(with apologies to Bill Bennett for writing 5 times his suggested word limit)
The second WordCampNZ took place over the weekend (7-8 August 2010) in Auckland. I had never been to a WordCamp, basically an (un-) conference for WordPress users and developers, before. Shortly after learning that I would be moving to New Zealand, I checked whether there would one. Luckily there was going to be one already organized in August. Once I knew whether I would have the time to go from Wellington to Auckland, I booked my ticket.
Jason Kemp, one of the organizers besides Anthony Cole and Dan Milward, kept everybody perfectly informed about new speakers, the venue, and also how many days were left till the beginning so that nobody could miss to book a flight and accommodation if needed.
Saturday was the first day of WordCampNZ 2010 held at Unitec on Mt. Albert. We had two conference strands: One with a great mix of topics and the other one more developer-oriented. I spent most of my time in the main conference room.
There was a livestream for some time, but as the Wifi could not manage it, it had to be cut off more than it was up and running. However, Vicky Teinaki kept us and the rest of the world completely informed about what was going on in the sessions that she attended. She is amazing at live microblogging and earned her specialty coffee and reusable coffee mug well.
Here’s a quick run through the sessions that I attended. It was not until a couple of sessions in that I started to take photos. Due to critical editing not all made it to Flickr and I apologize to all speakers whom I did not capture in pixels and only mention here in the text.
Robert Popovic – BuddyPress live & other advanced topics
Rob gave a thorough introduction to BuddyPress and its features. Although I had of course already heard about BuddyPress, mainly from Jim Groom who uses it at the University of Mary Washington along his WordPress MU, but I had never had the chance to put my hands on it myself.
Take-home message: BuddyPress is a powerful tool that I need to check out.
Rachel Cunliffe – Blog designer and community site designer – Custom themes
Rachel deals with custom themes on a daily and often nightly basis as many of her clients are overseas. In her opinion, the biggest challenge is not the theme design itself, but dealing with people’s content and making it easy for them to add further content. “Nice” and “easy” are the two terms that pop up most often when she talks to clients who come to her for a better web site.
Although WordPress can be used as CMS, she advises to use Drupal or any other CMS as they bring in the desired functionality natively and not via plugins (potential security vulnerabilities, compatibility issues).
Take-home message: Small things can actually define the entire design process of a theme and often require that a theme is written from scratch to make it easy to handle in the end.
Courtney Lambert – Social Media and Blogging for Corporates
I had first started out in the technical strand and thus missed Courtney’s beginning (thanx to her uploading her slides, I can view them anyway). However, I was happy that I switched sessions and could listen to Courtney’s presentation. One of the many things that stuck: New Zealanders are increasingly using social media to interact with brands and to support their purchase decision making. The key term here is “interact”. Social media should never be used as a one-way street by a company, but always regarded as a conversation. Participate and don’t broadcast. That new thinking is often still difficult for companies as they are not used to it and have not planned for resources to fulfill that role.
Courtney did not only give her presentation, but also interacted actively with us, the audience, when she played “Oprah’s awesomest fruit” game with us. We were divided into 3 groups and had 4 minutes time to come up with a pitch for our fruit (apple, orange, lemon) to Oprah aka Courtney to make it to her show and become famous instantly. The game showed us the following:
- think outside of the box and don’t cling to what’s in front of you and what you are used to
- think big because you need to get attention and have to compete with others
- you need to engage the person you are pitching to into a conversation to gain their attention
- the person you are pitching to usually doesn’t have any time, only half-listens and you are pitching at the same time as many others -> you need to stand out
- make yourself available on as many channels as possible and be contactable
Take-home message: If you engage in social media in a company, you need to provide for a community manager and make resources available as this job takes time and dedication.
Michael Brandon – SEO 101 – Search phrase selection especially for WordPress
Michael knows all about search engine optimization and shared his knowledge with us. SEO is often also increasing usability of a site by putting content at the top of the page and not hiding it at the bottom.
He said it’s not so much about individual words than it is about search phrases because most people don’t search individual words, but entire phrases. Furthermore, if you get your SEO right for Google, you are pretty much covered.
A common mistake people make is to not put the search phrase on their web page. Apparently, that’s a SEO no-go and should be corrected as quickly as possible if you want to increase your listing spot.
Nowadays when your site is listed as #2 on Google, you are basically #1 because hardly ever can anybody beat Wikipedia that dominates the throne.
Take-home message: SEO is also improvement of usability of a web site and not just pushing a site up on the result list in a search engine.
Richard Hollingum – TEDxAuckland – Making a difference
Richard Hollingum from the Deapartment of Doing (what a cool company name) shared with us his experience of organizing TEDxAuckland, being at TED himself several years ago and having taken up again the organization of TEDxAuckland that’s coming up on September 26, 2010.
TED and TEDx events are all about “ideas worth spreading”. Richard, however, wants to take it a step further after having seen that people wanted to continue the conversation last year beyond the event. He wants to include “ideas worth doing” and therefore charges an entrance fee for this year’s TEDxAuckland to get the seed money for supporting a cause.
Take-home message: Inspiration is good (and can be bought for $15 from the Department of Doing) and necessary, but it should not end there. Keep the dialogue and engagement going.
Quintin Russ – WordPress and you – Security tips for 2010
Quintin’s presentation was the best scariest presentation I have ever heard. He talked about how to make a WordPress installation (or for that matter any installation) more secure. It was scary because it showed that you live in constant danger of falling pray to security vulnerabilities and other exploits.
Quintin’s talk was very technical, but I could follow except for the occasional abbreviation or something like “hash with a salt” (What? Make hashbrowns with salt? Well that’s a given 😉 ). His target audience was site hosts and server admins who need to make sure that the installations run smoothly.
But what can a normal WordPress user already do without spending her / his entire day monitoring web sites that publish updates about security vulnerabilities and without needing a diploma in techspeak?
- update, update, update
- don’t use “admin” as any user and use strong passwords -> use KeePassX, for example, to manage your passwords
- write your blog posts with the least privileges because you don’t need admin rights to write
- read OWASP
- Google every plugin you intend to install to find out what others are saying about it and whether there are security issues related to it; you can check the Exploit Database for that as well
- intrusion detection software / plugins are not free of vulnerabilities as they are just plugins themselves -> don’t trust them blindly
Quintin had many more useful tips, but if a normal user follows the ones above, s/he is already well ahead of the majority.
Take-home message: Everybody who has a WordPress installation, should know basics of web site security and do her / his share to ensure a site’s security.
Part 2 and Part 3 to come.
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