I have been so busy this week that I haven’t had time to write about wordcamp. Lots of work these days and then on Wednesday, I got my 2 top wisdom teeth pulled. K came with me (thank you K!) and we had to wait for an hour in the waiting room, and then what seemed like forever in the dentist room. I cried. I have a hard time going to the dentist. After almost two hours of waiting, the dentist pulled my teeth in about 5 minutes. I didn’t feel a thing, but the noise was pretty sick. It doesn’t hurt too bad as long as I take tylenol and don’t eat food that requires chewing.
This weekend, I went to Wordcamp 2007 in San Francisco. It was even better than last year. Surrounded by wordpress geeks. In some ways, I like it better than macworld. There are not too many things that I like better than macworld. Wordcamp is smaller and more focused. Lucky for me, it is focused on some of my favorite things.
Saturday morning started out with a session about podcasting given by Dan Kuykendall, author of the podpress plugin for wordpress. I had no idea how much that plugin can do! It is very easy to insert a podcast into a post. Podpress will auto-detect media type, size, and length, as well as provide options for how to play and display the podcast in your post. Podpress also enables you to set different settings per category. Nice.
Next was a very cool discussion about blogs vs. journalism led by John Dvorak and Om Malik. It was very interesting and covered a lot of ground. The discussion started off looking at the perceptions that people have about blogs and whether blogs are a replacement for journalism, an addition to journalism, or are journalism in themselves. Also discussed were the role of comments and how the appearance of a blog can affect its credibility. Dvorak said that people might discount a site just because it looks like a blog without even bothering to read it, while if that same content was placed into a different layout and design, it would be perceived as more credible. There were a few good suggestions about holding off on publishing content immediately. Om Malik suggested stepping away form what you wrote for 15 minutes before posting it and John Dvorak suggested reading out loud (for real, not pretending to read it out loud in your head) because your ears will catch things that your eyes missed. Om suggested having your computer read it to you. It was recommended that people learn about journalism & libel law, and what words are okay to use and which aren’t.
After lunch came one of my favorite sessions of all, Kicking Ass Content Connections with Lorelle VanFossen. I have read some of Lorelle’s writings about wordpress over the years, but never got to see her speak before. She was nothing at all like I imagined. She was a little older, a lot funnier, and had a completely different attitude in general than I would have thought. Hearing her speak made me want to go back and read more of her writings. She spoke about her book, Blogging Tips, writing good content, general tips for blogging, and spam management. It was all very interesting. Some blogging tips she shared were to not publish a post immediately, to show people a story in a new way, to make a personal connection to your readers, and to leave something left to talk about by blogging only part of an idea. My favorite tip of all was to not write for your 8th grade teacher.
Next was a session about blog monetization which was not quite as informative as I was hoping it would be and then a session led by Lloyd Budd and Mark Jaquith called Getting Involved with WordPress. I liked that one a lot. I really like to give back to the wordpress developers and community whenever possible. Some suggestions they had for getting involved were submitting good bug reports, including a patch in the bug report, writing documentation for the codex or making helpful screencasts, and answering support forum questions.
Robert Hoekman, Jr. led the next session, Designing the Obvious, which was based on his book of the same name. He spoke about surfacing the important elements of a site by eliminating things that are non-essential and using graphics to encourage interaction in place of “useless” graphics so that people can find what they are looking for very quickly.
The last session of the day was Whitehat SEO Tips for Bloggers led by Matt Cutts from Google. Matt had some good SEO tips that included thinking about keywords that people are typing into the search box and using those words, variations of the words, synonyms, and plurals in a natural way, using dashes instead of underscores or spaces (underscores work like dashes in google, but not in other search engines), and using alt tags on images, but of course we are all doing that anyway for accessibility reasons 😉
My favorite google factoids of the day were about how google treats certain characters in urls. Question marks are treated like regular urls, but will not get crawled if there are more than 2 or 3 parameters. Google truncates urls at a hash mark.
People went out for drinks at Lucky 13 afterwards, but I was all out of energy for being with people and also I missed K, so I went home.
Sunday morning started off with a session called HyperDB and High Performance WordPress led by Barry Abrahamson and Matt Mullenweg. It was extremely interesting, but hard to conceive of the actual reality of running blogs or blog networks with the kinds of traffic they were talking about.
Some statistics comparing different caching methods:
- Un-tuned LAMP Stack
- Linux, Apache 2, PHP 4 or 5, MySQL 4.1 or 5.0
- 8 requests/second
- 691,200 pageviews/day
- APC – Alternative PHP Cache
- 12 requests/second
- 1,036,800 pageviews/day
- 50% performance increase
- 300 requests/second
- 25,920,000 pageviews/day
- 25X performance increase
Matt talked about HyperDB which was above and beyond my level of database understanding, but sounded pretty cool anyway. He made my favorite quote from wordcamp, which was “Only make new mistakes”. I like that. If only I could actually do it!
A few helpful hints about what to do if you get slashdotted or dugg:
- Disable plugins until the site stops crashing
- Use WP-Cache
- Sometimes, switching to lighttpd or something similar can fix it.
- In your .htaccess file, deny everyone except your own ip access so you can work on the site
Jeremy Zilar from the New York Times talked about the blogs at the Times which run on wordpress. There are currently 30 – 40 active blogs that all run on a single wordpress install and primarily use a single template. After that, Rashmi Sinha spoke about designing massively multiplayer social systems. People seemed quite interested in this, but it was lost on me.
Next was a BBQ lunch from Memphis Minnie’s which looked quite delicious if you weren’t a vegetarian. For the veg’s, there was mac and cheese, potato salad, greens, and cornbread. Unfortunately I am not so good at eating dairy and didn’t like the greens, but the cornbread was excellent.
After lunch was a musical interlude by Andy Skelton followed by a session called Past, Present, and Future of Web Publishing led by Dave Winer, author of the Scripting News. My brain was still out to lunch so I do not remember much of what went on, but there was an interesting discussion about creating future safe archives. It is something I think about. Hard to know what the best way is. Paper? Tape? Stone? Someone said that the library of congress was archiving things onto 78rpm records because you can play them just by putting something sharp in the groove and spinning them.
Next was an excellent session led by Liz Danzico, an information architect with Happy Cog called How Not To Get Noticed, an analysis of the usability for WordPress. She spoke a lot about the wordpress administration interface and changes that are coming to it in version 2.4 based on usability studies.
Liz said that people don’t notice good design and that bad design forces people to do things to change that design. Also that users don’t care what designers intended and will get frustrated if something doesn’t work in the way that they expect. As an example of those concepts, she talked about ‘desire lines’ such as the dirt paths made by people who want to get from point A to point B the quickest way rather than using the paths designed by architects for that same journey.
Many of the idea for changes came directly from the ideas and kvetch sections of wordpress.org. People want the dashboard to be different by focusing more on incoming and outgoing information such as referrers, comments, and stats.
One very interesting thing that happened during the usability tests was when they tried to emulate the more graphic object oriented interface style that is so popular now with many socially oriented websites, and also in use on the iPhone. They organized the wordpress admin by nouns instead of by verbs and added a media library. Turned out that wordpress users really hated it, including Matt. I think I would hate it too. Based on that discovery, they cleaned up the primary tasks and the navigation section in the admin area rather than rewriting it. Why fix something that works fine?
Matt gave the State of the Word after that. He is a great speaker and embodies the enthusiasm of the wordpress community. He spoke about bbPress, accomplishments in the past year, and the future of wordpress. He spoke about wordpress becoming a platform and asked the audience what they thought the most important feature of a platform was: stability, speed, security, or flexibility? Most people, including me, voted for security, but Matt said that flexible platforms have the best track record of staying around and moving forward.
Things to come in version 2.3 are plugin update notification which will tell you if a plugin is compatible with an upgrade and if a new version is available, tags, and an improved draft and pending system where there will be more options for categorizing unpublished posts such as ‘submit for review’ and ‘awaiting review’. Not so coincidentally, these things are at the top of the most popular ideas wordpress.org page.
The last session of the day was the Developer Duke-out with Michael Adams, Ryan Boren, Mark Jaquith, and Andy Skelton. It was an interesting format where either Matt or someone from the audience would ask a question, and each person would answer it. One question asked was whether wordpress and wordpress mu should be combined. I don’t think it is a very good idea because it adds extra complication and is more than most people will ever need. Andy said that he thought they should be combined because they are almost the same, Mark said that they shouldn’t because wpmu requires server access that most people don’t have, Donncha said no because it is harder to install and needs mod_rewrite and wildcard subdomains which hosts might not support, and also that it has a layer that is unnecessary if you are running just one or 2 blogs.
What is everyones favorite theme? Sandbox, of course. What would they use if they didn’t use wordpress? Andy votes for a moleskin notebook, Mike votes for either nothing or nothing, Donncha would use an ftp text file or write his own cms, and Mark would either use textpattern or write his own.
There was a split down the middle for choice of php version. Mark and Mike vote for PHP4 and Donncha and Andy for PHP5. I was kind of surprised by the votes for PHP4, but someone mentioned that most worpdpress features do not really need PHP5, so there is no need to involve wordpress users in that particular war.
I was sad when it all ended and very tired. There is nothing like being surrounded by so many geeks, especially geeks with such similar geekularities as me. I met some nice people including Jessi Hance, who I only knew through this site before, Estelle Weyl who has a cool blog about random things of interest to webgeeks, and Daniel Brusilovsky, a high school sophomore who does a podcast called Apple Universe. I learned lots of new things and had an excellent time. I wish wordcamp happened twice a year.