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Re: [webdesign-396] Working Blog Aggregater ready for comments.

From: Bridget S.
Sent on: Tuesday, September 18, 2007 5:08 PM
Nate, you aren't the mean guy in the room, nor do you sound like the devil's advocate.  I have to say that I concur on the notion that we need to define our association better before we go off implementing too many features and functions on our website. I firmly believe that the features and functions will come about organically once we attempt to define our goals toward world domination.  I also suspect that our goals will likely shift as the association grows, thus creating a need to revisit the tools and tech used to support us.  In short, flexibility is going to be KEY.  If we jump in too quickly and employ feature sets that restrict us rather than allowing us to expand (or contract), we are headed for "overhaul hell", eventually.

So, you get a hearty "here here" from me about the subjects you addressed in your email.  While I won't pretend to have the answers to those questions, I am one of the people who DESPERATELY wants to watch this site evolve and be intrinsically involved in the process as a student.  This seems to me to be a golden opportunity to see what is involved from the ground up and HOW it gets done.  This will help me better understand what direction I wish to take in my web designer/development goals.  Since those goals are still fuzzy at best, the more I can "see" as it happens, the more I can better understand where my interest and talents could take me.

So, while my first priority is to see our little group become the leaders of the universe and the envy of geeks everywhere, I fully admit to having ulterior motives that focus on what will also benefit ME. :-P

-- Bridget

Vince Frantz wrote:
Nate, (et al)

I intended on raising these issues at the meeting as it would be too  
much to put in an email ; )

I was hoping we could put this project in the proper context but I  
was just waiting for the meeting. Your points are all salient and I  
think that you could bring some good real-world planning experience  
to this project.

Anyway - interested folks should take note of Nate's email and come  
to the planning meeting with these concepts in mind. I think  the  
organizational direction is evolving as fast as the feature set.  
We're on to something good here and I am down to support it!

Back to work,
Vince






On Sep 18, 2007, at 2:24 PM, Nate Klaiber wrote:

  
Greetings Everyone!
Let me, for a minute, play the role of the devils advocate - or,  
just the mean guy in the room - whichever you choose.

"We now have a basic plan for the initial website. Rather than  
waiting until everything is perfect (CMS, Forum, Mysql Backend  
etc), we are just going to push ahead with something simple."

What is our rush?
Why would we put something out now, that we would ultimately want  
to change in the long run? Why double our efforts? Why not build  
what we need from the ground up, giving ourselves a solid  
foundation to build and expand?

We are a group of web professionals. We all come from a broad array  
of different backgrounds. All of us are here to teach, learn, and  
engage. Why not take this time to build something solid that we can  
all be proud of, and that is a cohesive whole - something that  
truly defines us. Yes, there are many technology options and open  
source packages out there, but we are web professionals - why  
couldn't we build what we need? If anything it can be a learning  
process to those who want to know how to build a forum, or  
understand how one should function. Even for those seeking out Open  
Source options, they would be better educated when picking out  
their options, as they know what to look for in a good forum (or  
other functional piece of the website).

We have programmers, designers, interface designers, illustrators,  
copywriters...and the list goes on. Why can't we collaborate as a  
group and build something that defines us? I know not everyone has  
the time to devote to something like this, but personally I feel  
blessed to be a part of a group like this and would love to help in  
whatever way I could.

What are our goals?
I don't think we ever established real goals with our own  
association website. What is the purpose of our website going to  
be? Is our goal to be a forum? Is our goal to be a chat room? Is  
our goal to be a social networking site? Interconnected pieces of  
each?

We could have short term goals like:
- To promote web standards
- To learn
- To educate
- To engage
- To employ (some are looking to go freelance...?)

Maybe even some long term goals like:
- We become the central hub for cleveland and host events that  
would help educate the community
- We become the strong voice of web standards/development in the  
cleveland area
- World domination

Who is our audience?
Is this site simply a sounding board for our current members, or is  
it also an invitation for others to get involved? Are we an elitist  
club, or an open community of web professionals?

What is our message?
When someone comes to our site - what is our message going to be to  
them? Is our site one that will answer the 'Who, what, when, where,  
and why' to a visitor who has never heard of the Cleveland Web  
Standards Association? What about our 'calls to action'? Join?  
Learn? Engage?

What are our needs?
Do we really need a full blown CMS? Why? Couldn't we create  
something that fits our needs specifically. Do we need WYSIWYG  
editors as professionals in the field? Do we need smileys and  
emoticons all over the place? Do we need to shoehorn our specific  
content into a CMS? I am not against CMS's, I just think we could  
get away without some of the bloat that most of them bring. Again,  
we are web professionals. We know what we need and how to achieve  
it. This isn't about re-inventing the wheel - it is about building  
to our needs, not forcing our needs into someone else's application.

What are the building blocks?
When it comes down to it - it is about using the right tools for  
the job, not just using technology for technologies sake - so lets  
thing about the tools, and why we are using them.

We have the data heads and MySQL seems to be the choice for a data  
backend. An excellent choice, at that. Joseph, as a data head -  
wouldn't you like to sit down, plan out an overall schema for our  
website, and watch as it gets deployed to a front-end interface? No  
offense, but any monkey could install a CMS or a Forum, why can't  
we build one to suite our needs and goals? Why not let this be a  
learning experience for those who are up-and-coming data heads who  
want to learn from the ways of a professional?

PHP seems to be the language of choice, but are we opposed to other  
options? I know there are some interested in Ruby and the Ruby on  
Rails framework, is this an option? I would be satisfied with  
either, PHP seems to be more widely used - so the majority of us  
would probably encounter more PHP than Ruby.

We have those who are extremely fluent in semantic HTML as well as  
CSS - why not give them an opportunity to build, and to teach those  
who are just starting their journey with HTML/CSS. Many people have  
expressed they learn with hands-on experience. Implementing things  
that are beneficial to use as developers, like Microformats, that  
are topics of discussion in our group.

We have others still who love to make things happen with  
unobtrusive JavaScript. To others, this is a foreign language that  
is tough to grasp - why not build this together?

What comprises our content?
I think the forum is necessary as it gives us a place to continue  
our discussion - but lets think about the interconnected pieces  
here. If we didn't use Vanilla forum, and created our own - then we  
would have full control over our schema and the data behind it.  
There won't be data islands, but one cohesive whole. We could have  
a content section that re-caps presentations from our previous  
meetups. I, for one, and thankful for David Mead posting the  
Microformats video for me to view since I was unable to attend. So,  
we have an archive of our discussions and the content discussed.  
From there, we could have a link like 'discuss this in its own  
forum' type of thing, which then creates the topic automatically  
and that data is connected to our individual presentations. It  
eliminates the clutter of comments on the main page - and allows us  
to dissect what we all just learned.

Do we need a blog aggregator as a main piece of content? There are  
many aggregation services out there. There are aggregators for  
aggregators. CSS galleries for CSS galleries. Do we really need to  
duplicate this with a main piece of content - or can it be  
integrated in a much better fashion than the basic SimplePie (Again  
- giving us control of our data and its connections, not creating  
data islands). My main question is - does it need to be a main  
piece of content? Would it really be used? I know the majority of  
us have feedreaders anyway, would this be beneficial to our goals,  
purposes, and audiences of our site? It may be - just a question I  
am posing.....

Member sites links: This could get unwieldy if we get larger - why  
not let this stuff be managed with a user profile? Maybe every now  
and then we have a 'featured profile' that gives someone a little  
more exposure and talks about how they are making the web standards  
community stronger in cleveland - or highlighting their activity on  
a specific project.

Online venues: why just create links, why not integrate with these  
services where possible?

What if we posted all of our events to upcoming.org, then pulled in  
our events via their API to our website and stored them locally?  
Then, when people post pictures to Flickr and tag them with an  
upcoming machine tag, we can automatically pull in all of those  
photos as well. So - for one meetup presentation we could have a  
central hub to view the contents, actions to get involved in the  
discussion, and multimedia such as videos and pictures for those  
who were unable to attend. All of this to be organized by date  
(archive), tags, and categories. For member sections, they could  
approve their flickr username and have their photos automatically  
pulled into their profile according to machine tags that we could  
create. This eliminates the task of having to get all of the photos  
together and only keeping them on our website, and allows us to  
continue to use the tools we already use. Our system simply knows  
what to look for and pulls things in accordingly. This also has the  
added benefit of hitting a wider audience at both upcoming.org and  
flickr.com. We would avoid duplicating the content and efforts and  
let our website be a hub to display just the things we need to  
display. These are just some of my hair-brained ideas...but I want  
us to think about these options, so I will stop there......

OK -so this is long enough. I have more to discuss, but I would  
like to get some brainstorming going and get us really thinking  
about our goals and purposes......something to get the mind moving.

Sincerely,
'The Mean Guy'
Nate Klaiber



Quoting Joseph James Frantz <[address removed]>:

    
Thanks again to Brendan for his helpful suggestions (to use  
simplepie)
I've finally got a sample of an aggregater up for consideration.  
Right
now I've used the blogs for both Brads, Brendan and Eric Wiley simply
for testing purposes, hope their all cool with that. If not, I'll
pull them when yall let me know.

For the Brads, and Eric's blogs, we get just a snippet preview. For
Brendan's we get the entire blog. This is something that I am
guessing is set up in each blog, because simplepie is set with the
default settings. In addition I used just their sample code,
including inline (ugh) CSS. Again though this is just for testing
purposes.

I've noticed a lot, that these aggregaters have names like
planet.whatever. We could go with that kind of name, though since we
are Cleveland area centric, I was thinking maybe
city.clevelandwebstandards.org. Just one of my ideas, ultimately how
we do this will be up to yall. Brendan pointed out we might want to
not use subdomains for ranking purposes. So we'll all discuss that on
Saturday.

Here's the link, comments and ideas welcome:
http://www.clevelandwebstandards.org/blogs/[1]

As always kind regards,
Joseph James Frantz

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