Hey Everyone,

Thank you so much for all your support for the Genderplayful Marketplace idea. We’ve launched the fundraiser, and already raised $2400 in the first week (plus $335 for the PayPal Haters Fund) from a combined total of 91 backers.

*pause* Did you get that? If you’re skimming, take a second to go read that last line again. None of those numbers are typos. This. Is. Real.

For those who are hearing about this for the first time, here’s the spiel:

What’s the Genderplayful Marketplace?

Genderplayful is a plan for an online clothing marketplace that celebrates diversity in gender presentation and body types. This is for anyone who can’t easily find what they’re looking for in a typical clothing store, with special support for androgynous, unisex, butch, dapper, femme, gender-bending, gender-transgressive, and gender-fanflippingtastic clothing solutions for all kinds of bodies.

Genderplayful cares about custom solutions, and the marketplace will host a lively community that finds and creates those solutions together. Vendors will include indie designers, crafters, clothing makers, tailors, and people selling things from their closets and local thrift stores. Community members will pool notes on what they’re excited about, and vendors will take cues from buyers on what to create more of. The goal is to create a culture-rich gorgeous Internet bazaar for the playful, the exquisite, and the just trying to get dressed in the morning.

About the Fundraiser

If Genderplayful can raise $5,000 in community funding by January 15, 2011, founder Sarah Dopp will commit to making the project a reality. Anything above that baseline number will go toward making the project happen faster and better. (Really, she needs more like $50,000, but she’d rather do it cheaply than wait to do it perfectly.) All financial backers will receive perks based on their contribution level.

Wanna donate?

You can do that right here:

And please spread the word! The more supporters we can rally early on, the stronger this community project will be. The main event is taking place over here: http://genderplayful.tumblr.com

Thank you so much for all your support everybody!

So much love,
Sarah Dopp
founder of Genderfork.com and the Genderplayful Marketplace
(cross-posted from genderfork)

The deeper I tumble down the rabbit hole of community development, the less I care about the social media marketing crowd, and the more interested I am in people who just do it without realizing how or why.

I’d like you to meet Whitney Moses, if you haven’t already.  (Chances are you have.)

Whitney Moses

Whitney is a massage therapist with a social life.

The social media numbers?  It’s unfair to talk about them since she could care less, but I’m going to anyway. She has over 1600 friends on Facebook, and is actually friends with every single one of them.  She keeps a close written account of her life for her inner circle of friends (400+ people) on Livejournal. And being still kinda new to Twitter, she’s rallied about 630 followers from her universe on there.  (It’s also worth adding that she and Amanda Palmer go way back.)

The only internet stats she does care about are her business reviews, since they’re critical to her livelihood.  Having changed office spaces several times in the last few years, she’s at the mercy of her clients to rebuild that pile from scratch every time.  The last move was a few months ago, and she’s up to 30 reviews on Yelp and a 5-star rating.

Whitney is active, both physically and socially.  She sings and dances regularly in the San Francisco club scene, and she monkeys around at the rock climbing gym whenever she has the chance.  She’s obsessed with the human body, and is usually enrolled in extra courses to expand her massage therapy offerings, even though she already has plenty of certifications.  Online, she reads as much as she can about what her friends are up to, comments on their stuff religiously, and sends them personal notes whenever she’s thinking of them.

People love her.  She’s smart, generous, compassionate, aware, engaged, fair, accessible, and joyful about life.   Whenever a friend needs something, she finds a way to make it happen for them.  Whenever she needs something, people run toward her in mobs, holding as much of it as they can carry.

When I started the Deviants Online series in the winter, Whitney was one of the first people I invited to speak at the workshop.  But when I asked her, she looked at me like I had three heads.  “Social Media Marketing” isn’t her subject.  She wouldn’t even consider herself a great example of how to “be awesome on the Internet.” That’s for other people to be experts on. She’s just being herself.

Exactly the point.

I’m still working on her, and will hopefully get her to start articulating her methods and philosophies soon.  But that’s not what’s going on right now.

Right now, she has a broken leg. Well… worse. A knee full of ripped ligaments. As of last Saturday, she’s injured and not allowed to walk, dance, or work for six months.  Our Whitney, the center of a massive community, is down. And without insurance.

I saw her last night.  She was laughing about it, but also clearly frustrated, and worried about how this is all going to play out.

I managed to wait until I left before I burst into tears.  I crumbled into an incoherent, snot-dripping wreck, mumbling onto the shoulder of another friend, “No.  We NEED her OUT there!”

It’s just six months. She’ll get through it. But the shock still has me dizzy: Whitney’s been a lighthouse of passion, activity, health, and engagement in my life for years.  I don’t think about it — I just stand up stronger because I know she’s there, and living with the grace and force and connection that I pretend I’ll someday attain. Seeing that threatened hit me like a fist to the gut.

No. We need her out there.

Fortunately, the whole “without insurance” thing is only a half-truth.  It’s true she’s probably facing $30,000 in medical bills and 6 months worth of lost wages, but there are also hundreds (maybe thousands) of people who are committed to helping her out.  The crowds are already organizing a central calendar to plan visits, transportation, and meals for her, and schemes for several fundraisers are already in the works.

She doesn’t have that kind of safety net because she’s a nice person.

She has that safety net because she has spent her entire life listening to and supporting the people around her, pursuing her dreams as honestly as possible, and including as many people as she can in them.

UPDATE!  Stuff You Can Do…

Last week I asked some of my recent and current clients to offer up a short paragraph that describes what it’s like to work with me, in an effort to update my website’s sidebars.

What I got back was overwhelming.  If you need me, I’ll be over in the corner being bright red and hiding under a jacket.

“I just love Sarah Dopp!” is a pretty common phrase uttered around our office.  Sarah is amazing at what she does—she’s fast, efficient, and detailed oriented—yet she remains humble. No question is ever too stupid to ask Sarah, no task too small.  But the most important thing about Sarah is that she gets our organization, through and through.  Unlike others we’ve worked with in the past, we’ve never had to question Sarah’s advice or intentions, because we know she inherently shares the same set of beliefs as our organization.  And there’s nothing quite as refreshing as working with a consultant like that—a consultant like Sarah Dopp.

— Amy Lafayette
Community Engagement Coordinator/Web Specialist
Planned Parenthood of Northern New England

The first person I hired to set up my website made all sorts of promises and delivered on very few of them. The site languished. As soon as Sarah took over, she sent me lists of everything we should try to do to improve traffic, and immediately set me up to track visits and to easily send her updated tasks. Whenever I have an idea, it goes into our planning grid. We prioritized the tasks and are gradually implementing them as the budget allows.

She has made numerous changes to QlownTown, improving keywords, membership setup, access to the daily cartoon, text and more. She gives me helpful feedback on my ideas and provides great ideas of her own. She always works in my best interest and—very important—can be trusted with confidential information.

I finally have someone I can partner with to take my website to the next level–and beyond!

— Don Smith-Weiss
Cartoonist
Qlowntown.com

Working with Sarah has been a real pleasure, she is fast, direct, communicative, funny and kind to those of us who know very little about the particulars. She brought her skills to our design and concept seamlessly, and made some serious magic.

— Nancy Schwartzman
Filmmaker and Activist
WhereIsYourLine.org

Rarely are people this gifted in technical troubleshooting, editing, and understanding the nuances of communicating with target audiences. Sarah Dopp, it turns out, is a one-stop-shop. Our team loves her! Of all consultants I have hired and collaborated with in my career, she is by far the most thorough, efficient and pleasant to work with. Always focused, prepared and completely tuned in to the project.

My organization can either pay me for 10 hours of frustrating work to troubleshoot something, or I can call Sarah, who will solve my technical problems within minutes with humor and incredible expertise. She is pleasant, accessible, thorough, and knowledgeable. All her suggestions are well considered and appropriate for the scope of whatever project is at hand. I have yet to get any advice less than brilliant.

— Valerie Vass
Director of Community Engagement
Planned Parenthood of Northern New England

Sarah has the remarkable ability to distill a project down to its essence, even as that project changes, which they always do. Building and developing on that essence is where Sarah truly thrives, and I’d have been lost so many times without her magic moonshine.

— Hugh Howie
Producer
hughhowie.com

And on that note, I’m currently available for new clients. :)

deviants online

I’m really excited, and really proud, of what’s starting to happen with Deviants Online.  Not familiar with it? No problem – here are the basics.

Deviants Online was started because, while there are plenty of social media resources for mainstream businesses, there just aren’t many (or any!) for us “deviants” – queer folk, artists, sex geeks, undergrounders, and others that don’t walk the straight and narrow. We wanted to create a way for us to network, learn from each other (and from guests who are experienced at handling the personal / professional / volunteer blend), teach each other, and talk about best practices for handling social media and online networking. Think – a Facebook tutorial for the queerly minded….a Twittering lesson for those who value their personal privacy but want to get the word out about their projects…ideas for blogging artists to get their work in front of more people…and other sexy things to do with Google.

While we’re having the workshops monthly in San Francisco, we wanted to make the conversations available to others who can’t attend, so we’re happy that we’ve got the edited recording of the December ’09 meeting up for your listening enjoyment. We give attendees a chance to chat “off record” and we edit out any mentions of identifying information that slip during the gathering, so what you’ll hear combines the amazing resources & information that come up during the discussion with a healthy respect and protection of personal privacy.

>> Listen to the first workshop here! <<

We’d love for you to join us in coming months – you can see a full schedule at the website. On January 12, Meitar “maymay” Moscovitz will be our featured guest for the next workshop. While we encourage donations to cover the cost of the meeting space, please don’t skip it if money’s an issue for you – we value your presence and energy far more than your money!

Any questions? Just ask…and please come check it out!

I believe that some communities need managers (or facilitators or moderators — there are a few different flavors to this role).  I also believe there are ways to hold that space respectfully, in a way that takes care of everyone, while still being very strong.  As promised, I want to offer you some of the “moves” I’ve learned over the years in this role, with hopes that you can use them to help guide your own community spaces.

There’s just one problem.  Every time I try to write this blog post, it keeps growing to the size of a book.

So here’s what we’re going to do: we’re going to let it be a series. Last week I gave you the prologue.  Now here’s Part 1: “Aikido Moves for Online Community Management: The Basics,” complete with even more intro material for context.  There will be a Part 2. I promise.

My Training

I’ve been building websites since ’97 and have held the reigns on a number of community-rallying projects.  There are two in particular, though, that I can attribute most of my lessons to.  They are:

The Writ – An online writing workshop and publication that had 2,000+ members and an ever-changing staff of volunteers. It started in 2003 and was just officially closed a few months ago, because it was time.

Genderfork – A community expression blog about gender variance that has 10,000+ readers a month.  It’s run by a staff of 10 volunteers who all have clear responsibilities for maintaining the site. The broader community contributes through submissions and response comments. It’s been around since 2007.

I built both of these spaces from scratch, with the help of friends and community members who wanted to see it succeed. And it’s important to note that in both of these communities, our goals were to:

  • make as many people as possible feel welcome and comfortable, especially newbies.
  • stay focused on a specific topic.
  • collaboratively create something bigger than we could build as individuals.
  • nurture and encourage quality storytelling and art.
  • inspire and guide community members to support and help each other.
  • represent ourselves in a positive way to the rest of the world.

So pretty much all of my advice comes from advocating for this culture.  There are lots of other community cultures that are just as relevant, but I can’t speak about them from experience.

What’s an online community and when does it need a manager?

I’m happy to report that I answered this question in detail last week.  If you’re not 100% clear on what I’m about to talk about, please go read it.  What follows is the beginning of an advanced discussion.  Last week’s post is the 101-level introduction.

Why Aikido?

Aikido is a martial art that involves a lot of rolling around on the floor.  I’ve taken a few classes, I’m not an expert, and if you’re interested in going deeper than the light metaphor I’m offering here, I encourage you to — there’s a lot to learn from it.  But for our purposes, let’s just look at a few basics.  When practicing Aikido, you…

  • blend with the motion of your attacker and redirect their force, rather than opposing it head-on.
  • protect your attacker from injury as you defend yourself.
  • stay in control with minimal effort.
  • remain balanced and focused.
  • roll with the punches.

I find this an incredibly useful metaphor for online community management.

And a few more disclaimers…

1. The thoughts below are limited in scope and context.  They are not comprehensive, and you should not assume they will all apply to your situation. They might not. Sorry.

2. I wish I could tell you I’m coming at this from a place of stability. I’m not. Even as I write this, a discussion is underway in the Genderfork community that might push to have my curation guidelines and original mission statement completely restructured.  This is actually okay.

3. I’m also aware that a lot of people will have plenty of reasons to disagree with me on some of my points.  Go for it — I’m always up for hearing how things can be done better.  (Just, you know, be nice about it please. Thanks.)

“The Basics”

Okay, ready? Here are what I consider to be important foundational moves.

1) Don’t punish people for stuff they haven’t done.

Be careful about comment and moderation policies, and make sure they’re addressing real needs rather than pre-emptively striking against imagined ones.

I anticipated that Genderfork would get a lot of hate mail, and I strongly considered turning on the “you have to be pre-approved to leave comments” setting to guard against it.  If you’ve ever left a comment only to see a “now waiting for moderation” message, you know what a slap in the face that setting feels like.  Fortunately, I decided to wait and see if I really needed it.  70,000+ total visitors later, we still don’t get a single shred of anti-queer hate in our comments.  ZERO. NADA. GOOSE EGG.  (Okay, well there was that one day, but it was super-isolated, and there was a miscommunication, so I say it doesn’t count.)  I now have it set up so that people can even comment anonymously — no name or email address required — because I know they appreciate the option, and they respect the privilege.  Still no hate.  Magic.

2) Set the tone, and the tone will maintain the tone.

Okay, so lack of hate isn’t really “magic” — it’s the tone we set from the beginning.

Have you ever shown up to a conversation that was already in progress?  What did you do?  You listened to what was going on, how people were interacting, and where they were in the discussion before you joined in.  You drew all sorts of conclusions about expectations and protocol just by taking a quick inventory of the situation, and then you went with the flow, adding your perspective in a way that seemed to fit.

That’s what people do when they show up to online communities, too. They take a brief scan around, they pull in whatever cues they can gather, they decide if they want to join in, and then they do so in a way that fits all the factors.  Think of the quality of comments on Flickr versus YouTube.  Flickr takes community management very seriously, and people have gotten the message over time (whether consciously or unconsciously) that being respectful in comments is important.  On YouTube, the expectation is more or less that people will be idiots.  So people are idiots.

Take note of what kind of conversation people are experiencing when they show up to your site. If you monitor it carefully enough in the beginning, it will begin to (mostly) monitor itself.

How do you set the tone? By contributing in the style that you’d like others to contribute. By offering some simple, clear guidelines on how people should treat each other and why. By suggesting to the people in your inner circle that they engage in a certain way. By showing up and being personally involved to positively redirect things when someone goes off course.

3) Stay detached from emotional conversations.

If your job is to keep the community healthy, then your “at ease” stance needs to be slightly above any emotional discussions.  You’re at your most helpful when you’re keeping a bird’s eye view on things and can understand everyone’s perspectives.

This might make you feel like the community’s not really yours.  That’s right. I’m sorry. It’s not. It’s theirs. You are the steward and caretaker, and when you’re hanging out there, you’re on duty.  Like a bartender at a good club, you get plenty of perks from being in the room, but you still need to stay behind the bar.  (And, preferably, sober.)

If you find yourself emotionally involved in a challenging situation, that’s your cue to go find someone else to advise you — someone who understands the community but isn’t involved in the drama. You can’t hold the Smite Buttons and be angry at the same time — that’s just not fair.

But even if you are angry, and you are getting advice from someone more balanced, you still probably need to keep your venting off the Internet. People need to trust you, and blame-heavy ranters are hard to trust.

So go off and kick trashcans, let a friend keep an eye on things while you’re gone, and come back when you’re ready to be sane again.  You just saved yourself from a mutiny.

~~~~

More soon.

Love,
Sarah

I’ve been a busy little monkey lately, reorganizing my work, my home, my life…  Big things are shifting!  I’ve got new clients (who are WONDERFUL), new energy, new undertakings, and new partners helping me keep track of it all.

For the new and confused: I build websites. Right now I’m focused on smart, creative clients who do good things for their communities, and who like to be really involved in their own web presence.  Magically, they’ve been finding me.

What I need right now is an enlarged posse of Kick Ass Collaborators.  Maybe that’s you.  Maybe I already know you’re amazing and we haven’t merged brains in awhile, so it’s time for you to tug on my sleeve.  Maybe you just ran across this post through the ethersphere and you need to introduce yourself.  Maybe it’s somewhere in between.

To be totally clear: I don’t have a specific project that I’m hiring for. There is no work for you in my pocket. Not today. Opportunities are flying around in the air, though, and it helps to know who’s ready to jump on them.

I love working with people who…

  • Can clearly tell me what they kick ass at, and be honest about where they’re less experienced.
  • Prefer the freelance world to the employment world.  (There’s a big culture difference between the two.)
  • Have other clients, creative projects, and exciting stuff in their lives. (Just be sure there’s some space in there for more.)

I should also add, if you don’t already know, that I’m extremely LGBT-, gender-variant-, and “quirky weirdo”-friendly.

Right now I’m MOST interested in Designers.

The one I’ve worked with for years has moved on to other passions, and I need some new talent in the house.  I’m interested in designers who can…

  • Ask a confused client all the right questions to develop the look and feel of a new brand from scratch (logos, colors, fonts, etc).
  • Take an existing brand and a bunch of user experience requirements, and design a website layout in Photoshop that makes everyone happy.
  • Take an existing website design and make it better according to some requirements.
  • Create interesting illustrations for content.
  • Look at some examples of a style, and then design something new using that style.
  • Design something new using your own unique style.
  • Slice up mockups and export images for coding, being careful about file sizes and color quality.
  • Work within an existing webpage using your bonus HTML/CSS skills to change and restyle content.   (Note: WYSIWYG skills don’t count here.)

It’s okay if you don’t do all of those.  In fact, it’s fine if you can only do one of them, as long as you do it really well.

If you’re still nodding “yes that’s me,” please send me an email (info at sarahdopp dot com) with the following:

  • What, from the list above, can you do really well?
  • Please show me some examples of your work that give me a sense of your style and skills.
  • Please tell me what hourly rates (or package prices) you charge for your work.  (Unfortunate truth: I don’t have a lot of energy for negotiation, so if you don’t give me this piece up front, there’s a good chance you’ll fall off my radar. I can tell you that if it’s over $100/hr it’s too high for me, and if it’s under $20/hr it’s too low.  Yeah, I know, that doesn’t quite narrow it down.)
  • Please give me an idea of how experienced you are, both with professional design and professional freelancing/consulting.  Be totally honest. I can work with all kinds of experience levels, but only if I’m clear on what I’m working with.
  • Tell me about how much space you think you’ll have for new projects between now and, say, March.
  • If you’re not absolutely sure that I already know you, please tell me how you found me or where we’ve met.  Links to where I can find you on the internet are also really helpful.
  • What are you really excited about these days?  (Tell me anything.)

Please take your time and get it all into one email.  If you send me follow-up “oops, I forgot this…” emails, I promise I’ll lose at least one of them.

And while I’ve got your attention, there’s space in my world for other kinds of posse rockers, too.  I’d love me a broader network of…

  • Drupal experts
  • WordPress experts
  • XHTML/CSS coders
  • Smart, clever copywriters
  • Quality Assurance detail-checkers
  • [insert backend programming language here] developers
  • … you tell me.

Just adjust the requests above for what you do, and send me an email. Remember there are lots of people who can claim the same job title, so find a way to be more awesome than them.

Thanks, and I look forward to working with you!

Warmly,
Sarah Dopp

email: info at sarahdopp dot com

The BlogHer Geek Lab in Washington, DC was loaded with questions about how to improve a blog and increase its reach.  I ended up on my soapbox more times than I expected, ranting about misinformation and imploring bloggers to rethink their strategies.

I’m summarizing most of my rants below because I think they’ll be helpful to some people.  Please keep in mind that I’m coming at this from my own experience.  I’m not an “ad revenue” blogger, and there are plenty out there who can give you tips on what they’ve done to be successful. I encourage you to go talk to them, too.

The Goals Rant

If you ask me, “How can I make my blog better?” I’m going to ask you what “better” means.  What are your goals? If you don’t know, stop whatever you’re doing right now and figure them out.  Here are some common ones:

I want to…

  • express myself in a creative, positive way.
  • vent my frustrations in a safe and constructive way.
  • work through some challenging issues.
  • document a process or experience.
  • create a space for myself that’s separate from my daily life.
  • establish a certain kind of reputation.
  • convey a certain tone and aesthetic.
  • serve a certain community in a certain way.
  • build a community that supports me.
  • make money with ads and affiliate revenue.
  • find new work/jobs/clients/customers.
  • maintain my existing work/jobs/clients/customers.
  • give friends and family a way to keep track of me.
  • keep track of my thoughts and the interesting things I’ve found on the web.

If you have a lot of these goals (and hopefully some others I haven’t named yet), that’s great!  Now you need to prioritize them. Which ONE do you care about first and foremost? How about second? Third? Fourth? Lay them all out in order — NO TIES! It’s fine if your priorities change in the future, but you need to be honest with yourself about what they are right now.

Once you’ve got that, you’ll know what “better” means. And you’ll probably be able to brainstorm about 20 answers to your original question without any help from me now, too.

The Money Rant

So you want to make money from blogging, and you’ve heard that ad revenue is the way to go.  That’s great and I completely support you, but let’s talk about it for a minute.

Read the rest of this entry »

Tags:

i heart blogherI spent four long days at my grandmother’s hospital bedside in New Hampshire and got back here just in time for BlogHer.  That is to say, I’ve been on emotional input overload for the last week, and my brains are a little muddled.  That is to say, the post that I’d like to write about where BlogHer is in the context of its own history and the broader evolution of social media will have to wait.  And so will the post about all the neat stuff I learned at panels this weekend.  In the meantime, I want to give you the post where I shower lots of people with the love that’s still ricocheting around in my brain from the last few days, because that’s what matters right now. That is to say, if you don’t like love, you should probably just stop reading.

Still here? Great! I’m in love with…

  • Mle-Mle for being extraordinarily gracious about the fact that I accidentally locked her out of my apartment and made her roam the streets of San Francisco without sleep for an entire night.
  • Susan Mernit for inviting me to speak on such an inspiring and affirming panel, and for moderating it with such skill and compassion.
  • Fivestar for showing up, for pointing me in the direction of the queers, for helping me flirt with the mommybloggers, and for sporting the hottest blog redesign I’ve seen in awhile.
  • JenB for being so beautifully warm, welcoming, and open when she sat next to me on the panel that I felt like I was chilling out with family instead of speaking in front of 100 people.
  • by Shannon RosaShuna for letting me turn into a cuddly fuzzy pet cat on more than one occasion, and for raising her hand to say (something like) When we own something about ourselves and put out it into the world, the people who want to criticize us can no longer use it against us.  
  • Elkit for hugging me for a full five minutes to help me get my bearings after a painful-to-face serious of panels when my mind and heart and body were already completely exhausted.
  • Amy for making so much space for me.
  • Koan for showing up and telling a hard story to tell, and an important story for people to hear.
  • Nicole Simon for laughing with me as we ate messy Chinese food over a display of $900 shoes at Macy’s.
  • Lisa Williams for wearing dead sexy cowboy boots and for calling me the “Queer Oprah.”
  • Angryrock for crashing the conference (crash! smash! bash!) and for griping up a storm of entertainment.
  • Debbie and Laurie for being consistent voices of strength, reason, guidance, and encouragement. Always.
  • Me in the underwear dept at Macy's, by Liz HenryLiz Henry for licking chocolate off my face and letting me bounce my breasts gratuitously on her head.
  • The Queen of Spain for attempting to introduce me to one of the heads of the Obama campaign while I bounced my breasts gratuitously on Liz Henry’s head, and for gracefully changing the subject by asking me to go hug her husband innappriately on her behalf.
  • Deb Roby for becoming stronger and more gorgeous every day.
  • Maria Niles for slipping me a new vibrator (shhh!).
  • Stephanie for telling her story with an honest smile.
  • Jess for telling her story with honest eye contact.
  • Schmutzie for being a totally charming real person and getting into a mutual-fangirl-oglefest session with me.
  • Denise for hugging me just slightly more often than she teased me.
  • Carfi for getting the word out about the fact that we’ve built the best damned conference widget EVAR, for making me continually proud of my work, and for always wearing a conspicuous hat.
  • Jenijen for kissing me on the cheek whenever she walked by me.
  • Kirrily for pre-stalking me, finding me, and getting me super excited about the direction women’s spaces are moving with O’Reilly conferences.
  • Beth Kanter for sidling up to share tech tips, happy life news, and stories about how her kids are becoming dangerously similar to me.
  • Sean for being the most attractively dressed human being at the conference (sorry, ladies).
  • Genie for standing up tall in all the ways I like to think I would, too, if I were paying as much attention to the world as she does.
  • Lisa, Jory, and Elisa — BlogHer’s founders and fearless leaders — for winning my heart, devotion, and adoration forever and ever and ever.

There’s more.  I’m just too wrapped up in love pillows to keep typing.  You’ll have to take my word for it — the rest of them are amazing, too.

And on that note, thank you everyone for fantastic weekend!  See you again in the fall for the BlogHer Reach-Out Tour (which — yay! — I’ll be tagging along for)!

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I have really exciting news for you (if you haven’t already heard me bragging like crazy about it): I’m the new co-host of San Francisco’s Queer Open Mic!  This is an incredible opportunity for me to give back to something that’s been deeply special in my life for a long time.

The Queer Open Mic has been my creative home for the last year and a half — I go religiously, I love the atmosphere, and I love the people.  Cindy Emch — the open mic’s founder (and the host who’s handing the reigns over to me) — worked her butt off to create a space that felt safe for poets, prose writers, comedians, singer-songwriters, and other artists who fell anywhere along the gender and sexuality spectrums to share their work with one another — even when it wasn’t perfect.  The result was always rich show of ecclectic work that felt deeply personal, creative, inspiring, and generous.

Can you tell I’m in love with this venue?

Oh, and let me tell you about the features!  At every show, there’s a feature performer who takes up about 20 minutes in the middle of the show, and they always knock my socks off. Sometimes it’s a local hero, sometimes it’s a kick-ass artist on tour from another state, and sometimes it’s a bright and shiny Queer Open Mic regular who’s doing their first-ever feature performance.  No matter how you slice it, the show is always intense and beautiful.

by Terrence Taylor, http://flickr.com/photos/fivestar/2035033862/But enough of my gushing, let’s jump to the details.  My first show as co-host is next week and I want you to be there.  To make sure you have plenty of reason to clear your calendars, I’ve booked one of my favorite people on earth — a soulful, funny, kinky, creative, and drop-dead adorable singer-songwriter named Fivestar.

Allow me to introduce you.  Fivestar writes…

I’m originally from South Texas and have been making trouble in the Bay Area for 6 years.  When I’m not working with video and the web, you can find me riding my bike, exploring the fabulousness of this city and making music.  Music has been an emotional outlet for me as far back as i can remember.  I’ve been writing music for ten years for the sole purpose of dealing with heartaches and joys.  Aside from a few past public performances, I mostly sing for my friends.  I started performing Queer Open Mic a few months ago and am excited to find more people to share my passion with.   Thank you!

Visit http://www.iamfivestar.com or http://twitter.com/iamfivestar for more.

The show will be followed by a table full ‘o beer at Zeitgeist (an outdoor bar filled with picnic tables and attractive hipsters) to celebrate Fivestar’s performance, my new role as co-host, and the fact that my best friend from high school just moved to San Francisco (it’s about time, girl!). So even if you can’t make it to the show, you should come out and share a pitcher with us there.

Are you in yet?  Here are the details…

What: Queer Open Mic, featuring Fivestar (and Sarah Dopp’s first night as co-host!!)
When: July 11, 8-10pm (sign-ups start at 7:30), followed by beer at Zeitgeist
Where: The Three Dollar Bill Cafe, San Francisco’s LGBT Center (1800 Market St.)

About the Queer Open Mic
Queer Open Mic is a twice monthly gathering of poets, performers, writers and artists of all types to come together and share art. Proto-feminist and genderqueer in scope, QOM aims to combine raunchy enthusiasm, warmth and community, unapologetic queer, radical politics and sweet rhythms to create a space for spoken word, poetry and performance that is multi cultural, multi gendered, completely inclusive and dynamic. QOM is hosted by Sarah Dopp and Mollena Williams. Please show up around 7:30pm to sign up on the open mic list. You’re encouraged to read one piece of work that is five minutes or less. And by encouraged we mean threatened with spankings, shoe throwings and general hilarious tantrums if you don’t follow the rules.

Over the last few weeks, I’ve found myself in a series of (mostly unrelated) events that all drilled into this same themes from different angles:  Women. Technology. Sexism. Sexual tension. Sexuality. Sexual privilege. Sexualization. Sexual harassment. Feminism. Power. Reaction. Anger.

The tech industry is a male-dominated field, and it doesn’t have a lot of social infrastructure in place for dealing with its sexual transgressions.  To add insult to injury, we’re stuck with woefully inadequate language to describe what’s happening in general terms.  The phrase “women in the tech industry” doesn’t refer to a unified group of people with common opinions and experiences.  Instead it describes a scattering of individuals who are, far too often, trying to get a job done as the only woman in a room.  They face sex-related challenges in professional situations on their own, and they’ve found their own ways of walking through them.

As a young woman in the tech industry who’s still just trying to figure out the rules to the game, I have to admit I’m a little pissed off about how much in-fighting, criticism, and judgment I see women dishing out to each other on the subject of sexism, sexual harassment, and other concepts that start with sex.  Forgive me for sounding naive and idealistic here, but it seems like our energy would be better spent respecting the differences of our individual paths over such a rocky terrain, and throwing each other a rope when needed.

As a gender-bending queer, I’ve always felt like mainstream representations of “women’s issues” included a lot of things I didn’t identify with, relate to, or experience in my daily life.  On the same token, I fight my own unique list of social battles that many “mainstream women” (which is a bullshit notion in itself) don’t have to deal with.  Our paths are different.

Except when they’re not.

Every single person on this planet can look at any large group of people and say, with plenty of evidence, “I’m one of them.”  That same person, looking at the same group of people, can also say with just as much truth and proof, “They’re not like me.”

And when we’re talking about sex -ism/-uality/-ualization/-ual harassment, what we’re talking about is a big fat knot that has no right answers, and we all have to find our own paths through it.

I’d like to walk through it with the support, thoughts, ideas, respect, and understanding of the women around me.

(p.s. Just dawned on me: stuff about sexual harassment in the tech industry is usually about office politics.  I’d just like to say that I work with the best, most respectful team on earth, and that area in my life is just fine.)