100+ Highly Effective Tools to Help Run your Business in the New Year

Are you a hard worker? Do you work your 8-5 job every day and ever get to a point where you say, “I wish there was an easier way to do this!” Perhaps you get along in a project that WAS easy, but then as the week goes on, the project becomes more complex with more team members and work added. Then you find yourself working so hard that you can’t afford to work “smart.” You lose efficiency, and think that the long hours and lost time you had for lunch are symptoms of success. Maybe they are. But right now – they mean that you are barely making the deadline, and losing your sanity to boot.

A website is the realization of your idea. We don’t live in an age where you have to ask permission, apply for a permit, find venture funding, or look for a board of investors for your idea before you start your journey to bring an idea to fruition.

InMotion Hosting understands that all businesses seek out efficiency when starting out. Most are so busy doing what they can to market themselves and stay afloat that organizing themselves, or making a process more efficient is far from the availability to accomplish at that very moment. We understand because we’re the premium business web hosting service on the net, and we know business!

InMotion Hosting has compiled a list of resources and tools for small businesses, entrepreneurs, startups, and freelancers. Even if you’re none of those things, we know you’ll value these tools that include Data Science for Businesses, Email Marketing Tools, Online Business courses, Project Management Tools, Free Stock Photography, and much more! Access to these tools requires nothing but a click of the button below. We won’t ask anything of you, except that you succeed in your endeavors! Good Luck!

 

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11 Ways SEO is Changing in 2015 and Beyond

seo-in-2016

As the year 2015 winds down to a close, it’s time to start looking forward to 2016 and beyond. Digital marketers and SEO professionals are always looking to the future so they can be ready for the changes that are no doubt coming. Google is constantly pursuing a better search experience. This results in changes to how they index and rank pages, resulting in changes to SEO tactics.

It’s a cycle that has been going on for years, and 2016 will be no different. New WordPress tips and SEO best practices will start emerging, but I’m here to give you the inside scoop now instead of later.

11 Emerging SEO Trends for 2016

 Google is a business like any other, they just happen to be one of the largest businesses in the world. Everyone that uses their service is a customer to them, so it’s only natural for them to constantly pursue a better experience for their users.

As you read these eleven upcoming SEO changes, keep the words user experience at the forefront of your mind. You’ll find that all of these changes make sense when viewed through that lens.

  1. Voice and Mobile Search Functionality

The ability to search using your voice is nothing new, but with the release of virtual assistants like Cortana, Google Now, and Siri, people are using the feature more than ever. They want to ask a question and receive their answer immediately. In the past, people would search on their computer, find an article, and retrieve the information themselves.

Not anymore. Now they want the answer immediately. Here’s how to adapt:

  • Utilize structured data and “rich snippets” to answer important questions immediately
  • Focus less on keywords, and more on how your audience converses
  • Look for the questions they ask and answer them in a way that the search engine can’t (more in-depth for example)
  1. Direct Answers in Search Results

Google has applied the knowledge graph and the carousel into search results for some time now. These provide people with answers to their questions immediately and are often pulled from a specific website. To appear in one of these, you will need to have an authority on the subject. And provide a clear, concise answer to the question at hand in your content.

Since Wikipedia likes to dominate these, how do you compete?

  1. The Mobile-Focus Continues

There has been a growing focus on mobile-responsive web design, and 2016 will continue to increase this focus. More people access the internet on mobile devices these days, than ever before. If your site doesn’t respond and adapt to these different screen sizes, you will be penalized by Google because of a poor user experience.

It’s time to adapt:

  1. Local SEO Becomes a Major Focus

The best way to stand out from the crowd is to appeal to people in your local area. This provides a focus for your SEO strategies and narrows the pool of competition. Mobile and voice search will pair with this to help people find local solutions to their problems, so let’s make sure you’re on top of that list:

  • Utilize keywords focused on your location and area
  • Provide up-to-date Google Maps information
  • Offer app integration with Google as well (this will show up in search results)
  1. SEO and Digital Marketing Become One and the Same

Over the past few years, SEO and “content marketing” have slowly become synonymous with one another. Google has been focusing on the user experience high quality content more and more with each update. A successful SEO campaign now includes social media campaigns, and other elements of digital marketing. The two will continue to blend.

Here’s how you stay ahead:

  • SEO and Digital Marketing are no longer separate, they work together
  • High quality content, social media promotion, and marketing all connect with SEO
  • The goal is to build organic links, increase engagement, and build brand awareness
  1. Bing Offers More Competition Than Ever

Microsoft’s search engine, Bing, has always been a competitor to Google, but in 2016 it will become more important than ever. The integration of Cortana with Bing brings voice search and direct answers to this platform. With Google making some questionable choices, we’ll see SEO professionals start looking to Bing more than ever before.

How do you get comfy with Bing?

  • Many of Bing’s SEO is identical to Google (use what you’ve been using)
  • Take a look at Bing’s Webmaster Tools
  • Bing Looks at physical location more than Google (so local SEO is important here)
  1. Building a Varied and Natural Link Profile Becomes more Important

The backlinks you have pointing to your site have always been important, but now it’s also important for them to be natural, relevant, and diverse. In 2016, you’ll want to avoid any link building services that promise quality links for cheap. These will raise red flags on Google’s end every time.

As you continue to bring in backlinks in 2016, keep these tips in mind:

  • Pursue links from other sites in your niche that are valuable and relevant to those readers.
  • Use influencer outreach and guest posting to ensure your backlinks are coming from the proper anchor text and from high-quality sites.
  • Vary up your anchor text constantly and keep the flow of new links steady.
  1. User Engagement Becomes a Focus

In 2016, a high bounce rate and low user engagement will be killers for your SEO ranking. Your site needs to captivate and capture readers, or they won’t stick around to visit other pages. If people are leaving immediately, that shows Google they didn’t find what they were looking for.

Understanding what your audience wants and needs is the first step in creating a high user engagement. Take these steps next:

  • Run A/B Testing to see which design elements are working
  • Take steps to engage your readers in the comments and on social media
  • Learn what they want and need from your site and provide that from the get-go
  1. Google’s Focus Turns to the User Experience

There are numerous factors that point towards the overall user experience of your website. Everything Google is doing in 2016 and beyond points towards them finding new ways to measure the quality of the experience on your site. Things like bounce rate, the number of ads, the mobile responsiveness, and other factors all affect this overall metric.

Keep these things in mind:

  • Always look at your site and its content through a reader’s eyes.
  • Simplify and streamline the elements of your site to ensure ease of use.
  • Maintain a focus on reader intentions and desires in your content.
  1. Interstitial Ads Must Go

Google recently announced that it would begin penalizing sites with Interstitial Ads. These are ads on mobile sites that appear right as you arrive and block you from seeing the content within. They usually prompt you to download the app and won’t go away until you find their small close button.

These types of ads are downright annoying. You may not have any ads like these on your site, but consider other ads you have:

  • Are any ads blocking users from reading your content?
  • Do ads appear quickly, interrupting a reader just as they arrive?
  1. Reconsideration Requests Become More Difficult

Our final trend refers to the process by which websites can have penalties lifted from them by Google. If you’ve been penalized, you can apply for a reconsideration request once you’ve fixed the issue. In the case of certain sites, they will fix the problem, obtain approval, and then turn around and do it again.

You won’t do this, but since others have, Google may become stricter with how they reconsider penalties. Prepare accordingly:

  • Stay up-to-date on new updates and try to avoid penalties.
  • If you need to submit for a reconsideration request, ensure you’ve removed the problem entirely beforehand.
  • Once approved, take steps to ensure it won’t happen again to avoid another penalty.

Final Thoughts

As you can see, the user experience is at the forefront of Google’s mind. Everything you do with SEO should somehow connect back to that one concept. How do you see SEO changing in the future, and what steps are you taking to prepare?

Share your thoughts and theories in the comments below!    

What Makes a Successful Entrepreneur?

Article ImageEntrepreneurship, despite the recovering economy, is a booming industry. Small businesses are, and continue to be, the backbone of the economy. With that, we wanted to give a shout out to all of our customers, friends, and family that are either thriving or aspiring to become entrepreneurs.

If you are currently an entrepreneur and want to share your success story with us, we would love to feature your business on our website!

[Just Follow These 4 Steps:]

  • Tell us about why you chose to became an entrepreneur
  • How you overcame obstacles
  • How you drive your business’ success

For those of you who are thinking of becoming entrepreneurs, let us first establish what it means to be an entrepreneur.

An entrepreneur is someone who takes initiative, and makes a leap in organizing and operating a business. Anyone is capable of becoming an entrepreneur! When you come up with new ideas, think outside of the box, and act on these innovations ideas, you are taking the first steps to becoming an entrepreneur.

 However, there is a big difference between wanting to become an entrepreneur, and succeeding as one. Let’s take a look at what characteristics make a successful entrepreneur.

  • Support
    • A successful entrepreneur has a strong support network. No entrepreneur does it on their own. This begins with the very conception of entrepreneurship! You need to be able to sell your idea to your family and friends first. They have the ability to poke holes in your ideas, ask questions you might not have the answers to, or tell you that they don’t have a clear idea of what it is your start-up business is trying to accomplish. After this initial pitch,  you’ll know you have more groundwork to complete. If you can sell them on your business model then you are ready to take the next step in presenting to future investors, business partners, and banks for financing.
      • Role Models & Advice:
        • As part of an entrepreneur’s support team, it is important have a role model who can act as a figure of influence and inspiration. Don’t go through the hardship of trying to ‘reinvent the wheel’ when you can ask questions and learn from others who have made a similar journey. Becoming a successful entrepreneur means understanding what has made previous entrepreneurs successful and adopting those tactics.  
  • Business Mindset
    • What makes or breaks a start-up company can sometimes be the lack of a business mindset. Many entrepreneurs create start-ups because they are unemployed. They have ideas, but don’t have the motivation to keep it going. In order to be a successful entrepreneur you need to be driven and have the ability to think strategically and innovatively in order to move from a hobby to a business. Becoming a business owner requires you to stick to your vision and develop a strategy to acquire income and use this to grow your business. Document your processes, your milestones, and what you hope to achieve. Use this as a guide when you have questions on your innovative journey. That way, you will be equipped with the information to back up your statements.
  • High Risk Assessment
    • It is important to be able to understand risk and make educated, well informed decisions. As a start-up owner you need to be able to accept trials of uncertainty and be prepared for a multitude of outcomes. A general rule of thumb rings true in entrepreneurial circles: “Plan for the best, Prepare for the worst!”
  • Investment Capital
    • All businesses start with great expenditures. You must invest in your business in order for it to reach any potential in the market. Because of this, you need to make sure your company has the funds to outlive the beginning stages of business and either hit the threshold of breaking-even or gaining a positive net profit. The lack of money can prematurely close down a potentially successful business. For a savvy entrepreneur, make sure you plan out your expenses ahead of time and plan on having enough money to manage and run your company at a loss for the first few years. Spend wisely and carefully. Annotate how, with each expense, your company will grow and turn a profit. 

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As a budding entrepreneur, sometimes a lot of what you are looking at is cost.  Take advantage of FREE tools and resources to make your life easier. Below are 5 free tools and websites to help you start and manage your business.

  1.      Google Apps
  • Google provides free resources on a majority of their services including Google calendar, email, and contact directories; There are also file management, and marketing analytics data to be found in Google Analytics, and Google Drive.  Access and share your files from anywhere using ‘Google Docs.’ Analyze your marketing strategy, and plan content with keyword research  with data using Google Analytics.
  1.      Evernote
  • Evernote acts as an electronic notebook that can be synced and accessed from any device. Take notes, share notes, organize, and present your data. Always  keep your information available and accessible.
  1.      Mint
  • A simple application that can help you manage your finances in an organized and efficient manner. Categorize your recurring costs and calculate your monthly, quarterly, and annual spending.
  1.      Start Up Stash
  • This website can help you identify key stepping stones you will need as a start-up business. The website provides you with a “stash” of the industry leading resources to help you figure out your marketing, website, financial strategies and more!
  1.      Code academy
  • Learn how to code and build an online presence for your website. Take things into your own hands and learn what it takes to update, fix, and debug your website or application’s code. This will help you with both the creation of your own website, as well as understanding the structure of websites that will influence marketing and competitor strategies.

Team Member Profile: Danny Sumerlin

Team Member SpotlightHometown: Virginia Beach, VA
Position: Senior Design Consultant
Been with InMotion Hosting since: December 2010

How did you get started in the web hosting field?
My Fine Arts/Graphic Design degree led me to have essential knowledge of the custom web design process, web hosting, and the benefits of investing into a professional, online presence.

What is your current role at InMotion Hosting? What do you like most about it?
As the Senior Design Consultant, my design background and the ease of working in a relaxed environment has allowed me to consult with small and medium size business owners.  I’ve also had the good fortune in working with Non-Profit organizations. This position has allowed our in-house team to custom build their new sites from scratch.

Coolest gadget you own, want to own or have read about?
I am not really into gadgets for the most part, but I really love my Suunto Ambit3 watch. I can wear it surfing or to a wedding, and still look sharp. It’s lasted surfing, snowboarding and my 70 lb dog. My next gadget, on the horizon, hopefully sooner than later, will be a Toyota Tacoma Sport.

What would you like to tell us about yourself?
Ever since I was able to hold a pencil, I have been doodling. My illustration, painting and graphic design outside of my experience with InMotion has allowed me to continue my creativity. I have participated in both the Boardwalk Art Show and Neptune Festival, and continue to manage my own WordPress site as a personal portfolio (our design team built it for me!).

Describe your personality in one word?
Adventurous.

Cyber Security Awareness: Are you and your website protected?

cybersecurityarticleInternet security has always been a major concern for businesses and website owners. In today’s online world, these threats are becoming more and more widespread and diverse in nature. With so many attack vectors and vulnerabilities being discovered daily, it’s more important than ever that you keep a close eye on potential security risks. In this article, we’ll go over some of the best practices you can employ to keep yourself and your website protected.

Protect Yourself
On the local level, individuals should ensure they are running all of the latest up-to-date software versions and actively updating your virus protection definitions. It’s always a good idea to change your passwords regularly, use stronger passwords, and never store them anywhere in plain-text. There are several password management applications out there that use encryption methods against your master password database which will make it very difficult to decrypt should the database fall into the wrong hands. An example is KeePass, a free open-source password manager  that uses the best, and most secure encryption algorithms.

Protect Your Website

Unlike most local home networks protected by a gateway router’s firewall, your website is purposefully exposed to the entire internet. If it wasn’t, no one would be able to access your site. Because the internet never sleeps, our system administrators are actively watching our servers and networks 24 x 7 x 365 for potential security threats. We log and analyze malicious activity from every region of the globe at all times of day. This assures your hosting server remains secure and the integrity of your data is never compromised.

That being said, it is important to be aware that your website itself may still be vulnerable to several malicious attacks, such as Cross-site Scripting (XSS) attacks, SQL Injections (SQLi), Inclusion Vulnerabilities (LFI and RFI), Brute Force attacks, and many more. Many websites these days are built on content management systems (CMS) such as WordPress, Joomla, Drupal, etc. Each of these engines have third party themes, add-ons and plugins that can easily be installed to enhance website functionality. Unfortunately, as with any software source code, there is always the potential for bugs to be introduced, discovered and exploited. Your first line of defense in keeping your website secure is to consistently apply updates as they are released. If your CMS supports it, we also highly recommend enabling auto-updates which will take care of updating your site for you as new versions become available. If you are unsure how to do this, InMotion Hosting’s support center has additional information and instructions to guide you through the process.

While it’s always important to be vigilant in updating and managing your own website, rest assured that when a widespread vulnerability is disclosed, our security experts are immediately engaged. Often times, by identifying a unique pattern or string inside the attack vector, we are able to deploy defense mechanisms such as writing custom mod_security rules to protect our customers.

Password Best Practices

We’ve mentioned the importance of regularly rotating your passwords, but if your password is weak it can still easily be compromised via brute forcing or cracking, even if it was just changed yesterday. Here are some tips and suggestions which will keep you secure when choosing your next password:

  • Passwords should be at least 12 characters in length (the longer, the better)
  • Passwords should contain at least 1 character from each of the following groups:
    • Lower-case letter (a-z)
    • Upper-case letter (A-Z)
    • Number (0-9)
    • Common Symbol (e.g. %; &; +; ?)

Article written by: Erik Soroka, Tier 3 Architecture Manager at InMotion Hosting

Team Member Profile: Marco Ponce

marcoponceHometown: Los Angeles, CA
Position: Marketing Technologist 
Been with InMotion Hosting since: September 2014

How did you get started in the web hosting field?
Before working at InMotion Hosting I was a freelancer who procured hosting for web design and marketing clients, as well as for previous employers and for myself. Most products ranged from shared hosting, to dedicated hosting.

What is your current role at InMotion Hosting? What do you like most about it?
I am a Marketing Technologist. Most of the daily tasks involve evaluating, maintaining and implementing technologies that we can put in to play at our company to make us more efficient while marketing. I also handle affairs with our SEO and paid advertising.

Coolest gadget you own, want to own or have read about?
iPhone wins hands down with gadget I own due to time spent on it! Want to own: BMW i8, but it’s not practical.

What would you like to tell us about yourself?
I am happily married to my wife Paola Ponce. I like to cycle on the weekends, preferably in a group ride and I like to take photos of wildlife and landscapes with my DSLR camera. Chiefly, I love to read my King James Bible.

Describe your personality in one word?
Peculiar.

FINDING THE RIGHT WORDPRESS THEME FOR YOUR ONLINE PROJECT

Things to look out for when searching for the right WordPress theme 

Are you just about to start a great online project? Maybe a tech blog, a stylish fashion magazine or a local news website? If you have opted for WordPress as your CMS, than that is a good first choice so far. Now you will have to look out for and find the right WordPress theme which fits your needs. In general, a suitable WordPress theme is one that contributes to the readability and accessibility of your content and it should make your website faultless.

Your first choice to make – free or premium?

When looking for a WordPress theme you can choose between free and premium templates. The difference between free and premium in functionality and overall design can be determining. The benefits of premium WordPress themes are quite notable. You can customize and modify your theme mostly through an extensive options panel. With a premium WordPress theme it is convenient and comfortable to switch styles and colors via multiple styles, you will have reliable support and moreover premium themes meet the modern web requirements.

Professional or personal website?

In case your plan is to launch a business website, then you’ll have to look out for different features and options of a WordPress theme as opposed to a blog or an online magazine. Typical features of an online magazine are for example a static front page or an informative sidebar – or even two. With business websites it is usually very likely that they present their services in an intuitive way and for a blog a nice and neat overview of latest blogposts is quite suitable.

What is your website/content about?

Depending on what kind of website you are planning to run, you should decide on suitable content management features of your online presence. For a simple and clean blog with maybe an image here and there, a pure and clean tempate would be suitable. For a vivid online magazine where latest a most popular articles should be in focus, a WordPress theme which allows you to create a static front page and manage a great bunch of content through custom widgets would be a really good choice.

Make your choice

No matter what kind of website your are planning to launch, there are plenty of WordPress themes to choose from. Sometimes you have to dig a little deeper to find what is best for you. If you are having a hard time to decide, just think of the most important aspects your website should contain and focus on those – like e.g. a full-width header image, a flexible layout, several color schemes or a custom background. And if you’ve eventually made your choice you can finally focus on great and unique content.

 

Introduction to WordPress

If you are new to the online world of websites and blogging, you may have heard of WordPress or even recognize the prominent ‘W’ logo. If you are one of these people and don’t know what WordPress is, this is your opportunity to learn about one of the most prevalent and accessible website platforms.

WordPress is an innovative tool that is used to build websites. You will often hear it referred to as a Content Management System (CMS). That means WordPress is an application designed to support the creation, management, publishing, editing, organizing, and deletion of website content –  all from one central dashboard.

WordPress.COM vs WordPress.ORG

Signing up with WordPress is completely free. It’s an exceptionally cost-effective way to get started on any website. However, the option many users must face is to either use the hosted platform, WordPress.com, or go with your own web hosting space using WordPress.org.

For beginners, starting with the hosted platform on WordPress.com is a good way to learn the ropes and get started. This will get you a sub-domain that is located on wordpress.com. You will have access to built-in plugins, features, and themes that are readily available on the WordPress platform. However, you are limited in that you will not be able to access or download the larger repository of free and premium plugins and themes. You will also have limited support for free themes and are restricted from modifying them. This route is suggested if you are just interested in trying out WordPress as as starter package or have a very simple 1-2 page website.

If you choose the route of downloading the WordPress software through WordPress.org you will need hosting from a web hosting company. Here at InMotion Hosting, we give you the option to have pre-installed WordPress software to go with your hosting. You will have your choice of a unique domain name, full support and access for all themes and plugins that exist on the WordPress platform. Another perk of owning your own WordPress site is that you will be able to monetize by adding advertisements to your page. The WordPress.org route is recommended for those who are past the planning stages of their website and require full customization, plugins, and business features such as ecommerce.

Why is this the best platform for any user?

1) Flexibility and ease of use

WordPress is often associated with the creation of blogging websites. However, since its founding in 2003, it has evolved to provide a comprehensive solution for any type of website. Whether it’s a business, informational, non-profit, job listing, or even corporate website, the CMS excels in providing a comprehensive list of website templates. WordPress is also able to handle all sorts of media content, from text, images, music, and video.

Examples of ways to use a WordPress Website:

  •         Merchandise / Shopping Store
  •         Photo or Image Gallery
  •         Video Collection
  •         Blog
  •         Review Site
  •         Personal Website
  •         Informative Website

WordPress caters to the needs of both novice web users as well as those who are more advanced and familiar with web development and coding (such as CSS and HTML). WordPress provides beginners with the tools they need to get a website started with minimal difficulty. Free and premium themes are available as a starting point from which you can quickly build and shape a website to match your vision.

WordPress is also completely open source, which means the code behind the WordPress system is available to the general public to use and modify- making WordPress extremely customizable. Many big name brands also use WordPress for their website. The New York Times, CNN, and People Magazine, just to name a few, are all powered by WordPress.

2) Large knowledge base

WordPress’ long standing success and continuing popularity comes with an enthusiastic user base that has created a massive repository of informational tutorials and videos that can help one use WordPress for all their website needs. With the robust, global WordPress community, the answer to any question you might have should be easy to find with a simple Google search. And if it isn’t, the active community on WordPress support forums is quick to respond and provide input.

3) Plugins!

There are 40,000 plugins and counting for WordPress!  Anything from needing something to make sure your website isn’t being flooded by spam content to making sure your website is secure from potential hackers. WordPress has plugins for optimizing your website. What about help with your website’s SEO? You know, Search Engine Optimization – the way that Google learns how to rank your website? There’s a plugin for all of that! When you use WordPress, you have thousands of plugins available at your fingertips to help you design, protect, and optimize your website for any of your needs.

4) Keeping up to date

Staying on top of updates has never been easier with WordPress. The growing popularity of WordPress has led to continuous modernization to make sure the system is always advancing. New improvements are being added all the time. Updates are hassle free and inform you what new features and functionality are being added or fixed. 

Overview

Overall, WordPress is a strong platform to get started on your website venture. WordPress has grown exponentially and has diversified to fit almost any website niche. With a vast library of themes and plugins to choose from and a very simple learning curve, WordPress continues to be the top solution for a website CMS.

Team Member Profile: Tim Sisson

Hometown: Virginia Beach, VA
Position: Customer Community Manager
Been with InMotion Hosting since: 2011

How did you get started in the web hosting field?
Actually, I got my start in the business / marketing side of the industry doing SEO / SEM work for an engineering company. This is where I learned the basics about web hosting. My first introduction into hosting not as a consumer was as a tier 1 Support representative for InMotion Hosting about 5 years ago.

What is your current role at InMotion Hosting? What do you like most about it?
I’m the Customer Community Manager here. My team manages the Support Center and all of the documents that help our customers. We also act as evangelists with different products like WordPress. I like getting out into the public and getting to know our customers! It’s a really cool feeling when I’m at a WordCamp and a customer comes over to tell me stories of how we helped them succeed. I really enjoy empowering our customers and watching their successes because of it!

Coolest gadget you own, want to own or have read about?
I’m slowly working on a “magic mirror” for my daughters. It’s powered by a Raspberry PI behind some two way glass. It displays basic information like the time, date, weather, and any calendar items. I’m working on some speech recognition software as well, so they will be able to ask basic commands and get a response (you know, like in the fairy tale).

What would you like to tell us about yourself?
I’m a pretty simple guy. When I’m not at work I’m usually outside with my girls. We love the outdoors and nature so weekends are almost always spent exploring some park or trail. I think having a good balance between working in technology and enjoying  mother nature is important.

Describe your personality in one word?
Silly.

WordCamp Baltimore 2015

 

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Arnel’s Road Trip Selfie

WordCamp Baltimore was my first traveling foray into the world of WordPress enthusiast user groups. I’ve been to many conventions and helped to host user groups, but WordCamps are in a class all their own.  WordCamps are held worldwide and can vary from a small group of people to a large group numbering in the thousands.  This Baltimore trip was more in the size of a smaller group but it was still a great event to attend. It was the first opportunity for the Community Support team to travel together as well.  Our group of six included a member of our sales team (Danny), and most of the Community Support team from Virginia Beach – John Paul, Scott, Tim Sisson (Tim S.), Tim Elsass (Tim L.) and myself.  Our manager, Tim S., was the chauffeur for the trip graciously putting up with a bunch of restless guys in the five hour trip there and back.

 

Once we got our stuff in place and rested up a little, we headed out to a restaurant called Wit and Wisdom. While the service was not the greatest, the views of the Baltimore downtown waterfront were amazing. We got a little bit to eat and planned how we would end the evening.

 

Danny was visiting an old friend in Baltimore so the rest of us were left to decide how to spend the evening. I ended up working on the InMotion Hosting Support Center website as customer questions still needed to be answered. Both Tims ended up going back to attend the WordPress dinner in a place called the James Joyce Pub. John Paul, Scott and I ended up exploring nearby restaurants for some local food for dinner and then settled for a movie or college football games. The first night ended uneventfully as we got some rest in preparation for the busy day ahead.

imh-table
InMotion Hosting Sponsor table

The next started early as we were volunteers in registration and helping with the speakers of the WordCamp. We also needed to get the InMotion Hosting sponsor table setup – complete with many goodies to give to any curious visitor. Saturday was a bit gloomy with impending rain, so it was a perfect day to be indoors for the event.

arriving-wordcamp
WordCamp organizer providing directions for parking

The venue for the was the University of Baltimore. I was assigned to help with registration of attendees. The others were helping with the speakers and the InMotion sponsor table. Each attendee who registered in time was given a t-shirt for the event as well as a lanyard with a identification card that also provided the schedule for the different sessions of the event. I ended up alphabetizing a box full of names.

registration-table
Attendee Registration table

With the help of several fellow volunteers, we got things quickly sorted out. Registered attendees would get their name badge, a lanyard to hold it, and a t-shirt. Late registrants got blank badges and no t-shirt until after lunch. Surprisingly, out of all the shirt sizes, the small size went quickest. Or maybe it was just good forethought on what sizes should be in plentiful supply.

Volunteers at the registration table
Volunteers at the registration table

Manning the registration table was a bit hectic, but I had plenty of help and my only job was basically to find and handout badges and lanyards to incoming attendees. While I was working at the registration table I got to meet one of the organizers – Anthony Paul, as well as a theme programmer named David who works remotely for Automattic. I met several others whose names unfortunately escape my memory, but they were all friendly and helped us greet and direct all of the incoming attendees.

Station North
Station North

The locations in the venue were divided into two main areas – the auditorium (which was on the same level as the registration table),and a room below. These rooms corresponded to locations known as “Downtown” and “Station North.” The schedules for each of these rooms were detailed on the badges. Once we got it sorted out, we ended up giving quirky, but memorable directions for the repeated location questions, “The Downtown is upstairs. If you’re going to Station North, go downstairs, bang a u-turn at the bottom of the steps and it will be on your right.” We quickly became familiar with the area and the important directions including the location of the restrooms.

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Tim S. and Melode Laylor

Once our assigned times for our volunteer slots were over, we were free to attend the speaker sessions. I ended up attending Tim’s session named “Growing your Nonprofit with WordPress” and recorded it. I also attended the “Building Parsec: Return of the Responsive Theme” by Joe Casabona, and “War Room Collaboration Across the Internet Canyon” by Anthony Paul. Each session was well attended and the facilities provided by the University of Baltimore were excellent.

 

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Tim S. speaking about non-profits

Tim’s session was very interesting to me as I am very busy with non-profit community organizations after work. Several questions from the audience also indicated the interest level in the topic. Joe Casbona’s session was also very entertaining with many references to Star Wars. However, the most educational session for me was the collaboration session given by Anthony Paul.

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Antyony Paul’s session on group collaboration

I often deal with many people in the community where remote collaboration around a central tool would be beneficial in order to help unify our communications, record our actions for future review, and reduce our needs for repeated group meetings. The challenge I face is getting everyone to agree on a collaboration tool. Anthony’s session provided some insight into existing tools that could even benefit our team at InMotion Hosting. These included applications such as Slack (slack.com),Wake.io(https://wake.io/), Google Slides(https://www.google.com/slides/about/) and Trello (https://trello.com/). Slack is one of the messaging apps for group collaboration. It works across multiple platforms, is easy to use, searchable, and best of all – it’s free. Anthony also showed how to use Google Slides for collaborative wire framing and sharing group ideas through video chats. Wake.io was suggested by an attendee as another graphical collaborative tool. Trello is an online project management tool that can be expanded. I suggested using Freedcamp(freedcamp.com) – which is very similar to Trello. All of the suggested tools are free and can be expanded for enterprise- level use with payment.

 

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Danny with Eddie and John Paul at the WordCamp after party

As the sessions started to wrap up, we gathered at the InMotion Sponsor table that had significantly less swag than earlier. We packed up our stuff and then headed back to the hotel to grab a little rest before heading out to dinner and the WordCamp after party. As a group we went to the Riptide restaurant and enjoyed some seafood for dinner. The after party started at 7pm in the Waterfront Hotel bar a few doors down from Riptide. There was an upstairs reserved room with an open bar until 9pm. Here we enjoyed more food – chicken wings and shrimp and also met up with many of the attendees and speakers. We also met Melodie and her husband David Laylor from the Hampton Roads WordPress meetup group. We will be working with Melodie in the WordCamp Hampton Roads event on October 17.  I had a drink and listened to one of the attendees, named Khalid, speak about his European adventures. He then explained how he was using WordPress as an educational solution in his current venture. He was using multisite in a way that I’ve never seen done before.

The rest of the evening slowly died down with the sharing of some good stories with old friends and new ones. The next morning we got up early in order get back home to Virginia Beach in a reasonable time. Scott, Tim S. and I had a nice breakfast in the hotel restaurant and then gathered up the rest of the group so that we could leave the watchful eyes of downtown Baltimore.

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Don’t run that red-light in Baltimore…