Retirement Lifestyle Weekend- Part 2, WordPress Wordcamp

WordCamp San Francisco 2008

Image by sheilaellen via Flickr

 Growing as a Blogger

When I started blogging, it was basically an ego trip. I thought that I must have something valuable to share. This was a serious mistake but like most mistakes, there was a lesson to learn if I was open to seeing it. I had potential as a blogger because of a basic understanding of grammar and syntax, life experiences which provided context for commentary and a brain. What I lacked was an understanding about human nature, serious communication skills and a genuine love of my fellow men. And I didn’t really appreciate what a great obstacle that was.

I don’t quite understand why I stuck with blogging, given my serious deficiencies but perhaps it has to do with my need for mastery and my ego. I have always believed that there is unlimited potential to learn and master skills. I felt that I could do it.

WordPress Wordcamp San Francisco 

So Sunday found me at Wordcamp San Francisco hoping to increase my mastery of blogging and my understanding of the possibilities provided on the WordPress platform. What I find remarkable about WordPress is that it allows me to go beyond my limits. Without achieving the technical mastery of programming HTML or CSS, I can make complicated things happen on my blog. I can embed videos and music. I can post pictures. I can make layout changes. What WordPress can’t do for me is give me skill and judgment in how to use these capabilities for powerful communication. I love the features. But more and more I discover that I am using them poorly.

Technical mastery does not equate to making connections 

I can grow more with my technical blogging skills and I appreciate learning new features and possibilities from WordPress but I was really wanting to learn more about how successful bloggers think and how they create magic on their blogs. The presentations that I most enjoyed were bloggers sharing their whys and not their hows. From my perspective Wordcamp didn’t provide enough of that. In fairness, I don’t think that that is what WordPress or Wordcamp is about. WordPress is a powerful platform not a training program for bloggers.

So what is WordPress? 

WordPress creator Matt Mullenweg revealed that WordPress isn’t about blogging. It is about freeing information. Bloggers are merely an artifact of that process. Which perhaps explains my reaction to Wordcamp. Wordcamp supports the WordPress mission. Bloggers are are not a part of this mission. They are more like moss that grows on a building when the conditions are right- interesting but irrelevant. Or maybe like the pet collie you like to have around when you get home from a hard day at the office to lick your hand. He makes you feel good but doesn’t make you better at your job.

I didn’t relate to the Sunday program

I think this is why I struggled with the format of Wordcamp. The blogger focused sessions were snacks, not nourishing meals. Most were presented by staff and not real bloggers and focused on new features and how to use them not on using the platform to connect emotionally with readers. It wasn’t what I was seeking but in review I think that this makes perfect sense for WordPress. My expectations were unreasonable.   Still I learned from the experience.   I have a better appreciation for the power and limitations of WordPress for bloggers. It won’t make my blog better even if it can load it up with technical fireworks.

Will I attend another?

Whether Wordcamp San Francisco makes sense for bloggers is another question. My initial response is that I wasn’t their target and that blogging is not really essential to their mission so I shouldn’t attend unless I am interested in seriously getting into the code. Still, I now have a much greater appreciation for the process and resources that make my blog production so easy. My simple worldview of blogging has become more complex. Technical prowess and skillful blogging are completely separate skills. It is unreasonable to expect to learn both from the same source. Without attending Wordcamp I still wouldn’t have learned that lesson. So, I value the experience. There was useful information and an opportunity to participate in the WordPress community. Now I have better information to evaluate next year’s Wordcamp and what I can learn there. Will I attend? It’s too early to say.




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{ 15 comments… add one }
  • Bill Birnbaum August 17, 2011, 6:53 am

    Hey, Ralph… Thanks for bringing Wordcamp San Francisco to our attention. Very interesting. Bill
    Bill Birnbaum’s last Blog Post ..Retirees’ Intellectual Challenge

    • Ralph August 17, 2011, 7:33 am

      I really can’t say enough about the Wordpress platform and the support framework for their users. Wordpress makes blogging easy but it can’t make good bloggers. There are Wordcamps all round the world but as I understand, Wordcamp SF is the granddaddy of them all.

  • Jeni August 17, 2011, 3:46 pm

    From the sound of this blog, I think you would like to read a new one about blogging – I think it addresses some of the things you feel you lack. (I am not in any way related to the blog – it is a new one by a blogger I enjoy reading)

    • Ralph August 17, 2011, 4:39 pm

      I’ll take a look. I need all the help I can find. Thanks for the suggestion.

  • Bill Murney August 18, 2011, 6:56 am

    Ralph, I too have oftened wondered why I have stuck with blogging when I realised there would be no financial gain. Is it an ego trip, as you suggest, that we are all on?

    Personally I am pretty poor on the techie side but have a great guy who is. As you say being good technically doesn’t make you a good blogger.

    Bill Murney’s last Blog Post ..A Postcard From Madeira – 3

    • Ralph August 18, 2011, 9:56 am

      I would argue that there is still the potential for financial gain. The simple and easy techniques that you see when you start are not so simple and easy but a good blogger can make money. The problem is that there is no easy way to become a good blogger- at least not a follow the numbers without thinking way. For me it is another way to grow and get better.

  • hansi August 18, 2011, 7:45 am

    hey, I got a Wordpress blog and love it. I’m probably only scratching the surface of what can be done with it, but for me blogging is like a good laxative…I’ll let you fill in the rest.
    hansi’s last Blog Post ..Drawing Slump

  • dkzody August 18, 2011, 10:52 am

    I’ve had a WordPress blog for almost four years and think it’s great. HATE Blogger blogs and trying to post comments on them. Too difficult so many times I just zip on by without saying anything.

    I have always wanted to attend Wordcamp SF. I was actually living in SF last year when it came along, but had not learned of it soon enough to go. I never hear anything about Wordcamp until it’s OVER.
    dkzody’s last Blog Post ..Another infographic about school

    • Ralph August 18, 2011, 11:10 am

      I know the feeling. I’ve been attending the SF Meetup group (sponsored by Automatic which is part of the Wordpress Empire). It wasn’t until last month that I heard about it. I’m a bit frustrated by Wordcamp as you can probably tell but I think I had the wrong expectations. You might have a Wordpress Meetup Group in Fresno. I know we have one in Sacramento. I just looked and didn’t find one. Wait until you get that bullet train.

  • dkzody August 18, 2011, 11:47 am

    Thanks for stopping by my blog. Nice to know you are just up the road. Doesn’t surprise me that Fresno is without a WordPress group. We are a unusual place.

    As for visiting Yosemite, I would recommend you wait a week or so AFTER Labor Day. The tourist trade will have declined a bit.
    dkzody’s last Blog Post ..Another infographic about school

    • Ralph August 18, 2011, 12:11 pm

      That’s our plan. Biggest obstacle is getting my wife to sit in the car for four hours.

  • Sire August 25, 2011, 6:02 pm

    Hey Ralph,

    what a shame that it wasn’t all you expected of Wordcamp. One would have thought that seeing as how WordPress was a major part of the day they would have included more bloggers in the mix considering they comprise the vast majority of users.
    Sire’s last Blog Post ..Five Best WordPress Plugins For Affiliate Marketers

    • Ralph August 26, 2011, 7:47 am

      I was disappointed but I don’t fault Wordpress for anything besides not being more transparent with their program and speakers before hand. Wordpress has done plenty to make my blogging easier on the technical front. It’s unreasonable to expect them to teach me communication and personal skills. Still some forums might have been nice. Do they have Wordcamps in Oz?

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