototypical attendee and therefore knows what our attendees want. That is exactly why we hired her to serve as our Conference Director.

    Her post is strictly her opinion and her observation as a woman and as an attendee of those events, She never told me what her post would say and I honestly might have been tempted to ask her to spike it if she has showed it to me in advance simply because of the possibility of someone taking it wrong. I am glad she didn’t and that she offered her honest observations.

    If you know Deb at all you know she never meant her post to be any slight to BlogHer. If you don’t know Deb you should get to know her a bit before making a judgment about her motivations.

  • Erin

    Wow. Where to start. First of all I’m sorry you couldn’t seem to find anyone who attended the jam packed sessions, including the keynotes that included the entire community and the international activist panel where women risked their lives in order to speak. Many women come for the community of BlogHer without a ticket, just so they can see their friends and get a hug. Then of course there are the thousands that bought tickets and attended everything from the geek labs to the ‘how to love your small blog’ type sessions.

    As an employee of BlogHer I am biased and should probably refrain from typing more, however there were social media experts in attendance and speaking, not to mention high profile brands willing to engage them.

    And may every conference be family friendly and women centric enough to have babies puking and lactation rooms.

  • Heather

    As a first time attender of BlogHer, I find your observations to be fairly true. I felt as if the fact I have four children and manage (i.e. purchase for) a household of six made me “popular” in the sight of the brands more than my writing skill.

    The sessions were informative, I tried to avoid those about branding and monetization personally.

    I do think the one omission of your article is the price point. BlogHer, especially at the $99 per day early bird price, is the most accessible to a beginning blogger. If that means I have to wade through more fluff in the Expo Hall or I find Mr. and Ms. Potato Head delivered to my hotel room door, I find that a small inconvenience in exchange for how much I learned at BlogHer.

  • Sheri Wallace

    I couldn’t agree more. I went to every session I could (can’t be in two places at once) and every “tech” session was for beginners. I felt opportunities to speak to genuine leaders were wasted with novice Facebook questions. I felt it last year but this year it was clear that you go to BlogHer to network (and you cost it out that way) and you go to BlogWorld for the business of blogging. I made great connections with women, learned about some amazing causes (not nearly as many as I could have if the conference was positioned better for that) and had a great time. But I don’t think I’ll go back next year despite the more cost-effective location. The majority of the attendees were newer to blogging and I really want to meet the rock stars.

  • Susan

    I’m stunned that you say that most BlogHer attendees don’t attend the
    sessions — I went to all six — is this not my conference?

    I think there’s room for everyone at this conference. I personally really enjoyed this weekend with fellow bloggers so much — so many women honestly trying to make a difference in this online medium, by sharing their own experience and by propping up others trying to do the same.

    Swag? Brands? The only thing I came looking for was community.

    The sessions were packed with people who were there largely to share, to help, and to build community. That’s what I was looking for at BlogHer — and I found it.

  • Natalie

    I think they are just two different animals. There was more of a community feel to me at BlogHer and more of a scholarly feel at BlogWorld. Not everyone goes to a conference with the sole purpose of learning new skills.
    I had a great at both this past year but entirely different types of fun. I left BlogWorld with a concrete list of things I wanted to do both professionally and with my little blog. I left BlogHer enthused about writing and the community I am a part of.

  • Deb Ng

    Hi Erin,

    I didn’t say that, to be honest. I attended many session that had only a few of attendees and two that were standing room only. However, the sessions appeared to be only a small representation of the BlogHer attendees. I can’t tell you how many people told me they don’t come to BlogHer to attend sessions – and I wouldn’t have known that if they didn’t tell me.

    Also, please don’t get me wrong. I enjoyed my time at BlogHer, I just felt it to be a completely different theme and vibe from the tech/social media conferences I’m used to. It’s kind of strange to sit in on a talk and hear a baby crying or to see kids coloring. Not bad, just different.

    My observations aren’t meant to be considered negatives, but, rather, differences. I had a wonderful time at BlogHer and hope to attend again (if I’m still allowed after this ; ) )

    If there’s something I would ask you to please consider, it’s empowering women to earn money in exchange for the brand ambassadorship rather than freebies and swag. I’d like to see more ways for women to advance their careers rather than becoming free spokespeople for brands.

  • Brett Bumeter

    I have many many many blogging friends that have gone to BlogHer and most of the feedback has been positive. I say most as a few have been a little overwhelmed by the swag attack and that’s feedback coming directly from bloggers as well as company sponsors. Its probably not even a ‘negative’ type of feedback, just people, companies, bloggers out of their comfort zone either personally or professionally.

    Now, all that said, as a person that has attended every BlogWorld and all but one of the New Media Expo’s and lots of other conferences to boot, as a blogger and dad even and as someone that has worked on the marketing side between bloggers and sponsors, I’ve never felt exactly ‘welcome’ at BlogHer because of the ‘Her’.

    I do think the event is good for the community that attends, but I get a sense of exclusivity based on sex. So as I look at it, more power to the women of Blogher, of the blogosphere and technology as well. Most of the blog/social media conferences are not as balanced as I would like to see.

    There was talk last year about a BlogDad (BlogHim?) type of conference last year as well. I don’t know if it ever got off the ground or not, but in general, I’d be just as unlikely to attend that type of event also. I’d be happy to speak or help contribute to either community, but from an attendees perspective I go to conferences looking for diversity not exclusivity, especially when its based on something arbitrary like physical attributes.

    In the end I always kind of look at this as a niche area, like GodBlogCon (not sure if that’s spelled right) or some of the RealEstateBlog events, etc. Its a niche but not one that I feel like I’d fit in as an attendee. I could go talk geek to just about any niche that uses the same tools but that’s different than going to hang out.

    Not to mention trying to explain to my wife why I’d be going to a conference when our family is normally on vacation so that I could hang out with other women and few guys. I might end up attending a BlogMarriageCounseling event soon after. 😉

  • Brett Bumeter

    lol, I just read Erin’s comment above “And may every conference be family friendly and women centric enough to have babies puking and lactation rooms.”

    As the father of 3, I’d echo that sentiment. Then again we might want to make sure that the baby doesn’t drink out of the communal wine bottle getting passed around, and there was that podcast party in Ontario with the body painters years back that probably wasn’t kid friendly. 🙂

  • Usually don't post as anon but for this one I am

    I was so glad to read this because it affirmed my decision to attend BlogWorld instead of BlogHer. I was offered a free pass to BlogHer but turned it down, mostly because I’d have had to cut my family vacation short by a day but also–in almost equal measure–because I suspect I would have felt the way you felt about it being all swag and no substance.

    The one thing I have to laugh/cry about is the notion of “solidarity between the women and the community”. I have been on the receiving end of mommy blogger drama more than once and didn’t relish the idea of being in the middle of that IRL. The whole thing has a huge element of Mean Girls to it, with all the jealousy and online sniping then everyone being all hugs and kisses when it comes to meeting face-to-face. There is a huge element of bullying and competition among mom bloggers that I am very unimpressed with, and I think brands are deluding themselves if they think that mom bloggers are the key to increasing sales. The way many of these brand ambassadors conduct themselves online is ridiculous–threatening lawsuits if anyone dares write something that they perceive as negative about them, slandering people and companies, etc–and it’s crazy to think that it won’t eventually catch up with them. Seriously. There’s such a thing as professionalism and MANY of the mom bloggers out there do NOT have it.

  • Deb Ng

    Hi Usually Not Anon,

    Though I’ve experienced plenty of negativity from other bloggers, none of it has ever been from a “mommy” blogger. All that I have encountered have always been friendly and helpful. I’m sorry that your experience wasn’t the same.

  • Silvia

    This was my first BlogHer conference and I enjoyed the experience very much!! You are rigth about seeing it as a sisterhood conference, I was so happy so finally meet in person some of my fellow bloggers and get together with my friends.

    This BlogHer conference was very special for me because for the first time Latina Bloggers had a space to share who we are, what inspire us yo blog, and how we connect. This was my first experience as a speaker and I loved it!

    I already add BlogHer 2011 to my calendar, however “I’m dying” to attend BlogWorld!!! Because as much as I need my sisterhood, I need the tools to make me a better blogger and business woman as well, there still so much I need to learn and it seems BlogWorld is the place to be!

  • Blanca Stella Mejia

    I was lucky to go to Blogher because of a scholarship that a wonderful organization, Latism.org gave to 15 women. Latism is Latinos in Social Media. (Thank you Latism and the sponsors of Latism!)
    This was my first blogging conference, besides going to a Wordcamp event in Miami.
    I didn’t go because of the swag because I am a single mom with a 17 year old, so most of the mommy stuff doesn’t relate to me.
    I did like what Yahoo was doing with their Yahoo shines “You Reinvented” program where they had a professional make up artist freshen us up before making a professional video interview and the Johnson & Johnson, “Why You Care” Video program.
    Also, Stouffer’s “Let’s Fix Dinner” campaign is a great case study in Social Media.

    So it wasn’t all about the swag. Just walking around the booths were numerous LIVE Social Media case studies, much better than someone talking about it. It was very interesting for me to see in person what big companies are doing in their Social Media Campaigns with heart.

    I mainly went for the sisterhood and for the in real life connections of many women who I have connected on twitter. I can tell you that hands down besides the friendships made, just listening to the international activist panel was worth the entire trip, more than the parties, more than the swag. I ended up talking to all of those young activist during lunch and was able to get to know them more and was completely humbled to see what they are doing.

    It was life changing for me! I can’t describe in words what an experience it was to speak to those young women. I took one of them to Central Park and the observation deck at Rockefeller center, because she asked me to accompany her. I learned so much from these intelligent women who are thought leaders for the youth in their countries.

    I also attended some of the sessions and learned a lot from them. I enjoyed the Q & A format and liked the fact that it wasn’t so techie focused. Anyway, that is my take. I hope to also go to Blogworld and SXSE sometime soon…and yeah..Blogher11 too;)

  • Ana Lilian Flores

    This was my first time attending BlogHer and I can echo your sentiments. I had an amazing, amazing time and would do it all over again, but it was certainly about the sisterhood and the brand/PR relationships than about the actual blogging information or education.
    There’s nothing wrong with that.
    I can truly say I gained a lot from the experience and have grown as a blogger and social media enthusiast thanks to the off-site conversations and the relationships that have spunned from being there.
    My more serious blogging side is definitely craving an experience like BlogWorld, and being at BlogHer made me realize that even more. BlogHer/BlogWorld complement the both sides of my approach to blogging.

  • Susan Woolf

    Shocked by the review by Deb Ng as it appears (IMHO) that she doesn’t understand the intent/goals of the BlogHer conference/community. BlogHer is focused on encouraging and connecting women who blog – whether for personal reasons or for earning a living. The company specifically wants bloggers to understand that earning a living is a by-product of creating a quality blog. The sessions offered focus on a breadth of topics from learning about types of blogging (ie: humor, grief and political) to ethical/legal issues around blogging and how to make $$ from blogging. 3 tracks with a choice of 6 sessions are offered each day. The ones I went to had amazing/credible speakers including one of the lawyers from the FTC and a co-creator of The Daily Show.

    The sponsors pay to participate because they want to reach this audience. Whether people like it not, women do make most of the daily decisions of what to purchase. Additionally, BlogHer wants to keep the cost down to attendees and offers, with full, disclosure that Sponsors enable them to do just this.

    When it comes to the swag, a lot of it was quality product that will be used and yes, reviewed by many. BlogHer has provided a “Swag Swap/Recycle” suite so if you get something that you don’t need/care for, you can leave it for someone who does want it. Everything else is donated to charities. Very powerful and very simple. See something you don’t want, don’t take it. Get something you don’t want, recycle it.

    Not sure what the stats are for BlogWorld, but I do know that BlogHer SELLS OUT months before the conference. I think this says a lot about the interest and quality of the conference.

    Additionally, in all my years attending conferences (business and otherwise), I’ve never experienced such an eagerness to network and encourage/assist other bloggers. An amazing community of women – and yes, a smaller percentage of men. Perhaps this has to do with BlogHer knowing the demographics of their audience and focusing their efforts to support this group rather than try to be everything to everyone.

    Totally respect BlogWorld focuses more on the monetization of blogging but for Deb Ng to imply, even state, that this is of greater value than what BlogHer offers is her personal opinion and not that of BlogWorld. I really respect and appreciate Rick Calvert’s response/comments.

    While I don’t know the specifics of the BlogWorld conference, I do know that BlogHer offers a tremendous amount of value including:
    – Inforamtive breath of educational and special interest sessions
    – FREE wifi in the conference as well as in the hotel rooms
    – Amazing key notes including the Community Keynote and the international scholarship
    blogger recipients (a special program they offer for women around the world you should
    check

    I’m registering for BlogHer11 in San Diego today because I know it will sell out fast and want to take advanage of the early bird discount being offered.

  • CV Harquail

    Deb,
    I could agree with most and disagree with some of the conclusions you’ve drawn about BlogHer, but earlier commenters have hit most of these.

    One I’d like to add, though, is about whether or not one can meet “big name or superstar bloggers” at BlogHer.

    Even though Darren Rouse, Chris Brogan, Pete Cashmore and Liz Strauss don’t hang out at BlogHer (though they’d be welcome), people like Pundit Mom, Pam Spaulding of Pam’s House Blend, PhDinParenting, and Liza Sabater of Culture Kitchen do attend. These bloggers made time to talk thoughtfully and at length with other bloggers at Blogher.

    While these bloggers may not be ‘superstars’ in a world of tech bloggers or bloggers-about-blogging, they are superstars in the world of movement building through blogging. And, they put all of that superstar status to the side when you ask them for advice or approach them after a session.

    Just as we begin to recognize that # of followers and pageviews do not equal influence, we also need to keep in mind that people who are less relevant in some contexts are more relevant in others. I saw a lot of superstars, and no divas, at BlogHer.

    cvh

  • Jessica (

    Really great recap of a conference that truly has become about the sisterhood of BlogHer. That said, my reason for not attending sessions were simple. I saw nothing listed in the session program that I didn’t think I could watch from the podcasts later. The in-person meetings though? Those I can’t do at home. So I focused more on the people and less on the learning.

    That said, if the sessions had seemed more interesting? Maybe I would have gone…

  • Joanne Bamberger aka PunditMom

    Not a blogging conference? As one of the panelists, I can tell you all the panels had to do with blogging — on various topics. Blogging is writing and that’s what many of the panels focus on — writing about topics. My panel was about using your blog for social activism (though I wasn’t crazy about the title about radical mom blogs). Blogging is also about more than the tech — it’s about building networks and communities — and that’s a lot of what happens at BlogHer.

    Just because BlogHer doesn’t look like other blogging conferences, doesn’t mean it isn’t one. It’s all in the perspective.

  • Deb Ng

    Hi Susan –

    As I said on Twitter, I don’t think I missed BlogHer’s purpose at all. It IS about community and sisterhood, but I just don’t know if has much to do with empowerment and education. This is my opinion however, and only my opinion.

    Also, I don’t think it was a negative experience at all. I had a wonderful time.

    I don’t know that I believe BlogWorld or SXSW or Web 2.0 is a greater value because that’s all in the eye of the beholder. We all have different experiences from our conferences and, indeed, some people didn’t like BlogWorld last year, either. BlogHer did provide value to me as I met some wonderful women and made some important contacts. However, we all walk away with something different.

    I plan on writing about the many positive attributes of BlogHer as well. I hope then you;’ll understand that I do find BlogHer to be a terrific experience, it’s just different from what I’m used to.

  • zchamu

    Deb Ng wrote:

    “As for paying the bills, I don’t know that I saw that either. Most of the women I spoke with earned very little in exchange for the blogging. They earned a lot of free stuff from sponsors and for product reviews, but not many (who I spoke with) earn a substantial amount of money.”

    This wasn’t what I was referring to in terms of “paying the bills”. Did you eat at the conference? Did you have a drink at any of the official conference parties? Did you get a BlogHer bag? Did you sit in a seat in a conference room and listen to any speakers through a microphone, or view any A/V on a big screen? Did anyone check your badge before you went in to a session room to ensure you were entitled to be there? That, all of that and more, is what conference sponsors pay for. I’ve planned events before, and trust me; $200 admission doesn’t even cover attendees’ food at a conference like this. Sponsors keep the price affordable and accessible to all bloggers.

    Yes, some sessions weren’t well attended. Others were overflowing. It’s the same at SXSW or any conference. People vote with their feet. You may have spoken to many people that didn’t plan to go to sessions, but everyone I spoke to had every intention of attending more than one session. And I spoke to a lot of people. 🙂

  • Deb Ng

    Agreed, Joanne. That’s why I said “if not for the sessions, you wouldn’t even know it’s a blogging conference.”

  • Karen Malone Wright

    This was my first BlogHer and I agree that the empowering nature of sisterhood (and the swag) was intoxicating. My previous experiences had been limited to several Podcamps where the geek factor and focus is high. That being said, I learned enough on things to do to improve my blog, attract readers and possibly advertisers to say that I got what I expected from the conference and more. Your article made me interested in BlogWorld, but it also made me wonder how all that testosterone will affect my satisfaction overall.

    I’ve already registered for BlogHer ’11.

  • Nicole

    Thank you so much for this article. I think that your article echos what I and many attendees felt and discussed privately at the conference.

    I was expecting to take away much more information than I did.

    I attended 4 sessions. Most of them were packed (but as you mentioned, nothing in comparison to the amount of people that attended) but I didn’t find them to be very informative with the exception of one (Offline Networking for Bloggers).

    I’m afraid to even post this sentiment on my blog in fear of the backlash that I would receive.

    Will I attend BlogHer 11? Probably not.

    While I enjoyed meeting all of my blog friends and the sistahood (and the parties), I agree that the conference left much to be desired as far as ‘blogging education’ goes.

  • Sharon

    I’m new to the blog-o-sphere as a whole, so I didn’t attend BlogHer (although, I did try to get tickets, since I’m about an hour away), and have no plans on attending BlogWorld or any other conferences just yet. I have been following Deb on Twitter for maybe about a year (? or so.) and I can say that I’ve come to trust her when it comes to business, particularly the business of writing and blogging.

    I understand why BlogHer presenters and lovers have had their feathers slightly ruffled by Deb’s post, but I do think that you guys are reading it the wrong way. She has stated several times that she loved it, had a great time, and enjoyed meeting people and the entire sisterhood aspect. She is simply stating the differences between BlogWorld and BlogHer, in an attempt to help people make a decision as to which one to attend if they can attend only one.

    If BlogHer were back on the East Coast next year, I would probably go. As someone mentioned above, it is definitely more wallet friendly than BlogWorld. But, I wouldn’t go with the expectation to learn how to support my family by blogging. Had I not read Deb’s review, I might have had that expectation, and would have most likely been disappointed.

    So, thanks, Deb, for calling it as you see it, and presenting your observations and opinions. New bloggers REALLY appreciate you. 🙂

  • amber

    I was a BlogHer newbie, and I don’t think I’ll be going back. My company helped pay for it, and I have to say, I think their money would be better spent at something like BlogWorld. It was great for the connections I made, but light on the education I hoped to gain.

  • Christy

    What bothers me about this post is that BlogHer is held up against BlogWorldExpo in comparison and, obviously, in several areas it is lacking. But if you help BlogWorldExpo up to BlogHer in comparison, the same would be true. They are different conferences with different goals. But if you’re truly looking to see social media embodied in a conference, you will do no better than BlogHer. Are there dozens of sessions on monetizing your Twitter stream? Absolutely not. Instead, you can see, just by walking into a room, that BlogHer is what social media is all about. The women (and men who are confident enough to attend a conference where they aren’t in the majority) live and breathe social media. It’s not just about marketing. It’s about connecting and that is happening on every level at BlogHer. As I said above, I don’t think that your observations are untrue, so much as they are biased in one direction. Your Obvious differences should include a price point that just about anyone can afford, sessions that are about building community, not just building wealth & followers, a commitment to green conferencing and an acceptance of all types of blogging, from hobbyists to pros. I mean, what kind of fool would rather have a picture taken with Guy Kawasaki than one of the Raving Rabbids? He’s talented and all, but I don’t need a picture with him. And as for people who are worried about not being in the “in group,” it’s really time to move past junior high. I haven’t experienced a bit of drama at BlogHer (other than the nasty woman who got mad at me for not climbing up the escalator). I don’t start it, I don’t engage in it, and therefore it isn’t part of my experience. I am hoping that BlogHer (and other conferences for women) really step it up in terms of hard-core content and that sponsors recognize that women like technology, too (I did not have a pedicure during BlogHer, FYI), but I also hope that BlogHer never moves away from being a relationship-driven conference. For me, that’s where the value is.

  • Sarah White

    This is a great article and it was great to read. Here is my take….

    SXSWi – I spoke at my first SXSW this year and found it to def. be great content at the sessions I was at – but it was also a very socially focused event with most of the action/deals/networking being done at the parties and events.

    BlogHer – This was my first BlogHer and for me I found it a little harder to break into “group” that I wasn’t familiar with. There was absolutely a lot of people that came in with a number of people they already knew & had networked with and as someone who isn’t a “mommy blogger” I did feel like the content wasn’t quite as structured to me like BlogWorld looks to be. With that said – I thought it was really interesting and was good and actually learned a few things. Last but not least – the swag!! OMG – I go to tons of conferences every year and have never seen anything like it. I actually shipped 2 boxes home and had 2 more checked on the plane. It was so much that I decided to start a blog launching 8/15 called mommygotswag.com where I’ll be talking about and reviewing all of these new products that I got at BlogHer10.

    BlogWorld – I’m attending this year for the first time & CAN’T wait!

  • Jill Miller Zimon

    Background:

    I know Eric Olsen I remember when he and a few Cleveland-based guys headed to the first BWE. I was asked to go but couldn’t and I have not yet made it to one. I personally dislike Vegas and it takes a lot to get me there – I didn’t go to Netroots Nation this year either because of Vegas.

    I went to BlogHer08 as a panelist re: race and gender, & this year at BlogHer, I keynoted a half-day White House Project training program done in conjunction with BlogHer on Thursday, Aug. 5 – specifically geared to convince women bloggers to see the power they wield as being easily transferable to running for and being in office. You can see and read more about it here:

    http://www.writeslikeshetalks.com/2010/08/08/call-to-action-we-are-the-change-weve-been-waiting-for-dont-get-mad-get-elected/

    To me, THAT is why I attend nearly any blogging or social media conference: how can it take me beyond where I am? How can I evangelize about how blogging can do that for anyone, for any cause, for any profession, career or lifestyle?

    And it’s why I have to say, Debbie, if you should attend another BlogHer? Maybe try to find and/or tweet a shout out to some of us for whom BlogHer is 100% about the empowerment and the education. I write this because you wrote, “I just don’t know if has much to do with empowerment and education.” I could not disagree with you more on that. That tells me that we experienced completely different ends of the spectrum that WERE available there.

    I’ve already mentioned to Elisa and maybe one or two others, very casually and in a non-threatening way what a few others have mentioned: I’d LOVE to see BlogHer have more content for more seasoned bloggers – something like freshman 101 courses through seminar level experiences. I have enormous confidence, as Rick mentions, in Elisa, Jory and Lisa to read and consider all the input they’ll be getting from attendees and tweaking and re-inventing what they’ve created to improve yet again on what they’re putting together.

    The only swag I really got into were flash drives. No doubt I would LOVE BWE exhibitors. But BlogHer put me together with many bloggers begging to go deeper and dig deeper. The ones there for swag etc. – you know, they don’t need to care about me or find me and vice versa – unless we WANT to.

    This is real choice – and we can exercise it at BlogHer because there is so much to choose from.

    As a more general note, this form of communication – blogging – is one-dimensional and perhaps this post by Debbie is a victim of that. I can totally see and understand ALL your observations of BlogHer10, Debbie, BUT – there were 2400 attendees – “the majority” must be restricted to the majority of whomever you met – in regard to much of anything that happened there. Otherwise, you’re talking 1201, and I think that’s pretty much not likely – except possibly if you are Erin Kotecki Vest. Maybe. 😉

    By framing this post as a comparison between two things that really are not comparable, it gives off a flavor of the very media-driven mommy wars meme – which is really just bunk and valueless to most people who live in the real world and do not have time to be engaged in such petty stuff. If nothing else, we in the blogs should know better than to stoke such tropes used to drive traffic.

    The best thing I get from this post: BlogWorldExpo and BlogHer KNOW their audience. As Rick Calvert wrote. This is good news for the organizers, the sponsors AND the attendees. What more should we be asking for? Maybe a side by side matrix with categories of why people attend conferences that overlap certain categories of need or content so people can figure out what suits them best.

    But isn’t that what epinions or the Shaw guides are for?

    Last, I cannot understand why are people saying they won’t even post certain sentiments about BlogHer for fear of…what exactly? We are BLOGGERS. Yeesh – debate is what we’re supposed to be best at – anyone who shuts down comments isn’t really blogging, IMO, anyway – and there are enough of those poseurs out there already. Let’s have this debate and make distinctions and help people get clear ideas of what interests them, and what doesn’t, without using intentionally or unintentionally coded language.

    I hope I make it to SXSW sometime – haven’t been there either. But frankly – now that I’m in office and still blogging and wanting more women to run for office? I’m focused on gov2.0 conferences – and so far, not finding enough of those yet to attend. 🙂

  • Erica Douglass

    Deb, thank you for having the courage to post anything other than a gushing review of BlogHer. I attended the conference a few years ago when it was held in San Jose, and came out of the conference feeling really…strange. I felt as a female blogger I would fit right in, but I ended up feeling awkward and out of place. I treat blogging as a business, and I’m fairly tech-savvy. I am not a mom. I didn’t feel like I fit into the community there at all.

    Though I understand why so many people passionately defend BlogHer, there are just as many (if not more) of us who felt a little weird. Thank you for writing your real experience and not glossing over how you really felt.

    -Erica

  • Shannon

    Deb — thank you so much for this very honest post. I think you’ve hit the nail on the head. I was disappointed with my first BlogHer experience because I went into it expecting more emphasis on education. It was, however, an excellent networking experience and I’m so happy I got to meet so many amazing bloggers, you included. It was so nice meeting you at lunch on Saturday. I’m glad you happened to sit down at the same table. Maybe next year I’ll see you at BlogWorld.

  • Issa

    Not that I guess my opinion matters, because I don’t agree with you….but last year there was an entire panel comprised of men bloggers, there were also men speaking at the community keynote as well. So to say, there are one man at BlogHer, the first ever, is a bit misleading.

  • Aony BlogHer Attender

    I don’t know why everyone is so afraid to speak against BlogHer. Judging by the childish behavior (towards this blog post) by certain members of the BlogHer camp it’s probably easy to guess. Deb opened the floodgates and will probably become the scapegoat in all this and for that she will continue to be my hero. I see more people agreeing with Deb than disagreeing & that speaks big, large encyclopedia volumes.

    If BlogHer was about the sessions I didn’t see it. The one session with no cameras allowed could have been poignant and moving but I didn’t understand a thing most of the panelists were saying because of the thick accents. I’m sorry BlogHer but we couldn’t figure out what they were trying to say so we talked among ourselves and eventually left the room so as not to be rude. It would have been better to bring in a translator. If you looked around the room would have noticed hundreds of women mouthing “what did she say?” because the English was so broken.

    I read dozens of wrap up posts and viewed hundreds of pictures on Facebook. Few mentioned sessions. They talked about parties and swag suites. Many of these recappers admitted to not attending sessions.

    Here’s what people really thought about the sessions:

    ”There is no doubt that this year, Blogher was all about the parties and networking… at least it was for me.
    It’s not that I didn’t care about the sessions, I just didn’t care FOR the sessions this year.

    http://www.complicatedmama.com/blogher-2010-recap/

    I was expecting sessions so jammed packed with information that I wouldn’t be able to take notes fast enough. Not so. The sessions were very informal and not very informative and it turns out most BlogHer attendees skip them anyway.

    http://itsmytimetowrite.com/2010/08/blogher10-from-my-newbie-perspective/

    When the host city and the parties become more important to a majority of the attendees than attending the keynote of their peers, you know there is a problem.

    http://www.citizenofthemonth.com/2010/08/11/blogher-10/

    Sessions – This may have been because I had just been to a content-rich conference, but the sessions overall didn’t appeal to me. This was surprising given the large number of choices. I was really here for the networking and connections so this really wasn’t a concern in my case.

    http://www.bucksomeboomer.com/2010/08/blogher-2010-the-highs-and-lows/

    Seeing as how we weren’t that impressed with the morning session, we decided to frolic around NYC for the remainder of the afternoon. Lulu took us to her old stomping grounds and checked out her old apartment and neighborhood. I also bought some pashminas from a street vendor.

    http://makemineamojito.com/2010/08/10/blogher-2010/

    Disappointment: sessions over parties. i was not aware coming in the focus that would be on the parties and free swag over the actual sessions. call me naive but i went with the intention of attending sessions and learning… and while some sessions provided me with valuable information overall i felt let down with the content.

    I compiled many of similar quotes but I think the point is apparent. If BlogHer doesn’t want to be seen as only a party and swag conference they need to stop making party and swag front and center. Deny it all you want, but this is what it is. It’s pointed out that major brands over tech brands are sponsoring to keep the cost down. That’s fine, but if you’re going to whore yourself out to brands you have to expect this kind of criticism without getting pissy on Twitter towards someone who is pointing out what many of us have dreamed of saying for years: BlogHer is about swag.

    Look at the pictures of the Mommy Bloggers on Facebook and see what I mean. Lots of smiling faces in parties and swag rooms but not in sessions.They’re holding up their loot but not sitting down and taking notes. I went to one session on Friday about writing an elevator pitch and it was by two women who haven’t held down a true job in years. I learned how to send a poorly written elevator pitch to a brand so they can send me free Pepsi.

    I made friends with one of the few male bloggers at BlogHer. He went into one of the one or two men’s rooms that weren’t changed into women’s rooms and he couldn’t even pee in peace because women kept walking in yelling, “woman in the house!” Tell me what would have happened if a man walked into a woman’s room in BlogHer and did that?

    BlogHer, rather than get defensive on Twitter figure out how to improve so BlogHer isn’t the laughing stock of the blogging world. It’s because of BlogHer that many of us will always be regarded as little “mommy bloggers” and not as serious professionals.

  • Jendi

    Hi Deb, I tweeted you about meeting while at BlogHer but I guess my tweet got lost in the twitterverse ’cause there was no reply.

    It was my first BlogHer and I went to meet a specific list of people that I work with online. I was successful with what I went for. I enjoyed the 2 sessions I attended, but my time was limited due to only two days there and meeting people was my top priority. I also came away with some job leads that I’m excited about.

    Congrats on the book deal!

  • Katherine

    I think there is room for a wide variety of experiences at blogging conferences, and one experience isn’t necessarily better than the other.

    Overall I really enjoyed the BlogHer conference. The networking was wonderful, and the sense of community you mentioned was ideal. I got some new opportunities out of going. I also picked up some new ideas and tools (and I’ve been blogging for 6+ years – I’m not a newbie). These were the reasons I went, and these reasons were fulfilled. Much of that, though, has to do with me making the effort. BlogHer created the space, but the attendees have to make the effort.

    I have never attended Blog World Expo, but would love to. I’m quite sure I’d get a lot out of it. I’m also sure I’d probably feel out of place, being that it would be my first BWE conference and I don’t know a lot of the heavy hitters in the blogging world.

    Each event is what you make of it. You can pick on everything you don’t like, or you can tell yourself: “For this to be useful, my goal is to make x strong connections and develop x new opportunities” and then you make that happen.

    Just my two cents. Thanks.

  • Mille Schotz

    BlogHer to me was not really about Sisterhood at all. It was about the Mommy Bloggers working the brands. As a single woman w/no children , I felt really out of place. There was very little networking, because no one wants to tell you how they are working the system to make money from their blogs. The Mommy Bloggers don’t want the competition. I also didn’t think they were interested in Social Media, or the art of photography. They were interested in parties, swag and getting “brand ambassadorships.” Yes, there were some nice women bloggers too there, that wanted to learn, but the overall tone was of a Mommy Sorority Party, with a girls gone wild weekend for the moms leaving the kids and husband at home. If you don’t believe me, just check out the conference tweets. Twitter was not used to share conference learnings, it was used to share what people were getting and what parties they were going to. Many BlogHer attendees spent lots of Twitter time taking about getting dressed by Gap (#gapmagic) for the conference, or trying to get invited to the Martha Stewart Party (#marthablogger).
    The Mommy Bloggers are making out BIG TIME. I have never seen anything like it! It’s not about Blogging , its about getting stuff! Your post was KIND, compared to what I saw going on there. I don’t know what BlogWorld is like, but it sounds like it has more education focus, is non-gender specific, and that single people who are childless might be more in evidence. True?

  • Kim ~ CraftyMamaof4

    I have to agree with you Deb, the differences are apparent. This year was my second BlogHer Conference and I attended BWE last year. I have to admit I was looking forward to BlogHer not for the sessions (I was hard pressed to find any that really appealed to me and were not the same as every other conference), but for the city, the connections, the hugs, the networking and yes, the parties.

    I think the sessions at BWE are much more specific than the ones at BlogHer, therefore you tend to get more out of them. The BlogHer sessions are very broad and try to cover too many different levels of ability in one session, if you are more experienced, by the time they get to the upper level discussion they have already lost you or have run out of time. If you go into a session as a newer blogger and they start off to advanced for you then you get frustrated.

    I admire you for expressing your opinion, I do not think anything you said was disrespectful or inappropriate.

  • eileen ludwig

    Deb

    Love this post and all the different comments. Like the ones that are more fact and less emotion the best because it is true when thinking of conferences, finding the right one for the money is important. Recently I was part of a group working through Darren’s (Problogger) 31 Days challenge.

    The group was 500+ women. Mostly mommy bloggers. At first I wasn’t sure about being part of the group, BUT my desire to do the challenge brought me in anyway. There were a lot of ‘geeky’ women too which I loved. I was surprised at how much many of them had done and knew in the blog world. I loved being part of this group.

    Although I have been a geek, blogging world was foreign to me. Hearing them all talk about BlogHer, I wondered about that versus BlogWorld. If I am going to pay huge sums to attend a conference, I want geek knowledge.

    I had read somewhere someone who like BlogHer better because it was more fun and connected. This was my first indicator that BlogWorld might be a better choice for me. Finding this article and all the comments has helped me realize the right choice for me.

    Thank you so much for having the courage to write a piece that could and did bring so much controversy but CLARITY for those who want to make wise choices for themself.

    Eileen

  • Pamela

    Okay, this is an old post. I was googling something else about Blogher and this caught my eye. But I wanted to say I think one thing that is missed here is the fact that there are different ways to go about blogging. I am a Christian Lifestyle blogger, and I think that most female bloggers fall into a Life, Style, Mommy, or similar blogging about their lives types genres. Or at least, those genres are dominated by women.

    I’ve not yet been to a blogging conference of any sort, but should I go (which would be fun) I’d be going to try to build connections/network with like minded bloggers, attract sponsors, improve my content…. and *maybe* think about the tech side. But probably not so much, because my blog is already set up. If I decide to improve it and if I learn something awesome, great. But that wouldn’t be my goal.

    However, if I was another kind of blogger, that might be why I’d attend a conference.

    Most of the blog posts about improving blogging I’ve read come from business/technology maybe even giant fashion blogs *who have almost nothing in common* with my style of blogging. Yes, I’ve gleaned some great tips from those articles. But honestly, I have to glean it out, because if I applied what works for those blogs to my blog, it would kill what my blog is about, because they are so dichotomous.

    That’s okay!

    There’s a place on the internet for all these different kinds of blogs, which is awesome. And yes, I doubt I’ll be making huge amounts of money with my blog, ever. But if I can someday make a couple hundred a month, I’ll be super, super happy. For my niche, that’d be excellent!

    Now I’m not saying that most bloggers at blogher are Christian Lifestyle bloggers by any means. But I do think most of them belong to smaller, more intimate niches than what might be represented at blogworld and the very thing that attracts readers to their blogs is what makes big blog tactics not work for them.

    So reading between the lines in this article (and I’m sorry if I’ve misjudged blogworld, I’ve actually never heard of it before today) Blogher has a lot more to offer me than Blogworld because it sounds like Blogher attendees are more interested in networking than skillset expanding. And that’s what I’d have in mind if I were attending a conference as well.

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