The title of this post was almost “you say ci-cay-da, I say Secada.”
Anyway, on to more pressing matters. It’s cicada season in parts of Virginia. Thus, if you live in the area or will be visiting, you may want to be on the lookout for these noisy insects. The season is just getting started, but before long they’ll be everywhere. Seriously… everywhere. In fact, to mutilate a classic song: ”If you’re going to be at BlogPaws, you just might find a cicada in your hair.” If that happens, try not to panic. It’ll be okay. Continue reading →
In less than a week, BlogPaws 2013 will be here. It just so happens that this year’s conference is (like the 2011 event) in my metaphorical backyard. So, how could I pass up another opportunity to hang out with some of my favorite pet bloggers? Truth be told, I signed up as soon as the location for 2013 was announced last year!
I can’t wait to see some of my blogging buddies again… and to meet some of you in person for the very first time! Will you be there?
I had a wonderful time in 2011, even though I’ll admit that I was a little nervous. (If this year’s conference will be your first, have no fear. As I’m sure you can imagine, this is one fun and welcoming group! If you’d like to read about the 2011 conference through the eyes of a newbie, check out my series of posts about the experience – you might want to scroll down and start with the oldest posts first.)
Keeping an eye on the lawn…
(Full disclosure: Bella and Tavish will probably not be attending the conference with me. Although it’s nearby, I’m worried that they might find it a little overwhelming. So, maybe I’ll manage to work something out with Tavish, but Bella will probably have to live vicariously through me. She’s in kind of a “get off my lawn” phase with any other dog she happens to encounter these days.)
Today, I’m feeling a bit nostalgic. For what, you might ask?
(Actually, it’s more likely that you’re thinking, “Geez. This chick is always nostalgic. I bet she’ll work in a reference to 90210 or some other random show that went off the air decades ago. You know, like Models Inc., Paradise Hotel, or some long-ago season of the Real World/Road Rules Challenge. Does her TV block channels with decent programming?” Well, imaginary voice in my head – you are so wrong. Oh wait… I guess you were right. Plus, there’s that Saved by the Bell reference in the post title. Speaking of, somehow throughout the process of adding links to my senseless ramblings, I found this blog, and then lost a great amount of time that I am now unable to account for. I have issues.)
(Seriously though, no other Models, Inc. fans out there? Also, I have to confess – my prior shameful addiction to Paradise Hotel has developed into a current shameful addiction to Love in the Wild. Apparently, I have not been cured.)
Moving on… despite that scary glimpse at my internal monologue, this post is not about my questionable viewing habits. Rather, it’s about blogging conferences. I got a little spoiled last year when I attended my first pet blogging conference in my own backyard. (Not literally in my backyard… but a short distance from my home. How weird would it be if I just held a blogging conference in my backyard?)
When last we saw our intrepid heroine, she had just finished lunch on the last day of BlogPaws. What adventures await her in this installment?
After lunch, it was time to head to my final session. I chose one entitled “Copyright Basics for Bloggers & Staying Out of Trouble with the FTC.” Obviously, I’m not here to give you legal advice, but I am happy to share some resources so you can learn about copyright, product reviews and contests. These sites will provide you with some handy information:
Speaking of using content you didn’t create, you may want to check out the Creative Commons website. You can search this site for creative works that you may be able to use on your blog – visit here to learn about how content is licensed and how you can use it. You can also find some Creative Commons work on Flickr.
Before you do any product reviews on your site, it’s important to know the rules of the road, especially if you’re receiving free products to review on your site. Visit the FTC website to find out more.
If you want to run a sweepstakes or contest on your blog, there may be legal issues related to running a promotion. For an overview of the issues, take a look at this article.
After this session, I finally managed to meet Sharon from Grouchy Puppy, thanks to some help from my pal Kim over at This One Wild Life. Sharon was on my must-meet list, but we hadn’t managed to make it happen yet. While I chatted with a few bloggers, including Sharon and Diane from To Dog With Love, we were treated to a special presentation:
No offense to anyone else, but I’m pretty sure that Cosmo was the cutest speaker at the conference.
After this adorable presentation, Sharon, Diane and I did what many bloggers do with downtime – we had a photo shoot! Sharon (and Cleo’s proxy) posed for a few shots with Cosmo. This shot was my favorite:
Sadly, the end of our photo shoot also meant the end of my BlogPaws adventure. Irene was fast approaching, so I headed home to spend the evening hanging out with Bella and hoping my power wouldn’t go out. (Spoiler alert: my power did go out. However, it went out at 2:30 A.M. and was back before 10 A.M., so I won’t complain. I don’t think Bella even noticed.)
Well… that’s all, folks. (I’m at a bit of a loss – what will I ramble about now that this series is done?) I had a great time at the conference and met some absolutely wonderful people. I hope you enjoyed these recaps – if you want to read or revisit any of my BlogPaws 2011 coverage, you can do so by clicking here.
Today, I have a special treat for you – a guest post from one of my favorite bloggers! Editor-at-Large for LIFE+DOG Magazine and Founder of Grouchy Puppy, Sharon Castellanos writes to educate and inspire people to focus on the beauty and joy of having a dog in their life. She shares stories and interviews that strive to illustrate how we all have it in us to give fearlessly and influence positively. I was lucky enough to finally meet her in person during BlogPaws in spite of that whole hurricane thing.
I think pets, like a fine wine, get better with age. Below, Sharon discusses ageism and appreciating older dogs. It’s the perfect post to share with you during Adopt-a-Less-Adoptable-Pet Week.
Do dogs face ageism like people? When I read how people will
drop off their dog to Animal Care and Control because the dog is old, it makes
me a little crazy.
Why is it so hard for some people to be empathetic? A dog
lives an entire life being your companion and buddy. Who else is that excited
to see you, every time you open the front door, whether you’ve been gone five
minutes or five hours.
As we age, no one likes to feel aches and pains that come
with the advancing years. We all have to change our diet and take things a
little slower. It is the same with a dog. Why would you expect them to be any
Cleo isn’t a puppy and that is a good thing. We love that
she was already an adult when we adopted her. When I think back, it almost was
like cheating because she came with bonus extras. I almost felt as if we should
have paid more. An older dog more often loves to hang out with you, rather than
dashing off to sniff every new and amazing thing. This is certainly true for
Sure puppies are cute but so are old dogs. Who doesn’t love
a sweet face with a little grey around the muzzle? How adorable is it when you
see a small old dog wearing a sweater. They look almost professorial. All they
need is a little pipe and a newspaper.
I can only imagine the regret these people must feel after
they get home. Their dreams filled with the consequences of what they have
done. It has to be tough thinking that you couldn’t give the same level of
commitment to a relationship as a dog can.
The upside to many of these stories in San Francisco is that
we have wonderful groups who step in and scoop up that senior dog for a new
life with people who can commit. Have you heard of Muttville? Our city has lots
of families who adore the senator or professor look in a dog.
Let me say that Cleo may be old, and now we’re dealing with
age-related issues for her but I wouldn’t trade her or these experiences for
anything. Being with her now helps me reflect on my own mortality and how I
view and treat old people. We all age and I for one appreciate having a dog in
my life who is willing to go through it all with a big happy face.
My series of posts on BlogPaws has more episodes than some TV shows… apparently I had quite a bit to say!
Anyway, it’s time to recap Day 2. I was running a tad behind, but I managed to grab some breakfast and slip in just as the keynote speaker was getting started. The morning began with a talk by Heidi Ganahl, the Top Dog at Camp Bow-Wow, which sounds like a pretty fun place for a pup to spend a day or an evening.
Heidi is quite the impressive entrepreneur as well as a philanthropist. Her speech was quite inspirational; she shared the experience of losing her husband at the age of 27 and the journey that eventually led to the creation of Camp Bow-Wow.
After listening to Heidi, I should have gone to a breakout session. I planned to – and from what I heard, the offerings in the first time slot were great. However, I ended up hanging out with Diane and Cosmo from To Dog With Love and a few other bloggers, including Tamar from I Have Cat and Donna (and her pup Yaxley) from Raising a Super Dog.
I got so distracted by talking (and by cute puppies and that adorable kitten Tamar is holding in the photo above) that I completely missed the first session. The dangers of being chatty, I suppose.
I got back on track in time for the second session of the day. There were a few I was interested in, but I’m very happy with the one I chose, entitled “No Blog is an Island: Tools to Build Traffic & Community.” The session was presented by Felissa Elfenbein from Two Little Cavaliers and Neil Brogan from Life with Dogs. Neil was unable to make it in person. However, thanks to the wonders of technology, he joined us via phone. While waiting for the session to start, I talked it up with Lisa the Pet Book Lady. So glad I got to meet her!
The session began with an absolutely awesome video. Seriously. Go watch it. I’ll still be here when you’re done.
Now that you’re back, a few notes about the session itself. We had a great discussion of the concept of community, which led to last week’s Pay it Forward Blog Hop. (I still plan to find some great guests posts from you from the hop… my to do list is just taking longer than I thought! However, one of the lessons I took from the session was that guest posting is a great way for us to build on each others’ ideas within the greater community.)
A few other highlights:
If you have the choice, go for threaded rather than flat comments. (If you’re like me, “threaded comments” was a new phrase. However, you know how on some blogs you can reply to specific comments rather than just replying at the end of the discussion? Those are threaded comments – discussions rather than just a linear list. Blogger doesn’t offer this option.)
Follow the Golden Rule – deal with troublemakers quickly. Consider posting rules for behavior so that your readers know your comment policy. Don’t spend time arguing with your community members.
Don’t be the loudest voice in the conversation.
If you would consider it SPAM, don’t do it to your followers.
After that interesting session (complete with Felissa’s retelling of the Stone Soup folk story – a timeless classic in my book), I headed to lunch. While eating, we were treated to a special presentation from BZTAT (a.k.a. Vicky Boatright). She teamed up with Miah from Start the Change for a very moving performance. Go visit BZTAT’s website to learn more about Okey’s Promise. I also recommend this great post about Okey’s Promise over at Bocci’s Beefs.
Oh, and did I mention that Saturday morning was when my fun photo shoot with Pamela and Honey from Something Wagging this Way Comes took place? It was a good time!
Up next… one last session, finally meeting up with the fabulous lady behind Grouchy Puppy, and some closing thoughts. We’re in the home stretch!
Previously… I ate some cheesecake and finished the educational portion of Day 1.
After learning about various bloggy things, the first day of sessions was over. It was time to head back out into that big lobby and chat it up once again before our screening of Spooky Buddies. Luckily, I quickly encountered Kim from This One Wild Life, who was kind enough to allow me to be her wingwoman (wingblogger?) for the evening.
We grabbed a glass of wine (farewell to my final drink ticket) and some popcorn (in my book, wine goes with anything) while we waited for the evening’s festivities to get underway.
After mingling for a bit, the doors opened and we headed inside. We picked up some movie snacks and grabbed a seat a few rows from the front. Little did we know that the rows in front of us would later be removed and we’d be in the very first row… not that I’m complaining, but it was somewhat unexpected. Anyway, Kim and I chatted for a while about this and that – it was like hanging out with an old friend. (Kim, feel free to correct me in the comments if you thought it was more like hanging out with an annoying person who won’t go away… I kid, I kid.)
Here’s the coolest part… not long before the movie began, Kim and I checked our Twitter feeds (hey, it’s a blogging conference) to find out the results of the Petties (it’s like the Oscars, but for pet blogs). Be the Change for Animals (which Kim co-founded) won for Best Cause Blog! It was a pretty amazing moment – and fortunately, the BlogPaws photographer happened to swing by at the perfect time and get it on camera.
(Check out her acceptance speech – Be the Change for Animals donated its $1,000 to Best Friends Animal Society. Pretty great, huh?)
Not long after that, it was time for the movie premiere of Spooky Buddies – BlogPaws was the first press screening in the country. I’ll admit, I’ve never seen any of the other movies in the franchise, so I wasn’t quite sure what to expect.
The basic story – the five main characters (a.k.a the Buddies, a group of five adorable Golden Retriever puppies) encounter the legend of the Howl-oween Hound and must stop Warwick the Warlock’s evil plan before it’s too late.
The movie was cute… not necessarily one I would have sought out on my own, but I definitely think kids would like it. I actually enjoyed it – there was something about the crowd (including dogs barking at the screen) that just made it a fun experience. Here’s the trailer:
Obviously, I’m not the only blogger writing up her thoughts on her Spooky Buddies experience these days. For a few more, go visit Bocci’s Beefs (and find out how many stand-ins each puppy had on set), My Tail Hurts from Wagging So Much (for an interview with the director), and The Chronicles of Cardigan (for a firsthand account of what it was like to watch the movie with your pups).
After the movie, it was time for a Q&A session with the director. I have to imagine that working with kids and puppies is quite the challenge, but he really seemed to enjoy it.
Once the Q&A ended, we had the opportunity to get our photo taken
with one of the stars – an adorable puppy dressed in a bunny costume.
The photographer wasn’t very quick on the draw – which didn’t work so
well when a tired puppy was involved.
In the interest of getting these
photos done quickly so that the pup could get out of his duds and take a
nap, Kim and I did our photo as a duo. Once I have a copy, I’ll
definitely share it here.
Once that was all done, Kim invited me to crash a Greenies happy hour that she was invited to attend at the hotel bar. I was a bit hesitant, but I’m glad I let her talk me into it. I had a fantastic time chatting with Doreen from Doggies and Stuff, Jess from Indy Dog Blog (a party crasher like me), and others.
Eventually, it was time for me to say goodnight and head home. After I got home, I snuggled with Bella and caught up on Project Runway.
One day down, one more to go. I was able to attend the second day, but I did end up ducking out a bit early due to the hurricane. Never fear, I still have lots to tell you.
Up next? More sessions, some great speakers, a photo shoot or two, and meeting up with some more of my favorite bloggers.
Now, where was I? Oh, yes… cheesecake. Good stuff, right? Anyway, after thoroughly enjoying that cheesecake and chatting with a few others during the break, it was time for afternoon sessions. During each time slot, there were four breakout sessions to choose from. Sometimes, it was a tough choice. At other times, I didn’t have to think twice. You will probably not be surprised to learn that the title of this next session called to me like a siren to a sailor.
A punny title? Pop culture references? How could I say no?
This session was presented by Lauren Spencer from Fetching Communications. We learned about various widgets (stand-alone applications that you can embed on your blog to create a more dynamic and interactive experience for your readers – check out Something Wagging This Way Comes for list of the links we got from Lauren that day). It seems like there are widgets for everything – including Facebook (so readers can like your page… hint, hint), Twitter, and YouTube. You can even create polls and surveys for your site.
Just make sure not to engage in widget overload – too many widgets and your page begins to look like Times Square. Your reader won’t even know where to start.
Anyway, there was one widget in particular that piqued my interest: embedding a slideshow from Flickr. Lauren showed us how to do this using Flickr’s own app, as well as third-party applications from Flickr’s App Garden. I made the one below using pictobrowser:
Get the flash player here: http://www.adobe.com/flashplayer
Cool, right? I have a feeling I’ll be using this tool a lot in the future – I was wondering how to create slideshows on the blog, but was a bit too lazy to figure it out myself. So thank goodness for punny sessions. The session even came with an unexpected bonus: I finally got to meet Elizabeth, Jon Farleigh and Dewi from The Chronicles of Cardigan!
Now that my brain was playing songs from The Wizard of Oz on a permanent loop, it was time to head to yet another session – the last one of the day, in fact. For this final session, I chose to attend “StumbleUpon: How to Create, Share and Discover Great Content.” I’d heard about StumbleUpon but wasn’t really familiar with how it works.
Apparently part of the concept is based on “unexpected relevance,” which I thought was interesting. According to our presenter (from StumbleUpon, of course), it’s the second biggest social media referrer online in North America. So you know… kind of a big deal, I suppose. This was yet another technical session – there are a variety of free tools and widgets (as well as paid ones) available. If you’re interested, you can check them out here. Any of you use it? What do you think?
That closes the book on the sessions from Day 1. However, the day wasn’t over yet… up next, I’ll tell you all about my evening. It included popcorn, candy, a movie, puppies, and new friends. After that, I’ll give you a recap of Day 2, and finally some closing thoughts. The end is in sight!
I’ve told you about my initial impressions of BlogPaws, and about some of the tough guys I encountered along the way. I wasn’t quite sure what to tackle next. When all else fails, I tend to default to chronological order. So, for argument’s sake, let’s just say that all else failed…
After listening to the Rescue Ink guys, it was time to attend my first actual session. You know, where I’d go to learn stuff. I had a hard time deciding what to attend – I ended up choosing one called “Demystifying Search Engine Optimization.” I didn’t have the foggiest idea what that was, so I figured I could use the demystification.
I’m not going to lie… at the time, I thought I had a basic grasp of SEO. Looking back at my notes a week later, I’m not so sure. I scribbled something about keywords, improving my search engine ranking – and a bunch of technical things that I need to revisit in more detail. I’m not really qualified to advise any of you on this one! Luckily, the folks over at BlogPaws recently had a great post about SEO for paw bloggers, so I’ll let them do the heavy lifting.
Missy wins the prize for best business card – a slap bracelet! That thing was awesome – I wore it for the rest of the day, and it’s currently still decorating my camera bag.
Up next, I headed to a session called “Reach. Relevance. Design. Presentation.” I was excited to hear the presenter, Dino Dogan (the creator of Triberr). This one was more up my alley (and it was also the session where Tango decided his nose was cold). I really enjoyed this session. Some of the choice quotes/concepts I jotted down:
On reach: “Attention is the commodity and we only have so much of it.” Dino described reach as “fishing with dynamite.”
On relevance: “There’s no motion without emotion.” Relevance is like shooting with a laser. Seventy-five percent of writing time should be spent on the headline. In general, short is better than long, and emotional is better than non-emotional. Think about the person you’re trying to attract and their state of mind. One method is to create a customer avatar – an image of your ideal customer.
On design: The consensus here seems to be that Blogger kind of sucks. (If I took one lesson away from the weekend – this was it. It came up in several sessions.) Many seem to prefer having a self-hosted WordPress site. Dino also talked about logo design and colors. Have you ever noticed that many of the major sites – like Facebook and Twitter – use blue? I’ve definitely been paying more attention to the colors used on various blogs since this session and thinking about what kind of mood they evoke.
On presentation: You should aim to become a content presenter instead of focusing on being a content creator. (Cesar Milan is – unfortunately – a good example here. I think his methods suck, but I can’t argue that he’s managed to draw people in with his presentation.) Be a better writer than the next guy – make your reader feel that if he doesn’t click on your headline, he’s going to miss something. My favorite quote: to improve your writing, “read like a madman, write like a mental institution escapee.” Think about visitors who will view your site on their smartphones – do you have mobile browsing enabled?
Finally, model yourself on Dynasty… create some cliffhangers!
I could write a lot more about this session – I think it was the kick I needed to start thinking about my own blog in a more analytical way. I’ll be doing some self-evaluation in the coming months and you may see some changes as a result. However, first I need to find the time for all of that virtual navel gazing…
Anyway, after that session, it was time for lunch. I was in for a pleasant surprise – the speakers during lunch were from the rescue group where I adopted Bella! The group is called Homeless Animals Rescue Team (aka HART), and they operate in the Northern Virginia area.
Also a pleasant surprise? Cheesecake. I love cheesecake.
Anyway, after I inhaled that cheesecake, it was time for my next session. I chose it based on its delightfully punny name. I’ll tell you all about it my next installment…
(I told you that recapping BlogPaws would take me a while. I wasn’t kidding. When you’re as wordy as I am, these things take time. Hang in there.)