SoMD GiveCamp in the BayNet and ColdFusion Art

I’ve been learning ColdFusion recently. I quickly realized the potential to use it to generate images. I posted some algorithmic art generated with ColdFusion. It’s nothing too extravagant, just a fun creation from a beginner at ColdFusion. Check it out, on my facebook fan page. I will release some source code if there is interest. What I like about ColdFusion is that a web designer could use it to make randomly generated backgrounds (that is, web page backgrounds that have slight variations from visit to visit, backgrounds that are different for each viewer). I wonder why this (backgrounds affected by randomization) don’t get used much in websites…

Also, SoMD GiveCamp was featured in The BayNet.

GiveCamp in the Newspaper

The Southern Maryland GiveCamp was in the local news!

Volunteering isn’t always about stuffing envelopes or sorting cans.

This past weekend, 100 computer experts donated their time to design Web sites and other products for local nonprofit organizations during the first Southern Maryland GiveCamp. Inspired by similar events held… read more

GiveCamp Day Three

By Sunday morning, the slow connection speeds had increased significantly. I came to the folks working on the Discover U Children’s Museum and we got ready on finalizing some graphics for their new website. The product is live already here. The site had a DotNetNuke template, so I did not have to do any coding. I just had to manipulate one of their graphics to conform to the layout that had already been established.

I was told (before the event began) that I would probably not have to do any coding (I would just do straight graphic design). This prediction came true. This seemed to be the case for most of the designers. The CMSs used for the projects all had templates available to them, and every project utilized a template.

There was an exception with one website. The developers implemented a prepackaged layout (with some of their own modifications to the colors) on Saturday. The customer showed up on Sunday, and changed their mind about the site and so the developers had to take the top half of the website’s old layout and put it on the bottom half of the new proposed layout.

A nonprofit customer I worked with, asking me for my business card during lunch on Sunday. I ran out of business cards during GiveCamp. Guess I should up my ego and carry much more with me next time!

At 12:00pm, we all had to take our hands off and stop for lunch. At 1:00pm, the volunteers presented their projects.  When I have time (tomorrow unless something comes up), I will post some of the final products. The long and the short of it is, the nonprofits got websites that did what they wanted them to do and looked better than the previous websites (for those that *already* had websites, some of them did not have any to begin with).

I learned about using twitter from the Microsoft Evangelist during his Social Media lecture. I will be getting a twitter account soon. I know quite a bit more about twitter now.

GiveCamp was a pretty cool experience. It was worth it. I had fun listening to developers deal with developer problems. At the end of the event, volunteers were randomly selected for prizes. I received an Ultra Flip Video (records video and audio). During the event, I came across some folks who said they wanted to contact me afterward. Great Success!

GiveCamp Day Two

We have exceeded the goal of having 100 volunteers (I believe the final count was 102). This goal means that the event organizer has promised to have his head shaved on a live video stream and then posted on YouTube! In addition, the Microsoft Developer Evangleist who is helping organize this event has promised to have his head shaved into a Mohawk. This should be happening Sunday afternoon. Volunteers are to be randomly selected to receive an XBox with FF13.

A group photo of the volunteers.

I got there today to do work on the layout for a special education group. They needed a layout and they proposed a layout idea which I began work on. There were three CMS (Content Management Systems) being strongly suggested for GiveCamp projects. One of them, Sitefinity, was being used for the site in question.

Apparently, this CMS is pretty easy for the developers (I was told this by the developers); it’s just a matter of drag-n-drop. However, this CMS, like many others, is based on prepackaged templates which dictate the layout. It was pretty late at night when I was informed of how the system worked and its relation to the layout (No big deal. There were some issues with GiveCamp and communcating how exactly the projects were to be executed. It was no one person’s fault. But it’s alright. We had a good group of people who were able to work under tight conditions and be flexible.) There was a group working on a similar project, and they had another web designer work on a layout. He had the HTML and CSS file ready to go, but unfortunately, his layout could not be implemented, because all the elements of the layout have to conform to the template (this is the long and short of it). So, for the layout I was working on, we just put on the brakes for that, and just decided to go with the layout that comes with the Sitefinity template, with a minor alteration to a navigation menu.

At this point, we were pretty short on time (all projects have to be done by Sunday). They had room to insert a banner graphic at the top, so I made one and then I was finished with that project, and let the developers continue from there. I got some stock images from one of the developers, and they were all impressed by what I was able to come up with in just a few minutes.

The internet was still slow, but much faster than yesterday. A developer I was working with on a WordPress based site, was trying to identify problems with the site (the site loads slow, as does the page for the administrators to log in.). But the slow connections prevented us from being able to download the site’s files in order to look at them. But, ya know, this is the first ever GiveCamp event on the East Coast, I’m sure there are many things that can be done to prepare for next time.

There was a site being built on DotNetNuke, with a template for layout. We tried making some changes to the layout, but we unfortunately found out that there were so many boxes (cells, divs, etc.) inside so many other boxes, wrapping around other boxes (it was just a big web of boxes), that it was nearly impossible to make any changes to the layout without starting the whole project from the start. I guess the moral of the story is that prepackaged layout solutions for websites can be good, but if you want to customize, well, things may get very messy, visually.

I was sitting in a room full of developers who were using Sitefinity for the first time, and were learning from it. There were quite a few people there who had to step outsie the boundaries of comfort, step outside what they were used to. Myself included.

Tomorrow, I’m going to be working on enhancing the layout and some graphics for the site of a children’s educational group. The site’s built in DotNetNuke, so I get to play around with some HTML and CSS (and who knows what else) and see what happens to it in DotNetNuke.

Anyway, I’m trying to keep this one short actually, so… can’t wait til we all get to show off our projects during the closing ceremonies!

SoMD GiveCamp Day One

There was a tent, but the weather outside was so good that people hung out outside without any tents.

We had the opening ceremony. The nonprofit groups presented. They told us about their organization while we waited for dinner. Thankfully they (most of them) had a grasp on the concept of presenting their info in timely manner. They are giving us free food the whole time. Tonight it was Long John Silvers and I tried their chicken (regret it). Developers were assigned to specific projects, while DBAs and Designers were told that they would be “pooled”; the nonprofits would share them.

I found one group whose website was in need of a color shift. It’s a relatively complex site published on WordPress. They are doing different things with their site, like an e-commerce app. We are seeing what we can do to make the stie run more efficiently.

Not much was done today (almost nothing other than talking to customers). Unfortunately, the wireless internet access there was providing a slow connection. Really slow. I’ll cross my fingers for the internet access to work better tomorrow, so we can get some stuff done.

Other than that, I had nothing to do, so I walked around looking for work. I found something. I also will be helping out to enhance the GUI for two learning disability websites.

Give Camp and ColdFusion

I’m going to the Southern Maryland GiveCamp tomorrow to contribute my graphic design skills. I’ll be posting from there tomorrow and Saturday and maybe Sunday. This seems to be a much bigger event than originally planned. I was supposed to be the Head Judge for the Pokémon TCG State Championship for Maryland this Saturday, but unfortunately, I registered for GiveCamp long before the info about the State Championships was available. Oh well, I can always judge at States next year, but this is the first GiveCamp ever on the US East Coast!

I am in the middle of learning ColdFusion, which is a programming language commonly used by web developers. While figuring out how it works (ColdFusion makes a lot of sense for folks like me who already know HTML) I have been thinking of various ways to use it now, while still at a beginner level. During the past few days, I’ve made some computer-generated art exclusively with ColdFusion. I was thrilled to see this kind of potential in ColdFusion code. I will be posting the results of my experimenting to my facebook page.