BlogHer and Bridges
By Melissa Ford on August 07, 2008
BlogHer Original Post
This is the problem with going to BlogHer--it's like exercise. It makes you all healthy and energized. You come home and your thoughts feel cleansed as if they've just done a round of cardio and finished off the workout with a glass of carrot juice.
You are jotting down notes on the airplane for five hours (who am I kidding? I was doped up to get through that flight. I drooled for five hours) because the ideas are just churning and churning and churning. While you're there, in those huge sessions with hundreds of other bloggers, you feel as if you are in the middle of a 5K run. BlogHer is like a triathalon of Bikram yoga, two hours of Cornish hurling, and an archery competition all rolled into one extreme blogging extravaganza.
Oh...and I did do actual exercise while I was there. I believe I got to the third round of Wii boxing and there are photos floating around the web to prove it.
Before I left for BlogHer, I asked you why do you blog and when I returned from BlogHer, I posed the question about bridges. In between those two posts were dozens of conversations with other women bloggers (since...you know...women actually take action and get the job done) that asked whether (1) we needed to build bridges and strengthen communities by joining together open-minded bloggers, (2) if we built bridges, would people walk over them, and (3) what can we learn from someone else's experience in areas of life unrelated to our own?
And people mostly said yes and yes and a lot. It's interesting because I think I've been moving towards this idea for a while but it took the ass-kicking qualities of BlogHer (like a good kick-boxing workout) to actually put the idea into motion. This idea of bridges was the impetus behind the monthly IComLeavWe (International Comment Leaving Week). When this monthly commenting orgy began, it was self-contained in the adoption/loss/infertility (ALI) community. But we opened the door and invited everyone to join (and yes, you are invited to join as well. It runs every month from the 21st to the 28th and sign up is open for the first three weeks of each month) and they did and suddenly, book bloggers felt comfortable commenting on loss blogs. And the science bloggers were talking to the political bloggers. I'm not saying that people haven't written a lot of posts that talk about the discomfort of peeking into another person's world. But on the whole, the fact that people have returned for the third month of this commenting fest speaks volumes about what people are getting out it.
What the IComLeavWe list did was send a clear signal that the person wanted a conversation. They placed themselves on the list because they wanted more comments and they wanted to give more comments. I don't think IComLeavWe is for everyone because not everyone enters into blogging for the community aspect. I think, for me, the fact that BlogHer honoured and recognized the multitude of reasons people enter blogging within one conference was the reason why it worked for so many people on so many levels. Those who wanted to monetize or talk about social media went off to their respective panels and those who wanted to build community and talk about compassionate blogging went to their panels and so on. The different groups continuously mixed and crossed and reformed.
Enough people out there are blogging for community and compassionate communication (say that three times fast!). I kept entering into discussions about bridges over and over again. After BlogHer I started emailing people and asking if they'd join along and contribute their point-of-view to a new site about mindful listening. We would call it Bridges and it would grow and encompass a multitude of points of view on a variety of subjects: infertility, loss, adoption, body image, allergies, cancer, parenting special needs, addiction...
In other words, we wanted to talk about everything that didn't make good cocktail party conversation. And we invited writers and readers to do two things: slip on another person's shoes and walk around their thoughts as well as remove the taunts from the playground one post at a time. Each day, quintessential posts give you a glimpse into a world perhaps outside your own.
Each Friday, we have an open thread where people can literally open a tiny window into how they see the world as well as respond (and hopefully connect!) to another blogger's point-of-view. I think this open thread is important because too many times we hold things as true without examining them closely or being mindful of why they speak to us. I think this open thread, which asks each week, "what do you believe" will challenge people to think about what they hold close to their heart as they find the words to explain themselves.
We're calling this site Bridges and we opened up the first bridges this week. It is incredible how many people have already walked over them and the thoughts that have already emerged.
Stacey, an editor for international adoption, writes, "There's an amazing variation of experiences across the internet, but they don't always come together easily. Sometimes, we are so caught up in our own worlds, that we don't have time to step into someone else's world. Walking in another person's shoes is always worth the time. It nurtures the best in human nature, compassion, empathy and understanding. This site is all about building bridges between experiences and perspectives." Helen, writing about depression, adds, "There are many amazing and supportive people there covering many topics."
Allison, an editor on neonatal death, in a post asking people to meet in the middle, sums up the site like this:
Monday through Thursday will feature different contributing editors, with guest posts on Sunday. Contributions will be posted from editors’ personal blog archives, newly written for the site, or found on other blogs and shared with permission. You should also make a note to check in on Fridays, when readers will be invited to join the conversation through a series of open threads called "True View." It’s going to be a great opportunity to share insights and experiences and exchange points of view.
There are about 20 contributing editors at this time and new ones are added each day. We invite you to read Bridges, jump into the conversation each Friday with our True View open thread, volunteer to be an editor on a specific topic, join the awareness blogroll, submit a specific post for a guest editor slot, leave comments, challenge thoughts.
Fine, so exercise and being healthy isn't actually a problem. Drinking carrot juice (as long as you also get to have some cookies too) can actually be delicious. But there are a lot of similarities between BlogHer and a good workout. Even though both take energy, they give back a great deal more--enough, let's say--to run with ideas that come out of the conference and build a new site from scratch putting thoughts into action.
Because that's what women bloggers do, Daily Kos.
Melissa is the author of the infertility and pregnancy loss blog, Stirrup Queens and Sperm Palace Jesters. She keeps a categorized blogroll of over 1400 infertility blogs and writes the daily Lost and Found and Connections Abound, a news source for the infertility blogosphere. Her infertility book, The Land of If, is forthcoming from Seal Press in Spring 2009. She is also an editor at Bridges, the awareness consortium and the keeper of the list for IComLeavWe (International Comment Leaving Week). The list for August is currently open and all are invited to join the conversation.