WordCamp Peoria 2016

The first WordCamp in the Peoria area was held on Nov. 12, 2016. Here is a brief synopsis of the event. I also provide some of my insights and notes further down the page.

WordCamp Peoria 2016 from Mark DuBois on Vimeo.

As you learned from the above video, there were 6 presentations. Here are some notes/ insights from each of these.

Managing Your Online Reputation – Tammy Finch

One needs to be aware of the presence they project on social media. As a business, you want to convey your offline presence to your online presence. Be welcoming, professional, friendly. If you are a freelancer, make certain you own a domain name and have a custom email address. When someone searches your name online, they should find positive reviews of you (and you business). She provided this insightful quote from Chris Lena

“A brand is what we (the Internet) says it is.”

Each business should have social media policies in place and all employees should follow those policies. It is also important to check spelling and grammar (be professional throughout).

Tammy also discussed strategies for providing feedback and for addressing “bad” reviews. Often this can be due to mis-understanding. She provided a number of specific examples (and insightful stories) throughout. She also discussed how to deal with trolls.

How to Make the Most out of Yoast SEO – Nile Flores

Niles began her presentation with an overview of understanding how search engines work (especially Google and Bing). She provided a number of basic SEO (search engine optimization) tips. It is important to have an “about us” page and a “contact us” page. Any audio/video, infographic should be accompanied by explanatory text. It is a “best practice” to transcribe your audio podcasts.

She stressed that site speed is important (your page should load in under 4 seconds). She recommended sites like Pingdom to check how quickly your page loads.

She also went into depth concerning information architecture of your site and discussed those areas which should be optimized. She provided links to a number of Yoast blog articles discussing these features in greater depth.

Content is King – Colleen Kimball

Colleen mentioned that roughly 80% of content is consumed on mobile devices these days. Everyone is vying for attention (and we only have so much to give). She provided this insightful quote:

In a world of locked doors, the person with the key is king. And you should see me with my crown.

Those locked doors are your audience. You need to know what they want to see (and present it to them in the manner they wish to consume it). She discussed the term optimount and provided all the technical details as an example. No one in the room understood what she described (although it was technically accurate). She then reworded her description in words we all understood to make her point. It is important to create solid content which can be readily consumed.

Peoria has a unique challenge in that it is really behind in terms of the tech industry. [Mark’s personal note – I have been trying to change this for over 2 decades; I do understand this comment much more than many in the area.] It is important to surround yourself with people who are doing what you want to do.

Website Debugging for Site Owners – Andy Wikel

Andy discussed the headaches of debugging. The first rule (when presented with the WordPress white screen) is not to panic. The problem is often buried just beneath the surface. The best questions to begin with include:

  • When did you first notice the problem?
  • Is the problem restricted to one browser or not?
  • What changed? New plugins? Updates? Design improvements?

He recommended a good start is to begin with Chrome or Firefox developer tools. Look in the console for error messages. One can also activate WP_DEBUG mode and look in the resulting log files for more information.

When fixing a problem, always do this on a backup copy of your site. If you don’t have a staging area, there are plugins. If your repairs work well, you can migrate them to the production environment.

It is important to pick themes and plugins which are updated frequently. This means they are supported.

WordPress Speed Demon: Breaking The Speed Barrier – Zach Stepek

Zach began his presentation with an overview of statistics including the observation that 47% expect a page to load in 2 seconds or less. 40% will abandon if the page load time exceeds 3 seconds. Yes, 3 seconds – that is all the time you have.

He provided a number of insights on host selection and areas you should optimize (especially images and related media). He also mentioned that a move to PHP 7 is a game changer. Going from 5.5.9 to version 7 resulted in a 60% increase in throughput. He mentioned a number of plugins which can help with speed.

Anything on your server which is slowing overall performance (like sending email) should be on a separate server. He brought this point home with a story about transactional email problems which happened on Thanksgiving Day last year. He ended up using Mandrill from MailChimp to resolve the problem his client was experiencing.

He had everyone in the room visit a demo site he was running on Digital Ocean (which was optimized for speed). He showed the statistics as we visited the site. It was great to see the examples he discussed placed in practice and to experience the differences first hand.

The Publishing Playbook: Running a Digital Publisher in 2016 –  Keanan Koppenhaver

Many large publishing companies use WordPress for their sites. He mentioned the different types of audits one needs to conduct when migrating a publishing site to WordPress.

He also mentioned the overall editorial workflow and the need for specific plugins for co-authors, for example. In some organizations, the digital work flow feeds into a print publication.

He also discussed many different approaches to monetization.

Summary – this was the first WordCamp I have attended. I found it very informative. For those unable to participate, I understand that the presentations will eventually be available at WordCamp TV. I don’t see that they have been posted yet (hopefully soon). I am hoping that we have a 2017 WordCamp in the Peoria area. This was a great opportunity to connect with many others in the Peoria area (and beyond).

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