WordCamp L.A. 2012: Key Insights and Take-Aways

WordCamp Los Angeles 2012 t-shirt

WordCamp Los Angeles 201 was held Saturday, Sept. 15 at Loyola Marymount University, which hosts the event because the college and open source software share the common goals of faith and justice. If you want to learn WordPress, network with WordPress developers or find WordPress support resources in Los Angeles, this event is a good place to do it.  It was my second time attending WordCamp and a learned a bunch.

Most of the presenters shared genuinely useful tips and tricks, were engaging and even, in one case, adorable.  My favorite was Sé Reed followed by Ben Metcalfe, who I wrote about separately in their own posts. Useful WordPress tips and tricks from the other speakers I heard are summarized here.  On the downside, it was a hot day in Los Angeles, Seaver Hall was a sauna and the stubborn campus wi-fi wouldn’t move even the lowest-res JPEGs to Flickr.

But comfort can be over rated.  I try not to depend on it.  Here’s what I learned.

Kimanzi Constable kicked it off with a presentation on the importance of telling good stories that connect with people emotionally. The bread delivery boy turned best-selling author shared how he didn’t started selling books until he started connecting with his audience in an emotional level.

Recommendations:

  • Tell a story about yourself that dovetails nicely with whatever it is you do on the About Us page of your website. Old school bios are boring.
  • If you don’t have enough traffic on your own site, guest post for bloggers you respect who do. They may not publish you the first time, but if you’re persistent enough, and your content is a fit, sooner or later they will. Everyone has to feast the beast and guest posts are one way they pull it off.
  • Entertain first, educate second. Cause if you’re not entertaining, you’ll never get the chance to teach. Never lead with benefits or a spec sheet of features. Connect with people on an emotional level first.

Here where you can keep up with Kimanzi.

Next we heard from Belsien Thomas of WP Power Guide on best practices for adding e-commerce for WordPress installs who shared some useful charts on how to decide what e-commerce solution is right for you.

WordPress e-commerce plug-in review by Belsien Thomas

Recommendations:

  • If you’ve got fewer than 500 purchases per day and less than 1000 items in your catalog, WordPress solutions work just fine. There’s no need to build your own e-commerce solution for that kind of volume.
  • Templatic, StoreFrontThemes, SpalshingPixles, WooCommerce, MarketPress by WPMU and Themeforest.net are WordPress themes he suggests checking out.
  • Belsien did a very thorough analysis and says WP e-Commerce, WooCommerce and Shopp are the three plug-ins worth considering.

Belsien Thomas is a WordPress developer. You can find him at WP Power Guide.

Just like Wikipedia has a system by which editors review articles, WordPress has a process by which themes are approved and added the official Theme Repositiory at WordPress.org. Konstantin Obenland, a WordPress Core Contributor said there are currently 1,600 themes in the WordPress.org repository. Now there’s a theme review team which reviews child themes before they go live.

The goal of the theme repository “isn’t not to deliver every theme in the world, it’s to list the best ones,” according to Matt Mullenweg, who was quoted on a slide in their presentation.

So the themes in the repository are selected to give end users convenience, quality, reliability and freedom.

We’re living in an age where vendors are available on a global basis to support the development of online businesses. If you don’t outsource you’re limited to the people and skills you can find locally. But managing teams remotely requires new skills. Having success in distributed contexts is what Chris Lema spoke about. Managing freelancers remotely can be tough. Chris explained when outsourcing online development work makes sense.

Recommendations:

  1. Constantly check the pulse of your team. Check in with them all the time.
  2. Put them in an impossible situation and try and get them to fail fast. You want people who tell you when they’re stuck and who ask for help when they need it, rather than waste your time and money trying to solve problems alone.
  3. Ask if things are done, done? Done, done means there’s no but after the question, “Is it done?” Manage the small stuff daily. Don’t send someone off for two weeks to achieve something big. Find out what’s going on as it’s happening.
  4. Check in daily, and use surpirse Google Hangouts to see if your team is actually at their computer working. If they’re in a cafe, they’re not working.

Chris’s favorite tools for managing teams remotely:

  • Google Hangouts for visual check ins
  • Basecamp project management
  • Asana for task tracking
  • Instant Messenger for conversations
  • Jing for screen captures
  • SnagIt for screen shots

At the end of the day, the person managing the project has to be the chief storyteller. She has to remind the team about the customer pain you’re trying to solve. You’ve got to tell that story over and over again. He’s got a book about managing virtual teams as well. He was a dynamic speaker. Well done.

I’m glad I made it out to this year’s event.  As an online social media training provider focusing on content, it’s important for me to not only stay abreast of developments in open source, but also to learn business skills related to working with teams in a virtual world.

Thanks Austin Passey for organizing the day’s events. Sorry  I snapped at you about the “live” blog.