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Blogging, her way

As the blogosphere gets in touch with its feminine side, women writers gather for community and conversation.

SAN JOSE, Calif.--In what might be the largest-ever event of its kind, hundreds of women bloggers will gather here Friday and Saturday for the second annual BlogHer conference.

Designed to encompass hands-on instruction and discussion of the technology behind blogging, as well as subjects such as building blog traffic and making money with blogs, the sold-out BlogHer is expected to draw at least 700 people from around the world.

"We can all agree now, women are the power of Web 2.0," said Lisa Stone, one of the founders of the conference, whose numbers have swelled from last year, when around 300 attended.

Day one opens with a session titled "Blog in a Box," which is basically a one-stop shop for getting a blog up and running. Attendees will begin a new blog and add an RSS feed, a blogroll, links and photos. Instructors will also demonstrate simple HTML coding, as well as how to switch from one blogging platform to another.

"We love to get past the 'kumbaya' moment and to articulate our vision."
--Lisa Stone,
BlogHer co-founder

Other instructional panels will include tutorials on how to podcast, shoot effective digital photography, build a blog's traffic and make money blogging.

In addition, Caterina Fake, Flickr co-founder, Meg Hourihan, co-founder of Blogger developer Pyra Labs, and Marnie Webb, BlogHer advisory board member, will co-host a keynote on what's next in technology.

On day two, some of the best-known women bloggers in the world will share their thoughts.

The illustrious roster includes Huffington Post founder Arianna Huffington, Dooce author Heather Armstrong, SixApart founder and president Mena Trott, social scientist Danah Boyd and many others.

The topics include discussions titled "Is the next Martha Stewart a blogger?" and "From here to autonomy," a talk about trying to earn a living blogging. There will also be a conversation about writing about sex in blogs.

On Thursday, the conference's three founders, Stone, Elisa Camahort and Jory Des Jardins, hosted a press event to discuss BlogHer.

Deep sense of community
They touched on the blogging community they've built around their site, BlogHer.org, which hosts hundreds of blogs in 20 main categories, including life blogs, food and drink blogs, technology blogs, sex and relationship blogs and everything in between. The site now includes 60 editors and more than 4,100 bloggers, as well as the blossoming ad network they've created.

Camahort said the theme of the conference this year is "how blogs are changing your world" and explained that she and her partners see blogging as having a very tangible effect on many women's lives.

Blogs give women a deep sense of community, the BlogHer organizers said. They give women the feeling that they are not alone, that they have a voice and that they have the support of readers from all over the world, the organizers said. Further, the organizers said, blogs allow some women to attain professional and creative independence by being able to become experts on just about any kind of subject matter.

"It's hard to think of another" tool, Camahort said, "that from the smallest change to the largest change" makes such a significant impact.

Referring to their collection of editors who post constantly to BlogHer, Stone called the women a "TV guide to what women bloggers are writing about."

Further, the women talked at length about their new ad network, which is currently selling ad space on more than 30 handpicked blogs, but is expected to officially open to any woman blogger on Friday.

Attractive to advertisers
Des Jardins explained that the ad network is based on a revenue-sharing model in which the bloggers with the best traffic share the highest percentage of ad revenue with the three co-founders.

Camahort then told the group that based on demographic studies that BlogHer has conducted, the for-profit organization has an audience that's very attractive to advertisers.

She said that more than 80 percent of BlogHer readers make more than $50,000 a year, 90 percent have at least a college education and half write their own blogs.

"It's the idea of amplified influence," Camahort said.

One thing that appears to set the BlogHer conference apart from most others is that the event will provide free child care, an important thing given that many in attendance are so-called "mommy bloggers."

"So many of these conferences say they want to attract women," said Webb, "but there are no accommodations for that."

Camahort stressed how tight-knit the BlogHer community is by citing examples of members who had donated frequent flier miles to others who couldn't afford to fly to San Jose, as well as some women who had collected money for the same purpose.

In any case, as the hundreds of women--and a few men--show up for BlogHer for networking, meeting famous bloggers and learning how to build and promote blogs, the conference organizers say no one should expect a lack of the spirited arguments common at most conferences.

"We love to get past the 'kumbaya' moment," said Stone, "and to articulate our vision."