Sep 30, 2009 Blog & Social Media Stuff
I never know how much to write about what goes on behind the scenes in the mommyblogger world. While a lot of bloggers do read Selfish Mom, the majority are moms looking for some light reading. Frankly I could fill an entire blog about the drama behind the blogs, but I usually just stay away from it.
Doing this full time is definitely a job, and it’s also a privilege. I get a lot of free stuff, I get free trips, and I get access to people I wouldn’t otherwise have access to. In the beginning I was giddy about it all. I was amazed that there was this whole world of marketing to moms that I hadn’t known existed. But then as I got more involved, I stopped referring to the stuff as “free” because it’s not. It involves my time, and my effort. And I’m not going to try to tell you for a second that it’s hard. It’s interesting, and fun, and I get a little thrill from being able to do things and go places that most people can’t. But it’s not “free.” Even if I don’t feel an obligation to the company, I do feel an obligation to my blog – if I don’t write about what I’m doing, I don’t get readers. If I don’t get readers, I don’t get advertisers or new opportunities. If I don’t get compensated – and I’m talking about cold hard cash here, not products – then this becomes an incredibly indulgent and expensive hobby.
When I see tweets and blog posts from other bloggers on trips, my first thought is always “Why wasn’t I invited?” because access is like currency in the mommyblogging world. And my second thought is always “Good for them.” I’ve been really impressed by how companies have been willing to listen to real moms lately. And we’re courted, and flown in to fun places, and plied with food and free stuff. In exchange of course, I have to deal with the logistics of making sure that my kids and other obligations are taken care of, whether I’m gone for a few hours or a few days. But it’s worth it.
I’m an infant in terms of the mommyblogging world. I’ve been blogging (on my own blogs) for about two years. But I’ve come pretty far in that time, and I thought I’d discovered all of the pitfalls. There are lots of critics who don’t like that a lot of blogging now centers on products and advertising, and I’m at peace with that. I set out almost from the beginning to make money from this, and I’m proud of what I’ve done, and I know I’ll never have the respect of that group of writers, the ones who do it just for the love of writing. To each her own. More power to them. And more advertisers for me.
What I didn’t expect was that by talking about a company, I’d be responsible for the entire history and practices of that company. And it hasn’t happened to me yet, but it’s happening right now to a group of bloggers who are at a retreat with Nestle. I don’t know where they are, I don’t know what exactly they’re doing. But they did what I would have done: they started tweeting about what they were seeing and learning. They’re using the hashtag #nestlefamily. Hashtags are a way to keep up with a conversation on twitter. You can see what’s happening with the #nestlefamily hashtag here. It’s gotten ugly. Some people starting giving the #nestlefamily bloggers shit over Nestle’s worldwide practices, and it went downhill from there.
I’m not going to touch on the complaints, some of them valid, that are being brought up by the #nestlefamily critics. That’s a different post, and frankly one I have no interest in writing. What I’m interested in is the etiquette involved here, and whether the criticisms are misplaced. I see Twitter as a big open house, and when you start a hashtag for something, it’s like saying “Hey, if you’re interested in this thing, come over here.” And if you go over to that corner of the room and listen to what’s being said, and you have a problem with it, shouting at that corner of the room is just rude. And that’s what the hashtag hijackers have done. They’ve entered into a conversation and instead of trying to add to it, even critically, they’ve shouted at the people who started it and the people who went there to hear about Nestle. If these critics were intent on changing the discussion, then the polite thing to do would have been to start a new hashtag, and tell the people in that corner of the room about it: “Hey, we disagree with what you’re doing. So we’re going to take a few steps this way and whoever wants to join this new discussion, come over here with us.”
But that wouldn’t get attention! That wouldn’t achieve controversy! No, it’s a lot easier to shout. And remember, I’m not saying that there shouldn’t have been criticism. I’m just saying it shouldn’t have been shouted in the same corner as the original discussion, completely obfuscating the original intent of the hashtag.
The other issue is the role of the bloggers who go to these events. I certainly don’t feel responsible for everything a company has done just because I like their products and have made it my job to tell other people about them. And if someone on twitter does have questions about some practices, and I am lucky enough to get the ear of an executive, I’m certainly not going to voice those concerns if I’m being beaten up for attending the event in the first place. And I’m also not going to go to an event and insult the people who invited me. That’s rude, and it’s not productive. And it’s not my job. I’ve defined my job as talking about products, and my kids, and what’s going on in my life. If I get interested about an issue I’ll pursue it (in a polite and respectful way), but yelling at me won’t achieve that.
So, eventually a senior VP from Nestle got on Twitter and started answering questions. And he really had no choice – ignoring what was going on wasn’t a good option. But it makes me a little pissed off that the shouters did have that one small victory, getting the ear of an executive by being incredibly rude. I hope that they’re not given the same level of attention as people who are calmer and open to dialogue.
The next time I’m at an event, I’ll be tweeting and whrrling and blogging about it, and doing my job. And if you shout at me, if you attempt to hijack my discussion with your agenda, I probably won’t listen.
Sep 30, 2009 Around NYC
So I’m sitting here in the audience at a taping of The Martha Stewart Show. This is my second time here – last time was a show about blogging. I’ve been to dozens of show tapings over the years, including The Daily Show (when I got him to get Stephen Colbert’s autograph for me), The Colbert Report, The View, Live with Regis and Kelly, and a bunch more. They all have some things in common. You have to wait in a lot of lines before you get to your seat, and then finally you get to sit and you’re not allowed to get up, not even to use the bathroom. You don’t have a very good view because there are a bunch of cameras in front of you. Or the action is really far away. Or the person next to you smells (not this show, the person next to me is perfectly pleasant!). And the studio is always freezing.
And I have a confession to make: I’m usually bored during most of them. It’s just not a great way to actually watch the show, but I like seeing behind-the-scenes stuff – the stuff going on when the cameras are off – so I keep going to tapings. Plus there’s always the possibility that someone will give me a car. The most I’ve ever gotten was a printer (that was the last time I was at Martha’s show). Today is different, because I was asked to bring my laptop and I’m writing this post during the taping. Sweet.
So, the entire show today is about social media – Twitter, Facebook, etc. I’m a big Twitter user. I’ve been tweeting during the show, with the hashtag #TheTechShow. I also use whrrl.com a lot – in fact I started a whrrl story about the show as soon as I stepped off of the subway. I’ll post it at the bottom of this post. Facebook? Meh. I use it occasionally to update what I’m doing if I happen to think about it, because most of the people in my neighborhood and in my family just aren’t on Twitter. But mostly Facebook annoys me. Too much crap. I don’t want a drink. I don’t want to play a game and collect things. Facebook is difficult to navigate – I like arranging things exactly the way I want them and Facebook is not very user friendly, in my opinion. But what do I know? I’m old.
But back to the show. When you go in you get directed to a seat. You might be the first one in line, and get the worst seat in the house. They seem to be putting the people with the brightest colors on in the middle (lots of grays and whites in the side sections). They send a stand-up guy out to warm the audience up before the taping starts, and usually he gets to do a bunch of material and pass out stuff from the show, but everybody was ready to go a little early today, so that part was cut short. He led us through a few practice rounds of clapping and oohing and ahhhing and then we were ready to go.
Martha looks lovely. And she’s funny! I’m always surprised at how funny she is whenever I hear her speak. Her tone says “stick up my butt” but her words say “People, I’m funny. I’m just not foolish.” So, between all of the tweeting and email checking I’ve been doing, the taping is actually almost done. It was interesting to see the show taped. The co-creator of Twitter, Biz Stone (if that is his real name!) looks really young. The creator of Facebook is practically a fetus – I think I’ve seen him playing soccer with my son. There was other stuff too, but you can watch it on the show. It airs on October 2nd, I think.
Here are some pictures from the taping (the man with Martha is David Pogue, NY Times Technology Editor).
Here’s my Twitter stream from the show (it goes from most recent tweet down to oldest), and my whrrl story below that. If you ever get a chance to go to a taping of a show, I recommend it. It’s always interesting to see how things get done. You can get tickets to a taping of the Martha Stewart show here.
Tags: The Martha Stewart Show
Sep 29, 2009 Amy in the Morning
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Sep 27, 2009 Product Review
Last week I went to an event at Chelsea Piers featuring Jillian Michaels (that’s my friend Beth Feldman of Role Mommy on stage with Jillian – Beth hosted the event). You know Jillian. Even if you don’t watch “The Biggest Loser” you’ve probably still seen the commercials or seen her on a talk show. (At least I have, and I’ve never seen the show.) On “The Biggest Loser” a bunch of really overweight people compete to see who can lose the most weight, and Jillian Michaels makes them work out until they cry. So I was simultaneously excited and nervous to go to a launch event for her new Wii workout game, “Jillian Michaels Fitness Ultimatum 2010.” Why nervous? I was told to wear workout clothes.
I took a bunch of pictures at the event. I was looking at them as I went along, so I know they were being saved. I got home and put my SD card into my computer, and a strange, scary thing happened: only the first picture showed up. All of the pictures from the event – actually, all of the couple hundred pictures on my SD card – were gone.
I’m not going to go into it all here. Just suffice it to say that when I got my laptop, it was fast and beautiful. Then a couple of years of overeating (big media files) caused it to get slower and slower, until finally, downloading a photo recovery program pushed it over the edge into morbid obesity, and it couldn’t get out of its chair.
Much like my own weight, this happened to my computer so gradually that it didn’t seem like an emergency. At any point I could have put it on a diet-and-exercise program (transfered files), but I was just too lazy. Until it was almost too late.
I eventually recovered the pictures, but not until after my computer went through emergency surgery (sending my husband to PC Richards for an external hard drive). And the lesson here, I think, is that if I would just take care of these things consistantly, stay on top of them, panicky emergency measures wouldn’t be necessary. Packing for trips wouldn’t be sweat-inducing.
So, back to the event. Nobody gets fat overnight, and nobody gets thin overnight. But I’m definitely lazy, and being able to do some meaningful exercise in my house would be fantastic, especially over the winter. I have a couple of Pilates DVDs that I like, but I get bored with them very easily. I have some hand weights, but they’re gathering dust. Jillian Michaels’ new workout game is the next evolution in working out at home. Instead of a DVD that’s always the same, you can design your own workout, and get encouragement as you go along. Or, if you’re not working hard enough, have Jillian Michaels’ avatar yell at you!
She looks nice when she’s not yelling, doesn’t she!
Jillian didn’t just slap her name on the game and collect some fees. She helped design the game (it’s set on a desert island because she’s a big “Lost” fan!) and she did all of the exercises wearing one of those ridiculous motion capture suits covered with ping pong balls, so the instructor on the screen really is moving the right way. Some of the moves incorporate the Wii balance board, and you hold a Wii controller. So if you’re not raising your arms high enough, you get a red line on the screen. Do it right, you get a green line.
I tried the game while Jillian was giving interviews, a few feet from the stage but with her back to me. The last thing I need is a real person yelling at me in a room full of people. I have no problem with what she does on the show – those people are volunteers and they know what they’re in for. But for me, there was no prize at the end to make getting yelled at worth it. Getting told that I’m fat or not working hard enough just makes me want to eat. But on the game, in my living room, that could be fun. I tend to yell back at the TV anyway.
I’m fairly clutzy and uncoordinated, so I didn’t expect to be able to master the moves right away. I was surprised I was having as much trouble as I was, though. I was getting red lines all over the place! Then I realized that I was mirroring what the Jillian avatar was doing, when actually I was supposed to be doing the same leg and arm as she was. Once I got that I was more or less OK but again, this would be a lot easier to master if you weren’t in a room full of people. Each move has a tutorial you can go to, or go right to the move. You can choose the music, the location – lots of the game is customizable, which is great for moving from fitness level to fitness level or for when you get bored.
Not surprisingly, Jake caught on way faster than I did:
I don’t have much use for the Wii game because I don’t have a Wii, but there’s also a travel version for Nintendo DS, which I do have, so I’m excited to get that one when it’s released on October 20th (the Wii game will be out on October 6th). Jillian’s mind is already on the next version – she’s trying to incorporate weights and other stuff to take it to the next level.
I’m all for making exercise easier. I know that sounds like an oxymoron, but if I have to go to too much trouble to get to the actual exercise part, I wont do it. I’ve been a member of some excellent gyms that I never got my ass to – too much trouble. I love riding my bike, but I have to be dressed a certain way and then I have to put on sneakers and carry my bike down the stairs and put on a helmet…meh. But if you’ve got a Wii in your living room, and you can kick your kids off of it for long enough, then I think this game would be a great way to help you get fit.
UPDATE: Our hostess Beth Feldman posted a whrrl story about the event
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Sep 26, 2009 What's Going On
So here we are, in Asheville, in our pajamas in our hotel room, as the Type A Mom Conference is going on downstairs (it’s basically a conference for moms who do this blogging thing as more of a business than a hobby). Room service is on the way. We’re taking the morning off. We all woke up at 8:40, thanks to all of us being short on sleep for the past couple of nights (the blackout curtains helped).
We left Brooklyn Thursday evening in the Volkswagen Touareg TDI lent to us by Volkswagen Lifestyle. I’ll do a separate post to review it, but I have to sheepishly admit that I love it (sheepishly because I’ve been running my mouth off for years about how much I hate SUVs). We got out of the city with no problem, and stopped for dinner a couple hours later at a Burger King and got back on the road. By the time we hit the DC area the kids were asleep and I was getting sleepy and wanted to find a motel ASAP, and as soon as I made that decision to get off the road for the night, we hit really bad construction traffic. It really sucked. Finally, after about half an hour of 10mph Oh-my-God-I’ve-got-to-slap-myself-repeatedly driving, we got to an exit with about a dozen motels. I pulled up to what I hoped would be the cheapest, looked up the number, and called. $129/night. Shit. I was hoping for, like, $50/night. All we were going to do was sleep, shower, and leave! We didn’t even really need clean, just…clean enough. Like, hair in the tub is OK, bedbugs are not. So, I did that thing I hate to do and asked the hotel employee for info on his competitors, and he pointed me towards a Super 8. Perfect. Cheap and dingy. And…nobody answering the phone. Damn. I was NOT going to wake the kids up to drag them into the lobby for nothing, and I was not going to leave them in the car and get my kids and a loaner vehicle stolen at the same time.
After driving around to a few more, I found one that offered us $89 for the night, and took it. We were exhausted. We slept like the dead for seven hours and then hit the breakfast buffet in our stinky clothes from the day before. We would have missed breakfast otherwise! And judging from the looks of the other families in the lounge, we weren’t the only ones.
We made great time all the way to Asheville, with just a brief stop for lunch and gas and another an hour later for bathroom. Being completely directionally challenged I had told the kids that below Virginia was North Carolina, so we were all a bit surprised to cross into Tennassee. But the last hour in the car was…unpleasant? Horrible? I wanted to throw both kids out of the sunroof? They had both been really fantastic for the rest of the drive, so I suppose it was due. But they started going at each other, tickling at first, which is annoying but fine with me as long as they’re not fighting. But it ALWAYS turns into fighting! By the time we actually reached Asheville, I had declared total silence in the back seat and had them sitting on their hands.
We drove up a hill to the resort, parked in front of the hotel, and immediately started getting questions about the Touareg from people who had been following my #TouaregTrip tweets. We checked in and moved the car and brought the luggage upstairs, and then spent the next hour wandering aimlessly with all three of us behaving badly – we were starving and cranky. The bright spot was when Fiona ran into my friend Maria Bailey in the lobby (Maria’s company Mom Select sponsored our tickets and gas), and pretty much attached herself to Maria. She followed Maria around until finally Maria had to tell her that she was going to the bar and Fiona couldn’t come!
The quest for dinner was on, and I had no plan. The smart move probably would have been to jump into the Touareg and find someplace family-friendly, but I didn’t want to leave the hotel. First we tried the hotel’s restaurant. We waited forever to look at a menu, and it was…fancy. So next we tried the bar, which was smoky. I totally forgot that there are still places in the world where you can smoke! Their menu wasn’t any better, but the bartender did mention that the restaurant had a kids’ menu. Ummmm…WHAT? Did the woman who showed us the menu not want us eating there? When I said that the menu didn’t look like it had anything for my kids, that was her cue to mention the kids’ menu! So we went back to the nice restaurant and took a seat. And I tried to prepare my tired brain to do battle with the kids in this quiet – almost silent – restaurant.
But then, something amazing happened. The kids settled right down. I could not have predicted this. There was no reason for it. But thank God. We had a very pleasant dinner, and then I let them visit the kids’ room for 15 minutes so I could say hi to some friends. Then bed. Actually, Jake let me talk him into staying up until 10:30 to watch the first half of Project Runway (he loves that show!). Then bed.
You can catch up on the day one pictures with my whrrl story:
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Sep 25, 2009 Amy in the Morning
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Sep 23, 2009 Amy in the Morning
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Sep 23, 2009 Uncategorized
OK, so I’m sitting here trying to get my onlife life in order, so that I can then go upstairs and start packing, all while trying not to get distracted by Twitter. And I want to get enough sleep so that I don’t drive off of the highway tomorrow on my way to North Carlina for the Type A Mom Conference in Asheville. Especially since I’ll have the kids with me. Although, Fiona keeps saying that we’re going to a carousel. And then Jake gets this really frustrated look on his face, like “My sister is a stupid five-year-old.” And then he yells “We’re going to North CA-RO-LI-NA! Not CAROUSEL!” And then she laughs. She’s clearly doing it on purpose at this point to bother him.
But I digress. So I’m sitting here at the dining room table and I hear a really loud buzzing sound, and at first I thought it was coming from my computer, like a drive spinning really fast. Then I look over to where the sound is actually coming from, and I see what looks like a fly doing that thing that one of the Three Stooges used to do, where he would spin around the floor on his arm. So of course I grabbed my camera, which was right next to me.
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First of all, bonus to anyone who can name which “Friends” episode is playing in the background (Toni, I think you should voluntarily take yourself out of this one, because that’s just not a fair fight – you know every episode backwards and forwards). Second, what else has crawled into that crack to die? Third, did it die? That did not look like something a fly would do for fun – it had to be injured. I’m pretty sure it was limping as it walked away, muttering something about Keyser Soze. And while I have no problem killing flies, I was the only one down here and I didn’t know it was here until it did that.
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Tags: Type A Mom Conference