CHANGE YOURSELF: Old-School Bloggers


AUGUST 5, 2011

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>> KYRAN PITTMAN: Welcome to Old School Bloggers. I hope you brought your canes. The hash tag for this session is BH11oldschool. I hope you will use it. Where is our mic wrangler so I can get a visual? Hi Dana. All right. Well, welcome, I'm Kyran Pittman. I'm the spring chicken of this assembly, I have to say. I started Notes to Self, my first blog, in December 2005. It was an online journal of days, kind of just a way to keep my mom up to date with life, chronicling life inside the white picket fence. In 2007 it started to get interesting when I was discovered by Good Housekeeping magazine and in by 2008 I became a contributing editor for the magazine. A first book, "A Memoir of a Semi Domesticated Life" came out in April. And in November of 2010, almost five years after I began Notes to Self, I decided to conclude that blog. It's still on line. It's still archived for people who want the back story, but it felt to me like it was time to close the chapter on that and start a new on line space and I'm still figuring out what that is. It's planting, and I'm just a believer in reinventing yourself as you go so that's my new space. On our panel we have Elizabeth Thielke. Elizabeth is a nurse by day, blogger by night, wife and mom round the clock. She is the author of where she has been writing about whatever comes to mind since 2003. She is a past Weblog Award winner and a Nielsen Power Mom. Elizabeth has been married for 20 years and has three kids, ages 16, 15 and 9.
We also have Jenn Satterwhite. Jenn has been online with a web site in one form or another since the early 90s. In 2003 she began her current blog,, where she has written about topics from
addiction to the humorous dark side of the P.T.A. I love that. Mommy Needs Coffee has been featured in Red Book Magazine, Parenting and has won numerous online awards. She has two teenage boys. People who can hang in with a blog can hang in with a marriage. I don't know which is harder. Kathryn Finney is here. Kathryn is the chief shopping officer now, guidance counselors never told me that was an option. I feel cheated. And founder of The Budget She started in the summer of 2003. I didn't get going until 2005. These guys are my elders and my betters. Since that time Kathryn has taken her blog from a small site on looking fabulous on a budget into one of the top fashion sites on the internet with over ten unique, how to be a budget fashionista. Kathryn has been profiled and featured in numerous magazines and television shows and has served as a spokesperson for a variety of brands. We have a collective wealth of experience on the panel. I would like to take a poll from the audience to get an idea of our collective experience in the room. Raise your hands if you have been blogging over one year. Keep your hands up if you have been blogging for more than two years. More than three? More than four? More than five? Now we are getting geriatric, okay. More than six? We are getting into geo cities. More than seven? More than eight? I think those blogs were done on stone tablets. More than nine years? Oh, my God. Wow! 10, baby. Let's figure out who gets the gold watch. Ten years? Ten years? Really. You got to tell us your blog.
>> Well, my current blog is only five years, but I have been blogging since ‘99.
My current blog is a girl in my shop has only been doing it for five years, I was inspired at BlogHer ‘07, but I have been blogging since the days of diaries before they were called blogs, so 1999, September.
>> KYRAN PITTMAN: Congratulations. I think that's it. She wins.
>> AUDIENCE: Ten years. Since high school.
>> KYRAN PITTMAN: Tell us your blog.
>> AUDIENCE: My blog now is just woodland But back then I had a different personal blog and I also work in P.R. and I blog for our firm's blog and it's called forward thinking, FWD thinking but it's kind of crazy because I'm part of the digital native generation, I guess.
>> KYRAN PITTMAN: So you were in high school when you began that. Wow! You are the canary in the coal mine. Okay. Well, I'm kind of torn about the title of this session old school bloggers kind of sounds like we should be shrieking at kids to get off our lawns. I want to honor our experience as a community and culture here today, but I hope we will remain forward focused. I would like the emphasis as we share our experiences to be on practical strategies for keeping going or knowing when it's time to stop going will. This is an evolution and the culture around us has been evolving rapidly so. There is going to be a lot of transitional points in that journey that I hope we will hear from you all and our panelists as to how we have grown through those changes and how we continue to evolve and adapt in this amazingly dynamic medium.
So please be thinking about as we have been sharing and hearing from panelists where you are with your journey with your blog. I'm going to invite each of our panelists in turn to tell us starting with Kathryn, why did you start blogging and why do you keep blogging?
>> ELIZABETH THIELKE: Good afternoon, everyone, I hope everyone is well. I'm distracted by that lady's wonderful you have to show that, like twirl around the room. I love your hat. You can see that my interest is obviously in fashion. And I started in 2003, and really started from a love of fashion and a lack of cash. I was living in a city far away from all of my friends, newly married and just needed sort of an outlet for my fashion sort of creativity. And so I started the budget fashionista on a gram called Gray Matter and if anyone here can remember Gray Matter I will give you some of my drink tickets. I think I have like eight, you each get one. See me afterward. And so just really, it was a small blog. No one was really reading it except my mom and my husband band. I didn't think it was going to go anywhere at that time blogging wasn't really what it turned out to be. And it just sort of took off as a result of an associated press article. And the rest is history.
>> KYRAN PITTMAN: Kathryn, what keeps you blogging today?
>> KATHRYN FINNEY: What keeps me blogging is the community, the readers, a need for my own creative outlet. I love fashion, all aspects of it. For me it's not about wearing labels, I really could care less. I'm wearing Wal Mart and Old Navy today. I don't pay attention to labels. It's about the creativity and that definitely keeps me going.
>> KYRAN PITTMAN: Elizabeth, what started you and what keeps you going.
>> ELIZABETH THIELKE: Some days I'm not sure what, however, I started back in 2003 as well, and before that I had been in, and some of you are probably very familiar with the home page craze. I had a home page and whoever mentioned geo cities, but it just wasn't doing it for me. I knew I wanted to write things but nobody would read it and people were busy trying to get awards from other people. That was a big deal if you got someone's award and I saw something about blogging on CNN and I thought I could do that. And I found a blog spot blog and put in several things and couldn't find a name that wasn't taken, and finally I thought busy mom, put it in blog spot, and here I am. And I had written a post for the very first time about a kids that drug out a bunch of musical instruments in our house and I was matter of fact what was going on and lo and behold someone read it and commented and it freaked me out at first, and I don't know what I was thinking because when you put it on the internet that's what's supposed to happen.
>> KYRAN PITTMAN: I remember my site meeting rolled over to the double digits. I was probably related to nine out of ten people. Jenn, what started you blogging, what keeps you blogging?
>> JENN SATTERWHITE: What started with me I started with a note to a home page and then geo cities and live journal. I finally landed my own URL which that is the coolest thing you can do at the time. 2003 is when I started. I started because my kids were making me nuts and I had to tell someone else because surely someone got it. My post was something more embarrassing like taking my daughter to a pool and seeing a man who really should have been in a speed do because he looked like he was wearing a sweater and shouldn't have been showing it and I got these people telling me that are horrifying and I was like you actually care that I wrote about that. What keeps me going honestly, you, you all keep me going. I'm looking around this world and I'm not going to tear up, but there are so many people that I absolutely love and I'm not throwing the word, I love so many people in this room and that's what keeps me going, the people I have met, my friends, the family I have chosen because of it, and there are days I don't want to do it, I don't want to write and there are days I don't. And when I don't, sure enough someone is coming up asking me what's wrong. It's the community, the people, the friends.
>> KYRAN PITTMAN: Well, I started like a lot of people with the thought I could do that, and I just barely understood what a blog was, but I had two very small children, well, three small children at the time, and I found blogging was something I could do while refilling a sippy cup, nursing a baby, it could with stand multiple interruptions unlike any other kind of writing I had done and it was an outlet. And I remember the thrill of somebody I was not related to showing up and leaving a comment, and it became a sort of perpetually reaffirming exercise, and I really got my chops as a writer there. That's why I continue to keep a blog and will for the foreseeable future even though I have other options for publishing now and that's one of the things I'm personally struggling with now is trying to figure out in this new context where the blog fits, but to me, that's like my piano where I go and practice scales. It's a place where I can be liberated from expectations, and just write for the sheer joy of it, and have instant feedback. That is so gratifying and I don't know how people wrote before there was somebody to immediately receive it and respond to it. I couldn't have. That's for sure. Panelists, let's talk about the high points. If we look back, I want to give everyone perspective of sort of breadth of your blogging career, and what, Kathryn, would you say was like, if you had to pick a real high point, it's probably hard to pick one, but just grab one.
>> KATHRYN FINNEY: Oh, gosh, high point. I think probably the first high point was when I was interviewed for the associated press, and anyone who is in the Pathfinder Session I did yesterday, I talked a little bit about it, but the associated press interviewed me about sample sale shopping, totally random. And they gracefully included a link to the blog. And as a result just when it came out, the traffic just shot through the roof. I think I went from the day that it came out, maybe 200 people reading the site, maybe 100 to 50,000, in one day. And I think at that point, I I went in a room and cried a bit and prayed and meditated because I was like, wow, this is something. This is something. And then those people stayed, which was like amazing, you know, the days in and days out. So I would say that was probably like the first highlight. The first time I kind of knew, wow, this is something people are interested in. Other people want to read it besides my mom, who has to read it, you know. I would say that was probably it.
>> KYRAN PITTMAN: The moms seems to be a binary equation.
>> KATHRYN FINNEY: If your mom doesn't like it, you need to rethink what you are doing.
>> KYRAN PITTMAN: Come up with a pseudonym. Elizabeth.
>> ELIZABETH THIELKE: I never told anybody what I was doing. I’m unclear if they do know now. My daughter does. So I have been fortunate to receive various and assorted recognition. One of the first things that strikes me is when somebody wrote me and offered to send me a book. And I thought, wow, first of all, somebody is reading this. And that they care enough about my opinion. Or at least that's what I thought back then, I don't know if they cared and needed to Hawk a book or whatever. I did receive the book, I don't recall what it was right now, but that was the first time I remember being aware that there might be something above and beyond or not above really but in addition to friends checking on friends and seeing what's going on in their lives. Another high point at the risk of sounding incredibly cheesy was coming to my first BlogHer where the internet came to life. I remember coming in the hotel the first time and seeing people and not being sure do I really know you or have I just seen your picture. It was like everything in my head coming to life in front of me. It was made possible because of my blog. And that was pretty cool.
>> JENN SATTERWHITE: It's twofold and I'm sorry. First, I would have to say the biggest moment is when I had a lit rare agent comment, and he had do you have a query handy. That's I got signed with her agency. That's a high point for somebody who wants a book published. That was the biggest, but as far as personal level, it was the first blogger, I’ll call you out, Jenny was on the first mommy blogger panel at the first BlogHer and it kind of like with her saying it came to life. It was a rough year going in that year I had issues. I was embraced by the community and she is like, oh, I'm like I have an idea about starting this mommy blog thing even though nobody likes us right now, let's start this blog and she was like we can do it and we were pedal to the metal. I'm thankful. But it was the first BlogHer and meeting the community in person was amazing. It's what keeps me going.
>> KYRAN PITTMAN: Cool. I kind of hate to interrupt the warm afterglow of that. But I will ask about the dark side or I guess I'm supposed to be part of the panel as well as moderator so I will give a high point. It's hard to pick back just one, but certainly when I got an email from an editor at good housekeeping or a person claiming to be an editor at Good Housekeeping magazine. At that point I had low traffic and hadn't broken out of the double digits at that point. And there the culture has been transforming rapidly, but that was in 2007, and it was still traditional media was still so arm's length about new media. It's come such a long way in a short time, but that was just, it felt like huge legitimacy at that time to think that someone could see something on any blog and want it in print and now it's, you know, moving in the other direction, but at that time that was a big turning point and a big affirmation.
So, yes, moving on from the good times, let's talk about some crisis points that, you know, forced us to evolve or adapt or something you had to grapple with along the way, Kathryn?
>> KATHRYN FINNEY: It always starts with me. This is going to sound a bit cheesy, but I really don't look at the low points as being necessarily low points because I do believe it's in the valleys of life that you really find your strength, you really find your voice and you are really find your direction. So there has been times over the years where I have had to make really tough decisions, particularly when it's come to traditional media. I was talking earlier today with someone about television. And making the decision about whether or not to do a TV show. We were approached several years ago about doing a docu follow and, of course, for me I'm like why would anybody want to follow my life. I just live my life and I had to thinks about what it is I wanted to do. What was the budget fashionista about, what was I about. What did this mean for my family? I had to give them the ability to say yes or no to being a part of it, and how it was a really tough decision when you have an opportunity like that to say no. And that, that's what I would say the challenge is. I wouldn't say the dark part, I wouldn't say the low part, just challenges like those. There is times where we have had to sit down and think about the direction of the blog, and this was like, you know, a couple of years ago where we had to say, okay, where are we. We have been doing this for six years. I have been writing for six years. Who am I? Am I that same person I was six years ago? How have I changed and how can the writing and how can the blog change? And will my community follow me if I decide I want to pivot in a different direction. That was a challenge we worked through, and as a result we have really come out, the site, especially, traffic has increased and we came out really on the positive side of it. So I would encourage those who are going through challenges, facing challenges, to look at it more as a challenge and not necessarily as a dark side and a time for you to investigate where you are going and to think about your goals and where you would like to see your writing or your blog go.
>> ELIZABETH THIELKE: I write drivel on the internet. I don't think I have a dark side to that.
I have been fortunate enough. I haven't had a whole lot of trouble with trolls. Maybe I'm not exciting enough to attract a troll. I'm not sure. Any sort of difficulties I may have had are more philosophical related, I guess, because, you know, over the years things have changed, why people blog, what they write about, elephant in the room. And it's just something you have to work through with yourself. Things are changed. How can I adapt to that change? If I have if something does happen that I have a bad day, the next day usually gets better. But nothing grave has ever happened to me that I know of because of my blog. Some days are like most things, some days are just better than others. You just mud will through.
>> KYRAN PITTMAN: When you say change, you do you mean environmental change in the blogosphere or change in your own internal?
>> ELIZABETH THIELKE: Probably some of both. I'm not the same person I was eight years ago, so I have changed. Technology has changed. The things that are available to us as bloggers have changed. I mean, no doubt about it, things are just different, and different can be good on one day and be bad on the other day. You just have to look at the for me, I have to look at the bigger picture and do I still have my blog, yes, am I still writing things, yes. So move on. The next day has got to be better.
>> JENN SATTERWHITE: I don't really like dark side. I would say the quickest way to get me fired up is the infighting within my community. That's the dark side for me. When I see that going on, I can't stand it, don't like it. That's what's dark for me when it comes to blogging when I start seeing that drama come up.
>> KYRAN PITTMAN: How do you cope with that or how do you detach from the drama?
>> JENN SATTERWHITE: I anything nor it or I pretty much say what did your mama teach you, if you have nothing nice to say shut your mouth. I don't, I don't tread softly. I'm sorry, if you don't know me, I don't tread softly. I'm not nice about it. I tell you just to be quiet.
>> ELIZABETH THIELKE: She does it to me every day.
>> JENN SATTERWHITE: If it's ugly and it has nothing to do with me and something that's like that I will not jump in the middle of a drama thing, but if somebody comes up to me and tries to pull me into it, it's not going to happen. And I will jump your case for trying to pull me into it.
>> KATHRYN FINNEY: I was thinking of a quote that I heard Rupaul of all people say, but I'm thinking of Rupaul and the quote is what other people say about you is none of your business. And I was like that is so true. So when you have the in fighting in your community and every community has infighting, right, what they are saying about you sometimes has nothing to do even with you, when you are the subject of it. It may be a place that that person is coming from. You don't know, necessarily, what's maybe going on in their life or what their perspective is. So I always think of that when I hear about fighting, like, what other people say about you has nothing to do with you.
>> JENN SATTERWHITE: I go the opposite way, instead of most people say take your drama elsewhere. I'm like get your drama in your real life. I don't want it on the internet.
>> KYRAN PITTMAN: That would bring to my crisis points in my blog career. The bumpiest time I ever had was when my blog became a little higher profile dealing with friends who did not get that, and count accept that that's what I did. And had a lot of interesting baggage. These are people who like memoirs or columnists but that it's new, it's on the internet, it's freaky, you are freaking me out. So, yes, I went through kind of I don't think I ever came to a point where I thought I would quit. It was by that time it was already too valuable to my survival and my mental health and my personal growth, but that was, it was troubling and there was times where I had to struggle with self censorship and feeling out boundaries like, you know, and I made mistakes and there were times where I thought, no, I assert my right to tell this story. That was all trial and error. And, you know, we old people were figuring that out. There was not a lot of precedent. I'm always grateful to people who have gone before, especially some of the people who have really messed up spectacularly and publicly. Kudos to them, because I have gotten to learn without getting burned. So it's good to be the fly on the wall sometimes. Let's talk about change in expectations, because one thing I know gosh, when I started even in 2005, like it was stupid to expect anything could happen from a blog. I mean, to think that it would be anything other than my personal on line diary was ludicrous and that's really changed and I wonder for someone entering now, it seems like expectations are so high and I think how crippling that must be because expectations are crippling. High expectations are never your friend in a creative field. So let's hear from the panelists, just talk about changing expectations and how that's affected you. Just anyone jump in.
>> JENN SATTERWHITE: See, I don't thread softly. A change in expectation, I will go with why did you get into it? What are your motivations for blogging? And I have seen in eight years significant changes in why people are getting into blogging. I don't know how to answer that without being offensive so I will say I have seen a lot of changes and I don't do as well as some of my older, the old school people in adapting with them. I am one of the people who is the old person sitting on the front porch going get off my lawn, go away. And I think there is room for everybody, I really and truly honestly do believe that, but there is a distinct separation in why get into it now than why they did before and I think as long as you keep your own lawn clean and don't mess with everyone else, it's good.
>> ELIZABETH THIELKE: I'm not so sure it's expectations unless they are within yourself because you are the one that has your expectations. As the growth of the internet, more people with more interest have more access and are looking for more things to read, and you can't be everything to everybody. The internet has grown, and much like you said, why are you blogging? You set expectations for yourself, but there is so many different things you can do out there. You can't do them all. I don't know that people are expecting it of you. There is just a bigger variety of people looking for a bigger variety of things. Decide what you want to do and why you are doing it. And set your own expectations from there.
>> JENN SATTERWHITE: What she said.
>> KATHRYN FINNEY: For me, I try not to judge other people's expectations. I don't know what their expectations are. I don't want people judging me at all. So I try to stay away from that. The thing that I do know is change is going to happen. It is just a fact of life. And whatever your motivations for you doing blogging or whatever you do in life, I think it's always important to know who you are and why you are doing it at all times. And I have actually like wrote it down, like this is who I am, this is what I'm about, this is why I'm doing it. So when opportunities or even issues within the respective communities I belong to come up, I'm able to refocus myself, this is who I am and this is why I'm doing it. How does this impact me? If it doesn't impact me, if this is just people talking and people angry and expressing and coming from their own point of view that has nothing to do with the growth of the community, then I stay out of it because it doesn't have anything to do with who I am and what I want to do. So but obviously as the other panelists have said, things have changed and there is no people and there is new ideas and new way of doing things. I'm one of the old people who believe in looking at what the new ways are. Some of them I may use, some of them I may not, but I think embracing change in your community is the only way your community can grow and you can grow too.
>> KYRAN PITTMAN: The evolution of the relationship with the community is real fascinating to me and I find again it does parallel a long term relationship like marriage or family or community. I mean, when drama crops up I will say I feel so alienated, I don't know you people. And then I can turn around 48 hours later and something amazing has happened and I just think these are my people and it can be a little schizophrenic like that, but I think that maybe it's amplified, but it very much mirrors our dynamics in all of our personal relationships and what we go through when we belong to a community. It's always a little tension between our individuality and belonging. What about like micro blogging, Twitter, Facebook, how have the new things coming on stream, Google plus, how have these changed the way you blog? Jenn?
>> JENN SATTERWHITE: They haven't changed how I blog. I still blog the way I pretty much blogged the whole time. I have met more people. I have had more opportunities brought to me because I will make a smart Alec remark on Twitter and that leads to a conversation which leads to I can't believe you said that. 99% of the people I meet that's how our conversations meet. Google plus, I have connected with tech people that there is no way I could have before. I would say it's opened doors to many relationships to new people, but as far as how I blog, it doesn't change it except there's more ways to tell you, hey, look, I blog. It's not going to change it. It's not going to stop it. I think that there are some that is going to make them not blog as much because they can have their execute story very quickly on Facebook or Twitter, but I need to be very wordy, when I write so you are going to keep that blog going.
>> ELIZABETH THIELKE: I definitely blog less frequently since the advent of Twitter. I think I started in ‘06, but the flip side of that is I was notorious for having blog posts that were maybe one or two lines and just blogging anything that came to mind, and so now I get to do that on Twitter. I guess I blog less because of it, but now those things are just a different part of my brain. It's another activity that I do. And I don't spend a whole lot of time wallowing about it and that it's affected my blog. It's just a different activity. The way people find your blog has changed over the years. I mean, because I'm assuming that we all want, I mean, we have in common that we want people to read our site. And the way people find your site has changed and those things such as Twitter, Facebook, Google Plus, Posters, whatever it is that you hear about out there, it might change what you do, but the flip side for me, it's added to what I do. So that's not something I'm going to shake my virtual cane at because I enjoy it.
>> KATHRYN FINNEY: Well, I'm from the Midwest, so I love to talk a lot. So any tool that allows me to talk even more is like yes to me. So I really love Twitter. I love Facebook. Google Plus, whatever way to communicate with people, I love it especially Twitter because it's allowed me to interact with people who I may not have been able to before who are not a part of my community. One of my favorite new people and she is not around, but is Paully from lesbian dad, and I absolutely love her. She has given me my conference phrase which is hydrate. You have to ask her about that. And but she is someone who it would have been hard for me to connect with just because our communities are so not connected, but now I can follow her. Now I have notifications of when she puts new posts up. Now, I can interact with her even more. And I think also for just people who are in the community and are starting out, it's a way for you to easily connect with some of the top bloggers in your community. It's much easier for someone to respond via Twitter than it is if you send a really long email. So if you want to reach out to Rei from the Pioneer Woman, you are most likely to get an answer if you Tweet her than if you send her a long email that will be with the other long emails. So I think they are excellent communication tools, excellent ways to build community and interact more where with the people who you love and you follow.
>> KYRAN PITTMAN: Thank you. I think it has definitely taken the steam off, you know, now I will often put my little quick Tweet out there on Twitter or Facebook and I may not have the same urgency to share that on my blog. So it's kind of it's a double edged thing. Sometimes is it can give me a writing prompt that I run with, and other times that just takes the edge off the hunger. So I definitely agree with it opening it up to a broader community and I love that and I love when people link to their blog posts I know that's debatable. And some people are driven crazy by that type of thing, but tell me what it's about and put your link on Twitter that's probably more than my Google reader that's where I discover stuff. I will ask one more question of the panelists for now and then I would love to hear from the audience what are you grappling with now or what opportunity are you facing and please avail of this experience and I will get our mic wrangler to come around. I will do one more question up here and then we will open it up and pick these beautiful brains. In terms of some of you here have turned your blog into a business. Kathryn, you for sure, how has that affected your sense like does that ever make it a grind, like now your blog is work?
>> KATHRYN FINNEY: Yes and no. Like I said, there was a point a couple of years ago where I was like, where I had to pivot, I had to change, and one of the things that I have learned is that it's very okay to change. Sometimes you have to change. And so there was a point where, you know, I had to sort of rethink what we were doing. A lot of opportunities were coming to us. And Id to really sit back and think are these the opportunities that I want. Is this what I'm about? Why am I doing this? So there can be challenges, however, I do believe that what each of us do or does is worth something. It is valuable. And one of the things that sort of irks me at times is when I see fellow bloggers, regardless of your community doing things particularly for brands that have millions and billions of dollars for free knowing that these brands pay a lot of money for anyone else to do it, but are not compensating these people for what they are doing for them.
So while I don't think you necessarily always have to think of your blog as a business, for some of us that may not be the appropriate thing, but, you know, if you are starting to think of your blog as a business, make sure that you assess what your value is and make sure that you understand what your value is, and make sure that you don't have brands who are frankly using you without compensating you for what you are doing.
>> KYRAN PITTMAN: Good point. Anyone else in terms of feeling obligated to your audience, to your blog?
>> ELIZABETH THIELKE: I'm not even sure how you know if your blog is a business. I mean, I have had some opportunities that have come about because of my blog. I don't know that I consider my blog a business. The pressure I feel is more something that I have created for me to I mean, I enjoy writing, I would like to get better at writing so I think any pressure is me. If I have it, I'm not aware of any outside pressure to change or to be something. I mean, there may be instances I'm just not recalling. But my situation is a little bit different from Kathryn’s because I have a personal and it's still personal as far as I know.
>> JENN SATTERWHITE: I'm a writer. That's where, and I will go wherever that path leads me. So I'm not a business. I'm a writer, and I know that that's, there is a lot of people that that's really taboo for me to say that to, but I enjoy it. I love getting on line, spewing out dribble, having people say that was funny or ridiculous. I have gotten opportunities that I wouldn't have otherwise and I think that's amazing, but I'm not a business. And you said at my book signing, we will talk about my business, but until then I'm just a writer on line.
>> KYRAN PITTMAN: Well, let's turn it over to you all. Where are you in this marathon if it's a marathon for you? What are you struggling with? What are you questioning? Are you ready to quit? Are you good for another thousand miles?
>> AUDIENCE: I have a question for busy mom. You said like you started in geo cities and then went to blog spot. Are you still on blog spot? No. I.
>> ELIZABETH THIELKE: I got my own domain in April of ‘03, but I did start blogging January 20th of 2003.
>> AUDIENCE: What platform do you use?
>> ELIZABETH THIELKE: I use movable type right now. I have an old version of movable type that's held together by digital duck tape and it's about to explode. From movable type I either need to upgrade my movable type, I won't tell you how old it is, and I would consider moving to WordPress, the estimates that I have got to do that are in the four digits, so we may just say prayers and keep where I am right now.
>> JENN SATTERWHITE: Send her duck tape.
>> ELIZABETH THIELKE: I'm sorry, did you have any other questions.
>> AUDIENCE: I'm still at blog spot and I really like to be loyal to blog spot.
>> ELIZABETH THIELKE: There is nothing wrong with that. (Off microphone).
>> ELIZABETH THIELKE: There are a lot of WordPress additions you can put on there. Otherwise if you have been happy at blog spot, you can buy a domain name and stay with what you are doing. (Off microphone).
>> ELIZABETH THIELKE: The grass is always Greener because I look at WordPress stuff and go that's really cool.
>> KYRAN PITTMAN: We can discuss technical aspects after the session. Let's move onto another question about blogging.
>> AUDIENCE: I wanted to ask everybody where do you get your inspiration? Like you have been doing this for so long, where do you get your inspiration and how do you stay current? And do you blog regularly because of your readers' expectations, like they expect to see something on Monday or do you just do it when you feel like it?
>> JENN SATTERWHITE: To all of us?
>> KATHRYN FINNEY: I get my inspiration from walking around because I write about fashion and lifestyle. From walking around, I have gotten a lot of inspiration here. I have seen so many women wearing horizontal stripes like that cute outfit right there and I'm like, wow, that's the look of BlogHer and so I get inspiration from going to the grocery store, going to the mall, hanging out at conferences, just watching normal people. How are people dressing? When I go to Walmart, what are people buying? Why are they picking that up from the miss Tina line? That's an interesting choice that this person is making. In terms of blogging every day, sometimes you know I try to set out a couple of days to write. Everyone has a different method in which they write. If I know I'm going to be traveling I try to set out two or three days where I'm writing, and I do a lot of post dating to make sure that the content is fresh. That's sort of the expectations that readers have at The Budget Fashionista that at 7:00 a.m. there will be a new style post and you have other posts that come up through the day so we do use contributors to fill out the other posts and other requirements.
>> ELIZABETH THIELKE: I don't do well if I say I'm going to write every day and post something at 7:00, but my site is different. I'm like a child, if something comes to my head, I have to write it down right then. And sometimes I get worked up if I haven't had anything strike me in a few days I get worked up about it now and then, but to give myself permission to write when it comes to me makes a difference and it might be a few days, but I am not a set schedule person. I do have a couple of writing jobs for other sites where they prefer that I have a set schedule. They are funny that way, but as far as my personal site, I just know it when I see it. I don't know if that's helpful or not, but I have relieved myself of having to post every day.
>> JENN SATTERWHITE: My inspiration comes from my life. This is how you get the stories of the dark side of the P.T.A. I live it. The people in my life, family, friends, whatever, and as far as posting every day, you know, it's not going to happen. There are times I'm going to you are going to make it five posts a day and then you are not going to hear from me in five weeks. When the writer is ready, the writer will show up. That's kind of how I blog now.
>> KYRAN PITTMAN: I think getting off line is real important and can be real hard to do, but, you know, you have got to live life for material, and I try to let my life serve the blog and not the other way around. Or I'm sorry, that's the opposite of what I meant, Freudian slip, see, try to let the blog serve life. I look for content in life and I look for inspiration in life and there is, I'm sure many can relate to the feeling of being blocked and when there is something on your heart to write and you don't, things get constipated, things get backed up. And I have learned to go with the urge. You have got to obey that, obey the muse and keep the flow going. Does that answer? Okay.
>> AUDIENCE: I have a question, we have a blog that's pretty regimented like Monday and Tuesday we each do a post and Wednesday is a giveaway and Thursday is it a profile of another mother, our site is called another mother runner so we profile another mother runner on Thursdays so it's very much we do the same thing every week and I was interested to say, Kathryn that you switch things up. Do you give your readers a heads up that things are going to change or do you just go for it? I feel like we are good with what we do, but I would love to do something else sometimes, but I'm like, no, but it's Thursday, we have got to do this. So I'm just curious your thoughts on that?
>> KATHRYN FINNEY: I will say it again. It is okay to change. It is very, very okay to change. And what I did was I wrote a letter, and it said, look, I don't like doing this anymore, I mean, pretty much, you know. And I hope you stick by me. If you don't, I hate to see you go, but you got to do what you got to do. But I have to do what's going to make me happy and what's going to make me whole and that's going to be sustainable too. And I found that when you communicate that, if people really, truly are your fans if they are really, truly a part of your community, they will understand because they want you to be happy. They want you to continue to produce the content that engages them. They want you to still be around. And if they are not a part of your community or if they are really just there for whatever, their own reasons, then perhaps it's okay that they go, you know, it's okay that they are not okay with the change.
>> AUDIENCE: Hi, this is Jenny Lout from three kids circus and BlogHer. My question is how have your ideas of success as a blogger changed since you have started. I have been blogging since 2004 and I have seen the rise of the monetization of the blogs and the rise of the mommy bloggers. It's constantly changing, constantly expanding and I have gone from somebody who was obsessively look willing at my stat calendar to blogging when I can and what's going on. I'm okay with it now. I have done the eight stages of grief with blogging and I'm wondering, you have got this longevity, and how are your goals different and how are you feeling about your success as a blogger? Do you feel you have achieved what you wanted to do? Is there more still ahead for you?
>> JENN SATTERWHITE: I will go for that. For me, my own personal thing, have I achieved success as a blogger, if I look at my blog and like what I have written. It's a personal thing. Am I going to keep doing this? I will keep doing this until I'm six feet under and I will be buried with my laptop. I can't not write and it might go a long time. I just measure my own success by whether I'm happy with what's out there. Have I put something out there? Have I said what I wanted to say? Is what's out there is going to stay out there and ten years from now, 15 years from now, however, long, am I still going to happy with that, if the answer is yes, I'm successful as my own personal blocker.
>> ELIZABETH THIELKE: I wanted your laptop. For me it depends on what day you get me. I go through what I just called sometimes I just write whatever needs to fall out of my head and I write it. Other days I get hung up on some aspect and I will go, I don't know, I might get hung up on something like my counter or unique visits or something like that. I find it comes in spurts so it depends on what day you ask me and what kind of mood I'm in with what success is, but overall, if I had to summarize it, and I think everybody would share that, it's successful if I have written something that I'm happy with and I'm not going to lie, if somebody else reads it. It doesn't have to be a lot of somebody elses. Sure, it's fun if a lot of somebody elses read it, but if I have shared it with somebody and they have let me know that I'm out there that's probably the common denominator of what I feel is success. And other days you might have asked me, somebody sent me two books to read.
>> KATHRYN FINNEY: I think there is a strange rule of blogging that the way you stare at your analytics, the less they actually go up or something.
>> KYRAN PITTMAN: The watched pot never boils.
>> KATHRYN FINNEY: The more you watch it the less you will get an increase. My advice would be don't measure your success by analytics. That is the sure kiss of death for any happiness you have in blogging. It really is. And, you know, I have actually had my husband change the password to a secret password on the Google analytics so I would not, like, obsess over it because, you know, I'm a little O.C.D., like I would check it every day or every hour. So I'm able to check it at certain times. And that has been really helpful, but don't measure your success by analytics. Measure it by whatever internal goals you set for yourself or your blog. If your blog’s a business, for your business, what have you.
>> KYRAN PITTMAN: This is like the key for endurance in blogging and probably life because success is so relative and you make yourself crazy. I remember thinking oh, I will be so happy if I get linked on so and so's site. And that happens or I will be so happy if I get published in a newspaper. I will be so happy and it's always, I am always raising the bar, and I can make myself nuts. Well, I did get a piece in the magazine, well, it wasn't the cover story. I will be so happy if I get a book. It's, you know, it's her book did better than my book. You can go there forever endlessly, and I don't, you know, if you feed that monster. So for me blogging has been a terrific exercise almost like a spiritual discipline in just coming back to am I okay. Why am I doing this? What's my motive, and what's my true measure of achievement. It makes me very aware of how hard we are on ourselves and that instinct to compare. Other questions?
>> AUDIENCE: Hi, I know some of you sort of alluded to it before, especially the ones who write about your life, and I just want to ask sort of how your friends and family feel about it, and how they feel about being written about because I do the same and I have had, you know, ex boyfriends who got up said with something I posted or my parents, whatever they say, if I laugh they are like are you going to blog that. I mean, and sometimes I sort of feel the need to write about something, but I know that somebody could find it who I don't want to read it, and even though I know that my readers would enjoy it so how do you sort of deal with basically not upsetting your friends and family but also writing about things that you want to write about and what your readers want to read about.
>> ELIZABETH THIELKE: That's a tough one. When I first started, my family didn't know about it. My husband eventually found out, and I asked him not to read, not because I have anything to hide. I just it was just easier for me and I'm not hiding it from him. It's easier for me to write. He does know about it. I'm suspicious my 16 year old daughter reads it even though she has been told not to but it does get harder. I don't know how old your kids are but it gets a lot harder when they get older and you have got to dig deeper to find things that are about you. When you write about your family, for me, it's writing about how I experience my family rather than something specific they have done, although there are a few things that are fair game because they are just that good. But nobody has ever said this, but if they said please don't write about that, but it's not really a running joke at our house are you going to blog that. You just have to turn it for me, to how you experience them. That's probably the biggest piece of advice I can give rather than just a blow by blow of what your family has done and it gets harder as they get older. You have got to dig deeper for things that have happened to you.
>> JENN SATTERWHITE: My friends and family don't care. If I wouldn't say it to your face, I'm not going to put it on my blog. I'm not going to do that. The P.T.A. doesn't like me because I do say it to their face as well as the blog, so, and that's really kind of how I do it I do have teenagers too, and it's not that they their stories are their stories now. They are lives, I'm still their mother and I'm still but I'm a different person than when I started and so are they. And if there is something that they do chances are they are going to put it on Facebook before I put it on the blog because they have got the sense of humor and I'm like oh, you put it on Facebook, fair game for me, but if I'm not going to say it to your face I will not put it on my blog and that's kept me safe. Sometimes I do put it on the blog and people come up and going why and they go I did and they go why and I go you opened the door, sorry.
>> KATHRYN FINNEY: For several years I did include my family in some of the things I wrote, and several family members said they didn't want to be a part of it. They asked me not to write about them and I respected that and I said okay. I have to find other things to write about, and I gave them that choice and I know that might be controversial for some people but for me maintaining a relationship with them in a way that they were comfortable, and they support me 100% in what I do, they just didn't want to be a part of it. They didn't want people to know about them and I have to respect that. And I started changing what I was writing about. I was like there is a lot of things to write about besides them or the people that didn't want to be included and that's what we started to do.
>> KYRAN PITTMAN: I think for me there was some attrition. There were people who fell away from my life who couldn't roll with it and that was difficult and disappointing and I had to check myself too to figure out where I was trespassing on boundaries and figure out where those lay. I have an extraordinarily supportive spouse, I mean, if you happen to read my back, that's the fact that we are still married, he is on my team and my mom, you know, it's important to have a few key people who unconditionally support you, and will also check you sometimes. My husband has been valuable to look over my shoulder and say you can't do it because you get in the grip of your own muse and you are like this brilliant and I have to write this and I give yourself permission but you don't always have permission to publish. So it's good to have someone to be the sober second thought. But it was really, it's trial and error and I would almost I value relationships intensely, and I feel like I try to be cautious and conscientious, but there comes a point where it you are a writer, this is an occupational hazard and that doesn't give anyone license to be reckless but the danger of censoring yourself or being too cautious is a serious one with serious side effects and it has to be weighed. You can write and pause and not hit public and bounce it off of somebody. I don't know other than trial and error to figure it out. Because the people in your life may have a different threshold.
>> AUDIENCE: I'm Crosby. I'm interested in the process of moving toward kind of being more of an editor and I know that Kathryn you now manage multiple authors. I'm interested in that process and any tips or insights you have around growing to that space where you are more of an editor or curator as opposed to the one that's responsible for all of the content all of the time.
>> KATHRYN FINNEY: That's a good question. You know, I think moving there does come a point sometimes in your blog where you realize that there is just not enough hours in the day, particularly if you have a community that really wants tons and tons of information, like the fashion community or the beauty community or even the food community where it's like the expectations are you have at least one to two to three posts every day. You get to a point where you feel like my God, like I don't have any time. I have other things, I have family, I have other things I want to do with my life. So you do look to bring on people. And it has been a trial and error for us to figure out what is it who are we about? What do we want? And what do I want to see in someone who is a contributor? What do they need to have? And my best advice would be to, you know, define what it is that your site is about, have very clear sort of this is who we are, this is what we do, here is our audience, and this is if you are looking at being an editor or bringing on contributors. Here is what they want. Here is some key posts that our audience has responded well to and have people do things on a trial, maybe write one or two posts and see how the community responds to that. It's interesting in the process, one of the things I found that I don't like being an editor at all. I like being a writer. Like I would rather write than edit someone's grammar. That's just not fun to me. What we realized is we have to find somebody who that was fun for. I wanted to sit down and write the posts and talk about fashion and shopping at Wal Mart. That's something that you might find too that maybe you don't want to be the editor, maybe you will hire someone to do the management of the blog. But that would be my advice on how to start, think about more you are at, what it is you want, what do you want to see in other people and what your community responds to.
>> AUDIENCE: Hi, my name is Kim Tracy Prince and I have been blogging at House of Prince before 2004 before mommy blogs were mommy blogs. And it's been almost seven years and I feel like it's going through transition that there will be some kind of shift in what we do. I spend a lot of time blogging elsewhere for money but this is my soul, my heart and I'm curious, Kyran, how you shut your blog down or how you stopped blogging. I'm wondering why you came to that decision.
>> KYRAN PITTMAN: I'm glad you asked that. It just, it felt like it was time. I had kept that blog for five years and I had used that material and turned it into my book. I used that as almost my field notes, my little sketch that five years of blogging to me was like a sketch pad where I was doing these quick sketches in the field of life. And so it was great to go and have that to work with and be able to thumb through it and go, oh, yes, that moment or that theme, and, you know, build on a lot of new material over that, but so that was sort of like the raw basis of the book. So when the book was complete, I just felt like I had, I closed that sketch book and it felt done. And I also believe a friend of mine who is a music composer once said to me that every act of creation demands an act of destruction and if you don't do it consciously it will come out, you know, the devil will get his due. And that's kind of a whoo hoo thing, but I believe stuff operates on a subconscious level and instinctually I felt it was time to close that and let new oxygen in and I'm a believer in setting things on fire periodically. I think it's good to burn things down to the ground in a conscientious way. It felt very freeing to me to do that and say now I get to reinvent myself, a new space, a new context. I'm still figuring that out. What's changed for me now is I now have an array of options where I can publish my work, some of which are for money. So, you know, and so I will start some post that my blog used to be my only outlet, now I will start writing something and I will ask is this a blog post? Is this the beginning of a magazine article? Is this something I want to keep for a book later? So I'm still feeling out how my blog fits into all of that. And I have never had to think about it that much before, so I'm a little bit I guess if I have a sticking point right now that's kind of my awkward growing phase right now, but it was very liberating to come to a brand new space and just start off fresh. I like the new blank page very much. And sometimes I people have in this community have quit, just like have dropped out and come back years later. I know of one blogger who got so sick of her community, she just dropped out and she just almost went to witness relocation, came back a couple of years later. Any other questions?
>> ELIZABETH THIELKE: Think about what you are wearing to the party.
>> KYRAN PITTMAN: I have got a question for all of you. Let's do here. Oh, great.
>> I'm feather from, so here is a question for you all. I have blogged for a long time and I have kind of actually changed because although I do get to write for other blogs, primarily I design, but when I went back kind of and morphed and changed my blog, I did a lot of pruning. How many of you all have pruned from way back, this was a giveaway in 2005, do you do any pruning to clean up your blog?
>> KYRAN PITTMAN: Great question. Confess!
>> KATHRYN FINNEY: I have deleted some posts. It's hard to do. It was very hard for me to give myself permission to delete. I don't know. It's maybe a pack rat thing, I don't know.
>> AUDIENCE: It's hording.
>> KATHRYN FINNEY: I will be in the next episode of hoarders, unnecessary blog posts, but, you know, I gave myself permission to delete, and it was so liberating. It was like, you know, Kyran had this really old post from 2004 up, the earliest point that you said you found of mine. It was about St. John's outlet malls, malls that had outlets for the St. John's stores. That is totally not relevant right now, and it was from 2004, and I'm like, we can delete that. I can delete that. That's okay. I don't think there is anything wrong with deleting it. It's your blog. You do whatever you want to do with it. If you want to delete posts, fine. If you don't want to delete it, don't delete it. You can also unpublish them if you are unclear, like you don't want it completely moved out of your visual space, but you own that blog. It is about you, and my belief is that your community is coming there because of you. And if you don't feel comfortable with a post or if you don't feel that post reflects who you are at this moment, you can fill empowered to just unpublish it and move on.
>> ELIZABETH THIELKE: I get delete when I get the message from my hosting company, when it says you are running out of room, pay us more money.
>> JENN SATTERWHITE: I'm mortified. I'm like I wouldn't burn a picture of my baby, why would I delete a post I wrote. No, I don't. The only time is when I have done that, I want to pay you for the article, can you take it down I'm like, yes, man? I'm going. The horror, how did you do that oh, my gosh! I can't fathom. I have started other blogs, not in my name if I needed a different outlet or something to reignite but oh, no, I look over there and think how can you even do that? I can't. I have one laying, you know, a blog in ICU on death's door, and I'm like, no, she will be fine, leave her there. My former partner, no, she is fine, leave her alone. Take her down. No, she is fine. Leave it alone.
>> KYRAN PITTMAN: I did after the book came out, some of my more intimate posts or those posts or anecdotes have the seed of some chapters I had written, and I felt I had made my statement about that in the book and I wanted that to be what was on the record because I was able to set the context and there was some wonderful talk in the session this morning with on self acceptance about boundary setting and about self revealing and how people should earn yourself revelation. And I felt like for a book, people got to work after that. They have got to go out and pay for it or borrow it and put some investment into it. So I was able to be more intimate in that context than I had been on my blog. Your mileage may vary. So I went back and I did prune some of those because I wanted my final statement on those to be in the book. And then a couple of posts that I was ashamed of because they had not come from a pure place because I was being mean or just didn't represent who I wanted to be, and I took those off.
>> AUDIENCE: This is more technical. When you have a blog that's seven years old, do you go back and what do you do about broken links? What do you do about pictures that disappeared somehow or things like that, your old blog rolls and do you worry about that at all or you just leave it and think, whatever, it's old.
>> ELIZABETH THIELKE: Sometimes I get in a mood to look for broken links or to clean up the side bar. The side bar on my site, for example, is like a junk drawer I put something I don't know what to do with. If you are asking on a regular basis do I clean up or worry about broken links or pictures that don't load, not on a routine basis. If I happen on them, I will try and fix it, but otherwise, no.
>> KYRAN PITTMAN: How many of you do deep dives into other people's archives or have done that? That was one reason I didn't prune a lot of my stuff because I felt like if somebody really read the book they might want to see the back story.
>> JENN SATTERWHITE: I can't believe of how many of you raised your hands you all deep dive into the archives to see. I'm horrified now. I got one in the ICU and I'm like, I'm sorry ahead of time. You might not find a link or a picture email me and say what was this.
>> That's a special treat though and you find a blogger and you can connect. That's a special treat.
>> JENN SATTERWHITE: That's what I'm saying I have never thought to someone to go back, I mean if you tell me I have to go home and go through eight years of blog posts, please don't make me do that but if you find one and want to know the broken link, I will be more than happy to fix it for you.
>> KYRAN PITTMAN: We will take one more question.
>> AUDIENCE: It's not a question. I'm probably the baby blogger in this room. I have only been blogging since March and I attended yesterday. I went home last night, I was my husband, you won't believe these people, you have got to look at all of these, bless his heart he looked through everything. And I sat up and read everything I could find about Kathryn and Ray, and I was so inspired and fascinated and so, oh, my gosh, it just, to me, once you discover somebody that inspires you, you want to go back and see, well, they weren't always there, so how can I more relate to them because I'm such an infant at this point, you know, compared to where they are at. So I went through way back to see where they started even though they told us a lot of that yesterday. It was just interesting to kind of look at the pictures and look at the history and I found that really helpful to me. So don't delete.
>> KYRAN PITTMAN: I think that's a terrific note to close on because we all, most of us I think started with that thought in mind we saw someone's blog and thought maybe I could do that too. Thanks everyone, so much, and blog on.
>> JENN SATTERWHITE: Let me just say the comment and then you all saying when you find somebody and dig deep. I don't know about them, that touches me and inspires me. That inspires me to keep going so thank you.
>> KATHRYN FINNEY: Thank you.