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February 05, 2013

DadCentric Roundtable: Post-Dad 2.0 Summit Edition

So. Dad 2.0. We came, we saw, we made asses of ourselves (at least I did) on the karaoke floor. But what did we think of Dad 2.0.2? As before, I asked the fellows for their thoughts on the conference, via the magic of Electronic Mail. - Jason

Whit: I thought Dad 2.0 was much improved in places that I didn't even realize it needed improving. The panels weren't the typical rehashed conversations we tend to find at most conferences (something I am totally guilty of), and the keynotes were downright inspirational and amazing. 

In addition, Dad 2.0 is obviously doing something right in the way it is reaching its potential attendees, because I have rarely been in a space where every next person is a conversation I have needed, and that happened here.

The whiskey tasting was nice, too.

Kevin: I agree with Whit on the whiskey tasting. Oh, and on the panels, too. Even the one I thought would be a rehash of Blogging 101 about building an audience gave me at least two or three new ideas.

I was truly apprehensive about a sophomore slump for Dad 2.0, but I thought it really did improve upon the previous one. The keynote speakers were all entertaining and mostly relevant to the audience, which I can't say about the two BlogHer conferences I've attended. While everything took place in the hotel, the facility was perfect in size and layout and being in a downtown location opened nighttime bonding possibilities not available the wilderness of Bastrop County, Texas, last year. I'm mean, a group of dads going out to karaoke two nights in a row? That was great.

Also, the Dove "Man Cave" was a nice touch, even though I got shut out of the a shave and haircut. However, I think attendees will all wear nicer shoes next year know knowing they have the opportunity to get a shine from a leggy Latvian blonde.

But most importantly, the people were great -- attendees, the Dad 2.0 staff, even the sponsors were incredibly cool as people throughout. I feel I truly made many personal connections I didn't at the last one.

Me (Jason. Avant, not Sperber. We need nicknames.): What I enjoyed: Brene Brown and David Eagleman; I spent some time talking to David about Science Things, and he's a great guy. His book "Sum" is amazing; if you liked "Einstein's Dreams", you'll dig it. The Writing A Wrong panel was terrific; Jon, Kristen and Jon were honest, vulnerable (!) and funny. I was thrilled to meet some really cool noobs - Chris Read and Carter Gaddis are great, and you at home need to read their stuff.

What I did not enjoy: the Brand Panel and the Creation and Curation panel. Kudos to C.C. Chapman for doing his very best with a group that for the most part had absolutely nothing of interest to say about a topic that's near and dear to most of us. Surrounding someone like Lisa Hickey (who's done a great job turning The Good Men Project into a genuine success story) with a self-published local author who only has a handful of Twitter followers, an author who admitted that he knows very little about social media, and a couple of guys who are still trying to figure out what to do with some videos that they made four years ago? I'd much rather have listened to C.C. share his considerable knowledge and experience. As for the Brand Panel, the guy from Huggies really needs to learn how to speak to a hostile audience. The folks from Kraft and Sears seemed genuinely interested to engage with dads; the Huggies guy was dismissive and condescending. As an audience member, I was put off; as a consumer, if I still had kids in diapers, I'd never buy his product and would actively encourage parents to go with Huggies' competitors. I was disappointed that due to the schedule, I could only go to one breakout session. As a panelist and panel planner, I could have very easily done my session in an hour; freeing up 30 minutes there and 30 minutes somewhere else might've allowed for people to go to 2 panels a day.

Overall, though, I'd call it a success. And yeah, the nights out were way too much fun. I was inspired to quit my day job and join the Karaoke Circuit. I'm sure Gwyneth will return my calls.


Whit: In regard to the discussions you didn't like, I missed one (I was late) and left the other. The Huggies guy opened his mouth and I suddenly realized that I had left my oven on. Turns out it was the foosball table.

The Muskrat: I wasn't there for the "vulnerable" speech, so I'm going to keep being a dick. 

Kevin: I went to fill out my Sponsor Passport to try to win a mini-iPad during the Brand talk. Oddly, all the sponsor booths were empty except for Honda, Turtle Wax and Jamba Juice ... the ones who weren't on the panel.


Andy: Like Kevin, I was a little worried about a sophomore slump, but in most ways, this year's conference was even better than last year's.

Despite my complaining about having to go to Texas, I can see the wisdom of having the conference in Houston.  At BlogHer in New York last summer, we really didn't have much time to do New York stuff.  So, as long as the conference is mostly self-contained in one building, you might as well have it someplace that's easy to get to and cheap.  That said, it would be nice to have it either in my back yard or at some place where I could incorporate it into a family vacation next year.

As Jason A mentioned, the scheduling for the breakout sessions made it harder than usual for me to choose which talks to attend.  I spoke on one panel, which was really interesting and well-received (in spite of the meagerness of my own contribution), and attended another, which was a big hit too.  In fact, I didn't hear any bad reviews of any breakout sessions.  I was sad about missing some of the other sessions that conflicted with the ones I attended, but that's the way it goes.

The keynote speakers, forums, and featured bloggers that I heard were all excellent.  Brene Brown, especially, kind of blew my mind.  I downloaded her book "Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead,"  which caused my wife to roll her eyes in a very exaggerated fashion upon seeing the activity on the credit card.  I should have used my secret PayPal account.

As I may have mentioned in the pre-conference post, I've come to terms with the fact that my time in the blogosphere is better spent trying to write words than "build my brand," "monetize," or attract followers.  So I kind of checked out during the parts of the conference that revolved around commerce.  I have a lot of respect for people who are able to network and do cool things with cool brands and make some money, but it's just not one of my strengths. (Which is not to say that I would turn up my nose at a deal with, say, Bosch tools or Taylor guitars.)  In the one panel that I attended that was on the "blogging as business" track, I really appreciated that the panelists acknowledged that people have a wide range of goals as bloggers and writers, and definitions of success depend on that context.  There are infinite ways to achieve "success," and most of them remain to be discovered.

Finally, the real reason I come to these things is to have fun with a lot of smart and hilarious people.  In this respect, Dad 2.0 2013 was one of the best I've been to.  I hesitate to even mention anyone in particular that I really enjoyed hanging out with, for fear of slighting someone I forget to mention, but I think we can all agree that the guy who added most to the atmosphere of bonhomie was undisputed Karaoke King Chris Read, rookie blogger at Canadian Dad.  As Whit whispered to me while Chris was absolutely crushing "Somebody Told Me," by the Killers, "This is probably sad to say...I didn't really know much about this guy, but after seeing this, he's totally legit in my book."

It was great to see all the regulars at the party, and I especially appreciate all the ladies who came out and supported us and dropped science about the largely female-owned parent/social media space.  And to me, the most inspiring (non-karaoke related) aspect of this conference was all the new guys who showed up with tons of energy, talent, enthusiasm, and ideas.  Those guys make me want to be a better parent and a better writer, and not only out of spite. 

Whit: To be clear, in regard to chapter 12 of Andy's comment: I did know Chris via his blog and social media, but it wasn't until we got to the bar that I knew what he was about. And that's different.

The Muskrat: Jason called me Karaoke King first, asshole. From the DadCentric Twitter account, too. Not some fucking email with limited reach. 


Screen shot 2013-02-04 at 10.10.47 PM
The Muskrat is the Karaoke God, not King.

Ron: Don't know if I'm going to add anything intelligent to the string that hasn't already been said. I'll admit to being a bit cynical walking into the conference but I walked away impressed by the overall experience.

I don't mean to steal from some of the points made by the others but I will mention them again to add emphasis. The keynotes were hit or miss--Brene Brown and David Eagleman were 5 out of 5 lunchboxes for me. The others... ehhhh, missed the mark even though I think they were well-intentioned. And I'm with everyone else on Mr. Kimberly-Clark/Huggies rep--what a dick. After the Huggies deal last year, he made me believe they (KC) were less sincere about making amends than they were about saving face. 

The panels I attended were both of high caliber. Specifically I'm referring to the one on Blogging and Adversity and Turning Blogging into Full-Time Job (not the exact titles). Would've like to seen more--maybe go with less keynotes next time?  

Venue? Ditto. Nice choice but then again, I'm a bit bias on that topic since it was my old stomping grounds. 

The "TED" talks were a nice touch, although it may have been better to split them up over two days. By speaker #4 my ADD was raging hard. Maybe I just need stronger meds. 

Also, I hope they keep doing the "Voices" readings - great mix of incredible writers and good exposure for the new guys too. 

Socially, again - 5 of 5 lunchboxes. Of course I could be hanging out almost anywhere with that bunch it would be a good time. I just wish I would've been there for the karaoke--that was on me though.   

I will add that I really didn't feel like there was the whole mom-bloggers-vs-dad-bloggers thing was going on. It felt like the conference gave dads a bit of an identity unto their own. That's just me though. By the same token I seemed as if there was some life for dads outside of the shadow of the moms--not that we'll ever overshadow them, but I did feel like, because we were confronting some men-only issues, it carved a little something out for just us.

Going forward I'd like to see what opportunities exist where we can extend the conversation with brands beyond just the images of men and fatherhood. For example, I appreciate all that Dove Men's Care is trying to promote but at the same time I can't say the same about AXE body spray which tells young boys they will get raped by beautiful women at the mall if they use the product. Both AXE and Dove are owned by Unilever, and so I don't really like being wooed by a brand that's speaking out of both sides of its mouth. I was hoping to have this conversation at the conference but circumstances being what they were, it didn't materialize. Maybe at the next conference there should be some structured one-on-one dialogue with brand reps where these conversations can take place outside of just a panel. Overall, though, I think it was a great event--much better than I expected. And yeah, I'll be at the one next year. Also, I just polished off a bottle of Merlot.


Screen shot 2013-02-04 at 10.21.37 PM
AXE claims another victim: Buzz Aldrin's dignity.

The Muskrat: Obviously, my perspective is limited to just a day, but I enjoyed what I saw and wish I could've heard some of the other speakers.  I thought I'd be upset about missing the whiskey tasting and second night of karaoke, but instead I was upset at missing hearing all these great communicators and motivators I kept reading about on the Twitters.  It was great seeing y'all who were there.  I left saddened that I couldn't get more.

 Jason Sperber:  Did anyone read that New York Magazine piece a couple weeks ago about how we never really leave high school? It's about how our adolescent brain wiring and experiences at the time affect us years later, and, coincidentally enough, it features Brene Brown prominently. Anyway, that's how I felt upon arrival at the first Dad 2.0 last year, and still a bit this time, despite my conscious attempt not to--like I'm back in high school, the geeky poser on the outside looking at the popular people and not knowing what to say. And I totally get that that's all me, in my head, my baggage. Because what I came away with, both this year and last, is that everybody is so nice, and genuine, for the most part. It's easier for me to interact with all these people online, and when it comes time to interact in person, I'm back in high school, this nervous outsider, even though they're the same people I'm friends with online. And it's taken the authentic friendliness and support of the people I've met at Dad 2.0 to remind me of that, and of why I started blogging in the first place.

The internet is a funny thing, how it connects us. The first thing people said to me, both folks I'd met last year and people I met IRL for the first time, was that they were sorry about my grandmother's recent passing (the funeral was a few days before the conference). They didn't have to do that, but they did, without me even having to explain anything first.

I've been reading some divergent opinions about the conference, sort of hinging on if you see it as a conference of dads who blog or bloggers who are dads. Is it about fatherhood and parenting, or about social media? The lines between medium and message, or content and platform, are blurry. Obviously, with the strong emphasis on marketing and brands and commercial partnership, it seems to tilt one way. Some of us care less about that than others, and some of us can start sounding like old-man curmudgeons about it: "Back in 2006, we didn't care about all this brand stuff, we were a community and we all commented on each others' posts and and and get off my lawn!"

But you know what? For all the eye-rolling that happens when "community" is invoked, that's what I was reminded of this weekend. I started blogging because I'd found the community of support and connection online that I couldn't find on the ground where I was, and as the SAHD of a 2-year-old in the beginning of 2006, I decided to give back by adding my voice to a conversation I'd already gotten so much from. And yeah, over the last 7 years I've been "off" more than I've been "on," and the things I care about may have changed as both I and my kids have gotten older (though I'm always gonna harp on race and diversity, don't doubt that), but this weekend, all the conversations outside of scheduled business, the amazing keynotes by two research academics who connect science and the personal to devasting effect, all the heartfelt stuff from the "issues" panels including mine and Andy's (and there need to be more of them next year, at more times, so you can care about more than one thing), all that served to remind me why I still consider myself a part of this.

I needed a break. That's why I came. I needed to get inspired. And you know what? It worked. I was reminded that community matters, that connection matters. I may still fight against the shy kid inside me who stands at the edge of the bar outside conversations not knowing how to insert myself of even if I should, but I know that seeing the enthusiasm, hearing the happiness to be there in some new folks' voices, watching that connection, that sense of community manifest offline, that was deep. And it was a needed reminder for me, too. People care about this stuff--about issues of representation and identity, about how we teach our kids to be good people and fight injustice, about how relationships with business need to live up to our values. And we care about it unironically. And that's more than okay--that's awesome and important. We're not all gonna agree about everything or care about all the same stuff, and that's fine. But what I took away from this weekend is that we care that the others of us care, and we support that, because we get out of this community and connection what we put in, and we put in what we get out.


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