My thoughts about Northern Voice 2009

Northern Voice MascotThis year’s Northern Voice was my fourth one and I truly enjoyed it. I’ve never been to Friday’s Moosecamp and missed it again this year, opting to catch up on a never-ending to-do list. I heard that Stewart Butterfield‘s Keynote was very good. Luckily for me and all of you who couldn’t make it, the sessions were taped and the videos will be posted on the website once the organizing committee has had time to make their final touches.

The wonderful thing about Northern Voice is that it’s very informal. You won’t find any big wigs walking around with chips on their shoulder. Everyone is friendly and easy to talk to. While the subject of social media is not new to me and generally I’m hearing stuff that I already know, once in a while I find out about a few things that make me go “hmm, I didn’t know that”. For example, I didn’t know what a sock puppet was and even though I was told to check out Radio 3 on CBC years ago, I never did, and Steve Pratt reminded me why I should.

Attending conferences, takes a lot of time, costs money and can be exhausting, but I find the following benefits outweigh the drawbacks.

  1. I always leave each conference with new ideas and renewed energy.
  2. I love to see how great speakers behave in front of the audience. Brianna Tomkinson and David Eaves gave exceptional well articulated presentations.
  3. There’s always someone who makes me laugh and this year, Rob Cottingham‘s keynote was hilarious yet insightful.
  4. I always meet new people who share the same interest.
  5. I don’t always, but often connect with old friends.
  6. I’m reminded of things that were on my to-do list and never got around to.

Seeing how people use social media in every day life to help a group of kids and hearing how traditional companies are daring to break the rules proved very inspiring and I hope to see more examples of these next year.

The folks behind Northern Voice have asked for feedback and all I can say is keep up the great work. Your conference is always exceptional and well worth making time for.

Northern Voice is a wrap

This year’s Northern Voice was my second. I thoroughly enjoyed both events and look forward to next year. I suspect that 2010 will prove to be a bit problematic due to another event happening at that time of year but, hey, that’s still a long way away.

Following last year’s conference I told all of my clients who were blogging that they needed to go next year. So as soon as NV08 was announced, I sent them all an email and encouraged them to register. I think that I sent the email to about a dozen or so of my clients. Only one came, Heidi, which is a shame, but a start. I got the chance to speak to her about the event and I think that she enjoyed it thoroughly and, like me, left the event with lots of ideas. 

Every year the organizers try to do something different and this year the Internet Bootcamp was on offer during the first day. I think that of all the talks that were given, this session was the most valuable for bloggers who are just dipping their toes in the blogosphere. As an educator Heidi is using the Web and social media to reach out to kids and teachers and help create a better educational systems. Heidi is already pretty tech savvy and has been blogging for a while, but these sessions were hopefully able to answers some of her questions.

I do hope that this session will return next year and encourage would-be bloggers to attend NV09.

See you next year. 

How to widgetize your blog or website

Susie Gardner from Hop Studios gave a pretty good demo of how to add widgets to your blog today at Northern Voice. Widgets, also called plugins or badges, are little apps which consist of bits of code that once added to your blog or website, pull in external information. They usually appear in the sidebar of your blog. These widgets could pull the latest news feed from a site such as Voxant, the latest Dilbert cartoon, a list of books you are reading or meaning to read, the weather, or a series of flickr photos.

These widgets can be a fun way to add content to your website. The only downside of adding these, is that you have to dabble in the code a bit which can be scary at first. Additionally if you’re blog is on a hosted platform such as WordPress.com or Typepad, you may not be able to add these.

So how do you go about adding a widget?
First let’s select a widget. Of all the widgets mentioned during the presentation, I found polldaddy.com the most interesting. As the name would suggest polldaddy allows you to create polls.

  1. First you need to go to their site and sign up for an account. This is done very easily simply by filling your name and email. (Don’t you love people who don’t ask you for every possible detail?)
  2. Next, hit create a poll.
  3. Type in your questions.
  4. Type in your answers,
  5. Select the “look” of your poll.
  6. Hit save and Voila!

You will then be sent to a new screen with code which may look scary, but here’s the catch. You don’t need to know how it works. Just copy and paste it. That’s it. And here’s the poll I just created:

Now, for this example, I’ve copied the poll in the body of my text. I don’t really want to clutter my sidebar with more stuff, but if I wanted to, I could have a permanent poll anywhere on my site. The beauty of this widget is that simply by login in to my polldaddy.com account and creating a new poll, the poll on my website is automatically updated.

I mentioned earlier that widgets usually appear in the sidebar of your blog. This is where dabbling in the code gets a bit tricky. If you’ve set up your own blog and have access to the presentation, you can go to the template editor, locate the sidebar.php and add the widget code in there. If you are like me and using WordPress which you’ve downloaded and customized, you can also use the widget editor, but be careful and make sure that you back up all of your files, just in case you mess things up.

I should also point out, that if you copy and paste code into the body of a post, like I just did, save the post and come back and edit it, chances are the code for your widget will need to be updated. The visual editor in WordPress seems to alter the code every time you save and edit. I’m not sure why, but it just does… So just add your code once you are happy with the post and no longer need to edit.

Have fun.

SEO with Linda Bustos at Northern Voice

Marketing consultant at Get Elastic, Linda Bustos led the SEO session at Northern Voice’s Internet Bootcamp using Kris Krug as an example. Kris is a very talented and passionate photographer. His site Static Photography does pretty well in Google ranking for a number of reasons:

  • His main keywords “Vancouver fashion and portrait photography” appear both in his title tag and main h1 tag
  • His site uses blog software which is better for search engines than a static site since it can be updated frequently
  • His links are keyword rich including his navigation links. For examples, instead of using fashion he uses “fashion photography”, instead of event he uses”event photography.

Kris also uses social media networks to promote his photography. The most obvious choice as a photographer is Flickr. By uploading his pictures on Flickr, Kris can share his images with others, tag them and insert keywords in his titles. Flickr also allows you to create a profile page, where a photographer can put information about their skills, link to their site and post testimonials.

It may seem like a lot of work, but these few simple tips can boost your traffic and help promote your site.