After WordCampNYC 2009

After spending the whole day at WordCampNYC on Saturday, I wanted to write this post about the event and a little bit about WordPress in general. The event was two days long, but I could only attend the first day and enjoyed every minute of it.

For those who don’t know, WordPress is a blog publishing tool or at least had started as one. It has evolved beyond being an easy to use blogging tool and has become a web site management system that can be used to create and maintain content rich web sites. In spite of all the advancements it has gone through, WordPress is still easy to use and is a very nice fit for small business and personal web sites.

WordPress is open source. This means you don’t have to pay anything to install and use it as the foundation of your web site. While you don’t pay anything, you get a great content management system that enables you to maintain a dynamic web site with regular text content, multimedia and user interaction. Out of the box, it gives you a functional web presence. On top of that you can add easy to install program extensions called “plugin”s to add tons of new functionality as you need. You can even convert your web site into a social networking platform or an e-commerce web site simply by installing and activating an additional module.

My purpose for this post is really to write about the WordCampNYC event I have attended. So I won’t go more into WordPress related details. But stay tuned, since I will be talking a lot about WordPress here at WiseClicker.com. It is a tool that the WiseClicker.com audience can definitely benefit from. As a matter of fact, it may even make sense to create a separate section for this.

For me, the WordCampNYC event was a worthwhile experience. Although I know and even use WordPress, I was especially amazed to see how much can be achieved with WordPress although by definition it is a blog publishing tool. I realized that it is not only for small businesses and personal web sites, but can even be successfully implemented at the enterprise level.

The event was for WordPress users and developers and offered a diverse group of speakers and information sessions. While users are individuals and businesses who utilize WordPress to maintain their web sites and blogs, developers build sites using WordPress and create plugins to enhance the functionality of the tool. This shows that the event really covered a lot to address different interests and needs.

Information sessions were grouped by interest and I had opted for the “Blogger” track when registering. However, I ended up visiting sessions in different tracks.

The first session I think I was lucky to select was the one about WNET.org. Speakers were Dan Goldman and Jamie Trowbridge. They talked about how they have migrated dozens of non-blog web sites to a WordPress platform. By switching to this new platform, the web site maintenance costs were decreased by 75-80% and their productivity increased by 5 times. This was an eye opener presentation, that showed me how WordPress can be a viable solution even for high volume web sites.

The next one I really wanted attend after seeing the schedule was Mark Jaquith’s presentation called “Feeding your Family with WordPress Development”. He earns his living as a WordPress consultant. He had great tips and was very inspiring for WordPress enthusiasts that are considering WordPress consulting as a profession.

Scott Kingsley Clark started his presentation with a song he wrote about WordPress and then showed the “Pods” plugin. This plugin expands WordPress’ functionality to maintain content types that are not available out of the box. For example, WordPress does not include the capability to upload and list events. Using the ‘Pods’ plugin it is possible to create a section where you can list your events and even have visitors RSVP for those events. I will look into this thoroughly and I believe I will have a lot of uses for this in my WordPress projects.

Giving a unique look and feel to your web site is key in establishing your brand. The look and feel of WordPress blogs and web sites are determined by themes. There are free or paid themes which can be downloaded and installed. It is possible to modify these downloaded themes if you have the technical skills. You can even create your own theme from scratch, again if you have the technical skills. This is something I am involved in, especially because of WiseClicker.com. That’s why I joined Daisy Olsen’s session that gave an introduction to creating WordPress themes. Out of this, I got a nicely structured template which I can use when I develop new themes.

Next, I went to a crowded room to see various plugin demos. One was about IntenseDebate which adds a much more engaging user comment functionality to WordPress site. The other two plugins I think stood out were the Shopp and After the Deadline.

By simply downloading and activating “Shopp” you can start selling your products online, using the similar payment processing and inventory management capabilities many of the stand-alone shopping cart software have. This is a paid plugging, though. However, looking at what it has to offer I believe what you pay is well worth it. In my opinion, WiseClicker.com readers need to know more about this, so I will come up with a dedicated post about the “Shopp” plugin.

After the Deadline, when installed, will help with checking the spelling, style and grammar of the content you upload to your WordPress web site. It is a neat tool. I actually downloaded and used it to review this post before publishing it.

After the plugin session, I attended two back to back sessions about BuddyPress. BuddyPress is installed on top of WordPress and turns your web site into a full-fledged social networking site. John James Jacoby had a nice presentation on how to modify the default BuddyPress design and Lisa Sabin-Wilson showed how to set it up. The later session did not have much to offer me, but overall I was impressed with BuddyPress and its capabilities. I have started to think about new projects where I can use BuddyPress already!

At the end of the day I was back again where I started – at the CMS track. This track mainly covered the implementation of WordPress as a web content management system. In such an environment WordPress is not used for uploading posts and comments. Instead, it becomes the backbone of a dynamic web site where non technical users can manage content using an intuitive web interface. More impressive than that is the volume of web site traffic WordPress can handle and how successfully it can fit into the web presence of larger organizations.
I was able to make it to the “Harvard Gazette” session half way through and missed an important chunk of it. However, I was still able to grab quite a bit about how the nearly 100-year-old publication was taken online just within 3 months with WordPress. The presentation by Perry Hewitt and Lin Chen gave a great insight related to implementing WordPress for high traffic web sites.

“Hyperlocal Journalism with BuddyPress” was the last session I had my last drops of energy saved for. Tedd Man discussed about Hyperlocal journalism and explained how this concept came to life at InJersey.com. The introduction of plugins used in this project was a great benefit. They are neat extensions for WordPress that I can use in my projects.

After the event, I felt very good about my decision to attend WordCampNYC. It was inspiring and motivating. I already see myself more involved in WordPress and using it on new and exciting projects in the near future.

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