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...: Marsh Chatter

CSS for Programmers - MDSM Discussion

I spoke about CSS as related to Forms - from a programmer's viewpoint. This was an intro discussion and demo. We had a nice small crowd with a few new faces, including one of my recent students. After my bits were presented, everyone had a chance to introduce themselves and describe what they do and more importantly express what they hope to find at future MDSM sessions.

Slides and demo Visual Studio files are available for download. Thank you for attending. I appreciate the discussion time.

Reminder: the links noted in the slide deck offer excellent ideas and examples on this subject. I highly recommend reviewing each one.

The next MDSM meeting will be August 27th at Western Michigan University Parkview Campus - College of Engineering Building. See the MDSM website for details. Join us!

Michigan Give Camp: Ann Arbor - Follow Up

I went, I participated, I met great people, I enjoyed.

Give Camp Logo
Michigan Give Camp: Ann Arbor

What were you doing this weekend while more than 50 developers, 1 "overworked" designer, and many supporting characters were pushing away the sandman to create websites and tools which will help 18 non-profits better serve their market or to increase their market? Some at Give Camp were having so much fun that they decided to skip the Ann Arbor Art Fair trip. Really! That's what you missed! An event that was more fun than the A-squared Art Fair - WOW! This year, our Give Campers also had the power of the Sisters of Mary on their side. Yes, that's right - many praying Sisters can't be wrong - the place to be in July is Give Camp!

Why Give Camp? Simply... non-profits need us to help them so they can help others. Budgets being what they are - the need goes long unfulfilled. In some cases, a year or two... and for many they struggle along and do without.

Why Give Camp? It's an event. It's about people getting together to do good stuff. It's about creating. It's about trying stuff that you wouldn't try on your own.

Why Give Camp? It turns our development processes "on its head"! Short time to learn the need, quick decision making, interacting with peers, and rapid time to market!

Give Camp Logo

This was my second Give Camp and most certainly not my last! This year Michael Eaton blog | Twitter and his team thought I should be a team lead. While a bit surprised - it was an honor - but really... the team they gave me: Andrew Craze Codeswell | Twitter a developer and all around cool guy from Cleveland and Farrukh Mohammed (say Fa ruu ka) a business intelligence wiz from U of M Hospital - I think I had the easiest job out there!

At the initial meeting with our non-profit "Southeast Michigan Regional Energy Office" Twitter representative's Mozhgon (say: Moz gan) and Sarah, we learned that they needed a website to host and distribute information for their market. The non-profit was fairly new and did not have a website at this time, but they did have a 50 page MS Word document with content. That document was a very good thing!

Also at this meeting we learned that Sarah would be available the entire Give Camp. I don't think she knew what she was getting into - but she became the 4th member of the team - and a very important resource to us! Having Sarah working alongside us enabled Andrew, Farrukh, and myself to focus entirely on the back end functionality while Sarah entered the content. She also figured out a good part of the front end concepts (e.g. menus and what not). Now - just so you know... Sarah was/is not a techie. She is a very fast typer and she picks up the concepts when explained - the first time! And she had the right amount of a funny bone to fit into the team. Thanks Sarah... for being part of the team.

Give Camp Logo

After some initial discussion the team selected Joomla to be the tool we would use to develop the website. Why you might ask? Well it was obvious that a hand-coded site was out of the picture, given the time constraints of the weekend - so an open-source template system was the only direction to go (e.g. same decision of 8 other Give Camp teams). The reason we went with Joomla? Because at least one member of our team had at least a little experience with it.

I develop web forms using ASP.NET (aka code)- so template systems are completely OOBE for me. It's like trying to speak a language using an English to Joomla dictionary. I know what I want to do, but I have to look around "a lot" to find out how to do it the way the crew responsible for Joomla want it to be done. Let's just say... there were struggles on many of the teams using Joomla -- BUT as a developer figured it out - that knowledge was shared! That's the power of Give Camp!

Note to self
Before next Give Camp...
become familiar with a couple of these template systems!

Give Camp Logo

Major Struggles...

1) get base system installed "somewhere" which enabled us to start learning - Friday night. Jay Wren Twitter got us over this first hurdle - Thanks Jay!

2) learn enough about Joomla to get a basic site going so that we could pick apart what we didn't want, put in a couple of content items to use as a guide, and to learn that what was loaded was an older version of Joomla.

2.5) download and install updated version (e.g. 1.5) of Joomla. Migrate fails, so then redo entire work from Saturday morning. It's OK - this was way less than another team had to do while they struggled to make Dot Net Nuke (DNN) work (e.g. at least 3 "restarts").

Give Camp Logo

Real progress occurs Saturday afternoon and evening! So much in fact that we believed that a Noon wrap up would be nearly certain. Way sooner than expected!

Best part about Saturday - Sarah selected the base template that would be the primary design of the site and the Give Camp designer extraordinaire - Ken WTW Design took two images and whipped them into an awesome header image for the site.

The team decides to get more than 2.5 hours sleep on Saturday night. So after operating on about 2.5 hours sleep from night before we call it a night at 00:45.

Sunday the last couple module additions occur, including Dept of Energy & Twitter RSS feeds, and we freeze the system after lunch. Training on the system wraps up and we head to the group demo and closing ceremonies!

Another successful Give Camp!

Give Camp Logo

Productions like a Give Camp don't happen by just one person. We were just one team and our ability to focus on the project was enabled by a support team which took care of the venue (e.g. sponsor WCC), food (sponsors and volunteers), many sponsors, other teams, the non-profits, the team who reviewed the proposals and the team who assigned the developer teams. All the volunteers at 2 sites - plus Columbus hosting their own Give Camp - it was a great weekend across 3 states!

I was going to list some of the follow ups from other Give Campers - but Chris Roland blog | twitter tweeted a link to his blog and it is a remarkable resource that I would be a fool to try to duplicate - so just go there for links to pics, Ustream videos, blog entries, Twitter hash tags to review the stream, etc.

Thanks all - and I have the dates next year blocked already - and all you developers, designers, and people who can help make a great weekend - you can do the same!

July 16, 17, 18th, 2010 - save the date!
Be there, Join in the fun, and Get out of your box.

See you there!

Michigan Give Camp: Ann Arbor

I will be participating for the 2nd time at the Michigan Give Camp: Ann Arbor over the weekend of July 17, 18, 19th (aka this weekend). The links provide you more information about Give Camp - but let me just say it's probably the most worthwhile weekend I have spent in a long time!

Last year, I participated on a team which developed, over about 42 hours (Friday evening, Saturday day/evening, Sunday), a web page which enabled the Michigan Humane Society to provide quick & easy access to contact information for Rescue Shelters. The data for this project came from an out-of-date large PDF which when displayed was about 40 pages of very small text. It was a lot of data and very time-consuming for their staff to edit. The finished web page can be edited "real-time" with changes available immediately and can easily be searched by animal/pet species, breeds, city, county, etc. Have a look... Michigan Humane Society Shelter Search

Besides the organization we helped out - I got to meet and work with many great people and view some really cool projects that also got completed over the same weekend. 14 charities, about 100 developers, a great team managing the weekend - all came together for a special event!

This year - we are doing it again! Another great team of organizers led by Michael Eaton blog | Twitter. I've worked with Michael on the recent inaugural Kalamazoo X Conference and I expect his team's preparation & effort will make this Give Camp another worthwhile event!

Our charities this year are:

All About Animals Rescue
Closer to Home Animal Advocates
Community and Home Supports
Eisenhower Dance Ensemble
Great Sauk Trail Council, Boy Scouts of America
Interfaith Hospitality Network at Alpha House
Lend A Helping Hand
Leslie Science and Nature Center
Resource Genesee
Sisters of Mary
Starting Over Airedale Rescue
Motivity
Southeast Michigan Regional Energy Office
Paula Ratchford Ministries

If you have developing skills or design skills and can't be with us physically - be sure to follow us on Twitter - #aagivecamp to see the going's on and maybe even lend us a hand.

A little trumpet horn... this weekend is not all about charities in Michigan. There will be charitable giving going on from Knoxville, Tennessee also - under the guidance of Nathan Blevins blog | Twitter. This team will be participating remotely - offering their thoughts in Stand Ups, and probably even funny comments via Twitter! Hooray for the Knoxville tweeps!

Keep any eye on Twitter this weekend - we will be burning the candle from both ends over the weekend!

A Thought... On Education

Education is about the challenge!

If you are given the answers... you solve only the problem at hand. You have no way to solve future problems.

Seek out people who challenge you...