Recap: Swatchbox Gathering

Category: Daily Diary

So, as we said yesterday we attended a special 'Swatchbox Gathering' event last night on the eve of the Kitchen and Bath Industry Show here in Chicago.  We went as guest speakers at the invitation of the guys at Swatchbox Technologies, who we got to know over drinks a few hours before the dinner.

Andrew Jenks (center right) and Jesse Engle (right) are the President and VP of Business Development, respectively, for Swatchbox and are really great guys.  The chat gave us some time to get to know them a bit and to hear about their work--they've done some interesting things with their clients to develop software that helps consumers visualize home improvement ideas like flooring, paint options, etc.

After a while we headed downstairs to the basement of the Chicago Firehouse where they'd reserved the wine cellar for the dinner.

At this point we should disclose that we weren't paid by anyone to attend--in fact, we even paid for our own dinner!  We weren't obligated to Swatchbox in any way, which was nice since it allowed us to say whatever we wanted to the group about what we thought houseblogging means for retailers and traditional publishers.

And speaking of participants, there were some really interesting folks there.  Actually, the diversity of the group was probably what made for some intriguing discussion--a mix of clients and business acquaintances that included publishers like This Old House and Merideth (the Better Homes and Gardens folks), manufacturers like Valspar paints and DuPont, and marketing professionals like Resource Interactive and SFC Graphics. 

Lots of them had come to Chicago for KBIS, but it was fun to meet some new local contacts too--Jeanne and I both enjoyed talking to the president of, which is headquartered in the Chicago area:

As for the talk itself, we enjoyed it quite a bit so we're hoping everyone else thought it was enlightening.  A few highlights:

  • We talked quite a bit about the whole idea of 'consumer-driven media' and what makes houseblogs work.  Overall, we think that the experiences are that different than they've always been--people like to share advice and learn from others.  The web just changes how you can find and communicate with others who share these interests.
  • We tried to address why in the world any of them should even care about houseblogs, and there was quite a bit of conversation about Google and how blogs make for good 'search food'.  Everyone was pretty interested in the fact that a houseblogger's entry on Kohler's Memoirs line of fixtures could actually rank higher in search results than Kohler's own site.  (Really, check it out)  But we also talked about the "real people using real products and techniques in real situations" aspect of houseblogs and how it could help them understand their customers/audience better.
  • Finally, we discussed ideas about how publishers and manufacturers could engage readers and housebloggers online without coming off as too 'big business.'  We shared some funny stories about how we've been approached over the years (we were once offered a spiral staircase in exchange for a complimentary review--needless to say, we turned them down because we don't do that) and what we thought would make interaction online with a company more acceptable to bloggers (transparency and a willingness to dialogue honestly).

The conversation was pretty lively, so we really got as much out of it as anyone.  It was strange to be two homeowners in a room full of home improvement execs..  What made it work seemed to be that many of them were genuinely interested in how blogs are changing media.

After we spoke, folks hung around for quite awhile.  Later in the evening, a few of the final photos got a bit blurry...which I'm sure was the lighting and didn't have anything to do with the open bar.

Anyway, that's it for the event.  We're looking to keep in touch with the Swatchbox folks--they were definitely good people and are pretty interested in how the tools they specialize in fit with blogging.  We told them we were equally interested in the kind of tools that can make home improvement planning (and houseblogging!) easier.

Well, we're off to the Kitchen and Bath show so this post really needs to end...more to come from the show floor!

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Sounds like a great event and the influence and effectiveness of Houseblogs on Google is fascinating considering how much money the mainstream media companies put into SEO. I'd venture to say that most people would rather read about other homeowners experiences as opposed to a cookie-cutter answer that a big business would provide.

That sure sounds fun. Speaking of the blog/Google connection. I've noticed more and more in the past few weeks that I'm getting more traffic to my site from search engines. Most of the traffic still comes from but the search engines are picking up. The marble sealing post gets a lot of hits form the engines and I highlight a Dupont product in the post. It just happened to be the one I used and it just happened that I liked it. It’s not like Dupont needs the free press, but they made a good product so the system works.

Hey guys, thanks for representing our voice! It all sounds so very interesting. I am curious about how the retailers will react to houseblogs in the future. 240 and climbing! Not long and it will be 500!!


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