Tags: tech

Silly - Dirty Face

Lullabot Lightening

This week the Lullabot Drupal company are in Portland teaching classes. With one or two exceptions, they are about the most respected company out in Drupalland. Aside from training and conferences, their people contribute Drupal modules, work on Drupal core, author books on Drupal (including the best selling book ever), and produce regular podcasts which they supplement with DVDs, blogs and other activities. Whenever they are in town they host the local Drupal User Group, and last night was the latest installment. Most of their team were present and they are a lovely and lively group. Several of them now live in Portland, including cofounder Matt (@mettamatt) and DVD-maker Kent (@kentbye). The format was lightening talks and several of their people spoke. It was one of the best lightening talk sessions I've ever been to.

Lullabot cofounder Jeff (@jjeff) gave us an awesome (and really funny) presentation on Beauty Tips. Ironically this is a Javascript library, not part of Drupal at all, though it is part of jQuery which is Drupal's JS weapon of choice (and should be yours too). It is a pretty nifty little tool that you can use to create rollover balloon-help style tooltips for any element on your web page, in many styles, including Netflix and Google Maps style. You can see an excellent demo of how it works that includes the ability for you to both see the html and jQuery code and edit it right there on the page. Yes, one example involves images. Way cool. There is also a Drupal module out there, though it is not written by Jeff and is still in development.

Nate (@quicksketch) demonstrated some of the excellent work he's doing on Drupal image modules. He'd come up with a far superior method for wysiwyg editors to handle image uploads (versus IMCE) which he says will be available in a week or two. He was doing all of this work because he disliked the image assist module and its use of image. His module recipe included: filefield, image field, image cache, image resize filter (auto resize), FielField Sources and FileField Insert (the module he intends releasing soon - EDIT: The module is released here). He was also using the wysiwyg (api) module of course.

This looked really awesome. There was much coolness here, but for me the best thing about it was that users will be able to use the wysiwyg editor the same way they use a word processor. Normaly this is a bad thing because they upload a giant image, then resize it in a wysiwyg editor so that it looks like a thumbnail, but the truth is the original massive image is loading every time the page loads and HTML is resizing it. With his module, when they resize an image file it will automatically create a resized version of that image that will be saved on the site. Now, what you see in your images really is what you get. This setup will also prevent you from deleting an image in use elsewhere on the site and will allow you to upload an image to your site from another site, without having to download it to your desktop first. Great work.

Angie (@webchick) then gave us a Drupal 7 overview. There was a lot of cool usability stuff to see, but from what Dries said about Drupal 7 (that most of the usability issues will be resolved) I expect much more to come. Drupal 7 is going to be much easier to use and is going to require PHP 5.2 in order to achieve this. It's going to do silly things like automatically handle daylight saving time, automatically include CCK into user profiles, simplify permissions, etc. Not mentioned, but of great import, two colleges were hired to do very advanced usability studies on Drupal and Dries has committed to not releasing Drupal 7 until 90% of the issues they raised have been resolved. With usability improvements added to the technical awesomeness we enjoy, Drupal 7 should be amazing.

Local Drupalers were also well represented. Even the novices contributed. One guy showed off Artisteer, a theme generator for Drupal, Joomla, Wordpress and others. It is Windows only, but at $130, a good solution for smaller web pages with low budgets. I doubt it will create themes that do things "the Drupal way", but it was worth further investigation for sure.

Steve (Wonder95) showed us some interesting combinations of Panels (iffy in Drupal 6), Views and Taxonomy, along with Hierarchical Select and nodequeue, to auto-load content pertinent to the option chosen. It seemed pretty nifty and related to some things I myself will need to do on a current project.

Mike (@mikey_P) spoke about his Drupal project for the Google Summer of Code, Drupal analytics - project analytics. I'm looking forward to seeing plenty more on that one. Analytics work best when they understand the vagaries of their platform. Google analytics is a one-size fits all solution, but this one will let you keep your own data (rather than give it to Google) and will allow for Drupal-specific handling.

Bill from FunnyMonkey (@funnymonkey) also demonstrated some awesome work they are doing on a Drupal theme (Called Annex I believe) that will allow you to get the most from two or more other Drupal themes by effectively combining them. Theming is not my strong suit, but it seemed pretty awesome. Apparently (@dvessel) is the wizard who worked that magic. Making life easier for themers is vital for Drupal, so efforts like this are great to see.

Afterwards, Alex (effulgentsia) from CraftySpace, who had lacked an adapter to make a formal presentation, showed some of us his amazing Body Builder module, which he hopes to finish in the next month. It provides a simple way to build complex pages with variable content. It looked pretty damned awesome. agrathea and I also realized that we'd been using another very useful module he wrote (flexifield), which he also hopes to finish up soon. Keep your eye out for those.

Also overheard from Angie (@webchick), a strong recommendation for the module Quick Admin Modules, a module to simplify the sometimes tiresome activation and deactivation of nested modules.

A pretty awesome evening. Great information, excellent company and chips and dips for Cinco De Mayo... and incredibly good brownies made by the hotel catering staff. It's always a good time when Lullabot come to town. I never miss them... and desperately wish I could have afforded to take their classes.
Silly - Dirty Face

Getting Off My Open Source Ass

I'm submitting a talk to Open Source Bridge - June 17–19, 2009 - Portland, ORI finally knocked my procrastination on its butt and submitted a presentation proposal for a new Portland, OR conference called Open Source Bridge. Scheduled for June 17–19, 2009, it's aimed at developers working with open source technologies and people interested in learning the open source way. Very importantly, to me at least, it's a conference (more organized than a Camp) run entirely by volunteers; by developers, for developers. OSB was created to fill the void left by OSCon, who just left Portland for San Jose. OSCon is a for-profit open source conference, which to me is a contradiction in terms. Volunteer-run fits more with open source.

The current price for OSB is a remarkable $175 (going up to $250 tomorrow! Register now!). By comparison, the current price for OSCon is $1,145, going up to $1,445 at the door, with substantial additional billing for tutorials. OSB also has a great team handling program items and they have a clause that your panel cannot be "spam" - something all too common at tech conferences like OSCon (half the talks turn out to be sales pitches).

Here's the overview of my proposal:
Changing From Proprietary to Open Source: The First Year
What are the challenges a software professional faces moving from the proprietary world of big systems into the web-heavy open source world? Is it as simple as swapping to a new language or a new platform? Is there a mindset change? How big is the learning curve? What will surprise you? For employers, is it as simple as hiring someone smart, motivated and resourceful, or are there greater hidden obstacles?

Anyone out there with personal experiences moving to open source from any other platform, and who is willing to share their experiences with me? I'll do the legwork for the talk in case it is accepted, and either way I'll post an article.

Also, anyone with a little time on their hands, please check out my full proposal and tell me what you think, or offer suggestions for tightening it up.

Finally, for you conrunners out there, the conference volunteers are also building OpenConferenceWare, a web app providing a suite of tools for conference organizers, i.e. their own conrunner software. It's a Ruby on Rails app and I'm very interested to see where it leads.

It's all totally cool and just what I've been waiting for.
Silly - Dirty Face

The PC of 2019

Just read a cool article on the ways we might make use of personal computers in the future. The article is solid and the video is well worth watching, just to get you thinking, though if you're like me you can see several ways that they could take ideas further and flaws galore with the projection idea. Much of it gets back to the old eyepiece idea. Still, well worth a watch. Cool stuff. I'm linking to their TED presentation which is clearer.
Silly - Dirty Face

The African American Web Browser

Did you know that there is a web browser specifically for the African American community? They say it was developed by a team of African American developers, though it would be more accurate to say that their team cloned Firefox and then developed their own look and feel for it. I'm not really sure what I think about this and I can't imagine it working. I'm not the target market, but if I was I doubt I'd see any value in it. What can you really give folks that they can't already get from the bazillions of sites on the web? A filter? Why would I need someone else to filter what I see on the web? Why should I let someone else decide for me what does or does not represent my community? What's next? A Latino browser? A Jewish browser? A Christian one? Probably. Why? Most likely it's an advertising thing, a target/captive market thing, a new ways to get us to irrationally feel loyalty to certain brands. Or maybe I'm just too cynical.

So I have a few ideas of my own, mostly serious:
  • A browser for Rugby (or pick a sport) fans. Centralized news and products for a target audience.
  • A browser for religious/ideological extremists, where a major feature is which sites get blocked (i.e. most of them).
  • A browser for recovering religious/ideological extremists, where instead of "protecting" folks from "awkward" sites, is shows a preference for them.
  • A browser for SF fans
  • A browser for Fantasy fans (separate to assuage SF curmudgeons)
  • A browser for cat lovers (or dogs, or pigs, etc).
  • A web addict's browser, with nagging and time-limits built in to help you limit your online time.
I'm sure you could come up with better. I'm sure the list is endless.
Silly - Dirty Face

Changing pace

Life has been coming from many angles. Two major projects colliding at work and several volunteer projects filling my spare time, and another on the horizon that I'm quite excited about. The latter is a project with other Drupalers to provide a web page to a different nonprofit every month. But part of me is going, "Like dude, quit volunteering." It's kept me away from LJ, and writing. Work has been intense, but manageable intense, nothing like the prior job. Just the kind of thing I've handled standing on my head all career long. I like the team and the place and that makes all the difference.

Last week was OSCon here in Portland, a major tech conference. They call it an open source conference, but any con run for profit is by it's very nature completely opposite to the open source community. Open source is driven by a disproportionate number of freelancers, contractors and small firms, i.e. expensive conferences lock them out. The odd thing is that fan-run conventions like OryCon and Worldcon are also gift-economies run entirely by volunteers who make no profit at all and are completely compatible with open source. I wonder if I can convince some regional fans to run a decent tech conference. I think it's high time giving communities had more overlap. I did a tonne to run a DrupaCamp and a huge part of the success came from things I'd learned from fan-run conventions, and of course because things like this are always easier in a giving group.

Anyway, I avoided OSCon, though my company would have paid, and I just went to evening parties loosely associated with it, and visited a free section to hook up with my peeps at a couple of booths, for all of 2.5 hours. Over those few hours and two evenings I met most of my former coworkers and had some lovely conversations. It was... cathartic. Odd thing that. I'm also getting to know more folks, and becoming better known, within the local open source community, plus I do my best to meet new people, so I had loads of wonderful conversations, including the best part of an hour spent chatting to the inventor of PHP at a really wonderful Drupal party. I got pulled into an impromptu appearance at a Drupal panel and went to the Sourceforge awards and Beerforge, the huge party that followed. Plenty of free quality booze at both events... and me hating booze and drinking water. But the social side was sweet and a reminder of Worldcon.

Ah yes, Worldcon. I'll be in Denver next week for Denvention and I'm looking forward to it. Friendships renewed, conversations galore, hugs, parties, programme... ah, more than I can mention. See this PDF if you don't believe me.


Many of you will be there and I look forward to seeing all of you. And my 41st US State! I did not volunteer this year, which was smart, and I only volunteered for program late on, so I've just the one panel, which is also nice really. So I'm going to have a nice Worldcon, a fan's Worldcon. Easygoing, fun, flexible schedule, etc. Going to try and avoid all the fan politics, which has been thick on the ground of late, and makes me sad. Feels wrong too. Still, there's nothing like a Worldcon, generally the highlight of my year, and it's going to be lovely. We fly out next Tuesday and come back a week later.

That's about it. Basic ramblings. I have been managing to microblog with Twitter for those of you interested in a small glimpse of my days. I'd post them here, but that would annoy some of you. Any of you on Twitter? Let's exchange follows!