Welcome

I am Paul McKibben: web software developer, Drupal specialist, and open-source enthusiast, based in Atlanta, GA. For more information, see the about page.

If you have Drupal questions or want to say hi, please contact me via my contact page.

My Ubercart presentation from DrupalCamp Atlanta - 9/19/09

Back in September, I presented a session at DrupalCamp Atlanta on Ubercart, the premier e-commerce module package for Drupal.  Since then, a few people have asked me for the slides. I thought I should post them in a public place so that anyone can get them, so here they are!

Thanks to all of you who attended or watched the video. I am truly flattered.

Thoughts from my first DrupalCon - DrupalCon DC 2009

The 2009 North American DrupalCon, a conference for Drupal enthusiasts like me, took place last week, March 4-7, in Washington, DC.  With 1,400 attendees, I am told that it was the biggest DrupalCon ever! It was my first DrupalCon, and I came away from it with a very full brain.  In this article, I'll cover some of the high points that I left with.

 

Missed DrupalCon?  No problem!  See the videos.

That's right, the vast majority of DrupalCon DC sessions were recorded, and the videos are available for free.  It's a good thing, because there were several parallel tracks, and many times I had to miss sessions I wanted to see because they conflicted with other sessions I also wanted to see.  I also erred toward the less-formal "birds of a feather" (BoF) sessions, knowing that most of those would not be recorded, whereas the major sessions would be, and I could watch the videos later.

"Drupal usability" may soon cease to be an oxymoron.

Anyone who has tried to build a site with Drupal knows how big the learning curve is. James Walker took plenty of potshots with his talk on Why I Hate Drupal, another session discussed the results of the recent Baltimore Usability Study, and a usability suggestion box was prominently placed in the main hall of the conference.  The good news is that the community is doing something about the usability issues, and Drupal 7, when it comes out (probably sometime in 2010), will address many of the usability concerns that have been raised.

The semantic web is all the rage.

Before DrupalCon, I knew next to nothing about the semantic web and what it really means. But at DrupalCon, I found out not only what the semantic web means academically, but what its implications are, thanks to Boris Mann's presentation.  The idea behind the semantic web is that extra tags help add extra meaning to your content, distinguishing (for example) Apple the fruit from Apple the company: something that is easy for a human to distinguish, but not for a computer. The W3C standard behind this is RDF, and there is talk that Drupal 7 may have RDF support out of the box.  Also, the semantic web is part of a larger movement known as Open Data.  In Dries Buytaert's keynote, Dries described how at first the Internet was about linking machines, and is currently about linking pages, but is now starting to become about linking data. With the semantic web, it will be possible for machines to understand the data kept on other machines, and can integrate that data in new mash-ups and applications.  I am only beginning to apprciate what this really means.

Multimedia on Drupal

Drupal has a diverse set of modules to handle multimedia, which is both a blessing and a curse.  I may be late to the game, but at DrupalCon I learned about a set of modules called Media Mover, which consolidates a lot of multimedia handling, making it easy to upload a video, audio, or image file, transcode it to a web-friendly format if necessary, attach it to a node, save it to Amazon S3, and more. 

E-Commerce using Ubercart

I had heard of Ubercart, a set of Drupal modules for e-commerce, but until DrupalCon, I never realized how much energy there was around that project.  The Ubercart sessions were packed, and of course, there was the Uberdinner, where 70 of us went to an Ethiopian restaurant to enjoy each other's company and talk about all things Ubercart.

It's the community, stupid!

DrupalCon was my first open source conference. Other, more commercial conferences from my past career, such as SuperComm (telecommunications industry) or Comdex (am I showing my age?), are nothing like the experience of DrupalCon.  Each and every person at DrupalCon is part of a community, which gave DrupalCon a very different feel from other conferences I've been to.  There was a genuine desire among the people at DrupalCon to meet each other and strengthen the community.  The parties and dinners were open to all attendees, and were a ton of fun (though I felt like an old fart, going to bed at midnight while others stayed out partying until the wee hours).  Many times I was not with anyone I knew from Atlanta, but not really by myself, because there were always people to meet and talk to.  I've made several new friends at DrupalCon.

So are you geeked up to go to the next DrupalCon?

I have barely scratched the surface of DrupalCon in this post, and I'll be spending the next several weeks watching the videos of sessions I missed, and re-watching the videos of sessions I enjoyed.  But I'm already excited about the next DrupalCon six months from now.

If everything I mentioned wasn't enough, the next DrupalCon will be in Paris, in September, 2009.  With that kind of destination, what more incentive do you need?

My First Barcamp - Barcamp Atlanta 2008

barcamp logoI attended my first Barcamp this weekend at the Georgia Tech Advanced Technology Development Center in Atlanta.  What is Barcamp, you ask?  It's an unconference, where the agenda is decided by the participants.  For this reason, all attendees are encouraged to participate by offering a presentation or demo, or at least participating in a discussion.  As a barcamp virgin, I wasn't ready to give a presentation this year, but next year I'll be better prepared.  I did my best to be engaged in the discussions, ask good questions, and get to know the many others from the Atlanta (and nearby) technology community.

For a free event, I was really impressed with the amenities.  The ATDC is a first-class facility, with plenty of conference rooms with whiteboards and projectors.  Also, our sponsors really took care of us, providing a barbecue dinner Friday, Flying Biscuit sandwiches for breakfast on Saturday, and pizza for lunch.  Also, there was free soda, coffee, and beer.  What more could you ask?  Nobody went away hungry.

The wide variety of people, in terms of expertise and lines of work, really made this a cool event, covering a wide array of topics.  Some of the sessions I attended included:

  • Independent Consultants - Pricing your Services
  • Genetic Algorithms (OK, I still don't really get what those are)
  • Erlang overview and demo
  • Starting a website: Framework (Rails, CakePHP, etc.) or CMS (Drupal, Wordpress, etc.)?
  • How to generate buzz without being treated like a spammer
  • "Push Protesting" - using Microformats to get your minority message out
  • Yahoo Pipes demo (Sanjay Parekh's construction of startupgossip.com)
  • COPPA - the Child Online Protection and Privacy Act, and how it affects your site
  • BeagleBoard demo (what is that?  see http://beagleboard.org)
  • Web Security resources and tools
  • Twitter API
  • Open Source roundtable

There were some off-the-wall sessions as well (which, perhaps unfortunately, I didn't attend):

  • Freezing different types of food in liquid nitrogen
  • "Alternative Funding" - (ahem - it was a poker game)
  • Be your own beatbox (making beatbox sounds in a microphone)
  • Be your own barista (making coffeehouse coffee in your own home)

Overall, Barcamp is worth attending for just about anyone with an interest in technology, even if it's just a passing interest.  You'll come away from it with a new appreciation for technology, the people involved in it, new things you may have never heard about, and a renewed excitement to learn more.

And we're back!

Will return soonAfter months of neglect, I am finally writing a new post!  As I dove head-first into the world of web consulting, I got too busy to keep this site up-to-date.  But now I'm back--still busy, just better organized.

Much has happened since April, the most notable being my founding Noverna Interactive, putting an official business name, and all the shine and polish that comes with it, onto my consulting services.

When I left my old job in February, I only had a vague idea of what I was going to do next.  Inspired by a blog post that told me, whenever you are about to make a leap of faith, close your eyes and floor it, and comforted by a bit of savings I had built up for this purpose, I cut the employment cord.

I broke a major rule: I did not have a business plan (and still don't, really).  At first I thought I'd develop a social-networking-fitness-diet-exercise site and make money with memberships and advertising, but knowing that the path to revenue would be a long one, I started offering consulting and development services to bring in extra cash.  Little did I know how quickly I'd find clients, and how busy it would make me.  The consulting business is now my primary activity, and the fitness site remains on the back burner.

Since my last post, I have built sites for a gift shop, a barber shop, a race report site for triathletes, and a travel matching service.  Three out of four of these sites use Drupal, the content management system that keeps impressing me the more I learn about it and use it.  The fourth will soon be converted to a Drupal site as well.  And I have some big projects on the horizon, including a large academic journal site using Drupal.

With all the Drupal work I am doing, and with all that I am learning about module development and theming, I intend to start posting tips and hints on this site.  Stay tuned!

Photo credit: mattlogelin, license: cc-by-nc 2.0

OpenOffice gets Clark Howard mention

Radio CartoonKudos to consumer guru Clark Howard for discussing open source alternatives on his radio show.  He specifically mentions OpenOffice in his show notes.  He is correct that businesses and consumers can save lots of money by using free, open source alternatives to expensive commercial applications such as Microsoft Office.

This is just further evidence that open source software has entered the mainstream.

(Image courtesy of bnnrc.net,  under a creative commons license.)

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