Steve Pearce of Poke and Andy Clarke of Stuff and Nonsense had presentations that basically boil down to the fact that you have to remember your audience and make sure your site is not only beautiful, but functional as well. Pearce’s presentation replete with handdrawn cartoons with a torn-paper background was a brilliant demonstration of the user experience iceberg concept. Though I remember being entertained by Andy’s talk, I think his persona overwhelmed the subject matter, because I honestly can’t remember any of the points he made. I do remember that he has the longest e-mail address in the universe. Which is more important, I guess, because at least I can contact him to find out what his points were, if I’m interested.
Patrick McNeil kicked off FOWD this morning with design examples from his aggregation site Design Meltdown. His ideas for “living” inspiration–know your sources, practice, and have your inspiration detector “always on”–were commonsensical kind of things that make a difference. But it was his examples of these traits that were particularly helpful.
For example, “just practice” inspires no one. However, a practice regimen, like the “one design a day” concept really changed my point of view. Structured practice is the key. Even if it’s just-get-it-out-of-the-way crap practice.
His notations about trends in web design were interesting. Brown is a big color now (new WordPress admin, and even the FOWD site itself). Oversize banners, formerly a no-no, are on the rise. I think Matt Mullenweg beat that trend by a few years at least, though he said at WordCamp Dallas he planned to reduce it somewhat. And no more eye burning colors like hot pink. McNeil says colors are starting to get softer as Web 2.0 settles into its groove.
Perhaps the trend I found most interesting, and one that made a lot of sense to me, is the horizontal scrolling site. Monitors are cinema-shaped now, instead of roughly square. And lots of people are using multiple monitors. So it makes sense that a site would have more horizontal space. Karlik Design is a beautiful illustration of the concept.
I know just enough code to be dangerous, and my wife has never even heard of WordPress. So it was with equal amounts of faith and trepidation that we loaded up the truck last weekend and moseyed over to Dallas for WordCamp 2008.
Now, I’m a communicator and my wife is an educator. Both geeks in our chosen fields. But how would we hold up in a room of 150 pro bloggers? Between talk of php, sql, seo and “link love” would we understand anything being said? Did we even want to?
My descent into social media madness will likely be detailed in another post. For now, the relevant fact is that I’m attempting to build the elusive social media newsroom for the federal organization with which I work. I chose WordPress as my platform because it’s a content management system that regular folks can figure out. It’s also Web 2.0 saavy, with a plug-in and widget for every flavor, nationality and orientation of social media. I’m a big fan of it, which brings me back to WordCamp.
I’ve been jonesing for professional development in social media in the worst way. But federal travel cutbacks, the insane cost of conferences these days, and the rural location of my hometown has limited my training to webinars. Then I subscribed to the WordPress podcast a few weeks ago. Hosts Charles Stricklin and Jonathan Bailey were talking about WordCamp Dallas. Dallas?! Four hours away. I can do that! Just 20 bucks? You’re kidding me. A T-shirt and lunches too? Then the kicker: Charles lives an hour north of me and Jonathan a few hours south, in the Big Easy. The stars were aligned. I had to go.
In January, I took over as an adjunct instructor in the capstone “Campaigns” course for PR majors at the local university. Three hours, one night a week. Piece of cake.
After all, I had 15 years in the PR practice since graduating from that same university with a journalism degree. Lots of experiences to pass on to these pliable young minds. My plan: make the class exciting with a cool social media spin. I’d be brilliant (thumbs in suspenders). It’d be fun.
Who could have known the extent to which a social media focus would challenge the traditional PR pedagogy. When I talked to faculty, the conversation took on a “oh how cute” sheen. The students scarcely had a conception of what “social media” was, and OMG, you mean we have to, like, APPLY it in REAL LIFE PR?!!! After the first two classes, I would have settled for Second Life.
We all persevered, hopeful that the team-based nature of the class would inspire the ol’ Higher Order Thinking Skills to kick in. Then I started seeing it–those moments when a face would light up, expression intent on my stumbling monologue. A raised hand. An honest-to-god social media “connection.” And one-by-one, I’ve witnessed those moments on each face.
But then I look at them and know the field they are going into is much different than the one I faced in the mid-1990s, back when a lot of the internet was still text-based. In the last couple of years, the learning curve has steepened within a rapidly changing spectrum.