Geargals is give or take about five years old now, though it’s gone through a few iterations and hasn’t been recognizable as what you see now for more than two or three years. It’s continually evolving and changing in ways that make sense to me. This year I started writing an actual personal blog (you know this; you are reading it right now) on the site to talk about various things that I want to talk about that don’t really fit in reviews. People seem to like it and I daresay it’s even a fairly popular feature. It’s fun to write and since I usually have a lot to say, it’s a great outlet for my thoughts and experiences. One of my gear clients even has to be reminded to read the actual reviews instead of just my Head Geargal Blog. It’s funny. (Now go read the gear reviews, Andrea.)
The gear side of the site is about to evolve significantly. I’m going to have to be vague here because you’ll all see the changes soon enough and I don’t want to get distracted from my intended topic. I’ll just say that I had decided that things were getting stale and I wanted to change things up, and I had noticed that the “gear blogger” world is getting really, really full. It seems like everyone is starting a gear blog and, like it or not, competing to be the next big thing, hoping for an avalanche of free gear, ad revenue, and affiliate sales.
Personally I don’t really care about that. Well, I like the free gear, of course, and I tried the affiliate sales thing now and again to see if I couldn’t help support the site that way, but it’s mostly just too much work and not really worth it from an income point of view. Geargals has always been about promoting women’s participation in outdoor sports via influencing the gear world to accommodate the female enthusiast, and helping readers find the gear that might work for them. It’s never really been about being a big commercial site, so that’s what I’m sticking with so far. Someday I do hope to make a full living out of it, but that’s for the future. For now, it’s a site for the enthusiast, not the gear shopper, and it’s always going to be that way.
Geargals has been a really fun project and I have really enjoyed the way it’s progressed. I’ve had a great time with the process of getting involved with the industry and am appreciative of all the great people I’ve met along the way. I’ve had a fantastic time going to trade shows and making friends out of the people I’ve worked with over the years, and the other writers out there who contribute to the outdoor blogosphere. It all seemed so good-spirited and fun to me. And it still is – I still approach this site with my original intentions in mind. It’s for the women who want to get out there and the women who already are – and for the brands to learn what they are and what they aren’t doing right by us.
That’s why I was totally blindsided when another gear blogger sent me an unsolicited email right after the Outdoor Retailer show, telling me that I shouldn’t be writing a personal blog on the site and that I was losing clients because of it. I thought this was kind of strange and sent back a glib email about how I had received a lot of positive feedback, so…meh, I think it’s fine, and thanks anyway. He wrote back ANOTHER email telling me that he had met with companies at OR who “wouldn’t work with [me] anymore” because my site was so different now and had “changed focus.” Now I REALLY did a double take. I thought back on OR, which had been just the week before, and couldn’t identify anyone on my client list who hadn’t been as receptive as they’ve always been. My Rolodex was still full. I still went out and had beers with the same clients I’ve had for years and I even added a few to the roster. Huh. The site’s stats have steadily risen with a even steeper rise in the last few months – readership has tripled in the last year as per usual. Nothing seems to have changed for me in any way but the positive, but this person was trying to convince me that my site was heading down the tubes all because I write entries like this in addition to gear reviews. I told him thanks for the heads up but that my Geargals world wasn’t coming to an end, and he never replied. I suppose his mission was accomplished, in his mind.
So this is what we’re doing now? We’re going to OR, talking behind other bloggers’ backs and then bombing them with rumor and innuendo? Or we’re PRETENDING to talk behind their backs? I suspect the latter, because I can’t imagine a single situation at a trade show in which I would find it appropriate to discuss another blogger or another client in a meeting. If a rep tried to have such a discussion with me about another blogger, I’d be appalled. If I, as a blogger, brought up other writers during meetings with reps, I’d expect that rep to find me extremely unprofessional and crass. But I just don’t think it’s really an issue – it simply happen unless you MAKE it happen.
So I’m not at all sure what this drive-by blogger bomb was intended to accomplish. Was this some sort of intimidation tactic? Who knows. I can imagine that bloggers new to the industry might be taken in by this behavior, and, worse, decide to emulate it, assuming that it’s normal. Let me assure you, it’s not normal for the industry. Please do not start acting like this – it’s going to muck up our happy little outdoor industry family. I suppose it was just part of the natural evolution of the gear blogger pool though. We’re all sharks circling for the same bit of chum, so it’s only natural that some of the sharks turn on the other sharks. Wait, do sharks actually do this? Has anyone seen two sharks fighting? All you Discovery Channel fans – was this covered in Shark Week? I’d think that if sharks were fighting a lot, I would probably have heard about it by now, so I think that shark battles are fairly rare.
So perhaps this behavior is limited to gear bloggers. After all, we’re not a single species of our own; we are all different, with different motivations and different approaches. Perhaps what makes a species is the inherent ability to recognize another member of the same species without the benefit of a K-12 education and a mirror. It’s so wild – a cow in a field will see another cow and think in their slow bovine way “oh hey, another cow.” How does the first cow know its own cow-ness? They just know. Bloggers aren’t like this; we have to explain to each other what it is we do and who we are and what our deal is. We are hardly out of the primodial ooze of the outdoor industry; just barely able to go to a meeting at a trade show and not have to spend the entire time explaining what the hell it is we do; we can’t expect to be given the rights and privileges of species who earned their ability to make easy peace with each other through millenia of evolution.
What about humans, you ask? Humans have evolved over millenia as well, why can’t we make easy peace with each other? Um…well…maybe we’re not peaceful like sharks and cows. We’re argumentative, like cats and eagles. I sense my argument falling to pieces around me, here….oh! Humans aren’t peaceful but we recognize other humans when we see them. I’ll have to stop there with this line of reasoning if I don’t want my logic to entirely come apart.
So, young and/or new bloggers, if something like this happens to you, and you’re set upon by another seemingly friendly cow whom you thought was your species just because you’re both cows, don’t worry about it. No one legitimate has time at trade shows to play at this kind of stuff. You go to a 1/2 hour meeting, your time is limited and so is the rep’s, and you talk about the gear, maybe spend a few minutes catching up on life if you know that rep personally, and then you scamper off to your next meeting. There’s just no time to devote to gossiping about bloggers, unless that’s your sole purpose and you go out of your way to make it happen. And no one legitimate would take the time to force such a discussion. Hop back into the shark tank with the other more reasonable sharks. And if you’re tempted to do something like this? Remember this article, and realize that doing such things makes you look like a complete douche.