My First WordPress Conference: WordCamp Raleigh 2013

This past weekend I went to North Carolina for WordCamp Raleigh. This was my first time in North Carolina and my first time ever attending a WordPress conference. I’ve never attended a conference that wasn’t for church youth groups or K-12 teachers, so this was a totally new experience for me.WordCamp-Raleigh-Banner

My fiance, Tom, was set to speak at the conference, so I wanted to go and support him as well as learn some stuff along the way. Tom works for WooThemes, a WordPress platform provider that offers a wide selection of themes and plugins for website developers, bloggers, and businesses (among others). So he has a lot of insight on all things WordPress, as well as a whole ton of general software engineer (AKA computer programmer) knowledge.

I was actually pretty nervous about going. I mean, I am going to school to be a middle/high school math teacher. Sure, I’ve had this blog for 8 months, and I’ve been learning a lot since we’ve been working on our wedding website, but I was worried that everyone at the conference would be of Tom’s caliber. So I  wouldn’t be able to connect with anyone because they would all be too knowledgeable and I would be uninteresting and unrelatable.

I told Tom my concerns before going but he reassured me that there were people from all levels, all backgrounds, and all ages that I would not be left out. I figured I was going to see Tom speak, so that was the main focus. Anything I learned and any connections I made would be a bonus.

I can honestly say that I am so glad I went – it was a great learning experience and I met a lot of cool people! Plus I got to see Tom in his natural habitat with a bunch of computer-enthusiasts. And I got to brag that I was with him. Win-win.

I’ll admit that I was a bit lost during some of the outside conversations when Tom was with other programmers. So I mostly sat back and listened or kept to myself because there was no way I would have any sort of input on the subject. This was sometimes discouraging because of my previous reservations about attending the conference. But there was always another conversation going on close by that I could slide into if I felt I could contribute.

Overall, the workshops/sessions that I went to were great. They used #wcraleigh so that everyone could connect and get insight on other talks, pull quotes from the different speakers, and give updates about their conference experience. Needless to say I used Twitter more in those 6 hours than I have in months. And it reminds me of how great social media can be. And also how annoying. But I won’t get into that so I don’t end up offending anyone.

In one of the sessions I attended, I learned that there actually exist plugins that allow you to drag and drop elements, making layout construction/manipulation so much easier! I can’t tell you how many times, while working on our wedding website, I’ve looked at it and said, “I want this here, and that to move there…” The problem is that I don’t know how to code all that, so I usually just accept the way it is and try to get over it. But this weekend the heavens opened and now I’m going to give the plugin a spin.

And I realized that I am not the only one who was blown away by this; the majority of those in attendance were making noises of exasperation, relief, excitement…so many noises that just made it known that this was not something we all were aware of. So I know that I speak for most of the people at this session when I say thank you Brett Bumeter for the insight! He tweeted out his slides, so check them out to get an idea of what he talked about. If you’re interested, the one I found to be most helpful was Page Layout Builder.

I also went to a talk by Hal Goodtree that focused on creating content as a blogger while thinking and writing like a publisher. This session was really informative, covering the best approaches, techniques, and plugins, so I plan to employ plenty of those suggestions to be a better blogger.

And, of course, I went to Tom’s talk which focused on sliders. I had been keeping up with the #wcraleigh hashtag throughout the day and was getting ready to post a picture of Tom giving his talk. I noticed that a couple of people had tweeted kind of negative views on sliders towards the beginning of his presentation. There was nothing negative about Tom, but I was surprised to find that for some reason some people just do not like sliders and see no point or place for them on websites. IMG_0244

Funny enough, by the end of his talk, a few people tweeted about having changed their view and that Tom might have convinced them to use a slider for their blog! I’m really proud of him for getting so involved in his trade (this was the third WordCamp he spoke at this year) and putting himself out there to inform others of what he’s learning.

One decision I made over the weekend was that I want to move this blog from wordpress.com to .org. Now that I know what I’m doing a little more and have been using WordPress pretty consistently, I’ve realized how limited I am with a .com blog. I’ve gotten more familiar with plugins and CSS since working on our wedding website, so I’m realizing how little I can do to customize my own blog, unless I pay to upgrade in WordPress. And that’s been driving me nuts. So that will definitely be changing soon.

If you’re interested in checking out future WordCamps, look at the schedule here. They are held all over the world – USA, South America, India…everywhere! And the registration doesn’t cost much, honestly. Everyone working and speaking at the event are volunteers – none of them are getting paid to put this together. That shows their dedication and enthusiasm for the realm of WordPress, right?

So if there’s one close to you and you would like to learn more about WordPress and connect with cool people that want to do the same, I would highly recommend that you do it! Now excuse me while I go become an awesome blogger…

Jealousy and FOMO (featuring GIFs)

I’ve been pretty jealous lately. And I know I shouldn’t be. But I have been. It could just be that I’m tired (that tends to do screwy stuff to my thoughts) or that I’m a female with emotions. I try my hardest to let things go that cause these feelings, but it’s not easy.

Plus, with the invention of Facebook and other social media, I think avoiding jealousy has become even more difficult. I can’t go a day checking my newsfeed (about 100 times) without seeing new pictures of proposals, engagement rings, weddings, baby bumps, and baby pictures. Then there are all the statuses to accompany new jobs, new homeowners, and mushy couples declaring their love for each other…just all around happy people enjoying happy things taking place in their happy lives. And I get jealous.

Well, now that I sound like a complete crank, let me just say that I am in no way complaining about my life. I understand that this is most definitely a first world problem and I have no reason to be jealous when there are starving people in China.

But let us, just for a second, put that aside and talk a little about FOMO. A couple months back, I wrote a post about FOMO, or the Fear Of Missing Out. Basically, in this day and age, we have so many issues involving commitment and “doing stuff” because we always feel like there might be something better going on. We don’t want to lose out on the possible experiences we could have; but if we’re already committed to going to pll gifthat lunch date or that party on Saturday, what could we be missing out on? If I take that full-time job, what if something great comes along but I want both?

Take it from me, I should be in FOMOA (FOMO Anonymous) because I constantly crave doing things. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy a night here and there to just relax and watch 10 episodes of Pretty Little Liars or Revenge. But after that night, I’m over it. I need to be doing something. I feel useless and lazy without a task that needs to be completed. When I went home 2 weeks ago, I had almost every minute booked before I even bought my bus tickets.

Even before I came to New York City and was working multiple jobs at a time, I still felt as though I should be doing more. I wanted more time with friends. I wanted more hours at work. Now this may be due mostly to the fact that I was living in my house alone, so I was constantly going stir-crazy, but I digress.

And now I’m in NYC and feel as though I have not done nearly as much as I should have done in the first 5 months. Now granted, I have gone to a hockey game and a concert and a lot of my time has been devoted to school. I’ve eaten at a few restaurants and have found some good places to run. However, I have only gone to one museum, and it was for a class project. I avoid finding awesome places to eat because I don’t have money to blow on wonderful food, so instead I buy a loaf of bread and make PB and Nutella sandwiches all day, er’ryday.

Touristy stuff is expensive and shopping costs money. On top of that, I am already taking out huge loans for my Brand-name education. I do not have a consistent income and I feel completely lost as to what on earth my future holds – what do I want to do with my life? Will I even make it in teaching? Do I have what it takes?

And then I get on Facebook and see all of these posts and photos of friends and family who seem to have their lives together. They are happy and life is just working out for them. They are buying cars and houses and getting married and progressing in life.

I understand they too have encountered roadblocks, potholes, dead ends, and whatever other traffic paraphernalia that can be applied to life’s trials. But you don’t see that on Facebook. And why would you? Other than those annoying people who post their every negative emotion (sometimes accompanied by pictures of teary eyes in an aerial MySpace-esque picture…*unsubscribe*), pictures are generally happy.

We want to show off the awesome time we had at a bonfire with friends. We want people to envy our newly toned bodies, or the fact that we attended that off-the-wall party this past weekend, or that we got to travel to an exotic place. So, then, is the point of Facebook and other social media outlets to make each other jealous? Other than the grandparents and other relatives who just want to keep up with their growing and dispersed families, isn’t it all just a game to show how important and awesome we are?

We hesitate to unfriend people because then we will lower our “coolness stats”, and therefore seem less awesome. So then we wonder who would want to be our friend in real life? The fight between J.Biebs and Lady Gaga for most Twitter followers continues (btw, J.B. boasts 40,250,153, while Gaga only has 38,115,718). The list goes on and on with any social media site you are on.

So how do we overcome this pressure to look awesome, like our life is completely solid and we know what we’re doing? I guess one option is to disengage from all social media sites until you feel restored of your self-confidence. And I’m serious about this one. If it is honestly hurting your self-worth that much, take a break. Stop obsessing over everyone else’s life and go make your life awesome…and then come back and post that stuff on Facebook to make everyone super jealous!

I’ve recently been told the secret is to “fake it til you make it”. Everyone has heard this old adage and I guess you could make that work for you. But don’t you think that’s pretty much lying to everyone, including yourself? I mean, listen, if you have the confidence to just B.S. your way through things, great. Good for you. If it gets you where you want, cool. But I think it could create sticky situations because you’re basically creating a false-self. Maybe it’s a better self, and maybe that’s the boost you need. But not all of us are built for that.

I’m not a good liar. I suck at lying and deceiving people because I hate being lied to and deceived by people myself. It makes me uncomfortable. And since I blush pretty easily, being uncomfortable is super obvious with my pale skin. Instead, I do my best, I try to be as true to myself as possible, and hope it works out. I hope and pray that people might just like me for me, even for just a tiny reason.

But I think what people need (or maybe just what I need) are better ways to improve self-confidence without having to resort to shutting out the world or lying our way through. I want to be the best person I can possibly be (and believe it!) without constantly feeling the need to compare myself to all of those happy people I see on my computer screen. As jealous as I am of them, I am totally happy and it gives me hope that maybe I will be like that one day. But it bugs me that I can’t simply be happy for them, and that there has to be that dichotomy between joy and envy.

So anyways, what sorts of strategies do you use to pump yourself up? How do you control your jealousy and self-consciousness in order to be yourself? Friends? Family? Music? Talking yourself up in a mirror? In the mean time, get it girl (or guy).

Join a meetup!

The assignment for this week in my Social Media and Learning class was to sign up for meetup.com, join some groups, and attend a meetup. Based on interests and hobbies, aspirations, and even potential business purposes, you can find all sorts of groups of people looking for and interested in similar things. It’s huge for techies and you could even find “Mr/Ms Right” at singles meetups.

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The website is based out of NYC, so there are tons of groups based here, but you can find groups virtually anywhere. From the meetup.com wikipedia page, I found this interesting:

The attack on the World Trade Center in New York on September 11, 2001, was pivotal to the formation of this social network. Meetup co-founder Scott Heiferman publicly stated that the manner in which people in New York came together in the aftermath of that traumatic event inspired him to use the Internet to make it easier for people to connect with strangers in their community.

I needed to find a meetup within the next week or so, so this limited my possibilities seeing as many groups I was interested in (math, teachers, etc) meet a few times per month. So then I expanded my search and looked at groups that focus on fitness and health. There were a ton of soccer (football, for all you foreigners) meetups – mostly pickup games in which at least intermediate skills were encouraged…

Apologies but this isn’t a group for people who are learning how to play, please only sign up and come along if you can play to a decent standard.

(AKA “you better know what you’re doing or you’ll ruin it for everyone”). That’s from an actual pickup group. Hmpf.

And then I stumbled on a group that not only had games as meetups, but also offered lessons for all skill levels. I mean, I played for my school in seventh grade, but I would not say I was good. So I signed up for the basic coed lesson meetup, and I was pumped. Nervous. But pumped.

The lesson was this morning and for $15 I was hoping to meet people with a similar skill level as me (little to none, mind you), be active for 75 minutes (burn off the 2.5 pieces of pizza from dinner last night), and have fun.Hudson River Pier 25 NYC

Now, the lesson was in the morning…

…On Pier 25 which overlooks the Hudson River….

…In March….

…So it was cold.

But it was so much fun. Everyone was so friendly; we were all there for the same reason, mostly to improve our skills and maybe make a hobby out of playing pickup games. Our ages ranged from 20ish to 60ish, the ratio of females to males was pretty even, and there was no equipment necessary – no shin guards or cleats.

Frank, the instructor, was so helpful; he understood our mediocre skills, but pushed us to become smarter players and learn skills properly rather than simply kicking a ball away from us toward a goal. You can check out his website, Soccer Beyond, to get private lessons or even purchase his book!Frank Soccer Beyond

We scrimmaged for the first half hour or so and I was intimidated at first; throwing us to the wolves without teaching us skills? But it was a great warmup and, again, great skills were not required. Frank encouraged us to learn everyone’s names; we were to call their name before we passed the ball to them, or to let them know we were open for a pass. It was definitely a great team building experience.

We learned basic skills – dribbling and “faking”…is it called “faking” in soccer? I mean, I always see this move (roll the ball back with your toe and then kick it behind and to the opposite side?) but I don’t know the technical term. Anyway, we then finished up with another scrimmage. It was great.

I definitely recommend anyone looking for a great workout and fun with others to join a group on meetup.com and attend a meetup. No super duper skills necessary! I think that’s the best part; the point of the site is to encourage people to find others with similar interests. You can even start your own groups! You never know who else shares your interests, no matter how strange they may be.

Question(s) of the blog: Have you ever been to a meetup event? If not, is this something you might look into
?