Posts Tagged wordcamp

WordCampPDX, an unconference.

Posted by on Monday, 19 September, 2011

It’s been less than 24 hours since WCPDX wrapped up, so I’m still processing a lot of what I heard over the course of the weekend. Still, it was within the first hour that I knew my time would be well spent here. Thankfully so, too, as I was fresh off a PDXWhisky tasting event from the night before (in bed around midnight and up at 6am for WCPDX made for a bit of a rough start Saturday morning…. thank gods for five-hour energy drinks and social anxiety induced adrenaline!).

The biggest takeaway for me was actually specific to running ‘barcamp’ style events: motivating people to lead sessions isn’t something you can control or drive, the participants need to be passionate about a topic and self motivated to put their session on the board.

The second takeaway was much more WordPress focused: “Child themes” are apparently not WordPress themes for children, but rather a more development focused capability for further customization of your site. Who knew? 😉

Over the course of the two days, I jotted down notes on my iPad to log some of the bits that stuck out to me about the entire event. Oddly, none of these were really WordPress specific… though that is likely since I didn’t come in to the conference with specific WP questions or goals… that in mind, here are some lessons learned from a participant’s point of view. Some off these were learned because of perceived failures, some because of successes, but all are lessons we can bring back and implement to improve and maintain success… please forgive the disjointed nature:


WCPDX: Unconference best practices / lessons learned / general notes and observations: 

  1. Be crisp. Start session with topic explanation in 3 words, then poll attendees for expectations and what they want to know.
  2. Agenda organization is frantic from the start, but settles down later. Minimal topics in the first 30 minutes into the first session, but builds momentum with the day.
  3. During first session, rest of schedule builds out heavily. If you want to present, don’t wait.
  4. On the fly schedule updates via web / twitter were brilliant. Define single online and single physical location to find schedules. Set centralized twitter account to help users enable text notifications for schedule changes during conference. Be mindful of using this account for things other than scheduling updates during session hours.
  5. Participation is a lot of question/answer collaborative discussion; not a lot of push presentations, but there was a good balance of presentation to collaborative engagement.
  6. Finding people to lead seemed like it may have been tough at times but there was no real lack of desired topics. (how to identify SMEs?)
  7. WCPDX 2011 was heavily developer driven, which will likely be useful to me down the line. 50% plus in the audience make-up. Appreciated addition of scheduled keynote overlap when main was dev-centric.
  8. First session seems like a rough start/just getting the feel.
  9. Felt bad for not coming with a topic to lead. Will need to prepare for future camps. I had ideas but nothing solid to present, just general topics and didn’t want to cram the schedule with a nebulous idea… wondering how to motivate people like me to lead not just attend.
  10. Topics shift quickly based on attendee feedback; some sessions were listed as one thing and quickly changed to something connected but generally different.
  11. At one point I realized was in wrong session (I had forgotten the right room number and went to the wrong one), but found leaving to be difficult due to the perception that simply leaving would mean I was unhappy with a session which simply wasn’t relevant to me… Need to define an unconference better in the beginning, define etiquette and level set from the start, make it easy for participants to navigate and engage without feeling as though they are being rude.
  12. Need multiple text editor capabilities to easily switch note taking topics and ideas. iPad multi-task capabilities came in handy for this.
  13. Prepared sessions are good, but I found open dialog and conversation on guided topics are better. Facilitator vs. Presenter.
  14. Free rooms are essential to allow for people to ad hoc hack, blog, etc. Make space available with tables.
  15. Bring business cards.


All in all, the event was an outstanding success for me as a participant. Like after most conferences where you are focused and learning about specific topics that challenge your current skill sets or provide new exciting ways of accomplishing your goals, I am on a high and excited to make some changes to my sites. I am sure the euphoric buzz will wear off soon enough, but the stuff I learned won’t deteriorate with it.

I am once again re-invigorated with desire to improve my WordPress driven sites (I own and maintain 3 of them), and am looking to revamp at least one of them to make it more functional for the user base. I even found some great tools over the weekend (like the EditFlow plugin from to really help bring my sites up a notch and ensure that my content is the reason people don’t stay on my sites, not the site itself 😉 Yes, that was self-deprecating humour to make a point, I really hope my content isn’t that bad!

I also found that my iPad was the perfect tool for a conference event like WordCampPDX. It is light and nimble and easily woken from sleep. Having it at the ready-made keeping up to date on the unconference scheduling easy, and checking out resources mentioned during session allowed me an efficient way to set the content for later review, or even just install a them or plugin on the fly as we were discussing it. Brilliant.

Plus, I was able to easily follow the conversations occurring on Twitter under the #WCPDX hash tag, which allowed me to connect with a few of the event attendees in the same sessions or conflicting sessions I couldn’t get to. While that made for a very busy day in terms of communications, it really skyrocketed my experience at WCPDX by enabling two-way real-time feedback in sidebar discussions concurrent with live sessions, or off in ad hoc meet ups for more in-depth conversations. I can’t imagine attending any conference without my iPad and constant twitter feed going. Not only did it make the conference more efficient and effective for me, but it also allowed me to discover and connect with some cool new people!

For those of you I met at #WCPDX: thanks for making it a great weekend! If you haven’t already, check out and connect with me in the other social web spaces so we can continue the great conversations!

Lamentations of a wannabe writer

Posted by on Thursday, 15 September, 2011

In an attempt to get my habit back and return to honing my creativity and craft once again, I conjured a few fun tweets. Rather than post them to Twitter and flood that feed as well as FB, I figured I’d be better off just posting here and adding some additional context around them.

– The words in my head, chaotic mess of phrases, unable to focus. #LamentationsOfAWannabeWriter #MetaHaiku

The sad thing about the lines above: total Haiku failure. the last line is 6 syllables not 5. I guess that points out the complete lack of focus and attention to detail I am lamenting. I had actually posted that one out to Twitter and Facebook too. As an apology, I have re-written it below:

  • The words in my head, chaotic mess of phrases, nothing stays focused. #LamentationsOfAWannabeWriter #MetaHaiku

And I’ll continue on with the theme… here’s the rest of the haiku I wrote as an exercise which thankfully won’t make it out to twitter; instead are doomed to a silent death here:

  • Disparate ideas, priorities shift away, words lost forever.
  • Concrete imagery, abandoned for solace in, bursts of self reference.
  • Word smithing punkers, provocative blogging trends, words still escape me.
  • Ideas of brilliance, words alone changing cultures, please escape my mind.
  • Repetitive pain, in my wrist as well as brain, imprisoned by rote.
  • To write is to read, live the life you wish to write, to read is to write.
  • No Gonzo twitter, Hunter S. Thompson I’m not, just really bad haiku.

Yeah, really bad haiku indeed, I know. I don’t post it here because I think it is anything more than horrible, but rather because I need to post as a motivation to write. You know… it flexes a muscle, one I’ve ignored for too long. Little by little, the more I flex, the more strength it will gain…. and sooner or later I’ll be back at the top of my game; ready to tackle bigger concepts. Ready to unlock the words, phrases, and ideas currently serving time in my head hoping for a reduced sentence for goo behaviour and released back into the world to grow and become productive members of society once again. Right now, though, they still aren’t playing nice together, and as the warden I’m forced to keep them under lock and key until they fall in line and start making some sense.
(how’s that for following bad haiku with an even worse metaphor? Yikes!)



The good news? I should also have a few new blog posts over on the 3 Drunken Celts website over the next few weeks with tasting notes covering:

  • The new Big Bottom Whiskey Portwood finish release compared to the first batch.
  • The Bruichladdich 12yr and Hibikki 12yr.
  • An update on my Woodinville “Age Your Own” kit now that the distillate has been 16 weeks on oak.
  • September’s PDX Whisky tasting event (tomorrow night) with tasting notes on the Auchentoshan 3 Wood, Highland Park 15yr, Douglas Laing double barrel, and the Bowmore 20yr.


And lest I forget, I should also have some good posts here surrounding the WordCampPDX event I will be attending this weekend.  This is an ‘unconference’ done in the barcamp style, so there’s no set agenda until we show up Saturday morning and make one. Should be an interesting time to learn more about WordPress, blogging, networking, and general best practices etc. I expect to have a write up on it all sometime next week to bring all the new information and ideas into some sort of cohesive collection of thoughts. Stay tuned 😉