What I Learnt At WordCamp Gold Coast

Word Camp Lanyard

I’ve just taken my six weeks of blogging experience on an outing to WordCamp Gold Coast.

I arrived with much trepidation. Six weeks ago I didn’t know what WordPress was, until I used it to make this blog.

Now here I was mixing it with people who actually know what they are doing when it comes to technology.

But I had a strategy, keep my mouth shut, smile and nod enthusiastically. Maybe they wouldn’t discover the imposter in their midst.

My first fear, that I would be the oldest person in the room was quickly dispelled. The youngest audience member I met had just turned eighteen the oldest, well I’m guessing hitting 60+ but I didn’t like to ask.

My second fear that I would be the only person not understanding what was going on, was also comforted by the appearance of a “low tech track” series of talks.

The diversity of the audience was mind-blowing, there were bloggers writing about their passions – food,  motorbike riding, books the list was endless – there were marketers, copywriters, designers, web-developers and an assortment of techno types whose jobs I can’t remember. The fact that the organisers managed to keep this range of abilities happy was one hell of an achievement.

What did I take away from my two days?

Blogging can be much, much more than you can ever imagine.  The keynote speaker was  Kate Swaffer. At 49 Kate was diagnosed with younger-onset dementia, now at 53 she is using her blog, to raise awareness of dementia, document her life for her family, and as a communication tool in managing her disease. Her husband has recently subscribed.  By he and her friends reading her posts they can talk to her about what she has been doing, because she often forgets before she has a chance to catch up with them.

Kate’s descriptions of dementia was horrifying, comparing it to the Dementors of the Harry Potter books.  Hallucinations, the gradual loss of self, being unable to recognise many of the people in the town she grew up in.

Kate has bamboozled her doctors with the fight she is putting up against this disease. Told to give up study she went on to complete a Bachelor of Creative Writing and a Bachelor of Pyschology. Told to give up work she turned to volunteering – in a aged care home – “the demented caring for the demented” she laughed. But that’s just one of the roles she has undertaken – the “about” page on her blog is impressive to say the least. It was a unique and emotional insight into the world of those with dementia.

WordPress isn’t scary and even a novice can produce good looking blogs and websites. Thanks Andrew Davis and Jodie Miners. (I also learnt underwater hockey is a real sport – who knew?).

On-line writing needs to suit “scanners” not “readers”.  Vikki Maver advised us to ditch the jargon and keep it short and sweet.

Emotion is the key to everything. Talented young designer, John O’Nolan, advised that to be memorable you need to create an emotion.

I learnt about website security from Vlad Lasky and how to get more people to my blog with SEO from Andy Henderson.

And had a lot of fun learning about how to run an on-line bookclub with Timothy and Louise from Book Coasters (the on-line bookclub at the Gold Coast Library) – did you know Australians read more books per capita than any other country?  See I’m a wealth of information now.

After this weekend I may have to reconsider my opinion on Gen Y – because the lads running the show did a brilliant job.

Now back to the real world.

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8 thoughts on “What I Learnt At WordCamp Gold Coast

  1. Great post, Janine. You re-created the atmosphere and the buzz of the weekend beautifully. It was indeed wonderful to be able to hang out with such a diverse group of people with interests and enthusiasms across such a wide spectrum. Blog On!

  2. Hey Janine,
    It was good to meet you;
    WordCamp was great fun;
    I’m glad you liked our book coasters talk.
    Check all of the above!
    Louise

    • Thanks Louise, you were a great double act! When I’ve got some time on the weekend I want to have a good look around your site, I love books. Interesting that you have people from around the world joining in.

  3. What a cool conference! Thanks for sharing – I saved your post till I could really read it tonight, because I knew I’d probably learn something from it! You’ve got me thinking…

    -H

    • Heidi these WordCamps are held around the world and well worth the effort to attend. There’s also WordPress TV which has videos from many of the conferences and other stuff – haven’t had a chance to look too closely at it yet.

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