As most of you are well aware, the past few days have been a whirlwind for me here on TSL to say it in the least. Although I knew when I wrote my Blog World post last Thursday night that it would likely attract a few eyes, little did I know it would break every comment and traffic record this little corner of the internet has ever seen.
But I feel it’s important to express some closing thoughts on ‘Bloggate 2011’, as well as some powerful lessons I’ve learned because of this event. I also think the questions I’ve submitted at the end of this article are incredibly important, and I hope that even if you skip this post, you’ll at least take a moment to answer a few of the questions at the bottom—as they could literally affect the future of your Blog World experience.
Well Done Sara Benincasa
While I was plane-delayed in La Guardia airport in NY on Friday, I saw Sara Benincasa, one of the most controversial figures on the keynote panel, had jumped in the fray and was responding to comments here on TSL. Immediately, much to my surprise, I could see Sara was not here to fight, but rather state her case, and explain things—quite civilly I might add—from her point of view.
As soon as I saw this, I emailed Sara and told her how impressed I was with her responses to the many comments. She quickly emailed me back and this commenced about a dozen or so emails we would send back and forth throughout the entire day. In fact, here is a snippet of one of the emails she sent me:
“…Thank you Marcus! I’m really enjoying your site. It’s nice to be able to talk to you like this. I wrote a loooong comment, sorry for responding at such length but I figure people will see it on your site, not on mine. I’m learning lessons from this incident, to be sure. One is to ask more questions. Another is, if possible, to attend other events at the conference in order to take the pulse of the place. If I had gone to some events just to hear the language being used and see the reactions of the audience, I think I would have done a better job of delighting people–which is always what we set out to do, in business and otherwise, right? If we can produce delight in a customer, a client, an audience member, then we have done our job.”
As you can plainly see I’m sure, this is a gal that cares, and wants to do her job well. In this case with Blog World, it turns out, (as she referred to in her comment) they had previously sent her a video explaining how they wanted the show to be edgy, thus she was following, in her mind, a pattern that had already been established.
So as far as Sara Benincasa is concerned, here are my closing points:
1. She shouldn’t be blamed for delivering a great performance based on the standards Blog World had given her.
2. Instead of shying away from all the bullets, Sara jumped into the fray and was more than willing to engage with commenters on this site. On Friday alone she wrote well over 1500 words here on TSL and I personally saw this as one of the best ‘this is how you’re supposed to deal with problems’ through the use social media that I’ve ever seen. In fact, a lot of really big companies could learn from Sara.
3. Blog World set her up to fail. (No, it wasn’t intentional, but that’s exactly what they did.)
The Civility of the TSL Community
One thing I’ve never understood is why debate so often leads to name calling and harsh words, especially online. Those of you that know me can attest to the fact that I have no patience for such ignorance.
Over the last few days though, I’ve received multiple comments and emails from people congratulating me on just how healthy the entire discussion has been in the comment section of the article, and the fact that just about everyone was extremely civil and polite.
Although such compliments may not mean much to some bloggers, to me this was a huge deal. It’s a testament of a quality community and I just cannot thank everyone enough for being a part of something special—something that has been read thousands and thousands of times since I hit publish on Friday where diverse people from all walks of life have managed to learn from each other. This is the essence of the blogosphere—Unity, Not Division .
Final Thoughts On Blog World
On Saturday morning, about 24 hours after my post had been up, I had the opportunity to talk with Rick Calvert of Blog World. Through an email, he had cordially invited me to call him, and he also left an extremely well done comment after the article.
After talking to Rick for about 45 minutes, I’ve come up with these conclusions:
1. Rick Calvert is a man on a mission and has a major love for blogging and new media, and he has poured his heart and soul into this event over the past 4 years.
2. The people of BW realize they need to do better. They understand that the keynote’s edgy content was not discussed enough (although it was in the event guide) so as to make everyone truly aware of its content.
3. The people of BW only had about 3 months to prepare for BW New York. This is because they were given a small window of opportunity to join with the mega book show that is done during the same time. So in order to leverage an existing event with a huge base, the people at BW decided to do the show on very short notice. Although this will likely lead to great exposure in the future (the two shows will be together for at least 2 more years), it meant that the attendees this year did not receive the same quality standard of previous BW events.
A Philosophical Difference
Despite these points in defense of Rick Calvert and Blog World, I do need to finish with some points of disagreement I still have.
On Friday morning after the keynote fiasco, Rick and Dave from the BW staff did a podcast explaining their stance on the event. Rick directed me to this podcast in an effort to further show me and others BW’s reasoning behind putting on the final keynote.
But to be honest, I wish I hadn’t of listened to the podcast, as it only made me frown and feel worse.
When it comes down to it, I now realize I have a major philosophical difference with BW. No, it’s not about F-Bombs and class titles. It’s much bigger than that. And here are my final points.
1. Blog World has a branding problem: In reality, it should be called Blog and New Media World, not Blog World and New Media. In other words, have you ever heard someone say, “I’m going to Blog World and the New Media Expo…” or “Hey, I’m going to Blog World” ? I don’t know about you, but me and all my friends simply call the event ‘Blog World’.
Although this may sound silly to some, the feedback I got from those that attended the show was that there was not nearly enough blogging focus. In fact, none of the 3 keynotes really had anything to do with blogging at all.
I understand why Rick is doing this. He wants to appeal to more groups and therefore have greater numbers. But in my opinion, this is a major quantity over quality issue, and it means that bloggers like me aren’t the primary customer base.
Early on in business I learned the worst thing I could possibly do was try to be everything to everybody, but that’s exactly what BW is doing with their business model, and I think it’s a major mistake.
2. Entertainment over Education: When I look back at the infamous keynote, I now realize that although it was poorly thought-out, executed, and advertised—it’s much more than that. You see, I went to Blog World to be educated. I wanted to learn about blogging until my brain hurt. My dear friend John Falchetto came all the way from France for the exact same reason. For us, BW was all about knowledge, and the entertainment portion of our trip would be contingent on us. (Note** A great speaker(like Gary V for example)will obviously entertain every time, so I’m not speaking of that type here.)
In other words, BW wants to be a teacher and entertainer. Again, this means they’ll fall short at both (in my opinion). If they would simply focus all their efforts on having the best blogging info in the world (from all fields and niches), their show would explode in my opinion—and not be surrounded by so much negativity.
For 10 years I’ve been attending and speaking at the National Pool and Spa convention in Vegas. And compared to most bloggers I know, pool guys are much ‘rougher’ around the edges when it comes to their methods of entertainment. But never once have the people that organize the conference tried to become entertainers. They realize that’s not their job. They also understand that’s why we have these events at locations that certainly don’t need any help when it comes to providing entertainment for all groups—i.e. Vegas, NYC, etc.
3. Blog World looks down on those that don’t share their world view: This is the one that saddens me the most and it was clearly evident when I listened to the podcast. In the eyes of BW, due to the fact that I have such an education-based approach to the way I see Blog World, as well as the fact I feel there needs to be standards in professionalism, I’m somehow myopic and short-sighted. (Remember, this doesn’t mean that we can’t have seminars that aren’t edgy, it just means that everything needs to have a proper time and place. Let the speakers and bloggers be as edgy as they want and then put a big, fat rating system on each seminar so everyone is fully aware as to what to expect.)
What surprises me the most is that I’ve never heard anyone at BW say, “You know, in hindsight, it probably wasn’t the best time to put such an edgy keynote as the closing remarks to the entire show.”
I mean, seriously??? Why wouldn’t we want a closing event that was unifying instead of dividing? Granted, some people are always going to complain but I guarantee if the closing keynote had simply been a 90-minute Q and A with Chris Brogan sitting on a couch, fielding questions from the audience, it would have been way, way more successful—and hundreds, if not thousands, would be remembering Blog World New York 2011 for its great content instead of the most poorly planned keynote in industry history.
OK, if you’ve managed to get through the last 1800 words, I thank you kindly for sticking around. Here are my questions, and I very much hope to hear your thoughts, as enough feedback here could actually dictate the future of BW as we know it (assuming they’re listening):
1. Do you feel BW has branding problem? Would you rather it focus mostly on best blogging/SM practices, or do you want there to be just as much ‘new media’ information?
2. Do you feel it’s BW’s duty to educate and entertain us, or do you feel they should simply focus on the education and allow us to handle our own entertainment?
3. Do you think a final keynote is the time to ‘push the envelope’ with ‘edgy’ entertainment and subjects?
4. If you could change anything about Blog World, what would it be?
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