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.

Adventure Design Development

OUTC 17 Day 1 and 2

mpus is the CMS solution that we use at work, so it’s always exciting to go and learn as much about it as possible. This year I was also presenting, so that made things a bit more exciting as well.

The flight in wasn’t too bad. Typically in the past I wind up feeling pretty sick after such a long flight, but this time around wasn’t so bad. I did eventually get a bad headache later that first night, but nothing nearly as bad as how I had felt in the past. So that was a plus.

The conference took place at the Paradise Point Resort and Spa in San Diego. It’s a very pretty and unique location. It’s on an island in Mission Bay, and all the rooms seem to be little bungalows scattered throughout the island. Not the traditional 20 story hotel. It’s pretty nice. Palm trees, beaches, pools and little ponds all over the place. Very scenic and fun to just walk around and take it all in.

The opening keynotes were pretty interesting. Not as interesting to me as last year, as we’re not brand new to OU Campus any longer, but still well done. The sessions on days one and two weren’t as interesting as last year for the same reasons, but meeting everyone and discussing similar issues and solutions is always very helpful, and I’ve been enjoying doing that.

I do seem to be having some sort of allergy out here. I awoke Monday morning with my right eye nearly completely shut. I suspect it’s a reaction to some plant/pollen out here, but who knows. There’s many new variables in play for me out here. I was a bit bummed that I have had to wear my glasses more than I’d like, especially when I was presenting. But oh well, it’s better than my eye getting irritated further.

My presentation took place on the first day at 3:15 pm. It was titled, Surviving the Migration from Homegrown CMS to OU Campus. I went over how we had gone through our migration. The audience was primarily individuals who had not migrated yet, so it was the ideal audience. I don’t present too often, and this was the first time I had to wear a mic when presenting, but I must admit I wasn’t nervous at all.

Per a random request I played elevator music that I had found on YouTubTube leading up to the presentation. It think the silliness calmed what little nerves I may have had going in. The presentation went fairly well and lasted the full 45 minutes. I didn’t notice anyone who left the presentation early, and there were many questions at the end that were a pleasure to answer.

At the end I had several people come up to me afterwards and thank me for speaking in a language that they understood. They are going through a very similar situation and sharing our success and regrets was very beneficial to them. It felts nice to be of help.

Later that night we had a steamboat dinner cruised through Mission Bay. They bused us from our hotel to the steamboat where we got on and for a few hours calmly went around the bay. It was pretty nice and definitely a unique thing for me. The food was solid and the company entertaining. A fun little trip.

Checking out a some more sessions on Tuesday and looking forward to the workshops and hackathon to come later in the conference.


Adventure Development

Drupaldelphia 2014

Took the PATCO again to Drupaldelphia yesterday. It’s really a great Drupal and just overall tech gathering, with a lot of higher ed folks. Which is really great to meet some peers who face similar issues as I am at work.

The trip was so much easier that it was last time around for me. I knew to bring exact change and not a $20 to the station to get my pass (change is given from the machine in $1 coins, I have no idea what to do with a $1 coin). I also knew which way to insert my ticket as well. Apparently last time was quite the disaster know that I mull it over a bit.

I got there right on time and saw Jesse from Atlantic Cape who is in the position I once held. We discussed work, shared ideas, and joked of co-workers and situations that clearly don’t change. Fun times, he’s a good guy.

I took in the following sessions:

  • Keynote – pretty interesting discussion with 4 folks. They had some very valuable ideas.
  • How to make Drupal NOT look like Drupal – this was  a solid session on theming. I’m interested to see his slides and code once posted on the site.
  • Using Git to Manage Deployents/Updates – uhhh, this one wasn’t for me. I left after a few minutes and went to …
  • Drupal Security Made Simple – though I arrived late, this one had some very useful modules to consider in securing a Drupal site. Oh and never hack the core!!!
  • Migrate Magic: An Overview – I still have to master the migrate modules. This session was helpful, but I just need more hands on practice.
  • Building Beautifully Complex Content Types – the presenter was very entertaining, but I found much of what he discussed to be bad practice. I hope nobody walked away with bad habits.

I started my first every BOF (Birds of the Feather) session. I picked up a magic marker and wrote “higher ed” in the 3:30 time slot. I had no idea if anyone else besides Jesse and myself would show up, and we were pleasantly surprised to find a table full of folks attending our BOF session!

This was probably the most useful thing of the entire day. A bunch of higher ed web folks exchanging war stories and sharing their success and pitfalls. We all went around asking the group questions, and pretty much at least on of us had been though it and had some sage like advice. It was pretty great. Very glad I picked up that marker and wrote on that board!

For lunch I met up with first ballot Honey Badger hall of famer and Atlantic Caper great Lauren. She works a few blocks from there and we dined at the Hard Rock Cafe. I’d never been to one of them, so it was a true adventure for me. Felt like old times lunching again, and it was pretty great to get caught up in person. I did smuggle a really ugly Drupaldelphia t-shirt for her for taking the time out of her busy schedule to meet me for lunch.

All in all a pretty great and useful adventure. Looking forward to more conferences and continuing to be more active when at such events.

Adventure Development

Edu Web Conference Day 2

Edu Web Conference 2008
4:10 PM

Wow I feel really worn out.  Maybe it was that presentation that just ended.  Wasn’t too interesting to me, and I won’t mention in case that person might be reading this.  Think I’m going to one more presentation then will call it a day.  There was some pretty interesting things discussed.  The cloud computing was great, that’s something that I’m sure I’ll be using.  The AJAX demo was nice too, nothing new to me but talking to the guys afterwards was good.  It’s not too often I can talk to someone about AJAX, Javascript, PHP, and frameworks without having to explain what all that stuff is.

2:09 PM

Uploaded some photos to Flickr.  Have a few more to upload but my connection is timing out often.  I’ll try again in a little bit.  Went outside to the deck for a little bit.  Nice to get outside for a bit and away from computers and air conditioning.

1:21 PM

Just ate lunch.  Food was kinda weak.  I made myself a sundae.  

11:30 AM

I asked a question during a presentation on AJAX.  Wanted to know what YUI components were used on their site.  Doesn’t seem like there are many developers in the room.

10:53 AM

Just finished up watching a presentation on cloud computing.  I thought it was pretty cool.  I’ll have to check out Jungle Disk.  I have had an account with Amazon Web Services for a while, but now am motivated to go out and actually build something with it.

9:02 AM

Just saw Geoff.  He’s hanging out with the marketing track.  I’m now at a presentation on the development track.  I’m sitting next to Bob who I used to work with.  Didn’t expect to see anyone I knew here, so it’s cool to have someone to talk to about some of this geeky stuff.

8:04 AM

Took the tunnel here today.  Tunnels are very cool, never seem to get old to me.  Just ate some breakfast.  With a word like continental before it you’d think it’d be a bit nicer.  Oh well, the cinnamon bun thing was really good.  And the orange juice and fruit were good too.  It wasn’t the bad kind of orange juice and that’s a good thing.  I’m sitting at a table with some people who make me feel like a social butterfly.  I think I actually started a conversation or two.

Adventure Development

Edu Web Conference Day 1

Edu Web Conference 2008Today was the first day of the Edu Web Conference.  Conveniently it’s at the Trump Marina in Atlantic City this year, so it’s only a few minutes away.  I figured that I’d take Delilah Road out there and shoot right out to the marina district, but of course there’s some major construction going on and the road is closed.  So I had to turn around and took the Black Horse Pike instead.  Not too big of a detour.

I got there with plenty of time to spare so I checked out a few of the vendors set up in the lobby.  It seemed to be mostly CMS vendors and email marketing solutions.  Nothing too interesting there.  While both still have their uses I think they are in the twilight of their usefulness.  Open source CMS solutions are really getting mature at this stage and spam is really killing the effectiveness of email in my opinion (and that of the presenters too).

There were a lot of people there, I’d guess around 400-500.  Some came from far away.  Chatted with a friendly chap most likely from Ireland, and apparently there’s some folk all the way from New Zealand there as well.  Didn’t appear to be too many typical educators in the crowd (I will have to explain that type another day), mostly younger web people and some marketing people tossed in there for fun too.  I’d recommend purchasing some Apple stock as the majority of laptops there were Macs and the iPhone seemed to be brought up a lot.

 The opening presentation was pretty good.  It was titled “It’s the End of the Web as We Know It Redux” and was presented by Mark Greenfield, Director of Web Services, University at Buffalo.  He discussed the web in relation to higher education and where he thinks it’s going.  I did happen to share the majority of his visions, so it’s nice to know someone out there is on the same page with such topics.  His presentation can be found on his website.

Humorously the discussion of how they have their college catalog available online now was dead on with the views I happened to bring up in a little debate that was going on last week.  So it’s reassuring to hear that we have the same idea of sharing such information with our students that other institutions share.

In a room packed with big four year institutions, it’s great to know that our communtiy college by the shore is hanging with them if not ahead of most regarding our role on the web.  I had no idea where we stacked up with these schools living in my little bubble, but have to admit with the resources at hand we’re hanging in there and leading in some areas.  I guess that’s why I was just rewarded with a 4% raise, oh wait a minute so was everyone else…

After the presentation I hung out in the developers lounge for a little bit.  There were some guys in a dark room typing away on laptops and discussing mostly social networking and the implementation of CMS’s.  There were a lot of accents in that room, so I’d guess it was sponsored by some UK corporation.  I’ll have to ask tomorrow.  The late presentation didn’t really interest me too much so, I decided to leave at that point.  I was able to locate my car in the parking garage with no problems (I’ve had some disasters doing such in the past).

I’ll go back tomorrow morning and blog about anything interesting as well.  I’ll try and remember to bring a camera too and share some photos.