I arrived in San Francisco Thursday and started the WordCamp 2007 gauntlet with a meetup that started out slow and turned very interesting very quickly. I’ve written at length about it on the WordPress Report, so I won’t rehash that here.
WordCamp 2007 kicked off promptly at 10:00 AM in the large hall of the Swedish-American Hall in San Francisco, fueled by coffee and WiFi. Standing room only crowds filled the hall and the balcony during every single session, beginning with Dan Kuykendall walked people through usage of his popular podPress plug-in making podcasting with WordPress easy. The session stalled a bit because the load of hundreds of laptops crashed the WiFi server 10 minutes into the session. Once everything came back online, several people logged into a test blog he’d set up and left several humorous posts and comments.
Next up were John Dvorak and Om Malik, who lounged back in the “thrones” on the stage to compare blogs versus mainstream media. The gist of what was said is that mainstream media doesn’t understand blogs; doesn’t respect blogger and fails horribly at what blogs do best: develop a relationship between the blogger and the reader through the use of comments. The two agreed that bloggers, on the other hand, routinely fail to keep their content relevant and interesting, opting instead to repost twitter comments, talk about what they ate for lunch or their pets, or regurgitating gossip and innuendo about Paris Hilton or other over-exposed non-news. They also agreed that bloggers need to differentiate themselves visually, specifically to have their blog appear not to be a blog; that is, design your blog to appear more like an actual web site or portal, instead of screaming, “This is a blog, just like millions of other blogs!”
Lorelle continued with this thread, stressing the need to write about what you’re passionate about while keeping in mind that someone a world away couldn’t care less about the trouble you’re having with the phone company or your preparation for minor surgery. She also (quite loudly and passionately) expressed the importance of fostering comments on your posts as well as posting comments on other blogs that as similar to your own as a form of marketing yourself. Another point well made was the need to write well, to ruminate a bot about your subject, and to limit yourself to a focused niche that you are familiar with.
Jeremy Wright of b5media followed with what turned into a panel discussion of monetization techniques preferred by several established bloggers. His presentation also focused on generating good content, and how bloggers should do 2 or 3 things well instead of 10 to 12 things poorly. He also recommended focusing on building relationships through good content and encouraging feedback through comments, saying that regardless of the advertising method chosen, money will follow.
Lloyd Budd and Mark Jaquith detailed their history and involvement with WordPress and encouraged users to help with both development and evangelism by reporting bugs they find, helping new users through the IRC channel and the support forums and even detailed how developers might contribute to the documentation through the Codex.
The bulk of Robert Hoekman, Jr.‘s improvised presentation was the benefits of stripping away everything that isn’t necessary to improve the readability and functional flow of your blog.
- Don’t put your blog at the root of your domain.
- Name your directory ‘blog’ instead of ‘wordpress’.
- In URLs, no spaces are worst, underscore are better, dashes or hyphens are best.
- Use alt tags on images: not only is it good accessibility, it’s good SEO.
- Include keywords naturally in your posts.
- Make your post dates easy to find.
- Check your blog on a cell phone and/or iPhone.
- Use partial-text feeds if you want more page views; use full-text feeds if you want more loyal readers.
- Blogs should do standard pings.
- Standardize backlinks (don’t mix and match www with non-www).
- Use a permanent redirect (301) when moving to a new host.
- Don’t include the post date in your URL.
- When moving between hosts, wait until Googlebot and traffic begin to visit the new host before taking down the old one.
- If using AdSense, use sectioning.
- Use FeedBurner’s (now) free MyBrand feature to take control of your feeds (i.e., feed.bloggingpro.com instead of http://feeds.feedburner.com/bloggingpro/PfjF.
A good indication of how good Cutts’ presentation was that nearly 100% of those attending preferred to remain in the hall asking questions well after the hour was over rather than break for dinner.
Tomorrow, I’ll be back with WordCamp Day 2 where the focus will be development and the more technical aspects of WordPress.