If you’re interested in all the presentations from WordCamp Raleigh 2014, or at least all the ones I’ve been able to find, head here.
Not only was this the first WordCamp I’ve ever attended, it was the first practical, non-“business-y” conference I’ve attended in years. And I loved it. The people were friendly, the food was good and the sessions were informative and inspiring. All for $35. I’m kicking myself for having never been before and am promising myself to attend as many as possible. Ruby Sinreich also has some great thoughts on the sessions she attended that you should check out as well.
- The first presentation of the day may have been one of the best, for me. Anthony Navarro covered everything from how to get started with a web development business, the tools to use to run that business and how to reinvest in your business. He also stressed how important it is to find a niche, be it churches, restaurants or gunsmiths. My takeaway: it’s time to get started.
- Jake Aull’s session on SEO was packed with information and Jake is clearly a bright guy in this industry. But the breadth of the topic seemed a bit too much for the time allotted. It might have been better to hone in one one particular aspect of SEO for blogs and go deep on that. As it was, he passed along great advice on how to get started with clients and finding what information is already out there about them that can be leveraged. He also had some great tips on pairing long tail keywords and phrases that people are searching to the products and services your client is offering. My takeaway: SEO is still a huge and confusing field to many people and there’s an opportunity to help explain it.
- Next up was Michael McNeill who talked about some of the “aha” moments in beginning WordPress development. I enjoyed the topic he was speaking on and it got me excited to dive back in to the nitty gritty of site building. Michael offered some key points on utilizing the Codex and switching to using Vagrant over MAMP/WAMP. I thought he maybe spent a bit too much time covering the template rendering hierarchy and similar details, especially since they are available for reading right on the Codex. I would have liked to hear a bit more about his personal experiences working on the massive multisite install at UNC. My takeaway: search the Codex first, then Google it.
- Dee Teal drew great parallels between physical home ownership and digital home ownership. From insurance (backing up) to pest control (spam) to maintenance (keeping your install and plugins updated), there was solid advice all around. My takeaway: operating a WordPress site involves more than just the “fun” stuff.
- A bit of a niche subject, but building real estate websites is interesting to me and Eddie Burroughs talked about just that. He made some good points about utilizing the knowledge of others in your RE office and how to choose your audience. He also recommended some resources such as IDX plugins and general WordPress best practices. My takeaway: the real estate industry is still a compelling one and WordPress is a great solution.
- Having worked at a nonprofit for the last two and a half years, I was looking forward to Melodie Laylor’s session. She covered many of the best practices and difficulties in working with nonprofits. Melodie seems extremely well-versed in the WordPress ecosystem and had some strong ideas on how to help these organizations out, particularly the smaller ones. I was hoping though that she’d offer some advice on how to deal with what is generally the largest obstacle, which is budget. My takeaway: working with nonprofits continues to be a challenging but worthwhile endeavor.
- Day 2 started with Kelly Phillips and “5 Things You Shouldn’t Do With a WordPress Plugin”. This was definitely the most fun and dynamic presentation of the weekend, check out her slides if you don’t believe me. A lot of her advice boiled down to “you can copy some code in to a box in WordPress instead of using a plugin” but that doesn’t make it any less valuable. My takeaway: think before you install that plugin!
- Steve Mortiboy presented on getting started with WordPress development. I had the same feeling here as I did on the SEO session, it’s a very broad topic to try and cover in small time. It was a good overview of page templates, template tags, theme functions and filters and it did accomplish the goal of inspiring me to dig in development. My takeaway: the Codex knows all.
- The last presentation of the weekend was by Cole Watts who talked about using offline opportunities to help your online identity and rank. Cole has clearly thought about and practiced much of what he spoke about and had great examples to demonstrate, something I always appreciate. My takeaway: find more ways to get involved locally.
So there it is. I feel like I attended mostly the right sessions for me. The Beginner, Power User and Developer tracks made it a little hard to decide on which to go to but I suspect there’s always going to be some conflict of which talk to attend. Fortunately, most presenters make their slides available and we were told the videos would be on wordpress.tv soon.