Category Archives: Events

Where you can see Michael McCallister

WordCamp Milwaukee: Learning from WordPress Sites

 

I am excited to report that I will be speaking at WordCamp Milwaukee 2016 next weekend, on Saturday, September 17.

I’m even more excited about my selected topic: Learning from the WordPress Sites. This is an update of a presentation I made at the first WordCamp Milwaukee back in 2012, but it’s far from a repeat.

When you’re first starting out with WordPress, you can be surprised with how easy it is to get up and running. You can also be intimidated with all the power you have at your disposal. One of the best ways to gain confidence with the platform is by spending time learning more about WordPress. WordPress.com and WordPress.org are nearly always the best place to start doing that.

Why I love WordCamps

I love tech conferences for a variety of reasons, and WordCamps are no exception. These are some of the reasons why, in no particular order:

  • Variety of smart, funny and fun people: Nearly everyone is approachable, and WordPress people are communicators. Did I mention the Saturday night party?
  • I can teach and learn in equal measure: While I’ve given a talk at every WordCamp Milwaukee I’ve attended (I missed it last year), I always come away with more useful information.
  • Immersion in WordPress: While you don’t necessarily have to do this at WordCamp, I enjoy spending time thinking mostly about one primary topic.

Why you should come

Tickets for WordCamp Milwaukee are still available. If you’re on the fence, here are some reasons to go.

You think you know a lot about WordPress: There’s always more to learn in the Advanced Track. Maybe you’ll find inspiration for what you want to teach at future WordCamps.

You’re tired of “just blogging”: Find out who you can turn your WordPress blog into a full-blown website in the Intermediate Track.

You’re just starting out: Have you ever been to a home improvement show? WordCamps are like that — you leave with a pile of ideas for what you can do with your home on the web, especially if you follow the Beginner’s Track. PS, if you’re just starting out, you really need to come to my session!

You blog on another platform: You can often learn about SEO techniques that help you find an audience for your work, or a bigger one than you already have. There are design tips galore that apply to any website. OK, you may also get some nudging about why you’re better off on another, more free, platform.

Here’s the full schedule!

Need more reasons? Carrie Dils wrote a WordCamp Survivor’s Guide a couple of years ago that stands up quite nicely.

Hope to see you on Saturday. Be sure to say ‘hi!’

“Structuring Topics Without Structured Authoring” at WritersUA Central

I’m excited to be speaking on “Structuring Topics Without Structured Authoring” at WritersUA Central in Chicago on October 21.  This conference for technical communicators has long been one of my favorites, but it’s been awhile since I’ve been able to attend.

What will I talk about?

I’m going to outline my history of trying to deliver the right information to software users at the right time, and in the right format. Today that means being flexible in developing help for mobile devices, on the web, and for traditional desktop computers.  Using structured, topic-based authoring is one of the best ways to do that. Traditional help authoring tools like Adobe RoboHelp don’t always give you a direct way to enforce structure, but with some self-discipline, it’s possible.

What else is going on at the conference?

Over two days, you can get a lot of information from some pretty smart people in our profession. For example:

  • Former STC president Nicky Bleiel on Interviewing Subject Matter Experts and Collaborating in GitHub
  • Scott DeLoach covering best practices in several areas
  • Leigh White on Organizational Challenges in CMS Implementation
  • Mike Baron on WordPress as a CMS
  • Joe Welinske (the founder of WritersUA) on a variety of topics

Good stuff, huh?

More fun stuff

Willis Tower (formerly Sears Tower) in Chicago...
Willis Tower (formerly Sears Tower) in Chicago as seen from the Chicago river (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The conference is at the Willis Tower, one of the tallest buildings in the world. There’s a visit to the Skydeck on the agenda, so you can see all of Chicago at once. There will be networking lunches, and general fun with available adult beverages at the close of Day One.

So count on some fun too.

Monday, August 31 is the last day for early bird pricing for the conference, so head over to the conference website right now!

Hope to see you in Chicago!

Sharing Platform Goodness with Independent Writers of Chicago

The Great Chicago Fire, an artists rendering, ...
Chicago was on Fire! (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I had a terrific time with the Independent Writers of Chicago last week. What a lively group! They took my instructions that this was an interactive presentation to heart. Folks were so engaged, and asked so many questions, I barely got halfway through my planned talk. Nonetheless, have a look at the complete slide deck (click the link if the embed isn’t working):

Build Your Author Platform talk at Independent Writers of Chicago

To those of you who attended, you’ll enjoy these slides  more than what you saw that night.

The Big Four social media sites

I focused my talk on why having a website (like this one) is important, and connecting with the most important social media sites:

The slides will give you a hint on why these are the most important, and pros and cons for each service.

But can you make money with it?

Karma as action and reaction: if we sow goodne...
Karma as action and reaction: if we sow goodness, we will reap goodness. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Much of the conversation focused on the fundamental question for any freelance writer: Is social media really a valuable investment in time? One writer noted that she set and achieved a goal to get 10,000 Twitter followers, but that she found it impossible to communicate effectively with that size crowd. Not discouraged, she divided her followers into lists based on who shared her content and other criteria. She, in turn, spent more time reading and sharing posts from the folks who supported her.

I also pointed out that many agents and publishers use audience size as a way to decide whether a new author is willing to do the marketing work needed to sell books today. No audience, no sale.

 New places to build platform

One thing I wish I could have shared is my time-honored advice for social media success: get in early! I’ve told this story often, learned by way of the Most Influential Person in Technical Communication, Tom Johnson.  In short: One of the main reasons I was once on the list of Most Influential that Tom was #1 on is that Tom and I both discovered – and posted to – Twitter early.

Eight years ago this month, some friends came back from South by Southwest to spread the word of the usefulness and fun quotient of the 140-character mini-blog tool. I signed up, and the rest is certainly history. (Psst…you can follow me using the button on the right).

So let me hook you up with two (relatively) new services that I’m on. I have no idea whether they will become household names over time, but if they do, I want to say I helped.

  • Ello: This service was the hottest thing in the blogosphere for a week or so late last year. Not unlike Google+, this ad-free zone was torched by the same bloggers and journalists for not dethroning Facebook quickly enough. Nonetheless, this beta service continues to grow, add features, and remains pretty interesting. I’ve got invites…
  • Known: I learned about this site by way of a comment on an article by Dan Gillmor
    Dan Gillmor, American technology writer and fo...
    Dan Gillmor, American technology writer (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

    on Medium. I haven’t done much here, and don’t entirely get its purpose yet, but you might find it interesting too. Gillmor (one of my tech-journalist heroes, BTW) calls himself “a big fan.”

Thanks again to the Independent Writers of Chicago (especially Tom Kepler, James Kepler and David Steinkraus) for inviting me to speak, and providing such a great audience. Oh, the pizza was great, too!