On Saturday I spent the day at the UBS tower in donwtown Chicago, hanging out with a bunch of Wordress geeks and soon to be WordPress geeks at the Wordcamp Chicago event. I was originally supposed to head down with Kasia from TrainSignalTraining.com, but she had a schedule conflict so I headed down all by my lonesome.
Since I live in the suburbs, I had about a 40 minute drive and parked at the Zacuto offices, which was almost a huge mistake, but more on that later. A quick walk over to UBS tower and up to the second floor, to a nice assortment of breakfast type foods and registration.
Luckily the line was short so I was able to get through quickly and grab my bag and conference schwag. All in all a nice set of schwag with a t-shirt andSkype headset (with free minutes). I started looking around because I needed to meet up with Brian Artka, to give him a loaner rig of Zacuto equipment so he could do video interviews. I saw some samples of the work he did at SXSW and thought he might like to use a DSLR Tactical Shooter rig to reduce some of the camera shake. He found me since I was sporting my Zacuto hat and we worked on setting up his Canon 5D MkII with the rig. I got a picture of him later in the day interviewing some of the guys from ServerBeach:
Wow this has become a lengthy post without even getting to the actual sessions. Lets go ahead and dive in shall we? ( I know FINALLY!) Note that I am not going to do a verbatim or live blogging type review, just my *own* takeaways from the speakers. YMMV if you were there and got something different, feel free to leave a comment below.
The morning started out with Brian Gardner kicking us off with a few words and a rock song called “BlogStar” to get the blood thumping. From there we went right into the first session.
First session speaker is Liz Strauss and I was looking for a strong start to the day. I think Liz’s presentation was well written and delivered very well, but I don’t know if the target was right on for a crowd at Wordcamp. It seemed like a very high level delivery like you would give to a group of executives without really talking about the nuts and bolts. This seemed to be the consensus among those at my table, and a few on twitter, but maybe I am off base.
Next up was Doug Hannah who works for Automattic on the WordPress Showcase. This was actually very informative as I really never paid attention much to the Showcase, but from his presentation and some of the back channel discussion on Twitter I can think of a few ways to use it moving forward when talking to clients about options using WordPress.
For the third speaker, up came Jeremy Wright from b5media. This was one of the first sessions that came closer to what I expected out of Wordcamp. A frank discussion of actually USING WordPress… even if is it WordPressMU! I have been a big fan of WordPressMU for a long time and always felt it was the red headed step child of WordPress for the way it was ignored for so long. It is great that it has finally started to garner the respect it deserves and getting attention both by the developers and end users. I even have a draft of a post on how to install WordPressMU on IIS 7 that is just waiting for me to finish when I have time. I enjoyed Jeremy’s presentation very much and it is impressive what they have done with b5media properties moving from 350+ WordPress installations to one WordPressMU installation. They will also be releasing some of their internal plugins to the world in the near future.
Lunch was next on the agenda and provided by Wordcamp. Standard sandwiches and sides, nothing special but tasty. The only complaint is that lunch went a little long because they were ahead of schedule and while I got to talk some shop I would have liked to get back into it quicker.
Erin Blaskie was the first speaker after lunch about being an internet celebrity. Now not to knock Erin, but I had never heard of her before, though that is probably because my internet celebrities are more on the tech side. When I think Internet Celebrity I think Calacanis, Arrington, Mullenweg, but I am sure this list changes for everyone. She discussed a case study she was releasing at Wordcamp publicly for the first time, and I thought it was interesting but had a few issues. One being that Alexa is not anyting I would think someone should use as a “measurement” of success, instead of true traffic numbers of growth over an amount of time. The second issue I had was that she still hasnt turned a profit on it, so the case study has not really proved anything has it? She got some cool things, but anyone who blogs long enough in a vertical will get some cool stuff if you are active, but it still hasn’t made her a dime. I think there is a good foundation and I do believe she can turn a profit in that vertical, but I think maybe the case study was released prematurely.
Micah Baldwin come on next and presented a good discussion on the steps to build trust from your users. A more interesting point for me was that Micah created #followfriday on twitter, and was talking about how he has been trying to reform it to what he originally envisioned. I wish him luck in that venture for sure because right now it is sorely broken. Micah was a very entertaining speaker and I enjoyed his humor and honesty.
David Dalka spoke next on SEO matters, and I thought it was a good discussion all around. Kind of surprised at the general lack of good SEO discussion from some bloggers I talked to and I think regular bloggers rely too much on the published and republished articles that are circulating Sphinn and other “SEO” news outlets. Not enough are doing their own testing to see what works and doesn’t. I am surprised that David asked for people to link to a site just to see the effect in the SERPs.
I had to leave at that point, but I heard that the last speaker Kevin Palmer was very informative. It was a good thing that I left at that point, because when I got back to my office the external doors were locked, not something that I knew happened. Since my car was in the basement parking lot and most of the Zacuto crew that lives downtown were in LA for Cinegear, I was in a mild start of panic as I imagined what my wife would say when she would have to drive down to pick me up. Luckily someone left the building at just that moment and I got in, if I had stayed for Kevin’s session I would have been stuck, so it was a good call on my part to leave at that time. I am also sorry to miss the Morton’s meet up, I would have loved to socialize a bit more and meet some more of the Wordcampers.
I enjoyed Wordcamp, but I am sort of surprised at the lack of WordPress specific content. This could have easily been a conference on blogging/content, but with it supposedly WordPress centric the content decidedly wasn’t. Again, it wasn’t bad content, quite the contrary, but just not what I expected.