WordCamp Seattle 2009 Coverage

I need to get out more.

That’s the first thing that comes to mind after attending WordCamp Seattle today on the Adobe campus. I enjoyed meeting a number of bloggers in person as well as a handful of people I follow on Twitter like Veronica and Barb.

I can’t believe how many talented people I met today who are willing to share their experiences with our community.

Thanks to Josh for giving me the opportunity to speak. Kudos to Calvin, Bean, and Dan for putting on a successful event for several hundred attendees. And how about that rowdy crowd from Portland? Their enthusiasm was contagious.

I wish I could have attended all the sessions but I had to choose between several which overlapped. Chris Pirillo gave an entertaining keynote this morning. He spoke about how companies can’t just decide one day to create a community: “Evangelism is the ROI of social media”. Chris was a good choice for the morning keynote because he energy and enthusiasm is contagious. I was waiting for him to pull a Windows Mobile phone from the audience and step on it. He definitely loves his iPhone.

While I’m on the subject, I saw a few Blackberry phones here and there, but the iPhone dominates. I felt like I was swimming in a sea of iPhones all day.

Liz Strauss gave the closing keynote address this afternoon. She stressed how important it is to “own our identity”. She suggested everyone buy the domain of their name. Tonight I followed her suggestion and bought brettnordquist.com and kimnordquist.com for under ten bucks. Is your name still available?

Liz was one of the few speakers who talked about creating unique content. She said to stop trying to be someone else. Be yourself. Find your own style and run with it. Excellent advice.

I shared a breakout session with Maya Bisineer who gave a great talk on managing multiple blogs. She has an approachable style and is super smart. I’ve considered branching off my blog, and she provided a number of options to consider.

Here’s the text of my talk.

I told a friend who reads my blog that I was speaking at Wordcamp Seattle about dad blogging. He said, “But you don’t offer any giveaways. You don’t ask people to leave a comment and post a link to Twitter and Facebook for a chance to win a product you just reviewed”

But after a lot of research I’ve determined what constitutes a dad blog can be distilled down to the following: I’m a father. And I have a blog.

Does anyone read Pro Blogger or Copy Blogger? I read them both to find out what rules I’m breaking. I don’t care about keywords, I post late at night and on holidays. I don’t run Google Analytics nor do I sell my soul for more Google juice. Lots of people here today are skilled in those areas. I’m not so I’m going to focus on writing.

About 12 ago, I came across Dave Winer’s website. I had my own domain by that time and decided to start my own. I tried a number of open source products and finally settled on one called Greymatter, not because I loved the product, but because it was the only one I could get working with my limited knowledge of PHP.

Here’s how I spent my time on my blog the first few years:

blogging

If I wanted to make a change to the layout or add a feature, I had to write it myself. Over the next 5 years I felt like the college student who bought a beater Chevy Vega and spent most of his time keeping it running instead of attending class.

How do you spend your time on your blog today? Do you spend as much time tweaking your blog as you do writing?

Near the end of 2004, someone left a comment suggesting I check out a fledgling product called WordPress

It didn’t take long for me to realize that I’d finally found a blogging platform that allowed me to focus on my writing. Just over a year ago I posted the following to Twitter:

twittertalk 

This is the main reason I use WordPress and suggest others use it: It allows me spend the majority of my time creating  content. Has anyone left this comment on your blog: “I visit your site each day just to see what new widget you’ve found?” I didn’t think so.

It’s your writing, your opinion, and the story you tell that compels people to return to your blog. They will connect with your writing, not your theme or plugins. You might have the best looking blog with all the popular plugins and widgets enabled. But if your content takes a back seat, you’re unlikely to find an audience.

When I began my blog, most articles I wrote focused on whatever was happening in technology at the time. At best I’ve offer a shallow opinion and at worst, I’d regurgitate the same content found on thousands of other blogs. What readers I had felt little attachment to my content, and why should they; I wasn’t attached to it myself.

A few years went by. I wrote whenever I felt like it which wasn’t often. I spent more time time explaining what a blog is than writing and considered closing my blog altogether.
 
One evening, I sat at my computer staring at my monitor. We’ve all been there before. I was frustrated with my blog. I was frustrated with my writing. What could I possibly write that others would enjoy? Was it possible to create something original? Something meaningful?

And that’s what it flipped. I asked myself, "Why am I perpetuating content found elsewhere? Why am spending so much time trying to figure out what others want me to write?

And at that moment I decided to stop writing for others and write myself. I know that sounds selfish. But I gave myself permission to write about my experiences, my opinions, and the people in my life. Even when those times collide and the results aren’t pretty. 

That night I wrote a post called "The Movie that Changed My Life". Here’s an example of what I wrote that night:

Each morning I’d arrive at work around 7:30 am. My office was on the third floor. I could take an elevator or the stairs. I slogged my way up those three flights of stairs as slowly as humanly possible. With each step my stomach would turn into a tighter knot. Step after grueling step. When I finally reached the top, I could almost puke. The hours at work felt like days. It was a living hell.

The post covered a period 10 years ago when I walked away from my job after seeing the movie, American Beauty. I was proud of some of my actions and embarrassed about others. But it was true. It was honest, and it was an experience I learned from that was specific to me.

Until then, I had steered clear of covering my work and my family. I certainly hadn’t called attention to my weaknesses or opened up in the manner I did with that post. I wanted to capture an experience that had an impact in my life. I wrote it for me. If anyone else enjoyed it, that was a bonus.

It was difficult to press “publish”. But back then I only had a few dozen readers. I assumed few would find it let alone care. When I woke up the next morning I found several supportive comments. It wasn’t until I opened my email and found over two dozen emails that I realized I’d finally found my voice.

All this finally leads to the topic Josh asked me to cover today: How Blogging Makes me a Better Father

Blogging makes me aware of how I spend my time. It makes me aware of how I react to situations, especially those that involve my children. Blogging allows me to take a snapshot of their life and capture it in words. It’s not difficult to write about mistakes I make as a parent because my kids do a good job of reminding me where I fall short.

Some dad and mom bloggers only share the good: the birthday party, the piano recital or graduation.

I’ll occasionally write about those time as well, but the posts I enjoy the most are those where I was late in picking up my daughter or overreacted to my son putting raisins in my DVD drive. I like to find the lessons in everyday activities.

At this conference we’ve heard many discussions about the mechanics of blogging: specific plugins or themes used to enhance your blog. These are certainly important. But they are not a substitute for good writing. As a new blogger it’s easy to get bogged down configuring, designing and tweaking while forgetting that it’s your writing that will keep readers returning to your blog.

Before I close I want to mention three of my favorite bloggers who write about fatherhood among other topics. I hope you’ll check them out because I’ve learned someone from each of them.

MetroDad – I wish I could write like this guy.

Is This Mike On – This newspaper editor brings a lot of heart to his blog.

Big Daddy – A friend and new blogger with large dose of humor.

Comments

  1. Great post that captures the essence of WordCampSeattle and exposes more of yourself, we did not get to meet F2F but look forward to sharing & learning more about you in the blogosphere & Twitter.

    By the way, I have a Treo ;) because Sprint has served me very well for over 15 years, Seattle is the FIRST place that I have had limited or no coverage which mean I had no wifi at WCSEA, nor phone, so I can understand why so many iPhones. Trust me I have iPhone envy but need connectivity over function, for now at least. I do see one in my future.

    Rock On!

  2. Brett,
    Thanks for this thoughtful follow-up to WordCamp Seattle. Josh, Calvin, Bean and Dan – and Dan's fiancee and all the other great volunteers – did an awesome job of pulling it together. For a first-time event, it went really well. Amazingly well.

    The downside of having such big event right off the bat is that people don't have as much time to attend all the presentations and meet the presenters. I'm sorry I didn't get a chance to say 'hi' or see your talk.

    Luckily, you are here in Seattle. So let's keep in touch and – after our organizers have had time to recuperate – we can meet at a WordPress / blogging get-together – something I think we are all looking forward to! After all, we don't want to be second fiddle to the Portland WordPress folks for too long, right?

  3. Marla, thank you for your comment. I had a Treo for a couple of years and like it quite a bit. I don't know why, but Sprint did not have good coverage at my home so I moved to Verizon and would have stayed with them if they offered the iPhone. I hope to meet you at the next Wordcamp.

  4. Mark, I enjoyed your session and learned a lot from your discussion with the attendees. The work that Josh, Calvin, Bean and Dan did was amazing. It makes me want to get more involved next time a Wordcamp rolls into Seattle. Hope to catch up with you at the next Seattle event.

  5. Absolutely, or if you ever get to Los Angeles, please let me know – dvinideas@gmail.com!

    In the meantime, when you get a chance, here's my fledgling: http://lifeafterkids.wordpress.com

  6. You gave a great talk! I enjoyed it.

  7. bentalbert says:

    Brett, I was surpised and honored to see you mention my blog in such prestigious forum. Thanks for getting me started and mentoring me along the way. Your influece on me is far greater than you could know. Thanks.

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