WordCamp is a Conference For All Things WordPress
If you have a site and/or blog, chances are you using WordPress, the open source publishing software. However, you may not be familiar withWordCamp, which is a casual locally organized conference about topics revolving around WordPress (developing it, using it, site design, etc). I had first heard about WordCamp from a former colleague of mine. I was quite surprised and impressed at how many WordCamp conferences there were all over the world. Chances are, there is a WordCamp near you and you probably don’t even know it. I certainly didn’t!
I checked the schedule and was excited to know that there was an upcoming WordCamp at a nearby city. These conferences are quite affordable ( I paid $20 for an all-day Saturday conference that included a light breakfast, lunch and parking was free) and not meant to be big and fancy. To be honest, I prefer the smaller and more intimate type conferences.
The topics will differ between locations, but the focus is the utilization and development of WordPress. It’s not just about coding. The conference I went to was a sold out event held at McMaster Innovation Park in Hamilton, Ontario. What I loved about it, was that the conference gave a very chill, low-key, welcoming environment. It was the kind of conference that was open to everyone, regardless of your experience with WordPress. Even if you haven’t used WordPress yet, but are curious to learn about it and the various aspects of it, this is a great place to start.
The first talk I went to was held by Shanta R. Nathwani, an instructor and educator in web design. She was an awesome presenter and extremely knowledgeable. She went over the differences between shared hosting and managed hosting and the hosting companies that provide the service. For those of you who aren’t familiar with the difference between the two, with shared hosting, to save on costs, many users are put on the same server in the server farm. On top of using the same server, many resources such as bandwidth and memory are also shared.
Managed hosting costs more because you are allocated your own server and your own resources. The hosting company typically helps you manage your own site. This article here goes into great detail about comparing the two options.
She also mentioned about backing up your site. I use the free backup plugin Updraft Plus and upgraded my DropBox account to have more room to store the backups there. I’ve saved the settings so that my site files ( i.e.plugins, uploads) and database files are backed up daily. I have yet to try restoring a backup though, which is on my site maintenance to-do list.
Another topic mentioned was themes, which is considered to be the “front-end” of your WordPress site. There are thousands and thousands of free themes available within WordPress.com and WordPress.org. Shanta noted how important it was not to just Google (don’t you love how that word is both a verb and a noun) “Free WordPress Themes” on the internet because these themes could potentially contain malicious code that could destroy your site. These themes are usually created by hackers. So you are better off searching within the WordPress repository because these themes have been approved.
When you are thinking about possible themes for your site, it is important to note what is the purpose of your site. Many of the themes are categorized by purpose- ie photography. Given that the majority of internet traffic is mobile, it is necessary that the theme is mobile responsive.
Shanta also touched on the topic of plugins and how these guys are considered the “back-end” of your site. They extend the usefulness of the site. Regarding plugins, it’s important to not to overload your site with them and to choose plugins carefully. Read the reviews on them and look for functionality. Whenever possible, choose plugins with multiple functions.
The next session I attended was on WordPress Site Management presented by Meagan Hanes- a web designer, blogger, photographer and co-organizer of WordCamp Ottawa. I loved how she made a boring sounding,(but obviously necessary and important) topic, funny and interesting.
She went over web security and how important it was to protect websites from malicious threats, reduce vectors of attack and reduce the risk of attack.
Meagan summarized it very well in the ABC’s of security:
A is for Access – Who has access to your site? Don’t reuse a password (I will grudgingly admit, I have been guilty of more than once). Change your password and store it in a password management system such as LastPass. Delete old users who had admin access to your account. Double check who has admin permissions.
B is for Backup– How Often? What’s involved in restoring a backup? This can be done manually or automatically through plugins such as Updraft, BackUp Buddy. She encouraged us to practice restoring a backup if we haven’t done so yet. The best time to restore it is when you haven’t been attacked and are in full panic mode.
C is Check for Updates – What version are you using? Be sure to delete old plugins that aren’t in use anymore and update the ones that need updating.
For that extra level of security, she recommended the following WordPress security plugins:
These presentations and all other WordCamp presentations are recorded and can be found on WordCampTV.
When we broke out for lunch, my introverted self-managed to connect with a couple of awesome individuals -Sheila and Olaf.
After lunch, I attended a couple of other sessions. One on digital marketing and the other on e-commerce, or more specifically Woo Commerce. I found the second one to be especially useful because I am considering selling physical products on my site in the future.