a newspaper man adjusts his pen

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Where good tweeters go to camp

Pittsburgh PodCast4 conference attendees play with their cell phones and other electronic devices while Michelle of the Burgh Baby blog discusses blogging tips for finding inspiration to write. The controversial blogger formerly known as PittGirl is seated , second from right. #PCPGH4

By Scott Beveridge

PITTSBURGH, Pa. – Speakers at a popular blogging conference lecture on the power of the Internet while those in the audience tap on their laptops and cell phones, seemingly uninterested in the topic at hand.

However, it’s not considered rude behavior this weekend at Pittsburgh PodCamp4 to text message or browse the Web during the breakout sessions. This is an "unconference" where people with addictions to Internet social networking sites also are encouraged to follow the “rule of two feet” and move along when they become bored.

“It’s a little scary how fast (she) can text,” someone uploaded to twitter in an endless feed of tweets from the crowd that are are projected live on two large movie screens in the hub of the activities.

“Wiped me out today,” another PodCamper tweeted after Saturday’s program ended.

The conference with roots in Boston arrived in Pittsburgh four years ago, and attracted more than 100 attendees. This weekend’s event is drawing 362 people to the Art Institute of Pittsburgh who are crowding classrooms to limits that surely violate the city’s occupancy ordinances.

Michelle, who blogs at BurghBaby and doesn’t reveal her last name to protect her daughter from future embarrassment, said it’s important to know why bloggers want to write for the online audience.

In her most-recent post, she pens an open letter to her toddler and mentions how the child’s maternal grandmother’s closet was lined with gross, colorful Polyester stretch pants. That wardrobe didn’t move Michele as a child to dress up in her mom’s clothing.

Michelle warns the overflowing crowd at her session to prepare for hate mail from readers, especially those writers in the room who might want to produce a mom blog. Such bloggers tend to be accused of bad parenting for the things they share online, she said.

“It’s unbelievable how mean people can be to each other,” she said.

The funniest presenters Saturday are Mikey and Big Bob of the 96.1 Kiss Morning Freak Show who are using social media to broaden their radio audience.

They are a hit on the Web and with the geeks gathered here today with their YouTube video spoof of those silly Snuggies blankets in which Mikey poses in his white briefs while exposing his beer belly. These guys are a riot, with our without Polyester.

Their bosses don’t really get twitter in an era when so many dinosaur, Web-stunted media executives are becoming fossilized long before their time.

“And they pay us for this stuff,” Big Bob says.

Today’s sessions end with the once-anonymous blogger who became a local sensation under the pseudonym, PittGirl, discussing why she yanked her blog after her true identity became known. Virginia Montanez of Irwin, Pa, and her potty-mouthed attacks on the Pittsburgh political and sports scene between 2005 and 2008 on the Burgh Blog ended up costing her a public relations job after she became outed.

While Montanez admits to reading from cover-to-cover the local newspaper each day, she said print writers likely resent her popularity because she isn't a trained journalist. Those writers are working for a sinking ship and don’t know when the boat is going to go under water, she said.

Yet those same newspaper writers typically provide such bloggers as PittGirl with the inspiration they need for the rants they attach to the Web.

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