Bloggers -- at least those from Minnesota -- might be some of the nicest people in the real world.

When about 300 of them converged at St. Catherine University last weekend for the Minnesota Blogger Conference, it was all about learning from each other, sharing inspiration and figuring out how to get noticed online. Some were hobbyists, some activists, some interested in blogging as a business. All of them friendly.

A typical exchange:

"Hi. I'm so-and-so. Do you have a blog?"

"Yes, are you so-and-so from the [insert blog name]?"

"Yes!" Sometimes followed by hugs.

"There are people here I might only see once a year, but we feel like old friends because we connect online," said Jen Jamar, a lifestyle/parenting blogger and co-organizer of the conference. "It's fun to meet them in person."

The fifth annual conference offered a day of networking, keynote speeches, WordPress tech help and even a photographer taking professional headshots in exchange for donations to an animal shelter. The free event "sold out" well in advance, said Mykl Roventine, the other co-organizer of this year's converence.

There were sessions on blogging schedules, using visuals to promote blogs, understanding the blog audience, search engine optimization, using blogs for marketing, video blogging, making money off blogs. And it's the kind of conference where social media participation is also part of the agenda. Official hashtag: #MnBlogCon.

"I really want you to tweet," speaker Christoph Trappe said before launching into his session on blog post scheduling. (He was wearing a blue t-shirt with a little white bird and the words "follow me @ctrappe.")

Making connections and asking questions is key to growing as a blogger, Jamar said, because "when you start blogging there's no manual."

Even when their blogging passions were different -- a random sampling of bloggers I met covered food, fashion, parenting, homeschooling, government data practices, and real estate -- people were eager to share. What platform do you use? Tips? Tricks?

"When you're a blogger, you're kind of in your own little world," said Jena Branch, whose blog I'm Perfectly Human covers fashion and faith. "It's cool to get other people's perspectives."

Then, of course, they went home and blogged about it.

(Keynote speaker Dan Morris and Rachel Marie Martin from Blogging Concentrated talk to attendees of the Minnesota Blogger Conference about growing blog readership. Photo by Teresa Boardman - St.PaulPhotos.com)

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