Our First WordCamp
This past Monday, the Kahena Digital team walked down the street from our German Colony based-headquarters to the Menachem Begin Heritage Center, joining hundreds of other Web Professionals from all over Israel to participate in Wordcamp 2011. The conference speakers covered many aspects of online development, mostly centered around the popular WordPress platform and its powerful capabilities.
In setting expectations for the day, Ari mentioned that if you can take 2-3 actionable takeaways from a conference, than it was a success. As you can see, we definitely exceeded that. Here are some of them:
- Mobile is changing everything. If you’re not looking in analytics to see what % of your traffic is from mobile devices, you’re missing out. If you’re running WordPress, a quick simple plugin to create a mobile site for mobile visitors is WPTouch, hailed by many – including mobile app expert Jonathan Caras from AppStudio.
- Creating a mobile app that feeds content from your site is just as easy these days. For iOS and Android devices check out Israeli startup UppSites who took every opportunity to show off their solution yesterday. Also named were the Ovi App Wizard for Nokia devices. We’ve developed some basic apps for Apple, Android, etc – but for folks who need a quick, turnkey solution – definitely check them out.
- We met a lot of great Jerusalem tech folks yesterday. One startup that caught our attention was RankRanger – whose offices are down the street. As paying members of no less than 3 different rank checking / campaign management toolsets, we were obviously interested. We haven’t signed up yet, but we’re looking to schedule an in-person meeting to see what their toolset is all about. Becoming a trusted member of an up and coming software package can be awesome for feedback and feature requests.
- JQuery. Wow. We were really impressed by Chanit Cohen’s talk on how to better customize and integrate JQuery into your WP site. Instead of installing weighty plugins which can cause conflicts and lag time in page load, program it yourself! We’re going to dive deeper into this in the weeks to come.
- We were pleased to find out that our favorite, Yoast’s SEO plugin, seems to be a crowd favorite as well. Some presenters mentioned the rival All-in-One-SEO plugin for WP, but we’re still huge Yoast fans. His integrated SEO plugin does the job of several legacy SEO plugins. If there’s a YoastCamp 2012, I’ll be one of the first to sign up!
- A Kahena team favorite was Miriam Schwab’s tip about creating a WordPress mini-site inside of a Facebook tab. While we didn’t get to see the complete process due to the aforementioned internet issues, the screenshots and the concept is awesome. The ability to bring in a customizable micro-site into Facebook that automatically updates with new posts, pages, and categories from your WP site is incredible. We’ll be looking forward to testing this out very shortly.
As with all conferences, a big question was: what will be in the way of swag? Wordcamp 2011, despite a small budget, left the participants with Google spiral notebooksand pens, and a great selection of sandwiches for lunch. Ari, our CEO, lamented the lack of brewed coffee, and quickly set off to find the nearest espresso available.
I’m not sure if this was the Begin Center’s first tech conference, but they were not so well prepared. With an influx of hundreds of wireless devices (what self respecting techie wouldn’t bring their iPads, iPhones or Android to a tech conference?) connecting at a given time, the Wifi network frequently crashed, especially when speakers were trying to give online demonstrations. More often than not a participant would bring up their 3G enabled smartphone and offer it as a hot-spot for the presenter’s laptop.
More than a few of the speakers discussed mobile platforms. We all knew that mobile is rapidly growing, but I was surprised to see data that mobile online usage is expected toovertake desktop internet in 2013. So soon? Also, anyone who steps outside of the USA knows that Nokia still has a huge global presence, but I was surprised to hear that Symbian is the leading mobile OS worldwide. I later found out that this data is inaccurate, (as of Q2 2011, see right) and that I was right all along. Another speaker spoke about the pitfalls of designing iPad apps. Yet another temporarily forgiven for breaking the “no self-promotion” rule because their app was so cool, had a program that ported WordPress sites directly into the Apple App store.
Who’s Reading Your Stuff?
It was no surprise that Facebook was a focus as well – as several speakers tried to make it as clear as possible that it’s the key to bringing in more traffic. One stat quoted was that the average internet user visits 2.9 sites a day, and one of them is facebook. Two speakers showed how you can intergrate your site into the Facebook user’s experience. Other speakers touched upon the tension between long and short content, but none of them delved into the deep philosophical questions about the direction of online attention spans, and how it will affect the internet marketing scene.
Not everyone was a total techie there. The final speaker, Ariel Hochstadt from Google Israel, repeatedly told us: “I’m a marketing person, not a web developer.” Many in the crowd identify with him. Running a successful SEO campaign or a having a popular blog both require a deep understand of marketing. Many just came to network. This year’s winner of the “unofficial self-promotion” prize: JobMob blogger Jacob Share, who wore a rugby shirt with his brand name printed on the back. The Makor tech school had a table promoting their PHP development classes. Participants could be seen pitching and demonstrating their products websites to each other on their smartphones and iPads during each break.
Being more accustomed to Policy Conferences from my non-profit days, this was my first tech conference, and it was refreshingly more based on real solutions and results. There was so much to take in – I scribbled as much as I could in my little Google Notebook and will spend a good part of the next days trying out the new advice and plug-ins.
Here’s the full WordCamp Jerusalem 2011 program and speakers