WordCamp 2009 is officially in the books. With two and a half days of some of the best community, speakers and information, it was an incredible event. Over the course of the weekend, I saw some of the best blogging-related presentations, met many of the most wonderful people in the blogging world and observed some of the worst bowling ever witnessed by man (though most of that was my own).
The event was a smashing success with over 300 attendees. Organized by John Pozadzides and sponsored prominently by his company, Woopra, it was, according to those in attendance, the second-largest WordCamp in the world.
But while the best part of these WordCamps is always the community and getting to meet all of the people who share your passion, there were also a slew of great speakers, 16 in total, plus a panel discussion. Even for a veteran blogger, there was a great deal to learn.
So, as I try to digest and take in everything I saw and learned at WordCamp Dallas, a more complete recap is forthcoming on my site, here are five things I’m holding onto dearly as WordCamp Dallas closes up for the year (in no particular order).
6. Using Social Media
Giovanni Gallucci gave a very passionate and interesting talk about ways to use social media to help your site gain traction both with readers and with the search engines. Though I may not have agreed with all of his “blue hat” tactics (tactics that combine black hat and white hat elements) I definitely learned a great deal about how you can use your accounts on other sites to promote your main offering and how to target your content to the keywords that are most valuable to your readers.
It was an incredibly informative talk that has me thinking of ways to alter my site and my presence elsewhere.
5. WordPress Custom Fields
Randy Hoyt gave an incredible talk about using WordPress’ custom fields in your blog posts. As the user of a magazine-style template for my main site, I use these custom fields every day but never really thought about all of the things that they could do.
Hoyt’s talk got me really thinking about new ways I can use custom fields to control the layout of my site including, possibly, the addition of subheads, a better review system and perhaps most importantly, use custom fields to help me organize the front page of my site so I do not have to use my categories.
Hoyt also talked a great deal about plugins that can help manage these custom fields and I will probably be very busy over the next week playing with them.
4. Categories and Tags
Speaking of categories and tags. Lorelle VanFossen gave a great Star-Trek themed talk about the proper use of categories and tags on your site. Like most bloggers, I didn’t have much of a plan when I started categorizing and then tagging posts and it shows.
Lorelle’s talk showed everyone how to cut through that clutter and now that, thanks to Randy Hoyt’s talk, I should be free of the category ball and chain as a site layout tool, I should be able to at least completely redo my categories to provide much better organization, usability and SEO to the site, both for the search engines and my visitors.
I can’t wait.
3. Design and Layout
In one of the more entertaining talks, Liz Strauss “ripped apart” John Pozadzides’ blog layout while he worked in his admin panel to try and fix the layout more to her (and the audience’s) liking.
But as entertaining as the spectacle was, it came with it several bits of advice and ideas as only Liz can provide them including remembering why you are blogging and putting that information front and center. This, in turn, got me to take a new look at my blog layout and, as a result, I’m almost certainly going to be making some changes.
Liz Strauss is simply one of those people that, when you think you’ve almost learned everything she has to offer, you realize you’ve barely scratched the surface.
2. WordPress as a CMS
WordPress is widely known as a blogging platform but it really is much more powerful than that. Through both native functionality and some plugins, you can use WordPress as a content management system, in short, using WordPress to manage a non-blog Web site or a very complicated site where a blog is just a part of the picture.
This was the thrust of Scott Clark‘s talk (and musical number) as he discussed both the general usefulness of WordPress and highlighted several plugins that expand this capability, including Pods, one he helped create.
Combined with Randy Hoyt’s talk about custom fields, the power and flexibility of WordPress really began to click. Even better though, his talk is already available on Vimeo (the others will soon be available on WordPress.tv)
1. Multimedia, Multimedia, Multimedia
Clearly this is a big part of the future direction of blogging and it is going to be important for all bloggers to at least try their hand at multimedia content from time to time. Now is the time to begin learning the technology involved in creating podcasts and videos as well as to begin honing those skills. Also, As David Curlee pointed out, the technology is getting much cheaper and much easier to use.
On top of these presentations, there were many other great speakers including DB Ferguson, who discussed the steps to becoming an authority blogger, Matthew “Spamboy” McGarity talked about how to install WordPress on your home computer for testing purposes and Mark “Rizzin” Hopkins (who was livestreaming last year’s event for Mashable) gave a talk about moving beyond Adsense on your blog to earn more money (very useful for those who run ads on their site).
I was also speaking at the event, in a talk dealing with finding free and legal content for your blog. Douglas Hanna, who works for Automattic, gave a talk about the WordPress showcase and, most important of all Matt Mullenweg, the founder and CEO of Automattic was there to talk about the state of WordPress.
All in all, there was an incredible amount to learn and glean from this even and this post barely scratches the surface of what all went down. It was an incredible weekend in Dallas and I am already looking forward to Wordcamp in 2010.
If you weren’t able to attend live or catch the livestream on GeekBrief.tv, don’t worry, the videos from the presentations will be posted on WordPress.tv shortly. So stay tuned.