Note: I had intended to post this Monday night, but work has been crazy-busy this week and Jim’s having a bit of a site snafu, so spare time has been pretty much nonexistent. LOL!
We had a wonderful time at WordCamp Birmingham this past weekend. A big thanks to Andre Natta and the B’ham team for all of their hard work. I’m most definitely looking forward to next year’s. The date is already set (September 26-27, 2009), so be sure to mark your calendar! Matt Mullenweg is slated to be a keynote speaker, so it should be awesome!!
The Future of WordPress
The first speaker we saw Saturday morning was Dougal Campbell with “The Future of WordPress.” He briefly covered WordPress’ version history and various milestones over the last few years. Thinking back, I think I started off with either version 1.0 or 1.1. I remember the upgrade to 1.2 being pretty hard, but that was nothing like having to re-do my theme for 1.5, LOL!
Ahh, those were the days …
He then moved on to the upcoming and much anticipated version 2.7. It’s due sometime next month. According to Dougal, there will be:
- more backend UI re-design;
- upgraded API, so you can upgrade themes, browse and install plugins and themes, etc.;
- comment improvements (many of these are covered in great detail on Otto’s blog) such as:
- threaded comments
- paged comments
- auto-close comments
- replying to comments from the Admin menu (a HUGE plus!!!)
- sticky posts;
- “Quick Edit” inline editing via Ajax for posts;
- HTTP-only cookies, a security feature;
- a new HTTP request API for plugin developers, replacing the current request API (Snoopy, I think?);
- and many others …
He also went over some possible features for future versions of WordPress:
- APP Importer: for Movable Type, Type Pad, Blogger, …
- A new “default” theme, possibly based on Sandbox or something similar to it. This will be replacing the current Kubrick theme.
Some features that he thinks are likely for version 2.8 (taken from the Trac Tickets) include:
- better page managment: select page order, hide pages
- expanded template functions: users, comments, attachments
We can look forward to seeing more CMS features, more social networking features, better widget management. Perhaps even OpenID (that would be sweet).
Documentation was brought up and he stated that there has been a big push (internally) to get the functions (I’m assuming he means the Codex?) better documented, updated, etc.
SEO For WordPress
She started with a very simple recommendation as a first step for blogging: think first, write later. This can apply to so many aspects, and I admit it’s one that I don’t practice enough. You should actually USE the phrases you want to rank well for in blog posts. For best results, use them in prominent places:
- Document Title
- Body Headings
- In posts
Another stickler subject: Blog Visibility. In covering the WordPress Settings, she states that you should always make sure to have the privacy option set so that your blog is visible to everyone, including search engines.
Moving on to Permalink structure, the optimal setting is
/%category%/%postname%/. For most blogs it’s ok to be different though. Dates, which are useless for SEO, are useful for users and are most generally preferred. It’s best to make sure that
%postname% in there somewhere.
She talked a bit about URL canonicalization. Blog owners must make a choice: www or no www. Whichever you choose, you must consistently use it everywhere:
- Linking to your site
- email and IM signatures
Donna then moved on to categories. This is another thing I am doing wrong, LOL! She says it’s best to keep them as top-level important concepts, as opposed to tagging. Me, I tag and categorize all willy-nilly. Guess I’ll have to work on that.
One of the plugins she highly recommended was All-In-One SEO Pack. I’ve heard about this plugin from several different people and from what I understand, it takes all the guesswork out of SEO for your blog. Donna says that the default settings work well.
Another plugin mentioned is: Excerpt Editor. This one gives extra control over excerpts, autogenerates excerpts (but allows overriding), prevents duplicate content between excerpts and full post, replaces the_content() with the_excerpt(), and more…
She spent a bit of time on two other post elements:
- Post titles:
- use H1 or H2
- Ok to use other tags, but H1 or H2 are best (use whatever suits your theme)
- Post slugs:
- these should contain only most important words
- and you should strip out “stop” words like ‘a’, ‘an’, ‘the’, etc. These dilute the value of other keywords in the slug (permalink)
Other topics covered were:
- Post Image Optimization
- Encouraging Sharing/Linking
- Participating and Reciprocation
Donna’s presentation not only had a lot of good information, she also made recommendations as to customizations to themes and various plugins that could help improve the “SEO-ness” of your site. I highly recommend checking out her site. You’ll find a LOT of useful information there that she covered at WordCamp, and a lot more!
Merging your work life with your blog life
The next speaker was David Griner. His presentation was pretty comical, poking fun at himself (he’s not even a WordPress user *gasp* hehe) and his profession. While this wasn’t really one of the topics that first piqued my interest, it did have a lot of useful information for anyone whose ever wondered what it could take to make blogging a full-time job.
It’s not something I could do, but I admire anyone who does it!
- Pros of Freelancing
- schedule your own time
- stockpile blog posts in advance
- decent extra pay
- very minor level of celebrity
- opportunities for guest editing/posting
- work in your underwear
- most people suck at time management
- you’ll starve
- no benefits or security
- can mess with your taxes
- easy to lose steam
- neighbors get tired of seeing you in your underwear
- Finding the right blog
- you’re probably already reading it
- who owns it?
- how many writers?
- Whats the output?
- Getting the gig
- get to know the writers or editors
- comment often under the same name
- write response posts on your blog
- if you like the site, help drive traffic there
- Asking for the job
- no harm asking about openings
- always write at least three sample posts that they could run that day
- make sure your e-mail is colon-rupturing in its awesomeness
- get across your enthusiasm for the blog
- talk about how it has evolved
- say why they need you
- what is the blog missing?
You can see these and more in his slides here.
At this point, we broke for lunch. Jim and I didn’t go back for the late afternoon sessions. I was nursing a migraine and football would be on soon. (Hey, I’m a ‘Bama fan first and WP geek second! ;))
Brett’s presentation covered the Windows Live Writer application. It’s not really my cuppa, but would be a great interface for anyone intimidated by the web UI for most popular blogging software/services.
Mitch’s presentation covered several topics I had previously researched and I was impressed with the amount of helpful information he covered. He also had a great list of plugins that he recommended. I would like to see more of him next year, if he attends. You can find his slides here.
From watching the WordCamp Bham twitters, I can see that a photo pool is available on Flickr, as well as a handful of the presentation slides gathered on SlideShare. I also see that WordCamp Birmingham also made the local news. You deserve it guys, great work!
Good stuff. Can’t wait until next year.
(Updated to include slides links, thanks Don @ authorize.net!)