Tamsen’s Review: Cheryl is well on her way to conquering all the doodads and saving everything as web.
Some of you may know that I started a blog. I did not know how to do this or even know how to bring the blogs of other writers up on my computer screen. The depth of my ignorance of anything digital or technological is deep and wide. Allow me to make one exception. Since I worked in the high-tech field of accounting, I can Excel spreadsheet the hell out of any information that needs organizing. That’s mostly because I am great at organizing and I took a class in college on how to use Excel, Word and Access. Please don’t ask me anything about Access.
I am never afraid to learn, no matter how daunting the subject material. If you would like me to perform brain surgery on your cat, I know how to find the directions and am willing to give it a go. It eventually pays off to have children…they are champions at keeping up with technology and reminding you that you can learn how to do anything on YouTube, so stop asking them. If you are skeptical about this, my son can prove you wrong.
I confess that I paid someone to get me “set up” on WordPress. I was warned away from this platform as it would be too complicated for me to use as a tool for personal blogging. This advice was correct. That’s probably why I did not follow it. I had bigger dreams. WordPress is not just a product; it is a cult. I went to Word Camp. Other companies probably have camps, conferences, conventions. This one called to me like the Lorelei’s signal. It was local and it was inexpensive and you got a t-shirt.
I eagerly signed up and prepared for two days of free lunch and confusing information that was way over my head. I was not disappointed.
The theme of the camp was “Star Trek,” complete with classrooms labeled Engineering, Holodeck, Transporter Room and Engine Room. Sick Bay (aka Happiness Bar) was the place you could take your blog and get professional advice on how to relieve it of its afflictions. Elevate, Empower, Engage. This sounded like I would be transported to new levels of knowledge and community.
Bloggers, web page designers and developers showed up. I signed up for the All Users level of lectures though went to a couple of presentations for designers just to see the possibilities of website design. Going in, I felt as imperiled as a red-shirted crew member of the Enterprise, transported down to the surface of an unknown planet, out of my depth and up to my ears in alien beings. I was desperate to get to the empowered stage of the journey without the inevitable tragic ending.
The keynote speaker, Chris Lema, did not overwhelm me with technical jargon. His speech was a personal-journey story sprinkled liberally with the importance of networking and comradery. I personally thanked him for that. He set a tone of connection and cooperation for the 200 or so people in attendance. Note: I did not actually count them.
The first presentation I attended was called “Word Camp, Now What.” This appealed to me as I figured they’d tell me where to go and what class I would need for my level of ignorance. Not so. Our presenter, Aida Correa, was dressed in a Star Trek uniform. I admit to being impressed by this. She made us talk to one another, get each other’s business cards and even (voluntarily) introduce someone we just met to the crowd in the room. This was our first chance at networking, a theme stressed throughout the two-day conference. Make those connections. Read each other’s blogs. Follow up with emails. Join your local WordPress Meetup group. These were my people and I was hereby required to join the Borg! It’ll be a long assimilation.
I enjoy learning. Even if the learning is discovering that I need more learning in certain areas. That became the general theme of Word Camp for me. Can I take what I heard and immediately put it into action to improve my blog, my hits, my popularity? No. Not even close. I can, however, start finding people who do know how to do these things. I can even learn to do them for myself given the proper class at AB Tech or OLLI, the continuing education program for the mature student at UNCA (University of North Carolina, Asheville).
After attending Word Camp, I can spout off a few words, concepts, topics that define the outermost limits of my knowledge. I finally know what SEO stands for. Search engine optimization aka how to get more people looking at your website by it coming up at the top of their Google search results list. I have some vague ideas of how to do accomplish that, though it’s really not so high on my priority list. I know that there are different endings for names of photos, videos and graphics: jpg, png, svg, gif; and that I need to learn what all those mean and which are appropriate for my blog. Vector vs pixels has something to do with graphics. I’m sure I’ll learn more since this aspect of the blogging world fascinates me. Save as for web in Photoshop. I will do that, should I ever need to…or figure out how to find this option again.
Speeding up the load time on your site is important. Anything longer than 3 seconds is too long! I can understand this concept if not the methods for accomplishing it. I finally understand some of that stuff on my Google Analytics (a plug-in on my blog dashboard professionally plugged in by my tech professional). The term dashboard both thrills and frightens me as it sounds like control center for the administration of my blog (it is!) and the confusing collection of buttons to push and doodads to conquer.
I thoroughly enjoyed the sponsors and all their give-away stuff but was too shy to ask what the hell they did and why would I ever need to seek out their products and can I have a hand grenade from Big BOOM Design or a lightning bolt from Pantheon. I settled on a button from WordPress and some cleaning cloths from Green Geeks (I still don’t know what this company does, but at least I can tidy up my phone!). As it was, I walked away from the camp with a t-shirt and a pint glass—how very Asheville, and a really cool id badge.
I pulled through the mission with my wits a bit scrambled but intact. Defying the odds of the usual fate of the red-shirted security officer, I met the unknown head on, indeed, am probably in line for a promotion from Star Fleet command. Blue shirt here I come.
This Word Camp attendance was about meeting new people, wondering at all the tech-speech, directing the quest for learning. The fact that this conference, and others around the country, is locally organized and not corporately dictated meant that content sprang directly from the community in which I live. I could easily follow up (aka hunt them down) for clarification of their presentations. Along with the cool swag, I took home my own excitement for the possibilities. Learning what’s possible with my WordPress blog, from the basics to the high-tech, I now am less confused about where to invest my time and money so that I can better deliver the savory delights of Living with Ethel to you.
Guest Editor Tamsen sits two seats in front of me at the office space, imparts great wisdom and likes that I call her a millennial (she’s borderline). She knew exactly what this story needed and, along with office mate Laura, held my hand through the Star Trek analogy of my feelings.