One of the themes that re-occurred throughout EBBC2012 was that of influence. It's taken for granted that as bloggers, we have the potential to influence opinion. As a result of this, and moving up the food chain, it's logical then that interested parties might seek to influence bloggers. The ethics of this was a topic that ran through many of the discussions over the weekend, from the obvious (should bloggers take freebies?) to the slightly more considered (how can I take freebies and retain some integrity?). As Allan Wright of conference organisers Zephyr Adventures pointed out (to slightly uncomfortable silence), we'd all accepted Molson Coors' offer of sponsorship when we turned up - nobody refused to take the cheque on principle (although whether The Ormskirk Baron was actually able to cash his cheque, given it was made out to "The Ormskirk Baron", is still unclear)
The question of influence is also applicable to the question of why we actually blog. We all believe we have something worth saying (as Tandleman sums up with customary pithiness here), but the question of who we are saying it to, and why, is perhaps still unclear. This was brought into sharp focus after the Q&A session that Mark, Marverine and I held, when Allan Wright (again) asked "has anyone ever emailed a brewery to let them know that you've written something about them?" More uncomfortable silence. Don't the Americans have a splendidly pragmatic approach to stuff? The coup-de-grace of "then why are you doing what you do?" hung in the air, unasked and unanswered.
But of course, a few beers makes everything OK. The incredibly lavish dining event (merely calling it dinner would be selling it a bit short) that Pilsner Urquell hosted on the second evening was a chance for everyone to sample their superb unfiltered pilsner, served straight from the wood. We were also well-fed, dressed in PU polo shirts, kidnapped and transported to another venue, and FORCED to drink more unfiltered pilsner under the supervision of The Thirsty Brewmaster. I found myself leaving early that evening - I wish that I could say it was down to some sort of principle, but the events of the evening meant that I just needed the sort of solitary relaxation time that you only get in a hotel room on your own.
We need to take it as read that blogging is about influence. As bloggers, we want to influence people, and because of this, people want to influence us. But how these things happen, and to what end, is perhaps still a bit uncertain.