So yesterday I began my Alt experience story, telling about Wednesday and Thursday. Let’s see if I can summarize Friday and Saturday.
Friday morning began with a bit of breakfast with new friend Ania from The New Diplomat’s Wife. She’s also from the DC area and has lived overseas, and we got to chat about blogging, our daughters and geographic transitions. While she and Natasha talked about the roundtables coming up, they convinced me (without really trying) to go to the “Legal Concerns for Bloggers” roundtable. Here’s Natasha, looking studious, and me in the background furiously taking notes and looking like I think it’s summer in Florida rather than winter in Utah:
I’m glad I went, but what I heard there completely freaked me out about doing giveaways. Not that we do many anymore, but there’re a whole lot of possibilities for legal entanglement that I’d not considered and definitely could not afford to handle. Granted, I don’t have the deep pockets lawsuits are after, but the biggest takeaway was the need for the line “void where prohibited by law” in giveaway rules. The lawyer, Nicholas Wells, does trademarking and law for bloggers day in and day out. He’s on my call list.
After the roundtables Natasha and I made our way to the HP lounge to work on our entries for Anya‘s design competition. They had a bunch of HP stuff on display, including three touchscreen PCs loaded with ArtRage that you could use to design an outfit that would fit with Anya’s collection, and Anya herself would be choosing the top three. While I was working on my entry, Dana wandered in. Ummm, Dana. I was a tiny bit distracted, and decided to wrap up my entry ASAP in case she ran away and I missed my one and only chance to meet her. I tried to keep my enthusiasm under control, because it really is SO fun to make the leap from reading someone’s blog to meeting them in person. And she’s just as nice as you’d think she’d be. So nice that we took a photo together.
In between sessions at Alt there’s a sponsored “Alt Lounge” where you can grab refreshments and hang out. Each day the theme was different and in between each session the offerings were switched up. Green goddess fountain, anyone? Or Cottonelle cupcakes?
While I was in the lounge I sat down next to roommate Natasha. I was telling her about someone I’d met and she introduced me to another blogger at the table. I heard her name but didn’t immediately process it. About five minutes further into conversation I realize that the Jessica I was sitting next to was JESSICA JONES. You may not be familiar with her, but as I later pointed out to her, she’s Jessica Jones of How About Orange, one of only a handful of blogs that are categorized in my reader as must read. (There are way more blogs in my reader than I can actually read regularly. So some are in the “must read”, some are in the “sometimes” and some are in the “occasional” sections, depending on how much time I have.) And there she is. Next to me. Hi, Jessica. How are you. I only read, like, every word you ever post. And I had no idea she’d be at the conference since I was a few days behind in blog reading. So… is what I’m writing beginning to convey the overwhelming pace of everything that happened in what’s really less than three days? Yes. Overwhelming. And then there was the random break dancing in the hallways:
My next session on making the transition from blog to shop was helpful in its realism about the balancing act of blogging and shop ownership. My main takeaway there was that I need to get to work! (April is my launch goal, and it’s coming up fast.) Big Cartel did an Oprah-style look-under-your-seat giveaway of a lifetime shop. Pretty cool, eh? I was not the jumping, screaming fool in front of me who actually won. But if I’d won, I might’ve done the same thing. Especially since I was about to launch a little shop myself the following week. (Shameless plug.)
Lunch on Friday was fantastic. I got to sit next to Chrysula Winegar, who writes about all sorts of things including Work Life Balance, and inspired me to do some legwork on a craft service project possibility I’d been pondering, which you’ll surely hear about when it’s put together. As if the conversation weren’t dessert-y enough, this was dessert:
Then the dessert speaker. Ben Silbermann from Pinterest. It’s not like I even need to provide the link, but, you know, Pinterest. Ben wasn’t speaking because he loves public speaking. He was there because of this audience that would have licked him off of their lunch plates because the site is so popular among design bloggers and enthusiasts alike. Seriously, the crowd loved him. And if you like, you can see the whole thing here.
His story was not unusual, and if anything he’s surprised to be involved with something that’s seen as so groundbreaking. Not unhappy about it, but seems surprised to be “that guy”. He’d not known exactly what he wanted to do but figured out he was interested in the internet, got a job with Google by saying “I really love the internet!” and then left Google to figure out his own project, taking a leap that meant risk. This was my favorite of his slides about the leap:
What was most interesting beyond his general likability was his response to Q&As about Pinterest. With a crowd like this who’re so intimately connected to your product, the questions felt pointed to me. Someone asked whether pinboards might ever have the option of privacy. His answer was, basically, “maybe”. Someone else admitted that they’d just tried to sign up the night before and were frustrated that they were on a waiting list, and wondered whether they’d done something wrong? His answer was “no.” What they’re trying to do, he said, is take advantage of existing Pinterest users to show the way to now users, in that a new user will learn from a brand ambassador of sorts how the site works and keep commentary, pins and attitudes positive and constructive. Social norming. Brilliant. I hadn’t really thought about it prior, but you don’t see a whole lot of snarkiness in the comments on Pinterest. Plenty in the pins themselves, but not so much in the comments. Seems to be working for the folks that are on already. Pretty frustrating for the folks that want to be and can’t get in the door. (E-mail me or leave your address in the comments and I’ll send you one if you haven’t tried it yet. Crazy how it only takes 2 seconds that way.)
After lunch I took a break. Skipped a session. Sad but true. There were sessions that appealed to me in that time slot, but my brain hadn’t recovered from the previous two days, and I needed to relax. I called home to check on my toddler who I’d already heard had puked in the middle of the night and had a fever, and touch base with my mother-in-law, my Dad and my future sister-in-law. And I felt better. Ready to focus again.
The closing keynote featured Gretchen Rubin of The Happiness Project. I’ve already mentioned it here, but my follow-up is that I’m continuing to read and so grateful for that message before I left the conference. I really needed it to get through the transition at home and am processing it daily. Before the conference I’d sort of written it off, thinking it wouldn’t be a realistic view, picturing Gretchen as a Tigger-type personality that would strike me as inauthentic. The keynote was anything but.
She really made her perspective feel entirely authentic, personal and practical, and that’s the same sense I get from the book. Exactly why I keep reading it. She also drove home the point that if you write off happiness as a selfish goal, you’re inhibiting your more selfless intent to bring happiness to others– because happy people make others happy. Much like the idea that a mother must care for herself first in order to be able to care for others. It was the a-ha moment I needed.
A related morsel of fun from Gretchen that I loved: use scents to provide a hit of happiness. She passed around several scents that are evocative of happy moments, but aren’t traditional perfumes. Kind of like slathering on sunscreen in mid-winter just for the coconut-y reminder that summer has to come back eveeeentually. (A hit of happiness from a perfume bottle sounds a whole lot less physique-impactful than eating something, yes?) I suggest reading more here.
Following the keynote the entrants for Anya/HP’s design competition wondered back to the HP lounge. She’d chosen 12 entries she liked most, three of those as winners and one of the three as the big, big winner. The big, big winner happened to be my roommate. The second jumping, screaming fool of the day. Sigh. Also not me.
I’d have been SUPER jealous if my design had made it out of the top 12 and into the top 3, but it didn’t. Mine was in the “most promising” category, as in “it mighta been better had you actually finished it.” Mine’s in the bottom left corner. Natasha’s gown is in the upper right.
Still totally fun for Anya to include me in the 12, give me a mini-critique, sign my design and take a photo with me. I can’t be concise about how nice Anya was. Deliciously amazingly heartwarmingly mesmerizingly kind. And Natasha says I can use her fancy new computer when I come over to visit, so it’s all good.
So while the conference was officially over, there were still Friday night’s “mini parties” to attend. (And Saturday’s design camps.) I’m not sure why they call them mini-parties. Each one was more elaborate than most weddings I’ve been to. Each one had a theme, and most were hosted by a company that had joined forces with a blogger to creatively execute the theme together. The idea was that you’d wander from suite to suite on the third floor of the hotel and pick up snacks, drinks and goodies. What’s not to like about that? I guess that’s the mini part. You’re only at each one for 15 minutes, tops, but you wander at your own pace.
One party’s theme was Paris:
With a “Paris” photo backdrop. (Is the balloon in the air supposed to look like it’s toting a flying thong? Maybe it’s just me.)
Rue La La’s party served skewered grilled cheeses on top of tomato soup:
The next time I throw a party in a ballroom I’m totally doing this:
Okay, that’s not likely but I really do have a plan for these tealights under cupcake liners at the Handmade By You party:
The hallways were constantly filled with folks wandering from one party to another:
And most of the rooms had silly photo booths where you could strike a pose. Umm… as evidenced the night before, not something I excel at. But fun to watch. At the SquareSpace party you could draw your own frame before stepping into the photo:
We did the photo op at the HP party, though we probably shouldn’t have, and (again) clearly had no idea what to do with ourselves:
And then we had some fun blog-nerdy discussion about advertising, babies, Adrianna, site design and redesign, books, kids…. all over the map. And talked a bit about Saturday plans.
In the hallway I ran into Ben (Pinterest Ben) and we talked a bit about the Q & A and I expressed my undying appreciation for his work. And he said he “liked my kicks” which were, at this point, in my hands because I could no longer walk in them. Which was my cue to hobble to my room and collapse.
I thought I could do this in two posts but it’s going to take three. Tomorrow I’ll tell you all about Saturday, Sunday and my very favorite and unexpected part of the hotel that has a lot of competing attributes for top spot. In the meantime, you might like this light little 2 minute video that sums up the feel of Alt. So fun.
I’m going to sit back and wait for the hate mail from Natasha over posting these photos.