BlogathonATX For A Good Time, Blog Here Fri, 21 Aug 2015 05:58:40 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Essay Contest Entry 5: Sara Fox Tue, 18 Aug 2015 19:08:12 +0000 What My Online Community Means To Me – Sara Fox

I don’t have a blog and I’m really bad at Twitter, but I love my online community, nevertheless. It is composed of people I have actually met and those I never have, and in some cases, never will, but with few exceptions are all people that I am exceptionally grateful to have in my life. I live in Houston, TX, a BIG city where it can take 45 minutes to cross town or to travel three miles, and you just never know which it will be. Meeting people is difficult due to the sheer immensity of the city, and it’s hard to find like-minded friends when you alone wear a blue shirt in a sea of red. So, I turn to the internet, a place full of scary trolls and fairy godmothers. My first community was a message boards for moms and now it’s Facebook, as cliché as that may be.

With my online community, I can share jokes and political rants, funny pictures of squirrels and outrage over televangelists. I can brag about an amazing recipe I made or lament my poor parenting skills as I count the minutes until my kids go back to school. I have carefully cultivated my community to include only those people who are caring, kind, and tolerant of others, regardless of their beliefs.

I’m not perfect in my online community, and I know this because I try to only share the facets of myself that ARE publically acceptable, and in censoring myself, I miss perfection by a long shot. I tend to believe that I’m the only one who does this, even though I know it isn’t true, but I look at my self-censoring as a lesson in how to allow only those thoughts that I want to encourage. My online community helps me to do this, and simply by being there, helps me become the person I want to be.

]]> 0
Meet the Speakers: Carla Birnberg Tue, 18 Aug 2015 01:05:41 +0000 Carla Birnberg is an Austin-based blogger and fitness expert; she’s a non-stop source of inspiration with her blog and on social media. We are thrilled to have her as one of the dynamic speakers at this year’s event.

CARLA BIRNBERG, coauthor of What You Can When You Can: Healthy Living on Your Terms (Seal Press, May 2015), is an award-winning writer, speaker, healthy living and fitness expert, community builder, and community builder. She has been published in Woman’s Day, the Wall Street JournalRunner’s World, Better Homes and Gardens, and HealthShape named Birnberg one of the top 15 fitness gurus to follow on Twitter and Fitness magazine listed her blog as one of their favorites.

Carla Birnberg’s health philosophy (and life motto) is: Fitness isn’t about fitting in. She believes we may all share the goal of a longer, healthier, more vibrant life, yet it’s okay (even encouraged) to carve a unique path there. Her site’s tagline “unapologetically myself” has inspired thousands to pursue goals in their own way.

She launched her popular blog, MizFitOnline, in 2007, where she shared health and fitness knowledge with humor and ease. She quickly became known for jettisoning gym workouts in favor of “PLAYouts” with her daughter. She has since expanded her site,, to cover everything from personal development to motherhood with the same accessible voice.

Carla’s engaging, keep-it-real advice has been featured in Runner’s World, Women’s Day, the Wall Street Journal, Fitness, Ladies Home Journal, Glamour, Women’s Health, Fitness, Yahoo!, and more.

She’s one of major fitness brands’ favorite voices: Carla was named one of Athleta’s Five Favorite Fitness Blogs, was chosen a Transform Your Workout Fitness Expert by Café Mom, Shape Magazine placed her in the Top Five Fitness Blogs, as well as One of 15 Fitness Gurus You Need To Follow On Twitter. She became Fila brand’s inaugural Spokesmom, and is a consultant to Venus Williams, who identified her a social media influencer.

Avoiding extreme workouts and restrictive dieting set Carla up for healthy living success and enabled her to maintain her weight loss for over two decades.

Five Questions

What do you value most about your online community?
Their trust. It has taken me years to create my online community. It is also taken years to earn their trust. This trust is something I would never ever violate—and they know that. I’m transparent. I’m honest. I never endorse anything or align with a brand unless it’s something I am willing to completely stand behind.

What are some of your favorite blogs to read on a regular basis?
I’m eclectic. I read a number of Fitness and healthy living blogs, lots of technology blogs, and many many pop culture blogs.

What is one piece of advice you’d give someone starting their first blog?
Be consistent.
Be consistent in your branding across all social media platforms.
Be consistent in voice. In arenas from blog posts/newsletters, to Twitter Facebook Instagram etc.
Be consistent with your posting schedule.

In blogging and social media consistency is comforting not boring. Readers/followers like to know what to expect when they encounter your brand.

How would you like to see online community evolve or change for the better?
I personally am shifting toward becoming more involved in “social media for good.” Using the platform I’ve created to shine light on things which are important to me and strive to help those who might not otherwise have a voice.

What is one blog post you’ve written that you are particularly proud of?

I pondered this question for a while and repeatedly returned to this post.

It’s not mind blowing. It’s not blogging for greater good. It’s old school blogging in the best sense of the term for me. I bared myself to my tribe and, in turn, they were sparked to reveal their own struggles. In the comments. On Facebook. Privately. It reminded me of blogging back in the early 2000s when, if one of us stood up and said: I’m not OK… and that’s OK, others supported, normalized, and we were a true community.

]]> 0
Essay Contest Entry 4: Jackie Dana Mon, 17 Aug 2015 16:10:16 +0000

What My Online Community Means to Me – Jackie Dana

Monday morning, I set my gigantic coffee cup down and woke my computer.

All of my browser tabs were closed, and the bookmarks bar was gone. Sighing, I opened a new tab and typed in ‘’. The page returned a ‘404 Page Not Found’ error.

What the hell? 

I glanced at my router. My email worked fine, though there were only a couple of new messages. The emails from writing clients were gone, as were those from a neighbor and the Texas Freelance Association. There wasn’t a single event email for my writing or social media meetups, nothing about Indie Publishing Austin, and no blog updates.

Thinking it was just my computer. I reached for my phone. The icon for Facebook had disappeared, as well as those for Twitter and Goodreads, Spotify and Eventbrite.

What’s going on? Freaking out, I googled each service. No results found. I opened my phone contacts. There were only a few names. I called one of the few names left, but my friend claimed she had never heard of that ‘Face thing’, even though I saw her post yesterday.

My brain was hurting. I tried YouTube for a funny cat video to calm down, but again, I got a 404 error.

Whatever. I need to get to work. Last night I had spent three hours writing web copy for a client that came from Austin Freelance Gigs, but now I couldn’t find it. In fact, there was no freelance writing folder at all.

I tried logging into my blog, and was thrilled the URL worked… but the WordPress.comsite was blank. Of course—there was no platform on which to host it.

My phone rang. “Are you planning to come to work today?” asked my old boss.


Thanks to my online community, I had been freelancing for the past year, and thanks to the TFA Jumpstart program I was building a consulting business. Or so I thought—it was all gone. No longer did my calendar display three meetings and a lunch date coming up this week. All I found was a doctor’s appointment. No upcoming events like BlogathonATX or The Freelance Conference.

Tears started to fall. No dog or cats were there to comfort me—like everything else, I had found them online. I felt so alone, since nearly every friend I had started as an online interaction or from an event that had been organized or promoted online. I reached for my Kindle, but it was empty. All of the indie published books were gone.

To hell with the ‘good old days’. 

As a last resort, I called the cable company. They assured me everything was fine on their end (don’t they always?) but suggested I try rebooting my router.

How’s that going to bring my friends back? I shouted into the phone, but did as they suggested.

And just like that, my community was back. I smiled, and clicked on the first cat video in my feed.

]]> 0
Essay Contest Entry 3: SimplyV Sun, 16 Aug 2015 22:21:19 +0000 “What My Online Community Means to Me” – By SimplyV

It has been roughly 24 years since my first experience with a doctor who actively discounted my health concerns. My complaints of daily flu-like symptoms, headaches, and dizziness were met with proverbial pats on the head and a prescription for anti-depressants. Because at age 18, I couldn’t possibly have anything legitimately wrong with me.

My mother, a nurse, had told me that doctors weren’t always right, and I now believed her. But she didn’t believe me, and insisted I try the pills. Two hours after trying the new medication I wanted to chop off my head. Anything to make my head stop spinning. If I closed my eyes, the room would spin so fast that I felt nauseated. My hands shook without purpose, and I felt like I was losing all of me. I was afraid to sleep and afraid to stay awake. I was so inept the next day that I refused to hold any sharp objects or handle machinery for fear that I would lose control and accidentally kill myself.

I never took another of those pills, and I never blindly trusted a doctor again. It was probably the best thing that ever happened to me, and one of the reasons I am alive today. I took charge of my own health, and never accepted an “it’s in your head” ever again.

Just over 10 years ago, I found my online community through a series of happenstances too long to divulge and too boring that I fear it would put you to sleep. All of us were sidelined by the medical community under hats of junk diagnoses and accusations of mental disorders, but by chance had found ourselves among a group of people just like us.

In order to stay alive, we teamed together. Reading, researching, and testing out products on the least sick ones of us, we helped those worse off from making a deadly mistake and guided those new to our fold. We compiled data. We wrote blogs. We wrote doctors, senators, companies, and TV shows.

Slowly we are making headway. New medical diagnoses are being accepted by modern medicine, and our research is starting to get more mainstream attention. We are slowly being recognized by society and we ourselves are realizing just how lucky we are to have found each other.

Trying to avoid so many things considered benign to everyone else is a daily battle. It is isolating, not only from an uneducated medical community but also from friends and family that likewise do not understand. It affects all aspects of our life and restricts most of what we can do, and in this struggle we are united.

We aren’t a community by choice. We are a community by necessity, and we greet our new members with words of sympathy. Going this alone is almost certain death, and so we are bonded together by our mutual trials and tribulations in search of a light at the end of our tunnel, or at the very least, in search of a daily sliver of hope.

Want to win a free ticket to BlogathonATX on September 26, 2015?  

Send YOUR 500-word essay entitled “What My Online Community Means to Me” to by Monday, August 17th.

]]> 13
The Room for Improvement with Julie & Nando Fri, 14 Aug 2015 01:45:16 +0000 One of the biggest perks of attending BATX is the Room for Improvement, a spot where you can get professional feedback on your blog site…

Room for Improvement started out as kind of an experiment at BlogathonATX 3, and has become one of the most popular parts of the conference. It’s not really tech support or a panel or a roundtable discussion. Think of it as group therapy for your website.

improvementTwo of our local experts, Nando Caban-Mendez (good cop), and Julie Gomoll (bad cop and yours truly), will be on hand to give you feedback and recommendations on your site. We can discuss whatever you want – design, SEO, messaging, marketing, information architecture, usability, best practices, cat videos… really anything you’d like to get a handle on. The cool thing is it’s a group experience. We concentrate on your site for 15 minutes, then move on to the next one. Everyone there gets the benefit of hearing everyone’s feedback.

So if you’re dealing in Super Top Secret Shenanigans or you don’t want anyone to see your Smurf/My Little Pony fanfic, this might not be for you.

This has turned out to be so much more fun and useful than we even imagined. Don’t be intimidated when you hear people say “I’m going in to get yelled at by Julie for 15 minutes.” They enjoy it! Really!

We’re making a change from previous Rooms for Improvement (Room for Improvements?). You will no longer have to sign up for your 15-minute time slot – anyone can come in any time. I, for one, am relieved. We should have done this years ago, amiright?

It doesn’t matter if your site isn’t done (trust me, it will never be done), or if it’s a mess, or if you don’t really know what you need. It doesn’t even matter if you don’t have a website. You won’t be chastised, I promise. You *will* learn a lot – I promise that too.

See you in September!

]]> 0
Essay Contest Entry 2: Lisa Maxwell Thu, 13 Aug 2015 02:37:18 +0000 “What My Online Community Means to Me” – By Lisa Maxwell

Vader is a mutt who came to Austin Pets Alive after being turned in to the shelter and passed over for adoption and by other rescue groups. This is how most dogs arrive in our care. What was different about Vader is that he was living at the Town Lake Animal Center on May 25, 2015, when the flood waters started to rise.

As the water came in, APA staff were desperately trying to move dogs from their kennels to any safe place that would stay above water. Our Marketing Manager posted on Facebook that we needed emergency foster homes and within hours a line of people arrived at the shelter and signed up to be fosters. We had more than 211 foster applications submitted in a single day. More than 80 animals went to foster care that night, and another 60+ went directly into foster homes over the following days as Austin Pets Alive took in animals from other flood-damaged shelters in the area. Facebook was literally a lifesaver that day.

Secondarily, our Facebook post showing the line of foster families stretched across the parking lot was shared 16,900 times and had more than 28,000 “Likes.” This exposure led to coverage in both local and national media, including the Huffington Post and People Magazine, where it was further shared.

Thankfully this led people to donate, which helped us offset the costs of caring for the additional displaced animals we took in after the floods.

Vader was one of the dogs taken home by a foster, who fell for him, and adopted him. Vader is now in his forever home, thanks to floods and Facebook.

Whether it’s posting a plea to raise funds for one of our sick dogs, or promoting one of the many fundraising events we do, we depend on our friends and followers to get the word out.

Our Twitter and Instagram feeds feature foster animals, long-stay dogs, seniors and those with medical issues that might not otherwise have the kind of exposure they need to get adopted. We also have multiple Facebook pages and groups, including those for volunteers (who are a vital part of our organization) and adopters (where they can ask questions, share photos and so forth with other APA adopters.) These smaller communities within our larger community allow us to maintain contact with our constituents and supporters.

Our online community is critically important and directly impacts our ability to save the thousands of dogs and cats that would be otherwise killed. Austin is the largest No-Kill city in the world and has become a model for other cities across the country. None of this would be possible without our friends and followers in the online world.

Want to win a free ticket to BlogathonATX on September 26, 2015?  

Send YOUR 500-word essay entitled “What My Online Community Means to Me” to by Monday, August 17th.

]]> 0
Meet the Speakers: Greg Ackerman Wed, 12 Aug 2015 02:29:39 +0000 Meet Greg Ackerman, an institution in the Austin Music Blog scene all-star lineup of panelists at this year’s BATX:

Greg Ackerman is a writer and digital marketing strategist. His work has appeared in New Music Express (NME), Examiner, Axs, Austin Convention and Visitor’s Bureau, Virgin Atlantic Airways blog, Microsoft and CultureMap Austin among others. He is a True Austin local music expert which means answering questions about live music in Austin for visitors to the Austin Convention and Visitor’s Bureau (ACVB) website. Greg works with national and local businesses directing social and digital marketing initiatives. When he is not working you can find Greg and his wife Haley exploring the culinary scene in Austin.

Greg began his career at InfoMedix – a leading, family owned continuing education company that served national and international medical associations.  Greg moved to Austin in 2000, fell in love with the music scene, and began covering live music for a national news outlet.  An early adopter of social media, he began consulting with local businesses on how to effectively use social media and the internet to grow and expand while working with a small, Austin-based email marketing and lead generation company.  In the past 8 years, Greg has expanded his client list to organizations nationwide.

Greg was born and raised in Orange County, California, and he attended the University of Colorado at Boulder. He has written for several publications including Microsoft, Virgin-Atlantic Airways, The Austin Convention and Visitors Bureau, and Learn more about Greg here.

Follow Greg on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube & Instagram; and subscribe to his Austin Concerts Examiner blog.

Five Questions

What do you value most about your online community?

My online community is valuable to me as a resource to learn about new things, ask what content is desired and simply to provide feedback on the posts I have already written.

What are some of your favorite blogs to read on a regular basis?

Music: Austin Bloggy Limits, Ultra 8201, SideOne Track One, Austin Town Hall, Ovrld, Playback Austin (Austin Chronicle) and Austin360 Music Blog

Food: Foodie the New Forty, Tasty Touring, Amberdemure (Free food events), ATX Food News, Eater Austin

Events: Austin Chronicle, Do512 Blog, 365 Things to Do in Austin

What is one piece of advice you’d give someone starting their first blog?

Publish regularly and consistently.

How would you like to see online community evolve or change for the better?

I would like to see online communities focus more on positivity and less on griping, airing political grievances and insulting other users. The original Twitter aesthetic of helping others, being kind, sharing valuable information and being positive is a good place to start.

What is one blog post you’ve written that you are particularly proud of?

Blog post I am most proud of: What was I Doing Fasting for Ramadan?
Most popular blog post: Top 5 free SXSW 2014 music parties with RSVP links


]]> 0
10 Reasons to be a BATX Sponsor! Mon, 10 Aug 2015 02:04:29 +0000 And now a word from BlogathonATX Founder, Ilene Haddad:

BlogathonATX is looking for sponsors and swag. Here are 10 reasons why you should give us money and stuff:

1. You and your business will reach some of the most interesting and socially awkward people in Central Texas. If your goal is to influence shut-ins with disposable incomes, here’s your chance.

2. Outside of BlogathonATX, bloggers tend to be anti-social, so they do a lot of their business online. If your company has an online presence, you should give us your money.

3. In case the name of the conference is unclear, our attendees are bloggers. Bloggers have opinions, and they write about stuff. They especially like writing about stuff they like. They will love you if you sponsor BlogathonATX.

4. Our audience is made up of people who eat food. If you sell food, you should give us some, and in exchange, we will eat it.

5. Our audience is made up of people who wear shirts. If you have shirts, we will wear them.


6. BlogathonATX is produced on a shoestring budget. On a good year, we don’t go into the red. On a great year, I can afford to take a party of 30 out for dinner at McDonalds. If you like burgers and fries, you should become a sponsor. If you are a vegetarian, you should give us money and kale.

7. It takes months to produce BlogathonATX, during which time, earnings from my actual profession more or less stop existing. If you’d like me to stay married, you should become a sponsor. (Option B: Hire me for your graphic design needs in late September.)

8. Our highly-connected bloggers are obsessed with social media. What does that mean to you? EVERYTHING. Bloggers are wormholes to financial gain, so it’s only fair that you share with us. (Financial gain may vary and cannot be measured. Please don’t sue me.)

9. Bloggers are hungry for more than just tacos and knowledge. They crave lots of things: massages, thumb drives, hats, software, hardware, pens, flashlights, thermoses, gift certificates, pet care, botox (for all the squinting at computer screens), etc. You got stuff? We got potential customers.

10. I believe most people have a generous spirit, but you are better than that. Show Austin bloggers how generous you are in spirit and in cold, hard cash.

Please consider supporting BlogathonATX by becoming a sponsor. In addition to the benefits mentioned above, your company logo will be displayed on our website, and you will receive a free ticket to come see what all the fuss is about.* Unable to sponsor? Be an attendee! Tickets go on sale August 25th.

Contact me at for more info. I hope to see you on September 26th for BlogathonATX!

*Visit the link below to see what other benefits your sponsorship includes.

]]> 0
Meet the Speakers: Addie Broyles Thu, 06 Aug 2015 14:00:49 +0000 addieMeet Addie Broyles, a force to be reckoned with in the world of Austin Gastronomy and a member of our all-star lineup of panelists at this year’s BATX:

Addie Broyles is a writer, photographer, blogger and quilter based in Austin, Texas.

As a food writer for the Austin American-Statesman, she covers everything from cookbooks and food trends to farmers markets, food entrepreneurs and culinary culture in the Wednesday food section, where she has a weekly column called Relish Austin.

At home, when she’s not chasing after her two young sons, the Ozarks native and University of Missouri graduate writes about women and food at and is the special projects chair of theAustin Food Blogger Alliance.

In April 2013, the History Press published “The Austin Food Blogger Alliance Cookbook,” a community cookbook that Broyles spearheaded and whose production she oversaw.

Addie won a National Headliner Award in 2012 and her Relish austin blog has won honors from the Society of Features Journalism and the Texas Associated Press Managing Editors.

In 2011, Addie was named by Tribeza magazine as one of the top 10 Austinites to watch, and for four years in a row, readers of the Austin Chronicle have voted her the top food writer in the city. CNN’s Eatocracy bloghas a food crush on her, and she has been a judge for the Statesman Social Media Awards since 2009.

Her freelance work has appeared in Dwell, The Guardian, Metropolis, Bust and Food Network Magazine. For recent clips, go to the “work” tab at the top of the page.

Follower Addie on Twitter, Instagram (Check out the #Austin360Eats hashtag on IG!) & Facebook.

Support the Austin Food Blogger’s Alliance by buying a copy of their cookbook!

 Five Questions

What do you value most about your online community?

How supportive everyone is, regardless of what “role” they play in the online community. From hardcore bloggers to fervent Instagrammers and active Yelpers, there’s plenty of space for everyone, and we all celebrate one another’s successes, both small and large, personal and professional.

What are some of your favorite blogs to read on a regular basis?

To be honest, I’ve fallen out of the habit of reading blogs on a regular basis. It’s been on a slow decline since Google Reader shut down, but now, I prefer to get blog posts in my inbox, but many of my favorite bloggers seem to have moved their commentary away from the traditional blogging platform to social media. I’m hoping that Blogathon will help rekindle this flame for me as a blog reader and writer!

What is one piece of advice you’d give someone starting their first blog?

Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there and be vulnerable. Readers are looking for a personal connection, not some sterile writing that could have come from a robot.

How would you like to see online community evolve or change for the better?

Be more mindful about the community as a living entity that can so easily get worked up over something that doesn’t matter. I see up whip ourselves into a frenzy over perceived slights or outrageous behavior or a misunderstanding or someone’s misdeeds. If we were all breathing and focusing on quieting our offline minds a little more, our online presence would benefit.

What is one blog post you’ve written that you are particularly proud of?

This one was one of my first on the Feminist Kitchen.

]]> 0
Essay Contest Entry 1: Tanja Burkinshaw Thu, 06 Aug 2015 01:09:53 +0000 “What My Online Community Means to Me” – By Tanja Burkinshaw

Many people (especially women, I think) experience a type of isolation as they mature. As career or family become more time intensive, we often find ourselves dissolving into it. Sometimes so much that we lose track of the boundaries of our existent with whom those we are devoted. Being so all-out, full-throttle absorbed into other’s lives provides a treasure trove of rewards. However, there are also sacrifices we make in that exchange, as well.

One of the sacrifices we make is connection. Sure, we are making important connections in the physical world, but those are often with the business (albeit gratifying) task of rearing family and achieving success in careers. What happens less is the connection to others on a soul-connecting basis.

Connecting with my online community causes me to more deeply consider who I am because it forces me to more deeply consider the words to which I carefully commit to “paper”. Knowing that the written word is without facial expressions, without gestures, and without outside identifiers to help place it in context, I then have to more fully consider what, exactly, I’m trying to say. This process teaches me to get to know myself better by the same process my community gets to know me better. It is a blessing for me to be able to truly articulate the inspiration, emotion, or goal of what I’m trying to express.

Another gift is the intimacy that happens between people who write to each other. I suppose it’s because it cuts through so much of the typical formalities that can bog down communication in other settings. The type of communication I love most is direct and significant. With my online community, we can directly discuss what is significant to us, learn from each other, all the while growing an ever-expanding base of connections.

Before technology, we all were reliant on the expertise and experience of those in our direct circle of influence. If there’s a medical question or concern, one could ask “around” but their ability to tap into a richer well of experiences was limited. My online community not only allows me to tap into their collective knowledge of life, health, and emotions, but it also feeds my soul because I know I get to directly influence theirs. As a nurse, this mode of wide scale connectivity answers a fundamental need of mine. I don’t only impact the person I saw today, but I get to positively influence many other people in other places. People I wouldn’t have been able to connect with. Most importantly, this is who I am; and I think anyone would agree that there’s nothing more satisfying and gratifying than just being able to be who you are!

My online community feeds my soul, expands my mind, and satisfies my desire (which is everyone’s desire) to be somehow significant in this big, bustling, busy world.

Want to win a free ticket to BlogathonATX on September 26, 2015?  

Send YOUR 500-word essay entitled “What My Online Community Means to Me” to by Monday, August 17th.

]]> 0