Upon reflection…

Wordcamp Minneapolis was a fantastic time this weekend. It’s probably been the first time where I’ve felt part of an excited group of people. I’ve been to academic get-togethers before, but there’s something different between being a part of an excited group of people and being part of a crowd looking at and trying to find holes in specific aspects.

I’m going to compare and contrast WordCamp with my experiences at the Myth Symposium I went to last year. It was a marked difference.

I’m guessing a good bit of it was me, personally. I went to the Myth confere…*coughcough* symposium last year as a scholar. There were few presentations that really appealed to me on that level. There were a lot of stories that were of a very personal caliber: this is how I interfaced with the material, this is how the journey spoke to me, these are the names of my mythic ancestors that I identify with, etc.

The bottom line with the symposium is that I attended and viewed a lot of the presentations with a very jaundiced academic eye. I looked for holes, and lo and behold, I found many of them. I compared (unfairly, I admit) the quality of their academic side to how my academic presentation would have been. I left the symposium thinking that a fraction of it had been useful, while the majority of it had been fluff. My discussions with others there backed up my conceptions.

My experience at Wordcamp, however, was almost 180 degrees opposite. I found that even with some of the presentations being below my level and not very helpful, there were always one or two tidbits that would prove useful down the line. I actually felt part of an appreciative audience here, one that knew how it was to deal with wordpress, clients, and the minutiae of web development. Even when we didn’t know them personally, it was easy to talk with them about what we were doing and what they were doing. Everyone seemed very excited to tackle the aspects of wordpress development that were discussed. Heck, just check the twitter feed for the hashtag wcmpls. A lot of positives. I’m not sure that academic conferences can compare.

Now, as I said, a lot of it was probably me. I went to the myth symposium with the idea that perhaps I would run into interesting information that would benefit me, but perhaps mainly looking for ways that the presentations fell apart (in retrospect, perhaps that need was not necessary). I felt like I was an outsider looking in on these personal interactions with myth, never once like I was an academic discussing ways to interface with these stories and use them to educate. Some of that may be the general idea behind the symposium in not living up to my ideal of an academic conference, some of it may be the choices they made for presenters, some of it (I admit) may have been professional jealousy.

I had none of these feelings at Wordcamp. I felt like I was actually a part of a group that was all looking for different ideas and different ways of interfacing with something that we all had in common. We shared tips, hints, and similar complaints. It was very interesting, I think, to have actually been part of a group that understood where I was coming from when I said something.

One thing to note is that this may have been part of the organization: Wordcamp was clearly delineated as far as what aspect was being discussed, things were moved around in a clear manner, and they didn’t try to do too much. It was a well balanced conference. Kudos to them for getting it set up like that.

It may also have had to do with the fact that the conference was set up to help developers with wordpress. That goal, which was different than the seeming goal of the myth conference (allow people to share their personal experience with myth) may be why I found Wordcamp so enjoyable and why I found the myth conference so grating.

Although, as I’ve pointed out, it could also be because I’m an asshole. Let’s not take that off the table.

CosmoViking…APACE!

Still working on the game on occasion. Now that the classes have kicked back in full time, it’s actually been nice getting back in to the swing of having more to do than I’ve had for the past year.

This coupled with getting back into Skyrim for a bit (I know, I know…but I less than three that game) has killed some time.

However, today, during one of the conference talks that was a bit beyond my necessity level (so I stop listening) I got the battle system worked out completely now. The correct messages are being shown, the correct adjustments to the ship are being done. My next two goals for CosmoViking (since Keith has gotten the ship graphics down) will be to work with the “rewards” at the end of the battle (or on finding a new star system), and getting the ship purchase functions ready to go.

Once that’s been put in, I really need to take a look at these “balance” sheets again for each ship. The intro ship is getting its ass kicked. Which, at the time being, is pretty much what I want to happen, to help ensure the need to earn more money and really earn some cash to upgrade the ship.

At the very beginning, a player will have to do some exploration to find another planet. Then they can start thinking of bounty hunting (really NOT recommended with the entry-level ship), but definitely trading, and hoping like hell that they’re not attacked. If they are attacked, they may win they will likely not. The next level of ship up isn’t a huge cost, but it’s absolutely required that they get the idea down of the basic ideas of earning money: exploration and trading. Once you’ve got those basics down, then a person can consider the next style of ship to tackle.

Good times!

Wordcamp Minneapolis

This conference has been pretty stellar all around. It was very organized, the schedule was very clear, and the presentations have been very helpful thus far. The thing I think I’m most impressed is the availability for the three main tracks having to do with WordPress information: programming, business development, and design.

I think I made the move to at lease one presentation from each track, and for the most part it’s been well worth my time.

Now we’re talking roughly basic customer support, and it’s saying a lot of things that I’ve run into before, but still useful for most folk.

It’s been a very stellar conference.

A Public Service

Any time on Facebook when someone posts something about having either a rational discussion, an adult conversation, or a serious debate but then uses text-speak to do so?

I will comment about how the grammar seriously detracts from their stated aims.

It’s the least I can do, people.

In exercise news…

AHAHAHAHAHA!!!! I bet you never thought you’d see THAT title? Well there you have it.

Anyway, to the news. I bought a watch online the other day to track heartreat/calories burned. It requires a chest strap to track it. It’s bizarre.

However, back in the day the thing that kept me running was the numbers ticking by on the treadmill. Or the miles/calories ticking by on the readout on my bike. So. Now we’re going to try this.

It was a minimal expense, and the watch works just fine as just a watch. It does have a keen stop watch function which is pretty much everything I ask from my watches.

So, we’ll see how this goes. All about optimal heartrate and all that jazz. Blah blah blah.

Some days…

You rock at teaching and some days you just don’t. Last term was reasonably challenging for me as an instructor at one of my colleges. The student interaction was very low, about half of them stopped taking part in the course halfway through in one of the courses, and overall it was one of the tougher terms. I tried to make up for it by taking a far more active role in the discussion, but it wasn’t enough.

In all courses I taught at my colleges, there were some sour grapes about grading. This is bound to happen, I realize, and I try to let it roll off my back. What bothers me most, however, is when these sour grapes very evidently come from students who don’t read the gradebook.

I go out of my way to make sure that they understand completely what they’ve done right, what they need to do better on, and where the points were lost per the rubric. I will defend the impartiality of my grading to the ends of the earth. It’s not the sour grapes of “Man, he graded harshly” that bother me (those happen on occasion, I’m ok with being known for that)…it’s the comments of “I wasn’t sure why I was losing points…I did everything required” that get to me.

Because let me tell you, if I could grade without leaving any comments? Man. MAN. It would be the most fantastic thing ever. Grading would take all of 30 minutes (most of the time taken by load times of the different web screens between students). IT WOULD BE STELLAR.

But in the real world of trying to teach students something that type of grading would be next to useless.

*sigh* Dreams. While we’re on the topic, I want a time machine.

Widgets ‘n Twitter

So yesterday afternoon/evening was consumed by trying to figure out Twitter’s new widget install for a website. Turns out it’s great…so long as you don’t want to customize anything that twitter does.

So after deciding that sucked, I dove into the Twitter API programming and PHP to get that to work (since, y’know, twitter is nixing javascript support). It was a learning experience, fo’ sho’.

The biggest hurdle when doing most programming isn’t what most folks would expect. You talk to almost anyone who isn’t a programmer and they think it’s the connection between the systems (computer to website, website to database, etc.) that is the biggest hassle. That’s really not it. The biggest hassle is parsing the data.

Trying to get that data figured out appropriately while sifting through roughly 500 worthless websites was a bit of a challenge, but I got it done and finished.

That’s really the biggest problem with programming today, imo: it’s not the complicated programming language, it’s the sifting through all of the data that just sits out there without ever being updated. Google, get on that. Quit giving me stackoverflow results from deprecated programming over 5 years ago.

I’m just saying.

But in the end, I’ve got it working exactly how we wanted the code to work, polishing up the widget to input it into a wordpress install today, and overall pretty pleased with how it’s working.

All of that hassle was required because twitter doesn’t understand basic options that their users may like (for instance, total amount of tweets to display). Rather, they’re cracking down and REALLY pushing for a fascist system where only they control what people see. The internet as a democratizing force my ass…so long as people are beholden to these media dispersal giants (twitter, facebook, google, etc.) that don’t allow adjustments because there’s a line they want you to toe for the sake of “continuity” or “brand recongition” there will be no democratizing force.

Ok, I’m done now. Been a while since I was able to rant a bit.