Gabby asked me a while back to speak at Alt Design Summit, which is a blog conference held in Salt Lake City each January. I'll admit I had mixed feelings. From what I had seen of Alt, it appeared to be kind of a three-day-camp for blog superstars and wannabe up-and-coming bloggers. Before going I had seen the posts by bloggers worried about what to wear each day, the "aren't-we-having-the-best-time!" photobooth photos, and the power list of speakers and presenters and really... I wasn't sure I could find my place in the whole thing.
But I like Gabby, and I have friends and family in Salt Lake, and plane tickets were cheap.. so off I went.
I don't quite know how to explain what Alt is.. now that I have come and gone and seen it with my own eyes. It was inspiring and thought provoking, and nice to visit with old friends I knew in NYC (like Merilee of mermag, Kelli Ronci from uber-craft, Melanie Falick from STC Craft, and Mara from A Blog About Love). And fun to talk face to face with people whose work I admire (like Stephanie from stephmodo, Grace Bonney from Design Sponge, the lovely Amy Butler, and Pilar Guzman from momfilter). And to make new friends, like those I spoke with on the Work/Life Balance Panel (Sarah from Sarah Jane Studios, Chrysula Winegar, and Kathryn from Snippet + Ink).
Though the parties are a big draw for many Alt attendees, I guess I'm just not a big party girl. Instead, I loved having dinner with Chrysula and Sarah the night before we spoke on our panel, ditching the Friday night parties to have dinner at home with good friends in Salt Lake, and sitting and talking with people one on one throughout the day.
If you're headed to Alt you've got to bring some pretty business cards.. and I was happy to hand out these little guys I had letterpressed by Bryce Knudson of Bjorn Press a while back. They are the perfect size, smaller and squatter than a standard card and printed on a nice thick Lettra stock in a warm gray and pale cream.
Some of my favorite moments of the conference were the keynote speakers, like this panel which included Maxwell from Apartment Therapy, Deborah Needleman (founder of Domino), and Pilar Guzman (formerly of cookie, now running Martha Stewart Living). There was a lot of discussion about new media vs. old (blogs vs. magazines) and though I see that traditional publishing is in trouble, I don't see magazines and books disappearing anytime soon.
I also enjoyed the roundtable discussion groups that were led by industry experts and covered categories ranging from tax issues to ad networks to legal concerns. You just pulled up a chair and started asking questions. I would have loved to have been able to sit at every table.
I think everyone at Alt now adores Ben Silberman, founder of Pinterest. He told the story of how he turned his idea into a product and it was absolutely fascinating. I love him for quoting a line from the movie The Pirates of Silicon Valley (one of my favorite made-for-TV movies EVER). "I think .. there's something going on out there in California." And I loved hearing about how his girlfriend (now his wife) after hearing his ideas for years finally said "So stop talking about it and just go and DO IT." And he did!
The third day of the conference is small hands-on workshops and I was lucky to get to attend two: a screenprinting class taught by Eva Jorgensen of Sycamore Street Press, and a calligraphy workshop taught by Melissa Esplin of ISLY. I create so much on the computer these days, it was really nice to remember how it feels to make something with my hands.
Since Alt, I've been thinking a lot about my blog and what I want it to be (and definitely what I DON'T want it to be). I've never thought of it as a commercial venture, so the discussions about ad networks and corporate sponsors and search engine optimization didn't really appeal to me. To be honest, because my blog is not meant to make money, I do tend to put it on the back burner from time to time, setting it aside for books and shoots and other projects I do get paid for. I hope you'll understand that though I may not post five times a day, when I do post you will know it is about something I believe in (and not something I am being paid to discuss).
Many of you have asked for a recap of our panel on Work/Life Balance. I am gathering my thoughts and will share them when I have a moment (but it might need to wait a week or two.. I've got a book design due and valentines to make with the kids!).
Bottom four photos from the Alt Flickr stream.