330 WordPress hackers, fans and the CMS curious made the pilgrimage down to the fourth annual Cape Town chapter of WordCamp, the informal community-driven conference that sinks its teeth into everything WordPress.
If you couldn’t make it, here’s everything that happened on the day in a nutshell. We’re told the presentations used by each speaker will be uploaded to the WordCamp site soon, along with video of the event.
Event organiser and founder of WordPress development company LightSpeed, Ashley Shaw, kicked things off before handing the stage over to Eric Clements, founder of Kazazoom, a niche development company specialising in Mxit apps and games.
Clements shared the story behind mxPress, the plugin that can turn a WordPress site into a Mxit app. Our sister site Ventureburn ran a story on mxPress a while ago, where we learned how mxPress lowered the barrier to entry for new apps and content on Mxit.
Clements explained how mxPress was used to combine electronic journalism with the social platform. During the Olympics, Clements and his team created a pilot blog called SA Gold. A journalist would post a blog entry, and through mxPress, Mxit users had mobile access to the information. The setup took roughly four hours and within three weeks, the app grew to serve 9 800 Mxit users.
Next up was psychology student turned front-end developer, Riaan Knoetze from Tiny Giant Studios. Knoetze shared his thoughts on entering the “very, very crowded” theme market. He explained how high barriers to entry lead him to “hijack” the market by pursuing childthemes and plugins. A childtheme, he explained, is a theme that changes the look-and-feel of an existing theme while keeping the functionality intact.
Knoetze targeted existing theme sellers that had themes with great functionality, but poor design. Through childtheming, he “hijacked” existing theme shops — starting with App Themes — and carved out a niche through his improved designs. Knoetze marketed himself by going onto the theme shops and answering support questions. Cheeky, and pretty clever.
App Themes, by the way, later approached Knoetze and the two now collaborate.
Bennie Stander, an online marketer followed by sharing his ideas on better monetising WordPress blogs. He spoke about how the recent recession in 2008 placed newfound importance on building relationships with readers and being an authoritative information or product resource. He also emphasised persistence — “don’t give up after five blog posts” — and the importance of using using tools like Google Analytics, Trends, Alerts and feedback systems to understand your demographic and the content your audience is looking for.
After the tea break Fred Roed, CEO of digital marketing agency World Wide Creative, delivered the day’s keynote talk under the arbitrary title of “Midgets On Unicycles, Steve Hofmeyr & Elvis In Tableview” in which he highlighted the importance of having a resonant and visceral cause.
In this age of millions of WordPress blogs, social media and advertising channels, the noise is increasing and in order to establish a clear signal, community building is becoming increasingly important. He argues that no community is sustainable without a cause. A cause he says, is a call to action. It’s something worth fighting for and identifying with.
Roed says that successful companies have established causes. Apple’s cause is beautiful, functional technology — a combination of aesthetics and function. Ferrari’s cause is about “sexy, performance” and Vespa emits a bohemian, anti-establishment cause people rally around. “We pay money to be ambassadors for these brands and the causes they represent”, he says. We buy into a community. Roed said that people inside a community are nine times more likely to buy a product than those outside of it.
He pointed out Elvis lovers’ pilgrimage to Graceland and called Hitler “a cock” but that his talent for creating community in an unstable time was uncanny — aspiring everyone to the aryan race and the common enemy, Jews.
He pointed out how causes are profitable, sustainable, compelling and help people make tough decisions by having a common frame of reference. Causes both polarise and connect people.
He ended by saying that causes make life meaningful and pointed to the Arab Spring.
Neil Pursey was up next and tried to answer whether or not social metrics affect SEO. Read our writeup on his findings.