Walking in to the Cascades Casino in Langley we were turned away immediately. No to worry though, we were actually just redirected to the Coast Hotel around back. We’re sitting in a pretty majestic ballroom with a swanky setup – microphone, projectors, little bitty notepads with the hotel logo on them. Big thanks to Gary for initiating all of this.
There are all levels of bloggers here – from the netorious John Chow to those who would simply like to know how to get into blogging.
I’ll try to liveblog or at least update throughout the night – Raul is up first to tell his story about switching from Blogger to WordPress.
Raul is covering a lot of ground so hopefully he’ll be able to make his slides available (perhaps with something like Slideshare. [Editor’s note: John is uploading some photos on the fly (and blogging at sixty4media) you can view them on his Flickr]
After his slide presentation Raul has jumped into some live walk-throughs of the WordPress.com dashboard, comments interface and stats in order to introduce users to WP and to show how it compares to Blogger.
It appears that Kerry will not be joining us tonight (hope everything is okay!) so Gary will be filling in and talking about Business Blogging.
Gary says that blogging for business is crucial, “You want your customers to come back to your site everyday,” and asks around to see how many people know if their customers are visiting their website everyday. Aside from addressing why companies should have blogs he’ll also touch on internet and external blogs, “if you have an internal blog people will talk,” which is a good thing for a company.
Tips and tricks include the moderation of comments, you should always be able to control what is on your outward-facing web presence. Gary also says a big tip would be to get involved, encourage comments and have polls, which can be very valuable for a business, “you can begin to understand who your customers are.” He adds that you can ask questions in your posts to encourage comments, this engages your audience and makes your post a discussion. A big part the discussion is using tools like microblogs ie. Twitter.
During the Q and A there’s a lot of talk about comment moderation and if you leave your entire blog to moderated comments would you lose repeat traffic. Gary says there are many ways to stay on top of comment moderation (aside from checking your email every two minutes) including a plugin that will email the commenter and say something along the lines of “thanks for coming by”. There’s also the question of content – how do you find the time to write everyday? Very valid questions for business.
After a quick networking break where we got to chat with our friend Mark, Kulpreet will now be speaking about protecting your WordPress site – “Safety First!”
Being aware of security updates saves you time, money, stress, and prevents the loss of readers and content. “Every application has security concerns,” ensures Kulpreet laying out some of the “pros” and “cons” of security. Kulpreet strongly urges everyone who is currently running their own install of WordPress to upgrade to 2.6 right away. Tips: Use “WP Automatic Upgrade plugin”, “Don’t share your version” (meaning don’t say on your blog what you are running), “Remove version from meta tags”.
When it comes to the databases Kulpreet suggests that you check some of the setup settings (with regards to database naming), passwords (make sure they’re tricky and alpha-numeric), and remember to backup regularly.
“Plugin and other unprotected folders should have an index file or fix with htacess,” Kulpreet just asked how many people with websites can go to www.theirwebsite.com/wp-content/plugins and actually see the list of plugins? If you can do that with your WordPress site, that’s not good so be sure to protect those folders. If you are an admin of your site DO NOT use “admin” as your user name. If you have contact forms make sure they are secure (Cforms is our favourite as well as Kulpreet’s)
Kulpreet provides a comprehensive list of security plugins including things like Login LockDown, Akismet for spam and PhoneFactor, which provides telephone authentication when you login or post to your site (for those who are really paranoid).
[Editor’s note: John and Raul both have blog posts up about the evening as well.]
Useful links from Kulpreet include WordPress Security White Paper, “Did your WordPress site get hacked?” featuring samples of what a hacked site would look like, and SEOChat.
Okay I was up there for about 30 minutes although my presentation was only about 10 minutes long. It soon turned into general Q and A about themes, Twitter, and “what is a wiki”. If I had two good ears I would have heard crickets in the room and I’m thinking it didn’t go so well… either that or I covered absolutely everything, which I doubt.
I did mention how John made fancy drop down menus so he wrote this post on the fly.
At any rate, John Chow is now on and talking about traffic why? “To make money, to be an authority, for bragging rights.”
John’s 3 Ways to Increase Traffic are 1) Get new visitors to your blog 2) Get current visitors to come back to your blog – don’t neglect them 3) Get visitors to view more pages.
Tools that can help your traffic:
All in one SEO Pack Plugin
Google Sitemap Plugin
He now has “Evil” ways to drive traffic to your site but to keep his secrets I will not be blogging them.
Aaaaand we’re back! How to get visitors to return to your site? Get them to subscribe to your RSS. Also, encourage comments even with a plugin like Top Commentators – people like being showcased and linked to. You can also offer up more content for people by having Related Posts plugins, Random Posts and having them explore more of your site.
John’s final tip is to have a blog contest and it probably won’t cost you anything if you find a sponsor. “They help to create activity and viral buzz,” and you can throw something in there like “you can enter just by blogging about it.”
Question from the audience about feeds. “If you’re going to offer a feed, offer a full feed,” states John, “it’s a myth that people won’t come to your site if they get the full feed,” he also says he personally will not subscribe to a blog that only has partial feeds. Another tip is like Gary said before is ask a question in your post to drive people to your site to comment.
Question from the audience about translations: John says there’s the Babelfish plugin but John (Bollwitt) reminds me that Duane wrote a translation plugin as well.
As John Chow is wrapping up his Q and A I’m reflecting a bit on the night. During the networking session there was a group of about 10 familiar bloggers (out of about 80 people here). That’s just a sign of how things are moving outside the walls of downtown and our set blogger meetups. It’s really encouraging and I hope people take away a lot about blogging in general (not just WordPress).
Update: July 17th – Initially this wasn’t a mini conference about blogging 101, it was about WordPress blogging – specifically designed for users, coders, and those curious about this particular blogging platform. If you are new to blogging and want something more basic, I suggest the upcoming BarCamp we’re having in September and it won’t all be about WordPress but moreso every level of social media.
The last WordCamp I spoke at I was sitting on the floor cross-legged. I’ve seen Twitters about how my presentation was too casual but honestly, that’s just who I am. I’m not a trained speaker, I do not speak for a living. I talk about blogging, the tools I use, and I help others out with tips and tricks. Last night, the theme of the entire evening was WordPress so that’s what I talked about. I’ve never done a solo presentation for a room of 80 people with a microphone in my face. I never have a script and I always do a demo. In the world of social media you do not need to be in a suit and tie to give a talk to an audience or to know what you’re talking about and for that, I’m pretty grateful.