Monday, July 20, 2009

Ann Arbor Give Camp 2009

As most of you know this past weekend gave way to the second Ann Arbor Give Camp. It was awesome. For those of you who don't know what a Give Camp is, keep reading. A Give Camp is where developers of all walks of life, skill level and craft come together for a weekend to use the skills they/we posses to create public facing web sites, back end databases or something developed to help run the non-profit organization better. In most cases these non-profits don't even have a web presences with a public facing web site. In today's day and age if you don't have a web don't exist to the world today because that is usually how one goes about finding you. The hours were long but the feeling of handing over what you and your team worked on all weekend to finish and then the joy and appreciation of what have done makes all those long hours and pure exhaustion instantly go away.

This year we had 3 Give Camps going on at the same time. Obviously the Ann Arbor, Michigan one, but we also had Knoxville, Tennessee (who worked on Michigan non-profits headed by Nathan Blevins) and Columbus, Ohio. How was this all This year they had a cool live video stream, which we all loved the bird thrown by Alan Stevens, during the love demo to the charities, not realizing we were all watching him on the big screen. Thanks to our sponsors & people that helped out we had no shortage of food, drinks, Wi-Fi or a home. Michael Eaton did a great job running the show this year. Next year's date has already been set thanks to Washtenaw Community College allowing & welcoming us back. It will be July 16-18 2010 at the same location but new building. We had a guy by the name of Barry Stahl fly out to Ann Arbor from Phoenix, Arizona. He attend the Give Camp to see what is was all about. He said he wants to start doing them in AZ. The Give Camp is spreading across the country. If I could swing it, I would defiantly attend the AZ Give Camp.

Now time for the details. The project I worked on was for Resource Genesee. They are a non-profit that needed an updated web presences. Being the old site had not been updated since what looked like December, we thought the best choice would be to take the wrecking ball to it and just start from scratch. To represent Resource Genesee, we had the pleasure of working with Julia Zaher, the Director of Volunteer Services. She was awesome. She stayed with us almost the whole weekend. We definitely got lucky to have a non-profit that was completely engaged with us this weekend. By the time we were done with Julia, we had her Twittering, Fackbook-ing, Flickr-ing & Blogging.

We chose to go with DotNetNuke a CMS system that would fit Resource Genesee best because once we were finished with the pieces we needed to develop, it would leave them with a site that could easily be maintained & updated by themselves or in this case Julia. We gave it a custom look and feel so it did not look like it was out of the box and kept things with the branding they as an organization had already adopted. Once we changed the look and feel we started putting elements into the site like A calendar, Flickr & Twitter. Then we migrated content from the old site that was to be kept. The site is not fully finished with content and the old site has not been decommissioned yet. The new site is currently sitting on another server. When it meets the organization's standards, the domain name will be pointed to the new server. Keep an eye on it. it is, the old site is up now, so keep checking back and you will soon see the new one.

Give Camp is great for a lot of reasons. It is a great thing to give a skill you have to help out organizations in your community. It is great to meet new people & build new relationships. I met so many great people last year that I still keep in contact with. This year I met even more. It was a community of Developers (1 Designer) who worked together to help others. Most of us ran into problems or roadblocks, help was usually a Tweet away. People jumped projects for a few hours to help other teams with the road blocks. It was just a weekend of everyone helping everyone. I have already committed myself to Chris Woodruff (Leading the Give Camp) that I WILL also be attending the Grand Rapids Give Camp in a few months. The Ann Arbor Give Camp was approx a 2 hour round trip commute every day, but Grand Rapids will be north of 5 hours round trip so I will literally be camping out at that one.

A special thanks goes out to Microsoft & Dominos Pizza who took care of us all weekend, Matt from Verio who came in from Florida to help give free hosting to the organizations that needed it, WCC who gave us a home for the weekend and all the sponsors and planning committee for making it a great running weekend. I also need to give a shout out to Telerik who hooked a brotha up with a copy of the Premium Collection of Controls for .NET. I am loving the Silverlight and WPF RadControls, thanks for the love.

Another list of people who helped out with planning and just making it run smooth are Patrick Steele, Josh Holmes, Jennifer Marsman, David Giard, Greg Campeau & I am sure I am forgetting a ton more and I am sorry if I forgot.

So another Give Camp goes by. So does finding a picture of David Hasselhoff, naked with puppies (I am not joking) on the internet and putting on a fellow developers laptop as wallpaper, when he foolishly left his laptop unlocked around me when I only had 4 hours of sleep. So do the tears, the laughs, the long days/nights, and the new faces...........until the next Give Camp. I hope to see you there.

This is a time line below of the weekend.

Friday Afternoon (Smiles)Saturday evening
(clutching the caffeine)
Sunday (Coma)

Friday, July 10, 2009

Been Busy.......Again!

It has been a looooooong time since I have posted on this blog. Between training for my next fight, learning more Silverlight 3, Expression Blend 3, WPF, Microsoft Surface and Azure have left me not much time for the blog. I am hoping to have my Silverlight site up soon (I know I have said that 100 times already).

It is time for Ann Arbor Give Camp 2. When? July 17-19 2009. It looks like we will have no shortage of charities. Let's hope we have enough Developers to fulfill the need. So check it out at and if you have the time register and come on out I will be attending all weekend. I will post another blog post after it is complete to talk more about it.