Swag, Drama, and Claw Marks: The Truth Behind Mom Blogging and The Type A Mom Conference

NOTE: This post is long and may be upsetting to some

ASHVILLE, NC—The world of mommy blogging has gained a great deal of attention, while launching the careers of many successful women in a wide range of fields. But underneath the glitz and glamour is a rumored pile of dirty laundry that all the free washing machines and detergent samples these moms receive can’t scrub clean. Stories of illegal underground cat fights, swag addiction, blogs-gone-wild parties, and brand blackmailing are just a few of the allegations that have turned up like loose change in a lint trap.

To investigate this murky underworld, I traveled to Asheville, North Carolina, the site of the Type A Mom Conference where hundreds of women would be gathering in the name of professional blogging. Interestingly, this event also offered sessions for dads who have the url’s and balls to show up, which I assumed to be a trap given that the spotlight had recently shifted from the moms after Jessica Smith, now Director of Social Influence at Planit, predicted 2010 to be “Year of the Daddy Blogger.”

Not wanting to end up stashed in a dumpster full of discarded, second-rate swag after being hammed to a pulp by a vindictive, man-hating mob wielding the latest in meat tenderizing technology, I disguised myself and joined fellow dad blogger and #DadStalking proprietor (formerly DadsTalking), Jim Turner (@Genuine) to root out the seedy truth. What we witnessed was shocking.

I anticipated that the first opportunity to observe trouble would occur during registration since long lines, paperwork errors, and swag envy are perfect for setting off a tinderbox of flaming emotion, pushing women to claw each other’s eyes out. After loading my purse full of gauze and Neosporin helpful in treating the cuts and scratches, I adjusted my sock-stuffed bra and headed downstairs to check in.

Sadly, the Braveheart-esque scene I imagined, with female web-warriors, faces streaked with blue paint, pummeling their foes in a swag-gasm induced melee was nowhere to be found. Instead, I waded through a lobby full of ladies who were laughing and hugging like girls in a yet-to-be filmed, Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants reunion. I might have fallen for the sincerity of it too had it not been for the mother who was offering to give away the free Build-A-Bear being handed out, to anyone with two kids. Oh, right. Like that would ever happen for real.

Obviously, this Mother Teresa of Swag was a plant meant to instigate conflict throughout the entire three-day, wild rumpus. However, when she couldn’t get the job done, I decided to do it myself by throwing a hissy fit after being told my name badge couldn’t be found. This earned strange looks promising confrontation, but this inevitability was stymied by a young lady who congratulated me on being “a survivor,” a remark that confused me until I realized my left “breast” had slipped out of place and was now lodged in the elastic waistband of my dress. These women were tricky.

Registration may have been uneventful, but I was confident the breakout sessions, often considered to be fluff at many conferences, would prove true to form. I also expected the content of these panels to be tailored specifically for moms and laced with feminist rhetoric. In order to quantify this, I tracked the number of times words like “women,” “moms,” and “bastard men” were used by the speakers. Yet, to my dismay, the sum total of these utterances proved to be scant, and the information presented was anything but fluff as experts sharing tips on topics ranging from putting together media kits to avoiding legal complications associated with blogging.

Wait. Doth mine eyes deceive me? Is that an entire track meant to educate brands and small companies on how to effectively use social media and work with bloggers? (See a full list here)

What’s more, 99% of everything I heard directly applied to dad bloggers, causing me to wonder why those of us on a broad scale who are serious about blogging, whether for business or otherwise, have not yet reached the level of savviness exhibited thus far at the Type A Mom Conference. Regardless of my search for the sordid truth behind mommy blogging, I had to admit, these topic were exactly what should’ve been covered at the dad-specific event held two weeks earlier. (To be fair, however, it has recently been discovered that the Atlanta conference was actually a front used by Sheik Dawid Tali to funnel money through a Colorado-based business into an account funding the controversial Ground Zero mosque in New York City.)

Preparing for next day’s sessions, I shared these thoughts concerning this knowledge gap between dad and mom bloggers with my bosom buddy, Jim Tuner as he painted his nails with a clear coat of polish and I duct-taped a fresh ball of socks into the wireless cross-your-heart on loan from my wife. We talked about this issue for hours, yapping awake until 2 a.m. like a couple of girls at a slumber party, and arrived at several workable conclussions.

Despite being thrown off guard by what I had observed during the early part of the conference, I felt sure day two would play out differently, especially since the Dad Track sessions were on tap. Slated for discussion were matters dealing with quality content, blogging basics, the state of the dadosphere, and a presentation I was particularly keen to attend, "What Daddy Bloggers Can Learn from the Moms."

This was the session I expected would erupt into a man bashing free-for-all, given the logical animosity moms harbored towards dads for stealing their thunder this year. The probability of this happening only increased when, hours earlier, CNN aired the interview Josh Levs conducted with over half the dad bloggers at the M3 Summit, all six of whom were featured in the nationally televised segment. That Levs opened up his report by referring to dad blogging as a business venture, only upped the odds of bloodshed that much more.

Representing the mom side of the topic was respected blogger and frequent speaker, Megan Jordan (Velveteen Mind / @Velveteen Mind), who is well-known for her clear platform of moms owning their blogging efforts rather than complaining about unfair business practices and petty differences. Joining the Velveteen Mind was some pompous jerk with bad hair and a Clark Kent fetish, an assessment vindicated by his arrogant declaration that 2010 was not the Year of the Daddy Blogger.

From here, this “Clark Punk” elaborated on his premise by questioning whether the growing number of dad bloggers have, with a few exceptions, squandered their time in the limelight because they have expected opportunities and demanded attention based on the credibility of Jessica Smith’s prediction, rather than taking the initiative to make this happen on their own.

Co-panelist Jordan followed this point by comparing dad bloggers to virgins looking to get laid (figuratively) in the blog world. Her hilarious metaphor drew big laughs, and made things memorable especially when she likened moms to VH1's The Pickup Artist. Building on this, both speakers pointed out that if dads wanted to get past third base, they needed to dress the part (have professional looking blogs), exude self-confidence (a clear purpose for blogging), know the dating scene (be savvy to blogging issues), be able to talk to “the ladies” (deal with brands, PR, marketers, etc), make their move (achieve their stated purpose for blogging).

The presentation droned on, but frankly, Clark Kent, the token Y-chromosome, was so boring I tuned him out (knowing he’d post the slides on SlideShare later next week anyway). Still, it did spur a lot of discussion amongst the large audience which consisted primarily of moms but only five dads—Jim Turner, Clay Nichols (DadLabs), Ryan Boyles, Adam Reich, and Megan’s father who was really just waiting for her to finish up so they could go to dinner afterward. (It should be noted that the last three on the list didn’t consider themselves to be dad bloggers.)

Throughout the conference, whenever the topic of daddy bloggers came up, either in a panel or in individual conversation, so too did the suggestion of using the more inclusive term parent bloggers. Regardless of my real opinion, I had no choice to but to agree publically when asked. I was, after all, wearing a large blonde wig and size 17 dress. Still, I thought it suspicious to hear so many mom bloggers—the business-minded ones—so receptive to collaborating with their dad counterparts.

This has to be an act. Where was the pettiness and corruption said to go hand-in-hand with this racket? Where were the snack-cakes-for-blog-posts deals supposedly going on under the table between desperate moms and big name sponsors like Little Debbie, My Little Pony, and POM? I had expected to see The Real Housewives of Mommy Blogging, but instead this was turning out to be some positive combination of Murphy Brown, Ally McBeal, and Lipstick Jungle sprinkled with a pinch of Parks and Recreation.

It was time to get the real story. It was time to go to the woman behind this nonsense, Type A Mom founder and organizer, Kelby Carr. Luckily, I was able to sit down and talk with her, giving my swollen ankles a rest from the new heels I bought to show off this weekend.

From Carr’s laid back and very un-type A demeanor, I could tell she was going to be a tough nut to crack, and my Spidey-senses started tingling (that or it was my thighs chaffing from the Spanx I was wearing under my outfit) whenever she made reaffirming comments concerning the potential of dad blogging.

"I wish more dad bloggers would get involved because it would encourage moms to not be afraid to treat their own sites as a business," Carr claimed as we wrapped up our discussion.

But if Carr thought the nearly two hours she spent discussing the dad-o-sphere with me would convince me of her genuineness, then her modem must have been offline. Given the time Carr afforded me, I could tell when she was giving me the blog’s rush, and I wasn’t buying the act.

Nor was I buying it when others like Carol Cain (NYCity Mama), Anissa Mayhew, (Free Anissa), Jennifer Miner (The Vacation Gals), Ilina Ewen (iFactor), Sarah Bockenek (Sarah and the Goon Squad), Heather Solos (Home Ec 101), Laurie Smithwick (Kirtsy), Deb Ng, Patti Hosking (both from Blogworld), and, web-woman pioneer Aliza Sherman (Conversify) all engaged me on the topic.

Considering the amount of insights these (and many other) smart, fun, and intelligent women shared, it was clear they were under the impression that they were helping a fellow sister out which I took as a great compliment to my skills at hiding five o’clock shadow with the right application of foundation and rouge. In fact, I did such a good job, Love That Max blogger, Jane Smith* (pseudo-name used for privacy reasons) included me in her photo story celebrating women and body image.

To close the Type A Mom Conference, Aliza Sherman told the inspiring story of her career and experiences, which even I had to applaud and not because of the get-up I was using to conceal my true identity. Sitting back down, I reviewed my notes from the past few days, and contrary to my original expectations, there was little if any evidence that could be used to expose these mom bloggers for what they supposedly were.

There was no visible drama, no amateur antics, no bland content, no blogger exploitation—far as I could tell anyway. Could it be that these aren’t the mommy bloggers I’m looking for? On the surface these ladies seemed to defy the stigma often associated with the mommy blogger moniker, and instead they were simply moms who blog as part of a larger professional endeavor.

Assuming that’s the case and for as much as this cynical investigative reporter hates to admit, then it would be true that a distance gap exists between mom bloggers and dads. There are exceptions to this, but as a whole, it appears dads need to play catch up.

Maybe that little Clark Kent bitch wasn’t far off when he concluded his panel by saying dads—the serious ones—have treated The Year of the Daddy Blogger like a twelve-month long, blog-world version of Father’s Day, where they sit in front of their monitors watching the “game” and holler for someone to bring them a beer in the form of brands because they feel entitled to it. 2010 is nearly over, thus, if we dad bloggers want to be recognized by companies, (become a consultant, get writing gigs, land a book deal, etc) then using the above analogy, we should treat 2011 as the Monday following the holiday and get to work.

Whatever the case, I walked away from the conference without the story I had planned. By now, though, it really didn’t matter. All I wanted to do was get out the skirt I had on. It was too tight, and I kept getting my panties bunched up in a wad.

UPDATE: Two minutes after this post dropped, Clay Nichols (@DaddyClay) of DadLabs published a related post entitled "Do Dad Bloggers Suck?" It's a must read.

UPDATE 2: @Backpacking Dad has also added to the conversation with his post "Why Don't Dads Read Dad Blogs."

Photo credit: CK_Lunchbox and VelveteenMind courtesy theRab

*** Upcoming Post – Type A Mom Conference Takeaways (much shorter) ***


Three Guys Walk Into A Lab

Stop me if you've heard this one. Three guys walking into a lab--a copywriter, a salesman, and a goofball... Okay, there's not really a punchline here (although, give me a few minutes and I suppose something might hit me); I'm just saying that because you may have already seen this posted by Danny Evans (the copywriter) and John Cave Osborne (the former saleman) who I (the goofball) was privileged enough to join on the Blogs to Books panel at the M3 Summit.

I've read both these guys' books and follow their blogs; so it was a treat getting to know both of them personally. Danny and I spent a better part of a day touring the CNN Center (I was disappointed Robin Meade wasn't around for photo op) and the nearby Coke Museum (there's a taste-testing room for sampling Coke products around the world--avoid anything that uses vegetables), while John (and his charming wife, Lovie) and I hung out swapping wild stories, discussing the writing profession, and generally acting like a couple pals in high school. I had a great deal of respect for both these guys before, and it's only deepened after our time in Atlanta.

Get to know them and their books too in this DadLabs interview...

Conducting the interview is Clay Nichols (aka @DaddyClay) who is also joined in the segment by co-anchor Brad Powell (aka @DaddyBrad). These guys are hilarious, and together with Troy Lanier (aka @DaddyTroy), they wrote their own book, DadLabs Guide To Pregnancy, and founded the DadLabs blog/vlog. The site's dedicated primarily to new fathers, but I still watch it when I can just because Clay, Brad and Troy are so funny (not to mention creative).

Incidentally, it seems I'll be rooming with Daddy Clay later this week at the Type A Mom Conference, which could be a tad embarrassing once he finds out about my Superman Underoos. Oh well.

Blogspot owns me no more!


Chuck Norris Facts of Social Media

As a kid in school I had a really hard time staying focused during classes. Most of my teachers used to drone on and on and on about... well, stuff I managed to retain just long enough to pass tests and graduate. Rather than paying attention and taking notes, I would doodle all over my notebooks, filling up the pages until I couldn't even read what few lesson points I had written down.

You'd think as an adult I would've outgrown that whole thing, that I would be mature enough to give speakers the courtesy of listening to what they have to say. Not so. It's not that I mean any disrespect; it's just that my ADD, even with medication, causes my brain to float off to parts unknown.

Such was the case this past weekend at the conference in Atlanta. Where the idea came from I couldn't tell you, but with the event being centered on men and their use of social media, I had this image of Chuck Norris busting out blog posts and status updates. I mean who's more manly than Chuck Norris? So, in the same vein as my notebook doodling, I started sending out tweets about Chuck Norris facts related to the topic at hand. Apparently, they earned a few chuckles, and since then I've received several request to put them all out there. So here they are along with a few new ones...

Chuck Norris Facts of Social Media

Chuck Norris doesn’t use WordPress; he uses BenchPress.

There are no brands or sponsors for bloggers to work with, only Chuck Norris.

Chuck Norris doesn't click "LIKE" on your Facebook page. He stamps it in your face with his fist by punching the monitor.

God sent a friend request to Chuck Norris on Facebook and Chuck Norris blocked him as SPAM

Chuck Norris can impregnate a mommy blogger just by leaving a comment on her post.

Not even Chuck Norris is allowed to be a fan of Chuck Norris on Facebook.

Chuck Norris’s engagement score is actually zero because who would be crazy enough to engage Chuck Norris.

A troll once left a comment on Chuck Norris’s blog; Chuck Norris scowled at the monitor and the troll’s head exploded.

Chuck Norris doesn’t need to scan his computer for viruses; he just cracks his knuckles.

Chuck Norris uses pay-per-punch to monetize his blog. (Courtesy of Mr. PJ Mullen)

People use hash tags on Twitter. Chuck Norris uses slash tags.

Firewall protection is to not to protect Chuck Norris from spyware; it’s to protect spyware from Chuck Norris.

When Twitter is over-capacity it's because Chuck Norris has just sent a tweet.

Everyone on Twitter can Twit-Pic but only Chuck Norris can Twit-Kick.

Chuck Norris doesn’t read blogs; he stares them down until he gets what he wants.

The only giveaways Chuck Norris does on his blog are free gut punches.

When Chuck Norris un-friends someone on Facebook, they spontaneously combust into flames

Chuck Norris doesn’t do trackbacks; he tracks you down.

When Chuck Norris registered his blog url it erased Google’s algorithms.

Chuck Norris’s IP address is the same number sequence as the combination to his wall safe, where inside you will find Chuck Norris waiting to kill you.

When Chuck Norris writes a blog post, his unique visitor count is infinity.

Chuck Norris doesn't tweet; he just roundhouse kicks his followers 140 times.

Chuck Norris’s Avatar has killed more people than the Black Plague.

* * *

Goofy, I know, but feel free to add your own.


M3 Summit: This Changes Some Things. This Changes Others. This Changes Nothing.

Disclaimer: This post is lengthy. It contains strong language. And it will offend people.

So, this past weekend was the Modern Media Man (M3) Summit in Atlanta—the first ever conference intended specifically for dad bloggers (vloggers, podcasters, etc). Seeing as how I was there and all (and a speaker no less), it only seems appropriate that I share a few thoughts. But then again, maybe not. Apparently I didn’t make much of an impression on people. Dave Taylor for instance, introduced himself to me on three separate occasions, which is fine since he doesn’t know I caught him barking into the men’s room mirror, “You’re a winner, Dave. You’re a winner. Mommy’s big boy’s a winner.”

I’ve never been to a gathering of the great blogging minds and had no idea what to expect. Because Donny Claxton was driving a Traverse through this part of the country I rode out with him a few days early, and to pass the time, I pretended the trip was a remake of Trains, Planes & Automobiles. It wasn’t until later that I regretted my movie choice after remembering the part about the two pillows. On the return trip, incidentally, I went with The Cannonball Run which spurred on a good-natured race via Twitter with several others also heading home. We won of course, and all the credit goes to Captain Chaos (aka @DaddyClaxton) for getting from Atlanta to Houston in three and a half hours. (The people at Chevrolet weren’t too happy we turned the Traverse into an ambulance though.)

Things kicked off Thursday evening with baseball hall of famer Cal Ripken giving us a talk on leadership, or that’s what everyone’s Tweets said on my phone which spared me the burden of having to listen. Frankly, I was disappointed. I had been told Chuck Norris was coming and that his opening remarks would be nothing but twenty minutes of round house kicks to our faces for which we would thank him. But no, we were stuck with Cal who was at least gracious enough to pose for pictures and sign autographs. I’m not much of a baseball fan myself, but still, I felt obligated to meet him, I mean he did come all the way over to the hotel. The problem, however, was I didn’t have anything for Mr. Ripken to sign except for my drink tickets. This turned out to be a dandy solution until my seventh beer, at which point I was left with a lone stub adorned with the letters Rip smudged across it.

And then there was the conference…

This Changes Some Things

“This Changes Everything” served as the logan for the M3 Summit. Using such absolute terms in the aftermath would be a bit far reaching. However, a first-ever blog convention dedicated to dads did signify a change in the parent blogging niche, one big enough to attract major brands and sponsors. Were there glitches and drama? Was attendance lower than expected? (Whoever was initially tossing around 700 as a solid estimate obviously partook freely from the Ganja gift basket.) Were some of the speakers so in love with themselves they could a-sexually reproduce? Were there personality conflicts? Yes. Should that overshadow the greater intent of the conference; thus sending a negative signal to brands interested in testing the viability of the dad blogging community? No.

Throw aside all the mistakes and hurt feelings for a moment and consider what a bold move it was for a small group of people to attempt to organize a dad blog conference, and then bring it to fruition on a tight budget. That deserves merit. And to further put this into context, consider this: When BlogHer started in 2005, only 300 people attended, plus it was backed by Azure Capital Partners, The Peacock Fund, and the Rockefellers venture capital wing, Venrock (In case you’re wondering who these cats are, when God needing funding to create the universe, he went to these guys.) That was five years ago, and barring 2010’s numbers, the mega mommy event has yet to make money. [Citation]

Besides, all these conferences have their share these hiccups and heartburn. A good friend of mine who’s also a prominent and respected mommy blogger ran down a whole list of examples with me over coffee after I got back. This then inspired us to found a joint mommy-daddy blogging conference, and to set a proper expectation for attendees, we’re calling it ClusterF#ck 2011.

This Changes Others

By far the greatest benefit of M3 was having the opportunity to meet people I’ve known via social networking for years. I don’t think I laughed so hard over the course of a four-day period as I did last week. Where else could someone sit around with the guys behind Dad Gone Mad, Daddy Scratches, Dad Of Divas, Father Muskrat and Tessa’s Dad, and collectively brag on Twitter about the outrageous M3 swag which included a free Chevy vehicle to drive around for a year and credit at UPS to send all of our goodies home.

It was even funnier to see moms who have been pitching unabashedly for such outlandish freebies get so riled up thinking that we were actually serious. I thought they would’ve caught on when I claimed the massive armload of bags causing me hunch over, contained such coveted swag as autographed head shots of Sylvester Stallone and oversized novelty bottles of Aqua Velva. (Believe it or not, I got an angry DM from a jilted mom wanting to know who to contact about the picture of Sly.)

I could go on and on about how great it was to shake hands with guys I admire like PJ Mullen, or discuss the ups and downs of daddy blogging with DadCentric's Jason Avant, or to act like a high school prankster with my good friend John Cave Osborne. From a purely social standpoint, it was about guys, or as Laid Off Dad put it, "After three BlogHers I found much more opportunity to parrot movie lines drunkenly." Try joking around about someone putting roofies in your drink and then waking up pantless in the hotel alley as the lone male at a mommy conference. On an unrelated note, if you ever run into Father Muskrat, politely refuse his offers to bring you another beer—just saying.

On a serious note, though, I was absolutely blown away talking with guys like Angus Nelson and Jayson Gaddis who are doing so much to help men by sharing their personal stories. And it was hard to not get a lump in your throat listening to Kevin Metzger (The DADvocate) open up about the challenges and painful struggles in his own life, and then see the joy in him the very next day as he walked around with his beautiful daughter. It was little experiences like these that personified the real reason behind why we write blogs about our lives as fathers.

This Changes Nothing

The biggest disappointment of M3 was to see the ongoing exploitation of bloggers by those seeking to use blogs for pimping products, services, events, etc. This is nothing new as it’s been going on in the mommy world for a while, and so to see it being carried over into the dad realm as standard practice brought on the sudden urge to jam a pen into my eyeball. Still, by the same token, bloggers who eagerly accept these trinkets like the Indians who gave away Manhattan or who badger major brands for freebies like bratty kids bare a responsibility here too. (I will be railing on all of this more in future as part of another project in the works.)

Together, these practices are unfortunately why parent blogging is becoming synonymous with consumerism, a point well made by Jason Falls of Social Media Explorer in his informative presentation on Brands and Blogging. I thought it ironic that Stacy DeBroff, founder of Mom Central Consulting, took exception to this point midway through Jason’s talk. But of course she would have to given that her company retains a stable of bloggers hocking the wares of companies such as Mattel and Clorox. For DeBroff to say otherwise would send a message to her business partners that Mom Central’s primary resource—word-of-mouth marketing via mom blogs—is in danger of becoming caustic. In a certain sense, this would be like Heidi Fleiss admitting to clients that her D Team has STD's. (And for the record, I’m not inferring that DeBroff is running a blogging bordello.)

But DeBroff’s presence at M3 was not merely because the pastries offered in the lobby between sessions were kick ass. Mom Central Consulting is launching a Dad Central branch headed by John Porcaro who successfully spearheaded X-Box’s blogging campaign. Together DeBroff and Porcaro shared the results of a survey intended to show rising influence of men as consumers.

Interesting as their findings were, what had me reaching for a BIC ballpoint with one hand and stretching my eyelids open with the other was the method in which Dad Central plans to entice those writing from the male chromosome perspective. In a nutshell, they’re going to toss out a product to their bullpen of dad bloggers and then see who will take a bite out of such dangling carrots as gift cards. An even worse version of this tactic could be found in an informational handout offered to attendees by another dad-focused consulting business. Their idea for rewarding involvement is to automatically enter participating dads in a sweepstakes for fun prizes. Okay, yeah I realize they are trying to avoid bias advertorials (that’s a topic for another day), but a drawing that could mean busting my hump for nothing? Well f#ck me! My naughty parts are tingling all over. Where do I sign up?

Let me stop here for a second to make a something very clear. For those daddy bloggers looking to partner with brands, you need to understand that consultants, marketers, PR firms and so on, are paid by brands for their services and thus their loyalty resides with their clients, not you. It is therefore up to us to seek commensurate compensation of some form (not necessarily cash) in exchange for what we offer in our blogs. Yet, keep in mind that not everyone is out to take advantage of bloggers and companies like Chevrolet and T-Mobile who were conference sponsors are attempting to demonstrate this in their efforts.

One of the big riddles trying to be solved throughout the conference had to do with how to get men to engage. There are ways to do this, but I’m of the opinion that handing out paltry treats on par with Happy Meal toys isn’t the magic bullet. Thankfully others like Caleb Gardner of Edelman Digital and Weber Shandwick’s Alan Kercinik, both of whom I had long discussions with, see this too. The same goes for Craig Heimbuch, Editor-in-Chief of Man of the House.com who lead a roundtable discussion meant to explore ways in which to effectively reach today’s man with realistic messages that represent who we are.

When it came to the business side of blogging, I felt that aside from several exceptions, there were few takeaways for dads to use in helping to substantiate the influence of the daddy blog niche. It was apropos (and hilariously so) that “creative freak” Ted Murphy in his presentation, Making Money on your Blog, closed the M3 Summit by telling an audience full of hopeful dad bloggers that there was no real money in what they were doing. Then someone handed Ted a large bag of cash as he walked out the door, after which several now purposeless attendees proceeded to go off and either slit their wrists, step in front of buses, or jump from the 11th floor of the hotel, crushed over the notion that 2010, the year of the Daddy Blogger, had ended before the apocalyptic destruction of the planet predicted in 2012 by the Mayan calendar.

I hate to finish on such a negative note, especially after having had so much fun in the conference. In fact, I’d go again simply for the social aspect, and most of the guys I talked with said the same. However, as more and more dad bloggers start jumping into things midstream, these issues which have been the source of debate and frustration among the mommies for a while now, need to be brought to light in collective forums. So, despite all the opinions, politics, and drama endemic to the conference itself, the real value of the M3 Summit was that it served as a starting point for dads to take part in these discussions in order to bolster the credibility and value offered to brands by professional parent blogging community as a whole.

For a great recap from other dads at M3, go here to Man Of The House.com where you can also learn about "The Bison Incident."

This post has been approved by Chuck Norris


Fun For All, Even Voyeurs Like Me

We are a few days into the trip now, and currently sit docked in Montego Bay, Jamaica. It has taken sixty plus-hours of navigating through the Gulf of Mexico to get here, but here we are, in a country famous for voodoo magic, an Olympic bobsledding team coached by John Candy, and an immortal musician who shot the sheriff, thus giving thousands of upper middle class college students an excuse to sport dreadlocks even though they have no business doing so.

During our voyage, passengers have been kept busy with a variety of activities and events offered by Carnival: swimming, games, shows, etc. With somewhere in the neighborhood of three-thousand people all hanging out together on the same hunk of metal, ensuring that the masses are entertained is imperative in order to avoid a boredom-incited mutiny.

To their credit Carnival knows how to keep mutineers at bay by providing something for everyone. Golf lessons? Go grab a club on the upper deck. Facials? There’s a day-spa aboard. What about for the kids? Camp Carnival will distract your youngin’s until 3 a.m.. I know, corn-holing? Believe it or not, there’s a rowdy crowd tossing bean-bags in the lobby right now. But I want to be in a Hairiest Chest Contest? Sure, it’s for men only, but just an FYI, they already declared a winner yesterday—a charismatic fellow whose upper torso was amazingly similar to a kiwi in both form and texture.

Not wanting to be a complete fuddy duddy, I’ve even been participating, spending the majority of my time engrossed in a personal fave—people watching. Literally, I can do it for hours, and from almost anywhere too. In fact, the great minds at Carnival went so far as to dedicate an entire TV channel solely for viewing passengers lounging around the pool area. The other afternoon I tuned in as a shirtless, pot-bellied man downed half a dozen cold ones, and then passed out under the blazing sun. I enjoy cooking shows quite a bit; so this was like watching a beer-basted turkey broil during a Martha Stewart Thanksgiving special—and all from the comfort of my own room no less!

Naturally, with this many passengers aboard, my eyes can feast upon a veritable smorgasbord of people, both young and old, who come in all shapes and sizes, and hail from various parts of the country while also representing a cross-section of diverse, socio-economic backgrounds. Yet what fascinates me the most about this is the peculiar force responsible for causing the same four or five shipmates to keep popping up at random moments during our trip. The best way for me to explain the mystery of this phenomena is to describe it as a Seven-Degrees-of-Kevin-Bacon meets Where’s Waldo sort of thing.

Thus far, the person I’ve bumped into the most in places such as, the men’s room outside of the dining room; at a show sitting two rows behind me; on the elevator during several rides; and in a Montego Bay gift shop. I’ve seen him so much, that I’ve starting referring to him as East Texas, George Clooney—this in reference to his salt-and-pepper mullet; baritone, twangy accent; and disarmingly toothless grin, which altogether, I have to image can melt the heart of any woman whose name contains a hyphenated Sue living in the tri-county area. Honestly, though, the resemblance between East Texas George Clooney and the A-list actor is uncanny.

Should anyone be interested in a doing a little people watching of their own, I recommend situations involving two seemingly mismatched elements like say, a group of retirees and free alcohol (actually, you could add alcohol to anything and it’s going to get interesting). I’m only using such an example because these were the precise forces at work on my family’s snorkeling excursion in Jamaica.

I’m not sure if the heat was affecting their senses or if they wanted to be fully calibrated prior to having lunch later at Jimmy Buffet’s famous Margaritaville, but regardless this lively bunch of seniors proceeded to get hammered on a never-ending supply of rum punch being served on the catamaran we were riding on. Some would call this behavior “being young at heart” and “letting it all hang out.” I call it being in denial, and wish they would tuck most of what’s hanging out, back in. Then again, at thirty-eight, my AARP membership is firmly established; thus, skewing my opinions here.

Still, this didn’t prevent me from taking in the spectacle before me. As anyone could’ve predicted, a hunched over woman with skin that resembled both the color and texture of a dried apricot proceeded to get sick, filling up a plastic bag with a hearty heave ho before passing out. Naturally, her fellow senior citizens, sensitive to the potential health risks at hand, were quick to respond, snapping photos of her and giggling like this were a frat party highlight.

With this being a family trip, I was quick to seize upon the opportunity of turning this into a teaching moment for the kids. “You see that, girls?” I started. “That’s why you should always drink in moderation, and only pick friends who’ll look out for you ‘cause the last thing you want to happen is end up on YouTube and embarrass your grandchildren.”

Lest anyone get the wrong impression here, I should clarify these remarks by stating that it’s not my intention to demean what others do to find enjoyment. No doubt I have garnered my fair share of raised eyebrows as the extraordinarily unremarkable chap with unnerving voyeuristic tendencies. My point, however, is that what’s fun for others may not be so for me and vice versa. But this is a testament to who we are as individuals and what makes us tick, and ultimately, this is a good thing. Carnival, whose motto is “Fun for all. All for fun” has a solid grasp on this, and at the risk of sounding like a corporate sell-out, I’d say they know what they’re doing.

Note: In accordance with the regulations put forth by the FTC, who likes to do a little people watching of their own, let it be known that Carnival did provide me a with an all-expenses paid trip, but they did not pay me to say nice things unless I really, really wanted to.

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