Thursday, May 23, 2013
So, traveling really wears me out. Hence the delay in this post. Traveling with a kitten.. even more so! :)
Despite the fact that Odilia was better then I could have DREAMED as a traveling companion, I was still constantly worrying about her. Worried if she was comfy, worried if she needed a litter box, worried if she was hungry, etc.
Although if you were to ask me if I knew then what I know now would I have brought her, I believe my answer would have been yes. Mostly because she broke down doors I might have been reluctant to even knock on. I mean when you see people who run blogs you are so enamored with, you don't want to sound all stalkerish; but when they come running up to you... ;)
So, I've given you bits and bites of my trip in the running posts, but I think I'll stick it all in one place. I set off on Tuesday as I was given an invitation to hang out at Robin's (aka coveredincathair.com) and get a nice early start on Wednesday. We had a very nice visit, I went to a hotel for the night, and we got on the road at a good time. Odilia slept a good chunk of the way. Originally she was sitting up in the front seat with me and she slept then too, but when ever I would make a stray comment it would wake her up and she would mew for attention. Once she was in the back seat she pretty much gave up trying and went to sleep.
Robin is a wonderful traveling companion. If you ever get the chance I say go for it!!
Wednesday night I stayed in a different hotel. I couldn't get the Sheraton to give me the discounted rate for the night before the conference, and my husband had "points" he could turn in for a room for me, so I spent the night elsewhere. LOVED it. it had a salt water pool that was the perfect temperature. I ended up going swimming twice. It was lovely and made me happy.
Thursday the conference started officially. Originally it wasn't supposed to start until Thursday night, but they decided at what seemed like the last minute to throw some sessions on the schedule. Only issue with that was that they started before the official check in time of the hotel. So what were those who came in that day supposed to do? Take their stuff to the session?? It was more disconcerting for me with a kitten. I asked the staff a the hotel when we arrived on Wednesday, and I was told if there was a room I could check in early. I was lucky as when we arrived I was able to get in.
I was VERY disappointed in the lack of communication. We were given free wifi while we were there, but no one gave us a log on. It was on a piece of paper, but no one pointed it out nor was it given out with any of our paperwork. You either had to find it on your own or ask. As for the hotel itself they had what appeared to be an 'old' and a 'new' section. I was on floor three, and was not directed properly, so I ended up going to the elevators (makes sense right?) and there was no floor three button. So I went and asked, and was sent off to a different hallway where there were three levels and the lobby level was level two. There was an "elevator" sign, but as I walked down the hall I ran into rooms and I was confused as to where the elevator was. I finally had to ask an employee who was cleaning a room. Unfortunately she was not very clear in her accent, but I got the gist that the elevator was in the middle of the floor - aka as far away from the lobby as possible. I was very upset that the staff at check in didn't bother to explain this to me. I FINALLY got to my room and settled Odilia in and went to check in with blogpaws. I got my name badge and my 'goodie bag' and headed back to my room to figure out what I wanted to do next. (link to PDF of the schedule)
Btw, this wasn't my only issue with the hotel. All access to outside areas were locked. The outdoor pool was closed and locked so you couldn't sit out on the chairs. There was an atrium near the dining area and there were chairs and a walkway around it and that too was locked and we weren't able to get there. There was a small grassy area in the front of the building but that was used for the dog park. Coming from Maine where it is still in the 50s, I would have REALLY liked to sit out in the sun and the warmth.. They also blocked off the most obvious entrance to the pool, so finding a way in wasn't as easy.. not to mention there was no locker room so if you did want to go swimming you had to walk through the hotel in your suit and your wet suit when you are done. I wasn't about to do that...
So anyway, my intention was to go to Robin's session talking about Kitties for Kids and then go to "bloggers vs veterinarians" but I got to the first but not the second. I wanted to check in again on Odilia. Robin's session was really good, but it turns out that bloggers vs veterinarians was not really as it was advertised but was more of a plug for the AAHA... so I am glad that I didn't get to it.
Dinner was not provided, and I ended up going out to dinner with the "cat ladies" which was a lot of fun. I sat next to Margaret Gates from feline-nutrition.org and Tamar from I Have Cat, and yes I was thrilled.
The next morning the program I had said there was 'meditation' before breakfast. I thought that would be interesting, so I brought Odilia with me and we were early. As I sat in the hall waiting for it to start, someone taped a sign to the door saying yoga would be somewhere else. :( I wasn't dressed for yoga, nor am I good enough to attempt to do it in public and I had wanted meditation... I just took her to breakfast instead. The dining room was quiet to start out and she did very well. As time went on it got louder and louder, and Odilia still didn't seem to care. She was happy to sit there and be played with. After a while she got a whiff of my eggs and she climbed up on the table and started eating them
Since Odilia had been out of the room for a while I returned her (along with the raw food Margaret brought for her) and then went off to the building Facebook fans session. That was pretty disappointing. He talked more of what to do ON Facebook and not how to build fans. His philosophy seemed to be that if you build it they will come. Yeah, well I built my blog 10 years ago and I do not want to discount my awesome readers, I do not have hoards.. so that was of little help. The next session I was thinking of going to was SEO, but there was an SEO class after lunch as well so I figured I'd take some time and go through the booths set up in the exhibit hall and attempt to network.
I have to say as a cat blogger the representation of cat products was sorely lacking. Not one cat toy manufacturer was there. There was one company who did dog toys who had one cat toy on their table, but it wasn't as much a toy as a treat dispenser.. Toys are vital to a cat's health and well being. As hunters they need to "hunt". There were a few decent products in the "Cat Lounge" but there was only one person in there talking about his product, so it wasn't like it was all that friendly to people. In the main exhibit lounge there were people giving away product or samples, or brochures, in the cat lounge there was just stuff on a table.
Lunch was provided. It was mediocre as was all the food provided. I am a little surprised that such an upscale hotel would put out so-so food. It was OK, but I was expecting more.
I then went to an SEO class. I have read several websites on SEO (aka Search Engine Optimization) and have tried to implement it in my blog, but I wanted to hear someone talk about it. Pam Foster did a wonderful job explaining it in plain English and forgoing all of the jargon you see on SEO sites.
I then went to "Make your Blog Picture Purrfect" with Ali Peterson. The description of the session was to learn about editing, watermarking, etc. The session was basically how to use your DSLR in manual mode. Don't get me wrong, that would have been an awesome class if I had had my DSLR with me and hadn't had a kitten with me. I was disappointed so I used Odilia as an excuse and left.
Once again dinner was not provided, so I ended up going out with different cat ladies to a Japanese Steak House.. You know the one, where they cook your food in front of you, set off big flames, etc. It was fun. I got to chat with Janiss from Sparkle the Designer Cat. It was a little hard because of the noise. I also got to meet Stephanie from Snotface Ferret
The next day I wasn't interested in any of the first sessions, so I went to the so so breakfast and then I needed to run out to pick something up. I was a little late getting back and went to the "all you need to know about copyright" which was fairly interesting, especially considering what I do for work (working for a stock image agency)
Odilia and I went to lunch, and then I went to the twitter session, which was OK. I didn't get a handout, and I didn't bring anything to take notes on because I had Odilia, so I missed out on the few urls I would have liked to remember.. but that one is sorta on me. I then went to the No Kill 2020.. that was a COMPLETE waste of my time. it felt like the first 10 minutes were simply videos of Vinny the Pug. I don't want to be insensitive because Allen Kimble just lost Vinnie, but it was back on 3/15 so if he had a presentation that depended on Vinnie being there it would seem to me that he would have had time to adjust his presentation.. After the videos he talked about all the 'high end' merchandise he was going to be selling to raise money for rescue.. This is not "no kill".. this is fundraising or merchandising.. so I got up and left. I was not alone in this one.
I was left feeling more then a little disappointed with "BlogPaws" in general. I got a goodie bag when I checked in and I was asked if I were cat or dog or cat and dog, and I said cat. I got a big over-sized stuffed bag full of goodies 90% I could not use as they were dog items. I didn't want to complain - I mean it was free - but I went to ask if maybe I got the wrong bag and was told no, there was little cat swag. All I could think of was why? I can't imagine that companies who make cat products wouldn't be thrilled to meet cat bloggers face to face and get their products in our hands.. so all I can fathom is they didn't ask The "Cat Lounge" was OK, but also disappointing in that no one was in there talking about things. I was unhappy that there were no cat toys at all (save for one thing that was on the raffle table) and said so on Facebook and twitter. This got an immediate response from TPTB and I was told there would be "More stuff being delivered to the cat lounge tomorrow!" well there was a basket with some small stuffie toys and a vase with a few wand toys, but no sign that said "take one" so I had no idea they were to be given out (because again, no one was in there directing people) so I had no idea they were for us until the basket was nearly empty. I was able to snag a small monkey for Odilia to chew on.
I also heard that we would be able to view all of the sessions as they were recorded, but I have yet to hear how we can do that.
And then there was those sessions.. I was not the only one who went to sessions that were disappointing. To me - an outsider who showed up for the first time - it seemed to me that they were struggling to find speakers for all of the sessions. Again, as an outsider it seems to me that it would have been a far better conference if they had scheduled fewer speakers that would speak slightly longer - because one thing a lot of people said the sessions they liked could have gone on for another hour - and not tried to fill 16 different sessions a day.
Another complaint I had was there was not nearly enough time to 'network' with other bloggers. There was an hour or so at breakfast and two hours with in the day for lunch and the exhibit hall, which wasn't nearly enough time. If dinner had also been provided, it would have given us more time with each other, but because it wasn't, so most people left the hotel in search of good food.
Some of the rumblings appear to have been heard with in TPTB, and I have heard they were asking for suggestions how to make the 'cat area' better. While I am so glad and happy about that, I am also a little amazed that they need suggestions. How hard can it be to understand what cats and cat people need. Does no one with in the "BlogPaws Team" have a cat? Even if they don't own one, can't they imagine what a cat might need? Or spend 2 minutes in the pet store and see what items are there and contact those companies? How could they not know how many cat bloggers were showing up at their event so when they contact companies they could say "look, we have x# of cat bloggers showing up, don't you want to be a part of this?"
Cats are so overlooked in general. In many communities they are still considered disposable pets. I was disappointed that they were treated as they were here as well.
As much as enjoyed meeting and hanging out with Lisa and Amy and Robin and Angie and Debbie and Tamar and Deb and Jeanne and JaneA and Dorian and Janiss and Stephanie and Ingrid and Teri and Bernadette and the staff of Cattywumpuscats and Tex Cat, I do not think I will be attending BlogPaws2014 in Nevada with out a sponsor to take care of the financial aspects of it for me. I hate flying, and the only thing I hate more then flying is paying to be treated that badly. If it were local, or even in Boston or New York, I wouldn't hesitate to give it another go. The chance to spend some time with other cat bloggers, who have that same kind of crazy that I am - that you are - is so worth it. That moment you realize you really are not alone is priceless.
I do have photos.. I will share them tomorrow.. as well as all of the incidents of Odilia on the web that I can find. She really was one popular little lady.