BlogHer08 Unconference Techie Space

BlogHer08 Unconference Techie Space

Not many people stayed for the Open Space part of BlogHer08, compared with the total number in attendance on Friday and Saturday. Those who stayed, got a lot out of it.

Some of the comments about the programming that I heard during the social events each evening made me think that a tech how-to session on general blogging basics was a good item for the agenda during the unconference. Liz Henry had a similar idea and suggested a session on Wordpress. We doubled up and were joined by Drupal maven Angela Byron and Wordpress expert Sarah Lewis.

During the early part of our time in the techie space, several of us brainstormed some ideas for possible tech topics for next year's BlogHer. These were the ones we came up with.
Programing cheat sheets
Just Make it Work
Web Developer Toolbar
Grease Monkey
Blogging Platforms
Themes (every platform)
Open source graphics
Finding the right online group

The tutoring topic stopped us in our tracks. We all liked it and thought maybe we could set up some sort of rotation among tech experts with 15-30 minute times slots that could be set up as appointments for individual tutoring help.
Skye Killean volunteered immediately to organize it. Based on what happened during the next few hours in the techie space of the unconference, something like that might be really popular.

In the next few hours, I sat down with the It's Different for Girls BlogHer and helped her figure out how to tell Feedburner and some other services where her blog feed could be found. She also learned how to add technorati tags to her blog posts.

Then I started working with BlogHer Frances Ellen Speaks.

There's a bit of a story about Frances. She's Contributing Editor Catherine Morgan's mom. Not only are both bloggers, but Catherine's fourteen year old daughter Nicole is also a blogger. Next year they plan to bring three generations of bloggers to BlogHer.

Frances' tech problem involved a ground-breaking fiction blog she writes called Story of Nadia. She writes two paragraphs of a novel, two times a week. If you read each post as it gets published, you get the story in order. But if you go to her blog in mid-chapter, you see the story backwards. The previous blog post takes place before the current blog post in the story, an so on. The last part of the story is at the top of the page, and the beginning and middle of the story get pushed down the page as she adds to the story. Frances, with Catherine's assistance, has developed some solutions, such as providing an explanation for the reader and consolidating the posts into finished chapters that can be read in the proper order. But as each chapter grows by two paragraph increments, it appears in reverse order to the casual visitor who might stop by and hasn't been reading regularly. Frances wanted to solve this problem.

Do you have a solution to this problem? Here's how we worked it out. It took several brains and quite a few false starts. We thought about Wordpress plug-ins and various types of previous and next links. We thought about adding more pages of explanation. We decided we needed more tech help.

We looked around the room and saw that Sarah was helping a BlogHer whose blog had been hacked that morning – that was too important to interrupt. Liz was coming our way but had other people in line ahead of us. Angela, the Drupal expert, offered to help.

We thought we might try juggling with the post dates but that sounded like a nightmare. We talked about putting Story of Nadia on a domain of its own so the innards of Wordpress could be worked with, but Frances already has a steady cadre of readers where she is. Finally Angela said something in passing about a table of contents. She stopped in mid-sentence, because that was the answer and we all knew it at once. Frances needed to add a table of contents page to her blog where she would create a link to each post in the proper reading order. She would add a new link each time she posted. The only technical thing involved was knowing how to link to an individual post, but we felt like we'd solved a great puzzle. In a way, it was a great puzzle. Frances' problem is unique: writing something linear (a novel) on a blog. This was a new idea for all os us and it took a while to even figure out how to talk and think about it.

So Frances got her problem solved. The woman with the hacked blog got it dehacked free by a woman whose whole business is based on working with Wordpress. Another woman wanted a blog and got help setting it up. A bunch more people were helped with major and minor tech issues, too.

There were groups in other parts of the open space talking about business and community and numerous other topics, but the people in the techie space had a fun day. I hope everyone else at the unconference did, too.


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