presentations

Below is a video of a talk I gave this year at DrupalCamp Colorado that summarized some of the important lessons I've learned after 7 years of freelancing. I do talk about the logistical details like pricing and saving money on taxes, but my big focus is on how to build a vision for the life that we work so hard for. The talk initiated some great conversations afterwards, thanks for everyone who took me aside to share.



I was asked to speak at this year's Career Day at our local high school, and thought it would be an awesome opportunity to skew the vision of young minds towards the possibilities that a work life in web design / development can offer. I did a similar talk a couple years ago at the last career day, and realized that in order to keep these guys from drifting off I had to make a concerted effort to break the third wall.

So, I put together this presentation that basically converts the room into a web development firm and introduces the multiple roles you can take on, all the while building out a spec for a popular web site clone (MySpace was the choice each time). I was really impressed with the kids' willingness to participate, and heard it went over pretty well.

Why you would watch this

I'm posting this video just in case folks out there are called upon to give similar presentations to one of the toughest audiences out there - the significantly-younger-than-you kind. The structure I used is low tech, brings the kids in for approachable tasks, and assigns roles to them based on what skills they see in themselves. I figured that if I could get them to connect what they consider their assets to a job title, it would have a greater chance of sticking in their minds, and when they get to the point of genuinely considering careers, they have at least a starting point. But, who knows, it was at least fun and allowed me to test out some ideas on how to make a presentation more compelling for a younger audience.

Stuff that worked well:

  • I started by asking for a volunteer to videotape the presentation. This insured that at least one student was going to be involved the whole time, and they were indeed the ones that asked the most questions. Plus, it also established a level of trust and broke that third wall immediately.
  • I asked the students what they were good at, and assigned them positions based on that. The idea was to give them a feeling like their positive qualities could have an impact on the roles they play down the road.
  • I gave them name tags and spoke to or about them when describing the position, making it less abstract. Also, if they kept the name tags on, I thought other kids might ask them about it and they'd have to articulate at least something that they learned during the talk.
  • I kept it low-tech, using just a white board. Doing this meant less technical overhead, and maybe making the whole idea more approachable, that you didn't need fancy tools to get a lot of the work done.
  • I practiced maybe 4 or 5 times while jogging to make sure I could fit everything into a half hour. I had to cut a bunch of stuff and really streamline the process to get this to work.



I'm chairing the "Providing Professional Drupal Services" track for Drupalcon San Francisco in April and am looking for interesting sessions and speakers to help seed the Drupalcon sessions list. We already have some great folks on board. Sessions will be opened up for public submissions soon and the earlier your session gets added, the longer people have to vote on them.

So, if you're interested, ping me with your session idea. If you're looking for ideas, I've put together of potential subject matter for my track here, as well as a Drupalcon Talk Idea Generator to get your juices flowing.

Disclaimer and clarification: I posted this with the goal of connecting with people who are thinking about or have already prepared sessions for the track I'm chairing. I'm not in charge of fielding all Drupalcon session proposals and I won't be the one that decides which sessions ultimately get chosen, but I should be able to help folks with the submission process.



Skip to video and slides

A couple weeks ago I put out a blog to garner feedback on why Drupal kicks serious a**, and a big thanks to everyone who responded. I integrated a number of the comments with my own personal experience with Drupal and presented my talk last week to a diverse group of 20 or so web tech people in the local Boise Idaho area. Judging from the audience participation, I think the presentation went really well. I recorded the talk (from two different camera angles, no less!) and am posting the video and slides for folks that are curious about what they missed, or who are interested in giving a similar talk themselves.

I did a little research before hand about how Drupal compares to popular CMSes like Joomla, Plone, Wordpress, ExpressionEngine, and SharePoint. The talk was also directed in many ways to audience members who have rolled their own CMS, because that was my experience coming into Drupal and I found that Drupal solved many of the problems I was attempting to solve myself, but in much more elegant ways.

Drupal kicking butt - Video and slideshow



The format of the talk was "10 ways Drupal (might) kick your CMS's a**", and here are the 10 things about Drupal that stand out to me as particularly steller:

#1 - The Drupal Community

The community is a big part of what keeps me involved in Drupal at the level I am. I helped found and participate in a local Drupal users group, which provides important face-to-face time with other people using the Drupal, and keeps us all abreast of important news in the project. I also talk about regional conferences and Drupalcon, IRC, and leadership in the community.

#2 - Central Module Repository

Drupal keeps all of its modules in one place, unlike many other CMSes. This has many benefits, and has helped to keep significant licensing problems to be an issue in the community. Also, a standard module release process allows both developers and administrators to have a clear path forward with module upgrades and choosing the correct module version for the Drupal version they use

#3 - Drupal is a Framework

For developers, Drupal does a lot of heavy lifting and really lets you get plugged virtually anywhere in the platform. The module structure encourages good coding practices and good organization.

#4 - Drupal is Mature

Drupal has been actively developed for 8 years, and lots of big web sites are using it, like the White House, The Onion, Fast Company, BMG Records, NASA, Warner Brothers and Yahoo Research. Even if you don't understand the nuances of security and scalability, you can point to hear examples of how Drupal must provide a solid framework for both.

#5 - Flexible Data Structures

Drupal allows you to create flexible content, much like Access or Filemaker, and even creates full CRUD (Add, edit, view and delete forms) on the fly. So, storing custom content is easy, and doesn't require any programming or touching the database. (video includes demo)

#6 - Flexible Content Feed Output

Once you have content, you have many options for how you want to output the data. You can pass content filters via the URL or even expose filters to users so they can narrow down content based on whatever criteria you specify. The ability to generate these lists of data via configuration without touching queries or code can be a powerful administrative tool.

#7 - Flexible Path Aliasing

In Drupal, you can specify how you want a path to look based on virtually any information in your content, including title, date, or custom fields. Drupal can handle redirecting duplicate URLs (also called aliases) to a single URL with a 301 redirect to prevent a duplicate content filter in search engines.

#8 - Multi-Language Support

Including another language is trivial, and you can even override content within the same language. There's community infrastructure to support translators even if they don't know how to use, install or develop in Drupal.

#9 - Making Forms is a Breeze

Creating forms in Drupal is as easy as creating content types, and can be done without any programming. If you do need to program a form, however, there is a powerful API which will allow you to generate a secure, robust form in just a couple of steps. There is also a nice utility for generating module configuration forms.

#10 - A Bunch of Other Stuff

Including distributions for intranets and social aggregation, cross-database compatibility, an active usability team, hierarchical taxonomy, a powerful theme layer and AJAX framework.

Post-presentation discussion

During and after the presentation, there were a lot of great questions and discussion about topics like:

  • How does Drupal store content types?
  • Can Drupal work with obscure databases like BDB?
  • How do you create a wiki in Drupal?
  • How much does Drupal break from one version to the next?
  • How difficult is the upgrade process from one Drupal version to the next?
  • How much of this stuff is handled by core Drupal, and how much by contributed modules?
  • What versions of MySQL and PHP are the different Drupal versions compatible with?
  • How many people non-developers use Drupal?
  • Discussion on ecommerce solutions for Drupal



I'm going to be doing a talk in a couple of weeks called "10 reasons why Drupal (might) kick your CMS's a**" to a local group of web tech folks, only a couple of which use Drupal. I have some ideas, but wanted to crowdsource this a bit and see if I can get some input from the community. I have a very limited exposure to other popular CMS's, so any input on comparing and contrasting Jooma, Wordpress and Drupal would be appreciated. Also, any nifty graphs or diagrams that might hit the points home? So far, here are some items on my list:

  • Caching - The various caching tools enable Drupal to perform nearly as fast as static HTML
  • Community - Lots of IRC participation, local user groups, positive leadership
  • No forking - The community hasn't yet reached the point where a schism caused forking.
  • Central module repository - This has meant that all projects are supported in similar ways (version control, issue queues, etc) and that they are GPL compliant. Also, this adds exposure for the modules and they get vetted by the community.
  • Drupal is a programming framework plus a CMS - Drupal does a lot of heavy lifting, and helps you organize your code in a meaningful way other folks can plg into.
  • Drupal modules don't have to hack core to work - As opposed to other CMSs
  • Drupal scales well - And this will only get better with Drupal 7 and the new database layer
  • Drupal is mature - It's been around a while, it's stable and is being supported by a lot of big projects (need some good diagrams here)
  • Extendable data structures (i.e. fields in core) - Makes all data flexible at the interface level

I'd love to have some good visuals for this, and I'd also like to get some ideas on what I might be missing. I will gladly open source this presentation as well once it's complete.

Thanks!



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Several months ago I managed to grab some tickets to Ignite Boise 2 from a friend. It was the most fun I've had watching a live performance in a while. Half of it was the fast-paced, multi-faceted topics and presenters, and the other half was a jam-packed room full of slightly inebriated, vocal participants. It felt like there was no third wall, and that it was more of a sport than a sit-on-your-hands-and-listen gig. So, as my family eagerly awaits the availability of tickets (attendance is free, but you can get tickets to get in early), I decided to go ahead and submit a talk for Ignite Boise 3 in November. I've been on this planet for a while now, and I've gathered enough interesting techniques for getting the most out of living to fill a 5-minute slot.

Life is short, we should be spending more of it doing what makes us happy!

And this talk will summarize just about everything I've learned about how to do just that. In Extreme Productivity, I hope to introduce the uninitiated into a slew of techniques for increasing enthusiasm (the very core of productive living), outline a mindset that attracts opportunity, and lay down some principles - many backed by scientific research - that will help you get more done in the limited waking hours of our life (and maybe even the non-waking ones!). Here's the one-minute bullet-pointed run down of some of the topics I'll be covering:

  • How to fit more in your head without a lobotomy
  • Increase your waking
  • How to make work suck way less
  • The myth of multi-tasking
  • Introducing multi-purposing
  • The body is a truffle - How to use your body to please your mind
  • How the people around you affect your attitude (and how you can affect their affect on you)



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On October 24 and 25 I'm going to be in Seattle for the Pacific Northwest Drupal Summit. From my understanding, this un-conference is aimed specifically at intermediate and advanced Drupal users, so most of the topics are hitting the folks a little higher up the Drupal learning curve. There will be a whopping 4 rooms of sessions, which means that we'll have a lot of choices, and there will be a lot of people hanging out in the halls looking at the schedule, trying to figure out where to go. Perfect for me, because I love hanging out in the halls.

The Summit's web site was donated by This By Them, the same folks that did the uber-nice DrupalCamp LA site. You can see some similarities. I'm happy to see this re-purposing of a DrupalCamp web site (A full distribution and case study for the site can be found here). First of all, it saves the organizers time, and secondly it gives us attendees a familiar framework when registering, planning and voting on sessions. When we finally get a DrupalCamp Idaho off the ground, using this distribution will be a slam dunk.

There's some good topics being covered, such as deployment, Drupal 7 theming, Open Layers and SEO. I've also submitted a few sessions on AJAX development, Drupal security, themeing, and making friends. I've also been asked to do a BOF (Birds of a Feather) on the Navigate module. You can check out what sessions I've voted for by going to my profile page and clicking "My picked sessions."

I've you're planning on attending and want to say hi, drop me a line. Look forward to seeing you there!



Last weekend I attended DrupalCamp Colorado, and thought I should jot down a few of my personal highlights.

The Hostel

I reserved a dorm bed at a local hostel. Maybe the creepiest place I've ever been. When you register, on the counter is a ventriloquist doll, folded in half with it's legs behind his head. Next to the doll is a communal bowl of chips. Like, potato chips. BBQ flavored. Now, I appreciate the sharing attitude, but would have been far more comfortable plunging my hand into a bowl of individually wrapped candies. After a series of strange events which I hesitate to recount (just in case involved parties are tracking my posts) but which kind of pushed me over the edge of creepiness, a fellow attendee offered to let me stay at his place, and I gratefully accepted. After I presented at one session, someone who actually stayed at the hostel let me know that out of a couple of months of traveling through Europe and Asia, the Denver hostel was the dirtiest he'd seen, and I'd done good by not staying there. The result is a good story with lots of embellishments if you're (un?)fortunate enough to hear the whole tale in person.

The Sessions

I ended up attending a lot of sessions, which I haven't done at previous camps / Drupalcons. I got some good stuff out of the security session with Greg Knaddison, Ezra Gildesgame and Ben Jeavons. Also, got some D6 theming goodness, presented by Stephanie Pakrul and Jay Wolf from Top Notch Themes. The stuff going on with the Skinr module really got me excited, and hearing how TNT improved their conversion rates so drastically using just a few intuitive techniques and very little time was excellent. Ended up sitting in on a few sessions that were a little under my point on the learning curve, but I enjoyed those as well because I was watching for presentation styles, since I gave my first session ever on Sunday.

Good wifi access, fun backchannel discussion, excellent lunch with TNT people and my friend Josh Brauer. There was enough time between sessions to get some socializing done (my favorite part of Drupal events) and meet some Denver folks.

The People

I got a really good vibe from everyone at the Camp. In contrast to Drupalcon (I'm still pretty green when it comes to Drupal events), I enjoyed the atmosphere of a smaller event. Ended up talking to the same people several times, and felt less lost in the crowd. I met a lot of people I'd love to chat with again, and got to put a lot of faces to names I'd only seen in IRC. I came home seriously considering the idea of taking an extended vacation (6 months or a couple years) in the area, just to be around such an active, fun bunch of Drupal folks. The experience anchored my resolution to attend a decent-sized event at least once every couple of months, to keep connected with the really neat people that make up the Drupal community.

Giving a Presentation

I was thankful to have the opportunity to present a session, and that the audience was probably too sedated by the unlimited pizza lunch to judge me too harshly. It went well, at least from my perspective. I kept on time, didn't freak out, and managed to make a few people laugh. The goal of the session was to jumpstart folks who haven't really taken part in community discourse yet, and go over the basics of getting involved. So hopefully, a couple more folks are a little closer to making that leap, or better yet actually took it. I learned that 45 minutes is pitifully short to cover a subject in-depth, and that it would have been nice to have more time for answering questions and getting feedback about what was missing from the presentation so I can make it better next time.

Conclusionary Stuff

I'm looking forward to presenting again, got a little more excited about doing a DrupalCamp in Idaho, am considering taking my wife back to Denver to evaluate an extended vacation there, learned that if you teach something you end up believing it simply through extended exposure, was surprised at my stamina after waking up at 3am, hope to pay some hospitality forward in turn, and am looking forward to hooking up with a lot of the great folks at the camp again. Oh, and if I get back to Denver I'm totally hitting up Chedds. A grilled cheese bistro? Beautiful.



Below are my slides from my presentation at DrupalCamp Colorado (had an awesome time, blog post of praise to come later). I think the presentation went well, but would appreciate any feedback from the folks that came. Was the info pertinent? Confusing? Was the presentation too basic or contrived?

Next time, I will remember to post the slides before the session so I can get feedback right away. Also, thanks to the fellow in the back for recommending Slideshare!



I've spent a good bit of time the last couple of weeks getting my thoughts straight for a session I may present at DrupalCamp Colorado called "Plugging into the Drupal community - Essential tools". The process of formulating my thoughts regarding my experiences with the Drupal community and what the project is all about has been a really good one. As a friend pointed out the other day, I'm more of verbal guy, so I've been thinking / practicing out loud and jotting down good thoughts when they come out. I remember David Byrne once saying that he writes music in a similar way.

The idea of the session is to help atendees wrap their mind around the social channels used by the Drupal community so they can get plugged in quick. Not just the technological aspects, but also the cultural implications of how the community uses them. I've been involved with the community on some level for a couple years now, and in hindsight I think my climb up the Drupal learning curve would have been greatly accelerated if I had gotten plugged in to the community earlier. Drupal is really a social solution to a technical problem, not the other way around, and realizing that can have a positive impact on the speed of learning and the ability to make a meaningful contribution.

Based on the voting so far, the session is lagging behind a bunch of other great-looking sessions - probably the material I'm covering seems too basic for the typical DrupalCamp crew. But I think I like the idea of putting a session out there, regardless of if it gets presented, just for the nudge to get some ideas in order. If I end up not presenting, that's just one more session I can either attend or skip out on to rub real elbows with some virtual friends.



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