Tag Archives: WordCamp Philly

WordCamp Philly: Facebook & WordPress

Sean Blanda, founder of Technically Philly, packed the room for his afternoon presentation about WordPress and Facebook. He covered tips and tricks for supercharging the social interactions with your blog.

He started off laying the ground rules: The talk wasn’t going to be about the Like button. He wasn’t to going to discuss whether Facebook is evil or not. Finally, he wasn’t going to set up a Facebook page for your business.

Technically Philly, a tech publication covering the tech scene in Philadelphia, started in 2009 and cared little about Facebook. They got a few hundred likes on their Facebook page but really didn’t care. By now they’re at 1000 page likes and get 7-10 a day; now they care about Facebook a whole bunch. They’re nearly doubling their daily reach by having 1000 people following the site on Facebook.

Sean’s talk focused on the 5 things you can do: engage with Facebook comments, measure the work you do with Insights, connect your site to your Facebook page, streamline sharing for readers, and make your Facebook page content count. To get set up you need to do some very minimal template editing of your WordPress theme. This adds in the necessary meta keys for Facebook to recognize your site as an app.

The open graph data that Sean covered adds meta information to the header. It lets you define an email address, phone number, locality, content type, and many more real world values for your digital content. All this helps contextualize the information people see in their newsfeed. Once you have it set up Facebook offers built-in debugging tools for making sure you’ve set up the meta information properly.

Technically Philly only runs Facebook comments on their site. Since they implemented this they’ve seen comment participation triple. By moving to Facebook comments they get all sorts of demographic information as to who comments on the site. It’s great for advertising and for learning who’s interacting with your site.

The downside to this is that the comments are not stored in your WordPress database. However, there is a plugin called Facebook Comments to WordPress that moves your comments to your WordPress database every day.

When sharing content on Facebook a preference is given to content shared manually on the site. Content shared through an automated service ranks lower in their algorithm. With many aspects of sharing content on Facebook there’s an echo effect. As people like your page or your article their friends see it and it spreads through the network.

All this data about your app and what works with sharing content are piped through Facebook Insights. Insights give you lots of graphical breakdowns of how you’re doing on Facebook.

WordCamp Philly: Adding a social ‘stache

Doug Stewart wrapped things up before lunch at WordCamp Philly talking about bbPress, BuddyPress, and more. He also wins the award for first WordCamp talk to pass out handouts with mustache stencils on them while simultaneously playing some techno on the speakers. 🙂

As Doug put it, “Like a good mustache, bbPress and BuddyPress can add that social element to your site.” Social tools like bbPress and BuddyPress can increase user engagement, encourage contribution, and lower the barrier to entry for creating content. Most of all, they add a community around your site and your content.

bbPress is WordPress-native forum software. With version 2.0 it’s now a plugin that, once activated, adds forums to your site. Best of all, it’s dead-simple to install. bbPress is the software that powers the WordPress.org, WordPress.com, Dropbox, and Stephen Fry’s forums. There’s lots of ways to extend it and create support forums, selectively use it in lieu of comments, send email notifications, and more.

BuddyPress gives you social networking in a box. Through friends, private messaging, activity streams, groups, and forums you can really set up anything you need. It’s fantastic for internal corporate networks where you want some of the social features without all of the risk inherent in more public networks. One thing you want to do with BuddyPress is install the theme compatibility check plugin.

With all the power that BuddyPress offers you may want to progressively introduce features to the community. You may not want to introduce them to all the features at once, it can be a bit overwhelming.

For those behind-the-firewall situations BuddyPress allows for things like document collaboration, classified ads, and courseware. These can improve greatly upon more traditional tools for company intranets.

Doug’s going to post all of his slides on Slideshare later so there’s lots of links in those worth checking out.

WordCamp Philly: WordPress & Version Control

Dave Konopa talked about how to get control of WordPress with version control in the second session at WordCamp Philly. Version control gives you a safety net you can step back to at any time. It allows you to manage different streams of development work. This lets you simultaneously develop new features while still patching existing bugs.

By creating a documented history of code changes it makes synchronization and collaboration much easier. It all requires commitment, though. You need to do it every day so that you don’t end up with a haphazard project.

The two big options: subversion and git. Subversion is a centralized repository system while git is a distributed version control tool.

With git, when you’re ready to share you code you can push all your changes to a remote repository. You can clone a repository and also create a staging area for intermediate work.

The easiest implementation of version control for WordPress is custom plugins and themes. While you could use version control to manage your entire site it’s probably more than you need unless you’re working on a significantly large site.

If you’re a git fan but want to stay up on the recent changes to the WordPress code base it’s all mirror through a Github repository that Mark Jaquith set up. It’s synced every 30 minutes so you can keep up with anything that’s coming down the pipe.

Dave’s last bit of advice was to learn by trying. The best way to learn how to use version control effectively is to use it. Get a plugin up on Github, experiment with things, and have fun. The slides from the talk are all available on Github.

WordCamp Philly: Building Community

The first session of the day at WordCamp was with Patrick O’Keefe who talked about building a community around your WordPress publication. Patrick is from iFroggy Networks and has written a book entitled “Managing Online Forums.”

Patrick believes there are 3 key things to do to create a strong community. You need to have quality products and content. You should appreciate your readers, commenters, and followers. Finally, you must create a respectful and healthy culture around your content.

Quality content, email, and comments are the three types of “community by default” with any site. They let anyone come in and participate on your site. To encourage more people to get involved it helps to shine the spotlight on commenters sometimes. Forums, comment plugins, and social networks extend your community and allow more people to get involved.

With forums and lots of other social aspects of your site Patrick says, “If you don’t set it up to be successful then it won’t be.” It’s not enough to just have a forum linked on your homepage. You need to feature it, highlight content from it, and more. You cannot launch something and leave it alone, any community needs a significant time investment.

Key to anything you do though is ownership. Patrick emphasized that you need to own your content and your community in a tool that is truly yours. He also talked about things like edge rank which is Facebook’s algorithm for surfacing content in your news feed.

Ultimately, “people want to engage with you in spaces they already are.” The less friction between discovery and participation the better for your community’s growth.

Recapping WordCamp Philly and Hacks/Hackers

This weekend I travelled to WordCamp Philly and then headed down to Washington D.C. for a post-ONA Hacks/Hackers meetup. Both were an absolute blast.

WordCamp Philly had 4 simultaneous tracks of talks throughout the day so while I couldn’t see everything I did catch a lot of interesting sessions.

Taking over the world with custom taxonomies

In the first session Sean Blanda talked about how to take over the world with custom taxonomies. Sean is a self-described non-coder and claims WordPress makes him look smarter than he actually is. He talked about Technically Philly, his local tech news startup, and how they use custom taxonomies to create a directory of terms similar to TechCrunch’s Crunchbase.

Using custom taxonomies (and lots of dedication to go back and tag more than 1000 earlier posts) Sean’s been able to create slick-looking landing pages for companies, people, and locations within Philadelphia. While custom taxonomies have been around since WordPress 2.3 recent updates have made things easier to manage. Sean created all of this with small pieces of code and the taxonomy term descriptions are all powered through a WYSIWYG text editor. It looks like a great way to create a directory without a significant code investment.

Making WordPress work at work

Next up Doug Stewart discussed how to make WordPress work at work. Doug has years of experience using WordPress in behind-the-firewall situations.

After running into many companies that rely upon GoLive, SharePoint, Microsoft Word, and homegrown CMSes Doug realized that, “most companies don’t know how bad they have it.” This means Doug advocates an “install first, ask questions later” approach to getting WordPress going at large organizations.

While WordPress can help lower the cost of tradition IT departments it is far from a purely technical problem. As Doug mentioned, if you move to WordPress it inherently replaces another system that a co-worker now has a stake in. This means that Doug recommends focusing on the concrete benefits of employing WordPress. Things like easy upgrades, multi-site installations, and a strong community of plugin developers can help persuade an IT department.


From Philly I headed down to Washington D.C. with Max Cutler and Andrew Nacin for the post-ONA Hacks/Hackers hackathon. Daylife was generous enough to sponsor the day and we were put up in NPR’s offices.

Max worked with Daniel Bachhuber, Lauren Rabaino, Mark Lavallee, and Greg Linch on creating a Crunchbase-style directory for news organizations. Pulling data from the Daylife API and other sources they created a basic directory for more than 17000 news organizations. Ideally this directory would be used as a base layer for other forms of data that could be overlayed to reveal relationships and information that would not otherwise be apparent.

Another group used WordPress and the Daylife API to create a plugin that would rock the world of local politics coverage. It creates a custom shortcode that pulls candidate information into a sidebar to display personal, funding, and news coverage information to provide greater context for election coverage.

Nacin and I worked on rebooting the links feature in WordPress. Leveraging APIs coming as part of WordPress 3.1 we aimed to create a bookmarklet that allowed for low friction link saving. On top of this the plugin would create an internal link wire of all the content saved by site users. Links could be saved as public or private and everything could easily be selected and send directly to the editor for easy link roundup posts or as notes for longer essays. The recent and previously untested APIs combined with our combined 4 hours of sleep foiled us this time but you’ll see the plugin in a directory near you soon enough.