After popular demand, we finally implemented "Read More" on the Geekswithblogs.net
homepage. If you have concerns or thanks, please let me know via comments. I think the homepage is definitely easier to navigate now.
In the spirit of posts about joining the different communities, I wanted to chime in. So the question is should I blog? My answer is absolutely. Even if you only contribute a post ever month, I still feel it is a worthwhile activity to participate in. I see a lot of registrations from individuals on Geekswithblogs.net where they state that they read blogs all the time and feel it is time to give back and I think that is excellent. You don't have to aim to be the best blogger in the sphere, nor do you need to feel bad if you didn't write a post today, the idea is to publish content when you have it. Using tools like Windows Live Writer to create your posts will allow you to start a thought and not force it to be published until you are done with the local draft saving. This is the same process I used when I was writing for DotNetJunkies and it works very well with blogging as well.
Where should I blog?
Well I have a bit of a bias as the founder of Geekswithblogs.net, but you should definitely find a place where you voice fits in with the crowd. Here on Geekswithblogs, we have a wide range of voices. We see a lot of BizTalk, SharePoint, and ASP.NET posts here as well as us trying to introduce the community into the realm of the IT Professional. My favorite IT blog is Chris Haaker hands down. If you are interested in registering with us, use this link and fill out the form. Remember to take is seriously as I walk through every request and weigh it against the community.
On the way home from We Are Microsoft, Doug and I determined we had to create an event in Kansas City modeled after the Dallas event. We ran the idea by John and he was 100% on board. One week later, we have started the site, thanks to Telligent for letting us use the Graffiti CMS product. The name of the event is Coders 4 Charities, with the corresponding domain coders4charities.org.
What do we need? Everything thus far, except a web site, but we are not quite ready. First thing we need to do is lock down a date and location. We are confident we have the location, but the date we still have to confirm. We are hoping for late April or early May. This should give us ample time for the weather to get better and us to find the appropriate developers, non-profits, sponsors, and volunteers.
What can you do? Help us get the word out! Also, if you are a local developer to KC, get your team together, either with your business or with your friends and start thinking of the Project Management style you are using for the event. Remember you will only have 48 hours (Friday at 3pm to Sunday at 3pm) to code so having everything planned will definitely help. Keep in mind you will most likely want a graphics person and data person on your team to help offset the areas you are not 100% confident in and could slow you down. If you can't get a team together, you will be appointed one before the event based on your skills and the skills of the other members, so no worries there.
More details to come, but go ahead and subscribe to The Official Blog for Coders 4 Charities, where we will be posting more information about the event as we get it.
What a great event! I want to thank everyone involved and wish all the charities good luck with their new software. If you haven't listened to the shows yet, I highly suggest it. You will be compelled to look at your work with the community and see different ways you can help charities with your development skills.
Here is a list of all the shows we recorded during the event, please help spread the word about these so others can get involved in their local areas either by themselves, as a user group, or with an event like this.
Also we had some fun videos you might want to take a look at:
Thanks again to everyone involved and we hope to see more and more of these events pop up in the near future in other metropolitan areas.
In our final podcast, Doug and I speak with the Executive Director of Texas Response Unit Search & Rescue, Shannon Blackwell. This organization assists local, state and federal agencies in the recovery of lost, missing and abducted persons in urban and wilderness or natural and man-made disasters while proactively educating response agencies and the community. They were looking into implementing a testing module that will certify individuals such an volunteers and police officers. This module will allow and administrator to dynamically create a test, with all of the questions and possible answers. This test can then be assigned to an individual, who will take the test, have the test automatically graded, then download and print the certificate. Anyone implementing something like this should listen to this interview.
Listen to the Texas Response Unit Search & Rescue Interview
Click here to view their mission and proposal.
This was a very interesting interview, because we had the ability to talk to two developers who were helping out this weekend, not to talk about a specific charity, but more to speak about their experience this weekend, and what motivated them to come help. Tim Rayburn and Jason Duncan are both with Sogeti and were working on the CITY House team. Jason Duncan was performing two roles this weekend, one as developer for CITY House, and the other as the charity representative for Spina Bifida. This was a really awesome conversation.
Listen to our interview with these folks
The Volunteer Center of North Texas is an organization that provides a link between volunteers and volunteer agencies. They network with about 1,800 agencies in the Dallas and neighboring northeast Texas area. Doug Butscher and I spoke with Dana Riley, the Associate Executive Director of the VCNT, and Bruce Harlan, the Director of I.T. The organization needed to improve user access to their information, and they were assigned several developers to help accomplish this task.
Listen to the Volunteer Center of North Texas Interview
To view their mission and proposal, click here.
Sorry for the loud recording, but I was trying to be busy with driving while recording. Using a Bluetooth connection to my cell, we connected to the EV-slow-O network and downloaded the episodes Jerod was publishing in KC to write the post announcing them. I really have to get some software written for podcasting again to make it easier (and get a feed going).
I was amazed that we could staff an entire band for several hours on Saturday night. One of the easiest positions to fill was singer and that is NOT normal. Anyway, Doug and I had a blast rocking out with the Dallas crew.
Watch the video and you will LOL when you see what Fernando on bass does.
This was my first attempt to produce a video at an event, but Doug and I had tons of fun with this. Let me know if did a good job. Jerod is still producing the remaining shows we recorded and they should be out tonight or tomorrow.
Texas CARES provides for abandoned and unwanted cats and kittens in the Dallas/Fort Worth area, as well as educating the public about the humane treatment of all animals and the responsibility of pet ownership. After overcoming a hardware issue with our recording equipment, we spoke with Carol Benassi, President of Texas CARES, and Brian about their needs and implementation efforts this weekend. Texas CARES has been running primarily off of Excel spreadsheets to manage their organization, after losing a volunteer who walked away with their database. Brian and his team addressed the database and web site issues at Texas CARES by recreating their database and by building a rich web site that allows visitors to view the animals online.
Brian's company has a unique proposition where the developers are required to donate 20 hours per month on community service projects. I think he and his team well exceeded that requirement the first night they were here.
Listen to the Texas CARES Interview
Check out their proposal and mission here.
This was a really fun interview, because we had the chance to talk to Toi Wright and Amber Weiss, the two people who coordinated the event, and who we worked with closely during the event. Toi coordinated this event by contacting charities in the Dallas area, gathering their requirements and defining a selection process. She was looking for charities who were in need of a software solution, but something that could be completed over the course of a weekend. She also sent out the call to local developers and developer teams who were looking to give back to the community. After the selection process, 18 charities remained and 3-5 developers were assigned to each charity.
Amber is with BravoTech, a technical recruiting firm in the local Dallas area with a reach into several dozen metropolitan areas. She and BravoTech opened their doors to the charities and developers for the weekend, and placed them throughout their office space. It was a major undertaking to accommodate 80+ developers, 24/7, for almost three full days. Food and snacks were everywhere and readily available, and stock in Mountain Dew jumped 7 points.
In the interview, Toi and Amber discuss more of the challenges and rewards that came with this event, as well as tips, advice and obstacles for anyone else wishing to host a similar event in their community.
Listen to the Interview with the event coordinators
Doug Butscher and I spoke with Rick (our Rock Band drummer) to discuss his charity, Trinity Christian Academy. They would like to update their web site so that they can update school calendars, athletic scores, fund-raising activities, mission trips, family needs, etc., without having to send mass emails or letters to families. Trinity does not have the I.T. resources to manage the content on their web site, so they needed an easy way to upload their content. In lieu of a CMS, they chose to use Microsoft Expression Studio.
Listen to the Trinity Christian Academy Interview
To view their proposal and mission, click here.
Doug Butscher and I had a chance to speak with Tim Mitchell and Ryan Magnusson to discuss their implementation of SER Child Development Center's web site. Their existing web site was over 8 years old and was so out-of-date that they needed to remove it. They needed a new web site to inform parents and their community about current and new programs, while taking advantage of the latest development technologies available. The implementation team is using SubSonic as the CMS to manage the content on the web site, and to allow SER Child Development Center to easily maintain their site for the long term.
Listen to the SER Child Development Center Interview
Click here to see their proposal and mission.
In this interview, Doug and I speak with Zach Young and Jay Smith from the Northwest Arkansas .NET User Group, who are part of the team helping Texas Discovery Gardens build a brand new web site to teach people effective ways to restore, conserve and preserve nature in the urban environment through the use of native and adapted plants that illustrate the interrelationship of Butterflies, Bugs and Botany.
Texas Discovery Gardens had a web site in the past that was approximately 10 years old, but it was so under-maintained and antiquated that they were forced to pull it down. This event is enabling them to make their presence known once again, and by taking advantage of the latest development tools available. They are using DotNetNuke primarily for their implementation, which will allow for a fast and clean implementation, but the great advantage it will bring is the long-term ease of use for the charity itself. They mention in their interview that they were able to begin the design and preliminary implementation effort on their drive from Northwest Arkansas.
Listen to the Texas Discovery Gardens Interview
We had a chance to talk to Dorothy, the General Manager, and C.C., the Outreach Coordinator, from St. Vincent de Paul Thrift Store, who help out their community by providing low priced goods and services for their neighbors in need, so that they may live in dignity. Dorothy was a little nervous to speak with us, but as you can tell in the interview, they both did an excellent job at conveying their mission and passion for what they believe so much in.
They are by far the most technologically innovative thrift store I have ever met, with POS transactions and an excellent business model. Their primary problem is that their innovation is so unique, they are finding they need a robust, stable and scaleable framework to manage their organization. A lot of their processes are paper-based, and they find they are spending more time doing administrative tasks, when they would rather be focusing their passion and energy on the very reason they got into this in the first place. The implementation this weekend will give them a solid business application on which to continue building their organization. Since their development team was unavailable to implement their requirements, several Microsoft DE's stepped up to help them achieve their goal. They are both very appreciative of the weekend, the developers helping them out, and Microsoft as a whole. To quote C.C.... "Bill Gates is The Man!"
To find out more about their proposal, click here.
Listen to the St. Vincent de Paul Interview
North Park Missionary Baptist Church mission is to seek the lost, strengthen the saved and meet the needs of the people through the teaching and preaching of the word of God. The site will be dedicated to informing individuals and families about the services and assistance we offer through our facility.
One of the amazing facts about this project is that this organization's is first presence on the Internet. The team didn't just want to build the standard site, they wanted to build them something with "sizzle". This team is made up of developers who have never worked together, but due to their common interests, they are able to get the job done and enjoy themselves. I really enjoy hearing these stories and it is amazing when the teams come here for a competition, but the end result is to continue their work with the organization long after the event is over.
Listen to the North Park Missionary Baptist Church Interview
Our first podcast of the event was with a great organization named City House and the development team from Sogeti. The mission of City House is to strengthen the community by helping children, youth and families resolve physical and emotional crises. They provide a complementary suite of intervention and prevention services at no cost to their clients.
To find out more about how this project was designed, review the proposal here.
Listen to the Interview with City House
Welcome to Dallas! Doug and I are down here at We Are Microsoft podcasting the different development teams and charities about the application they are building at the event.
If you haven't check out the details of the event, please do and stay tuned for podcasts being released at the event from this blog. After the event, we will move these shows over to Podcast Studio.
The first show we will be releasing is with City House and Team Sogeti.
This weekend, our team will be down in Dallas podcasting those who are involved in this unique event. We Are Microsoft is a charity challenge where developers will be matched with a charity to develop an application based on their needs. At the end of the 3 day event, all of the participants will vote of the apps and proclaim the champion. Check out their site and if you meet their sponsors, thank them for helping out with this awesome event.
Keep an eye on my blog for the shows. We will start publishing tomorrow afternoon during our trip down to Dallas and resume when the event kicks off.
Here is the route we will be taking:
View Larger Map
We track statistics and demographics for Geekswithblogs.net using Google Analytics and I am very impressed with this product. However, due to the nature of our blog system, several bloggers want to track their information independently as well. To make this happen, I used a modification to the original Urchin code Google offered, but that recently quit working as they upgraded the codes they offer. So the upgrade of codes will most likely cause you to upgrade your code.
Here are the steps to do it:
- Via Google Analytics, log in an this should redirect you to the homepage
- Find your site in the grid and click Edit
- In the top right corner of the active content on the page, click Check Status
- Click the New Tracking Code header
- Copy the code into Notepad from this results textbox
- Remove the first script section as the site is already configured to load this.
- Wait roughly 24 hours and Google Analytics will start collecting data.
If you are still having problems, please let me know via support and I will work with you to solve them.
I created a new skin for Geekswithblogs.net called DKSkin. Well, I didn't really create it as much as I found the template being used by another system that borrowed it from a free template site (while giving the appropriate credit) and just ported it myself, but none the less, we have a new skin.
If others in the community like a skin they see out there and if they can get rights to that template, download SubText and implement the skin and I will publish it for you if it works well.
To try this skin, go to Admin, then the Options tab. Click on the Configure link and select DKSkin from the dropdown list. It is that easy. To preview it, check out my blog.
I stumbled on this feature in Windows Live Writer that will help some of our bloggers, and other bloggers,who want to load previous posts (that might not have been authored with Live Writer) and make changes to them. In my case, I wanted to add some tags now that Geekswithblogs.net supports them. Check out this quick screencast that explains how to open posts and add tags.
Tagging Previous Post with Windows Live Writer
I was configuring the server and did not notice I accidentally took the site down for a few minutes.
Please forgive me...
This is the first month I have been involved with submitting credits to Community-Credit as it is so easy with Geekswithblogs and I actually won something! Butt/Face Soap!
This month, the grand prize is podcasting equipment and I am hoping one of our members will win!
Thank David Silverlight! You know they named that Flash-killer after him...
I have been re-awarded the MVP status for the 4th year. This year is different as I am now a SharePoint MVP where in the past I was an XML MVP. The transfer process was not as difficult as I thought it would be and I would like to thank Rafael Munoz, my previous lead, and April Spence, my new lead, for all the help when I asked to move to another designation. It wasn't a straight move like I asked and it was done, I had to go through the qualification tests again, but I knew what to expect.
If you are a SharePoint MVP, please let me know about you as I am the new kid in school and I know a few of you but not all.