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Mumsnet BlogFest

2012 November 21

Community Strategist and lifestyle blogger Frankie Holloway gives her thoughts on Mumsnet BlogFest.

As an enthusiastic blogger and lover of blogs both in my personal life and at Roost I jumped at the opportunity to go to Mumsnet’s inaugural BlogFest to meet bloggers and watch an impressive array of speakers, including one of my favourite writers Caitlin Moran.

I went to BlogFest as a blogger on Saturday 10th November and have also written about the experience and the people I met on my own blog. But the lessons and tips I took away from the day were so fantastic that I wanted to share them with our audience at Roost as well.

BlogFest was held at Millbank in Pimlico overlooking the Thames. I’ve been to several blogger events before and where this one really stood out and differentiated itself was its significant number of high profile speakers and panellists – many of whom were journalists.

Miriam González Durántez

The day opened with Nick Clegg’s wife Miriam González Durántez, who expressed her “monumental debt of gratitude” to the Mumsnet community for the support she received when she made it clear that she would help her husband politically but not as the expense of her identity or her family life.

After her address it was time for the first keynote session “Finding your voice” panellists included journalists Zoe Strimpel and Zoe Williams.

The session inspired a question that occurred in several of the key note sessions: How much do you reveal about your family life, your young children and those close to you?

This caused conflicting opinions among the panel and audience. The Times Journalist and Psychologist Tanya Byron stood up to reiterate her belief that if one of your children or family members asks you to stop writing about them on your blog then you should do so without hesitation.

Inevitably the subject of trolling was also addressed – with a couple of the journalists stating that until your work is published online you never realise how angry people become. The Bloggess who appeared via Google Hangout from Texas had an amusing, though perhaps unorthodox tip for dealing with trolls: As her blog’s editor she can amend her comments, so she simply changes her negative and expletive filled troll comments into ones of love and admiration and publishes under the troll’s name. The troll eventually becomes bored and gives up!

As well as the keynote sessions each delegate was given the opportunity to attend several breakout sessions. My first was on photography with Carrie and Darren from Digital Bungalow and the tips I took away are:

  • Foodie photos look great when from above with lots of natural light.
  • Tidy your kitchen before you take your food photos.
  • Instagram is great but don’t use lots of Instagram photos in your blog because they’re too small.
  • If using WordPress make sure your photos are as wide as possible – otherwise it will automatically try and wrap your text around them.

My final breakout session “Blog Beautiful” focused on Beauty Blogging but a I think the main point I took from the session can be applied to all types of blogger who work with brands:

  • Bloggers are the voice of consumers in a way that certain factions the press cannot be. A beauty blogger can afford to be honest about the products she receives. But beauty editorial in magazines is inevitably and irrevocably tied with the amount the brand spends on advertising in them.

Liz Jones

The final key note session featured four journalists and bloggers, who have become noted for their open and confessional style of writing. The most anticipated and talked about was The Daily Mail’s Liz Jones, who account of the session the next day ruffled the feathers many parenting bloggers. My personal view of this is that anyone who reads Liz Jones’s columns knows that her stance on motherhood and women who take maternity leave  is a negative one.  I was not surprised to read her article the next, in all honesty I’m more surprised that other people were.

Caitlin Moran

The day ended with the much anticipated Caitlin Moran taking to the stage.

As well as regaling her audience with an account of her recent accidental encounter with Samantha Cameron on a train (her latest book cover contains an unflattering description of David) Moran gave her blogging audience some great writing tips:

  • Always write with someone in mind – be it your mother, husband, children, sister of best friend, or in Caitlin’s case Tom Hardy – write your blog posts as if you are writing to them.
  • If you’re struggling to finish your blog post then copying and pasting and slightly rewording your second paragraph is often successful. The reason being that writers often write their conclusive views in their second paragraph following their intro.
  • If you’re thinking about what to write about – scrap your first idea everyone will have thought of that, scrap your second idea, clever people will have thought of it. What you need to do is think of a third idea and that is what you write about.

Caitlin Moran’s most interesting point was her belief that “the snark” (a concept we’ve come across before) was on its way out. So many writers, she said, (whether blogger or journalist) believe that a great way to be funny is to be unpleasant about others. This type of writing is now so prevalent that she fully expects a revolution to occur in the next couple of years.

Following this I rounded off the day with cocktails and canapés overlooking the Thames. At this point I met and spent an hour chatting to two other foodie bloggers, it was a lovely way to round off the day and highlighted what I enjoy most about these events being able to meet and chat with other bloggers. Although I talk to bloggers frequently across social networks both at Roost and at home nothing beats meeting them face to face.

I left weighted down by a fantastic goodie bag and feeling thoroughly uplifted after an interesting day – I am very much looking forward to BlogFest 2013!

Were you at BlogFest, we’d love to hear what you thought of the day.

Follow us @blog_community

Frankie Holloway @frankieholloway

Photos courtesy of Mumsnet

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