One thousand women bloggers met in San Francisco this week for the annual BlogHer conference, while Netroots Nation was rocking Austin. The two things attendees most wanted to know were how to be successful in the political blogosphere and whether their candidates are up to the challenge.
Last year, BlogHer attendees wanted to know why the Obama campaign didn't send a representative to the conference. It was in Chicago, the director for Women for Hillary was there, as was Elizabeth Edwards and representatives for McCain and Romney. This year, the Obama campaign sent three people, and the day before the conference, Michelle Obama posted at blogher.com. "Let's Talk", she wrote. "We all need to do our part to keep women's issues at the forefront of the national debate. That's why communities like BlogHer are so important." Members of the BlogHer community welcomed Obama with open arms. The same invitation to blog Michelle Obama received has been extended to Cindy McCain.
Not every woman who attended BlogHer was interested in the political track, however. The most popular panels included tips on making more money out of blogs and the phenomenon that has seen bloggers become celebrities. The diverse community was, as one person who had come straight from Austin noted, refreshingly cordial. Day one of the conference included a session moderated by BlogHer Political Director Morra Aarons on "How to Take Names and Be Taken Seriously as a Political Blogger." Fausta, a panelist, said, "the less angry you sound, the more effective you're going to be in the long run." Mona Gable of The Huffington Post explained that "you have to be authentic," and Shark Fu reminded everyone that "you need to be active in politics, and politics is a whole lot more than who's going to be president of the United States of America."
Day two held technical challenges as BlogHer panelists tried to link up with a Netroots Nation session. There was so much feedback between the multiple microphones, speakers, laptops, etc. that the audience could barely hear what was going on, let alone the speakers themselves. Panelists Erin Kotecki Vest and Joanne Bamberger hope they can reattempt the panel live at Netroots Nation in Pittsburgh next year. Bamberger said she thought "the chance to do a joint session was an incredible opportunity to get two large blogging communities together and to let the Netroots politicos know that they don't have a corner on the political blogosphere."
In an intimate panel moderated by BlogHer co-founder Lisa Stone, Liz Mair, the RNC online communications director, spoke as McCain surrogate, and Congresswoman Allyson Schwartz of Pennsylvania represented the Obama camp. Liveblogged by SoCalMom, Donna Schwartz Mills, the surrogates answered questions submitted by members of the BlogHer community. On the topic of which candidate better understands technology, Mair spoke about how McCain is having regular conference calls with bloggers, which didn't even really work as flattery, since many bloggers -- particularly women -- do not identify themselves or blogging as particularly technical.
As to the undecideds, at a smaller MOMocrats event during BlogHer, we met a Republican who couldn't bring herself to vote for McCain, a Democrat who wasn't completely sold on Obama, and an independent who just made the big leap to register with the Democratic Party. The MOMocrats had invited these women to be a part of a platform-building exercise.
General consensus was that both campaigns missed an opportunity to get their word out to a massive audience of key women voters by not sending bigger names to make their pitch.