Inspiration, Nerdy Stuff

Wordcamp Houston – Takeaways & The Rebirth of Slick

Simply chasing cool is a really bad idea; inspired by cool is a great idea. Don’t do it because you research it, do it because you breathe it.
Russell Simmons

I had a great time at Wordcamp Houston at the Houston Museum of Natural Science!

Today was Wordcamp Houston! It was great to see WordPress cofounder Matt Mullenweg back in his hometown keynoting (full keynote video available here), and I always love spending time with the Houston WordPress community.

The number one thing I took away from Wordcamp Houston is the power of WordPress 3.0. With custom content types and custom taxonomies, you can do a ton with WordPress that previously required a more complex CMS. I’ve spent a lot of time in the content management side of about half a dozen CMS systems, and WordPress is far and away my favorite.

In this post I want to recap the second biggest thing I took away from Wordcamp Houston – Kelsey Ruger’s presentation on the Rebirth of Slick. Essentially – how do you make innovative and cool things online? How do you make your personal brand cool? What does cool even mean? Why design matters.

The full presentation is available on Slideshare and is embedded below: Rebirth of Slick: Why Great Design Will Make People Love Your Company

View more presentations from Kelsey Ruger.

The highlights

The three rules:

  1. Follow your own path
  2. Be unique – use inspiration to make something new
  3. Take calculated risks – go where others aren’t

Tips to being cool (online and offline):

  • Evoke emotion: “the emotional reaction is all that matters as long as there’s some feeling of communication, it isn’t necessary to be understood”
  • It’s not cool to say you’re cool – you can’t be slick by saying you’re slick
  • What you believe matters more than what you do
  • Find your points of inspiration –  Did Michael Jackson create the moonwalk? No – but he made it his own
  • You can’t buy or borrow cool – be authentic
  • When you spend time chasing cool, you don’t do the things that make you cool

What it comes down to:

Don’t chase cool, be inspired by cool

Market research doesn’t tell you what you should be doing, it only gives you a picture of what has been done in the past

Design Thinking

  • #1 – Treat design as a process, not as a event
  • Start with as many ideas as possible, then start evaluating
  • Are your goals too reasonable? i.e. meet customer needs, optimizes resources, change corporate culture
  • When looking at inspiration from innovative companies like Apple and Google, don’t ask what DID they do, ask what WOULD they do
  • Differentiate – what should you not do?
  • Steps: Inspiration > Ideation > Action > Innovation
  • Be motivated by passion – If you make all decisions based on numbers and forecasts, you become emotionally detached from the passion (but don’t ignore the books!)
  • Don’t lead with efficiency – fix it later
  • Don’t outsource your vision, don’t be a slave to today’s trends
  • Don’t follow your customers, lead them
  • You can get answers by observing, not asking
  • Focus on solving human needs instead of technical problems


When writing on the web (for yourself or an organization), be capable of telling a meaningful story.  A good story illustrates human emotion.

Stories to tell:

  • Who am I
  • Values in action
  • Why am I here
  • Vision
  • Teaching
  • I know what you’re thinking

Book recommendations:

In short: be your own unique self, figure out what that means (and what it doesn’t), focus your content and do what other people aren’t doing. REALLY inspiring!

Huge thanks to all of the Wordcamp Houston speakers and volunteers! It was a great event and I can’t wait for next year!

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  • Reply

    Christine Portillo

    August 7, 2010

    Great recap of an excellent preso, Qcait: Kelsey always has such a fresh, unique, and TRUE take on things. And his presentations are like no other.

    I <3'd WordCamp Houston, too: my first, look forward to my next…!

  • Reply


    August 7, 2010

    awesome recap, QC. i had to miss this session and so glad you pulled this together. thanks for coming and being a part of WCHTX!

  • Reply


    August 7, 2010

    THANK you for posting this – also had to miss Kelsey’s session & was really inspired just by the tweets that were coming out of it, so this is awesome. Also – could not love that photo more. teehee!

  • Reply

    Kelsey Ruger

    August 10, 2010

    Thanks, Caitlin! I am glad you enjoyed it. I wish we had time to do the exercises that go along with some of the slides. I finally got around to updating the notes from the session on my site last night.

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