WordCamp Melbourne 2013
I came across WordCamp Melbourne by chance. Details of the event just happened to be retweeted by the right person at the right time. I clicked through, and was intrigued by the whole thing. I wasn’t sure how worthwhile it would be to me as a blogger, but considering the $50 price tag – and all that it included [lunch on both days, as well as food and drinks at the mid-conference after party] – I figured that it wouldn’t hurt to check it out.
WordCamp Melbourne had two streams – one for ‘Developers’, and one for ‘Users’. Unfortunately, this left very little middle ground for those of us who are competent WordPress users, but nowhere near the developer level. Many of the ‘Blogger and User Stream’ talks were clearly aimed at beginners – people will little-to-no knowledge of the platform – and left me feeling quite bored. Unsurprisingly, the first talk of the day, ‘WordPress 101’ was one such topic, as was the following ‘Sexy WordPress – How To Choose the Right Theme’. One of the tips they gave was to look up lists of good themes on Google. Surely most people would figure that one out themselves!
Things began to look up after morning tea. Michael McKinnon’s ‘Hackers Ahoy! Batten Down the Hatches‘ was a helpful and informative guide to maintaining the security of your site. ‘Recognising the Cycles of Blogging’ wasn’t quite as good, as the content of the seminar didn’t accurately reflect its title. In fact, throughout the weekend there was very little on offer about the act of blogging itself, which is something that I hope can be improved upon at the next WordCamp event.
‘How to Write for an Online Audience’ was more about copywriting and appropriate language for a static website, rather than the art of writing a compelling blog post. I found the talk interesting, but irrelevant to my own needs. Saturday’s final ‘User’ seminar was all about Google Analytics and what they actually mean. This was really interesting. In ‘Actionable Analytics‘, Stephen taught us how to find out what our audience is actually looking for, as well as what devices they are using to visit our sites. This may seem like fairly basic stuff, but I hadn’t thought about using Analytics data to improve my content before, so I learnt a few things.
After some Lightning Talks, the day ended an hour ahead of schedule. This left me with a bit of a dilemma. Should I stay around and wait for the free drinks [which weren’t going to be available for an hour and a half], or should I go straight to the party that I was planning on leaving early for anyway? After some careful deliberation, I decided to sacrifice my WordPress networking opportunities in order to spend time drinking with my fellow screenwriters. It was a great party, and I do not regret my decision.
Sunday morning, I allowed myself a bit of a sleep in, arriving just in time for Jordan Gilman’s talk on basic website tweaks – ‘Know Enough to be Dangerous‘. While Jordan’s advice wasn’t perfect [he should have recommended the use of child themes, instead of modifying a theme directly – that way you don’t lose your modifications when the theme is updated], I learnt a lot. Did you know that php used to stand for ‘personal home page’? No, me neither. Aside from that piece of trivia, Jordan’s talk gave me a better understanding of CSS, and helped me realise that my basic html knowledge isn’t as useless as I thought it was.
Up next was a talk about ‘WordPress and Video SEO‘, which had nothing to do with WordPress [and everything to do with video SEO] but was interesting nonetheless. The next time I need to promote a video project, I’ve got quite a few new tricks up my sleeve. I was really looking forward to ‘[Dis]content – A Panel on Blog Content’, but it didn’t live up to my expectations. The talk seemed more like an exercise in self-promotion than a discussion of what makes for good blog content. It was very disappointing.
Vlad Lasky’s guide to ‘Beating Spam on Your Blog or Site‘ was quite informative, although using Akismet has pretty much solved all of my spam problems. I skipped the talk on WooCommerce, as I have no interest in selling things at this point in time, but came back for ‘Sack your Developer – 9 1/2 Free WordPress Plugins to Keep you Sane While Blogging‘. I was already using three of the plugins mentioned, but downloaded another two as soon as I got home.
There were a few more Lightning Talks at the end of the day, followed by some thank-yous and prizes. I walked away from the event with a list of blogs to check out – from people that I met – as well as a handful of free badges. Overall, it was an interesting conference to attend. Next time, I’d probably take a better look at the program, and possibly even attend some of the ‘Developer’ seminars [as several reports told me that many of the talks weren’t actually about develpment]. Hopefully next time they’ll have more seminars for mid-level users. Still, it was a worthwhile way to spend a weekend, and even though I may not have learnt as much as I wanted to, I did come away feeling more inspired to blog and improve this website. And that’s a good thing, right?