end of the trail: monetize this

I turned in the POS General Motors rental at 5:30 this morning, a 2006 Pontiac GT with about 25,000 miles, a few more miles on it than my Toyota Matrix, and though a little beefier in the acceleration department, a rattletrap vehicle nonetheless. We put 1115 miles on it since last Sunday. I drove 1093, Beth drove 22. Beth’s share was a stretch between Eugene and Grants Pass that is pretty much the most difficult section of Interstate Highway 5, so it’s more equal than it sounds at first blush. What I liked worst about the General Motors “Pontoon crap turismo:” the fact that I had to beat on the dashboard to get it to stop vibrating. What I liked second worst: the way it drank gasoline like Bukowski on a bender. What I liked best. Nothing really… the trunk light is a joke, you can’t see the interior of the trunk but you can see the lid. How stupid is that? The automatic door locking mechanism was iffy. It didn’t always work. The car has a big plastic beak sticking out in front that gets abraded by the curb whenever you park, and scuffed by every driveway you enter. The power seat adjustment was okay, and the dashboard instrumentation appeals to the inner geek. Did I mention that I used about one gallon to the mile with this pig? My experience: Pontiac GT = sux. Toyota Matrix = okay. Pontiac makes a car called the Vibe. It’s essentially a Matrix. Based on my experience in that pig GT, I’d expect the Vibe to have special Detroit rattletrap reverse engineering built-in as part of an evil GM feature set.

The women of BlogHer were treated to some GM sponsored sporty car demos at the Hyatt San Jose Mediterranean Center this weekend, while my rental was wheezing and gasping in the parking lot behind the hotel. At the height of the crisis of Peak Oil, General Motors was selling the women of BlogHer on the Escalade, a 13 mpg porker that even the plutocrats in the Bush family can’t afford to drive anymore unless they can dominate Iraqi and Persian oil production.

I hope that the revenue from the GM BlogHer platinum sponsorship was used to get a lot of women to the gathering who otherwise couldn’t have afforded to come, was used to offset expenses so the event was affordable for most of us. I hate the idea that the sponsorship may have been used to offset honoraria and expenses to stars like Arianna Huffington, much as I appreciated her appearance with Grace Davis, Mena Trott, and Caroline Little on the day two keynote panel that Chris Nolan moderated. I hate the idea that all the “community, sharing, mutualness and interdependence” that Liz Henry talks about requires a big corporate financial subsidy.

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14 Comments

  1. Laura
    Posted July 30, 2006 at 7:46 | Permalink

    I hate the idea that the sponsorship may have been used to offset honoraria and expenses to stars like Arianna Huffington, much as I appreciated her appearance with Grace Davis, Mena Trott, and Caroline Little on the day two keynote panel that Chris Nolan moderated. I hate the idea that all the “community, sharing, mutualness and interdependence” that Liz Henry talks about requires a big corporate financial subsidy.

    I totally agree! The corporate underwriting I know is necessary, but was also disturbing at some level.

  2. Jory Des Jardins
    Posted July 31, 2006 at 8:59 | Permalink

    Hi Frank. Glad you made it home.

    It’s a fact-conferences like BlogHer, where you feed and, hopefully, educate, connect and inspire your participants, cost money. I’ll give you a breakdown of where the money went:

    -FOOD: Hotels charge a per-person rate that combines room rental costs with catering

    -Getting women to the event: Some sponsors paid outright for sending women to BlogHer. We knew that we wouldn’t have gone beyond having the same speakers that you see at every business conference if we didn’t help send new and diverse voices to BlogHer. We spent very heavily on travel, lodging and registrations for speakers and volunteers.

    -Wireless: I know you wouldn’t believe this, since the wireless was klugey, but GM’s sponsorship could have been applied nearly in full on this piece alone.

    -Podcasting/A-V costs

    There you have it. We didn’t pay honoraria, though I do believe in paying people for their time. I’m happy that we were able to assist with such things as travel and lodging, where it was needed. Anyway, I hope this makes it clearer to you how we’ve allocated the money we made this year.

    I, personally, would also like to hold out the possibility of making more of a profit, since Lisa, Elisa, and myself need to pay ourselves eventually for this work in order to continue doing it exclusively.

  3. Posted July 31, 2006 at 10:11 | Permalink

    Thank you for the openness, Jory. I hope you folks can make enough money to keep doing this and improving it. Even a labor of love deserves to be compensated!

  4. Melinda (Sour Duck)
    Posted July 31, 2006 at 10:26 | Permalink

    “There you have it.”

    No, we don’t have it. Where are the figures?

  5. Posted July 31, 2006 at 10:34 | Permalink

    Good point, Melinda. Open books open minds.

  6. Shelley
    Posted July 31, 2006 at 3:01 | Permalink

    I didn’t go to the conference, so probably have no say in this.

    Blogher did start as a grassroots movement last year. The cross-over to profit, especially considering the rather unusual amount of sponsor presence at the conference, may end up generating a lot of questions it might be best to answer now rather than later. You don’t have to, you’re a LLC and don’t have a public stock offering. And people don’t begrudge you three from making a living from the Blogher LLC.

    But it did start as a grassroots movement, and I think that may lead to some confusion.

    Just a suggestion.

  7. Shelley
    Posted July 31, 2006 at 3:04 | Permalink

    PS I would get a lawyer and demand your money back for the wireless. The hotel did not deliver, and should have provided it as part of the conference room packaging.

  8. Posted July 31, 2006 at 3:21 | Permalink

    Amen about the wireless part.

  9. McD
    Posted July 31, 2006 at 6:56 | Permalink

    Frank,

    Networks are built on a statistical “usage” model. The Hotel network is probably fine for standard situations… but when the Hotel is full of leading edge network consumers that network will fail due to unanticiapted network loads.

    We’re going to see this effect and most conferences since every user can get a 45Mbit wireless pipe and the whole network often joins the internet over a T1 (1.5Mbit) link. Those links into the big cloud are very expensive.

    By jumping up the client link spped (and expectation) to the 10Mb, 45Mb and soon to be higher speeds we’ve created a recipe for frustration and the potential to bury the backbone networks with millions of video, audio and large zip file downloads all automated by aggregators.

    So, cut the Hotel a little slack and re-think the problem… it will happen over and over until these large file downloads are re-engineered to use excess bandwidth and not be a first class service on a shared network. Where’s the IETF when you need something fixed?
    Maybe they are already fixing it and I’m just Clueless ‘n See-Addled.

    The big story at the previous GnomeDex was the failure of the WiFi. WiFi isn ‘t the problem… it’s the impedance mismatch between LAN speeds and WAN speeds. Corporate Network Czar’s just make large file tranfers illegal over a shared pipe. Hotel’s just let the traffic congest and
    say “That’s odd… it usually works just fine”.

  10. Posted July 31, 2006 at 8:52 | Permalink

    McD, You’re right that it’s a configuration and backhaul problem. The hotel owes it to the customer to spend $5000 and get a short term lease and installation of a DS3 pipe to an Internet Service Provider with a high speed link to the NAP or to otherwise configure so as to avoid that gateway bottleneck in-house.

    The conference organizer owes it to the venue to explain that need up front and get that need met with substantial penalties for non-performance.

    If you can’t do that in Silly Valley, where can you do it?

  11. Jory Des Jardins
    Posted July 31, 2006 at 10:42 | Permalink

    We were just discussing this and wondering how to bake requirements into our next contract. I’m going to steal this languaging:

    The hotel owes it to the customer to spend $5000 and get a short term lease and installation of a DS3 pipe to an Internet Service Provider with a high speed link to the NAP or to otherwise configure so as to avoid that gateway bottleneck in-house.

    The conference organizer owes it to the venue to explain that need up front and get that need met with substantial penalties for non-performance.

  12. DrumsNWhistles
    Posted August 1, 2006 at 12:13 | Permalink

    I think you’re off-base on your criticism of the commercial aspects of the conference as well as the Mena Trott criticism.

    The fact that advertisers were willing to make a substantial investment in something with a very short track record speaks to their understanding of the reason we all were there. Many women would not have been able to attend if the price had included everything provided, sans swag.

    I was impressed with how low-key they were. I’ve been to conferences where advertisers ran each and every session with utterly unbalanced presentations. That was not the case here.

    Having pitches is a small price in exchange for the value received. I dealt with my opinion on the Mena Trott thing on my blog, so I won’t rehash it here, but it seems to me that all this high-profile criticism has a personal tinge to it. (BTW, I’m a WordPress user, not Typepad)

    Besides, I now want a Saturn Sky. ;-)

  13. Shelley
    Posted August 1, 2006 at 1:34 | Permalink

    McD, I’ve attended conferences at this hotel. It’s a block from the Computer Museum. You can’t swing a dead cat without hitting a tech conference attendee in the neighborhood.

    Sluggish, yes. As bad as it was? Hmm.

  14. Elisa Camahort
    Posted August 1, 2006 at 9:11 | Permalink

    In case this might help other conference organizers: the problem isn’t always bandwidth. I mean, a large number of people couldn’t get ON to suck up the bandwidth! The problem was server/router configuration. And trying to support too many users per sub-net…overwhelming the processing power of the switch with DHCP and ARP requests.

    And the problem was that multiple requests my IT person made to get and review such configurations prior to the conference were ignored in favor of “we have this much bandwidth; we can support ‘x’ number of users.” Don’t you worry, pat, pat, pat.”

    Shelley re: Comment #7: yes, indeed.