First BarCamp For Me

May 5th, 2008  |  2 Comments

Portland’s second ever BarCamp (a free-form “unconference”) was held this weekend, and since there were no soccer or Little League games for me on Sunday, I was able to catch one day’s sessions.

Not knowing what to expect when I arrived, I quickly found an enthusiastic crowd, plentiful food (bagels stacked high and all the Bubble Tea you could drink), and lots of interesting sessions, with topics ranging from WordPress to CrossFit to Bikes to Patents to Predicting the Stock Market.

You are Your Twitter Name

As you register, you’re handed a badge so you can write your name and other key information. But, you don’t identify yourself by your email address, or your blog, or your domain name. Instead, at BarCamp Portland, your identity is your Twitter identity.

As I looked around at other people’s badges, I noticed that nearly everyone had a Twitter name.

I was surprised at how ubiquitous Twitter was. “What’s wrong with the alternatives?”, I wondered. Here’s my stab at some answers:

  • Email. Too much spam. People suffer from email overload. Plus, there’s no way to learn more about someone if you have only their email address.
  • Blog. Not everyone has a blog. It’s much easier to start twittering than it is to set up and maintain a blog.

Whatever the reason, Portland BarCampers have clearly chosen Twitter their default online profile.

WordPress as CMS

I sat in on several WordPress-oriented sessions, and “Using WordPress as a CMS” was my favorite. Ben Hengst from Powell’s Books talked about they were using WordPress on

The Powell’s Web site is made up of many different systems (some written in perl, some in PHP), and WordPress currently only powers the PowellsBooks.Blog section of the site on the front-end. But, as the developers and Marketing folk began to use WordPress more and more, they found that it offered a simple interface for Marketing folk to input reusable content, and that it’s database structure could handle the different types of content they required. Ben said that using a combination of tags and categories gave them all the flexibility they needed.

So, now, they are inputting content with the WordPress Admin interface on the back-end, but then pulling that content from the WordPress database with the perl and PHP code that runs the rest of the site. In other words, much of the content that is entered in WordPress is never displayed by WordPress.

Random Observations

Sometimes it’s the little things that you see or hear about that make the event worthwhile.

  • I heard the story of writing an innocent blog post about how you are unable to burp on demand…and watching a whole community of non-burpers spring up around it.
  • Reid Beels was giving an overview of how to write a WordPress plugin…and then offhandedly demoed a really cool javascript photo display (hover over one photo and see how the rest of the photos evenly resize).
  • I spotted someone wearing not only a Utilikilt, but Vibram Five Fingers shoes as well. A somewhat radical look…but he totally pulled it off.


  1. Betsy says:

    May 5th, 2008 at 3:41 pm (#)

    Ahhh…the non-burping story continues to resonate! Glad to hear I could provide a moment of worthwhile-ness…

  2. ben says:

    May 7th, 2008 at 1:21 pm (#)

    Thanks for the write up, I’m glad you enjoyed.

    Also Utilikilt + five fingers = Schwern