Being that Wordcamp Israel was a bloggers conference in Tel Aviv, I’m sure there will be tons of people writing up their reviews in Hebrew. But maybe not quite as many in English, so here goes. This year’s Wordcamp was in the ZOA house in the middle of Tel Aviv, a schlep for Jerusalemites, but a great location for everybody else.

The Shmoozing

And they’re off, let the shmoozing begin. Instead of sitting in a corner, hoping someone would come talk to me, I started standing and sitting strategically next to people who looked friendly. The first guy I met was Eyal Sela, who plans to write about productivity on his brand new WordPress blog, still in its Kubrick diapers. Throughout the rest of the day, I met Itzik Edri of Wikimedia(trying to get more people to use Wikipedia), Eyal Gura, CEO of PicApp (a legal image solution for bloggers), Eyal Beit-On, of Suntrader (online marketing consultant), and Amir Uval(new Hebrew blogger at Geek in the Kitchen). Are you keeping track? So far, that’s 3 Eyals. I also got to hang out with the founders of Nuconomy, Eran Kampf and Yossi Taguri. Toward the end, I sat with Ezra Butler, (of Twitter fame), Charlie KalechDebby Benstein, Eyal Gonen, Idan Gazit(new Twitter friend), and Ido Shacham. If you’re counting, out of 13 people that I met, 4 happened to be named Eyal.

The Organizers

The conference officially started with co-organizers Tal Galili (who cut his hair) and Noa Danzig(who may or may not have cut her hair) welcoming everyone and telling us that they planned the conference in less than 2 months, and worked extra hard to include non-profits by creating an additional track of sessions.

The Sessions

I didn’t get a chance to go to every session, so I would love if people added their comments about the sessions they went to. You can see the full schedule here.

Session: Blogs built on WordPress.com / Miriam Schwab

From what I heard, Miriam gave a great presentation on the features and limitations of WordPress.com, and its viability only in the short term. Presentation slides will be posted here shortly.

Session: 70 unusual uses for WordPress / Sarit Amar and Tomer Lichtish

While it was hard to decide which sessions to go to, I ventured for the “70 unusual uses for WordPress”. But, according to my desktop scientific calculator, only 4 were mentioned:

  1. Contact Manager – Using a special template, you can enter each name as the link the a post which contains someone’s contact details.  You can also find people through the tag cloud.
  2. e-Commerce/store
  3. Portfolio – using thumbnails as links to each piece in the portfolio.
  4. Lifestreaming – updates from Twitter, facebook, flickr, youtube, etc. to represent your “online” life. A way to bring the focus back to the blog.

This session was a little basic for me and could have used specific links to themes and plugins that help you create these special WordPress sites. I’m hoping there’s a link online to the other 66 interesting uses.

Session: Blogging with Video / Ron Yekuteal, Kaltura

Kaltura is the first open source video platform, and they have a plugin for WordPress. Ron said that Kaltura is free, flexible, and most importantly, open source. This plugin supposedly offers a lot of functionality and I’m looking forward to trying it out.

Session: Social Media Marketing / Miriam Schwab

Since I couldn’t clone myself and be at Miriam’s talk, even though I wanted to, I listened to other people’s reviews. People said Miriam encouraged quality content on your blog, your home base, and to be a part of the conversation on social media sites by contributing and helping others, since that’s where your audience is. She also listed WordPress plugins that can boost your ‘social proof’ on your website by displaying your activity around the web. Presentation slides will be posted here shortly.

Session: Statistics / Zvika Jervy of Statistics Web Control and Yosi Taguri of Nuconomy.

Zvika spoke about the basics of Google Analytics to check number of visitors, referrers, time spent on the site, and top content, Technorati to check incoming links/authority, and Feedburner to check feed count.

Yosi spoke about Nuconomy’s plugin for WordPress which offers statistics beyond pages, such as clicks on video and Ajax. It also lets you see stats on commenters and compare lots of different data sets for a bigger picture of stats and user interaction with your site.

Session: Virtual Collaboration, Raanan Bar-Cohen, Automattic

Originally from Israel, Raanan now lives in California working for Automattic (the company who created WordPress), and playing Adam Sandler roles on the side (Miriam pointed this out, and I have to say, I agree, they do have a striking similarity). And, to my delight, Raanan delivered his presentation in English, a welcome treat for my Hebrew overloaded brain.  Raanan was a really great speaker and offered some tips on running a virtual company, since Automattic has 30 employees scattered around the globe in every possible time zone.

  1. Empower your team – everyone should have ownerships of their projects, and set their own hours.
  2. Go real time – yay for searchable, storable group chats and boo to email
  3. Go semi real time – use internal blogs and  Prologue (group twitter)
  4. Get together – coordinate conferences and meetups for real, in-person get togethers
  5. Open Source – more opportunities to get help and gain insights from others
  6. Metrics –  compare many different tracking services and data points
  7. Go bite size – ticket tracking, break down a project into small pieces

He also gave a sneak peek into Prologue Groups, WordPress’s project tracker, plus Twitter-like chat, which launchesin 2 weeks at Wordcamp Australia. And finally, he gave a heads up that BuddyPress, WordPress’s Social Networking Platform will be available in December.

Session: Panel with Knesset Member Miki Eitan with host Jonathon Klinger

Set up like a late night talk show, Jonathon Klinger played host to Likud MK Miki Eitan and 3 other guys. I apologize, but I didn’t see their names in the program or online. Please feel free to comment with their names and organizations. [Update: Other panelists were Yoav Lerman from a blog about the renewal of Tel Aviv, Zvika Bashur from CityDov blog, and Yochai Ilam from Black Labor blog.]

MK Eitan was invited to be on the panel because he started a blog built on WordPress. When asked why he chose WordPress, he said, “it was the  cheapest option”. Other memorable quotes (probably not exact) included “You don’t need to be a Likudnik to believe in Miki Eitan”, a subtle plug, and “As you can see by my ability to choose a low-cost solution for my blogging, I also know how to create a balanced budget for the country”. As the wise Miriam pointed out, Miki is trying to take Obama’s strategy by creating a trendy site and a new slogan that translates roughly to: “To prove that things can be different”. What Mr. Eitan didn’t cover exactly was what those changes would be and how he would implement them. Sheesh, people, who can be bothered with details?!

When asked if Mr. Eitan writes his own posts, he said yes! Can you believe it?! Haha, Just kidding. He’s a politician who doesn’t see the ROI in blogging himself and therefore asked his assistant, hiding in the corner, how much time he invests in the blog. The assistant responded by saying 1 hour a day.

I’m sorry, but a Likud MK showing up at a bloggers convention reminds me of a similar situation (((Twilight Zone music here))) when Bibi Netanyahu showed up at the JBloggers Convention.  Why does every blogger convention end with a  rally for Likud? Am I missing something here? Have we finally caught on to their sly little plan?

Session: Introduction to WordPress Plugins / Ziv Perry

This session was very high level, and I think should have been publicized as such. Ziv showed how to create a basic WordPress plugin, but If you don’t already have a solid grasp of PHP or the guts of WordPress, then this session was probably way over your head.

Session: Home, sweet Jerusalem

Sorry to say, I didn’t make it to the very last sessions, but Kol Hakavod to the organizers, and to meeting and seeing lots of fellow WordPress junkies, er.. people. My recommendation for next year’s Wordcamp would be to have 2 tracks, one for beginners and one for advanced WordPress users.

And last, but not least, I got a hilarious sticker that says “Lo Nachon” (Not true), and the purpose being that if you ever see a bumper sticker you disagree with, you can discredit it by placing your “not true” sticker next to it. Oh, people, you are so witty, how did you know that is exactly my type of humor?!