Speaking at WordUp Minneapolis 2012 next week

Next weekend, on October 13, the MSP WordPress User Group will be having its first WordUp Minneapolis conference. The event is from 9am to 4pm at the Minneapolis Community & Technical College downtown and costs just ten dollars.

The format for WordUp will basically be a mini-WordCamp. We had our first WordCamp Minneapolis in 2010 and WordUp 2012 will hopefully be a solid stepping stone towards our next WordCamp in early 2013!

We’ve got a lot of good sessions planned for users of all levels and interests. In my session I’ll be talking about creating easy to use post types, using existing plugins to build unique admin interfaces for the end user with custom taxonomies and metaboxes.

I’ll also be staffing the tech shop, it’s like a live support forum where you get your answer right away, but you have to be nicer, and no bumping! So if you’re in Minnesota and you’ve got ten bucks, you should definitely grab a ticket.

WordCamp Chicago road trip

I’m going on a WordPress bender this weekend!

First I’m headed to the Twin Cities for the MSP WordPress meetup. After that, Kiko Doran and I are road tripping down to Chicago for WordCamp Chicago 2012.

This will be my third time attending WordCamp Chicago and it looks like it will be the best one yet. There are a lot of awesome speakers and sessions on the schedule, but I’m really interested in the interactive talks track, hopefully those will start some good conversations.

Ampersand, my robot minion

I decided my website really needs a mascot, every website should have a mascot right?

There isn’t a day goes by that I don’t wish I had a robot minion. Some droid as smart as a dog that could pull weeds and help me water the garden.

And on the Net, I need even more help—there just isn’t enough hours in the day! So I built Ampersand here to help me out with some of the grunt work: cleaning up spam, moderating comments, and squashing spider bots that have overstayed their welcome.

I have always been a doodler and a science fiction fan, so Ampersand will give me the opportunity to dust off my Wacom tablet and add some futuristic illustrations to my site.

Be sure to keep your eyes peeled for Ampersand lurking in the background keeping my outpost running.

My outpost on the Net

I have had my own website for over six years, starting in January, 2004. Like so many geeks, operating my own site has been an experimental project where I learned as I went.

Since 2004 I have switch domains and domain registrars once, switched webhosts three times, and went through several design incarnations of my site.

Learning the fundamentals

Those first few designs were crude affairs that, thanks to many hours in Photoshop, looked fine but were poorly coded using just HTML and relying far too heavily on sliced up images and inappropriately used tables.

As I mastered HTML and learned to use it correctly, I started to figure out CSS and incorporate that into my designs.

For the first 3 or 4 years as I was learning and experimenting, my site was being used as a portfolio for my photographs, illustrations, or other graphics. Sadly, I didn’t have much actual content on my site and it was rarely updated.

What can I say, managing the content of your site and making regular updates is a struggle when you have to manually edit the code for every change!

Choosing a platform

I had been tinkering with Drupal, Joomla!, PHP Nuke and other content management systems for different projects and I knew that I needed a CMS for my site to help keep it current.

After trudging through the convoluted template files and obtuse control panels of these “full-fledged” content management systems, I knew I wanted a CMS that was fresh, nimble, and easy to use.

So two years ago I switched my site to WordPress. Sure, there are other decent lightweight CMSes out there. But they are either commercial products, or suffer in obscurity. WordPress is just about the only publishing platform of its kind that is free of charge, Open Source, and has a large, active community of users.

Joining the conversation

WordPress has made it easier to keep my resume and portfolio updated, and I have gotten some good feedback through the comments in my portfolio, but I still haven’t been actually blogging with WordPress.

For the first couple of years that I was on the Net, I was mostly a lurker.

I really had no interest in getting into a flame war like the nasty comments on YouTube unless it is with close friends who won’t mistake my nihilism and sarcasm for some kind of personal attack. Shouting into the wind also seemed like a waste of time—or maybe I just don’t like crowds—so I didn’t bother posting on sites with hordes of comments like Slashdot.

But over the years I’ve warmed to the idea of the Net being an interactive medium and started to de-lurk a bit.

I’ve joined a few quieter forums and started to comment on some of the blogs that I read. I even started “micro-blogging” on Twitter.

As I began to participate in conversations, I noticed that my comments were growing far too long and that I could never convey an idea in a mere 140 character tweet.

So I redesigned my site yet again and decided to start blogging.

Going all meta

My blog is going to stick with the topic of web design, primarily about WordPress. I’ll be writing about the themes and plugins that I am developing, projects that I am working on, and various meetings and conferences that I go to.

I am a volunteer on the WordPress Support Forums, where I try to answer at least one question every day. I often run into the same questions consistently, or questions that are hard to answer in a basic forum post. So I am also planning to make some screencasts and blog posts with in-depth tutorials that address these problems.

If these topics are of interest to you, subscribe to my feed or follow me on Twitter.