Monday, June 28, 2010

Blogging While Brown Conference: Things I learned...

After the uncomfortable excitement of late Thursday evening and Friday morning, I was so happy to arrive in DC for the conference. Living in my small town, I get pretty psyched when I visit a big city. Now, don't have visions of me running around, throwing hats in the air a la Mary Tyler Moore via Synclaire James. I can walk the walk and look as though I belong *chuckle*. I took an amusement park ride, or shuttle, from the airport to the hotel. I swear, the driver was insane with the speed and whipping in and out of traffic, but I arrived at my destination safely. The Henley Park Hotel was very nice and check in was quick and smooth. Once I got to my room, I made the mistake of falling onto my bed. I did not want to get up! I was coming down from the adrenaline rush that kept me motivated for the majority of the day, but I jumped in the shower, got dressed and walked down the street to the center where the conference was being held. After registering, picking up my badge, bag, and schedule, I skipped the game night *sad face* and went back to chill at the hotel. I figured that while playing a few games and getting to know other attendees would be fun, but getting up in the morning for the various sessions would be rough if I didn't rest.

This turned out to be a great move on my part because I was wide awake and ready to go the next day.There were so much information given throughout the day. Here are some of the major points I took from the conference:

Stacey Ferguson's presentation focused on the requirement bloggers face regarding disclosure when giving reviews on various products. According to Ferguson, one can make a short disclosure state within the blog post and leave it at that. For example, if I receive a product in the mail, all I need to do is say so. Nothing long and drawn out; just say that I given Product A from Advertiser A.While I think, if taken at face value, it's a good idea, once you add the fact that everyone (like, major companies) aren't required to do the same thing, it becomes completely unfair. Gina McCauley made sure to point attendees to an FTC white paper that shows what the commission has "discussed" and how this can affect all bloggers.

Scott Hanselman gave a wonderfully informative, and funny, presentation and I was left with some cool things to consider regarding my blog. If you're serious about blogging, you need to use analytic tools so you can keep track of the traffic that visits your blog. Google Analytics is a good one to use and it's free. Mr. Hanselman also suggested the use of a "301 redirect". You might ask, "What is a 301 redirect?" Well, apparently there is a little trick one can use to redirect traffic to a different website. This comes in handy when bloggers , who have established themselves on one hosting website, want to redirect their readers to new websites. For example, I plan on using a 301 redirect to direct you to my website once it's up and running; pretty neat, huh?

While it was said that you shouldn't approach blogging as a way to get rich, I believe it was Nichelle Stevens who said that you may not become rich, monetarily, but your life can be rich, more fulfilling.Being able to set your own hours and being able to do something that you enjoy, to me, is a blessing. Now, since the ability to walk away from your 8 to 5 day job will not just simply happen, there are a few things that the panelists for the "The Business of Blogging" session suggested for success. It is important to plan; be strategic and know what you are blogging for and why. Serious bloggers should research and pay attention to what others are doing; I took this to mean, see what others are doing and put your own spin on it to make it your own.Make sure that you know your audience and make sure that your content reaches them. And, of course, keeping up the trends in technology is important for keeping one's blog up to date and relevant.

What I've listed are just a few of the suggestions that will will use to develop a better blog; these are the points that have stuck with me since the conference. I have some serious decisions to make regarding the direction I want to take Methodical Madness.

*photo by Adria Richards*

Monday, June 21, 2010

Planes, Trains, and Automobiles: Making my way to Blogging While Brown

My adventure began last Thursday afternoon, on what I thought would be a great day. See, I bought a round-trip Amtrak train ticket from Chicago to DC to attend the Blogging While Brown conference. Now, if you know my location, you may ask "Why would you drive all the way to Chicago to hop on a train?" Well, my rinky-dink town wanted to charge a price that was almost up there with the price of flying to the conference. So I decided to go with the cheaper of the two modes of transportation. Now, my plan was work until about 3pm that day and hit the highway soon after. You know what they say about the plans of mice and men, right? Well, it applies to women as well. People wanted to hit me with crazy problems at work, which I had to solve before leaving for the weekend...did I mention that I was handling the tasks of a co-worker who was on vacation that day as well? No? Well, I was and that led to my leaving the office fifteen minutes off schedule! Doesn't sound like a big deal, but since I needed to stop by the house and grab my bags, I ended up getting on the highway about thirty-five minutes late.

Not thinking of the fact that it's warm outside and not considering the time, I get on the highway thinking that I can easily do 80 MPH and make it to Union Station in time to board. That was quite foolish of me, I know. About an hour into my drive, and I'm doing pretty well on time, I hit a rough spot. Road construction, which is the enemy of everyone who happens to be running late. Traffic was backed up and I'm in the car, on the verge of breaking out in hives, because the clock is telling me that I'm simply not gonna make it to the train station. I keep pushing onward though, because I'm hoping that there was a delay of some sort (the irony of that wish will come back to bite me later).

After the constipation that was highway traffic, I finally made it to Chicago, for all the good it did. I'm looking for my exit, the one that will take me to the station, and lo and behold, that exit is closed. So I drive around to the next exit and have to make my way back to the right street. Mind you, the navigation tool on my phone keeps rerouting and it began to get confusing. I'm stressed and I have this annoying mechanical voice telling my to make a right when I can't, unless I want turn into oncoming traffic on a one way street (and being a stunt woman is not on my bucket list, I take a pass on that). So eventually, I find the train station and see that there is a self park area across the street. Looking at the on the dashboard, I saw that I was twenty minutes late. After doing a Google search for the train station's phone number, I called and found out that I definitely missed my train. Disgusted with the situation, angry at myself for not leaving on time, I got back on the highway and drove home angry and crying...yes, I cried. I figured I lost the money I spent on my train ticket and the money I spent on registering for the conference. That was a nice chunk of change to waste, so I figure I am allowed to shed some angry tears. I just drove three hours in an attempt to save money and ended up losing out on everything I spent AND I have to drive another three hours to get home!

Of course, as I drove back home, it hits me that there are other options. I simply needed to get home and start searching for solutions; and solutions I did find. I found a decent rate on a one way flight to DC, so I called Amtrak and told the rep what happened, asked if there was a way for me to use the return part of my ticket. Unfortunately no, that was not an option. However, the rep said that she could process a full refund of my money and that brightened my spirit tenfold. So I went to Priceline, after comparing airfares with other websites, and bought a plane ticket for the next day. After getting about four hours of sleep, I get up, shower, throw on some clothes and hop in the car to hit the highway again. This time I take Mom with me so I don't have to pay for parking; I figure she can drop me off, take the car for the weekend, and pick me up when I return. Sounds great right?

Guess what?

I. missed. the. flight.

Got mixed up and turned around with the directions and got to the airport a few minutes after the plane took off.

I know, I know...*whomp, whomp, whommmmp*...

Luckily, there was another flight to DC, albeit three hours later. So I got my ticket transferred and hopped on the plane and was on my way to the Blogging While Brown conference! Happy ending, right?

To be continued...