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Planning a Free Web Developer Conference CFinNC

Posted By : Matthew Darby on October 16, 2009
Related Categories: cfinnc, conferences

I have the privilege to be involved in the planning process for a free coldfusion, flex and air conference here in Raleigh. It has been only a couple months since I first heard about the idea, but I am impressed with how far we have come to building this conference from the ground up. This weekend we will experience the fruits of our labor as participants from different parts of the country converge on the campus of NC State to learn more about these Adobe base technologies and connect with other developers.

Back in May I remember attending a CFLunch, a monthly lunch put on by the Triangle Coldfusion User Group (TACFUG). Dan Wilson, the TACFUG co-manager was tossing out the idea about putting together a conference in October. I thought he was just goofing around or at least gauging our reactions to the thought. Putting together a conference would be one thing, but within five months? None of us had any experience of planning and hosting a conference, especially not of the magnitude Dan was talking about. However, shortly before my presentation in July to the TACFUG things got more serious, a committee was formed and a location was secured. They were actually going through with it.

After my presentation, I had been asked to present for the conference. I declined, but agreed to be on stand-by in the event someone dropped out or there were spots to fill. I was happy to work behind the scenes though, I am not a person eager to get up front and center. Attending some the planning meetings and helping to promote the event has given me a way learn more about the process of conference building and see that we definitely have some great people willing to step up and volunteer.

This will actually be my first coldfusion conference I have attended. This year I sent one of my developers to CFUnited, a conference I have long wanted to attend. To have the opportunity now to attend one locally with some of the same CFUnited presenters speaking is great. Dan Wilson and Jim Priest, the other TACFUG co-manager, deserve a lot of credit for their effort so far. The other TACFUG members and volunteers have been great to work with as well.

I hope that our participants have a great time during the two day of CFinNC. It is only a day away now and my excitement is building. I know that things will turn out great, and if we just have one person walk away having benefited from this, it would be mission accomplished.

Spread the Word: Coldfusion is a Great Web Developer Language

Posted By : Matthew Darby on August 31, 2009
Related Categories: development, technology

I have now been in web development for seven years. I got into it while in college. I built my first web page with notepad and made a simple profile page that today anybody could do. I was proud of my work. My first real web application consisted of constructing a form that stringed a few hidden parameters across multiple pages so that users could order off of a catering menu. Upon it's creation I thought it was the coolest thing. I still have the code in one of my old hard drives. The language I wrote that application in was one I had not heard of before receiving the opportunity.

At the time, I was on my summer break working an internship that was nothing more than a blessing from God. Back in school, I was struggling to matriculate into Computer Science learning Java and C++. This internship, however, provided me a chance to learn something totally different. Little did I know, it would lay the foundation on what I consider to be a great career. I was hired to work in the IT department, installing computers, punching telephone lines, providing technical support. The company changed its name so a rebranding effort gave me the opportunity to explore something no one else in my department had any expertise in. I became involved in revamping all of our intranet sites.


Speaking to a Public Audience

Posted By : Matthew Darby on July 16, 2009
Related Categories: content management systems, development, Mura, technology, presentations

Outside of writing blog posts, I am not a public speaker. My dad, a preacher, and my mom however, have no problem with the spotlight. As a kid as was more adapt to hiding behind them. Today, I will give my first public presentation ever, outside of teaching a Sunday school class at my church. Jim Priest, the Triangle Area Coldfusion User Group manager, has invited me to give a presentation on Mura CMS.

Yesterday, I did my first dry run in front of an audience. I invited some of my coworkers to help critique my timing, information I covered and my effectiveness in presenting. Things didn't go as well as it did when it was just me in my apartment speaking to my TV. However, there were a lot of lessons learned and I think from that experience I was able to make my presentation better.

Today, I will introduce Mura CMS. This is a coldfusion based content management system I have been playing around with for the last few months. My audience will be like minded coldfusion developers here in this area. My goals are to cover some of the basic and more fascinating features of this web application software and what it can do for both technical and non-technical people alike. Mura CMS is the new kid on the block and it has some promising features that can help open the door for people looking to alternatives to other content managers like FarCry and Word Press. These types of tools are what aid people to manage content like the one you are reading this blog post from. Mura can also help to bolster the ColdFusion community by bringing in people who might not be familiar with Coldfusion as a web application service that competes with the like of .NET and PHP. Hopefully, people will be able to take away the things that can be accomplished on the fly with the software.

So if you are in the Research Triangle Park area please come out at 6 pm, at the SRA building, 2605 Meridian Parkway, Suite 200, Durham, NC. Hopefully, the people will learn something, and I won't stumble through my presentation.

Organizing Your Thoughts

Posted By : Matthew Darby on July 13, 2009
Related Categories: development, books, personal

I just finished reading Pragmatic Thinking & Learning: Refactor Your Wetware by Andy Hunt of The Pragmatic Programmers. It covers why and how to organize your thoughts effectively. Since reading the book, I have been taking steps to record my thoughts and have been and paper handy when I do find myself in situations where I am might come up with a solution to a problem I have been working on away from the area and time I was originally tangled with the issue.

Initially, I created this blog with the purpose to help me to become more efficient in my written communication, however this is now my first blog post within a year. In between that time I have joined Twitter and have become more active in my updates to Facebook where I at least post something there on a daily basis. I find myself throwing off my need to post here though, not without a lack of something to post on but instead not setting the time aside to do writing.

Andy Hunt's book touched on something else for me that has nagged on me for quite some time. I consider myself to be a web developer and many times I put off writing for other tasks I have on my plate. In doing so, I have seen my handwriting deteriorate along with my ability to communicate my thoughts in both written and oral fashion. It's something I am not proud of. I think as developers we sometimes put aside our need to build our communication skills so that we can improve upon our technical skills. However without proper communication, we can easily fall by the wayside and left to be irrelevant.

This blog was to be more than just a avenue to vent on the latest thing on my mind, but instead to communicate my insight one things that I was currently working, would like to get into or discuss other topics outside software development. I got away from that and allowed myself to become distracted by other things. Therefore, I plan to keep my commitment to this blog to effectively communicate my activities, not just for my personal gain but to communicate to others.

It feels good to blow the dust off this website one more time.

Becoming an Effective Manager

Posted By : Matthew Darby on September 22, 2008
Related Categories: personal

I'll be the first to tell you that I don't consider myself to an expert in this topic. In fact I am still learning. Recently I have entered this role at work and I have been introducing a mixture of techniques I have picked up from previous supervisors I had over the years while mixing in the things I have always looked for in a great manager. The role doesn't come easy for me, nor do I take it for granted and yet I am humbled to have the opportunity to serve in this role. It is truly a blessing.

I have a passion for software development and it in this area I like to put my focus in, but even being an effective and pragmatic developer demands that I be aware of the other soft skills that are necessary to perform my job. Creating an maintaining a relationship with the people around you whether it is your coworkers or your client is truly important. Clearly communicating your goals while recording the requests you receive is also promising traits of a great developer. For me establishing this base where I began my career has been one of the things that helped me to even be considered for my current role. So for me, before I could even think of becoming an effective manager I first had to an effective developer with great communication skills.


Writing Tutorials with Wink

Posted By : Matthew Darby on August 2, 2008
Related Categories: technology

Have you ever needed to write up a tutorial for something that covers a process on the computer? You could grab some screen captures and add them into a word document, but they can't cover actions or processes that are better conveyed when recording their movement.

This is where Wink comes in. Wink is a free product that allows you to create flash based tutorials. It is pretty simple to use, you can start a capture, either on a particular window, your screen, or a editable area on your computer and record your actions you want to discuss. Next you can take the screen shots recorded and add text boxes, shapes or other image to help discuss what it is your are trying to convey to your users.

I hate writing documentation and I hate having to prepare documentation, but I recognize the need for providing it. Wink has come in handy for me as I create tutorials for how to do certain things. Even now I am completing a task with it, I had long put off.

Grab a copy of Wink here:

Looking Back At Old Code

Posted By : Matthew Darby on July 19, 2008
Related Categories: development

I have been a software developer for nine years. It's pretty interesting to go back and look at old code, and if there were any, read over comments to remind yourself what you were thinking at the time when trying to tackle a particular problem. I have noticed that originally I was displaying strong object-oriented design but have now regressed into a procedural developer in some aspects of my recent applications.

I am a big proponent of using frameworks such as ModelGlue and Fusebox, and I currently use Coldspring to for dependency injection. It seems though when I take a step back to look at where my code is compared to what I did in the past, I see a lot of procedural code in many of the methods I have generated lately. Part of my reasoning behind looking back at where I have grown as a developer stems from the recent changes in my development team at work and reading through Ben Nadel's attempt to learn OO.

As I look to take on a new role with my team at work, I know it will be important for me to really evaluate what I do and why I do it in the planning and design phase of software architecture. While certain software patterns seem to almost fade in the background do their expected use, such as the model-view-controller, looking when it would be useful to implement the Factory patterns, or recognizing areas to help other members of my team be aware of different useful approaches will become important. So I am glad I have at least the foundation to rely upon to know how to be a pragmatic programmer. I look forward to the new challenges that lie ahead of me, but its nice to also be able to look back and see where I have come from.

Designing Accessible Web Sites

Posted By : Matthew Darby on July 10, 2008
Related Categories: development, Accessibility

In the past year the government institute I do contract work for has renewed its focus on 508 Accessibility. What this implied for us was ensuring all images utilized the alt tag as a means to provide a text description, or ensuring all tables had summaries of its data thus requiring the tables be for tabular data and not for design and layout purposes. It required a stronger knowledge of CSS and a better understanding of how screen readers interpret web pages. We traversed our text to ensure we applied the acronym tag were appropriate. It also meant that with what javascript we used that there was a alternative means to access the data depending on its usage, when javascript is turned off on the browser.

When addressing the strict adherence to the 508 policy for the government website, it made me look at certain web pages I do in other areas, such as my own or my dad's website. In doing so however, it does make it difficult to utilize certain technologies like extensive flash or ajax. The reason is that today's screen readers can not interpret actions that are not directly communicated back through the browser. This is unfortunate but it doesn't mean that flash or ajax are totally out of the picture to design accessible sites.

When I decided to redesign my blog after a two year hiatus, I downloaded the latest version of Ray Camden's BlogCFC code and went to work with the desire to make the two column default design transformed into the three column design I currently use. As I began make the appropriate modification i saw that to add comments that a javascript window is launched, so I continued to modify so that the comment form would be embedded in primary page. It seemed as though I have already become accessibility minded where before it never crossed my mind.

It is my hope that as technologies such as Flex, Flash, Silverlight and more become more prevalent in websites, that the accessibility assistance programs can catch up. As I look forward to learning more about programming in Flex, it would be a shame to find out many of the things I want to do with it, will only work for only a small portion of my intended audience

A Surprising Success

Posted By : Matthew Darby on July 23, 2006
Related Categories: social, personal

Last night a good friend of mine had a surprise birthday party that he may not soon forget. I worked with his girlfriend for the past month plotting and planning this occasion that would bring the majority of his friends together as well as his brother, the preparation seemed to be well worth it.

His birthday is actually on the same day as my mother's birthday and two days before that my sister has her birthday. Because I went home to see my family on the 4th of July and I will be traveling with them to New Hampshire this coming weekend I had decided to stay in town to help put this little gathering together.

Two years ago for my birthday my friends got together to throw a surprise birthday party for me, so I knew at some point I had to return the favor. Two years ago this same friend and I traveled to Florida the week of his birthday except the actual day of his birthday was spent just going out to dinner, basically, a relatively quiet affair. This year however was quite different and I was glad to see everyone who showed up.

To all who played a part in the preparation and execution of the surprise, no matter how big or small your role was, I thank you and the birthday boy and his girlfriend thanks you as well.

New Opportunities

Posted By : Matthew Darby on July 16, 2006
Related Categories: personal

Within the past month so much has changed around me that I am still trying to get settled and readjusted. Lately I have been more active than I ever have been in my life. About a year ago I made a decision to move from my current living arrangement into a one bedroom apartment. For the first time in my life I would live by myself. With that decision, I would plan to only stay for a year. I wouldn't allow myself to settle-in, nor did I want to get comfortable. My long-term goal was to move into something I owned within the following year.


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This blog is a designed to address this concerns of a web developer in an every changing world. Whether the discussion take on development, technology, politics, social issues or religion this blog will attempt to address the issues openly and honestly.


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