alt 2010


Where to start! I had a blast at Alt. Every minute was awesome and if you’re into this kind of thing (you know, this blogging thing) then I think you should start planning your trip for 2011. I know I am.

Although the panels were great, the main thing I got out of Alt was the opportunity to hear many of my favorite bloggers speak, and to meet them personally. Blog celebs. Like Heather Armstrong (dooce), Victoria Smith (sfgirlbybay), Chelsea Fuss (frolic), Grace Bonney (design*sponge), Maxwell Gillingham-Ryan (apartment therapy), Joy Deangdeelert Cho (oh joy), Jaime Derringer (design milk), and a whole bunch of other favorites… but I think you get the point. I hung out with ladies whose blogs I read daily, and it was enormously helpful to hear the things they struggle with, the solutions they’ve found, the joys and irritations of being a blogger. It was great to put faces (real, live faces) with the names I see on twitter and in my inbox on a daily basis.

But, what you really want to know is maybe not who I met and what these people are like in real life, but what we talked about that will make us all become super-bloggers? Here are my yet-to-be-digested notes (plus some of the fun stuff too). Since I know you aren’t all interested in the nitty gritty details, you can read more after the jump:

OK, there was one little hitch. I didn’t pick the best hotel in town. Note for next year: staying next door (or in the same hotel as) the conference is totally worth it.


We got up early and moved to the worth-every-penny hotel across the street from the Grand America, where the conference was held. Swanky. Close enough for us to run back to the room as needed. (Note for next year: I do not need to pack as if Alt were a month long). After we checked in we got our welcome bags and went to the early bird lecture, where Allison, Jaime, Nicole, and Karey shared their favorite blogs. Next up was a Speed Networking session, but it seemed like most people skipped out on it. Schmoozing face to face amongst all your “competition” is tough, and, I mean, that’s why we’re bloggers right? We thrive on email communication? Afterward we all changed into fancier clothes and went to the “Hollywood Opening Social,” where we had delicious food, a few drinks, and talked with our new-found friends. You can see some more photos (like the cigarette girls from the party above) here.



Friday was a total whirlwind, and actually I think I liked the Keynote Breakfast best. Heather Armstrong of Dooce, Jean Aw of NotCot, Grace Bonney of Design*Sponge and Maxwell Gillingham-Ryan of Apartment Therapy spoke. Dooce had us cracking up over “Tilegate 2009” and the evil comments she received over her bathroom remodel, and I loved hearing about how Maxwell began Apartment Therapy (as a door to door service for New Yorkers). I’m not going to try to re-tell the story as I’d probably get it wrong, but I loved hearing him say “perfection is over; it’s about doing the best you can.” Grace made a good point about blogging & privacy: Don’t blog about it if you don’t want to hear the feedback. Other great points (paraphrased) from my notes: “Why you do something informs what you do,” “don’t ever doubt the impact going full time will have on your project,” “the secret to success is panic,” and “people don’t hate ads, they hate irrelevant ads.” Apartment Therapy lets sponsors write their own sponsor posts; they’re purchasing that space the same way they would a banner on the sidebar. The panelists touched on the challenges of being a blogger but not a writer.


The first break-out session I attended was Designer vs. Design Blogger with Kelly Beall of Design Crush, Joy Deangdeelert Cho of Oh Joy!, Jaime Derringer of Design Milk and Rachel Jones from Black Eiffel. I loved hearing how Kelly balances her time (by not having internet at home), and found it interesting that Joy began accepting ads by first joining an ad network and just letting things flow from there. Joy also talked about how important twitter has been for her because it builds your brand and creates a deeper personal connection with your readers. The panel talked about how blogging must be grown from passion (above any kind of monetary goals), and that it’s important to find a niche so that your readers know what they’re going to find when they visit your site. Jaime said it’s better to have a few very loyal readers than to have a ton of readers who aren’t sure who you are.

The second break-out session I attended was Building Your Brand and Your Business with Emily Goligoski of TheSanFranista, Victoria Smith of SFGirlbyBay, Gayla Trail of You Grow Girl and Sarah Jane Wright of Sarah Jane Designs. Although this one didn’t cover the topics I thought I’d hear, it was great to hear that these blog super-stars struggle with the same issues we all do—time management and keeping your focus and values. Sarah Jane had a great analogy about spotting when you dance (keep your focus—which for her is family—otherwise you fall down). Gayla said she can’t separate life/work/play because to her they all fall in the same category, and she wouldn’t want to separate those things. She said you have to constantly remind yourself of what your values are, and what success means to you. Sarah said “do what you love and hope it works out” (via Julia Child). Also from Sarah (and this one has me really thinking!) “Figure out what you do best and let the rest go.”

Lunch was entertainment by artist Erik Natzke and DJ Earworm. I ate and then ran off to decompress a bit, but I hear it was great!


For the third break-out session, I listened to Erin Loechner of Design For Mankind, Megan Reardon of NotMartha, Kathryn Storke of Snippet & Ink & Joslyn Taylor of Simple Lovely talk about community and growing your audience. Again, not the “this works/this doesn’t” approach I thought I was going to hear, but loved listening to more of my favorite bloggers! We laughed about how site traffic drops off when businesses are closed for a holiday, talked about how important it is to comment on blogs (and how we all wish we did it more), the importance of twitter, the horror that is blog rolls (they get too long! what if you want to take someone off!), and giveaways = ad space.

The last break-out session I attended was Beyond Ad Networks with Stephanie Brubaker of Stephmodo, Sheila Bernus Dowd of Lookiloos, Chelsea Fuss of Frolic and Maggie Mason of Mighty Girl. Chelsea suggested that you turn those PR sales pitches and submissions into advertisers. On her blog, the top three ad spaces are more expensive than the rest, and she only does sponsored posts for sponsors who book a block of time (rather than the one month & done sponsors, who continue to have real estate on your blog long after their ad is gone). Maggie and Stephanie suggested going beyond ads and to use your blog to sell your profession or freelance work. In other words, use your blog as a marketing tool for what you really want to be doing. Maggie said it’s important to come up with a “marketable narrative” that will generate interest and press, for example, blog about a goal you set for yourself that has a beginning and an end. Maggie also reminded us that every time you think someone is “just really lucky,” think again. People who get things are willing to ask for them. Also? “If you aren’t pursuing your passion, you’ll always lose against the person who is.”

PHEW! Got all that? Afterward a bunch of us went out to a long dinner then tea & dessert at the Beehive Tea Room (awesome) where we talked some more. Blogging’s ups, downs, the problems, the solutions; I loved it. I’ll say it again, the best part about Alt was getting to know other design bloggers in person.


{photo via brindusa}

It seemed like most people headed home on Saturday, but Brendan and I went with a small group to Solitude Mountain to ski. The kind, kind people from Alt organized a van to take us there, had us meet with Gary, the owner of Solitude, who gave us free rentals on top of our free lift tickets. Think it can’t get better? It was the 20th annual Chocolate Lover’s Tour, so there were 8 tents set up around the slopes where you could stop in for some chocolate. There’s nothing better than sipping hot chocolate before getting on a cold lift. A huge thanks to
Gary DeSeelhorst of Solitude. I couldn’t believe how beautiful the mountain was and how fantastic the skiing was (even for someone who doesn’t exactly know how to ski).

And there you have it! The day by day run-down of Alt 2010. Will I see you in 2011?


  1. says

    amazing! thank you so much for posting these notes and sharing your experiences. i would love to go next year. :) fingers crossed.

  2. says

    I couldn’t wait to hear about your Alt adventures. For someone who is still “trying out” blogging, I was inspired to hear stories and experiences from my own favorites bloggers (you!).

    I’m definitely keeping Alt in mind for next year.

  3. says

    thanks for this fantastic wrapup, ellie! I was following along on twitter with everyone, but it’s helpful to hear more details about the sessions. I’m definitely planning on going next year. sounds like so much fun!

  4. says

    That’s it. I’m so going next year. Elie, thank you SO much for giving us the run-down of your weekend at Alt! It helped me know what to expect and whether it would be beneficial (and it’s a huge YES, btw.)

  5. says

    Wow! This sounds like an amazing event. Thank you for sharing with the rest of us. (I’ll never be a prolific blogger – but it’s so fun to have a peek inside that world!!) :)

  6. says

    that sounds like so much fun. thanks for sharing your experience with us! Blogging really is a fascinating and complicated subculture, this post helped to understand what’s it’s like when you’re big timing it. :)

  7. says


    Thanks for your awesome recap! I was in all of those same talks right along with you and somehow didn’t manage to remember all of the information. I love remembering some of my favorite bits of advice via your notes…glad you guys had a blast on the mountain. Already looking forward to seeing you next year!

  8. says

    Loved meeting you and your Husband at the Conference! You have such a lovely blog, I am a follower now. :) Hope to see you next year!

    Rachelle xo

  9. says

    I am SO going next year! I was reading your guys’ tweets and feeling so jealous that I couldn’t meet all my favorite bloggers and learn more about the art myself! Great coverage of your experience!

  10. says

    I was nervous because I didn’t have any “real life” friends to go with… hopefully I can round someone up to go with me next year!

  11. says

    Hi Jessie, totally! None of us had met before (well, I did take my husband, but most people came alone!). You’ll meet so many people there and have so much in common with them that I promise you won’t miss your real friends! Seemed like a lot of people roomed with “blog friends”…

  12. says

    Wow! Alt sounds like such a fantastic event. Thanks for sharing your notes. I’m really going to make it a point to try and attend next year.

  13. says

    Thank you for sharing such a detailed review, Ellie! It sounds like it was an amazing event (and just remembering Dooce’s bathroom post made me laugh)

  14. kalanicut says

    Thank you so much for the update. I had planned to go and had to drop out at the last minute. Such a bummer. Thank you for your gracious sharing of so much valuable and inspiring info!

  15. says

    Amazing recap!! I had an excellent time too (even though bad weather and plane delays meant our San Francisco flight didn’t get into SLC until late Thursday!). You summed it all up perfectly—and like you said, many of the panels weren’t what I was expecting, but were still totally informative and enjoyable.

    I wish we could have met, I love your blog and like you said, it’s great to put a face to the name! Maybe next year. Thank you again for this awesome recap lady!
    : )

  16. says

    Wow! I couldn’t have written this any better! It was so invigorating to be there, and I am so glad I got to read your fab post. There were so many people to “meet” I fear I didn’t get to say how much I love your site….so…I love your site! See you next year:)

  17. says

    thanks for all the comments, they’re making my day! (special thanks to krystle, joslyn & sarah jane, you guys are sweet!)

  18. says

    First and foremost, what a beautiful site. Love it!

    Also, thanks for the recap. What a great capture of the event. Looks like we attended many of the same panels. Such an inspiring conference. And like you, I loved meeting so many bloggers in person.

    Can’t wait to come back more often to read your posts!

  19. says

    Great recap Ellie – and I agree, the panels weren’t really what I expected, but loved meeting everyone in person. Great conversions all weekend. It also was great to meet you and your hubby – you guys are adorable! Looking forward to following your blog this year and see what direction it takes.

  20. says

    this was a great recap, ellie! it was a treat to meet you and your husband, and i’m still kind of bummed i didn’t get to mention you during my panel {you’re probably thanking me…i tend to ramble and you want no part of that!}.

    and wait. i will be so peeved if green wedding shoes was there and i didn’t meet her. i’ve kirtsy’d her site no less than seven times! AARGH!

    thanks again, ellie…

  21. says

    Thank you so much for such a fabulous breakdown! I live in Salt Lake and I was dying to know what was happening in there. So glad that you had so much fun and such pretty weather for the weekend!

  22. says

    Oh I soooo wished I could have been there. Thank you so much for sharing your experience, so I can live vicariously through you.

  23. says

    Great recap! The conference was so fun. We were up skiing too, but must have missed you up there! It was a white wintry day!!

  24. says

    It was so great to meet you! I was too wiped out from all the inspiration to ski on Saturday, but I wish I’d done it, the snow was beautiful! Can’t wait to see you again.

  25. says

    I just got around to reading this and I loved your recap! I wish I was there, and boy am I saving up my pennies to head there next year. It’s going to take ALOT of pennies though, haha! :)


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