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WordCamp Miami 2014 Recap

When many users think of WordPress, they think of it as a content management system. While it is indeed that, it is also so much more. To me, it is now a lifestyle, an extraordinary community that is unsurpassed by any other, and a common goal to make the internet a better place. During a WordCamp, nobody is judged based on their financial situation, the size of their company, or how popular they are. Everyone only pays attention to one thing about you; how much you love WordPress. Developers talk with beginner users, and hosts even converse with each other to drum up friendly competition. Seeing so many different people from various backgrounds certainly pushed me further into the WordPress community and showed me that it is much more than a product, but a living, breathing ecosystem.

The Arrival

arrival

As I had a later flight that was further delayed, I was a bit later than everyone else to the party. Although when I landed, I was able to contact Rami Abraham of Maintainn where we immediately decided to meet for some food and drinks. He suggested a destination and we immediately headed toward the Wynnwood area of Miami. Upon arrival, I was greeted by many well-known names such as Shayne Sanderson of Maintainn, and Brad Williams of WebDevStudios with open arms. Although they are quite well known, and I am much lesser known by the community, it amazed me that such big names would be just as accepting of me as they would any of their peers.

Although we had never spoken outside of channels such as Twitter or a Google Hangout here and there, I was completely accepted. Thousands of miles away with people I had never met in person before, I felt as if I was at home.

Pre-WordCamp

beginners-workshop

On Friday, we made our way over to the Beginners’ Workshop where we wanted to get a good feel of the new users that we may be hosting. While I was unable to learn anything specifically about WordPress, I did gain a significant amount of information about the users. Sometimes, when you get so involved in the development side of things, the basics become lost and you forget what the average user goes through on a daily basis. It was great to chat with a few new WordPress users and see their everyday struggles whether it be with their hosting provider, or maybe just a simple plugin that they can’t see to quite figure out.

Day 1 – Usability, Development, and Design

wcmia-banner

Saturday was the first day of sessions for WordCamp Miami. Immediately as I walked in the door, I knew this is where I belonged. There was an immediate sense of overwhelming knowledge, but not in an intimidating way. It was a very humble, helpful environment that my brain loved to feed off of. Even hearing a conversation going on a few feet away is as intriguing as they come. Although I could not attend every one of the presentations as there were several going on at the same time, nor would I be able to describe each one on this post, here are a few that made notable impressions on me:

 

 

“Responsify All The Things!” by Tracy Rotton

tracyBeing that I am a terrible designer, but interested in honing my skills on the front end of things, I decided to attend Tracy Rotton’s talk on Responsive design. Although I am already a bit versed in how responsive design works and the theory behind it, in practice, my skills are extremely limited. I this talk, Tracy went over a bit of the basics for those who aren’t quite as familiar, then jumped straight into some life-saving techniques to help both the novice and advanced designer become a design powerhouse.

Most notably, Tracy showed us the element within HTML5 which will allow designers to automatically load the appropriate image for the best possible optimization solution for the particular user’s device. As we all know, serving the same image and simply scaling it is always a bad idea, but with the element in HTML5, loading those various images depending on viewport size is a breeze. Of course, we still run into another issue with it as not all browser support the element in which she also describes the picturefill.js JavaScript library to deliver the same experience to users who do not have the same capabilities.

Progressive JPEGs were also discussed in which to the naked eye, appear exactly the same as lesser compressed images but with a much smaller file size. This will save users on bandwidth and I/O usage on the server and also allows a much quicker page loading experience for the user. Previously, I had been using various other methods for my images, but after seeing her example on using progressive JPEGs instead, I don’t think my methods will ever be the same.

Tracy brought up a good point that I think all of us in the room thought of as a “why didn’t I think of that?” moment which was that other elements may be placed within <a> tags such as divs. When there are several items on the page aligned within boxes including things like text and images, many times users will have some trouble clicking on a specific link within that box. Why not make that entire box clickable? This can be done by placing the entire div within the same <a> tag so that even a user with the fattest of fingers can click it on their tiny iPhone screen.

Overall, Tracy Rotton taught me why responsive design is more important than ever, that it will never go away, and how to provide a better experience to all users with some simple tips and tricks that make a huge impact.

If you’re interested in taking a look at the slides from Tracy’s presentation, you may view her slides on GitHub.

“Real WordPress Security – Kill The Noise” by Dre Armeda

dre-armedaDre Armeda of Sucuri made some excellent points on how users can better protect their WordPress sites with just a few simple steps. This was targeted more at basic users and reenforced that the WordPress users is the first line of defense against attacks.

In this presentation, Dre mentions things like using a stronger password, and keeping everything up to date. At InMotion, the #1 cause of compromised sites are simply because the user either had a weak password, or they were running a vulnerable piece of software in which the issue could have been easily fixed by simply updating their software to the most recent version which closes those security flaws. Of course, there are also other tools that can help further protect your site such as Sucuri CloudProxy which runs between the attacker and the web server.

If you’re interested in seeing more about this presentation, you may find Dre’s slides on SlideShare.

“Playing Nicely With Other Plugins” by Pippin Williamson

pippinIf you use any WordPress plugins, you have probably used something by Pippin Williamson. As with any plugins, it is bound to break at some point when introduced to some other plugins. In Pippin’s presentation, he discussed how plugin developers can better suit both their clients, and other plugins that may interact with theirs.

The biggest point that Pippin made was that plugin developers should be nice to other plugin developers. Whether this means fixing their own code to interact with another plugin properly, or by fixing the other plugin’s code, they still share a common client base and they should interact accordingly to ensure that everyone has a great experience. Many times, plugin developers will place blame on others for their plugins causing issues when installed alongside others, but in that instance, nobody really really benefits from the experience. By resolving the conflicts between the plugins, plugin developers can ensure a happier experience for both their users, and other plugin developers.

Not only did Pippin discuss how a plugin developer can resolve issues after the release of a plugin when they see a conflict, but how they can proactively avoid issues within the development process such as using better classes and IDs within the CSS, checking to see if various libraries are already loaded before loading them, and various other things that can avoid your plugin overriding another plugin, or vice versa.

One thing that greatly stood out to me in this presentation was developers arbitrarily changing actions and filters within their plugins. I have personally seen this before and can certainly be an issue for any developer that is using those actions or filters. Pippin gave an example of this in which he simply adjusted a typo in a hook which directly affected one of the users that was using that hook (with the typo), so when that user updated the plugin, it caused significant issues on the site. This issue can be easily avoided by keeping that previous action or filter, as well as the correction both in the plugin for an extended period of time so that users are not suddenly affected by the change and have time to appropriately update their code.

If you’re interested in seeing more about this presentation, you can view Pippin’s slides on SlideShare.

“WordPress Podcasting: The Panel”

podcasting-panelThis panel about WordPress podcasting included several individuals who are well known in the WordPress community for podcasting. Having a panel like this allowed a better look into the podcasting world and how/why they do what they do.

I enjoyed hearing that most of these guys (and girl) do not solely do their podcasts for the money itself and do it simply to provide great information to the WordPress community. It certainly helped the reenforce that WordPress is about community first and monetary gain second, although most of us still make a living from WordPress. The consensus of the group seemed to be to have fun and do what you enjoy, and the monetary gain will follow.

A ton of questions came from the crowd about how to get started and promote your podcast in which the general response was to just jump into it and provide excellent content that people enjoy. Whether you want to talk about the development side of things like Pippin Williamson and Brad Touesnard do on Apply Filters, or you want to focus more in the business side of things like Matt Medeiros does on The Matt Report, there is plenty of room to gather various content that can greatly affect the WordPress community in a positive way.

The Networking Party

After the first day of great presentations, we had an opportunity to have a great time networking with various like-minded professionals in a great atmosphere. This took place at Finnegan’s River in Miami and provided the perfect setting to relax at the bar or a table by the water to connect and talk about anything that came to our minds.

inmotion-and-wptavern

Jeff Chandler and Sarah Gooding were there from WPTavern in which it was a great time to catch up with them and have an overall great experience. Having spoken to Jeff almost every weekend co-hosting our WordPress After Hours Google Hangout, it was a wonderful opportunity for us to meet in person and share our ideas and experiences with WordPress. Although I speak to Sarah much less, I enjoyed meeting her and her husband and had a terrific time making jokes and enjoying the atmosphere. We also got a chance to get goofy in a photo booth for some lasting memories with the WPTavern crew.

Towards the end of the night, I had some great conversations with Chris Wiegman from iThemes Security, previously Better WP Security. We discussed everything WordPress security, their bugs in a previous release right after he sold to iThemes, and ways that everyone can make a better push to providing simplistic security options for all WordPress users. There has been a lot of confusion about Better WP Security getting bought by iThemes and the impression that I have received from Chris is that it has only become better since the acquisition. With more time and money being allotted to development and user experience, iThemes Security certainly has only growth ahead of them.

Day 2 – The Business of WordPress

chrislema-wcmiamiDay 2 was all about business in WordPress. The biggest impact that was made was by Chris Lema. He opened his presentation with a story about walking into a supermarket and buying peanut butter which we can all relate to. I couldn’t even begin to explain it nearly as well as he did, but I’ll post a video here when available. The opening alone was jaw-dropping and there wasn’t a single eye that wasn’t staring intently at him the entire time. Chris certainly knows how to speak to a crowd.

Throughout Chris’ presentation, there was a lot of emphasis on why many WordPress developers and designers fail to succeed to the levels that they desire in which it all boils down to confidence in what you are doing. If you’re a designer, don’t try to do the whole package; Just be extremely good at design. If you attempt to do the whole package, you are devaluing your primary skill. Just find what you are really good at, and be the best in your industry. For example, Chris discussed that if you don’t know what to charge, don’t just throw a number out there. Find out the client’s budget and decide if it will work for you. This same point further leads to giving clients “ballpark” estimates. At that point, you don’t know exactly what it will entail so you can’t accurately decide on a price. Learn the client’s exact needs or you will run the risk of devaluing yourself.

Another great point that Chris made (out of many, many incredible points) was that clients should always have options so that they can better suit their needs. If you provide them with a single option, they only have the opportunity to say “yes” or “no”, but if you present them with multiple options, they will almost always say “yes”. For example, if we only provided our customers with a single option for hosting, that one option may not suit their needs, but offering many different hosting options allows us to better suit the needs of many individuals.

Of course, nothing can compare to seeing his presentation live, and it certainly was the best in my opinion, but if you want to see more about it, check out Chris Lema’s slides from WordCamp Miami on SlideShare.

The Experience of a Lifetime

Overall, I had the experience of a lifetime. Not only was it my first WordCamp, but it was an incredible one. With 770 attendees, including many big names in WordPress, there was never a boring moment. Connections were made that will take me deep into the future, and memories that will last a lifetime. I made new friends, and connected with old ones in which this experience was unsurpassed by anything I have previously done. It was truly an incredible experience and I was to thank InMotion Hosting for sending me there, all of the organizers and volunteers who have put their blood, sweat, and tears into this WordCamp, and all of those sponsors that provided the funding for such an amazing event. They affected so many lives, including mine, and I could not even begin to express my gratitude to to everyone involved to the extent in which they deserve. I’ll see you next year, Miami.

Efficiently hosting a WordPress site

Hosting a WordPress site is easy, but efficiently hosting a WordPress site is the hard part. Sure, you could easily just install WordPress, install a theme that looks good, maybe install a few plugins, and leave it there, but efficiently hosting and maintaining a WordPress site can be more difficult.

If you want to get the most of of WordPress, and keep system resources, costs, and your visitors’ page load times low, you will need to build and maintain that site as efficiently as possible. In this post, we will show you some ways to ensure that your WordPress site is running in top shape at all times.

Keep your WordPress installation updated at all times

WordPress, just like any other widely used and open source content management system is subject to bugs and security flaws. The majority of issues that I see on a daily basis are simply due to out of date WordPress installations.

WordPress now includes the ability to automatically update itself for any maintenance releases. While this does not apply to major releases such as 3.9 to 4.0, it will update your site automatically for minor and maintenance releases such as security issues.

Clean out those themes and plugins

Often, users will simply deactivate plugins and themes instead of fully removing them. Although deactivated, the files are still there and can lead to various bugs and security issues.

When not using a plugin or theme, be sure to fully remove it. You can always reinstall it if you find a need for it in the future.

Avoid bloated themes and plugins

Many users will go for a single plugin that does everything but the problem with that is that there are a lot of other options within the plugin or theme that they will never use. Avoid plugins or themes that are an “all in one” solution and instead of going for something that does everything. For example, if you just need to display a small Twitter widget, go for a widget that does just that, not something that includes various other things such as extra share buttons in your post or an entire page of Twitter posts. While those elements are not being shown, the code itself will usually use more system resources.

Some themes and plugins may also be poorly coded in which they will use up more resources than necessary. Although they may be attractive, there is most likely a theme or plugin that will look just as good, but use half the resources of a poorly coded theme. A good starting point in this would be to only purchase themes from reputable sources.

More and more caching

Caching can be critical in improving the performance of your site. Caching simply allows dynamic elements to be run a single time and then serve static elements to all of the users allowing for less system resources, and a quicker page load time for all visitors.

Plugins such as W3 Total Cache can easily configure caching for you with just a few simple clicks.

Use a CDN for all static content

A CDN will allow you to serve your static files from various locations depending on your visitor which will allow much quicker page load times. Aside from the user’s perspective, your server will also be able to offload those resources to another service that is specifically tuned to do exactly that, allowing a lower effect on server resources.

Services such as MaxCDN are able to cheaply boost the performance of your site, and are very easy to set up within plugins such as W3 Total Cache.

Make regular backups

Ensure that you always have backups ready to go if anything were to happen to your site. If something happened to cause you to lose all of your data, or you made a change that completely breaks your site, you will have a backup ready to go.

Most users don’t understand the need for backups until they need them, so proactively make backups when changes are made, as well as incremental backups every week, month, year, etc. Several plugins such as BackUpWordPress will be able to easily back up your WordPress site with just a couple clicks.

In addition to making regular backups, be sure that you are also storing them off of the server. Many times when a user is compromised, it will also affect the backups as well. Storing the backups in a location such as Google Drive or Dropbox will ensure that your backups are always readily available.

Maintain like a madman

Of course, once you have everything set up, be sure to continuously maintain your site at all times. Even if the site is a purely informational site that isn’t updated much, keep checking up on it to ensure that everything is running smoothly often. Sometimes you may notice a small issue that if discovered early, can drastically affect whether that small issue turns into a big one later down the road.

Running a website is much more than simply tossing it up and leaving it there. Treat it like a pet that continuously needs love and care.

Team Member Profile: Jeff Matson

Hometown: Laconia, NH
Position: Customer Community Team Member
InMotion Hosting team member since August 2012

Jeff MatsonHow did you get started in the web hosting field?
My initial exposure to hosting was when I was around 13 years old when I picked up a book on HTML and learned how to make some basic websites. Of course, I needed hosting so I chose a host that would suit my needs.

A few years down the road, a mentor of mine named Adam Fisher gave me my first introduction into affiliate marketing and I used those basic skills to become profitable down the road. Operating several websites, I became familiar with the hosting aspect of things.

I later became interested in Linux and started maintaining my own servers along with my websites so that I could have further control of things on the back end. This gave me a great overall versatility at a very young age.

I was always looking for a more efficient way to develop my sites and already had skills in PHP, so I moved things over to WordPress where a lot of the work was already done for me as opposed to building things from scratch.

My first true role in terms of hosting larger enterprise-class sites as when I joined a large manufacturing/wholesale company as a developer and SEO manager. I quickly moved up the ladder to become the Head of eCommerce in which I saw all direct interaction between customers, businesses, and hosting providers.

Jumping to several years later, I am now part of the Customer Community team here at InMotion Hosting, specializing in WordPress. I have further evolved that role to become a direct point of contact between WordPress users and InMotion.

What’s your current role at InMotion Hosting? What do you like most about it?
My current role is as part of the Customer Community team in which I specifically specialize in WordPress-related news and tutorials. My position has greatly evolved over the time that I have been part of the team to become a direct point of contact between WordPress users and the hosting side of things.

I absolutely love every aspect of my position here. I have the opportunity to interact and make lifelong friends within the WordPress community. Without WordPress, I would not be where I am today so the ability to give back is priceless. When you do what you love, you will never work a day in your life.

Coolest gadget you own, want, or have read about?
The coolest gadget that I own would be my custom-built arcade machine that I built around a month ago. While it’s not quite where I want it to be in terms of appearance yet, the functionality is complete so there are a lot of fun nights playing arcade games with my friends on a full sized machine.

One thing that I do not yet own, but hopefully will in the future is Google Glass. With all of the things on my plate that I am constantly monitoring and working on, I feel like a huge burden would be lifted in terms of productivity. Anyone who knows me sees that I am constantly checking Twitter, email, WordPress news, and other things on my phone, so the more opportunities to leave my phone in my pocket, the better.

What would you like to tell us about yourself?
I love WordPress and enjoy getting active in the community. If you use WordPress, be sure to search for WordCamps or WordPress meetups in your area.

What’s one word that would describe your personality?
Quirky

Team Member Profile: Ali Jones

Hometown: Hampton, VA
Position: Technical Support Manager
InMotion Hosting team member since April 2009

Ali Jones - InMotion HostingHow did you get started in the web hosting field?
I entered the field as a Tier 1 Technician in 2005 while living in North Carolina. My duties at the time included providing support to both Windows and Linux web hosting customers. Within a year I was promoted to Shift Manager and was responsible for supervising Tier 1 Support, Tier 2 Support and Systems Administrators.

What’s your current role at InMotion Hosting? What do you like most about it?
My current role is Support Manager. My favorite part of the job is being part of a team that strives to make a difference for our customers. Most people have had a bad customer service experience at some point in their life and have come to dread contacting technical support at any company. Our goal is to change their mind about how they perceive tech support and ensure that they are blown away when they contact us.

We work hard to show them that we are a company that takes an active interest in their success. I love hearing from customers that are excited about how the Support team was able to far exceed their expectations because it’s a testament to the expertise, professionalism and dedication of our employees.

Coolest gadget you own, want, or have read about?
I’ve been keeping up with news on the Oculus Rift, a Virtual Reality headset in development. VR has been something that was attempted in the past, but I think that the technology finally exists to do it properly. Since Facebook recently acquired the company, it will likely mean that VR applications will be used for more than just gaming.

What would you like to tell us about yourself?
I’m always willing to help!

What’s one word that would describe your personality?
Analytical

InMotion Hosting’s Core Principle

InMotion Hosting Thrills Customers

InMotion Hosting was founded on a simple principle – treat your customer how you expect to be treated. Our founders were already experts in Web Hosting, and they knew there was a large market of people looking for a reliable host who cared about their success.

This focus on the customer was the foundation of our culture as we grew. But, maintaining a consistent customer-focused culture while growing rapidly required a great deal of discipline and innovation. Various methods were employed over the years to live up to our founding principles, including the formulation of our company mantra in 2010. That was followed by immersion of the Mantra into all aspects of the business from hiring and training to everyday protocols, continuing education, and even bonus structures.

But, was that enough? In short, no. In reality, there is never an end to the task of improving your customer’s experience. As our expansive growth continued, we learned an extremely valuable lesson: Hiring and training individuals to truly care about the customer and strive to THRILL the customer is only half of the equation. You also need the ability to verify if all of those good intentions are being realized in practice and to implement changes wherever we fall short of our goals. Our solution was to create a Customer Experience Team .

In the Fall of 2012, the Customer Experience Team was born. The sole purpose of this department is to be the customer advocate, responsible for analyzing, identifying, and driving ongoing improvements to the customer experience across ALL customer touch points. I am honored to manage this team, extremely appreciative that our goals and values come directly from the founders, and proud of the accomplishments to date from this department.

A couple examples of recent enhancements include:

  • The Sales Confirmations Team has been transformed into the Onboarding Team. Instead of simply confirming the accuracy and validity of a new order, the New Account Specialists now have the goal of “Setting the Customer up for Success”, to include tasks such as:
    • Welcoming new customers on board.
    • Identifying and answering questions regarding the customer’s goals and needs.
    • Providing direction and help documentation directly related to those goals and needs.
    • Initiating conversations on important aspects yet to be considered by the customer.
    • Installing or triggering installation of certain software as requested by the customer.
  • A new and improved Account Management Panel (AMP).
    We recently launched major enhancements to our Account Management Panel, with a major focus on improving usability for top customer journeys. Some key enhancements included:
    • Updating the look, feel, flow, and consistency of AMP, with focus on ease of use.
    • Reducing the number of clicks to reach the top customer journeys.
    • Creating visibility for the customer to proactively maintain contact and billing information.
    • Increasing integration between AMP, cPanel, our Support Center.

Our Customer Experience Team’s Promise to You

We will put ourselves in your shoes all day, everyday. Your pains are our pains, and your happiness is our goal. We will continue to strive to THRILL you every single day.

Tim Evans
Customer Experience Manager

Team Member Profile: Christopher Fenning

Hometown: Combe Martin, Devon, England.
Position: Project Manager
InMotion Hosting team member since May 2013

How did you get started in the web hosting field?
Aside from some programming classes at school my first real exposure to web hosting came from my dad. He started his own business based around online retail and I watched through the early 2000s as he adapted to changes in technology for websites and web hosting.

ChristopherFenning

Throughout university I started to dabble with website design and ended up working on a few sites for myself and friends. That naturally led to me becoming a reseller, although on a tiny scale, and as the traffic on my websites grew I was forced to learn more about the hosting side of things.

The real plunge into hosting came when I joined InMotion Hosting to set up a Project Management Office for the company. There is nothing quite like taking on new product deliveries or large scale system changes to encourage rapid learning about hosting environments!

What’s your current role at InMotion Hosting? What do you like most about it?
My main role is project management, helping the larger scale pieces of work to be delivered on time and to spec. The projects can be anything from defining and delivering a new product to replacing core systems such as the chat system.

Training and mentoring staff in Project Management is an important part of the role and is something that brings me great satisfaction. It helps the company grow as more people become able to take on the challenge of delivering large pieces of work. The best parts of the job are the variety of work to be done and being able to work across all the teams in the company. There is such a diversity of people and roles here, it is great to be able to be a part of that.

Coolest gadget you own, want, or have read about?
In a previous job my role was to manage the customization of cellphones for a major network in Europe. This meant I always has the newest phones before they were released to market. The most unique was a 3D phone from LG, launched around the same time as 3D films were coming out at the movies. The phone took both 3D pictures and video and even the games were in 3D. At the time it was pretty cool to have that level of tech in such a small package.

What would you like to tell us about yourself?
Firstly I should say I am not from around here. Prior to 2012 I lived in England and worked mostly in Europe and occasionally in Asia. My wife and I moved to Virginia after she was offered a Job and without that I’d never have found InMotion Hosting. We are both very active and love being outdoors. The mountains are our biggest love with climbing, mountaineering, hiking and skiing being high on our list of regular activities. Most weekends, if I’m not catching up on the week’s activity in my UK based sports equipment business I can be found either in the hills or in the sea, and very occasionally I may be spotted at a craft beer or wine festival.

What’s one word that would describe your personality?
English

 

Team Member Profile: John Quan – Marketing

Team Member Profile - John QuanHometown: San Gabriel, CA.
Position: Marketing Program Manager
InMotion Hosting team member since December 2009

How did you get started in the web hosting field?
Before I joined InMotion Hosting, I was a freelance web designer and would host my clients’ websites. Here I was mostly dealing with managing domains and setting up emails.

When I joined InMotion Hosting as part of the Web Design team, my primary role was answering phone calls and replying to support tickets. This means I would help clients with questions related to hosting – some of which I had never heard of before. This is where I got my first exposure into what web hosting really was – restoring databases, monitoring usage, running backups, etc.

What’s your current role at InMotion Hosting? What do you like most about it?
I’m currently a Program Marketing Manager. For some detail, I would say this role is a blend of traditional marketing, product management/development, ux, web design and customer service.

What I enjoy most about this role is that I get to do different types of work on a daily basis. One day I could be brainstorming a new email campaign; on another I could be designing a landing page.

Coolest gadget you own, want, or have read about?
I think the coolest gadget I’ve read about is the Oculus Rift. This is a virtual reality headset that from initial reviews, looks to be a game changer and will take gaming to a whole new level.

What would you like to tell us about yourself?
One of my favorite hobbies is photography. I picked this hobby up about 8 years ago when I got my first digital camera. From there I upgraded cameras, got new lenses, and have been an enthusiast ever since. Some of my favorite types of photos include landscapes, candids, and night photography.

Here’s one of my favorite shots from the past year:
Sunset Flower

I’m also a big fan of being outdoors. I really enjoy hiking and cycling as they allow me to be outside white at the same burn some calories. One of my hiking goals this year includes day hiking Mt. Whitney.

What’s one word that would describe your personality?
Easy going.

SPYR MEDIA: Affiliate Marketing for the Rest of Us

SPYRavatar

First, a disclaimer: We are not affiliate marketers. At least not in the traditional sense.

According to nearly every article on affiliate marketing, achieving success is a complicated, cut-throat endeavor requiring loads of time and training and writing and list/link building and advertising and researching and reputation building and gaming and social media-ing, and… well, the list goes on and on.

For many this actually sounds like an endless source of fun and adventure. For us this sounds like an endless source of misery. Fortunately, there’s always another way.

Now, affiliate marketing has never been a big focus for SPYR Media. Hell, aside from posting stupid pictures of ourselves on social media we give zero attention to marketing and just do the work (all of our leads come via word of mouth). However, despite the lack of emphasis we place upon marketing, affiliate marketing has become a pretty significant revenue stream in the past few years.

Of course, we all know the big internet names rake it in through affiliate programs. They have the audience, the traffic and, most importantly, the influence that garners top commission rates to match their performance. Good for them. They did the work and deserve every bit of it.

But, we’re not all big names nor do we all aspire to be. Some of us are more effective in a behind-the-scenes capacity. We’re facilitators. So, why not facilitate?

No matter how well an income stream is performing, an improvement is always welcomed. If you can facilitate that refinement, you can then create a mutually beneficial relationship where everyone wins.

Facilitation is precisely the approach we’ve taken with affiliate marketing. We don’t want to become content producers or marketers. We aren’t interested in building lists and writing copy or, for that matter, selling in general. We’re a creative agency and let our work speak for itself relying on the, ever powerful, word of mouth to handle the rest.

Rather than approaching affiliate marketing as a new ‘job’, we instead looked at what value we could already bring to the table, who would most benefit from our input and skills, and reached out to a chosen few who we knew would experience the biggest returns. As a design company, we impact perception through imagery and product development and knew this would be a valuable compliment to the efforts of our marketing and blogging colleagues.

So we turned to others in our circles – past clients, friends, etc – who have the established audience and influence that we lack and teamed up to create mutually beneficial scenarios where we better position their publicly facing affiliate promotions, negotiate commission structures for them (they’re completely hands off) and take a small cut through tiered affiliate programs. Basically, we’re earning money by helping other, more popular people earn money.

The point is, use the tools you currently have to fill in the gaps for others. If we believed the only way to succeed in affiliate marketing was to be great content producers with a giant list we would have never started. Be creative, help others succeed and everyone involved can reap the rewards.

LA Holiday Event 2013

la_holiday_2013This year for our holiday party, we had an amazing and festive time with good people at The Ritz Carlton in Marina del Rey. We had a Christmas boat parade, St. Jude’s Toy Drive, buffet, sweet treats, and a photo booth that everyone, including our CEOs, got to let loose and be silly in. Check out some of the fun we had in our Facebook photo album.

Top Open Source Applications

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PrestaShop

PrestaShop is one of the fastest growing e-commerce solutions in the market. Prestashop is incredibly user friendly and has a great interface that makes it much easier to setup and manage than some of the traditional platforms like Opencart. With support and technical help available from all regions of the world, PrestaShop has quickly gained a reputation as an all in one e-commerce provider.

Joomla!

The most unique aspect of the Joomla CMS is the way in which the organization is structured. The Joomla! Project takes into account everyone’s feedback and tries to develop Joomla with all the users/developers in mind. Therefore, virtually anyone can become an integral part of the project by just contributing. Whether it’s code, sponsorships, or helping out in forums, you become a true community member from the first day you join. With most of the other CMS platforms, there is usually a straight hierarchy or a chain of command where decisions are made on what features/components/versions to develop next. With Joomla!, that is decided upon by all the users and developers involved. This can make processes a bit longer to complete, but it ensures that everyone’s feedback is taken into account. From an end user perspective, there is definitely a higher learning curve with Joomla! than say WordPress, but the people who are devoted fans say it is the best out there.

WordPress

You may be surprised that the many of the websites that you see on the internet actually use WordPress.  Originally intended as a blogging platform, WordPress has extended its functional reach through continual development and thousands of plugins – many of which are free.  These plugins allow the application to handle website needs such as image galleries, ecommerce shops, and forms – to list a few.  It is often classified as a CMS (Content Management System) because of its flexible nature. Add to this the many thousands of themes that allow you to quickly change its appearance and it’s easy to understand why WordPress is the most used open source application on the internet.  WordPress is easy to use and there are many avenues of support including many tutorials in the InMotion Hosting Support Center. Check out WordPress and you’ll find out why it is the top solution for your website building needs.

Drupal

Drupal is one of the most popular content management systems online. Drupal is the oldest of the Big 3 (WordPress, Joomla, and Drupal), being established in 2001. It is an open source application that is built upon PHP and MySQL. Drupal was conceived as an enterprise system and powers websites like Whitehouse.gov. Drupal has several advantages that make it a power player in the CMS community. It is extremely flexible and can build anything from a small blog to an enterprise level site supporting millions of users. It was built to be search engine friendly from the very start. The Drupal software is very stable and can serve thousands of users at the same time. It is also very developer-friendly, and developers can easily create their own modules and custom solutions.