Our charity Drupal coding event, Coding for a Cause, made it to the local paper earlier this month. It's always nice to be worthy of a picture in the paper.
Credit: Ricardo Ramirez Buxeda, Orlando Sentinel
"Sometimes 'hacking' gets misconstrued as being something bad," said Ryan Price, a 29-year-old consultant and trainer for Drupal, a content-management system that can be used to build websites and blogs. "But it literally means tinkering, and there are all sorts of different hacking events. … We wanted to set aside a day and work with nonprofits."
I have to say, for the handful of times I've been mentioned or quoted in the press, this is probably my favorite.Kate Santich writes about social services and volunteerism for the Orlando Sentinel, so she was a great person to help us get the story out about our 3rd annual Coding for a Cause event at Florida DrupalCamp 2012. This year, Lisa Thorell and Diane Court have been assisting us with some marketing, publicity and programming tasks in the camp, and they are certainly responsible for getting us in touch with the Sentinel. All I had to do was answer a few questions.
the Drupal community — united by the idea of sharing computer code for free — believes in helping people to help themselves, rather than charging even a small fee.
"All you have to do is show up and put on your thinking cap. You have to want to be there," Price said. "The No. 1 thing for us is actually to be able to get inexperienced people in an environment where they can sit down and work next to someone who is very experienced and work on the same project."
It's not just knowledge for knowledge's sake either. Mike Anello, principal partner at Anello Consulting and one of the camp organizers, said he hopes volunteers who want to learn how to use Drupal — employed on websites from WhiteHouse.gov to Sony — might be able to pick up job skills from it. Already, the Merritt Island resident has trained laid-off aerospace workers looking for a new career path. So far, 14 of the 18 students in his recently completed 10-week course have landed internships.
"With unemployment so high," Price said, "we're just trying to create opportunities for people."
For me, this event is really about growing the pool of talented Drupal developers, and the people who see Drupal (or any open source project) as a viable option for solving their problems. It's a bit of a catch 22, though, you kind of need one to get the other, hence the game-changing nature of Coding for a Cause.
Some organizations see websites like the ones we're building as prohibitively expensive - that's money they could be spending on other things. Then there are the developers saying "I need to eat". This way, everybody wins. We also hope that experienced people working along side inexperienced people creates all kinds of new opportunities and experiences we can't even predict. New best practices get shared, partnerships get formed, whatever.
It's a lot of work, but I'm looking forward to the challenge, and hopefully launching three sites in the next month or two.
The Kogeto is an exciting piece of hardware for any video geeks our there: It films in a full 360ª panorama, and comes with special software to be able to upload and view the video. They also have an iPhone version. Watching this video just now, I see that there are a ton of new tricks that can be employed when filming "in the round". However, I have a similar thought every time I watch one of Disney's 360 films at Epcot: where is the film crew? Unless they are laying on the ground under the camera. Where is the director? I'm guessing there was a fair amount of rehearsal and playback at the shoot. Could he be laying on the ground? Luckily, they did not need to record sound for this video, but that would be a great challenge to solve.
People have said to me a few times: "You know there are people who have shot and edited entire films on their iPhone?"
To them I say: "So what? That was inevitable." Making a "normal" film is just a feature. This Kogeto is a true innovation. The iPhone enabled it, so that makes it a platform. I can appreciate that.
The Tummeler in me also wonders how a camera like this could be used to immerse people in a video conference. I would like to see Kogeto make a projector or other display that can immerse you as completely as the camera captures.
We will be hosting our 4th annual Florida DrupalCamp on February 11th and 12th in the coming year. For the first few years of the unconference, I was in charge of printing out the name badges for attendees. We started out using EventBrite because it was dead simple, but we switched to a Drupal-based Conference Organizing Distribution site last year. At a DrupalCamp (or just about any conference) there are always people looking to hire developers, and developers looking for work. The third category of attendees are those who are new to Drupal, and inevitably have questions. The problem with most attendees of these conferences is that they don't go to monthly meetups, so they aren't acquainted with who else is new, and who is a veteran. In my constant effort to get people talking, I tried hacking our DrupalCamp badges by getting some colored garage-sale stickers and printing "Ask Me", "Hire Me", "I'm Hiring" on them.
"Ask Me" was a popular badge hack among red-shirted volunteers.
It's pretty challenging to collect hard metrics on any social hack, but the reactions from people at the registration table were pretty positive. Since then, South Florida DrupalCamp employed a similar technique, and I have told a few other DrupalCamp organizers the idea. They all love the concept, and I hope they can encourage people to participate and spread this meme.
This year when we were planning the badges, we decided to go for something bigger and better, and I saw this as the opportunity to take the badge hacks to the next level as well. Instead of stickers, why not give everyone the tools, making it that much easier to participate? Our designer, Erik Baldwin (flash warning), pointed me to the Noun Project, which may have been the final straw at the stack of this heap. Now instead of words or colors to decipher, we have professionally designed icons (in SVG format, no less). I picked out three I thought fit the scenario and posted them back to our OpenAtrium message board. Erik incorporated the icons into his next round of revisions, and the result you see below:
My idea is to have highlighters available at the registration table, to encourage people to highlight the icon releavant to them. Your choices are:
Curious what the effects of this are? If nothing else, it's a conversation starter: "Why did they put these icons on my badge?" "Do you know what they're for?"
I know the job seekers and hiring managers will be making the most use of them, if past experience tells me anything. We've identified the long-term effects on an attendees career as part of our mission for DrupalCamp and our Coding for a Cause event, and this is one way I'm trying to support that mission.
With the release of the Kindle Fire this week, I thought I would see what the competition was like. If I'm going to spend $200 on a tablet, what about spending a little more, to get something more geek-friendly?
I know that as of Android 3.1, there is now support for Android devices to act as a USB host, for connecting to devices or hacking on the Arduino. In my search, I came across the Toshiba Thrive, which has full-sized USB ports, and more. Then I started to write this post, and I realized Toshiba is getting ready to release a 7-inch version that is less geek-friendly, so I decided to include that in my comparison to have a more head-to-head feel with the Amazon tablet.
Full-size USB (host), mini USB (in/out?), 3.5mm headphone, Full-size HDMI
mini USB, 3.5mm headphone, microHDMI
no expansion slot, free cloud drive
Full-size SD card up to 128GB
5mp rear and 2mp front cameras
5mp rear and 2mp front cameras with LED Flash
Wi-Fi G and N, no 3G
In short, the Thrive is a geek's tablet, and I'm a geek. ...and no iPad for me, so don't even mention it.
For someone else, I would take a look at the Kindle, mostly because of the price. If you want to connect to a television, or have more storage, then I would take a good look at the Toshiba. If it's a gift for a non-techie family member, then I think there is no doubt which one to get, unless you are worried about Amazon selling out of the Fire.
My search today began by looking at the ASUS Eee Pad Transformer, since their keyboard dock adds a full-sized SD slot and two full-sized USB ports, but the price turned me off. One plus there is the long battery life after you add the dock, but that was not a big enough selling point (considering the replaceable Toshiba Thrive Battery). You can also grab a Tablet Keyboard to fill in the gap, and the USB issue can be solved by the Toshiba Thrive Multi-Dock to add an HDMI port and two more full-sized USB ports. Pretty nice.
Today I have another example of Tummeling in architecture, this time I believe in Barcelona, explicitly with social interaction in mind. So many homes are sold on the view from the outside of the building - your front window - but this building takes the rear window into account as well.
I currently live in a single family home near downtown, but if there were buildings like this, perhaps I wouldn't mind the transit up and down to get to my home so much. Living on the ground floor is a luxury I'd be hard-pressed to give up.
When Disney bought the rights to the "main" Muppet characters, I have to say I was a little worried about what they would do with them. I grew up with these characters, and we are now certainly in the second or third generation of many Muppet players, so there are now many reasons for the original vision and spirit to get distilled.
Still - once a fanboy, always a fanboy - I can't get enough Muppet stuff, old or new.
I recently discovered something that was birthed out of the Disney/Muppets merger, namely The Muppets Kitchen with Cat Cora. It started as "Hasty Tasty Cooking Tips" which actually included live cooking demonstrations, and a really lame red buzzer timer to prove to the Internet viewers that this cooking was being done fast. Then they rethought the series and turned it into something more like a sketch from the Muppet Show or Muppets Tonight, but where the cooking seems to be already complete. This has pluses and minuses, and the new version is definitely more entertaining, yet a lot less educational. Still and all, it's worth watching, and I'm glad it exists.
The Muppets have been doing lots of stuff with the Internet - their YouTube page is prettey damn awesome, and the trailers for the new film "The Muppets" have been alright, but the original Muppet content - music videos - are really where it's at. It was during the release of this latest batch of trailers and music videos that I learned about The Green Album.
Finding this album was like discovering a pot of gold. The big discovery for me was an amazing song called Our World that I had to look up (don't tell!) to learn that it was from Emmet Otter's Jug-Band Christmas, which is one of the few Muppet movies that was not available at my home growing up.
This album has some great tracks, some not-so-great. Andrew Bird's "Bein' Green" totally rocks, as do any songs that were sung by Gonzo in various Muppet films - he may be the George Harrison of the Muppets, and by extension, Dave Goelz. Dave doesn't get as much credit as Jim Henson and Frank Oz, but you can't pull of some of these pieces and characters without being a world-class Muppet performer.
If you're anything like me, you're also a huge Ben Folds fan. Interestingly enough, I haven't watched him host any reality shows - mostly because I hate reality shows - also because I didn't have a TV for much of the time he was getting started with that role. It looks like The Sing-Off has been picked up for a third season. Therefore, I might have to check it out.
Where the release of a Muppet album introduces me to one new song, and makes me fall in love again with others, this one does that times three. As a superfan, I own many of these songs already, like all the ones from movie soundtracks and a few (un)official bootlegs or live cuts, but it's nice to have them here - a cool thing is the re-uniting of the Ben Folds Five lineup to record a few tracks that were written, never released. These are songs that were only available as bootlegs or leaked demos in the past - I'm excited to be able to have a decent version of Amelia Bright and Tell Me What I Did, for example. Then when I see a list of credits like this after a song:
Because the Origami (with 8in8 - Ben Folds, Amanda Palmer, Neil Gaiman and Damian Kulash)
...it makes my Spidey-Sense tingle. What can I say?
As International Talk Like a Pirate Day is coming up, I am in the midst of my annual preparations for our 3rd Pirate Party. This year is probably the most organized we've been about the affair. I've learned a few things in the past few years putting on these events, so I thought I would share some tips here for making your party a success.
Pick a good date. This year's Sept 19th falls on a Monday, which works well for holding a party at the office, but not so well for a party with friends. We tend to choose a Friday or Saturday for our festivities.
Dress like a pirate. For the past few years, Target has had a selection of foam swords in their $1 section, in preparation for Halloween. In fact, the idea of holding Talk Like a Pirate Day was a stroke of genius by the creator, because it makes getting a hold of costumes much easier.
Encourage guests to dress up too. The first year we held the party, we put a lot of emphasis on the "talking" like a pirate, not much on dressing. In later years, we've made sure to mention it in invitations.
Music can set the mood.I've done some research into MP3s available through Amazon, and built up a wish list for possible future purchases. If I can only recommend one, it would be the double album Rogue's Gallery: Pirate Ballads, Sea Song And Chanteys It features recordings of many "classic" pirate songs by modern artists, some well known for making music, like Bono and Sting, as well as obscure guests John C Reilly and Ralph Steadman. With few exceptions, every song here has an old world feel which could really help set the mood for your party. Something I found on my journey that is not very "traditional" pirate or seafaring music, but still beautiful is Alela Diane's The Pirate's Gospel. For a full wish list, check out my Pirate Songs Wish List. (Listmania Lists can't have MP3 Downloads for some reason)
Pirate Games.Pirate Fluxx is a great variant on the Looney Labs classic of ever-changing rules with a few extra goodies thrown in like the Scurvy card. There are also countless Pirate Board Games, such as Avalon Hill's Sword & Skull, which a friend gave me one year. I've also thought of putting together a "pin the eyepatch on the pirate game." All you'd need is a photo of any celebrity (black out a tooth or two and scribble on a beard with a magic marker) and a piece of black construction paper with some Scotch tape.
Visit the Party Store. We got some great stuff at a party supply store as well as our local Hobby Lobby - props like a fishing net, cupcake holders, toothpicks with flags on them, cocktail accessories and much more. We also have a huge sign one our front door warning "Baware of Pirates".
Visit the Flea Market. I found an awesome brass flagon with a glass bottom, and we also found an old cigarette lighter that looks like a pistol.
Drink Pirate Drinks. I found several drink recipes online with neat names like "Bilge Water", "Crow's Nest" and "Foul Weather". There are also many competing recipes for Grog out there.
Eat Limes. We normally go for a few tropical fruits - we make something called a Hawaiian Wedding Cake, which has pineapple and coconut in it, as well as serving sliced pineapple and anything with fresh lime. Maybe next year we'll spring for some Key Lime cupcakes.
Get inventive with the food. Trying to research what pirates ate didn't get us anything interesting, so we decided to make it up. We get these mini-quiche from the wholesale store and stick some of the Jolly Roger toothpicks in them - they almost look like little boats. My philosophy is that if you have access to all the world's oceans, then you could really put anything on the menu, since you're currently "at port" during your party. Eating what they would have had after long weeks at sea is mostly maggoty bread and meat. Wasa is my preferred hard tack, if you must know.
Make your own costume. You will be more satisfied with your costume if you buy a real shirt and a separate hat, and then just wear some black dress pants or jeans instead of getting a cheap Jack Sparrow costume - they fall apart, don't fit well, and don't look good either. There is a costume shop near our house that had some great peasant shirts, and I used a piece of scrap fabric to make myself a bandana and a sash for around my waist. Some of the cheap "boot toppers" will go a long way too. Since we have this party every year, I am slowly building up a costume that is much nicer by purchasing one new piece a year. Last year it was a cool telescope with stainless steel and leather trim from Hobby Lobby. A fake earring and a cheap eye patch can help too for a male costume. For the female costumes, you may need to be more of a tomboy, unless you want to be a slutty pirate or a bar wench.
Mood lighting. Lanterns, candles, and tastefully placed lights can certainly help a costume party of any kind. Seeing everyone in stark light is not as good as something a bit more subdued - let the imagination fill in the details.
Nametags? We are going to try nametags with your chosen Pirate Name this year to see if that helps the theme out. Results TBD.
Provide Dress-up accessories for guests. Make sure you aren't making it too difficult for your guests to participate. We decided the nametags with some pre-selected names and having a few dress-up items like eye patches, temporary tattoos, earrings, etc can help people get involved without investing in a costume of their own.
Have fun. Don't stress out. I recommend setting a budget, and planning to stick to it. You can always do it bigger and better next year!
The most popular (and free) system for web analytics has got a new interface, so I decided to give a quick tour of the home screen and share three widgets I like to use to get an overview of the activity on my websites.
This list is by no means exhaustive, but these are things I am interested in right now:
find out how many people are accessing my site from mobile devices, or not from Mac/Windows/Linux operating systems at least
find out the most popular keywords bringing traffic to my site, and how many of the visitors are new (this month)
find out what are the most popular pages on the site, and how often that is the only page someone visited (bounce rate).