MooseCamp – WordPress and Your Problems Followup

During the MooseCamp session “WordPress and your problems” I promised to look into a few items that we were discussing, and report back to the group. I’ve finally made some time to dig around, and here’s the goods.

Nancy White asked some questions about tweaking her WordPress site, and they were all things that sounded really good, but that I didn’t know how to implement.

  1. Automatically tagging new posts on the WordPress site on – not sucking tags into WordPress, or listing latest sites tagged, but automatically bookmarking each new post (with categories and tags applied as in the WP post) in a way similar to the Twitter Tools plugin’s broadcasting of new posts. I haven’t found any way to do this, but am still looking.
  2. Hierarchical menu display – how to have expandable/collapsible menus within the WordPress site?
  3. Use as a source of tag autocompletion within WordPress? The idea is that there should be a canonical set of tags that a person can use for all of their tagging – blog, flickr, – and that it would be great if WordPress could use a person’s tags as the source for an autocompletion while tagging new blog posts within WordPress. I haven’t found anything that does this, but know a BUNCH of people would be smiling if something could be found.
  4. How to add a link to an external website as part of the main page menu structure? it’s possible to hack a theme to add links this way, but not in the middle of the menu. I’ve found the WordPress Menubar Plugin, which looks close, but am still wondering if there’s a more mainstream way to do this.

Reflections on Northern Voice 2008

I’m not going to post a conference recap, and others have beaten me to the punch with eloquent reflections on the event. It’s one of those things that sounds like fanaticism – the sense of wonder usually reserved for such things as the TED conference (aside: could you imagine going to that? how many toes would I gladly trade for a TED pass?) But, Northern Voice has become, or has always been, one of those events that help me form my own thinking, and helps to connect that with the awesome stuff that the really great minds (that I am lucky enough to be allowed to tag along with) are doing.

Jim hit the nail on the head, for me, in his description of the role of the Mythical Eduglu. It’s not about any particular implementation, or even about the concepts and strategies that make up EduGlu. The power of EduGlu, according to The Reverend, is as a Hitchcockian McGuffin. It’s a plot device that moves the story along, giving a sense of narrative focus and momentum.

And that, for me, is the real power of Northern Voice. It’s not about the conference (as cool as the conference is) and it’s not purely about the people (as amazing, cool, and open as the people are). Northern Voice is a McGuffin. And for 2 days or so, every year, we are able to work together to peer into the suitcase. That shared sense of purpose and momentum colours the entire event – the conference sessions, the openness of the people, and the emotional intensity of the whole thing.

So, if it takes the guise of a conference to push the story along, to have everyone from a stunningly broad range of backgrounds and perspectives come together as one, however briefly, I think it’s well worth being part of the experience.

aside: my wife’s family tree includes Alfred Hitchcock, so I like this McGuffin analogy on a bunch of levels

One thing that struck me, when reviewing the photos that I took during Northern Voice, was that the most powerful and meaningful ones weren’t taken during the sessions per se, but in the social gatherings. The magic of Northern Voice isn’t part of the conference itself, although it is definitely fed and inspired by the conference. The real magic is in the deeply intimate connections between the people who gather. And one of the amazing things about the particular group that I am so lucky to consider myself a part of – every one of this group met online first. Several only met IRL at the conference. And yet we are all friends, and there was no ramp-up time required, or introductions needed. We all knew each other, and were able to hit the ground running, as it were.

There is a bit of rabid fanboy that bubbles up within me before, during, and after the event. I can’t fracking believe I’m lucky enough to be able to hang out with these people, and to discuss in depth the things that really matter (and a bunch of stuff that’s just plain fun, too).

If I had to pick a single photograph that represents Northern Voice, it is this one because it somehow captures the energy, the intimacy, and the vibrancy of the conversations. The unreserved laughter of The Reverend. The energetic groove of Scott. Mikhail joining in as though we’ve known him for years – even though this was the first time most of us actually met him. And the piercing calm of Chris, the poet. In the warm, safe, inviting home offered to us by Brian and Keira.

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With that said, I am absolutely thrilled at how the entire Northern Voice 2008 photo set turned out. There’s something about the event that causes us all to draw on our strengths, playing our own instrument in the jam session. Mine just happened to be a camera 🙂

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Mooseward, ho! (i.e., Northern Voice 2008)

I just got my signed travel request approval to cover my pilgrimage to Lotusland for NothernVoice 2008. I mean, I was already planning on going, even if I had to stick the trip on my Visa card, but it’s nice to know I can go with blessings 🙂 The moose is loose!

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As I’ve said a few times, this is my one must-attend event. If this is all I get to do in 2008, the year would still be a success. The biggest draw for me is being able to hang out with a bunch of people whom I both respect and admire, and let myself get pulled out of my normal comfort zone to kick out the jams for what isn’t a purely educational, nor a purely technology conference. I’ve blogged before about why I’m looking forward to NV08, and why previous NorthernVoice conferences have been so meaningful for me.

Now, if we can only avoid another outbreak of the dreaded Moose Fever...

The Moose is Loose

Northern Voice 2008 is now on the calendar – February 22-23, 2008 in Vancouver, at the UBC Main Campus at the palatial Forestry Sciences Building. This is the 4th annual event, and I’ve had the extreme pleasure to have attended each of the previous 3 years. It is my one must attend event for the year – if the only conference travel I get approved is for NV08, I’ll consider the year a success. I just filled in the official “Travel Approval Request” form, and should know if the U of C will sponsor my way in the next couple of weeks. If they pass, I’ll find another way. I’m going.

Digging through my Northern Voice photos, I realized something. This is a conference of hand-talking. That’s actually a pretty profound difference between this and many other conferences. When people are talking with hands, they aren’t rigidly stuck on a podium reading endless bullet points. They’re animated, engaged, passionate and interesting. As every single session has been. Well, with some (very) minor exceptions.

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Kris Krug - photography session - 5Kris Krug - photography session - 6

Northern Voice has been like a nonstop, open social learning party for me, where I’ve been lucky enough to get the chance to hang out with several of my personal heroes, and jam with a considerable chunk of my blogroll. It’s pushed me to work well outside of my normal comfort zone, trying new stuff and experimenting with things. If that’s not the goal of a conference, I don’t know what is. I am so absolutely looking forward to hanging out with the folks again this year, and seeing what we come up with for a session at the conference.

Ceviche at Casa del Lamb