When I arrived last night in Park Slope, Brooklyn, I found the Brooklyn Lyceum right away because there was a huge line around the block of people waiting to get in to the Fifth Annual Brooklyn Blogfest. Several hundred people attended the event, organized by Founding Director Louise Crawford.
The majority of attendees live in Brooklyn. Ms. Crawford stated that Brooklyn had the largest number of blogs in the world. As a matter of fact, many people at the conference reiterated that throughout the evening and I was interested in really knowing whether or not that was correct. I researched statistics on Yahoo, Yahoo Answers, Google, and Technorati the next day and couldn’t find anything. Since there are so many blogs, I couldn’t find an accurate count of the blogs that exist.
In any event, the conference was different than anything I’ve ever experienced. As I sat in the audience, I wondered what the folks beside me did for a living. To my left, was a young man in his 20s. I asked him what he did.
“I’m a new blogger,” said Milton Camilo, referring to his blog My Change. “I just started to blog about my life.”
On the other side of me sat a middle-aged woman. I asked her what she does. “I blog about 19th century recipes and cooking,” she told me.
“Was the food really different in the 19th century?” I asked her.
“Oh, yes,” she said. “Everything was done over an open fire and had a slightly different taste.” Her blog is called Historic Cookery.
What an interesting mix of people, I thought. The program began shortly after, when actors Aaron Costa Ganis, Charlotte Maier, and Natalie Paul enacted little tidbits from more than a dozen “Brooklyn” blogs. They gave a brilliant performance. You felt as if you were sitting there reading various blogs and feeling what the bloggers felt when they were writing their entries.
After that, the lights went off, the screen came down, and the audience saw a video tribute to Brooklyn photo bloggers. Many of the photos were of tenements, people, and protests. This went on for about five minutes. As soon as it was over, local actor Lemon Anderson rapped about Brooklyn blogs. He did a good job motivating the audience and getting them geared up for the next part of the program.
The crowd roared when they saw Spike Lee step up to the podium to talk about his life growing up in Brooklyn. He explained to the audience that his parents bought a house in Fort Greene in 1968 for $40,000. Everyone laughed (could you imagine buying a house today for $40K?).
After about five minutes, he opened it up to questions from the audience. Two people asked the same question: “When are you moving back to Brooklyn?”
Lee’s response was, “I don’t have much choice in the matter,” referring to his wife.
A few people asked Lee for help with their projects and he graciously accepted. When someone asked whether or not blogging helps to raise money for films, Spike Lee answered that blogging is a tool, a grassroots movement, and he said, “It can certainly help.”
Another rapper/actor came out and rapped about all of the bloggers who were in the audience and wow — there are so many Brooklyn blogs in the blogsphere!
After that, Andrea Bernstein of WNYC led a panel discussion with a group of Brooklyn bloggers. One blogger said that blogging is a “virtual stoop.” Years ago, people would sit around the stoop and talk about everything. Today, social media is our generations’ virtual stoop.
Another interesting statement from a blogger was, “I live on the Internet.”
Why are there so many blogs in Brooklyn, the moderator asked the panel? One of the panelists said that some people have three or four blogs. The other panelists said that Brooklyn has attitude, diversity, reputation, entitlement, and that it fosters creativity.
“I wouldn’t be a blogger if I lived in Murray Hill,” said blogger Jake Dobkin of Gothamist.
Not being from Brooklyn, I’ll be honest, I felt a little out of place. A blogger friend who joined me at the conference said, “Don’t tell anyone we’re from Long Island!”
Generally I thought it was a worthwhile conference to attend. There was great networking and interesting ideas generated. However, it was hard to see the speakers. The podium was set all the way in the back right-hand corner. Carolina Capehart of Historic Cookery said, “I can’t believe they would put the speaker all the way back there. It’s crazy. I wish I could see better.” In addition, the panelists all sat during the panel discussion. They were not on risers so anyone in the back could not see them at all.
Besides those little annoyances, I generally find blogger conferences like this one very interesting. Why? Because they bring a wide range of people together with various interests and yet, we’re all the same — we love to blog!