Connect Because You Can at SOCON10


Saturday I attended SOCON10 which was hosted at Kennesaw State University’s Center for Sustainable Journalism. The sold out event attracted several hundred social media enthusiasts ready to network, hear keynote speakers and attend breakout sessions.

The morning consisted of back to back keynotes followed by lunch at KSU’s new “green” dining hall The Commons and then two breakout sessions for the afternoon.

Carol Kruse, the Vice President of Global Interactive Marketing for The Coca-Cola Company

First keynote was Carol Kruse, the Vice President of Global Interactive Marketing for The Coca-Cola Company.  She mentioned that consumer generated content is much more effective than “corporate” generated content. So at Coke they encourage consumers to generate content in the form of photos and videos and post onto Coke’s Facebook fan pages. Often times launching promotion contests like “Show us where you drank your last Coke” to encourage participation by consumers. Carol says Facebook has been the most effective platform for Coke. And one lesson they have learned is that it’s better to just use the free features of Facebook versus creating custom Facebook apps. Notable quotes from Carol’s talk were “Fish where the fish are…the essence of social media” and “Facebook is the worlds 3rd largest country after China and India.”

Dan Siroker Director of Analytics for the Obama Campaign

The mornings second keynote was by Dan Siroker who left Google where he was the Chrome Project Lead to become  Director of Analytics for the Obama Campaign. He talked about how they used social media to attract donors to raise over $500 million for the campaign. His emphasis was on applying analytics and experimentation using multivariate analysis and A/B split testing on web sites, which he did for the Obama sites to dramatically increase donor contributions. He was also asked by the Clinton Bush Hatti Fund for similar assistance with their donor site.

Dan’s presentation included discussion of five lessons learned from working on the campaign.

1. Define quantifiable success metrics.

2. Question assumptions.

3. Divide and conquer.

4. Take advantage of circumstances.

5. Always be optimizing.


Now Dan is starting a new company called Optimizely.com which provides tools for web site analysis and optimization. Doing some research I also found Google Website Optimizer which seems to also perform multivariate and AB switch exierimentation testing for web sites.

After lunch there were way too many breakout sessions from which to choose and I could only attend two. After a difficult choice my first breakout was   Delivering Content Through Social Media – What works best for your message” by Kristin Parrish of Ogilvy Public Relations.

My second breakout of the afternoon was “Are You Crazy? Launching a Web Startup with 3 People, No Money and a Good Idea. ” by the three co-founders of the startup Regator.

The Beautiful Web

Thursday evening I attended the Atlanta Web Design Group meetup which was held at it’s usual location, the Portfolio Center on Bennett Street. It was a full house with 112 people signed up for the $10 per person meetup.

The presentation was “The Beautiful Web” by Jason Beaird. Jason is the author of the book The Principles of Beautiful Web Design. His talk was centered on design theory around color, typography, texture, imagery, and layout with critique of websites that exemplify these principles. I’m usually too focused on the technical aspects of a website and so Jason’s talk was a welcome and useful introduction to the non-technical aspects of web design. I immediately ordered his book from Amazon and am looking forward to reading it.

Atlanta Google Wavers Meetup

Last night was my first to attend the Atlanta Wavers Meetup, held this month at Ignition Alley. The two presenters, Andy Thornton and Rick Thomas, both provided outstanding presentations on the basics of Wave gadget development.

The important take  aways for me were finally understanding key differences between gadgets and robots and gaining some insight into how they are developed.  Plus a cool new (and free) development IDE called Aptana Studio which is available stand alone or as an Eclipse Plugin. As a bonus Andy provided CDs filled with software and examples for all attendees.

So what’s the difference between a gadget and a robot? In a nutshell a gadget is a program inserted into a wave that can be used by all wave participants like voting or drawing.  While a robot is a program added to a wave to perform automated tasks like making the wave public.

Installation of gadgets and robots into a Wave is very different. Gadgets are installed by entering the URL of the gadget whereas robots are installed as contacts and then added to the wave just like you would add any other contact.

Gadget and robot development are also quite different. A gadget can be written in a variety of languages like python, php, or even c#, and are simply publicly hosted web applications. Most gadgets even those written for non-Wave containers can run in wave. The main difference between Wave aware gadgets and non-Wave gadgets is that a Wave aware gadget can interact with the wave. Wave gadgets aren’t typically complete applications but rather they tend to be small add-ons that add a piece of functionality to a wave. Making a gadget wave aware starts with a declariation in the gadget specification of <Require feature="wave" /> which serves to give the gadget access to the Wave Gadgets API.

Robots on the other hand are all created and hosted on Google App Engine, which at this time only supports Python and Java.

I’m glad to see that Atlanta has an Wave Development group. I plan to add this meetup to my calendar and attend often.

Atlanta’s First Wordcamp was hot (and cold)

WCATL was held on a brutally cold winter day during the coldest stretch of weather in Atlanta for the past 25 years.  Start of the event had to be postponed for one hour due to weather. But even so approximately 400 wordpress developers, designers, bloggers, and other wordpress enthusiasts turned out.  I arrived on time which meant being an hour early due to the schedule change. Luckily I fell into an impromptu one hour tour of the venue (Savannah College of Art and Design) by the SCAD director of social media, Jason Parker(@jasonaut), who gave us a great tour of this fantastic facility.

The keynote by Jane Wells covered upcoming changes in WordPress 3.0 such as the merge of single WordPress with the multi-site version known as MU, moving key plugins into core, custom post types, and a new default theme. Automatic is adding more UI/UX contributors to WordPress development with a new mail list at http://lists.automattic.com/mailman/listinfo/wp-ui

I didn’t attend the session by Adria Richards, “What the heck is WordPress”, but it’s a great intro to WordPress so here are the slides.

What The Heck Is WordPress

The first session I actually attended was “Building sites quickly w/ parent/child themes” presented by Ryan Imel.

Other sessions I attended included:

“You’re Doing It Wrong, How to Code the WordPress Way,” by Chris Scott (@chrisscott)

“WordPress Security – Protecting your WordPress from the Inside Out” by Syed Balkhi (@wpbeginner)
“How to Start Freelancing with WordPress especially if you are a n00b” by John Saddington (@human3rror)

I was having so much fun attending breakout sessions that I missed the genus bar staffed by the likes of Tessa Horehled(@tessa), Paul Stamatiou(@stammy), Dougal Campbell(@dougal), and Tammy Hart(@tammyhart) to name a few,  but heard it was outstanding.

One thing I love about attending Wordcamp is all the interesting people you meet there.  One person I met uses WordPress to quickly create websites that advertise his Georgia insurance business where he has over 300 WordPress sites each with a unique domain name representing just about every possible type of insurance coverage in Georgia. If you google virtually any Georgia Insurance coverage type one of his 300 sites will be on top of the return list.  He mentioned that when he switched his platform to WordPress from plain old html a year ago his SEO results improved substantially…thus helping to confirm something I have always heard that WordPress is very SEO friendly.

All of the presentations are here on Slideshare.

For more insight into WCATL check out Jenny Munn’s (@jennymunn) youtube video,  http://bit.ly/5M2njZ

Also sessions that were held in the main room C were live broadcast and recorded on ustream.  The link is here.

Finally I didn’t attend the after party held at TAP but I did watch the video that someone recorded on a laptop…looks like much fun was had by all.

Many thanks to @tessa, @sheatsb, and @cdharrison for all their work organizing the event. I’m really looking forward to Atlanta Wordcamp 2011 (Feb 11&12).