WordCamp 2011

I’m at the Eliot Center in Portland, Oregon for WordCamp Portland 2011. The keynote was just starting as I arrived, so this may start out a little rushed.

Key ideas out of the keynote (Scott Berkun @ Automattic):

  • Without content, you don’t have a blog. The point of a blog is to post.
  • Automattic, the folks who drive WordPress, use almost no email, and are effectively all remote workers (they have an office, but it’s generally pretty empty). Instead they use IRC, Skype, and blogs running the P2 theme.
  • If you average 1 post per comment, you’re ahead of the curve.
  • Group blogs get more traffic, because when you first start, blog traffic is driven by the people you know: more authors means more networks that are getting tapped.
  • Slow growth is the reality of a blog: don’t be discouraged if you don’t get a lot of traffic right away, just keep posting on a regular basis.
  • They started a daily post challenge, and they’re getting good info about ways to make posting regularly easier. Some of which is already hitting WordPress in 3.2 and 3.3
  • Figuring out a “Post Post” page. The act of posting should be exciting and encourage the user, instead of just a little line at the top saying “Successfully posted.” They’re experimenting with pulling stats about how long it took to write your post, how many subscribers you just published to, how many twitter followers you just broadcast the post to, et cetera, and give you a more rewarding experience.
  • There are 60 million wordpress installs, half of which are on wordpress.com.
  • Something to consider: a doc for new bloggers that says “What you should expect in the first 30 days of your blog.”
  • They use a lot of live-site A/B testing (keeping the experience good for people is important, but exposing new experiences on the live code seems to get more real-world metrics).
  • WordPress.com tends to be the proving grounds for new features, and where possible, those then get rolled into wordpress.org (sometimes into core, sometimes into a plugin, and they’re pushing JetPack as a catch-all plugin to house these features).
  • Project Management is largely about respect and trust (both ways). Developers need to respect and trust the PM, and the PM needs to respect and trust the devs.
  • Longer and shorter posts both have benefits: longer posts are more engaging, but are read less — the TLDR effect. Shorter posts get a higher read count and keep people coming back regularly.

And now we’re getting ready for the unconference session scheduling (Cami is explaining the process)… and now the mad rush to put up sessions on the board begins! (I’m hoping someone will have a session on coping with the Second Year Slump, but not enough to put it up myself.)

Using WordPress as MVC (Using WordPress as an application development framework):

  • There are apparently some interesting hooks and code within WordPress already present
  • The presenter was able to convince his team to switch to WordPress for their web application backend (vs Rails or similar), because WordPress basically does a lot of the annoying things for you
  • A lot of other options out there (Plone, Rails, Django, etc) are really customizable, which is great, but sometimes you don’t want to re-invent the wheel for your basic interface materials every time. Maybe you don’t need that level of customization. At that point, having a tool that has an opinion to express in their experience, like WordPress (where they’ve spent considerable time and resources making a lot of their interface very useable and clean).
  • The name of the session was a bit of misnomer: it’s not a replacement for MVC (awww), but it IS a solid application framework.
  • Check out WP Alchemy for some useful custom field handling.
  • “How do you mitigate using a platform that can change on you between updates?” — they avoid custom DB queries and other custom changes to core. By using stock functions wherever possible (and then small utility functions where extension is needed), it helps mitigate using an actively changing backend.
  • Constraints are your friend: if you are explicit about what you are using, you reduce developer chaos, and makes it WAY easier to maintain.
  • Stuff still happens: they’ve not moved to 3.2 yet because of changes to the metabox tools they’re using. (Minor releases tend to go out right away, bigger ones are delayed to make sure everything is working.)
  • Use logs! Get it logging to somewhere you can check, and check them regularly. It’s not enough to say “Well, it’s loading, that’s good enough.” It’s entirely possible for a page to load, but throw several warnings or errors with issues that could choke your site under load.
  • A key takeaway: Be kind to yourself, and be kind to your content creators.

The official schedule is now online.

Second Year Slump: What to do when it’s no longer shiny:

  • Moderated discussion rather than presentation: no one has a perfect answer, so let’s hear some ideas
  • (Since it’s more conversational, been harder to liveblog, sorry!)
  • Create a schedule of drafts that will post whether you post or not, so you’re driven to fill them in before they post.
  • A post can be three sentences (or even one)! It’s okay to have a short post!
  • Avoid self-censoring! Sometimes what you think was the crap post gets the most comments and people like it.
  • Switch media: if you’re stuck on writing, post a video, post a picture, or some sort of audio post.
  • Federate! Engage other bloggers via your blog rather than comments, create a dialogue.

Lunch. Pasta this time — in the past it’s generally been Nicholas’s, but pasta is good too. I also checked in for my t-shirt, but apparently a few too many people collected my size. I was asked to come back towards the end of the day in case more of the right size shows up, and if not they’ll order more and mail it to me. These things happen, not too worried.

Andrew Nacin: You Don’t Know Query (WP_Query):

  • In general, don’t use query_posts, use wp_query! Please!
  • Everyone uses queries, but very few folks really know how or what it’s doing.
  • Query is ridiculously robust, and is the core part of a loop. You can also run multiple queries, to create very precise, custom loops for content.
  • wp_query is actually a reference to a more obscure wp_the_query
  • When we load wordpress, before we load the theme, it already queries for a list of posts. Yep, before the theme loads, wordpress already has all your posts queried.
  • This means there’s actually a whole lot of querying going on, which isn’t super efficient. There are better ways to do this!
  • WP_Query is robust and lets you lets you manipulate the object and use conditional tags without having to re-query.
  • Something new in 3.3: is_main_query
  • Neat flowchart as to different query methods (and why you should generally use wp_query): bit.ly/wpsequery

Music Blogs:

  • There’s the question of how to link to the music you want to review or expose, but doing it legally/safely.
  • The flip side is that artists often don’t want (or can’t due to publisher agreements) it streamed.
  • There aren’t many good solutions right now: it would be nice to have a clean plugin that stores music securely and then only exposes that song via stream.
  • Observations has been that you need to not worry about the downloading — if it’s streamable, it’s collectable, period.
  • Check out TopSpin for audio management. Creates promotion with tracks as reward. (Trading music for an audience.)
  • GigPress is still kind of the best plugin option for handling events/scheduling.
  • Most people tend not to make money on the music, they make money on touring and the merchandise and licensing.
  • Check out Press75 for some of the stuff happening with oEmbed for showing video.

Snacktime! Delicious fried berry pie, provided by @Whiffies. As an aside: I randomly came across a show while wandering N Mississippi with Jade back in July. One of the bands in that show was The Doubleclicks, and we thoroughly enjoyed their set. In true Portland small-world fashion, I totally just bumped into Angela from The Doubleclicks at the music blogs session.

The Personal Blog in 2011: Beyond Cat Photos:

  • Aaron Hockley is presenting, mostly because it’s relevant to his life.
  • Back in the day, blogs used to be really casual, just done haphazardly on geocities and livejournal and similar.
  • He’s been paring back on his blogs, came to the realization that a lot could be put back into a personal blog.
  • What sites he was finding himself going to was interesting writers with a small handful of topics, ends up being more of an evolved personal blog.
  • These broad-topic, semi-personal sites are more engaging and exciting to read.
  • The new “personal blog” is the consolidated blog — the personality-driven blog with a handful of topics.
  • Usage is medium-long form articles — there are gallery sites for photography (500px) and Twitter for status updates.
  • The reality is that while keeping topics separate makes some sense, it’s harder to generate the personality, and often there is a lot of overlap between interests, so why not run with that?
  • Personal identity is becoming increasingly important, and self-hosting means self-managing your identity.
  • Question Posed: Generating revenue is more straightforward on a targeted site.
  • Aaron’s gut feeling is that it’s not as easy but could be more rewarding overall.
  • Some debate over whether to just post everything into the same stream hodgepodge, or to offer feeds per category, and allowing users to decide what things they’re going to follow. (I’m inclined to say offer both.)
  • The goal of the personal blog these days is to consolidate, condense, and make it easier to create a relationship with the user.
  • [As an aside: a lot of this is line with the philosophy of IndieWebCamp]
  • The question: “If it’s your personal blog, why would you want to monetize that?” “Why not?” Longer answer: if it’s relevant monetization (amazon links/etc for a book or camera or whatever is being talked about), it’s not intrusive or bad.
  • “Do you want big numbers, or do you want more engagement?” (Targeted silos of content get more subscribers, but personal blogs get more engagement from the subscribers they do have.)
  • As you go more personal, where do you censor yourself, not necessarily in your own interest, but out of respect for those around you that may not be comfortable with information about them discussed online.
  • Personal blogs can be useful from a business perspective as well: the authenticity carries over, people DO research the people behind the brands, and tend to do more business with those who they can align with personally.

Last session for today (this is getting long enough that I’ll do tomorrow as a separate post).

Blogging for Photographers:

  • Mislabeled: actually about proofing via blogs.
  • Using WordPress as an online proofing manager.
  • (Another example of what we’re talking about is SmugMug or ZenFolio.)
  • What do we want out of a proofing service? @TheFrosty (running the session) is looking into building one and would like input.
  • Want: flagging for corrections (marking an image as desired, but needing touchups or other corrections).
  • Having some method of rating that can be shared between multiple proofers.
  • Having some method for sorting proofs, so you can show “photographer’s picks” and similar.
  • Lightroom plugins exist, finding some way to piggyback on that for image uploading would be great.

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