2013 SoMD GiveCamp Day Three

Two of the projects I contributed to:

There were lots of great things done this weekend. Mostly just websites and one mobile app. One of the volunteers was assigned to a nonprofit whose representative did not show up and walked around asking if anyone wanted a mobile app. It was kind of funny because the same thing happened last year as well. And the mobile app turned out pretty well. One organization had a website that was built in 2002. The website got ported into a new system and the news posts dating back to 2002 were archived on the new site. Gotta love modern technology!

An unreadable clock
This was in the room I was working in.

Just like previous years, nice to see a bunch of IT professionals sitting close together in a room and cutting up, having a good time, and telling a bunch of NSFW jokes!

Funny sign.
Funny store sign near the college. Looks like they're pandering.

2013 SoMD GiveCamp Day Two

WordPress is #1! The project I’m working on is altering the CSS, images, and HTML markup for a wordpress site. Later I’m working on a DotNetNuke site. Yesterday we had Papa John’s for dinner. Today we had Subway and Chic-fil-a.

How does it work

All the food is paid for by the event’s sponsors. We don’t have Microsoft sponsoring us this year and letting SoMDGC give away an Xbox to a random volunteer. This is not a big deal. The lack of door prizes this time around is an indicator that these 40 volunteers sure as heck are not here just cos they want an Xbox.

2013 SoMD GiveCamp Day One

Made the drive over to SoMD once again. GiveCamp is once again in St. Mary’s City, MD at St. Mary’s College of Maryland. The county is named “St. Mary’s” too if you felt ya didn’t hear the word “St. Mary’s” enough times!

Okay, we got 40 people this year. The event organizer noted willingly that this was a far cry from the 100 we had in 2010. This does not make the group any less passionate! 2 of the 10 non-profits were no-shows, so some of the volunteers get to be spread around.

Assignments are going to be given. Looking forward to seeing what they’ve got for me to do!

SoMD GiveCamp 2012 Free Stuff

The door prizes for the volunteers included free software, gift certificates for restaurants, and even an Xbox!
Did not win anything, but had a ninja ball thrown my way!

Always great to get shirts!

Close up view of the shirt

SoMD GiveCamp 2012: Applications Now Open!

If you have a non-profit organization that could benefit from any kind of Information Technology services such as: creation of a website, application (web, mobile, client), electronic database, please contact GiveCamp. Even if it turns out you don’t need their help, it doesn’t hurt to ask.

SoMD GiveCamp 2011 group photo.
GiveCamp is an event where IT professionals such as DBAs, Web Designers, and Programmers, devote a weekend to providing services for free to local non-profits. Organizations often need to store, retrieve, and sort information. Sometimes they just need a way for members to communicate with one another. Sometimes they just need a website. GiveCamp can give a hand. SoMD had one in 2010 and 2011, and we are set to do one for 2012 as well!

SoMD GiveCamp Day Two (4/2/2011)

Turns out I didn’t have anything too interesting to say right on the spot while I was recording, so I nixed the audio report.

I spent day two mostly figuring out how dotnetnuke’s skin system works. A “skin” is a series of files that are installed into an existing dotnetnuke website that control the arrangement of the elements on the page and all of the design. I was deciding whether I wanted to make my own or modify an already-existing one. I decided to make one from scratch.

I felt a little jealous. The technical team working in the room next to mine built a site in WordPress and was done with building their site already, about 20 hours before the deadline.
Wordpress > dotnetnuke!

SoMD Give Camp 2011

I’m at GiveCamp; things will start up in about 10 minutes. I will be documenting each of the three days, Friday/Saturday/Sunday, and posting them here as an audio blog.

Can’t wait to see what they got for me to do!

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!