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.

Hacks/Hackers

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.