I had never been to a WordCamp before yesterday — but seeing as how I’ve lived in the DFW Metroplex for about two months now, and the DFW edition was October 4, I figured I should give it a shot. Problem was, by the time I got my crap together to give it a shot, tickets were sold out. I traded a few e-mails and it seemed like a dead end — then, someone flaked and I got in last-second. I had absolutely no idea what to expect. I’m not a huge member of the WordPress community or anything — during yesterday’s event, I had to Google who the founder of WP was, and then read a long article about him on Forbes (this one) — but I figured it could be a good way to learn something and meet new people. It accomplished almost all these goals.
Indeed, as noted in the tweet above, they were playing Taylor Swift as everyone filed in.
Session 1: Marc Gratch
Here was the schedule. The first block was the hardest one for me to choose — I thought the value and pricing thing would be interesting, but this website is only a little bit monetized (WordAds) and I felt like I had some more work to do before I got to that point. I’m working with one of my friend’s wives on her website these days, and that’s e-commerce based, so I thought about attending the e-commerce one. In the end, I went to this presentation by Marc Gratch on your first WordPress site (this is, give or take, the first WordPress site I’ve really put a lot of work into). The presentation was probably aimed at people who were literally fresh out of the box with WordPress — you can see the whole thing here — and because it was Gratch’s first WordCamp presentation, he had a timing issue (probably covered about 2/3 of what he wanted to, he admits). I probably should have gone to the art of pricing thing here, but that’s a rookie mistake. I did actually learn a few things from Gratch, who knows a lot more about WordPress than most people (he apparently went to the NYC WordCamp and followed around the rock stars of the WordPress world like a ‘dog’ — his words — eventually getting invited to dinner by a couple of ’em).
This is apparently what happened at the pricing session:
Session 2: Christoph Trappe
I was excited about this one, and it ended up being pretty good. Christoph has a blog about authentic storytelling, which is something I’m really interested in — and everyone else should be as well. You get people to relate to your product because of telling stories — I’ve talked about this before — not by constantly trying to sell them something. I’ve worked with different types of clients as a content freelancer, and there are so many people out there whose stated goal at the beginning is “… to make money.” That’s fine. Ultimately, that should be everyone’s goal to some extent. But it can’t be where you start the journey, honestly. That’s a fool’s errand.
You can see Trappe’s full presentation here, and he had some good lines — for example, when his six year-old daughter comes to him at night, she doesn’t say, “Daddy, read me some content.” She says, of course, “Daddy, read me a story.” Stories are what resonate — and eventually, it can lead to money. I can tell you that directly from this blog. When I write more personal stuff — an example would be this post or this post — they get way more views. Coming off this session, I made a promise to myself to write 1-2 personal posts a week and just be even more transparent. I think it will help my traffic and overall reach.
He had another good line:
In the context of authentic storytelling, I’ll say this: I probably should have been braver at lunch. I didn’t really know anyone, and I contemplated just diving into a group — the WordPress community is actually pretty inviting — but instead, I ate by myself. In hindsight, I regret that. I need to take more chances, especially living in a new place. The next time I do something like this, there’s something I can do better.
The keynote was given by Cory Miller, who runs iThemes, which had basically 88 percent of their staff (about 23 people) come to DFW WordCamp. Miller gave a good, pointed, and pretty short talk on “The Click Publish Moment.” Sounds like a WordPress/blogging thing, but it applies broadly to life — there’s always some aspect of yourself that’s “on the shelf” (not yet shipped) and you need to take the risk at putting it out in the world, seeing what happens, and then refining it. You can look at my point above with lunch. I should have made more of an effort to interact with people. That’s a potential “Click Publish” moment for me. Look at what’s on this slide, for example:
Here’s the entire presentation:
<div style=”margin-bottom:5px”> <strong> <a href=”https://www.slideshare.net/corymiller303/the-click-publish-moment-wordcamp-dfw-keynote” title=”The Click Publish Moment – WordCamp DFW Keynote” target=”_blank”>The Click Publish Moment – WordCamp DFW Keynote</a> </strong> from <strong><a href=”http://www.slideshare.net/corymiller303″ target=”_blank”>Cory Miller</a></strong> </div>
He talked a little bit about trolls and vampires — people that put down your work, but also keep it in context (otherwise all you’d hear is that everything you do is great) — and had this quote, which was pretty cool:
In sum, trolls are an important aspect of the life cycle of an idea — but they’re not the eventual heroes. You are. Or you can be, if you keep shipping products (software term, but one that applies to life).
Funny tweet from the organizer of WordCamp because Cory Miller kept saying the word “shipping:”
Session 3: Marjorie Asturias, Kristin Sheppard, Corrin Foster
This was called “For The Love Of Blogging.” It was pretty basic and intro, although they did cover some social media and SEO stuff at a higher level. (This was the Beginner Track, though — and I made the choice to attend it.) Marjorie works as a Happiness Engineer for the parent company of WordPress, and Kristin and Corrin have blogs out of Austin — Kristin’s is called Mad Betty and Corrin’s is Oh Hey, What’s Up. (Marjorie has this blog, although it hasn’t been updated in a bit, and also this one.)
From a selfish standpoint, one of the best things about this session was that it made me feel like I am doing OK with this blog — I don’t really have a specific niche (and if I did, I might have more traffic), but I do the right things in terms of SEO, social, and consistently writing. I could probably be better with Alt-Tags, tho…
This session made me think about hopping over to WordPress.org. I don’t think I’m quite ready, but it’s something I need to consider in the next year. I’ll probably hit year one of this blog (Oct. 21) with about 250K page views for the first year. Not bad. I’d like to try and do half-a-million in Year 2. If I had WordPress.org and could install some things like Yoast and Jetpack, that might be easier. I think this could be a pursuit for this winter.
Session 4: Happiness Bar
Probably the greatest thing Steve Jobs ever did was attach the word “… bar …” to a gathering of a bunch of tech folks. People love it. I went to a conference for work in August and some of my bosses had something called a “Brilliant Bar.” Here, it was the “Happiness Bar.” About seven people were assigned to work, and no one actually came with any questions about WordPress — so we BS’ed. This was a good chance to make some connections and I did a little bit better here as compared to lunch, but one side of the room was more developer talk — Marc Gratch, from Session 1, was over there — and the other side was more theme talk (Lindsey from Pretty Darn Cute was over there, as was Susan from Graphically Designing).
I don’t know much about themes or coding (my thing is more content), but we did manage to get into the age-old question of…
I personally feel like there’s a tipping point for social, especially something like Twitter, but we’ll see. This goes back a little bit to Trappe’s talk — ironically, he was in the room discussing this at Happiness Bar — with the idea that SEO can keep changing, and social can keep changing (think Ello), but content/stories will always resonate.
Session 5: Mad Men Content and Business Blog Comments
This was Kari Sullivan (first half, about comments on blogs) and Clara Matthews (second half, about Mad Men and its lessons for content). I liked this one overall. Kari had some good points about the challenges of keeping conversations on your blog in the age of social — i.e. you share something on Facebook and people just comment on it there — but had a line that terrified me too. She basically said if you have posts that get traffic but no one is commenting, they might be worthless. (I have this problem.) I thought about something Trappe said in Session 2 — if you have content no one is sharing, it might be worthless — and actually started to feel pretty worthless about this blog. I’ve written about 900 posts on here, and while most have been shared at least once or twice, there’s a ton that haven’t been, too. So I started to get a bit depressed in this session, admittedly.
Clara showed this clip as an example of stories vs. content:
I talked to her at the bar afterwards for a little bit and we both agreed that one of the best moments of Mad Men was this:
Now I secretly hope someone reads this and comments…
The End And The Bar
Aaron Campbell, a WordPress core team person and member of iThemes, spoke about getting involved. It was pretty cool, including this quote:
It did feel like he was speaking more to coders and developers, but … I want to get more involved. I talked with the organizer of the DFW WordPress meetups a little bit at the bar, and I’m going to start going to those meetings. That’s a “Click Publish” moment. See?
I went and grabbed a beer watching Ole Miss beat Alabama (whoa) and TCU beat Oklahoma (whoa, and in Ft. Worth, no less), and then went to the after-party at Pour House in the West 7th area. I talked to a few people, grabbed a few beers, and then went and got a burger with my wife. Done and done.
TL:DR For All This
- The WordPress community is pretty inviting, and I should do more with it.
- Continue to refine my blog and the process for working on it.
- Think about switching over to .org eventually.
- My value can be as a storyteller, so I should continue to develop that.
- Click Publish on things that scare me — like approaching random groups at lunch.
- Learn more about HTML and CSS too.
If you’re in the DFW / Texas area and want to connect as WordPress users/fans, let me know. I’d definitely be down to do something.
Thanks again, DFW WordCamp.