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Events

Event Review: WordCamp Sydney

This event review is brought to you by Doug Millen, from our Fetch Community Ambassador team in Sydney.

WordCamp brings together WordPress end-users and developers to share good ideas for doing great things with WordPress. WordCamp events are held regularly all over the world, and on 21-22 July 2012, WordCamp came to the University of Sydney for two days of community-building, as well as fascinating insights and useful ways for using WordPress effectively. Here are eight lessons I learned from my weekend at WordCamp.

1. There’s a community doing great things with WordPress in Australia.

People came from all over Australia and New Zealand for WordCamp Sydney – this was no small weekend workshop. I was delighted to meet developers, users and business owners from everywhere, including Travis, a developer from Adelaide, who helped me to see that events like WordCamp bring a sense of belonging and connectedness for freelancers who thrive on spending time in a community of people who work with the same tools.

WordCamp Sydney has been great for bringing together a community of people who work with WordPress.

Travis Hensgen @_traversal

Between them, WordCamp organisers Dee, Tracey, Peter and Alison have travelled to four WordCamp events across Australia and New Zealand in the last 12 months – and now they’ve brought WordCamp to Sydney again. It really was inspiring to hear Dee talk about the excitement she feels in bringing together this group of people.

2. You can do pretty much anything with WordPress.

WordPress is the most popular CMS in the world (ref) – even the New York Times uses WordPress. Tony Cosentino showed off a plugin for nearly every purpose (but warned not to install too many). Sofia Woods shared principles and tools for building, managing, and maintaining communities with WordPress. Several other talks covered everything you might need from back-to front-end, including themes, extensions, SEO and commerce (all slides here).

3. Accessibility is important. Really important.

Some one in five Australians have some form of disability, but accessibility isn’t just about providing a ramp into a store for people with mobility difficulties. Accessibility is also about making websites and multimedia interactive and understandable for users with different abilities of sight, hearing and physical dexterity.

Joe Ortzenzi gave a super simple (and funny) walkthrough of the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines, with examples of poor design and accessibility and gave a few tips for making sites and online media more accessible:

  • Use alt tags to provide informative descriptions of photographs for users with impaired sight.
  • Add a ‘skip to content’ link on each site page so that users with screen readers don’t have to listen to the entire navigation sequence.
  • Use semantic structure in your code (title, h1, h2, em) so that even if your site doesn’t look pretty it still makes sense.

Joe recommended the great new Sydney-based service Access iQ for helping developers better understand and implement web accessibility standards.

4. When blogging, just write – focus on perfection is your worst enemy.

Kate Carruthers was full of useful tips on blogging, but two ideas stood out and everyone was relieved to hear them!

Blogs are full of ideas and thoughts captured in time. It’s not the end of the world if you don’t write a masterpiece – it’s about getting your content out there and starting discussion around it.

A blog is like a puppy: don’t get one if you can’t look after it properly.

Kate Carruthers @kcarruthers

Kate gave common sense advice for getting started with WordPress sustainably and carefully (and legally). Check out Kate’s slides for helpful resources.

5. You can make a visually appealing, functional site with WordPress.

Phil Peet teaches design at a TAFE in Sydney. In his talk he broke down the process of setting up a WordPress site into the simple things the casual user wants to get started with.

6. There are tools for WordPress that make SEO easy.

Lisa Davis laid everything out on the table – everything you need to take care of to ensure that search engines understand your site and connect you with the people you want to reach. Lisa explained how to use title, h1 and h2 tags (step 1: don’t ignore them), listed the best plugins for SEO on WordPress (Yoast was mentioned by multiple presenters), and reminded us to use 301 redirects and to place content on 404s so that we don’t lose visitors.

7. There’s is a lot that can be done on your server to speed up your site.

Good morning, freedom-lovers! began Jeff Waugh’s 3 pm high performance guide to WordPress. One of the strongest characters at WordCamp, Jeff gave insights into what goes on inside servers running WordPress, including how php works and how you can refine your server to your advantage. He recommended using nginx instead of apache to reduce the amount of shovelling that goes on. To keep things speedy, he suggests hosting web services and DNS close to your audience. This means don’t host from Texas if all of your visitors are in Melbourne and Sydney.

Give WordPress to someone you love.

Jeff Waugh @jdub

In one of his examples, Jeff used webpagetest.org to show site load times – pretty cool for exploring what parts of the entire process of loading your website are letting you down.

8. Become an expert in the tech you know and love.

Find a framework you can become great at and use it, rather than just being good at it – unless you really need the money!

Bronson Quick @bronsonquick

Bronson Quick is a bit of a WordPress pro and his advice was well-received! There was pretty strong representation of developers who use the Genesis framework (including co-organiser Dee). So it’s not just about WordPress – it’s themes, extensions like widgets and plugins, child themes, the list goes on…!

Connect
All presentation slides from the event are available on SlideShare and keep an eye out in The Fetch for future WordPress Sydney meet-ups.  A big thank you to Alison, Dee, Peter and Tracey for organising this event and having us along to WordCamp 2012. We’ll see you next year.

About our Ambassador // This article and photography were contributed by Community Ambassador Doug Millen. You can connect with Doug through his site dougmillen.org or on Twitter @dougsky.

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Interviews

Interview: Melbourne Local, Darren Rowse

Melbourne curator/founder Kate Kendall interviews Darren Rowse, aka ProBlogger – one of the biggest bloggers in the world (let alone Australia)! He’s also the founder of Digital Photography School and dad to three boys.

Name: Darren Rowse

Website: http://www.problogger.net and http://www.digital-photography-school.com

Twitter: @problogger

Works at: ProBlogger, Digital Photography School

What’s the biggest change you’ve seen in the online space over the past few years?

One that I’ve struggled with at times and that I see a lot of other bloggers grappling with is feeling overwhelmed by all of the new technologies and mediums that are constantly being launched.

We live in an exciting time with a constant stream of new ways to connect with others, share what we’re doing and seeing and as bloggers to build our audience.

While all this is great – it can also prove to be a real distraction for a blogger or online entrepreneur. The distraction can happen in two ways:

  • Feeling the pressure to have to be active on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Pinterest, StumbleUpon, Digg, YouTube, Posterous, Tumblr… etc. and not having any time left to actually do your core business.
  • Being overwhelmed by the options and pressure to have to participate in every form of social media and use every great new tool – and in the end opting out of them all and in the process missing some great opportunities.

I guess for me it has been a learning process to firstly identify my core business tasks and to prioritise them while also identifying which tools and mediums are best for my particular businesses and putting boundaries around how much time I’ll spend on them.

How much time do you spend online per week?

It would probably be almost easier to count the hours I’m not online in a given week. I’ve not really done the sums but I’m very connected and attempting to cut down.

My core work hours are 8.30am-5pm and then from 7.00pm-11pm on weekdays (I’m pretty good at taking weekends off) but I guess then there’s that iPhone thing that connects me in those other times!

What’s the hardest challenge you’ve had to face work-wise?

When I started blogging it was purely a hobby – something I did in lunch breaks, after work and on weekends because I loved to communicate and connect. There was no intention of it growing into a business. Over time I made the transition to it being a part time job and then into a full time job.

The biggest challenge I’ve faced in the last 3-4 years is how to grow what I’ve built to the next level – to take it from being an income earner (full time job) into a business.

I had no background in running a business but suddenly I was managing a team, not only juggling content creation but keeping the books, thinking about long term strategy and talking to other companies about partnerships.

Compounding this for me is that I’ve been fortunate to have two businesses do well – both ProBlogger and Digital Photography School have grown into great businesses (each with their own model) – so there’s a constant juggling act in working out where to focus there too.

I guess the challenge really is around growing a company and adapting your own skills and passions in the midst of that growth – something that has been (and is still) a very steep learning curve.

What’s the best thing about the blogging culture in Melbourne?

I love that in the last couple of years we’re seeing the Melbourne (and Aussie) blogosphere beginning to connect with each other in new ways. There are new events happening all the time and out of them we’re seeing bloggers begin to collaborate.

Having traveled through the US to different blogging events I know that the benefits of these face to face interactions will lead to some amazing partnership.

What are the ProBlogger Training Events about? 

In 2009 I was tweeting with a few Aussie bloggers and saying that we really should get together to do a day of training together. The reaction from others was great so on the spur of the moment I picked a date, booked a venue and put tickets on sale for what I thought would be a small event.

It sold out quickly and it became apparent that a lot of bloggers wanted to get together to learn and network.

In 2011 we ran it again and it continued to grow – in fact it was such an encouraging day that I got my team planning the next one immediately.

We’re running the 2012 event on 12-13 October at Etihad Stadium in Melbourne (or rooms at Etihad stadium… we’re not quite big enough for a full stadium event yet). The days will be focused on helping bloggers to build their blogs into businesses (through a variety of models).

We expect around 300 attendees and are booking some great speakers – both international and local. There will also be a great evening of networking on the 12 in an amazing Melbourne restaurant.

More info on this training event is at http://probloggerevents.com/problogger-training-event-save-this-date/ – tickets should go on sale in the coming weeks.

What’s next?  

My wonderful team are planning some exciting things in the coming months on both of my blogs. On dPS we’ll be further expanding our range of eBooks (we currently sell 9 but by the end of the year there will most likely be 12).

On ProBlogger this week we launched the 3rd edition of the ProBlogger book (a paper book… although it’s also out on Kindle and in iBooks). We’re also working on a couple of secret projects that I think will be useful to bloggers and those who want to connect with bloggers.

I’m also excited to be doing a little speaking in the coming months – both here at the Digital Parents Conference later in March and in the US at an event in October.

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Interviews

Interview: Melbourne Local, Trevor Young

Melbourne curator/founder Kate Kendall interviews Trevor Young, entrepreneur, writer, speaker and blogger also known as The PR Warrior!

Name: Trevor Young aka ‘The PR Warrior’

Website: trevoryoung.me

Twitter: @trevoryoung

Works at: Edelman Australia + I speak/write/blog

What was your first job?

Apart from stacking ‘clays’ on a dodgy clay pigeon machine at a shotgun shooting range (true story!) … my first ‘real’ job out of school was as a gofer/driver/publicist with ‘Young Talent Time’.

What’s the hardest challenge you’ve had to face work-wise?

Running a reasonably-sized PR agency of some 16-18 people (along with a business partner), and having a wide variety of clients and short-term projects on the go at any one time – the key challenge was to always have a pipeline full of client prospects; this was particularly difficult when you were personally on many of the accounts in one form or another. Of course this is a perennial issue faced by most professional services firms, especially if you’re always having to pitch for work which is a time-consuming business.

Who do you think is doing cool stuff in our industries?

I think locally, Valerie Khoo and the team from Sydney Writers’ Centre are virtually the complete package when it comes to using content and social media to connect with people and build a community of supporters for their brand. I love the fun, humorous and authentic approach Scott Kilmartin takes with his company Haul (for example, he promotes his pet boxer dog Gus as public ambassador for the brand). At the big end of town, Ford in the US has used social media to re-engineer not only the way it markets its brand but also how it designs its cars. In terms of individuals, Mari Smith, Danielle LaPorte, Chris Guillebeau, Gary Vaynerchuk and Problogger Darren Rowse are all showing how you can use content and socially-driven marketing techniques to build your personal brands on a global scale.

You’ve been blogging for a while and recently launched Bloghub.com.au – can you tell us about your publishing journey and what’s the mission behind the new site?

I think ‘journey’ is an apt word because that is what it’s been, lots to learn along the way. PR Warrior – my main blog which I started in mid-2007 – has always been a hub of experimentation, a local base for me professionally; I’m less concerned about attracting big numbers and more interested in building influence, reinforcing credentials and creating conversation around topics I’m interested in. Over time PR Warrior has ticked those boxes but you always need to be tending the ‘blogging’ garden as it were so expect a PR Warrior redesign in coming weeks!

BlogHUB was borne out of a view I held that Australia needed an online ‘heart’ for its emerging blogging movement. While BlogHUB started with a directory plus news and opinion posts and blogger profiles, I think over the next month or so I will pare it back to a more functional directory plus maybe a ‘Blog of the Week’-type profile. I’ve also written a free introductory e-book called ‘The MICRO MAVEN Manifesto’ which will be the forerunner to a new website/online community based around the concept of building a mini-business empire around your personal brand.

Do you classify yourself more as an entrepreneur or a consultant after starting your own agency and getting acquired by one of the big players?

Entrepreneur, definitely. I do consult, that’s largely my gig, but in my heart I’d say I’m an entrepreneur. I’ve started three businesses – two I’ve sold, one I’ve merged with a bigger organisation; I guess I’m just one of those people who is always looking to innovate and do things differently and if that leads to starting a business, then so be it. I must say I hang around lots of entrepreneurial types and do enjoy following their progress as they turn their ideas into reality.

What tips do you have for people looking to build their online presence, be it personal or for a business?

There are two intersecting elements you need to be active in – one, the ongoing creation of content that’s relevant, interesting, original and compelling – if it’s hard for you to tick all of those boxes, then become skilled at filtering information and curating content – become the go-to person for your particular specialist area or niche (or as Edelman’s Steve Rubel likes to say: “separating art from junk in the vast sea of digital content”).

Secondly, get involved – participate, connect – online and offline. Attend events, hold meet-ups, grab coffee with people who you’ve connected with online.

To build your personal brand today, unless you’ve got a TV or radio show, you are going to need to create a platform for your work, your opinions, content and ideas, be it blog-based, a podcast, online video show etc. Chris Brogan has an interesting series going about this that’s worth checking out –> http://www.chrisbrogan.com/platform01/

What’s next?

Getting the new-look PR Warrior and BlogHUB website up and running is my immediate priority, followed by launching ‘The MICRO MAVEN Manifesto’ e-book and accompanying website; I’ve got a few speaking gigs coming up which is nice plus my consulting work and blogging – so enough to keep me out of mischief!

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