I'm pretty old school: I started blogging because I have a compulsion to write, and the easiest things to write about are the activities I pursue in my own life.
I never expected anyone other than family and friends to read this stuff. I certainly never expected to make any money doing this, or that my online endeavors would open up my little house-and-family-centered world to some interesting experiences (such as dining with the Vice Chairman of GM, visiting the corporate headquarters of Johnson & Johnson, or hanging out at the Oscar red carpet).
Blogging is like any profession or hobby: As time goes by, you want to progress - get better - and push the envelope. That is why in 2005, after keeping this blog for 18 months, I signed up for a little upstart conference called BlogHer... which opened up a whole new online world for me. I met some of the most fascinating, generous women I've ever known -- and discovered all kinds of amazing tools and techniques I could be using to be a better blogger.
I incorporated some of these right away: deli.cio.us, Flickr, Technorati tags (typing this out now, I'm blown away -- can you believe all of this was BRAND NEW just five short years ago?) But there were other areas that didn't feel right to me.
One of those was video blogging, which was being produced by a handful of pioneers even then (before pocket camcorders like the Flip made it REALLY EASY to do). I found the concept intriguing. After all, my college major was Radio-TV-Film.
Actually, my first major was theater - but I have a face made for radio. And after a disastrous exercise in freshman acting class - when I was told by the blind girl (!) that she hated my voice - I realized I wasn't going to make it as an audio performer, either.
But writing is something that has always come naturally to me, and I decided to focus on that. For several years, my writing efforts were concentrated on telling stories through visuals and dialogue... until the years passed and I realized it was time to get out.
For nearly seven years, this blog has been my creative outlet. While my friends engage in scrapbooking and cool crafts, I've self-published my weird little thoughts on the Internet. I've been accused of being narcissistic, and I suppose I am - but not any more so than anyone else who keeps a journal or writes a memoir. The difference is that I publish mine myself. I'm still kind of surprised when someone tells me she's read it...
...and I love it. I love the immediate feedback. I love the relationships I've built.
And yeah, I'd be lying if I said I didn't love getting free stuff. But while I didn't expect to earn an income from blogging when I started out, it would be really nice if I could. For one thing, I wouldn't have to keep defending my blogging activities to my husband, or try to explain it to my friends.
I could blog without the guilt.
Although I say over and over again that I don't really care about my stats or my standing or my popularity on the web, that's not entirely true. Somewhere, in the back of my mind, I can't help but think that I will someday create something of value from this obsession to write.
So I had a lot of reasons to sign up for Kimberley Clayton-Blaine's Vlogamama workshop, which was held on Saturday at the luxurious Montage in Beverly Hills:
1. Web surfers increasingly prefer to watch video over reading blogs. Text-only sites are becoming extinct. And I'm sensitive enough about my old age without comparisons to a dinosaur.
2. Search engines now have the ability to index video content - so having some can dramatically increase your rankings.
3. Can you say "viral"?
4. The blogging networks I belong to want us to do it.
5. Kodak gave me a beautiful HD camcorder for the red carpet interviews I got to do at the Streamys this month (previously disclosed!), and I would like to put it to good use.
6. After attending the Streamys, I've felt renewed interest in telling stories via visuals and dialogue again. But so far, all my attempts have been dorky -- especially after I saw what Sugar Jones did with her Streamy footage... all I can say is WOW.
I hoped Kimberley could point me in the right direction.
And I was right. Kimberley cut right to the chase with excellent tips and guidelines to make our little video blogs more engaging. She also showed us some best-case examples of what some of the more creative mommy blogging vloggers are doing right now and then told us how to get our finished product out and in front of an audience.
It was quite an eye-opener. Web video is a whole new world.
We finished the workshop with a hands-on session, where we partnered into pairs and took turns video-ing one another, trying to incorporate the guidelines Kimberley set forth.
I was only partially successful - and had even more difficulty when I tried to edit the goofs out. (NOTE TO SELF: Must find better video editing platform. And no, at this time, I cannot afford to purchase an iBook so I can use iMovie, which everyone says is THE BEST for this purpose.)
One other main flaw with the video attempt below is that I'm pulling it from YouTube. Vimeo (one of Vlogamama's sponsors) has superior quality - but I've exceeded my upload limit for that service this week, and I wanted to get this post up while the workshop is still fresh. I will replace this clip with the Vimeo version as soon as I have one:
Kimberley will be holding this workshop in other cities very soon. Information forthcoming on her website, here.
I would be remiss if I did not make mention of the level of service we received at Montage Beverly Hills. We've all had to attend meetings held at hotels, and often need assistance finding the meeting room. You are usually lucky if you can collar someone who will give you a meeting room name and point you in the right direction. You might not quite follow where you're supposed to turn and then get lost. (Well, that's what usually happens to me.)
At Montage, the question "Where do I find the meeting room?" did not result in directions. No, the hotel employee I asked insisted on escorting me there.
The same thing happened when I asked the wait staff where I'd find the ladies' room. I was not sent off into the hallway alone to look for it - I was led there.
From the beautiful luncheon spread to the golden pens we were given for note taking, all of the women in attendance were treated like VIPs.
And you can get an idea of how gorgeous the facility is from this video Kimberley made of the session.
Disclosure: My attendance at Vlogamama was paid for by Yahoo, as I am a member of the Yahoo Motherboard. But I didn't know that when I signed up! Kimberley had kept the cost of the workshop for non-Motherboard members surprisingly low. Knowing Kimberley and the scope of the material we would be covering, I felt I was getting a bargain before I discovered I wouldn't have to pay for it.
I have no affiliation whatsoever with the Montage hotel chain (much as I would like to!). I am merely a fan.