An Update and Introducing Conference Calendar

Hello strangers, I’ve had a somewhat hectic few months hence the lack of updates. I’ve been emailed and tweeted at on numerous occasions for an update on what I’ve up to so here it is:

Travel
So far this year I’ve spent over a month out of the country or just away from home. I was in Las Vegas for 8 days (way too long), been to New York twice, Amsterdam, Cyprus and I’ve lost count the number of days I’ve spent in London. Majority of these were for conferences and business meetings. Cyprus was a holiday, which helped me get caught up on reading and recharge batteries. I spoke at a4u in Amsterdam and I will publish my slides with a bit of narrative here in the future (the post has been started).

I also have a few more trips planned for this year, next month I’m off to Montana for a week on business and pleasure, I’ll be attending Think Visibilty in Leeds in September and then flying off to San Diego for Think Tank. There’ll also likely be a few more trips to come

Current Projects
My portfolio of sites continues to grow, with a few acquisitions and new sites launched. Coolest Gadgets is still my busiest site and usually most profitable, though I have certainly seen a dip in revenue which I’m putting down to people not spending as much on gadgets at the moment. I’m combatting this by experimenting with different stream, diversifying and building more traffic. I’m also playing with a fair few different affiliate schemes on various sites and platforms.

New Business Partner
I’ve entered into business with a good friend Shannon Poole. Shannon specializes in marketing and is a great compliment to my skill set. We are both somewhat conference junkies which led to our first project which is approaching final stages now:

The aim of the site is to provide all the information you require to find and attend relevant conferences. Top level categories include Internet Marketing, Technology conferences, Business and more are being added on a daily basis.

I’m happy with the way it’s progressing, however this is a long term project and I don’t expect instant results. I’d love to hear any feedback and ideas you have that you think could improve the site.

The Flexibility of WordPress
I’ve been doing a fair amount of work with WordPress. Conference Calendar is not a blog but I’ve still developed it using WordPress. I’d like to share more about this in a future post but to show the sort of things we’ve done without modifying ANY of the core WordPress code:

– A very customised post page showing a conference details.
– There are 3 different views for what would normally be standard archive pages: Details (the normalish archive), Monthly View and Annual Conference View.
– As usual there is a whole load of automation and re-use of information.

Some of this was done using standard plug-ins, other bits a combination of plug-ins and custom code. I could get really techie here but I’ll leave that for a future post (I promised it won’t take as long).

Anyway I’d love to hear some feedback, I’ve missed you guys! I still twitter (maybe too much) at @alcarlton and I got the FaceBook vanity URL facebook.com/al.carlton, did everybody get the ones they wanted?.

About Al Carlton

Al quit the 9 to 5 rat race in January of 2007, before then he was a software engineer and systems architect of financial system. Nowadays Al spends the days running his various businesses and experimenting with different ideas and opportunities.
Al can be found on twitter at AlCarlton.

Comments

  1. Nice to get an update from you Al. The conference Calendar is a fantastic idea, and definitely one I’d appreciate personally. It’s going to make it much easier to find related conferences in a single location.

    Dan

  2. I think that WordPress is a very mature platform now, and this can be seen by how there are many sites using it that are not pure blogs.

    Conference Calendar looks great, and I can see it being popular, and the format could easily be changed/expanded for other events. Maybe a Google Calendar produced from this information would be handy too.

    Loving CoolestGadgets too – entered the latest competition to win a TV this morning!

    Ryan Jarrett’s last blog post..Monsters Inc 2 For 2012?

  3. Hey Al, nice to see an update. Cool to hear what you and Shannon have been up to as well!

    Glen Allsopp’s last blog post..BloggingBlueprint: Your Free Guide to Blogging Success

  4. @Dan – That’s the idea, it’s a real pain finding suitable conferences. This should make it a lot easier.

    @Ryan – Cheers mate. I love working with WP, though I’m more of a hacker than a “proper” coder now. Good luck in the contest.

    @Glen – We’ve both been really busy with various projects and life in general. This is just one of the bits we have going on.

  5. Hey Al, it is great to see what you have been up to with Shannon Poole these days. Just dropped by your Conference Calendar website, this looks great!

    I totally agree with you, this project is a long-term investment; the turnover could well be a good one, provided you have the patience to nurture it along the way, adding content to it.

    Keep it up, Al!

    Cheers,
    Keith

    Keith’s last blog post..PC Show 2009

  6. Good to hear from you Al. The new project you mention is in the same sector as a similar website (soon to be completed) from a contact we both know (on the hush hush). I love the simple concept and feel it could be another winner. The name too is simple and memorable so I feel the important boxes have been ticked. It’s interesting you have chosen to develop in WP.

    Frog’s last blog post..Antivirus Plugin For WordPress

  7. Good to hear your updates, I would be very interested in what plugins you are using.

    Btw, you should try plugging in Aweber to Coolest-Gadgets instead of just Feedburner…I have been testing this on my Zedomax.com blog… well.

    max’s last blog post..Recession Contest – Win Up To $2000 from Office Depot!

  8. Hey Al,
    Good to see you posting again, all my sites are wordpress as i know jack about coding so WP + plugins + a little bit of code editing is pretty much it for me until I gain more exp!

    Looking forward to your next post on the techie aspects.
    Yoast posts a crapload of stuff on wp hacking as does JT Pratt, both really good blogs for us wordpress enthusiasts so looking forward to your tips on how you make the most of this platform.

  9. mobile broadband says:

    Good to hear your updates, I would be very interested in what plugins you are using.thanks

  10. This is actually a great idea, I think it will be huge. The advertising potential alone is ridiculous!!!!

    I wondered why you were twittering with Shannon so often!

    Anyhow, I got facebook.com/seotoronto, I’m happy with that :)

    Justin Cook’s last blog post..When digital theft is a good thing!

  11. Nice update, good to hear form you again

  12. @Keith – Thanks, good to hear from you it’s been a while. Certainly in for the long hall with CC.

    @Frog – Cheers Gary, I know exactly who you’re talking about :). I like the domain too, it cost ~$3000 from a bloody domainer and a $200 or so bar bill in a New York hotel while we were brainstorming.

    @Andy – I promise to do the plugin post soon, a lot of it is custom code rather than regular plugins though

    @mobile broadband – See the above answer about plugins. I also removed your URL as it was not a site URL but a deep link which is a spammy thing to do.

    @Justin – Nice vanity url. Shannon and I twitter each other as we’re very good friends and she’s damn funny. Most business talk is either face to face or via email, IM, etc. We are quite the comedic pair on twitter.

    @Business Gas – Thanks

  13. Hi Al – WordPress really is the blogs dollox…I am about to launch a static site based on wordpress and a few plugins. Delete the menu bar and a few other snippets of code and the only way you’d tell it was wordpress is by getting a successfull visit to domain.com/wp-admin. I am also seriously thinking of relaunching my main e-commerce site http://www.thejohnnyshop.co.uk which is an online condom store based on the wordpress platform and the WP-Commerce plugin…soon there will be a wordpress plugin for launching nuclear weapons I reckon…North Korea are watching intently…

  14. A great post for your comeback. Err, better to claim my face book url now.

  15. I like this! Is the monetization angle to have featured events? Paid listings?

    Worpress is really coming into it’s own. We are putting togather a completely static site using it now. Not sure our developers are too happy with our new found love of plugins though!!! We even had to put one on an Open Uni php course :o)

    Conference Calendar – great idea. Nice and clean site! Great to see an update post. Was getting worried this site was slowing down.

  16. Wish all my sites looked as smooth as that!
    instead they are cobbled together with crudely hacked themes and millions of plugins that all break everytime wordpress is upgraded!!!!
    Still making me a living though so shouldn’t complain.

    Very nice site, we could be witnessing the birth of a future giant – a la linked in or something of that ilk, good luck with it!

  17. @Simon – Thanks, now go and claim your vanity url

    @FB – There are LOADS of different ways to monetize it. To start it will mainly be affiliate and advertising but as the site and traffic grows we’ll look into paid/promoted listings.

    @Andy – With CC I paid a designer to create the look (who I’m REALLY happy with), then somebody else to split the images and create the CSS. I then converted it to WP and did the coding. I also have some really nasty looking cobbled together sites, but if they make money I don”t mind either :)

  18. Thanks Al, thanks for the post and for sharing such information with us. Looks gr8

  19. Good to hear your updates, I would be very interested in what plugins you are using.Great to see an update post.

  20. The site looks really good – it’s amazing that no one has thought of it before to be honest. I have one idea which might make life even easier for your conference going users.. When the user chooses a type of conference, then chooses “annual” or “monthly”, you could set up a print page for them to print off. This would mean that they have the calender as a print off and can look on your site for updates.

    • Great idea about the print page options, added to the to-do list.

      There are other conference sites out there but they all look to be lacking something so I thing with the right product and marketing there is certainly a gap to exploit.

  21. OMG Al, I thought you had vanished :) I was totally surprised to see not one but TWO new posts here a SMM. Welcome back… we’ve missed you 😉

  22. Hi Al,
    It great to read your posts again. The Conference Calendar looks sweet! One request, just off the top of my head, I’d love to be able to search conferences by geographic location, so that I can see all the conferences near me. I may be traveling to Shanghai next year and would love to be able to attend a conference there to make it a legitimate business expense :)

    • Good idea, we’ll certainly be adding more wAys of searching and viewing the information as more conferences are added.

  23. WordPress Rocks, and if one factors in what custom development would’ve cost it just makes soooo much more sense. Plus it will not be obsolete in 6 month’s time either….

  24. Sounds like a nice trip around the globe to some hot locations :) and the Conference Calendar is a grat idea.

  25. Do you think getting into business with a friend is a good idea? For me friendship and money shouldn’t mix but maybe it’s just me.

    • That is a great question! It is actually something that has kept me from starting anything with friends and family because I have seen what it can turn into if/when you don’t agree or put in the same effort.

  26. Great question. I’ve run a few different businesses with friends and partners,some have worked out, some haven’t. It can certainly put stress on a friendship but when you are both pulling in the same direction it will make the friendship and business stronger. Here are my experiences:

    One of my first businesses was a market stall selling ethnic clothing, jewlery. I ran this with my girlfriend at the time and for a year or so all went well and we made a little bit of money. However we were both young and eventually split up, as the business required us to work together that too went under (I actually sold my share to her parents so came out of it ok, in a bastard kind of way).

    Scott and I have been in business together for a couple of years now, I think we’ve probably been online friends for 5 years or so. Most of what we do is create residual income sites so we don’t have an ongoing time commitment, we’ve made a bit of cash together and our friendship is likely stronger.

    With my last girlfriend I wasn’t in business with her but I did employ her for a time. I paid her $200 a week to do what should of amounted to 10 minutes work per day (it was a strange but highly profitable task) but she kept skipping days so I ended up sacking her. It didn’t help our relationship but was the right thing to do for my business.

    Hmmm okay so I have a 33% success rate when doing business with friends, I know the stuff I’m doing with Shannon will work so that makes it 50%, they’re pretty good odds to me considering the return :). I will ask Shannon to comment on this too, will be interesting to hear her thoughts. This comment actually turned more into a post, thanks for the great question.

    • Shannon says:

      Great topic – thanks for addressing… here are my thoughts….
      If we all take a look at how business (historically) has been developed/managed world-wide; respectively have typically started with family – neighbors – friends – spouses – etc. It has only been until modern adaptation of HR requirements associated with corporate culture, that the theory of Nepitism in the workplace has been established as employee/employer laws to protect all parties involved. (it is obviously a topic for a reason; good, bad and ugly)

      I personally have had tremendous success with partnering with friends and family. If we think about what motivates us (outside of the basic Maslow’s Heirarchy of Needs) it is our interpersonal relationshiops with family and friends. Without such support and drive ~ what would REALLY keep us turning on our computers everyday? The best part of working side-by-side the ones that motivate us, is that we can show our “raw” emotions, we can forgive and forget unconditionally due to our basic drive to succeed and support those close to us.

      Wether we meet people, outside of the office, and start a business with them; or we grow together within the workplace to ensure success for our peers, company and ourselves – friendships will always exist and be cultivated.

      It IS a fact that breakdowns will always occur in the workplace, in partnerships and at home (or hell even in a bar) – but if we have the heart and passion to make our relationships/business goals work, then that is a beautiful thing to incorporate into day-to-day communication in order to promote success, maintain our goals and deliver excellent communication.

      I am thankful to have found such a great friend and business partner in Al – right now ~ we need each other and we will always motivate one another, to be better … at work, at home, as parents as friends. To me – that IS success!

      I believe that, depending on the persons, business relationships that involve spouses, friends and family MIGHT have a tendency to fail due to pre-conceived notions and expectations. If these “expectations” are not properly defined on a proper level; then yes – a failure might occur. For me, if you keep your motivations and realistic goals (from one to another) defined on a professional level (aka – “real” communication) then partners can only be successful on so many levels.

  27. thanks for the post and also for sharing the information.

  28. Can you add online conferences? Are you targetting that market?
    Just a thought as I get invited to all sorts of phone ins and webTV conference things (never logged in or phoned into one).
    Could be a big market there…

  29. The Think Visibility conference sounds like alot of fun, I hope you will post more on that, I took a look at the speakers, and I was really surprised by them, and the diversity of speakers at the conference!

    You’re Coolest Gadgets website is really cool, it’s no wonder that it is your best performing website!

    As far as Vanity URL’s I couldn’t even secure my name :( which was sad because I looked 5 hours after they opened it up! Crazy I know!

    -Kevin

  30. I like the conference calender idea, I’m looking to attend some London based ones later in the year so I’ll be making use of it. I think it would be nice if you add the price as well, also are you planning to allow user comments and reviews to be added directly on the site?

  31. i think u should port comments to disqus, highly recommended.

  32. Your conference calendar website has a lot of potential. Personally I think the grey menu on the left is a little too dull. The site will need some pictures or something to liven it up. I’m sure it will become an even better site in time though. Good luck with that.

    As for partnering on websites with friends, it really depends on the people and the nature of their relationship. My girlfriend was working on my sites for a while too, but I too had to fire her. It had become a situation that wasn’t healthy for the business or the relationship. If you have a friend with similar drive & motivation, a partnership can be highly profitable and help to strengthen the relationship. You do have to be careful or else money can get in the way of friendship.

  33. which plugin did you use to start up the callender?

  34. Al, this post made me think of the fact that I haven’t seen a resource out there that puts together all the IM products that are available (you can argue that ClickBank does this partially) but I think it would be cool it there was a 1-stop place to find info material on things like:

    – PPC
    – Article Marketing
    – Memberships
    – Blogging
    – Affiliate Marketing
    – Adsense
    – Info product creating etc.

    Not only would that site be able to make money from aff. commissions but it would also be a great resource for people actively looking for a product that would teach them “X”.

    Just a thought… :)

    Mikael

  35. Yes WordPress Rocks, and if one factors in what custom development would’ve cost it just makes soooo much more sense. Plus it will not be obsolete in 6 month’s time either….

  36. Great idea, I think it will be huge. The advertising potential alone is ridiculous!!!!

    I wondered why you were twittering with Shannon so often!

  37. I came here form another post, where you were talking about Think Visibility. Being starved of conferences in South Africa I* am glad to see that this is an international service, and am heading over straight away to have a gander.

  38. I can see adsense on there, are you monetising it any other way?
    I wouldn’t have thought adsense would perform too well as most of the target audience will be well aware of it and going from my own experiences, I very rarely click conextual ads – could be totally wrong though, wouldnt be the 1st time!

  39. I like the concept of your WordPress “hacking” as you may call it. I certainly would have difficulty turning some of my ideas into projects from scratch, but using wordpress or other available code for that matter to make my ideas a reality could be interesting.

    The site is a pretty useful resource as well, and has made it into my bookmarks. I’m sad to not see things closer to my area however. But great concept, full of practicality!

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