personal technology

I’m speaking at Wordcamp Hamilton 2016!

Wordcamp Hamilton 2016Two posts ago, I spoke at length about how I would prefer to write about things other than technology. So, it is kind of ironic that my next two posts are geek-related. But, it can’t be helped. I’ve got some cool news. I’m speaking at an upcoming tech event: Wordcamp Hamilton 2016 on Saturday June 4 2016.

My presentation is entitled, “How to Find Your 1,000 True Fans” and here’s the description of the session:

In 2008, Kevin Kelly argued that creators (authors, musicians, artists, photographers, etc.) can make a living if they have “1,000 True Fans”. A creator blog is key to building such a community. In this fast-paced session, Todd will walk the audience through the critical WordPress-related pieces required to build and maintain a dedicated, engaged and responsive audience.

It’s going to be a fun time. I’ve attended (and presented) at previous Wordcamp Hamilton events. It’s low cost (only $20!), filled with plenty of great content and attended by a lot of super friendly and really talented people. (and there will be lots of free swag!)

Wordpress LogoIf you’ll be in the Hamilton area on June 4 and you’re interested in blogging, writing and WordPress, you should not miss this event.

And, if you want to go, be sure to buy your ticket soon – tickets sell out every year.

Are you going to Wordcamp Hamilton 2016? If so, let me know in the comments or on Twitter and be sure to say hi to me on the day of the conference.

See you then!




Mailing Lists

This is part 6 of my blog series entitled Set Up Your Tools.

MailChimpEmail is the most direct electronic method that you can use to interact with your audience. Email is the one queue that everyone manages on a regular basis. Twitter & Google+ steams, Facebook walls and RSS feed readers can get overwhelming, forcing people to simply start from scratch, thinking that if it’s important, they’ll see the tweet, blog post or news item somewhere else.

But email is different. Inbox Zero is a desired state for many, but the barrier to getting there is simply processing all of the email that comes into our inbox on a daily basis. But this is also its strongest allure: Email is considered more valuable. Email is coveted and each piece is individually read, actioned and curated for later reference. Thus, the ability to deliver your message directly to someone’s inbox is the most direct and the most effective way to catch someone’s attention.

But I am constantly surprised by the number of people that forego collecting email addresses. When you are building a community, it is important to connect with each person as directly as possible. Otherwise, you risk being ignored or unseen in the overwhelming torrent of information that is available on the internet. To remain relevant, you must have the most direct line of contact with your reader. And that direct line is email.

There are many ways of collecting and distributing content to email addresses. You can add people individually. You can get people to sign up using a paper form at an in person event. You can send emails to your mailing list asking people to sign up. These are all okay, but they don’t capitalize on your site visitors. Instead, you need to put your signup right beside your content. That way, when people visit your site and read your messages, they will see a way to get more of the same content. And, you’ll have a system in place that manages their signups, unsubscribes, address changes, etc. And to do that is easier than you think.

There are numerous engines out there for collecting email lists and then sending emails out to your subscribers. Some of the more common systems include:

MailChimpMailChimp: More than 3 million people use MailChimp to create, send, and track email newsletters. Whether you’re self-employed, you manage projects for clients, or you work for a Fortune 500 company, MailChimp has features and integrations that will suit your email-marketing needs.” (quote source)

Constant ContactConstant Contact: “Email Marketing just plain works. See how. Your customers check their inbox all day, every day. You’re sure to reach them when you work with Constant Contact. Build relationships, drive revenue, and deliver real results for your business.” (quote source)

And WordPress has this built in as well:

WordPress: “When you follow a blog on, all new posts from that site will appear in your Reader, where you can view all the latest posts published across all the blogs you follow. You’ll also receive notifications of new posts by email.” (quote source)

Now that we know some of the players, let’s break this down into two parts: 1) collection, and 2) distribution.

First, collection:

Subscribe Today!To collect email addresses, you need a “sign up” form on your site. Something that says, “sign up now!” or some other catchy call to action.

This button will trigger some sort of form that will collect some basic info. Keep it simple: collect email address and maybe name. Don’t ask for a bunch of info – people don’t like answering lots of questions nowadays. If you give them too many things to do, they may bail on the whole exercise.

Most systems have the capability to do this quite easily.

Second, distribution:

The delivery portion of this is can be quite easy or quite hard and quite pretty and quite plain, depending on the platform. The simplest distribution method is WordPress. People that follow your blog get an email each day with the new blog posts. No customization. No muss. No fuss.

MailChimp and Constant Contact both have the capacity to customize your emails. You can make templates that make your emails look more professional and more polished. But this takes work – and in some cases, some design and/or development skills as well. But, you should be able to get a fairly snazzy looking email out to your followers using one of the custom themes that are available for either platform.

Personally, I think that the polished look of MailChimp or Constant Contact are valuable. But, I also think that simplicity is good. For now, I’m erring on the side of simplicity and using WordPress’ generic emails. This may change over time if I get more time and more followers, which might necessitate a more professional look & feel.

The most important takeaway here is to have a mechanism to connect with your site visitors over email. Without that, you’re missing out on the most direct method of contact you can get on the web.

Hope this helps!



WordCamp Hamilton 2013 – My presentation

WordCamp Hamilton 2013As a follow up to my last post about WordCamp Hamilton 2013, here are the slides from my presentation.

Conference Name: WordCamp Hamilton 2013
Date: Sun June 23 2013
Location: The Art Gallery of Hamilton

Let me know if you have any questions, comments or concerns.

Talk soon!



WordCamp Hamilton 2013 – A Summary

WordCamp Hamilton 2013I participated in WordCamp Hamilton 2013 this past weekend. It was a great event and I want to share my experiences. So, here goes…

Conference Name: WordCamp Hamilton 2013
Date: Sun June 23 2013
Location: The Art Gallery of Hamilton

Overall summary:
What a fun event! The speakers were good (not speaking for my own presentation here – haha), the content was current, relevant and helpful, the facilities were perfect for the size of the conference and the catering was well done. And, the price was hard to beat: $20 got you all of this:

  • Continental breakfast
  • Catered lunch
  • Event t-shirt
  • 7 talks from great WordPress speakers on a variety of topics
  • Panel Q&A session with the speakers at the end of the day
  • Complimentary beverage at the after party location (Radius Cafe)
  • Free WiFi internet access at the venue
  • “Swag bag” with WordPress and sponsor goodies

And, participants helped to encourage and support a great community of developers in the Hamilton area.

It was a fantastic event and I look forward to attending and possibly participating again in next year’s event.

Here’s my play by play of the day’s activities:

Kevin Browne9:45am – Keynote – Kevin Browne (@hamiltonkb):
Kevin spoke about communities and the strength and resiliency of networks. I really liked Kevin’s summary of M. Scott Peck’s four stages of community building:

  • Pseudocommunity – superficial interactions
  • Chaos – initial member interaction leads to conflict
  • Emptiness – Apathy gives way to understanding of what’s important
  • True community – healthy team interaction

Kevin’s keynote offered great insight into the potential that exists for the Hamilton development community. Kevin encouraged the audience to get involved and help lead the numerous events and activities that can draw us closer together. One particularly relevant example was the do an “introduction to wordpress” event.

Great presentation Kevin – Very inspiring!

Joey Coleman10:15am – Joey Coleman (@joeycoleman):
Joey talked about how he grew his editorial career. Great story – great example of hard work and being in the right place at the right time!

I was particularly interested in Joey’s summary of the Creative Commons license types. I’ve always known about these, but have never spent a lot of time understanding them. I was particularly appreciative of Joey’s principles pertaining to content sharing. He subscribes to the “Attribution | Share Alike” license, and he shared a story where he was asked to share some content with CBC on the condition that he change his licensing terms for the content he was asked to share. He stuck to his guns and refused to change his licensing terms, in spite of offers for compensation. I like it – it’s always good to see people who stand up for what they believe in.

Thanks for the summary Joey. Entertaining and informative talk!

Kristin & Seema11:05am – Kristin Archer (@ihearthamilton) & Seema Narula(@thismustbeseema):
Kristin and Seema have an infectious enthusiasm about sharing and community building. Their presentation was an awesome example of how to roll your sleeves up and start doing!

Kristin and Seema offered their expertise about interacting with and building an audience. Their tips and techniques were helpful and are required reading for anyone that is interested in building a community around an interest or location that interests you. Some of the topics that they covered included:

  • Consistency in voice (be authentic, honest)
  • Frequency of posts (regular posts)
  • Categories – use them!
  • Personality
  • Connect w/ the blogging community
  • Social Media
  • Accessibility

They have done a fantastic job as cheerleaders of the Hamilton area, of which they should be rightly proud.

Thanks Kristin and Seema for your lessons about building an effective niche blog and for promoting my hometown!

Richard Rudy11:55am – Richard Rudy (@thezenmonkey):
Richard shared his expertise designing and building for mobile. I really liked the stats that he shared comparing the number of babies born in 2011 and 2012 compared to the number of mobile devices that were “born” during that same time. I didn’t capture the exact numbers, but there were a heck of a lot more mobile devices born than people during that period of time!

Richard shared the main models for developing for mobile and the pros and cons of each. I really liked his answer when he was asked, “which model is best?” and he replied that it depends on the use case. That is perfect, as it really does depend on the use case – you want to make sure the solution matches what you’re trying to accomplish and each situation will be different.

My main takeaways were to check out some mobile frameworks (the developer in me is a bit rusty on mobile frameworks):

Thanks for the great overview Richard. Very educational! And, I really like your website: – it is very unique, creative and cool!

Al Davis2pm – Al Davis (@adavis3105):
Al has a very relaxed presentation style – the stage is like a second home to him. And, he came prepared with two presentations – the audience voted to see which topic he would present on. We, the audience, decided to listen to him talk about “10 things to do after the install”.

The slides went by quick at times, but I think I captured all of the items (I missed a couple of slides, then I Googled a previous presentation of his to try and piece together what I missed):

  1. Change default admin
  2. Security: check out ‘wordfence” plugin as a security plugin.
  3. Edit permalinks: Al doesn’t like using date in posts as it might be construed as old and irrelevant.
  4. Akisment: enable it!
  5. SEO: Install WordPress SEO by Yoast.
  6. Activate Google Analytics
  7. Categories: Add them
  8. Change your blog tagline
  9. Install a theme:
  10. Back it up!

Al offered a great overview of some top things to do as you begin with a new WordPress site. Thanks for sharing your knowledge and entertaining the crowd, Al!

Laurie Rauch2:50pm – Laurie Rauch (@lauriemrauch):
Laurie is a hard core geek! She codes for a living. And, when I complimented her on the look of her sites ( and, she modestly told me that she couldn’t take credit for the look and feel as she didn’t do the design work on her site. Then, she went on to do a presentation where she showed us how to create child themes and manipulate css and such. My suspicion is that she knows what she’s doing and that she’s being modest so that she doesn’t lose any of her hard-earned geek coder cred. 🙂

Here are my very high level notes from her presentation (my notes don’t do justice – her presentation slides go into great detail about these items):

In a nutshell:

  • To create a child theme, you create a child theme folder
  • The child theme folder will override anything in the parent theme
  • You can override css, functions, etc.

The best tip that I got out of her presentation was to use Firebug to change code on the fly – this allows you to experiment. Then, you take that code that you’ve changed in Firebug and paste it into your child theme.

Thanks Laurie for the in-depth session – very informative!

Todd Dow3:40pm – Todd Dow (@toddhdow):
I had the final presentation slot of the afternoon. I think my presentation went well. The audience seemed attentive and there were plenty of questions and lots of discussion. I enjoyed the session and the interaction with the audience. I’ll be posting a summary of my presentation in my next blog post.

4:20pm – All-speaker panel:
This was fun – interesting questions and interaction with the audience and the rest of the panel. This was a great way to finish the day.

We had a wrap up and an after party at Radius Cafe. It was a long day, but a very valuable day.

Much thanks to the organizing committee – you put on one heck of an event. I’m looking forward to seeing what you do for an encore!

  • Dale Mugford
  • Roz Allen
  • Martin Kuplens-Ewart
  • Nick Tomkin
  • Geoff Campbell
  • Kevin Browne
  • Shanta Nathwani
  • Jacqueline Norton
  • Carolynn Reid
  • Michael Canton

And great work to all of the presenters and to everyone else that made this event happen. I look forward to attending and participating again next year!

Let me know if you have any additional information or if you think I’ve misrepresented or neglected to mention anything.

Talk soon!



Using Google Reader’s “Send To” feature in WordPress

I’m a heavy user of Google Reader (GR). In fact, I pretty much read all of my web content from GR. I rarely visit a blog directly. It’s so much easier to aggregate all of my favourite blogs in GR and read them that way. It makes me more efficient, as I can quickly skim through tens or hundreds of posts. And, I can email interesting posts to friends. I use gmail, and Google has integrated the ability to send to people in my address book directly from GR. Easy peasy.

A new-ish feature of GR is the ability to “Send To”. Basically, within a post in GR, I can send some content to another app. Some default places a post can be sent is Blogger, delicious, Digg, Facebook and Twitter. But I use WordPress. What’s a person to do? Well… there’s good news. The good folks at Google have opened up the API to allow additional “Send To” locations to be added. So, a bit of tinkering and I was able to build in a custom “Send To’ so that I can submit stuff I read in GR directly to my blogs. This makes it much easier to blog about items that I find in my reading within GR.

And, to help you out, here are the steps to add your own custom “Send To” for your WordPress blog:


  1. In Google Reader, go to “Settings” (top right hand corner of the screen);
  2. Click the “Send To” menu option in the top nav bar of the settings area of GR;
  3. Select any default “Send To” places;
  4. To add your custom “Send To” destination, click the “Create a custom link” button at the bottom of the screen;
  5. Here are the settings that I used to get my wirepaper blog set up:
  6. Name:
  7. URL:”${url}&t=${title}&s=${source}&v=2” (without the quotes and obviously, replace the “” with your domain name)
  8. Icon URL: (this is my custom avatar – feel free to substitute it with your favourite)
  9. Click “Save”.
  10. Voila! All done.

Go back to GR and give it a try. Let me know how this works out for you.