Thoughts on WordCamp Dallas 2008

I’m just back from WordCamp Dallas where I had the pleasure to see the blogging world from a different angle. I credit Mark Hopkins for really clarifying this in his post at Mashable.

See, I’ve been lucky enough to attend a lot of conferences and events and to interact with lots of people along the way. Most of the folks I interact with are early adopter kinds of folks that love jumping all over the newest and greatest social tools, etc. We all travel in the same circles so we always see the same people at conferences and while it’s great, it was really catching to interact with a group that doesn’t necessarily operate in those circles.

The WordCamp Dallas group was different than even WordCamp San Francisco where Om Malik has spoke two years in a row and where folks like Dave Winer, Mike Arrington, Matt Cutts and others have spoken or made some kind of appearance in the past. There were very few of the “internet rock star” types in Dallas, but the demographic that was there made it so much more rich and interesting.

Aaron Brazell and Ronald Huereca
Photo Credit: ronalfy

ContentCamp

It was different, but it was good. I discovered a really telling and exciting thread through the entire weekend as I observed a few this:

  1. Going into the event, I was asked to make my session technical to meet a technical audience. There were some technical people in the audience, but I felt it important to adjust my presentation to be a bit less geeky.
  2. The most well received sessions of the weekend dealt with copyright and licensing, developing a community around your blog and the business blogging panel.
  3. The number of people was notable who simply talked about wanting to write more, and having better insight on writing in general

To me, the common denominator, and the highlighted theme for the entire weekend, was not WordPress. Despite the fact WordPress 2.5 was released and is being well received across the board (I was watching Twitter for about 3 hours after the announcement and saw nothing but good reports). Even though the premise of the event is All Things WordPress the most value seemed to surround content.

Guess what? Content is non-platformic. Easily, this event could have been a general blogging event. Easily, value could have been gained by Movable Type users and Typepad users; by those on Blogger or Textpattern or Drupal.

Why was it that I found myself silently annoyed by WordPress fanboism in much the same way that frustration with Applegasms – the reaction by Apple fanbois whenever the beloved Cupertino company announces something new – caused me to register applegasms.com?

I reckon my annoyance comes from my feeling that WordPress is a tool. It is a wonderfully awesome tool that I support, encourage and use. However, at the end of the day, it is a tool. My friend and colleague Mark Jaquith, who is also one of the core WordPress developers, has a philosophy that I love: get WordPress to the point where the user has no idea that WordPress even exists.

At the end of the day, it’s not about if you use WordPress or Typepad or any other blog platform. Sure, there are things to consider when choosing. However, at the end of the day, it’s about creating engaging content that creates community between author and readers. That’s the important part.

Frisco, Texas
Photo Credit: zizzybaloobah

Frisco, Texas

Although the event is called WordCamp Dallas, it was technically held in Frisco, Texas about 30 minutes north of Dallas. Frisco is an amazing city. In the short few days that I was there, I felt like I was watching the beginnings of a brand new city that in five years would be the hub of activity for miles around.

The city was gracious enough to lend us their City Council chamber which is an amazing, state of the art facility in itself. The acoustics of the domed room were so vibrant that I would love to play my guitar in the center of the room.

The city supported us and went out of their way to help us on a number of fronts. So, thank you, Frisco.

Business Blogging Panel
Photo Credit: ronalfy

Best Panel EVAR

The best panel I’ve ever been on (and no offense to every other panelist I’ve shared the stage with), was the business and blogging panel. It was such an honor to share the stage with Mark Ghosh, Matt Mullenweg and Liz Strauss. I felt like I shouldn’t be up there. Thank you, folks. That panel was the highlight of my weekend.

In summary, the professionalism and agility that this unconference was delivered in was nothing short of amazing. The sponsors were all in. The organizers were quite adept. The WordPress.com folks came in to support and WordPress 2.5 was launched in the heart of Texas. I had a blast.

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Spanish Content in English Feed

Apologies to my english speaking feed readers who have noticed that Spanish content has been leaking into the feed. I had it worked out that that would not happen but at some point, the content began leaking in. I’m on it like espresso beans on decaf (ok, really bad analogy there). Thanks for your patience as we might have a few posts leak in still while I work out why my rules aren’t working anymore.

Disculpas a mis lectores hispanoparlantes por el contenido en inglés que se ha estado colando dentro del feed. Lo tenía funcionando correctamente pero en algún momento los filtros dejaron de separar este contenido del feed en español. Tengan la certeza que estoy trabajando lo más rápido posible para corregirlo. Es posible que uno que otro artículo en inglés se cuele dentro del feed en español mientras averiguo por qué los filtros no están funcionando. Gracias por su paciencia.

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Los Curadores de Contenido

El volumen de información que debemos procesar aumenta cada día. Cada nuevo paquete de contenido que consumimos parece abrir las puertas a cientos de paquetes adicionales. La sobrecarga de información se ha vuelto un problema tan grande que muchas veces paraliza nuestra productividad.

Recientement, Steve Rubel (Micro Persuasion: The Digital Curator in Your Future) y Valeria Maltoni (Conversation Agent: Do We Need Editors in New Media) han retomado un tema que toqué en el 2006 (RED66: Where are the Editors?): la necesidad de editores o curadores de contenido que funcionen como un filtro que regule la cantidad y calidad del contenido que consumimos.

Actualmente podemos crear Agentes de Búsqueda (e.g., Google Alerts) para estar al tanto de cualquier información relacionada a un tema de nuestro interés. El problema está en que estos agentes no tienen todavía la capacidad de decidir cual contenido vale la pena y cual debe ir a la basura. Hace falta un agente de búsqueda con criterio suficiente para decidir cual contenido enviarnos. (una opción sería construir un Agente de Búsqueda que utilice información previamente curada, como por ejemplo la que está en Del.icio.us).

Yahoo!, Altavista, Google, entre otros, fueron los primeros agentes de búsqueda de internet, permitiéndonos encontrar información que de otro modo nunca hubieramos visto. Google aplicó su algoritmo de PageRank para entregarnos resultados más relevantes. Pero es tanta la información disponible en Internet que estos sistemas de búsqueda nos devuelven demasiada información, mucha de ella irrelevante o de poca importancia. PageRank no es necesariamente la mejor forma de categorizar información.

Servicios como Mahalo, StumpleUpon, Del.icio.us y hasta Digg nos permiten buscar información previamente filtrada y organizada por otros. Los usuarios de estos servicios actúan como curadores de la información, decidiendo qué vale la pena ver – de la misma forma que el curador de un museo decide cuales obras de arte exhibir (y al igual que en el museo, a veces nos preguntamos cómo un artículo en particular fue escogido para la colección).

Pero todavía prefiero servicios como Twitter, que me permiten escoger mis conexiones (mis fuentes de información) y aprender de sus recomendaciones. Siguiendo las conversaciones de mis contactos en Twitter consigo más contactos y aprendo quiénes ofrecen contenido relevante. Sin embargo, Twitter requiere mi atención constante (es lo que podríamos llamar un “torrente de distracción permanente”); me hace falta un agente de búsqueda que condense lo que llega a mi Twitter y me informe regularmente al respecto.

Y tu, ¿cómo consumes información? ¿Tienes alguna herramienta secreta que te permite estar al día? ¿O te estás ahogando en un mar de información banal? Cuéntanos tu experiencia usando el formulario de comentarios.

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