Adventure Development


Finally back home from the OUTC18 conference which took place in Anaheim this year. This is now the third OUTC that I have attended and I continue to come back impressed. Getting to meet and discuss not only colleagues from other schools, but also the development and support staff is very beneficial.

The flight over wasn’t too bad. I did feel quite lousy for a good part of Sunday after the flight which unfortunately is the norm for me with travel. But, I was able to get close to normal after a In-N-Out Burger courtesty of OmniUpdate at their welcoming/registration. So within a few hours I did check off a big to-do from my California list within the first few hours. Not too shabby.

Monday had some solid sessions. The opening keynote and panel discussion were interesting. Learned about some new offerings from OmniUpdate and also got some insights as to where some folk think things are going.

I also took part in a Feedback meeting with members of the OmniUpdate development team and a colleague from Dartmouth. It was nice that the OmniUpdate folks took the time to learn about our longterm goals and how they may be able to address them in the future. I did appreciate their time.

Later that evening OmniUpdate had invited us to dinner in Disney California Adventure and we had a few hours to walk around the park. I didn’t go on any rides as there really wasn’t much time, but walking around and taking everything in was pretty interesting. Radiator Springs from the Cars movie really stood out as well as A Bug’s Life were interesting too.

Day two I presented early in the morning. I felt pretty tired and lousy as I just hadn’t adjusted to the travel, time zone shift and the lack of sleep. I don’t feel as though my presentation went very well, and was through my slides in about 15 minutes (for a 45 minute presentation). However, we went over the allotted time with some excellent questions and answers. It was great to be able to give advice to other schools looking to successfully migrate in a similar manner as we did recently.

The Tackling Quality Control with XSL had some excellent suggestions that we will certainly look into, and Turn OU Campus into a Marketing Machine really got me excited to try out Google Optimize. Both those sessions really stood out to me as something we could certainly benefit from.

I did enjoy the workshops more this year than in years past. I’m not sure if they were better or if I was just better prepared with a couple years under my belt. I certainly learned a lot and am eager to share with the team.

Wednesday night was the Hackathon. Even though I was on the winning team last year, none of my teammates were to be found as this year’s OUTC. So I asked a random guy who was sitting alone if we wanted to team up with me. Our team was formed.

We bounced around a few ideas, but thought that leveraging the Google Vision API (which is amazingly powerful) to suggest or apply alt tags to images would be pretty amazing. If you feed the Google Vision API and image it will analyze it and suggest what it thinks the image is. We testing a dog photo out. Not only did it respond that is was a dog, but it also responded that it was a golden retriever. We were sold.

With only a few hours to work with, we split up the tasks and went right to work. Ryan was developing the Gadget that we would use within OU Campus and I went to work on the Google Vision API portion.

While we realized that we weren’t going to be able to complete the task by the deadline, we did focus on getting the core functionality done, so that we could demo the power of what we thought we were only by leveraging that particular API.

The 7 or 8 teams gave their short presentation then the judges left the room to pick a winner. While they were gone, I was pretty sure that the team that developed the file lock would win, with maybe the Insights project.

The judges returned and after a group drumroll announced that the Google Vision team had won. Both my partner and I sat there looking around for several seconds. We both assumed that they had announced another team as we winner. We were truly shocked and not prepared for that. It was an extremely fun time and felt pretty great to be able to win the Hackathon again.

All in all it was a very beneficial conference, and one that I was very glad to attend. While I wasn’t as impressed with Anaheim as I have been with San Diego or LA, it was still a pretty amazing adventure and the weather was perfect (even though I was indoors for almost all of it). Great and very useful time.


Vote My Vote

Vote My VoteI’ve been busy doing some work for a really cool site, Vote My Vote. It’s a really cool community voting site for TV’s most popular shows. You sign up and they go through the hassle of calling in your vote for you. While I rarely watch any of those type of shows, I do have to admit I think it’s a very slick idea.

I primarily assisted with some Joomla development and configuration. Someone had been doing that role before me, so coming into a project that someone had already begun had it’s challenging moments (a white error screen of death for instance). But solving their issues and helping deliver a really cool finished (or very close to being finished) product was very gratifying.

I haven’t met a single member of the team who worked on this site in person, nor even spoke on the phone. It’s really amazing how people from all over can successfully collaborate on a project. I was fortunate to work with an extremely talented bunch of individuals on this project.

The primary tasks I assisted with were:

  • setup and the automatic population of the blog. We used the CorePHP WordPress MU component to help us with this.
  • Community Builder user registration. Ummm, there were moments I despised you Community Builder, but in the end we figured you out and you are doing your job.
  • Pulling in the latest forum posts to their respective areas.
  • Good deal of assist with other Joomla odds and ends. My hands got dirty with much PHP on this project. It was lots of fun.

Check out, and let anyone you know who’s addicted to those reality shows about it.


Learning Joomla! 1.5 Extension Development

If you’re looking to create extensions for Joomla! 1.5 then you should really check out Learning Joomla! 1.5 Extension Development. I had a project that required a custom component to be created, and the online documentation wasn’t really as good as I’d of liked it to of been.

So I went looking to see if any books had been published recently on extension development. Learning Joomla! 1.5 Extension Development got some decent review online, and I was really stumped with creating my component. So a copy was ordered.

The book does an excellent job of building an extension that makes use of most of the features that would be found in a typical extension. Covering, components, modules, as well as plugins.

With it’s focus on MVC practices, this at first seemed like overkill to me, but once all the features were piling up, it really paid off.

The chapters on creating the admin end of a component were extremely valuable to me. My client now has an easy to use custom component that makes use of the Joomla! admin interface for a seemless CMS experience.


Mullica Hill Skin Care Joomla install/conversion

Just finished up converting Mullica Hill Skin Care’s site to be powered by Joomla. Their site was a series of basic html files setup in Dreamweaver, and the client had used a Joomla powered site in the past and wanted this site to be powered by Joomla as well.

Joomla is an open source CMS (content management system). It’s pretty awesome and has been an excellent solution for many people I’ve worked with.

The site’s design stayed the same, with barely any changes made to the existing markup with the change over. We’ve also included a blog for the client to use too.

“Let me just say thanks again for converting the site so quickly…it’s so much easier to use!!!:)”

There’s some amazing tools available now for site owners, and it’s always great when I can set them up with the right tools to make their lives easier while at the same time having a current site.


NCMPR – Cutting Edge Web Presentation Notes

Thanks to all of you who attended my Cutting Edge Web roundtable discussion. Wow, there were some really great questions, and I learned much from many of you as well.

Below I’ll try and provide more information regarding some of the topics that were brought up:


ok, there was a lot of questions and feedback regarding using and choosing a CMS (Content Management System) during both sessions. A CMS is a huge investment, both time and financially, and not a decision that should be taken lightly.

A great point that was brought up and one that I cannot stress enough is that multiple parties should always be involved when choosing a CMS. The content managers, the folks in IT who will be installing and deploying it, and any other parties. It’s important that the content managers are comfortable using the CMS, so always test drive it thoroughly before committing. Many have demo accounts that you can login to, or if possible install one locally and kick it’s tires.

I also feel that it’s very important that the CMS can easily be expanded by a developer. Even if you don’t have a developer on staff today, you want a system that can be expanded should the need arise. Don’t be tied to propriety software and await new features to become available when the manufacturer gets around to it. Rarely do these companies roll out new features at a pace that will keep up with your needs.

There are some great open source CMS systems out today that are very stable and ready for production use. Setup and maintenance, will require a developer(s) on staff however. These two are my favorites:


The use of flickr was also a very popular topic. I love flickr and $24.95 a year for unlimited storage is one of the best deals you’ll find anywhere. It’s a great resource to share photos, both for internal and external needs.

The flickr uploadr tool is a free tool that makes uploading large amounts of photos a breeze. Download this, it’s simple and does the job.

Be sure to tag your photos, for easy sorting. Tagging really makes navigating through thousands of photos a breeze rather than a tedious chore.

There’s also a free flickr badge that you can easily create and then paste into your website. This is pretty cool and a very easy way to incorporate your flickr photostream with a website. There’s also an amazing API available too.

Easy Widget Generation

I mentioned some easy and free widget generators to incorporate popular web services into your existing site.

Meta Tag and Search Engine Ranking

Google does not use the Meta keyword tag in ranking. It’s still good practice to use meta keywords on your site, however don’t go crazy in hopes of increasing search engine ranking with it.

Google Webmaster Tools provides a great list of guidelines to follow for accurate search results.

Flip Video Camcorder

The Flip Video Camcorder(s) are a really affordable way to capture, edit and share web quality video. They’re tiny, transfer video to your computer via a built in USB jack, have built in editing software (I prefer iMovie) and shoot very good video for their low price ($150-230).

Please let me know if there’s anything other questions or if you have something more to share!


Joomla! 1.5

JoomlaBeen messing around a bit recently with Joomla! as a CMS (content management system) solution.  I’ve very much impressed thus far, this is a great CMS solution.  Especially for medium to large sites.

The whole section, category, article form or organization took a little bit to adjust to.  But once you make sense of that, this really makes a lot of sense.  Plus the admin portion has a polish to it that you don’t see on many commercial CMS solutions, let a lone an open source one.  I think that most content managers would feel very comfortable working with articles to manage the content on a site.

Think I’m good with creating a custom template.  Now I’m going to have to try and create my own custom component or extension.