conference

Tech Thursday: WordCamp 2014, or Why You Should Go to Conferences

It’s Tech Thursday…in Cambridge! We’re reporting from WordCamp Boston 2014, and thought it would be fun to film while we’re here!

Professional development is important in all industries, and conferences are a perfect example. They give you the chance to learn new industry specific things that you may not have come across otherwise. Plus, it gives you a chance to meet people you’ve heard of or interacted with online (i.e. tweeting or reading their blogs). And, perhaps most importantly, it helps your customers! Keeping your industry knowledge up to date ensures that your customers are getting quality service.

Conferences: they’re good and good for you!

(Sorry about the windiness, apparently it was a bit blustery out!)

Kassie is a distance runner and a distance reader really. She lives in Ellsworth Maine and, while she might be quiet when you meet her, will throw out something witty when you least expect it.

What I Learned At Wordcamp This Summer: Nicole’s Takeaways

2014-boston-wordcamp-logoThere is always something to know… and even though I’ve been working in Wordpress since 2008, I am always blown away not only with the new technology coming out but new ways of using features that I’m already familiar with.

Wordcamp Boston took place at one of MIT’s state of the art buildings and there were about 300 of us on hand to drink coffee and learn what we could from each other. The fact they had 8 sessions (!) in one day I was a little worried about but 45 minutes each was somehow manageable and fun.

We not only attended the after party but also the after-after party where we got to hang out with cool ‘celebrities’ like Sam Hotchkiss, creator of BruteProtect and a rep from Sucuri, a service we’ve used and loved. (A rep from GoDaddy was there too, apparently his sister makes GREAT fondant, and he took the elephant shooting jokes we made about a former GoDaddy exec  in stride!)

Here’s what we learned:

Accessibility is key.
It was fun to meet Jordan Quintal who has a firm that specializes in accessible sites for the disabled. As one of the 1 billion people worldwide who has a disability, Jordan talked about features I just thought were pretty, like mouseover color changes, and how you can test your site’s accessibility level. Bonus is these tools give specific improvements you can make on your own website. You can see his presentation (from a previous conference) here: Jordan’s Presentation about Accessibility (Video)

Us as mad scientists at Wordcamp.Live tweeting is still awesome.
Because of Twitter, not only did we get some of the talking points and ideas of other talks going on at the same time (I literally can’t be in two places at the same time after all!) but it also connected us with some cool people, including Myrna, head of Good Egg Marketing who we hope to collaborate with on some future projects.

Seeing Matt Baya should happen more than once a year.
The fact that the picture with this blog post is the only picture of Kassie and I at this conference is a little sad. And super sad we didn’t get one with Matt. But as usual he blew our minds, this time introducing us to Yik Yack.

My favorite talk of the whole conference was David Hickox’s talk about Designing for Content. Really great overview and actually got me excited about sexy topics like line spacing and h5 tags!

Overall, great job Wordcamp organizers on a smooth conference with a nice range of presenters. Let’s do it again next year!

Nicole runs Breaking Even Communications, an internet marketing company in Bar Harbor Maine. When she’s not online, she enjoys walking her short dog, cooking with bacon, and trying to be outdoorsy in Acadia National Park.

Joomla Day Houston

JoomlaDayHouston-250x250-05About a week ago, I went to speak at Joomla Day Houston. This was the first Joomla Day in Houston and about 100 people turned out, many from Texas but many definitely from farther (I might have won the prize for farthest traveled!).

A few useful resources from this event you might like:

What’s on your menu(s)? by Robbie Adair

Robbie was one of the conference organizers. I saw her presentation about this topic at Joomla Day Boston in March and thought her explanation was not only easy to understand but gave me some new perspectives on Joomla menus (you know, even though I’ve been using them for fiveish years).

45 in 45 (The Best Joomla Extensions) by Rod Martin

Rod talked about the best free and paid Joomla Extensions he and his knowledgeable Twitter followers have used to develop websites. (He even added a slide based on feedback of other Joomla developers in the room- so really there is more like 58 extensions).

Contracts with Mike Carson (link to the paid course for $99- totally worth it)

Mike gave his talk about writing contracts… and I cringed. I was guilty of at least three terrible things… and the fact that nothing bad has happened in a business deal yet to me I see more as luck than my skillz. Seriously worth ponying up $99 for as it will save you at least that, both personal sanity-wise and money-wise.

Besides a great group of presenters, there was also a fair representative of women there:

The women of Joomla Day Houston (not all of us but a good representation)!

The women of Joomla Day Houston (not all of us but a good representation)!

Dianne Henning (and others but notably her) have really gone out of their way to make women feel welcome in the community… not in a ‘here’s some pink in our logo’ kind of way but in a real ‘here’s how you can contribute’ kind of way. It was great to get to know her better over the weekend. I am continually impressed by the quality of people this software seems to attract.

After Houston, I decided to take a couple days and go see a friend I haven’t seen in a long, long time. Carrie and I studied abroad together and haven’t seen each other in 11 years (!). I drove to Austin and we picked up right where we left off.

Overall a great trip that was a combination of nerdiness and fun. Can’t wait to get back to Texas!

Nicole runs Breaking Even Communications, an internet marketing company in Bar Harbor Maine. When she’s not online, she enjoys walking her short dog, cooking with bacon, and trying to be outdoorsy in Acadia National Park.

On Competition: Why There Is More Then Enough Work For All Of Us

Running a business means taking a fair bit of rejection. This company is no exception.

Rejection is part of life... does it mean we should be afraid of competition? Photo by: http://www.flickr.com/photos/telemax/7035075623/sizes/m/in/photostream/

Rejection is part of life… does it mean we should be afraid of competition? Of course not. Photo by: http://www.flickr.com/photos/telemax/7035075623/sizes/m/in/photostream/

Just a few weeks ago, we lost a bid on a large project to another company. It was a project was local, run by people we know, and matched our skill set. It would have also kept both Alice and I paid for three months. The loss felt not just expensive but very personal.

Fast forward to this past weekend being at a conference with other web developers. A lot of them are way more established, experienced, or otherwise ‘more than’ Breaking Even.

What do these two unrelated events have in common?

Every so often, in a moment of insecurity, I sometimes worry about ‘the competition’.

Ninety eight percent of the time, I relate to ‘the competition’ as I do at a conference. We can learn from each other and be valuable colleagues to one another. But sometimes, I feel a pang of insecurity. It’s not very attractive, helpful, or really very realistic.

Here’s why so-called ‘competition’ isn’t going to get me down, and shouldn’t get you down either.

The internet is huge… and getting bigger.

That’s to say there is a lot of work to do: millions of websites to create, marketing campaigns to implement, blogs to grow. There is more then enough for everyone in my industry and everyone wanting to enter it to work now into retirement.

Not online? In your business, you have a bigger market then you think you do and new people entering it all the time. (You may just need a new way to reach them.) Think about it and I’m sure you realize this is true no matter your industry.

We all need colleagues to do better work.

What’s the best way to understand something better? Listen to several people explain the same thing. Read multiple books by different authors on the same topic.

The more people in your industry, the more quickly it can improve and the better you can become. As the keynote speaker Paul Orwig said at the conference (a proverb): “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”

Companies are run by people.

People are unpredictable. Most of the time, this can be super annoying.

But sometimes that’s a good thing. For example, a web developer leaves the field… and offers you all their clients. Your businesses merges with another. Your business and another look for ways to collaborate on a common project.

We are all moving around all the time, leaving the work force, coming back into the work force, changing companies, creating companies, retiring.

The larger your network of people in your field (your ‘competition’), the more likely you can take advantage of opportunities like the ones above.

So as you see, ‘competition’ is the wrong way to think about it. It’s why I never use that word except when I think it in a moment of insecurity… about myself.

When a potential client invokes it (usually to get me to come down on a price), I tend to want to run far away from that client, not think badly about Company A.

Colleagues. That’s what I have. And that’s what you have to. And in those moments where you feel ‘less than’ remember that that’s how you’re feeling about yourself… and get back to work.

Nicole runs Breaking Even Communications, an internet marketing company in Bar Harbor Maine. When she’s not online, she enjoys walking her short dog, cooking with bacon, and trying to be outdoorsy in Acadia National Park.

Joomla Day Boston

This past weekend was Joomla Day Boston. Joomla days happen all over the world and it is a chance for users of Joomla software to get together and talk shop.

For those of you who don’t know, Joomla is a open source software people use to build websites. Breaking Even uses a combination of Joomla and Wordpress to support our clients. We use open source software because:

1) Millions of people are using it and, since it’s open, that means it is constantly being improved by its users… and that there are a lot of places online you can get help.
2) It’s free, meaning a client only has to pay us for customization (versus paying for the software and our time to customize it).
3) Because it’s open (no proprietary), a client can work with a lot of designers besides me. In other words, I can retain clients because they like me, not because they are stuck using my web design software.

I’ve been to a couple Joomla Day events (Joomla Day New England last year and the Joomla World Conference this fall) so on a whim, I applied to speak at Joomla Day Boston about Facebook.  And I got accepted!

Look it's my name... on a website that isn't mine!

By the way, whenever I decide to speak about Facebook, Facebook always immediately likes to change stuff, which makes me have to retake screenshots or otherwise learn stuff (in this case about open graph). So sorry if I inconvenienced you!

So Alice and I drove down Friday and after eating at Thelonius Monkfish (where we were the oldest people by at least ten years) and getting a good night’s sleep, we hit the ground running on Saturday for the conference.

Me talking about the Facebook with a phantom Diet Coke that seemed to appear on my podium despite the fact I don't drink it.

Me talking about the Facebook with a phantom Diet Coke that seemed to appear on my podium despite the fact I don’t drink it.

The main organizer was Dianne Henning, a very talented designer, photographer, and organizer. This was the first ever Joomla Day Boston and nothing went wrong. Go Dianne and all the others who made this possible.

Dianne Henning, who Alice and I both agreed in the car after has this amazing presence in addition to being very knowledgable and warm. The best host we could have asked for.

Dianne Henning, who Alice and I both agreed in the car after has this amazing presence in addition to being very knowledgable and warm. The best host we could have asked for.

My favorite part of the official program was Robbie Adair’s presentation on Joomla menus. While I’ve been working with the software for years, there are some things I’ve been doing and thinking ‘there has to be an easier way’. Robbie’s presentation gave me three of those mind blowing moments.

Robbie's presentation was fantastic. A great balance of interesting theoretical background and practical how-to.

Robbie’s presentation was fantastic. A great balance of interesting theoretical background and practical how-to.

Though the official program was great, those moments not photographed were probably even more powerful. Great conversations over food about technology and life (Thinking here of Jessica Dunbar, Luke Summerfield and JoeJoomla!). Despite geeks having a reputation for not being social, a particular set of us definitely closed the pub we were in even after geeking out for eight hours in a conference.

These photos were taken by Jonathan Neubauer and if you want to see more, they are here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/jonneubauer/

I am very new to this community of people but I am impressed that not only have they welcomed me with open arms but also value my skill set. Thanks to everyone at Joomla Day Boston for making it worth 12 hours in a car!

Nicole runs Breaking Even Communications, an internet marketing company in Bar Harbor Maine. When she’s not online, she enjoys walking her short dog, cooking with bacon, and trying to be outdoorsy in Acadia National Park.

What I Learned At The Joomla World Conference

Last week, I got back from San Jose, California where I attended the Joomla World Conference. To those people who are not nerdy about websites, Joomla is one of the largest open source softwares used to create websites today (the other two ‘big’ ones are Drupal and Wordpress). The conference was held at eBay headquarters, which is one of the largest companies in the world that uses Joomla to run its site.

The conference was three packed days of keynote speakers, seminars, and networking from early in the morning until after dinner. The day after the conference and before my plane took off, some of us had time to do a nerdy area tour: lunch at In-n-Out Burger (my first time); tour of Mozilla headquarters; drive-bys of Google and Facebook; and finally a drive across the Golden Gate Bridge and some Vietnamese food nearby.

Around 300 people attended the conference. I'm near one of the umbrellas if you can pick me out!

Around 300 people attended the conference. I’m near one of the umbrellas if you can pick me out!

So what were some of the biggest takeaways from the conference? What are some very smart people talking about in terms to what’s next in website development?

Responsive design is big but most of our clients aren’t asking for it yet.
Have you ever visited someplace where you ate a new food or saw a cool fashion trend that you tried to bring back home… only to have everyone look at you weird? Currently responsive design is kind of like that for me. Developers all talk about it at conferences and on blogs because it is changing how we think about making a website but most regular people just shrug when I bring it up.

As people who want to keep up with what’s new/cool and also want to serve our clients with services they are actually asking for, when/how do we bring up a new technology like this? Do we wait a couple years until clients start hearing about it and asking questions or do we start educating people about this option now?

After hearing four talks on responsive design at this conference, clients in larger markets are already asking for this technology. Also, there are ways that as the person creating the site, you can communicate with a client about the process without being overwhelming or ridiculous. While the  conference answered some technical questions about responsive design, it was mainly a ‘How do we present this to clients?’ question that I was looking for an answer for… and got here.

Want to know more about responsive design? Here’s what you need to know about it from a business owner’s point of view and if you really want to geek out, check out this video about The Boston Globe’s responsive design development. I embedded a basic video below for a short, basic definition about responsive design if you are less nerdy but curious enough to watch a 60 second video:

Open source software is the way to go since people participate in it and constantly improve it.

One of my favorite parts of the conference was the stressing of open source software and open communication within the community.

What does ‘open source’ mean? It means not only having your product available for free but also being very open about your processes. This includes having your source code out in the open and making other things in the company public, including how you do business. This spirit of openness was not always common in the tech community but is becoming increasingly so.

Joomla is open source software. Actually its tagline is ‘Open source matters’. People create websites by taking this free software, installing it on their web server, and modifying it for their uses. From this, people have developed programs that work with Joomla (called ‘extensions’) or build entire Joomla design or support businesses. The Joomla community was very open and collaborative, which is refreshing to see since I myself prefer collaboration to competition.

One of my favorite talks was a keynote by Pascal Finette, the CEO of Mozilla, another open source software. You can visit their offices, they have Monday company meetings that are broadcasted so anyone can attend, and their products are all available for free to download.  In the open source community, instead of being technology consumers, we become participants, which improves the software more quickly and makes it more meaningful to everyone who uses it.

If you want to see what a Pascal Finette keynote is like, check out this video about the participant culture of being online:

In building a website, we can’t just think of ourselves.

Part of when we build a website is thinking about how we’d use it, but that can’t be all. Two presenters drove this point home for me.

One was Tito Alvarez whose talk ‘Lighter Joomla for The Third World’ talked about what challenges the third world has related to website technology and how we can develop websites that meet those challenges. For example he pays about $100/month to have 1/4 of the download speed that I take for granted every day. Helping sites load faster is not just something cool in the first world, it’s something essential for website visitors in the third world.

Cade working on his website. He's awesome and this photo is courtesy of JoomlaShack.

Cade working on his website. He’s awesome and this photo is courtesy of JoomlaShack.

The other speaker was Cade Reynolds, who was the youngest person at the conference (15) and also happened to be a presenter. Cade is a 4H participant from Missouri who, along with other people his age, took a Joomla training over the summer with Dr. Amy Patillo. Both Amy and Cade came to the conference to talk about website building with Joomla.

With both Tito and Cade, it was nice to see that Joomla users weren’t just technology nerds in Silicon Valley. They are a bit more like the rest of us, though probably a little smarter.

On a personal note, Cade gave me hope for our future. If 15 year old boys are half this great, our world is going to be ok when they run it!

Overall, I was impressed not only with what I learned but the kind of people I met. I hope to get to Joomla Day Boston if not another event soon. Thanks to Jeremy Wilken and the rest of the team who organized this great event.

I’d like to thank my client CNP Integrations who funded part of this trip. It was great to meet other people on your team in real life! Thanks!

Nicole runs Breaking Even Communications, an internet marketing company in Bar Harbor Maine. When she’s not online, she enjoys walking her short dog, cooking with bacon, and trying to be outdoorsy in Acadia National Park.
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