Skip to content

WordCamp Cape Town 2013: talk notes

Below are my notes from some of the talks at WordCamp 2013 yesterday.

How to build an audience in 743 difficult steps - Rian van der Merwe

Rian’s write-up of his talk is excellent, and reading it is almost as good as being there.

He talked about how publishing is hard, but it’s essential: writing down our thoughts to post to a public forum makes you analyse and solidify your thinking around a topic. He also discussed how, these days, your own site is your resume, and how it’s important that you own your content. I couldn’t agree more. Tantek Çelik and Jeremy Keith and two vocal proponents of the IndieWeb movement:

**Own your data**. Create and publish content on your own site, and only optionally syndicate to third-party silos.

Personally, I have it a little backwards, and I’d like to fix that. Although I write here, I also post on Twitter, Flickr, and a few other places. I then use the excellent If This Then That to save that content to Dropbox or Evernote. I should be publishing content on my own domain, and pushing to these other services.

Working and Traveling Fulltime with WordPress - Maria Scarpello

I really enjoyed Maria’s talk. Although I’m not sure I want a life on the road, her talk reminded me of how much I enjoy travelling, and that I must get overseas again soon. She talked about what travel brings you:

  • finding things you didn’t know existed;
  • being inspired by nature;
  • taking the time to stop and reflect;
  • being exposed to new cultures and challenging your pre-conceptions.

She mentioned The Four Hour Workweek as an inspiration: you don’t have to live your life like everyone else; if you have connectivity you can work just about anywhere (in a photo from her travels she showed a download speed of 22Mbps while driving!). She also mentioned Cody McKibbens and his site Thrilling Heroics, where he talks about being a Digital Nomad.

Lazygamer: How an unknown local made waves using nothing but WordPress - Gavin Mannion

Gavin talked about content creation. At LazyGamer, they aim to write short, pertinent, and memorable headlines. They’ve made a conscious decision to be opinionated rather than unbiased, and they only write about things that interest them.

He also talked about team chemistry. He’s chosen people who are different from each other, and who are passionate and interested (he says this is more important than skill, which can be learned). He’s also made sure that the team is strong, and that no one person is indispensable.

At LazyGamer they gather stats from several sources. No single source is completely correct, so they combine and compare to get a truer picture. Gavin said that comments are the most important part of a site that doesn’t just post facts: It evolves the story and builds community.

Going niche - growth, monetization and traffic retention in a saturated market - Rob Hope

Rob talked about the strategies he’s used to grow One Page Love. He started with the personal touch: one user at a time. He focused on the User Experience and made it easy to follow / subscribe. He also suggests releasing early and often: users like it and it encourages feedback.

I agree completely with a strategy of continuous deployment, but Rob was referring to it in the context of design changes / tweaks and I’m not sure it holds as true there. Generally speaking, users don’t like change. Think about the waves of complaints that comes with every Facebook or Twitter redesign.

Rob also discussed studying your stats and site search results, and using them to tweak your design and boost your traffic.

The true meaning of sustainable value - Matty Cohen

Matty’s talk was about value and keeping things simple. He said that things with value are those that are true and sustainable. True value is harmony; working together to achieve results.

He suggested making decisions over providing options. Focus on the one problem you’re solving; your product should do what is says it does, brilliantly. When evaluating a Theme, ask: does it display my content well? For an commerce plugin: does it help my visitors purchase stuff? Don’t be afraid to recommend the best thing for your user, even if it’s not your product.

Protecting Against Lost Profits - Chris Lema

Be wary of letting the client tell you how to do your job. Think of dentists, mechanics: would you tell them how to do theirs? There’s a need to educate clients: the customer isn’t always right. Rather do what your client’s client’s need.