Thank You!

A GIANT thank you to everyone who came to WordCamp Milwaukee over the weekend. Hope you all had a blast; I know we did!! Thank you to our wonderful sponsors, speakers, volunteers, and organizers for making this year a success!

Everyone keep an eye on your email inboxes for a feedback form. We’d love to hear what you loved about this weekend and tweaks we can do to make next year even better!

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Day One is In the Bag. Get Ready for Day Two!

I don’t know about all of you, but I had a blast yesterday!

Yes, it’s true, organizing a WordCamp is a ton of work. A TON! And in my experience, things just happen that you cannot prepare for. For me, yesterday was a lot of running around, making sure people knew where they had to go (sorry for posting the schedules outside of the rooms a bit late – won’t happen today), and doing my best to put out any fires that might come up throughout the day. Fortunately, there really weren’t many.

What I saw yesterday was three rooms, full of people, engaged audiences, and speakers covering interesting topics. A lot of smiles, and a lot of fun.

As far as the after party. . . Could we have asked for better weather or a cooler place? Nicole did a fantastic job putting it together (she also created those really cool record decorations). Great conversations were had, and I suspect there was some fun karaoke’ing going on after (I bowed out of that one).

Today, I expect the mood to be more subdued, as the Sunday of a WordCamp typically is. But having said that, I am super excited about the content that will be shared today. Whether it’s Jamie’s Immersion Track, JJJ talking about things that only JJJ can, or Erica Conway’s talk on how to package yourself for success (one I am particularly interested in), I know you’ll find today an invaluable learning experience that you’ll take with you.

As always, if you see me buzzing around the hallway, have any questions or concerns, or just want to say ‘hi’, don’t hesitate to stop me. The same is true for any of the fine folks in blue “Volunteer” WordCamp Milwaukee shirts. We’re all here to make sure that YOUR WordCamp experience is awesome!

So, with that all said, I’m packing my things and will see you all down there!


Introducing: the Site Development Immersion Track!

This year we have a really special treat at WordCamp Milwaukee! If you’ve ever wanted to learn more about making your own custom WordPress website and theme, have we got a track for you!

Join us ALL DAY SUNDAY for a FULL, Step-by-step Custom Site build!

WordPress Architect and Developer Jamie Schmid will walk us through the basics of getting a custom site up and running – all in a day! This track is super special – instead of five typical 30 minute sessions, there will be 4 1HOUR sessions taking us on a deep-dive into what really goes into creating a custom WordPress site from beginning to end.

These sessions will get you up to speed with WordPress’ content types, how to plan your site for an easy build (and easy content entry!!), developing your own CUSTOM WordPress theme according to your OWN design, local development and deployment, and advanced content and themeing topics like Custom Post Types, Custom Fields, Taxonomies and more!

Seriously, there’s never been a better time for you to take your skills to the next level. All you need for the Themeing sessions is some basic HTML and CSS knowledge (we will be working with an existing static coded website, so there won’t be any frontend development here at all, just pure delicious themeing!). And the great thing is that Discovery, Themeing, and Advanced Content are all self-contained sessions – you can come to one, two, or all three and you’re sure to take away some great skills to help you in your next project and beyond.

You are free to work along with us!

If you cannot work along, don’t worry: all of these classes are documented online, and you will get a link to them in the session. You can then go back and work at your own pace with the full slides and detailed online documentation of each of these classes.

If you WOULD like to work along with us, please be sure you have the following downloaded to your local machine – we DO have WiFi at WordCamp, but having everything up and running ahead of time will ensure you’re ready to go. Bonus: ALL of these tools are FREE!

ALL 4 of these tools are used by professional WordPress developers EVERY DAY to create awesome websites for clients big and small – so you will not only be learning how to do it, but how to do RIGHT. What more can you ask for?!

Breakdown of the Big Day:

Sunday at 10am: the Discovery class

Here we get our project summary — building a website for a local school — and break it down into all the parts necessary to build the site into WordPress. You will learn about all the content types in WordPress, when to use a post, a page, or something even more custom. The Discovery and content architecture phase is CRITICAL when beginning any website! Knowing this phase of web development is going to help you immensely in creating a site that’s organized, properly understood and planned out for the development phase. You do not need to know ANY coding at all for this session: project managers, implementers, and developers alike are all invited to this session. You will absolutely have some great knowledge to take away!

11am and 1:30pm : Introduction to Custom Themeing classes.

We will be looking at all the parts of a WordPress theme (HINT: there are only TWO files necessary to make a WordPress theme!), reviewing the theme hierarchy so we can learn how to break down theme files for the most efficient and custom development, and checking out some great built-in WordPress functions that make our lives so much easier when creating a theme. In Class 2, we take a look at the Underscores (_s) starter theme, which has tons of basic WP functionality already built in and ready for your customization. Lots of developers swear by this starter theme (NOTE: a starter theme is NOT a framework!!) as the foundation to all their custom themes, and you will learn how to take advantage of all its shortcuts to create your own theme. At the end of Class 2, we will have a fully-build theme and website, ready to deploy!

2:30 : the Advanced Content Types class

A must for anyone who wants to extend WordPress’ functionality to create custom content. We discuss implementing Custom Post Types, Custom Fields and Taxonomies, and various relationships you can use to make really powerful dynamic websites.

Hope to see you there!

The After Party


Photo by William Rieselbach, local Milwaukee Photographer (and friend). His turned out better than mine.

Let’s face it. WordCamps are great, but many times, it’s about the after party. Two years ago, we had a REALLY awesome speaker/sponsor dinner held at Jackson’s Blue Ribbon Pub in the old Pabst Brewery, located in Downtown Milwaukee. Personally, I think it was one of my favorites. This year, we figured, why should we only limit it to speakers and sponsors? We decided to make it the venue for the after party. We know you’re going to love it! Continue reading The After Party

A Slightly Different Approach (Speaker Application Deadline Extended 48 Hours)

imgp0766_15287065268_oOver the weekend, I watched some of Wordsesh 4. Weekends are a tough time for me to find any time to do work or anything work related, but there was one session, in particular, I was interested in. It was the one David Bisset did called, “WordCamp Things.” David has a ton of experience when it comes to organizing WordCamps and has had a hand in organizing Miami, in some capacity, for the past eight years. Eight years organizing an event that is 100% volunteer driven? That’s crazy talk right there. And yet, not only has he done it, but he’s had something to do with Miami being one of the premier WordCamps in the United States. With somewhere in the vicinity of 800 attendees each year, I’d say he knows what he’s talking about.

One of the points David made in his session was that organizers need to think a little bit outside of the box when it comes to WordCamps. Having personally been to somewhere between 40 and 50 camps myself, I can definitely see what he’s getting at. The format of 30 to 40 minutes sessions with a few minutes break between is great for many, but not necessarily ideal for others. A 40 minute session can be too long for some topics, yet too short (WAY too short) for others. I know that for my presentations, I tend to make them so that they have one or two take-aways for every member in the audience, but nothing is covered in depth or comprehensively. So it got me to thinking . . .

What if we had a track where the presentations went a bit longer? What if some of those longer sessions were actually sessions and maybe throw in a workshop or two in there. It was the beginning of an idea. It isn’t necessarily THAT far outside of the box from what most of us know at a WordCamp (and don’t get me wrong, others have done the workshop idea with great success). So, people will still feel like they’re with an old familiar friend, but it’s enough different that it won’t feel completely the same.

I took what was the beginning of this idea to the organizing team and they ran with it, built upon it, and made it better. When you have an awesome team, that’s what happens. The concept turned into having a couple of “intro” classes on Saturday which would prep you for some longer classes on Sunday. In other words, by the time you leave on Sunday, we want you to have a really good basis or understanding of ways to enhance your business and take your skills to the next level, whatever they may be.

This is not a complete change of format from our typical WordCamp. We will still have plenty of the standard sessions to feed your appetites. We will still have our “Hallway Track” which is a fantastic opportunity to meet, socialize and network with others and yes, of course, we will still have the bacon bar for which WordCamp Miwlaukee has become famous. Our goal is simply to have you leave with a head full of knowledge that goes a bit beyond surface level.

So, with all that said, we’ve decided to extend speaker/presenter applications for another 48 hours. If you’re a speaker and would like to get in on some of this type of action, let us know! We’ll be making our selections later this week and should have announcements up by the weekend. Applications will be closed Thursday morning, about the time I get up and in front of my computer (that’s about 8:00 am CST if you’re wondering what that means), so get ’em in while you can!


Why You Should Speak if You’re Not a Developer or a Professional Speaker


Photo Credit: Shanta Nathwani Location: Speaker Sponsor Dinner – Marc’s House

Ya, that’s me. No, this is not a self-serving post about me speaking at a WordCamp. It’s just the only photo I have of anything from a previous WordCamp Milwaukee that has anything to do with the subject (I promise we’ll get more pictures of NOT ME this year).

Instead, I wanted to write a bit about the kind of people we’re looking for to speak and the misconceptions that seem to go with a WordCamp. As someone who’s been to a wazillion or so WordCamps, I know I’ve seen this as a common occurrence. It’s that people, many times, think that the only way they can apply to speak is if they are, or have been:

  • WordPress Developer
  • Active member of the WordPress Community for an extended period of time
  • Experienced public speaker
  • Asked to speak by one of the organizers
  • A sponsor
  • Probably a lot of other things I have not thought of

The reality is that this is not the case. We mean it when we say that WordCamps are an INFORMAL event where people come to share their ideas, learn, network and socialize. So, the reality is that if you have ANY sort of experience you want to share that has to do with running a business, being an entrepreneur, marketing, or anything that could be useful to others, I encourage you to apply to speak. We’ve had some REALLY interesting applications come in already from people of varying backgrounds, with some of the most original topics I’ve seen in a while at a WordCamp.

So, whether you live inside or outside of the “box,” and wish to give to the Community, I highly recommend that you give it a shot! There is no better way to get public speaking experience because the environment is so casual. And if you’re looking for topic ideas, I’ll give you just a few general non-dev-centric ideas here (but this is definitely not an extensive, or all-inclusive list). Maybe others will chime in in the comments with ideas of things they’d like to see as well!

  • Horror Stories: Everyone loves a good horror story. Whether it’s one you have to tell about an epic failure on the development side, or a time where you fell flat on your face with a business decision, let us know! Case studies are always fascinating because they talk about the problem and then about the take-aways/learning experiences gained from the “failure” which ended up positively impact a decision making process down the road.
  • Marketing Techniques: Every business owner is always looking for ways to get their product into the hands of customers. What marketing techniques have you used, whether inside or outside of WordPress to help you become successful?
  • Business Strategies: What are the strategies that you use to run your business from an operational standpoint? What process did you go through to come up with these strategies? What’s worked, and what hasn’t? Why?
  • Content Strategies: What are they? How do you organize your content? What is the purpose of your content? How have your strategies changed over time? What factors affected their evolution?
  • SEO Strategies: Similar to Content Strategies. How have things changed? Where are things going? Is SEO as complicated as people make it out to be? Why do people think it’s snake oil sales? How do you know if your strategy is working?

I’ve seen applications come in from people who are not even within the WordPress Community and I’ve found the topics to be fascinating and seen how they can be applied. So, don’t be shy! We welcome all to apply! And while we make no guarantees that you’ll be selected, we can guarantee that we will give every application our full attention!

If you’re looking for the speaker app, you can find it here.






What’s So Cool About Milwaukee, Anyway?


One of the Milwaukee Locals. Photographer William Rieselbach

I have to admit, when my wife made the suggestion that we move from the Northwoods to Milwaukee, it took me a while to wrap my mind around it. Growing up and spending many summers in Wisconsin, Milwaukee was always one of those cities where we went to visit people, but didn’t hang out much. My only real memory of it from my childhood was the one time we went to the Ice Capades with my cousin’s maternal grandparents. Other than that, pretty much nada. Continue reading What’s So Cool About Milwaukee, Anyway?

Call for Volunteers

Sign Up Sheet

IMGP4690Are you coming to WordCamp Milwaukee? Have you been itching to find a way to give back to the WordPress Community? WordCamps are a great way to give back and WordCamp Milwaukee could use YOUR help! All skill levels and all skills are needed. If you can move a chair, you can volunteer. If you can dodge a wrench, you can volunteer. Continue reading Call for Volunteers