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Are We Hypocrites, Tasteless Smut Peddlers or Just Plain Dumb?

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If you haven’t heard there was quite a reaction to our closing keynote at BlogWorld New York. From some very heartfelt honest posts with valid complaints from people like Marcus Sheridan and Jennifer Fong to the typical peanut gallery who like to use every social media controversy as a way to promote their own agendas.

While Dave and I were watching the closing keynote Thursday we were both cringing. The videos were too long, they weren’t being played at the right times, the band wasn’t able to rehearse with the guests beforehand so they weren’t right on cue, the mics were feeding back when they worked at all. The Rhythm was completely off. What we thought could have been our best closing keynote ever was falling apart before our eyes.  We felt terrible for Chris Brogan who had agreed to host the show and kept trying to get it back on track.

Then we saw the reactions. People weren’t complaining about the production, they were complaining about the content.  Andrew Breitbart was too political for some, Shauna Glenn’s video was demeaning to women in technology said others, How could we allow Sara Benincasa to perform a very adult stand-up routine where she eviscerated literally everyone and everything we had been talking about for the last three days after we had asked Danny Brown and Gini Dietrich to change the original title of their blog post from “Doucheblogs and Spin Doctors” to something else?

After reading some of the posts and comments, we were relieved. This was something we could defend. Dave, Deb, Patti and I were all talking to each other in a series of phone calls and I asked Dave to just record the conversation we were having.

I think this better explains why we chose the format and the guests we did so please listen to that at the bottom of this post.

We do need to apologize to anyone who was offended by the humor and who felt like they were not warned sufficiently ahead of time. We thought we had made this clear in the show directory, in our email newsletter, on our blog and the online schedule but we obviously completely failed.

Please accept my personal apology for that. I promise you it will not happen again. People will know full well going in what to expect.

We would also like to apologize to our panelists and our host Chris Brogan for any negative reactions they may have received because of their participation. We wanted this to be fun for everyone. Dave and I are responsible for this, not anyone else.

That being said even with the complaints we still believe there is a place for this type of content at BlogWorld.

Our industry is made up of millions of communities and content creators and hundreds of thousands of genres. We believe we have a responsibility to represent as diverse a group of these communities and styles of digital content creation as possible.  We owe it to all of you. We owe it to each other.

In his segment Andrew Breitbart told the story of how when Bill Maher said some very offensive things on his old TV show Politically Incorrect it was Shawn Hannity and Rush Limbaugh who came to his defense. Bill Maher wrote a personal letter to Limbaugh to thank him. The men couldn’t be further apart in their world views and throw hammers at each other daily over the airwaves but at the end of the day, they are all part of the same community of content creators.

This is a lesson we in new media can learn from some in the old media.

We would love to hear your feedback as well. How do you suggest we present this type of content in the future?

Are we completely off base?


Feedback

69
  • Gini Dietrich

    I wasn’t there for the closing keynote; I only heard both sides of who was offended and who was not. As a speaker, there are some things I think could have been handled more professionally, but I’ll share those on the phone with you early this week. I can tell you I’m tired of the discussion around Danny and me changing our title. It didn’t change our content and we weren’t offensive nor did we use curse words. I think the session could have gone a bit better, but we got good feedback. I’d love to see the surveys. This whole experience has been a very valuable lesson for me.

  • Gini Dietrich

    I wasn’t there for the closing keynote; I only heard both sides of who was offended and who was not. As a speaker, there are some things I think could have been handled more professionally, but I’ll share those on the phone with you early this week. I can tell you I’m tired of the discussion around Danny and me changing our title. It didn’t change our content and we weren’t offensive nor did we use curse words. I think the session could have gone a bit better, but we got good feedback. I’d love to see the surveys. This whole experience has been a very valuable lesson for me.

  • Dave Ursillo

    Out of the options you offer, I’d select the “none of the above” choice. Even as I was in the crowd, it simply appeared to be that the keynote itself was simply misguided.

    Initially it would seem like a “talk show” style would be easy — maybe because we’re familiar with seeing so many of them on TV, and every night to boot. Of course, it takes incredible timing, outside of a flurried pace to maintain interest and with people who are not very experienced in such a thing, I can’t imagine it being an easy feat.

    And, in my opinion, Sara Benincasa contributed the most redeeming value of the entire event — and only through her comedic style. I’m sure it rubbed some the wrong way, but let’s be honest, BlogWorld needn’t be a 24-7 “love ourselves” fest, and injecting some humor into the mix (from a self-made, blogger-comedienne herself) I thought was pretty entertaining.

    And, objectively, at least she brought an element of integrating the audience into the keynote, meanwhile most of the keynote alienated the audience from feeling like they were even there.

    In the end, please don’tfeel that you need to denigrate yourselves with insulting names (the blog post title, as catchy as it is!) for what turned out to be less than what you had hoped. It won’t redeem the lackluster turnout, but by pushing forward positively and taking lessons from what occurred, we’ll all be better for it.

    • Anonymous

      Thank you Dave. To do the talk show right, it is actually pretty damn hard. Especially when you increase the number of moving parts like adding the band. If it’s done right it also makes it 1000 times better than playing canned music.

      We live and we learn.

  • Anonymous

    Really nice Blog post Rick. As a content creator and the boss I encounter this problem all the time. We have 9 different shows and I have to move the line of  “What is offensive” all the time. We have some shows on the network that would be labeled “unfiltered” and some people might find offensive but sometimes you need to take that risk. We have guidelines that each show host needs to follow but it doesn’t always happen that way.

    I think Dave said it perfectly ” Its not meant to shock you, Its meant to introduce you to different content creators you have never meet”

    Why do we have to only be a Tech industry? How can we keep growing if we only cater to one type of content?

  • JasonFalls

    There’s a big difference to me in stirring it up/pushing the envelope and being offensive/controversial for the sake of being offensive/controversial. I can certainly see why you guys thought the makeup of the panel would be pushing the envelope. Unfortunately the cast of characters was made up of folks who were more intent on the latter than the former and Chris, while a friend and awesome speaker, is not a talk show host trained to herd cats so elegantly.

    I don’t blame you guys as much as I blame the panelists for not trying to make the event a productive learning/issue discussion opportunity for everyone rather than a “look at how offensive I can be” puppet show.

    The really, really, really sad thing is that until the closing keynote, I’d heard dozens of people say how impressed they were with the content of BWENY. There was a lot of attention paid by those of us who’d been around a while to see how big the show was and how well-received it was in New York since it was a new venue/location and was sort of thrown together quickly. Up until the closing keynote, it was a home run. 

    Unfortunately, a couple of bad guests on that panel later and the only thing a lot will remember about New York is how bad the closing keynote was. 

    The lesson learned, I hope, is that we don’t just throw random folks up there and hope they “get” what we’re trying to do. Stirring it up … making people think … is awesome. But there’s a fine line between that and making people cringe instead. 

    • Deb Ng

      Jason,

      This is what bothers me the most. All throughout BWENY I heard about our excellent content, excellent speakers and our networking mixers were all so well received. The entire team is on this amazing high after pulling off the impossible – a successful conference after only three months of planning.

      Jennifer Fong’s post bothered me the most because it implied that we didn’t have many “smart” women at BlogWorld when we had about 80 successful and smart women.  To focus on one keynote that didn’t go very well is to minimize all the hard work our  speakers (male and female), track leaders, and the entire BlogWorld team put into this.

      We’re all so proud of what we achieved at BlogWorld. I hope others remember the positive stuff as well.

      • Jennifer Fong

        Deb, I’m really sorry this bothered you. I tried to make it clear both in my original post, as well as the comments, that I thought that overall the content was great. My biggest concern was with the keynotes. I’d love to see more of the amazing women that were featured in the sessions be hired for the keynotes. That’s what it comes down to for me. Because they rock.

        I sat in the sessions of every woman I mentioned in my post. And every single one rocked, as I will highlight once my regular audience is back after the holiday weekend (so they call can benefit.) You certainly had smart women. That was my point. They should have been keynoting.
        I really think you all did a lot of great things at BlogWorld. Yes, I raised an issue. But that wasn’t the end of the story. I hope you hear that too.

        Jen

        • Deb Ng

          Jen,

          You said:

          “My biggest concern was with the keynotes. I’d love to see more of the
          amazing women that were featured in the sessions be hired for the
          keynotes. That’s what it comes down to for me. Because they rock.”

          Sara and Shauna weren’t the only women we had keynoting yet we’re still being asked why your definition of an amazing woman wasn’t featured as a keynoter.  They were. Not sure why no one is willing to acknowledge Stephanie Agresta and H.P Mallory who were outstanding.

          • Anonymous

            Would have liked to hear more of Steph and (especially) HP in that opening keynote, fwiw

        • Lucretia M Pruitt

          Jennifer?
          I think this is devolving into whether or not your wording actually represented the facts. An easy way to get back to the point is to say “okay, I worded that poorly. What I wrote shouldn’t come down to ‘were there any other keynotes with women I would’ve enjoyed seeing’ or ‘did I think that subject matter spoke to the intelligence level of the women in the closing keynote’ but rather ‘I would’ve preferred seeing some of the women & material I saw in non-keynote sessions in the closing keynote instead of the talk-show/adult humor format.”

          I keep seeing people getting stuck on the wrong parts of your post because of wording.  Hope you will consider fixing it – there’s nothing wrong with editing a post as long as you note that you did so.

    • Anonymous

      “Stirring it up … making people think … is awesome. But there’s a
      fine line between that and making people cringe instead”

      You are right Jason. We failed this time with this keynote, but we will learn from it and keep taking risks.

  • Judy Dunn

    I attended BlogWorld 2010 in Las Vegas but not this year’s, so I can’t speak from personal experience. And what one person’s considers humorous, another will see as offensive. That is the tricky part about humor. You have top know your audience.

    Which brings me to the bigger issue. You said:

    “Our industry is made up of millions of communities and content creators and hundreds and thousands of genres.”

    Whoa. 

    Having been an educator, I’ve presented at many conferences. But I always knew precisely who my audience was and I developed my presentation with that in mind. I my view, BlogWorld is trying to be all things to all people. One of last year’s panels presented such one-sided political views(with no real connection to bloggers and blogging) that I ended up walking out. I was offended and I didn’t see what if even had to do with blogging. 

    I would like to see a separate conferences for bloggers. You can still have content creation and the integration of new media, but within the perspective of bloggers’ needs. And if you have to do the vibrators in a blender and references to female sexual parts, have that maybe at a comedy club as an ending party thing? I go to a conference to learn. If I can be entertained at the same time, all the better. But I didn’t pay registration fees to see stand up.

    Just my opinion. Thanks for asking!

    • Anonymous

      What I was trying to say Judy is that blogosphere is the sum
      of all these disparate groups, we are all part of the greater whole at the same
      time. Many people do not realize that. It is not their fault. It is an
      indication of how young the blogosphere still is.

      That is why I mentioned NAB (National Association of Broadcasters) in the
      podcast. They have the exact same diversity. Their industry is just mature
      enough to realize that while it is composed of many smaller tribes, they are
      also a part of one larger tribe.

      We are not there yet. Our goal is to help our industry get there.

      I was just as guilty of this as anyone. When I first had the
      idea to create BlogWorld, I thought it would be all political bloggers and some
      Military bloggers. They were the only communities I knew. I had never heard of
      TechCrunch, Robert Scoble, Dave Winer, Mommy bloggers, Marketing bloggers etc.

      As soon as I started doing the research for the event I
      realized all of these communities needed to be a part of this event if we were
      going to truly represent the industry.

      • Judy Dunn

        Hey Rick,

        Well, I wasn’t referring to the diversity of bloggers at the conference. Bring us all together; we can certainly learn from each other! Just don’t put BlogWorld first in the title of the conference. Because that implies that it will be focused on blogging. If you called it New Media Expo, and left BlogWorld out, then I would know more what to expect: all forms of new media.  

        And on Karen Hughes, I think of the old adage,” They won’t remember everything you say, but they’ll remember how you made them feel.”She is a smart woman but as I recall, there was a fair amount of putting down of people who didn’t share the same political philosophy. IMHO, the easiest way to divide an audience is to bring a hard-liner in, from either political party. 

        I’m just rethinking whether this kind of conference meets my needs as a professional blogger who uses that platform to promote my business. And I’m sorry, I do agree with Jennifer Fong. We need more talented, accomplished women presenting at this conference. I know you say that not many women apply to be speakers (and Deb even blogged about this) .

        But then my question would be, “Why is that?”

         Maybe we should find out.

        • Lucretia M Pruitt

          Actually Judy, with regard to that last bit? There were a ton of intelligent, accomplished women presenting at this conference. The ratio of women speakers to men was higher than at any other non-Mom-blogging conference I’ve ever attended. A lot of women did submit this year and a lot more of them spoke than even in previous years.
          The issue of the keynote is and should be entirely separate from the question about women speakers. BlogWorld has had a steady climb in numbers over the years I’ve been attending. And yes, Deb & Rick have said in the past that fewer women submit, but if that’s so, then we have to give them massive credit for the 40/60 % ratio that they achieved in NY.

          • Judy Dunn

            Lucretia,

            Thanks for the additional information. As I said, I attended last year, but wasn’t in New York this time around. I do give Deb and Rick credit for going out of their way to recruit women. 

            I realize that this issue is separate from the keynote, but I still have to wonder why they are not applying on their own. And what kind of mix there was between female hobbyist bloggers and women who are business bloggers or hold corporate positions. They would be interesting stats to see. Appreciate your response here.  

        • Anonymous

          Actually as a percentage we had fewer women speaking in NYC than in Vegas last year, 80 out of 205 speakers were women in NYC. But we had more women in the keynotes. We have no set quotas just a dedicated approach to recruiting smart quality female speakers.

          As I said in the podcast I quit my political blog for a reason when we started BlogWorld 8).

          I am somewhat familiar with Karen Hughes poltics and she is fairly moderate. She is certainly not a hardliner when it comes to left vs. right policies.

          Honestly I don’t remember the specifics of what she said that might have offended you Judy so I can’t defend it.

          With that keynote we were trying to give our audience an idea of what top advisors to the last two presidents thought about new media in general.

          My take away was they were like most companies and people in the world and pretty in the dark when it came to new media. The point Mark and Karen both kept making that stuck with me was that they wanted to hire “young people” to help or even take charge of their social media activities.

          It was just so instructive to how far behind both sides of the political spectrum were when it comes to new media.

    • Chantilly Patiño

      Judy, you’re exactly right…it’s about knowing your audience.  Ultimately, the are the paying “customers” and we should try to create a presentation with content that gets to the root of their needs.

  • Maddie Grant

    From what I saw “watching” only virtually, the big disconnect was between trying to keep the main content very professional and business-savvy (I heard the crowd was much more that way than the Vegas crowd last year), and then ending with a very irreverent closing keynote that clearly struck a very discordant note.  I think you should have gone one way or the other, not both.  I agree with your sentiment that “pushing the envelope” is important for a conference like this; but you can do it without completely changing the tone of the event.

    • Anonymous

      That is another good point Maddie and we thought our crowd might skew more toward the professional side in NYC. We really couldn’t know until we got to the show.

    • Chantilly Patiño

      Maddie, I really like your point too.  It would make more sense to pick one “theme” or another, because professionals who are there solely to gain blogging knowledge might not be the right crowd for this kind of content.  I’m glad I wasn’t in attendance, because I would have been one of those walk-outs.  It’s just not what I would attend a conference for or expect out of one.  If the intent is to be crude and comical, that’s what you should sell it as to your audience.

  • Lori Randall Stradtman

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    Are BlogWorld Co-founders Dave and Rick hypocrites, tasteless smut peddlers, or just plain dumb? Hardly.

    Rick and Dave are smart, interesting, and brave guys who know how to genuinely connect with people, which is a rare art. 

    I see 3 main issues with the keynote: Production quality, Chris Brogan’s hosting ability, and brand expectations.

    Although the live music was my favorite part of the keynote, we all agree that the production itself could have gone a lot better.

    Some may throw rotten tomatoes over this, but I genuinely believe Chris Brogan could have rescued this late night talk show since he was playing host. He could have acknowledged tech issues and even joked about them. He could have engaged with his panelists and audience more dynamically instead of ignoring us, except to complain. Shaming isn’t entertaining. Many people said they felt like eavesdroppers instead of an audience.

    As Dave said, the point was to entertain on this last evening, not to inform. It’s a great strategy after days of phenomenal, informative sessions. Even though the production quality was sketchy Chris could have rescued the show.

    Sara tried. While her content was more blue than I could have imagined, I have to wonder if she wasn’t trying to save the show by applying shock paddles to a mostly dead audience. Maybe she wouldn’t have gone quite so edgy with her material if she didn’t see the need for emergency measures. While blue isn’t my favorite color, I appreciate the heart it took to stand there in front of a clearly disgruntled crowd and deliver her best. That’s true professionalism. 

    Brand expectations come into play here and will have a lot to do with BlogWorld’s growth into a vibrant trade show community of 50,000+ one day. People need to push new media boundaries in order to grow more influential, but I believe more communication is essential in terms of who and what BlogWorld is so that trust continues to develop. 

    Everyone who attended trusted BlogWorld to deliver powerful, useful content on blogging and new media. It did! Everyone I’ve talked to or read from agrees. Adding something this edgy and entertaining as an official part of the trade show instead of an after party requires more communication months in advance so that people will understand and accept that it’s part of the package. They can choose whether to unwrap it or not and feel good about that. 

  • Lori Randall Stradtman

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    Are BlogWorld Co-founders Dave and Rick hypocrites, tasteless smut peddlers, or just plain dumb? Hardly.Rick and Dave are smart, interesting, and brave guys who know how to genuinely connect with people, which is a rare art. I see 3 main issues with the keynote: Production quality, Chris Brogan’s hosting ability, and brand expectations.Although the live music was my favorite part of the keynote, we all agree that the production itself could have gone a lot better.Some may throw rotten tomatoes over this, but I genuinely believe Chris Brogan could have rescued this late night talk show since he was playing host. He could have acknowledged tech issues and even joked about them. He could have engaged with his panelists and the audience more dynamically instead of ignoring us, except to complain. Shaming isn’t entertaining. Many people said they felt like eavesdroppers instead of an audience.As Dave said, the point was to entertain on this last evening, not to inform. It’s a great strategy after days of phenomenal, informative sessions. Even though the production quality was sketchy Chris could have rescued it.Sara tried. While her content was more blue than I could have imagined, I have to wonder if she wasn’t trying to save the show by applying shock paddles to a mostly dead audience. Maybe she wouldn’t have gone quite so edgy with her material if she didn’t see the need for emergency measures. While blue isn’t my favorite color, I appreciate the heart it took to stand there in front of a clearly disgruntled crowd and deliver her best. That’s true professionalism. Brand expectations come into play here and will have a lot to do with BlogWorld’s growth into a vibrant trade show community of 50,000+ one day. People need to push new media boundaries in order to grow more influential, but I believe it’s time to tell more about who and what BlogWorld is so that trust continues to develop. Everyone who attended trusted BlogWorld to deliver powerful, useful content on blogging and new media. It did! Everyone I’ve talked to or read from agrees. Adding something this edgy and entertaining as an official part of the trade show requires more communication months in advance so that people will understand and accept that it’s part of the package. They can choose whether to unwrap it or not and feel good about that. 

    • Sara Benincasa

      Shock paddles was exactly it, Lori! I laughed out loud because I realized you came up with the best term for what I was trying to do. I guess the shock part worked, at least. 🙂

      • Lori Randall Stradtman

        Sara! 😀 You are extremely talented. I can’t think of anybody who could have resurrected the audience at that point and I love that you cared so much to try so hard. It’s not your fault. 

        Watching your responses through this interesting situation has made me a real fan of who you are in terms of your being so genuine, intelligent, and by your professionalism. Hopefully I’ll see you again so I can tell you in person. 🙂

  • JudyHelfand

    MayI suggest that this important “lessons learned” conversation take place after Memorial Weekend?  Just a thought…

  • Bob Dunn

    Between listening to the audio, and reading the comments, this is good. Because we are all getting a better idea of what BlogWorld is about, the direction it is going, and what is maybe more difficult to express in a brief description of this event. For the money I would need to spend, as a result, I won’t attend the LA event that I had planned to.

    • Anonymous

      I am sorry to hear that Bob. I think what is getting missed here are the other 100 + sessions and 200 speakers that received rave reviews. Here is one example: http://bit.ly/ma6e0R

      If you could promise me that we would only have one stinker session or keynote at every show going forward, I would say yes to that in a second.

      • Bob Dunn

        Hey Rick actually I was there last year in Vegas. Found some good sessions, and some that sucked. And I know you can’t please everyone : )

        I think what struck me was in the audio, constantly comparing this and that to famous comedians, that everyone felt during that talk how important it was to bring in the “entertainment” factor. And from that discussion I felt that this was just the beginning, that Blogworld will strike out in more of the general world of blogging (as it has been doing), and bring the “shock factor” in more and more. Of course, just guessing here…

        I would like to see a more focused blogworld or blogging conference. I am not short-sighted and am open to all things. But when I spend this kind of money I need to be a bit more reassured that the focus suits my expectations. 

        Lastly, I think one of the issues is that this was the final keynote. When your choice is to go to it, or not go to anything at all, there lies the limitations. I may be prepared by any warnings, but I think it sucks if I miss the last keynote because I don’t care to hear rude language. A heck of way to windup the event.

  • Dan Boyd

    From the audio comments it sounds like you should have left the title as is since that’s where the confusion began. If you move a few of the more potentially offensive speakers to a breakout session that might help. One thing the keynote certainly did achieve was to get people talking after the fact. By all accounts the conference was a huge success. Don’t beat yourselves up over a blip you will learn from.

     Dan Boyd, Wizard of Livonia YouTube Channel.

    • Anonymous

      Thank you Dan. We are just trying to listen and improve 8).

    • Chantilly Patiño

      Dan, that’s a really good point.  The title probably shouldn’t have been censored if the presentation was just as racy.  Perhaps it would have been enough for people to have a heads up on what to expect….otherwise, it seems kind of like a bait and switch, with people getting something other than what they expected…

  • Sara Benincasa

    Gentlemen, thanks for being badasses and not letting the uptight Puritans get you down. Enjoy your show in November, and keep pushing the limits! xo Sara

    • Marcus Sheridan,The Sales Lion

      Puritans? Really Sara? C’mon now. As you know, quite a few none-puritanical ladies that have stopped by my blog said the content was simply out of place. This isn’t about pushing the limits, it’s about smart communication and intelligent planning. I certainly don’t think it’s about grouping any of the people that didn’t like the event into such category.

      • Sara Benincasa

        I actually didn’t see this comment until now, Marcus. It’s funny, because I emailed you earlier about this. Some of the comments I’ve gotten have been…well, I won’t get into it. But as I said in my earlier email, I wasn’t referring to you (I know you didn’t get the email until after you’d posted this.)

    • Lucretia M Pruitt

      Wow Sara – that really isn’t in context with what you’ve said so many other places. 

      There’s a bit of irony in the fact that you are offended by someone implying that your form of comedy indicated that you were unintelligent and yet you are painting anyone with objections to the session as an “uptight Puritan.”  Double standard much?

      • Sara Benincasa

        Lucretia, I’m not painting everyone that way. Trust me when I say there were some folks who wrote some very…interesting things. I could use a term other than Puritan, but I’m not sure exactly what the right word is. Wasn’t referring to you or to Marcus. I was referring to the folks who really and truly refuse to hear Rick’s side of the story or see his point of view. And sometimes they have rather awful things to say. 

        • Lucretia M Pruitt

           Check. That makes sense. I think my kneejerk reaction was set to ‘hyper-sensitive’ there. I just hate when things devolve to name calling. From everything I can tell (without figuring out time to listen to your routine with an 8 y.o. constantly underfoot) you are excellent at what you do and you do it in a way that pushes envelopes.
          That will never be acceptable to some and will always lure a few of the less desirable fans as well (the kind you wish would quit being on your ‘side’.)
          I would have reacted just as similarly if someone else had used a phrase here that looked as if they were nice to you on one site then calling you something disparaging elsewhere.
          Overactive ‘sense of justice’ reflex. My apologies that it misfired and I misjudged the character of this comment!

    • Kristi Hines

      I keep seeing you popping up in the comments discussing this event at BWE, and all I can think is “The lady doth protest too much, methinks.”  If you’re proud of what you do and have no qualms about it, there’s no need to keep trying to make the people who didn’t like the keynote understand your point of view or label people based on their tastes. 

      I have watched many a raunchy comedies in my life in the privacy of my own home or when out with friends.  And I would still feel that, at an event marketed to professionals, those routines I might enjoy elsewhere would be out of place.  

      Does that make me an uptight Puritan?  No.  I’m not even a good Catholic.  🙂

      • Sara Benincasa

        I’ve seen my name thrown around quite a bit, Kristi, and I choose to engage in dialogue with these individuals (like yourself) because it’s an interesting social media exercise. There is a difference between a troll and a critic, and by and large many of the individuals posting here, on Jen Fong’s blog, and on Marcus Sheridan’s blog have been critics and not trolls (of course, there are a few of those little monsters, and many of them are the ones to whom I refer as Puritans. Turns out Puritans can troll, same as perverts and haters and the like!) It is interesting to interact with these individuals online and to share my own side of the story. I generally don’t engage with trolls, but critics are different. And what is social media for if not to engage in discussion?

        I’m enormously proud of what I do, but that doesn’t mean I’m not interested in hearing other sides to the story and other folks’ perceptions of my work. And when I see my name being bandied about, I’m certainly within my rights to defend myself and challenge other people to question their own gut reactions and prejudices. I generally interact with individuals in the entertainment world, and as this is my first time interacting with businessfolks with regard to my comedy (other than signing contracts for gigs) I have chosen to engage as something of an experiment. It’s been interesting.

  • ReBecca A. Bennett

    See The Forest Through The Trees People!
     
    Okay, I think we can all agree that the final keynote was a mess.  For many of the reasons mentioned here.  Lack of focus comes to mind for me.  What comes to mind after reading some of these posts is the apparent lack of ability to see the forest through the trees.   Am I the only one who heard the important messages that came out of these panelists’ mouths once Chris finally redirected and asked them all to comment on their new media experiences/insights?  For me, that was the moment of relief!
     
    I thought Shauna’s response was profound and a wakeup call to all parents.  I am paraphrasing (a lot as the brainpower has one bar left after the nightmare of escaping from the City to JFK, then back after missing the flight home – along with thousands of others – and spending an extra night in grandma’s rundown shack called a boutique hotel)…Shauna told the story of how her kid couldn’t even go from the house to the mailbox (or car?  Hopefully you get the drift) without an electronic device in hand.  This constant need for stimulation has created a generation of kids (and perhaps adults) who are overly stimulated, often unable to focus on anything else for any significant period of time and, in my opinion – addicted.  Uh, this is a problem.  A real problem peeps.
     
    Andrew…I was prepared to really not like him.  As a not-so-much-leaner-towards-the-conservative-side (I’m not into labels as I don’t get why you would choose to limit yourself like that, but for the sake of providing some context…) I didn’t think I would be able to relate to him.  But to my pleasant surprise, he was more a uniter than a divider.  I thought his Bill Maher story about Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, etc. coming to Bill’s defense (and Bill’s appreciation of it) after the political correctness police went after him was a key point that commentators of all sorts should take to heart.  Andrew has a new fan, thanks to this keynote!
     
    And did you see how hard Chris Pirillo laughed when Chris Brogan made the comment “two girls and a geek” after the Death Star video?  What’s CP’s secret?  He embraces his geekness and has a sense of humor.  Find your humor people, or be destined to a life filled with personal unhappiness, pretentiousness and worse, creating unhappiness for other people.     
     
    Finally, there’s Sara.  Sara is a star!  (as a publicist with ten plus years in the entertainment industry, I can say that – wink, wink).  Once all of the insulted ones left, Sara brought life back to the room.  People were laughing.  I was practically rolling on the floor, and it’s hard to make me LOL – seriously.  Her message was about the freedom you have online to be your true self and have your voice be heard.  This is real authentic power.  And to me, that’s what this medium is all about in the big picture.  It’s the common intersection where all new media-ers can connect in all of their forms, colors, characters, languages and expressions. 
     
    This panel could have been great.  The panelists were all incredibly intelligent, knowledgeable and relatable in their own unique ways.  It just needed to be a cohesive focused unit rather than four separate acts.  The big picture messages were obviously lost in the sea of f-bombs, political slants, sexiness and that frosted vibrator (a smile comes to my face just typing those words on the screen), yet they were still there for all to hear – if you chose to hear them…
     
    We have become a society focused on the circus, the distractions, controversy and our own victimization rather than on the important overall issues and their underlying causations.  I’m not sure if that’s due to fear of the truth, delusion, or just the desire to escape the perceived chaos and darkness in the world today.  But new media should be about moving away from how things have always been done and towards truth, freedom and acceptance/equality.  Lets not follow in the footsteps of the establishment by creating a community of disgruntled moralists caught up in the judgmental sideshow.  It’s fine to have your opinions and tastes, obviously, but if we can’t make fun of ourselves and skim around the rim of political incorrectness, we may as well dust off the suits in our closets, button up and join the long line of corporate servants in their pack of conformity waiting to kiss the golden matrix ring.  Come on people, lighten up and embrace your raunch side for a change, even if it’s just internally!  We all have one buried somewhere in some form, some are just more expressive and out there than others (and if you truly haven’t met this side of yourselves, then you should try to find it and accept it for all its positives and negatives).  In my experiences, life really is like Star Wars – the light side of the Force always prevails in the end…
     
    PS.  My apologies for not sticking to internet ADD guidelines on brevity.  

  • Ainslie

    Hi Rick and Dave
    I am back in Australia, and back to work, fighting jag lag (and a spirited toddler). 
    So here is the  answer to your questions and some more thoughts to the mix.
    Your question was “How do you suggest we present this type of content in the future?”  My answer would be to present more of it.  When listening to the podcast the big theme was that you want us to get out of the box – and be exposed to other people’s point of view.  I was nodding my head so much but that can’t just be achieved in one key note, especially at the end of a massive couple of days.  So how do you produce more:
    ·         You could have a Daily Recap from a more edgier, wittier point of view
    ·         A spoof twitter account having a little fun with what has happened during the day
    ·         Have people interviewed on video from a comedian or the keynote guest to get people used to the format.
    My reasoning for this is that in smaller chunks you would be showing your audience that the way we all grow and learn from each other also means having a little fun.   
    The bigger theme from your podcast is that you want more bloggers and new media people to get out of their box – to stop thinking small, to meet new people, be open to new ideas.  I think this is crucial not just for the Blogworld Expo but for Bloggers and New Media Businesses in general.
    If I got a dollar for every time I was asked why I came all the way from Australia to attend a conference in New York then I would be a rich woman (and be able to pay for next year’s trip).  Seriously, for me it was a no-brainer.  To get out of my comfort box and meet new people and learn not just from the sessions but by watching how people do business and interact with each other.  I couldn’t do that from my office, or even from Australia and at Australia’s conferences.
    Within your chat you also mentioned the idea of storytelling.  That also came up in many of the talks as well.  I don’t know about you, but the reason why I love meeting new people is hearing their stories.  And through other people’s stories we are pushed to think more about what we do, and what changes we need to make to be better.
    So Dave and Rick – keep pushing the envelope.  Find me people to learn from that I won’t stumble upon myself in my blogging circles and twitter streams.  Because that is the reason I spent that time and money to fly half away across the world – to learn from people I wouldn’t have met in my own little box.
    Ainslie

    • Anonymous

      Thank you Ainslie. I am so glad you decided to attend even after we denied your speaking proposal. You definitely added value to the event as a whole and it sounds like you accomplished all the goals you had laid out on your blog.

      It was a real pleasure meeting you as well.

      • Deb Ng

        And let’s not forget that Ainslie got us all hooked on Tim Tams.

        • dave_blogworldexpo

          What exactly is a Tim Tam?…And why didn’t you share any with me? :p

          • Deb Ng

            They’re these wonderful chocolate cookie things – and we put it out for everyone to share. I can’t help it if they were gone by the time you got to the office…

            • dave_blogworldexpo

              Isn’t that what PA systems are for? We need to have a secret code for that. “Dave, please report to the show office, we have a code TS, repeat, code TS!” (TS could stand for “tasty snack”.)  🙂

              I’m bringing this up in the staff meeting.

  • Coffee with Julie

    I don’t think you’re hypocrites, smut peddlers or dumb. I think that you and all of the organizers worked extremely hard and pulled off a very successful conference. But, as a closing keynote, it did leave a lingering bad taste in my mouth. However, overall, I still think my time and money was well spent in attending.

  • Lucretia M Pruitt

    None of the above.  But possibly a touch defensive and maybe a little bit stubborn.

    I’m listening to the audio in the background and realizing that you are hearing people who are saying “this type of keynote is not in line with what I expected from the event and I didn’t like it” is instead “I want to stop you from being edgy because I’m offended.”

    Is racy comedy pushing the envelope? Yep. Is that a good thing? Yep. But is that in line with the expectations of the audience/attendees who came to the closing keynote at BWE in NY? Well, so far you’ve gotten some feedback that it wasn’t and some that it was.  I can’t answer that one – but it doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t try to.

    Maybe the problem lies not in whether or not someone likes R-rated humor, or whether or not it’s important to keep the event diverse, but in the fact that this is billed as the closing keynote.

    For expedience’s sake, I’m pasting a couple of examples of the definition of keynote:
          — “an address designed to present the
    issues of primary interest to an assembly (as a political convention)
    and often to arouse unity and enthusiasm —called also keynote speech” – Merriam Webster
         — “A prime underlying element or theme” – FreeDictionary.com

    Okay, so I get from the audio that you guys feel this was achieved in that session.  But I’m not sure it really did get across to the audience.  Listening to you guys, it sounds like your intent was to get the message across through entertainment that pushing the envelope drives forward the industry.  But in reading a lot of the comments? It sounds like that message didn’t really come out.  If you have to record a 30 minute audio afterward explaining what the intent was? It was not effectively communicated by the event.

    I admit, I was stunned from afar to see this whole thing take shape when it did.  I had to leave early to attend a different event I was previously committed to and I left thinking “wow, I wish I could’ve stayed – this line up was the best one yet.  I really couldn’t figure out which session to go to because there were so many in each time slot that rocked.” I fully expected the post-game wrap up to be focused on how many amazing sessions there were.

    Even if I had been able to stay, I probably would’ve skipped the keynote. Not because I’m offended by the content or the people. As a matter of fact, I know a number of the people who have been on that stage over the years and I love them.  But it’s just that I can go to a comedy show whenever I like and there’s really no take away for me there.  Whereas spending that time talking to someone I won’t see again for months is.  I guess in that regard, I’m doing exactly what you guys suggest – if I don’t want to see it, don’t go.

    But I’m kind of disappointed in a way.  I hate that the closing message, the “prime underlying theme” of a show that I thought was dense with information & rich in take-aways (thanks to huge efforts on your part and on the parts of so many speakers) seems to be “okay, now let’s all go listen to some raunchy jokes and bawdy stories!”  It seems more suitable to the atmosphere of one of the night time parties.

    Everyone I’ve ever come in contact with at your organization is smart, driven, and puts in ridiculously long hours to make this event happen.  I’m sure having people focus on what didn’t go right rather than what did is hurtful.  But saying that they are “wrong” because they didn’t focus on the technical issues but instead found the content inconsistent with their expectations doesn’t do anyone any good. Any more than if they had said you were “wrong” because you thought it was a technical issue rather than contextual.

    The analogy that comes to mind is reading a group blog dedicated to new media, getting used to a certain tone of voice, type of material and subject matter, then coming across a NSFW guest post with pictures.  While the latter might be something you’d normally find funny on the guest poster’s site, it’s jarring when you come across it in context with the other content. Even if labeled “NSFW!! Contains explicit photos and adult humor” seeing it in the wrong context doesn’t sit well.  The poster may be the late but great George Carlin and I’ll still question the decision by the editor to post it there.

    Anyhow, I should quit posting on this whole thing. It’s just that it really bugged me that the post-even conversation revolves around this whole shock-jock approach in the closing keynote instead of the rest of what I thought was an amazingly brilliant event.

    • Anonymous

      you make some very good points lucretia. The point I keep trying to make which seems to be falling on deaf ears, is that the group of bloggers who are complaining are not necessarily  representative of our entire audience.

      I also keep hearing people say, they only want to hear from certain bloggers in a very narrow niche of the blogosphere.

      Their was educational value in the session beyond just entertainment. The subject matter just got in the way of that and people tuned it out.

      As for being stubborn; guilty as charged. But we are listening. We realize this didn’t come off the way we wanted and offending your customer is never a good thing. That failure falls on us and us alone.

      • Lucretia M Pruitt

        Oooh… that’s a huge point Rick.
        I think perhaps it’s getting lost in all of the other chatter – that the “loudest chatter” is not necessarily the best representation of the majority.
        A point we tend to not think about in our world of “well if they have an opinion, why aren’t they writing about it?”
        I’m just as guilty of that fallacy as the next guy.  There’s a huge section of any audience that stays permanently in “lurker mode” when it comes to recaps or feedback.
        I wasn’t there sadly… but I am reading everyone’s comments and whatnot and it seems that the audience held many people who were laughing and enjoying the session – so it’s not like it universally misfired. 
        I had a friend point out something on a very different subject that applies here as well: just because there are a number of people saying something negative doesn’t mean they are -all- saying the same thing either.  Some of the feedback is on inconsistency (wasn’t that Marcus’s main point?), some are folks who didn’t like subject matter, some didn’t mind subject matter but felt it wasn’t appropriate for closing keynote… etc, etc.   and for every one of those? There are a dozen who are not saying anything – or if they did, would say they were neutral or approved.

        I can say that I really loved what I saw and experienced in NY this year and I fully expect that LA will be even more solid given the greater lead time. You guys know I love BWE, if I didn’t? I wouldn’t bother writing these lengthy comments all the time 😉

    • Marcus Sheridan,The Sales Lion

      Lucretia, one thing that I’ve learned over the past week is that you’re one of the most thoughtful people in the entire blogosphere. I’m so blown away by this and many other comments you’ve made. Keep up the passion and greatness!!

  • Kathy Nicholls

    I’ve sat on commenting on this since it first came out, having read all of the posts and comments. I didn’t attend the NY meeting so I cannot comment on it personally. So I’ll stick to what I can comment on.

    I was a first time attendee to BWE10 in Vegas. I went based on a recommendation from David Risley as I was at the time one of his Blogmaster Club students. The blogging world was really new to me and I was feeling a bit out of my element. (And on a side note, I did send you a couple of comments about what would really help for first timers but never got a response. I don’t need one, just hope you will consider it for future things!)  That said, I learned a lot and met some great people. It was a good experience. The keynote last year was a bit “off” for me, although I did find some of it funny.

    I’ve attended many different conferences in my career and when I think of keynote presentations, I really think of them being something that everyone can take something away from. Sometimes that perhaps inspires the audience to go out and do great things. I really don’t think panels work so well for that, and comedy panels just aren’t what comes to mind for me when I think of a keynote.

    When I saw your description of the presentation, “semantics” is what came to mind for me. If I had read that, and particularly if I had read it as a first timer, I wouldn’t have interpreted “edgy” to mean “adult humor.”  It’s not just about language, although I really don’t see a need for anyone to use the F-bomb to get their point across but again that’s just me. Several of the best speakers I heard last year used what some could have considered “cuss words” but it just wasn’t offensive. Perhaps that’s because in the two cases that come to mind I had either read their book or heard them speak before so I knew what to expect. I think you nailed it when you said you could do better in being sure it’s clear what a session is going to be about.

    Planning meetings is never an easy task. You won’t please everyone.  It’s also tough to deal with criticism without becoming defensive. If you can manage to pull that off, then it’s a sign you’ve really heard what your customers are saying.

  • Gail Gardner

    I agree that there is a place for racy comedy shows at comedy clubs for those who choose to visit those venues; however, a business event is not a nightclub and what is appropriate entertainment among buddies is not something most people would watch with their children, mother or grandmother (I hope).

    That you bring together people from diverse backgrounds is admirable. If you want to continue to bring EVERYONE together, adult content (and that Keynote is DEFINITELY adult content) should not be part of the closing. It should be separate entertainment like the parties that occur at any event. 

    That you and your peers and families love this kind of humor is a personal preference. No amount of sharing how much you love it will cause people who choose not to expose themselves to certain types of behaviors to change their minds. They are NEVER going to “enjoy” it.

    That people who are part of “our circle” does not mean we should share EVERYTHING with them. If your friends go to strip shows you don’t have to go with them for them to still be part of your circle. If they are really into wife swapping YOU and your spouse don’t have to participate.

    Everyone has standards and draws the line somewhere – even you. If you find pole-dancing and wife swapping perfectly acceptable because they’re mainstream – so are crack houses. Are you down with that too? If using is ok by you, what about being videoed and ending up on YouTube?

    I can already hear some saying “but that’s different” and others saying “sure, let’s ‘enjoy’ it”. People must start realizing that everyone else is NOT just like you. What you allow into your life affects your own behavior. If you are around people who swear like sailors you’ll end up swearing too. Some of us prefer to work to eliminate the occasional slip from our vocabularies – not turn into the next George Carlin. 

    One other thing. What kind of defense is it to point out that what you did was not as far in that direction as anyone has ever gone? Didn’t your Mother ever ask you if everyone else jumped off a cliff would you jump too? While some believe in pandering to the lowest common denominator others of us believe in upholding high standards.

    Listening to your audio it becomes obvious that your choices come from emulating what other famous or successful people do. Celebrities and their image creators have always sought to push the envelope and it is clear that is what you want to do as well. I am glad that there are some people willing to speak out about what they believe is appropriate and still a few more people like me – who are not willing to compromise their ethical standards for the sake of popularity.

  • Kristi Hines

    I think the main discrepancy I see is that Blog World is marketed as a conference catered to businesses and bloggers who would like to take their blogs to the next level.  When I look at pages on the BWE site about the show, who attends, and why attend, my perspective is that it is going to be a very professional conference where we can come and learn from the top authorities in blogging. 

    Even the banner ad that I see while writing this comment says “World’s Largest Social Media Business Conference” and “Learn from top social media marketing experts, strategists, corporate bloggers, Twitter pro’s & more.”

    So the overall feel I get from the marketing is that it is a professional conference, and at no point during a professional conference would I expect to be greeted with some of the material in that closing keynote.  It’s the kind of conference that businesses send their employees to, and I can’t imagine that an employee would want to come back and summarize what they “learned” in this keynote in front of their boss and their peers, unless they work at TMZ or for Howard Stern.

    I have to throw in that I haven’t seen the closing keynote – not sure where to find that or if it is available online to watch somewhere.  I’d be happy to watch it at home and maybe add to  what I’m writing now.   But from what I’ve read, it was totally off base from the rest of the content presented throughout the conference.  It didn’t sound like it provided anything that people could learn from and apply to their blogging, or if it did, it was presented well past the point where people got so uncomfortable that they couldn’t really focus on any value in the message.  Again, don’t know because I wasn’t there, but that is the feeling I get about it from posts and comments.

    One of the things I’ve always suggested with conference schedules is that there is some kind of marker indicating whether sessions are beginning, intermediate, or advanced.  The same thing could be applied with rating levels.  This keynote sounds like it would fit in the R or NC-17, or at minimum NSFW. 

    I have always taken the time to read the session descriptions on the interactive schedule, but maybe the skill level and rating levels of each session / keynote should be included in that as well as in the booklet given out at Blog World and on the big banners outside the rooms, that way people have three different opportunities to figure out if they’re walking into the right place or not. 

    As far as taking risks to expand the horizons of everyone attending the event, I can see that as a valid point.  I have no idea what types of bloggers come to BWE, but out of the selection I met in Vegas last year, not one was focused on politics or any form of crude humor.  A few humor bloggers and cartoonists, sure, but nothing past the PG-13 level.  If anything, the niches I saw beyond problogging, social media, and business included photography, personal development, creative writing, foodies, real estate, government, podcasters, and video bloggers. 

    Maybe expanding the event to include topics for them (which I believe there were some for specific niches in 2010) would be more worthwhile than going for broke with the raunchy comedy at the end.  I had to leave before last year’s closing keynote, but remember looking at the lineup and, while they are cool people and on a personal basis might be interested in seeing them, I remember thinking “how do they fit in with everything I’ve learned at this conference?”

    Final keynotes, for me at least, have always been like the closing of a great speech or like the last paragraph in a blog post.  It’s supposed to be a summary of everything I just learned and/or a call to action to apply everything I learned to what I do. 

    It’s also a final lasting impression, something that can be more important than the first which is evident by the fact that the reviews are cropping up are more about that keynote than the rest of the conference which I’m sure was awesome.  Kind of like having excellent service and a fantastic gourmet dinner at a five star restaurant, then at the end of the meal the waiter comes out wearing ripped jeans, no shirt, and literally tosses a Snickers bar in your lap for dessert.  Not likely to happen, granted, but no matter how great the experience was up to that point, the only thing you will remember (and probably add to your negative Yelp review) would be the shock of what played out at the end of the meal. 

    Anyway, not trying to say anyone was right or wrong, just my overall perspective of things. Definitely still coming to LA (though I really wish it were still in Vegas) and will be reading the details about the content of the sessions and keynotes!

  • Darren Rowse

    Fascinating conversation and hopefully one that will hopefully only make BWE better and better.

    My 2 cents worth as someone who was sadly only following BWENY on Twitter was that overall the events seemed like an amazing success but that from the tweets this keynote just seemed a little out of place from the ‘vibe’ I got from the rest of what was happening.

    It did remind me a little of a final keynote at one of the previous BWE’s in Vegas (I suspect it was 2009) where I was sitting in the keynote feeling a little as though it’d been a wasted opportunity. 

    At that previous one I remember sitting in the audience thinking back over the last 3 days of inspiration, great connections and information and watching a talk show type setup that seemed to be more about getting a few laughs and throwing in a few ‘shocks’ to get reactions. 

    I remember wishing that instead we’d been there listening to someone summing up some of the learning of the week and someone who could inspire us to go out and do something that matters. I’ve got nothing against having a laugh – but it just seemed like a great opportunity to send people away with a little inspiration.

    I didn’t have a problem with the content in that session really (although its not really my personal cup of tea) but just wondered whether the last session (the one everyone went home from remembering) was the place for it?

    The other idea that I had on the plane on the way home (14 hours is a long time to think) was that perhaps a final keynote in a conference about social media and online connectivity could possibly be some kind of more social event where attendees have the opportunity to participate and/or react.

    It struck me that at the end of every good blog post there’s a comment section for people to share their reactions, stories, experiences and ideas and perhaps at the end of every blog conference there should similarly be some kind of opportunity for such reactions. Not sure how it’d be managed but after a few days of listening to the experts perhaps some kind of opportunity for others (the real experts) to share might have been good.

    Anyway – glad to hear BWENY was largely a great event and looking forward to being there next year.

  • Judy Helfand

    Rick,
    I have been thinking about this and finally decided I would share a story about how  I walked out on Frank Sinatra!
     
    Sorry I couldn’t be at BWENY.
    Judy

  • Vinny O'Hare

    I was at the closing keynote and although it was very unpolished with the mics and the band playing I didn’t think there would be any controversy over the content. It wasn’t what I expected but I enjoyed the comedy even though it was a little racy at first. I am from NYC so I am use to this stuff I guess.

    I think the videos “about the speakers” was a little long each time they brought a speaker out. We didn’t really need to see these as they all felt like they were a drag after about 20 seconds.

    I really wasn’t familiar with some of the speakers but after the event I liked some and didn’t like others. Not a big deal.

    Could it have been done better ? Sure, and I think it will be next time.    

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