Friday, November 17, 2006

Day 4 of Drupal Training

This is cross posted from

Today was the last day of training with Rain City Studios (the name fits the torrents of rain and now turbid undrinkable water plaguing the city) and Bryght.

There were attendees from across Canada and the United States. I was amazed at the breadth of participants. I think (and hope) I have come away with some good contacts, perhaps some friends, but most of all great information.

The last four days have been extremely informative. I believe that what I learned/relearned/confirmed would have taken me 2-4 months to figure out on my own.

In a nutshell what did we cover.

The first day focused on Drupal overview, core functions, themes, and modules.

The second day was a "design for developers" and "development for designers" set of sessions. This gave insight into both sides of the coin.

The third day was a design track where we decomposed the basic ways that Drupal pages are built and function.

The fourth day was review and the building a theme from scratch. I have come quite a long way in putting together my own custom three column theme using a base theme and CSS. I have done almost no style sheet programming in nearly eight years. None-the-less the trainers were patient and in the end I was grasping the design concepts that you need to fall under.

This four days were some of the most informative and valuable training days that I have had since grad school. The material follows a new vision that WESTAF has by way of entering into the realm of Web 2.0. I was gratified to have the opportunity to learn from these guys. Now to apply it practically!

I have started a Flickr Group that has photos from the event. I have hopes that others who attended and gave training will be able to add notes, photos, and tags to it.

Thanks guys. It was a great opportunity and I learned a ton.

Developing with Drupal on the Cheap in the Arts

In every project you have three resources:

1) Time
2) Money
3) People

In every project you can increase or decrease these resources within the limitations you have set either within reality or have arbitrarily set.

When you have time but little money and/or people, Drupal can allow you to develop quite inexpensively using the existing core and contributed modules. The question becomes, do you concentrate on developing a custom interface (theme) first and then make Drupal fit into it, or do you take an existing theme and try to fit your design into it, or do you look at the functionality you want and then develop adapt or use an existing theme that is "good enough".

The desire for aesthetic design in the Arts tends to be pretty high (although I have seen some pretty awful designs).

There are several ways to keep prices down IF you have a high need for a custom look and feel.

You can create a custom launch page that acts as the home page and then use an existing theme that you modify using Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) for internal pages. The challenge here is that most folks do not come through a home page any longer. They use Google or Yahoo to find interesting content and then enter and leave the page from that point.

In other words, in the world of Web 2.0, the homepage is dead.

So working on the cheap, you really have to consider whether you want to spend money on custom designs or try to make do with existing free designs.

Where do you find themes? On the Themes section of Drupal.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Vancouver Training Redux

The last three days have been a remarkable experience. I have very little Drupal experience, but enough to know that the tool is pretty amazing.

Over the last three days I have:

1) Done a, from scratch, Drupal install on my laptop.
2) Learned the basic "Core" functions for Drupal.
3) Learned loading a new module (to increase Drupal functionality)
4) Learned how to load new "themes"
5) Started building a new theme from scratch--perhaps something will come out of it to spice this look and feel up.

I ended up working in CSS--something I haven't looked at in 8 years.

I've created a Flickr group for housing pictures related to this Drupal training. If you're interested, take a gander.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Work Space in Vancouver

Work Space on 21 Water Street is the location for the Drupal Training I wrote about yesterday. This quick video gives you a sense of the space. My only complaint is the flakey wireless network.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Drupal Training in Vancouver

View From Workspace in Vancouver

I am up in Vancouver right now getting a little training using Drupal. The hosts are RainCity and Bryght--both are heavy developers in Drupal.

A couple of months ago when I was up here with several other WESTAF staffers and our then Chair, we met with some of the Bryght guys which helped firm up some opinions I had on Web 2.0.

The current set of meetings are an intensive workshop on engaging in development in Drupal which will hopefully help WESTAF develop new sites and systems in a more efficient manner.

Today we covered setting up a site in Drupal and what the various "out of the box" modules exist. We took a quick look at themes and then had a Question Answer session.

My brain is starting to feel pretty full--and its just the beginning! I'm looking forward to the next three days.

As an aside, there were no fewer than eight Macs in the room with nary a Windows laptop to be seen.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Vancouver Sight--An Umbrella Vending Machine?

I arrived in Vancouver late this afternoon and saw something, which entirely makes sense, that caught my attention and had me chuckling to myself. The airport has a vending machine near the exit to ground transportation that sells umbrellas for $5 each. It appears to work like a pop or soda machine--money in, and the little screw forces the brolly out of the shelf it sits on for retrieval in a door at the bottom of the machine.



Creative Commons

Creative Commons is a licensing scheme that protects your copyright, but allows others to make use of your creative work. I strongly support Creative Commons licensing but also respect the right of creators to control how what they create is used. Creative Commons is sort of like open source but for creative works like music, writing, and visual art. I suppose it could be applied to code as well, as code is copyright when it is put into some kind of permanent form.

Creative Commons reflects the increasingly open nature of the Internet. You will find that many images on Flickr operate under some flavour of Creative Commons. On Revver, you must submit work under creative commons as you agree that others may syndicate your video.

Why would you want to allow someone to syndicate your work? Why would you desire to let go of some of your rights? Sharing allows your work to filter more deeply into the market place. A CC license can be structured to forbid commercial use, so lets say that you take a great picture of a banana flower in Mexico. You upload that image as part of a set on Flickr. Some one sees your flower and really digs it. They use it as wall paper on their computer. A Dole representative sees the banana flower photo and finds out that it is on Flickr. They look it up and see that it is under a CC license but contact you to use it commercially on a new product.


Is this realistic? Yes. In many ways Flickr is becoming a viable alternative to stock photo CDs. My guess is that the companies that sell stock photography are getting a little worried given that millions of images are available on sites like Flickr.

Are my images on Flickr offered under a CC license? Most of them. Some are listed as All Rights Reserved, but it is something I’m changing slowly but surely. I have about 3500 images on Flickr these days and it is taking some time to alter the licensing on them.

One other thing protects me to a certain extent. I have opted to have the largest sized image at 800 pixels on the long edge. It would be fine for printing a snapshot, but not much more.

Why Broadband Matters

When I’m on the road, broadband matters. I like to work in my hotel room—business centres suck for so many reasons. I use Skype as a soft phone to keep in touch with programmers, colleagues at work, and my family. Within North America it is free to make calls using Skype.

Why do I dislike business centres?

1) Insecure
2) They can be non-private
3) You are stuck using their software if no open Internet connections are provided

So many of the systems I work with are Internet based allowing me to work pretty much anywhere I happen to be, but I am STUCK if I don’t have an Internet connection, and dialup just doesn’t cut it.

Broadband matters because it keeps you in touch and allows you to be productive.

Open Source

The power of Open Source is that of thousands of programmers producing some pretty amazing products for free. Some of my favourite open source packages include…

Linux (duh!) Operating System
PHProjekt Project Management
Bugzilla Bug Management
VideoLan Client Video Client
RAR Expander Expansion Software
Audacity Audio Capture Tool

In some ways this makes open source ideal for non-profits. The tools don’t cost much of anything but time. My advice to non-profits thinking about using open source is to think about the cost of deployment. While the software doesn’t cost anything, learning to use it or install it can be a bear. It is often worth the cost to have an “expert” teach you or work with you to ensure deployment goes smoothly.

At WESTAF we have deployed many open source packages and adapted some of the software to serve our particular needs. We make use of contracted programmers to increase our bandwidth to work with our clients and to keep project costs lower.

Working with open source is excellent, but be careful that deployment doesn’t cost more than licensing commercial solutions.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

New Flickr Sets

I've finally got around to managing my flickr sets a little more. There are lots of pictures from Australia and Belgium.



3608 Days of Web Presence. 808 Days of Blogging

I started thinking about my presence on the Web today and I realised that I am approaching a decade of having a personal Web presence. When I started messing around on the Web in 1995 Mosaic was the browser of choice.

So, I've been blogging on Blogger for 808 days today. My first post indicated that I would be using the blog predominantly to post pictures of my art and photos. What started as an attempt to generate interest in my work has morphed into a blending of how the arts non-profit world can make use of Internet technologies and a fair bit of discourse on how technologies can/should direct aspects of arts policy-making.

In the old days I posted pictures on other forums like, now I mostly use flickr to host pictures (although I sometimes use Blogger's tools too) because of the utility of the site.

I am still maintaining my hosted blogger/blogspot account, but am increasingly considering my instance of Drupal living on my virtual server on, my personal domain.

My Web presence using the dogstar domain came into being on January 25 1999 or 2848 days ago. Prior to that I used the Blacksburg Electronic Village. I had a domain in the village starting December 25, 1996 or 3608 days ago. I am quickly approaching 10 years with a Web presence of some type.

Back then I hosted my own Web server on a tiny Apple Macintosh LCIII which I shed only very recently.

What a trip back in time! Let us hope for another interesting decade!

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