John Housholder Talks WordPress Development and the Nashville WordPress Community

John Housholder, founder of Ah So Designs and co-organizer of Nashville WordCampNashville WordPress Meetup, and WPNashville.com, spoke with Nashville podcaster Clark Buckner about organizing WP Nashville events, his thoughts on the local tech community, and offered a few tips on effectively communicating with developers.

WordCamp Nashville grew out of a conversation at a local coffee shop in 2010 when Housholder ran into Randy Hicks and Scott McIntosh, who had started the WordPress Nashville meetup group. While McIntosh decided to handle the Meetup group, Hicks and Housholder focused on WordCamp.

Housholder described himself as the visionary of the team while Hicks concerned himself with processes and getting things done. At the first WordCamp Nashville, around 200 people attended, most of whom were students or walk-ins. It is a now an annual event that gets better every year.

As for meetups, WordPress user meetups take place on the third Monday of every month and attendance averages 40 people. WordPress developer meetups typically occur once a month on Tuesday mornings and feature a food provided by Chef Kenneth White from Supercollider. And now, any member of WordPress Nashville can suggest and organize an event, even something as simple as meeting for coffee one Saturday to help each other with websites.

WordPress and Nashville’s Tech Community
For Housholder and thousands of users and developers throughout Nashville, WordPress is an  important tool for entrepreneurs to broadcast their ideas to the world. No longer is it just a blogging platform. WordPress has become a powerful content management system. Housholder cited the inspiring story of organic chemist-turned-blogger James Ashenhurst as one great example of how much WordPress can change a person’s life.

For developers, WordPress is a great tool to start learning how to develop websites, beginning with CSS and HTML. Housholder’s Ah So Designs can teach new developers to create their own powerful sites in three to four months. Ultimately, Housholder sees WordPress as a great platform for launching careers within the development community.

Communicating Well with Developers
Housholder thinks there’s no reason for entrepreneurs to have to learn how to code. What’s more important is to discover what you’re really good at doing or creating and making your passion your work. Still, businesses need a website, and they need to be able to clearly communicate what they want to developers who won’t know the business’s customers or goals.

Understanding how developers operate helps:

*They can be introverted and quiet.
*They are doers, makers, and crafters.
*They will execute a plan for you.

Householder also suggested effective communication with developers does not including telling them, “Just hurry up, and get it done.” And, if they’re looking at their computer screen, John says try to wait to them. A better time to talk to them might actually be to and from the bathroom, he says.

Moreover, developer evangelists can help people understand how to talk to developers, what to say to developers, and how best to provide information architecture pieces so that a business owner’s website serves his or her needs.

What’s Next for the WordPress Nashville Community?
In hopes of getting the business community involved, Housholder presented the idea of organizing a local web design and development award show for sites built on WordPress or those designed in Nashville. They’re currently in search of partners who may want to help organize such a show. They’re also looking for other development houses, design shops, and WordPress marketers to take part in this project.

To know more about WordPress Nashville or to get involved, visit wpnashville.com and complete a form. Connect with John Housholder on Twitter @jhous1 or @ahsodesigns. Fun fact about John: his dog tweets and one day he even tweeted at me!

Clark Buckner is online events manager at TechnologyAdvice.com, which donated his time, plus interns and equipment as an in-kind sponsor to set up a podcast booth at WordCamp Nashville 2014, record interviews and produce show notes. TechnologyAdvice helps companies evaluate enterprise onboarding training software, customer loyalty platforms, sales gamification software and other software solutions.

WCN14 Podcast: WordPress Freed James Ashenhurst to Follow His Passion

James Ashenhurst is passionate about organic chemistry, so much so that he launched Master Organic Chemistry, a WordPress-based website that teaches organic chemistry to pre-med students. For James,  WordPress freed him to earn a living based on his passion.

Though he had a Ph.D. in Organic Chemistry, Ashenhurst could not land a post in the ultra-competitive market of college professors. He turned the frustration into offering organic chemistry tutoring on his own. He created a website full of useful information for students, creating content for curious pre-med pupils that would eventually lead them to his organic tutoring page, where students could register and pay to meet with Ashenhurst via Skype for one-on-one tutoring.

As the years passed, Ashenhurst added valuable information to MasterOrganicChemistry.com, and his traffic grew from hundreds per month to hundreds of thousands per month. Student questions gave him ideas for study guides and other products he developed. The live tutoring both helps his students across the globe and promotes the study guides he’s created.

Now, rather than answer to administration or worry about tenure, Ashenhurst wakes up to a job he loves. But reaping the benefits took some time.

His biggest challenge was starting the site, and his biggest fear was professional associates and former colleagues would look down on him for doing something outside the norm. But his fears were unfounded, in an odd way, when he realized no one was actually reading his website.

Again, Ashenhurst turned obstacle into opportunity. He learned that people looking for information don’t really care about the person behind the site. They care about whether the website meets their needs. The realization was liberating and he crafted more content with his audience in mind, his site began to rank better. Having a niche topic, organic chemistry, helped too.

Ashenhurst eventually migrated his content to WordPress.com, After a year and a half, moving from a free site to a self-hosted site. Facing that fear was worth it. Ashenhurst’s traffic increased three-fold.

Listen to our full interview with James Ashenhurst for more of his story, where he also shares about the value of attending WordPress meetups as well as how he fixed his hosting problems so he could focus on content creation.

Clark Buckner is online events manager at TechnologyAdvice.com, which as an in-kind sponsor of WordCamp Nashville 2014 provided his time, intern time and equipment to set up a podcast booth at WordCamp Nashville 2014, record interviews and produce show notes. TechnologyAdvice helps companies find and evaluate practice management systems, gamification software, electronic health records software and other software solutions.

WCN14 Podcast: Paul Schatzkin Shares His Nashville Story

Paul Schatzkin, a long-time member of Nashville’s digital tech community, attended WordCamp in May 2014 to learn new WordPress tricks, as well as to show support for keynote speaker, Kate O’Neill, whom he first met at BarCamp in the summer of 2007. He recalls Nashville’s BarCamp“un-conference” as among the first to emerge in the tech startup community, and Schatzkin’s been involved in a number of Nashville tech-related events since then.

Schatzkin’s journey to Nashville began on Valentine’s Day in 1994, when he moved from Los Angeles after an earthquake. A year later, he started selling music on the Internet, a word so new at the time that he often had to explain what the Internet was.

Four years later, Schatzkin sold his company. He next appeared on the digital scene at BarCamp in 2007, which was about the same time he switched from Windows to Mac. He owns Cohesion Arts, a company involved in photography, music, multimedia, and entertainment. He was the photographer for BarCamp last year, and he took photos for PodCamp in 2014 as well.

Schatzkin has been an avid WordPress user for the past five years. As an early adopter, he initially used Typepad to blog, but then shifted almost all of his sites to WordPress.

Living in Nashville for the past twenty years, Schatzkin has seen how the digital tech industry has evolved from a highly analog culture to a thriving, entrepreneurial ecosystem backed by solid support from the tech community. For the last five years, he has both witnessed and helped drive the growth of an entrepreneurial ecosystem in Nashville.

Learn more about Paul Schatzkin and check out his photo gallery at www.cohesionarts.com.

Clark Buckner is online events manager at TechnologyAdvice.com, which donated his time, plus interns and equipment as an in-kind sponsor to set up a podcast booth at WordCamp Nashville 2014, record interviews and produce show notes. TechnologyAdvice helps companies evaluate practice management systems, Gamification software, electronic health records software and other software solutions.

WCN14 Podcast: Cal Evans on Pantheon and Nashville Tech

Cal Evans from Pantheon gave us an inside view of the Nashville wordpress community during an interview at Wordcamp.

Evans explained how Pantheon successfully launched its WordPress offering in April, a month or so before WCN14. Their platform provides customers with three distinct environments: development, testing, and production.

The environments allow developers to work on new website versions and WordPress updates
in development, then move it to a different “space” for testing. There, they can share it with clients and ensure it will function as expected in an environment identical to the production environment. The final stage, production, pushes the website out live.

For developers who’ve manually managed WordPress updates and site changes through these stages, the service is revolutionary, Evans says.

He estimates PHP is the core programming language for about 50 percent of the web, and WordPress (which uses PHP) accounts for nearly 19 percent of the Internet’s websites. Drupal, another popular content management system (CMS), runs about 8 percent of the Internet. Each has its place, but one perk of using WordPress, especially in Nashville, is the extensive tech community around it.

For example, the leaders user groups in Nashville get together to work out dates and time so WordPress and PHP groups don’t meet simultaneously, to inspire as much cooperation as possible. Nashville’s community of tech developers and users converge at Podcamp and BarCamp; monthly WordPress Developers’ Breakfasts discuss the newest updates and tips and tricks to get the most out of WordPress. WordCamp focuses a lot on new and intermediate users but also empowers those wading into development, and more advanced sessions try to speak directly to developers with case studies and coding examples.

Cal Evans travels a lot, and has observed tech communities in cities across the country. Few, he says, rival what’s going on in Nashville’s.

Clark Buckner is online events manager at TechnologyAdvice, which donated equipment, Clark’s time and intern time as an in-kind sponsor to set up a podcast booth at WordCamp Nashville 2014, record interviews and produce show notes. TechnologyAdvice.com helps people evaluate construction project management software, data warehousing software, practice management software and other software solutions. 

WCN14 Podcast: Luke Stokes on FoxyCart and Bootstrapping a Startup

While at WordCamp, Luke Stokes, co-founder and Chief Technology Officer of FoxyCart, shared his story of inspiration, hard-work, and entrepreneurial success. FoxyCart, an eCommerce shopping cart system, started as growing frustration with inadequate systems that boiled over into developing a solution.

Brett Florio, another developer and FoxyCart cofounder and developer, could not find an eCommerce system that fit his needs. He continually shared his frustration with Luke, eventually trying over 100 options with no success.

Brett and Luke realized most systems were built with the merchant – not developers who actually create the websites and integrates the eCommerce functionality – in mind. Additionally, these systems tried to do too much, ultimately doing little well.

Luke offered to build a system that would solve this problem for Brett. In fact, Luke (foolishly, in retrospect) said he could probably put something together over the weekend that would fit the bill.

Seven years later, Luke and Team FoxyCart still work to perfect that system. So far, FoxyCart has processed more than $500 million in transactions.

For a while, Luke built the systems on a customer-to-customer basis, providing eCommerce solutions for Brett’s existing clients. One day, a random interested customer found them online and asked them to build an ecommerce system for his website. A company was born.

FoxyCart makes all business and design decisions with the developer in mind. Accordingly, Luke and Brett decided the best approach was to bootstrap the company. For Luke, this meant continuing to work his full time job while launching FoxyCart. For four years, Luke worked a normal nine to five, Monday to Friday job, coming home at 5:30 to spend time with his family until 8:30, when he would go back to work on the new business until one or two in the morning, only to wake up and do it all again the next day. Additionally, Luke often worked for 10 hours on Saturdays to keep up with the growing company.

FoxyCartThis hard work and dedication to the vision of FoxyCamp paid off, allowing for Luke to leave his “day job” and now work from home with greater flexibility and freedom than ever before.

Using his own story Luke says starting a company is definitely possible and definitely worth it. But it’s not a challenge to tackle lightly.

People approach Luke saying they want to start their own web-based business, though they lack any sort of web-design skills. As compares it to someone wanting to start a restaurant and doesn’t know what good food tastes like, how to cook or any cooks to hire or talk with. A successful web-based business, requires knowledge of web design best practices, the willingness to hire experts who do, or both.

Listen to the full interview with Luke for more on his entrepreneurial story plus insights into the developer community in Nashville, Tennessee.

Clark Buckner is online events manager at TechnologyAdvice, which donated his time, intern time and equipment as an in-kind sponsor to set up a podcast booth at WordCamp Nashville 2014, record interviews and produce show notes. TechnologyAdvice.com helps people evaluate specific chiropractic software, project management software, electronic health records software and other software solutions.

 

WCN14 Podcast: Sue Anne Reed and the Engage Group

Sue Anne Reed works with the Engage Group and spoke at WordCamp about WordPress for non-profits.

Nonprofits use customer relationship management (CRM) softwares to process requests, accept donations, collect email addresses and run email marketing campaigns. In the past, nonprofits used these CRM systems as their content management systems but found other platforms, like WordPress, more effective.

sue anne reed

Photo by Kindell Brinay Moore

During her session she presented case studies in which organizations used WordPress as their content management system (CMS) in tandem with a separate customer relationship management (CRM) system to improve marketing efforts. As a marketing expert, Reed’s work at nonprofits falls directly between the use of CRM and CMS systems for email
marketing and front end web content, respectively.

Front-end implementation of WordPress at nonprofits is similar to any other small business eCommerce implementation. Because not many WordPress plugins target needs of nonprofits, they must use WordPress APIs, scripts and other tools while still performing necessary nonprofit functions on the back end, such as the communication of new email subscribers between the WordPress CMS and the organization’s CRM.

The coolest project Reed is working on now is for Save the Chimps, an organization that runs a large sanctuary in Florida for chimps from all over the world saved from laboratories, roadside zoos, and abandonment.

Reed’s success in the nonprofit sector is due in part to 20 years of marketing experience
with organizations like Ernst & Young. Now she spends most of her time working with the Wilderness Society, National Audubon Society, and National Center to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy.

WordPress and other technologies at her disposal hold the email marketing campaigns and fundraisers together, creating what she says is her perfect job.

Clark Buckner is online events manager at TechnologyAdvice, which donated his time, interns and equipment as an in-kind sponsor to set up a podcast booth at WordCamp Nashville 2014, record interviews and produce show notes. TechnologyAdvice.com helps clients evaluate construction project management software, gamification software, data visualization software and other software solutions.

 

WCN14 Podcast: Mitch Canter, WordPress Evangelist

Calling himself Chief Creative Mercenary, Studio NashVegas founder Mitch Canter helps people from business owners to travel bloggers create their own space on the Internet with WordPress.

When Mitch came to Nashville in 2007, he observed a gap in the market between the large web design studios and the hobbyist designers — a gap he knew he could fill. He recognized the value of WordPress as a powerful and cost-effective platform, and has used it ever since to quickly develop high quality websites. mitch canter

Along with the ability of more people to share and access information easily with tools like WordPress, large organizations, including a number of Fortune 500 companies, also maintain custom WordPress websites, Mitch said. The platform’s power as a content management system allows streamlined content sharing among writers and in-company contributors.

Mitch’s WordPress-evangelizing career has taken him to Dublin, Toronto, Las Vegas, Birmingham, among other spots, to speak about the ease of publishing quality content on the Internet with the right tools. He’s met met travel bloggers in exotic places and established a base from which he takes mission trips to Prague and Moldova with the non-profit organization Justice and Mercy International.

Takeaways

  • The power to put information on the Internet is game-changing
  • Free resources allow you to express yourself on the web without huge investments
  • WordPress is a powerful tool for anyone from individuals to Fortune 500 companies
  • Helping people achieve their goals on the Internet is insightful and rewarding
  • Look for gaps in the market that can be filled with creative use of simple tools

Listen to our Wordcamp Nashville podcast interview with Mitch Canter to hear a more detailed explanation of WordPress’s power, and the incredible opportunities it has provided him.

Clark Buckner is online events manager at TechnologyAdvice, which donated interns, time and equipment as an in-kind sponsor to set up a podcast booth at WordCamp Nashville 2014, record interviews and produce show notes. TechnologyAdvice.com  helps clients evaluate chiropractic EHR software, gamification software, data visualization software and other software solutions.

WCN14 Podcast: Interview with Bryan Huddleston of Tech Council

Clark Buckner met Bryan Huddleston, President and CEO of the Nashville Technology Council, at BarCamp in the fall and sat down with him again at WordCamp in May.

Bryan sees WordCamp as more evidence of Nashville’s creative technology class coming together. Events like BarCamp, WordCamp and, most recently, PodCamp, showcase and strengthen a collaborative culture that allows people to learn and share.bryan huddleston

Clark and Bryan spoke after Kate O’Neill delivered the keynote. Kate provided an exemplary narrative about how cross-pollination between the creative class and the technology class contributes to business innovation, the vibes people feel here and excitement about the region’s future.

Bryan noted that he also talked to Pamela Coyle, an organizer of WordCamp, and learned something new at her WordPress 101 session. She also introduced Kate before the keynote speech, which Clark and Bryan urged checking out when the video becomes available.

Kate’s talk included an intricate diagram of how the puzzle pieces –  big companies, accelerators, user groups, conferences, startups, and groups like the Tech Council fit together in Nashville. Clark has wanted to showcase the story being written here through the individuals and companies at the heart of it, and Bryan said the Nashville Technology Council is starting that process.

Moving forward, Bryan asks how we can have an overview of this “ecosystem” or “landscape,” as Kate put it; look at as a continuation of our collaborative collaborative culture; invite more people to engage with each other and get the stories told.

Takeaways

  • The creative class in Nashville is coming together to share and gain knowledge to advance learning.
  • The creativity is bubbling over into the business and technology worlds, reinforcing a unique, collaborative culture.
  • We must tell Nashville’s stories in a way that engaged people so with each other so that the greater US and even the world knows about them.

Nashville Podcaster Clark Buckner is online events manager at TechnologyAdvice.com, which donated interns, time and equipment as an in-kind sponsor to set up a podcast booth at WordCamp Nashville 2014, record interviews and produce show notes. TechnologyAdvice.com helps clients evaluate practice management software, project management software, loyalty software and other software solutions.

Sponsor Post: Frustration led FoxyCart founders to build flexible shopping cart

Today’s lesson in perseverance comes from WordCamp Nashville Gold Sponsor FoxyCart. Founders Brett Florio and Luke Stokes hated – hated – the ecommerce carts available to developers. They were rigid, or ugly, or both.

So they built one they like. It gives developers all the power and customizing options they’ll ever need and gives merchants faster check-out and higher conversion rates.
To date, FoxyCart has processed more than $500 million in transactions worldwide.

FoxyCartWith FoxyCart, developers create flexible, powerful custom e-commerce in less time. Merchants see more sales with high conversions and lightning fast checkout.

Basic HTML knowledge to create a link or a form gets you started – even with no prior experience building an an ecommerce site. FoxyCart can be integrated into anything, whether hardcoded HTML, a dynamic CMS, or a custom framework.

On the design side, styling stores, carts and checkouts creates a seamless experience for shoppers.

FoxyCart is a frequent WordCamp sponsor. FoxyShop and FoxyPress, plugins developed by WordPress community members, integrate the platform with our favorite open-source content management system. Both have been very successful.

A developer, Luke considers himself somewhat of a WordPress “newbie,” though recently worked on a WordPress site at a 2-day Hack-a-thon event.

“WordPress makes complicated things easy,” he says.

So does FoxyCart.

It allows sale of physical goods, downloads, subscriptions, one-offs, products with dizzying options – and donations – all in the same cart during the same transaction.

Curious? Take FoxyCart for a test drive.

Top WordPress Myths Debunked

by the MetaCake Team

Today many people use WordPress like your grandmother drives a Ferrari.

First gear works great, no doubt. But unbeknownst to grandma, there are 7 more gears in the crank.

200x200-squareThis is largely because of the various myths (stigmas) about WordPress many have come to accept. Yet, as a creative agency that strives to get the most out of all 8 gears of the platform, we think it’s about time to begin debunking.

Myth #1: WordPress is for blogging only
This myth came from the fact that back when it first came out, WordPress was much more focused on self-publishing and didn’t have even a fraction of the features it has now. People used it mostly for blogging because it was simple to install, you could download various themes, and it was easy to use. However, blogging is just updating a site with fresh content, which if you think about it is what we do now to all modern websites.

WordPress is a robust web-based content management system (CMS), developed by over 20,000 geeks over 10 years, that can handle, manage, and secure virtually any web project you throw at it. It has available to it every feature that any other web CMS has and a quarter of all websites built today are built on WordPress.

Here at Metacake alone, we’ve built more than 300 websites and many web applications on WordPress. We’ve even used WordPress to power some mobile apps. Why? Because it’s a versatile CMS. It’s more than a blogging engine. It makes content management easy.

Here are a few of our recent creations that run on WordPress:

You’ll Get Through This Prayer Wall
NDS Devices
Metacake

Myth #2: WordPress isn’t for primetime
Something happened recently that made me chuckle at first, but then made me worry…

Someone showed me a site that had (and I quote) “Wordpress busting at its seams.”

It was obvious that this person didn’t quite understand his website.

If his simple website, which was chock-full-o-plugins, had pushed the extent of the ability of WordPress, then someone might want to tell NY Times, Yahoo, Wired, Sony, CNN, & Mashable, because they are just a few of the sites with millions of visitors that use WordPress.

The truth is that WordPress, as a CMS, doesn’t have built-in limitations. Any limitations lie with the business objectives and the skill level of the implementers. Such as the following:

· Experience and visual design
· Code (especially if you hired a “WP theme hacker”)
· Database architecture
· Server infrastructure
· Etc.

Basically the same limitations that plague any digital product. The way around these limitations is hiring a skilled team. Don’t mistake WordPress limitations with a lack of solutions to your WordPress problem.

Myth #3: There are “WordPress-only” developers
One of WordPress’ greatest strong points may also be one of its most dangerous pitfalls for those looking to hire someone to build a WordPress site. That is, its ability to be easily extended and customized through the extensive network of themes and plugins. WordPress runs on code just like any other piece of software. It’s PHP, MySQL, and a bit of JavaScript. That means that if you’re going to hire a developer to build your WordPress site, they need to understand all those languages. They also need to understand how to develop within the WordPress framework.

Beware of the “WordPress Theme Hacker” for hire.

What is a “WordPress Theme Hacker”? They may call themselves a WordPress designer or developer but in truth they have very little real development experience, if any at all. They may think they do because they know how to install a theme and add a few plug-ins, but this person is likely not qualified to do anything more.

We’ve had many clients conclude that WordPress just isn’t right for their needs after unknowingly hiring “WordPress Theme Hackers.” However, WordPress is only as functional as the code it obeys. And that code is entirely dependent on the developer you hire to write it.

So next time you need to build a website, save yourself some time. Skip the “What platform should I build it on?” question and invest your time and energy in the real factor that determines that site’s success: “Who am I going to hire to build it?”

Don’t be the one driving a Ferrari down the interstate in first gear. Put the right driver in the seat and experience its full potential.

NOTE: This is one in a series of posts by our local sponsors.