Bleary-Eyed Blogworld Expo Experience
Over the weekend I had the opportunity to attend Blogworld Expo as well as WordCamp Las Vegas. Blogworld was pretty huge, but WordCamp Las Vegas was a much smaller conference within the main conference. I had the chance to talk with some really great WordPress users and developers. I really got a good sense of what’s going on in the WordPress world. Unfortunately, Automattic decided to call a last minute pow-wow in Ottowa (if I remember correctly), so there was no official representation from the main developer of WordPress. I valued the opportunity to meet both Matt and Beau at previous WordCamps, so it was a little disappointing not having an Automattician there.
8 Meaningful Takeaways
- Accessibility counts for something. Glenda Watson Hyatt laid out some ground rules for making your website POUR (Perceivable Operable Understandable Robust). I’m not going to give it all away, but you can download the ebook from her site: http://blogaccessibility.com/
- John P says that using URL shortening services like bit.ly, su.pr and TinyUrl is a detriment to your search engine reach. Instead of putting links to your website out in the wild to build some authority, you send out these other services’ links and boost up their popularity in the search engines. Pretty Link Pro by Blair Williams will likely replace two or three of your existing WordPress plugins and solve this exact problem for you. It will allow you to create short links for twitter and other sharing right on your own domain. This will help you keep all the Google juice that you deserve. I could probably have gotten Blair to give me a copy of the plugin after palling around all weekend, but as soon as I got home, I turned on my computer and bought the sucker. Check out the feature video for details: http://think-press.com/prettylink/
- Go meet people in person at conferences. It’s nice to have a billion friends/followers online, but I bet having just five of those billion friends be actual real-life friends is more motivating, profitable and fun. Just make sure there’s no overlap, otherwise you’ll never have anything to talk about…hehe. Oh, and one more thing. Go to conferences alone. It will force you to interact with people that you wouldn’t otherwise approach.
- Go where the people are. Chris Pirillo is an Internet giant, yet he comes to where the people hang out online instead of forcing them to come to him. This means that getting your content syndicated in as many places as possible is super important.
- Care. Don’t care so much about the money you’re hoping to make, just care about why you’re doing it. If you put your heart into it, the money will come.
- It’s not good enough to just install the All-In-One SEO Pack plugin. You have to use it. When you’re posting to your website, scroll all the way down and fill in the meta box. You’ll be pleasantly surprised with your results.
- Never say no to a free show ticket. That’s kind of obvious, I know.
- Take your laptop with you.
If you want the short version, stop reading here. Otherwise, block out a good twenty minutes and read the rest of my ramblings about the weekend.
Day 1 (Friday)
I woke up at 3am in Orange County so that I could get some client work finished before heading to Vegas. I backed out of my driveway at 5:32 am and by 9:15 I had arrived in Vegas and checked into my hotel room. I walked around the back only to see a sliding glass door on the first floor with a shattered window (I later read about poor Eduardo’s story).
I popped in to the convention and watched a bit of the opening keynote before coming back to the exhibit floor. I wandered the booths for a little while before WordCamp Las Vegas started and talked with some of the exhibitors, but nothing really jumped out at me. I met up with Drew and Jen of Jestro and took a seat at the packed house that was WordCamp Las Vegas…or, not.
Because of the way the venue was laid out, WordCamp didn’t get a lot of foot traffic and as a result it sorely lacked in the attendee department. However, what it lacked in attendees, it made up for with amazing networking opportunities. During the first day, here’s a rundown of all of the awesome people I mingled with:
- The Dudes from Headway Themes (http://headwaythemes.com) – I didn’t catch their names, but I won one of their themes from WPCoder.com last month. If you use the code hwBWE09 before Oct. 24th you can get 20% off Headway, an amazingly configurable WordPress theme.
- John Hawkins (http://johnhawkinsunrated.com) – John is the long time organizer of WordCamp Las Vegas and WordPress plugin developer. John is not only a great developer, but an amazing personality. I’ve met him on a couple of occasions and was always impressed with his willingness to offer guidance and support.
- Scott Porad (http://icanhascheezburger.com) – CTO of the Cheezburger network. I Can Has Cheezburger is kind of a staple at WordCamps. I’ve seen Bun Huh and Scott Pora (twice) present about their business model and I still can’t believe how simple it is. "Make people laugh for 5 minutes a day". That’s it. The first time I saw Scott present was at WordCamp San Francisco back in May. I think the presentation was lost on me due to the sheer number of people that were at that conference. In Las Vegas, we literally sat down in a semi-circle and introduced ourselves to him. It was a very intimate setting and I got a lot out of it.
- Angelo Mandato (http://pluginspodcast.com) – Lead developer of the Blubrry Podcasting plugin and host of The WordPress Plugins Podcast. Angelo’s presentation covered how to set up WordPress with Blubrry to make a Podcast. I had a brief opportunity to talk with him before the presentation about the plugin podcast and potentially speaking at our WordCamp.
- John Pozadzidas (http://woopra.com) – CEO of Woopra, statistics for the real-time web. I love John’s personality. He’s funny and brutally honest. He started off his presentation “Win or Die” by reminding us all that he is our competition. It’s true and we all have to remember that while being social is fine and dandy, the business of becoming an authority on the web is a fierce battle. John’s presentation was my favorite of day one.
- Blair Williams (http://blairwilliams.com) – creator of the outstanding Pretty Link Pro WordPress plugin (http://think-press.com/prettylink). Blair was sitting next to me during John P’s talk. The only reason I even met him was because John P mentioned Pretty Link Pro in his presentation. If I didn’t meet blair, I probably would have had a boring and uneventful weekend (more on that in a bit).
- Darin Hardy (http://inmotionhosting.com) – Marketing Manager for InMotion hosting, sponsor of WordCamp Los Angeles (and hopefully for WordCamp Orange County). I recognized Darin from a previous WordCamp that I had been to. I knew that InMotion had sponsored WordCamp Los Angeles, so when we talked it was all business. I’m hoping ot bring them on as a sponsor for Orange County WordCamp.
- Cali Lewis (http://geekbrief.tv) – Host of Geek Brief TV. Cali is a big personality in the geek universe. I saw her present in San Francisco, and I was hoping to talk her in to speaking at OC WordCamp about video. I dropped the seed, let’s see if it grows into a better opportunity.
- Austin Passy (http://austinpassy.com) – organizer of WordCamp LA, WordPress designer/developer. I originall met Austin at WordCamp LA. He’s been another great resource for us in our own planning of OC WordCamp, and he’s a hellofa nice guy too.
As I said before, my weekend probably would have been pretty lazy (due to my lack of sleep) if it wasn’t for Blair. Blair scored some tickets to the Blue Man Group at the Venetian and asked Drew, Jen and I if we wanted to join him. He asked if I knew anyone else who wanted to go, so I called up my buddy Jason Van Orden (http://www.jasonvanorden.com) and the four of us tagged along to the show. I met up with Blair, Austin, Ben and Scott at The Jet nightclub (which I basically had to weasel my way into) for the official Blogworld after party. Blair and I took off to see the Blue Man Group with a few new friends, Ronjini and some other random guy from the club. The show was awesome. I’ve never seen it before so it was all new to me, but I gotta say that it kept me entertained (and awake) all the way until the end of the show at midnight even though I was running on three hours of sleep. I highly recommend the show to anyone who’s planning a trip to Vegas. Updated: Jason sent me a sneaky cam video of me playing the pipe’s in the gift shop. Won’t you ave a little fun at my expense. =)
Day 2 (Saturday)
Phew. Day one was exhausting. I had planned on starting out the day having breakfast with Jason and some of his friends, but I got up too early and ended up with 30 minutes to kill before breakfast at Paradise Cafe in the Las Vegas Hilton. I sat down at a slot machine and proceeded to lose $100. Not a good start to the day. At least Jay paid for breakfast (thanks Jay)! I met some cool people at breakfast, including Emile Bourquin (CTO of Ideas For Download – http://ideasfordownload.com), Chris Christensen (Host of the Amateur Traveler podcast – http://amateurtraveler.com), David Jacobs (http://connectedworldmedia.com), and Karin Hoegh (Podcasting consultant from Denmark – http://podconsult.dk). This informal setting turned out to be a great little mini-session on social media and membership sites.
After breakfast I made my way back to the conference where I stood guard at the WordPress Genius booth. There I met Dana and Karen, from Content Robot (http://contentrobot.com). When my shift was over, I made my way to the WordCamp session already in progress. On the way I ran into Aaron Kronis, Rockstar SEO Consultant from WPromote. He showed off a really interesting SEO tool that WPromote is releasing in the coming weeks. I’m hoping we can get Aaron to speak on an SEO panel at OC WordCamp.
I think the most valuable information came from Glenda Watson Hyatt (http://doitmyselfblog.com). She gave a talk on website accessibility. I think a lot of people take web accessibility for granted, but according to Glenda, 18% of the U.S. population is living with a disability. That’s 18% of a market just in the U.S. that is being neglected. That’s a lot of money (for those of you who are trying to monetize your websites) to leave on the table.
Blair and I took a walk to get some free ice cream in the exhibit hall when we ran into Tracy and Stu from WPWishlist (http://member.wishlistproducts.com/). For those of you who don’t know, WPWishlist makes a membership plugin for WordPress. We’ve just finished building a membership site using it, and it’s fantastic. I’ll be writing an article on it here soon. I talked to them about some pretty exciting business opportunities (more on that another time).
After that, I knew the conference couldn’t get any better, so I decided to jump in the car and head back to Orange County. I was feeling so lucky because of all the chance meetings I had that day that I stopped in at Prim to test my luck. I sat down at a slot machine and within 20 minutes, I had won my $100 back from the morning. On the way to cash it in, I stopped at another machine that caught my eye. I sat down once more and within another 15 minutes I was walking away with another $200. I was very happy with my winnings, so I got in the car and drove home, a perfect end to the already fantastic weekend.