Photos by Richard Sanderson
The July General Meeting was a humdinger! A near-capacity crowd of ninety members and nonmembers packed the multipurpose room of the Luther Jackson Middle School in Falls Church, Virginia, and saw three great presentations on Web design and publication to the Web. Several subsequent comments to the Pi President, and staff indicated the program was one of our recent best.
This is the Journal’s first photo taken by an iPhone, taken at the July General Meeting. The iPhone lacks a viewfinder, so you must take a photo at arm’s length, which is not the steadiest position. This is particularly disadvantageous in dim light, since the shutter speed will be slow and, as a consequence, the photo will be blurry to very blurry. This photo shows the crowd listening to the July presentation on building Web sites. Click on the photo for the unretouched original. (Photo taken with Kathleen Charters’ iPhone) More photos taken by iPhone
The idea for this successful meeting took shape two months earlier when four members of the Pi Staff shared lunch after the May General Meeting. The notion was to educate the Pi membership about the basics of Web design and then show them how they can publish their own Web pages using storage space available to Pi members. It was a tall order; however, with some dedicated members providing brain and muscle power, they developed and executed an outstanding program. Great job, everyone!
Seldom-photographed Pi photojournalist Richard Sanderson was captured on digital film at the July General Meeting, wearing a tie, no less. (Photo by Grant Peacock)
Lawrence Charters started taking questions at 9:30 a.m., and he led off with a thorough discussion of the good and the bad regarding the iPhone. Meanwhile, Pat Fauquet allowed her iPhone to be passed through the audience for a look, while she watched it like a hawk.
An apparently wounded Lawrence Charters holds up an iPhone during the opening Question and Answer session in July. (Photo by Richard Sanderson)
After the iPhone interlude, Lawrence took a variety of questions. But instead
of encapsulating the dialogue here, just go to the Pi Web site and listen
to a recording of the entire session. Here’s the link:
Tell us what you think of these audio clips.
Lawrence then moved on to an introduction to Web pages, focusing on: text. HTML (HyperText Markup Language) is the coding used for Web pages, and it is all based on: text. There are no compiled programs, no exotic data structures – just text. Lawrence demonstrated this by dragging the entire Gettysburg Address, saved as a text file (the T in HTML), into a browser window where it showed up as: text. The Address scrolled off the edge of the browser window since there was no markup (the M in HTML) to wrap text as paragraphs.
He then added a heading, a title, and a few other ornaments, including a hyperlink (the H in HTML) to a photo of a cannon on the Gettysburg National Battlefield, and finished off with another hyperlink to a sound file that played Battle Hymn of the Republic. A most appropriate subject for Northern Virginia, eh?
All this was done with a simple text editor, foreshadowing the more elegant tools to follow.
Hal Cauthen and Travis Good do some last-minute coordination in the hallway prior to their July presentations on easy Web publishing. (Photo by Richard Sanderson)
In an effort to breakup what was planned to be a long meeting, we introduced an official Coffee Break! The small middle school seats take their toll on most of the (non-middle school sized) attendees, so this “seventh-inning stretch” was introduced to get everyone out of their chairs, a little more energized, and socializing. Yes, real coffee was provided in two newly acquired pump pots along with four-dozen Krispy Kreme donuts.
The crowd was encouraged to gravitate to a couple of sections of the room where select Pi members were stationed to help lead an unConference. A what? An unConference is a small group of folks who are informally led in a discussion along the lines of a particular topic. Each participant is free to offer their take on the topic at hand, while the “leader” is there to ensure the small crowd keeps on track regarding the topic. Think of it as a bull session with a theme.
With caffeine and food in hand, the room quickly coalesced into little groups busily conversing. Undoubtedly, some folks ended up just chatting about heaven-knows-what, but the informal leaders also had many folks standing nearby with some spirited dialogue going on. If the success of this official Coffee Break idea was to be judged by how hard it was to get the room quieted down and folks back into their seats, it would receive an A+.
Next, Pi President Bob Jarecke talked about some of the issues facing the Pi leadership. The corporate By-Laws were one of these topics, as some of the corporation’s governing tenets are sorely in need of revision based on how the Pi is now organized and managed. The membership can expect to vote on amendments to the By-Laws at future General Meetings.
Next, Bob outlined modifications to the Pi Raffle traditionally conducted at the end of each General Meeting. In essence, each member uses their accrued Pi Dollars to purchase virtual tickets towards a raffle prize. Members simply provide their name, the prize(s) they would like to win, and the number of tickets they want to purchase towards said prize(s). This information is placed on the back of the Pi Dollar note they receive at the meeting check-in. After the ticket sales are closed, the submissions are collected and collated into a list, with each entrant receiving consecutive raffle numbers assigned against each prize of interest. At the meeting’s end, our Raffler program will be used to draw the winning number. All this is an effort to get the right prize to the right person while awarding participation in Pi events and activities.
The third item in Bob’s talk was new Pi initiatives; the first is a notion for an in-home tutorial program. With the aid of the Adobe software program Connect, a Pi tutor can push a live image of their computer screen to a student’s Mac. With the aid of an audio connection, the student can see, as well as hear, the instructor’s presentation. Trial lessons are being developed and tested at this time. Obviously, a key to the success of this program is the active participation by Pi members who have the skills and talent to conduct such a training session. If you are interested, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Frank Midgley, creator of MacOSaiX, takes a break from programming at the July meeting to look at Pat Fauquet’s iPhone. (Photo by Richard Sanderson)
iChat was the next topic. The audience was reminded of an in-depth article in the last Journal that gave everyone the nuts and bolts of how to register for and conduct an iChat session. Bob pointed out that the author, Travis Good, had also produced a short video mirroring what the Journal article presented. Everyone interested was encouraged to check the Pi Web site for a link to that QuickTime video:
The final topic was a major announcement that each Classic member of the Pi has had their allotted storage space on the Pi servers increased to twenty-five megabytes. This is a substantial increase over the previous allotment, provided as an effort to give the membership a benefit in keeping with the Web-enabled universe around us. Coupling this increase in Web space with instructions on how to use that space is one of many efforts underway to provide members with relevant services.
At this point, the Pi business matters were complete, so Bob turned the meeting over to Hal Cauthen for a presentation on iWeb.
Hal, in preparation for the meeting, used his considerable photographic and movie-making talents to design several Web pages using iWeb. He ended up with Web pages that had photos and short movies on them. In addition, he built Blog and Podcast pages to fully illustrate to the audience the scope of iWeb’s capabilities.
Next, Hal went about constructing abbreviated versions of a couple of the pages he had done previously. He did it to show precisely how it was done and to ensure the folks understood that what they were going to see on the Web was what he just created. Hal made it all look so easy. Drawing on his existing talents in photography, video, and sound, Hal was able to quickly build new Web pages in a manner that everyone could follow. The questions were countless, and Hal, with the patience of Job, handled each one with aplomb.
Without skipping a beat, Travis Good took the stage and methodically showed the audience how the magic of Web publishing was going to work. With the Pi’s own customized copy of Easy iWeb Publisher, Travis went through the simple steps to configure the application, load up the folder with freshly minted Web pages, and then push the package up to the Pi’s Web server. Voila!
Travis then showed the audience how to view one’s creation on the Web, and how to transcribe the URL so you can send it off to family and friends. Travis walked the crowd through the entire process, then pressed the Enter key and -- Hal’s Web site was online, available to the world. A video tutorial is available at:
Finally, the Pi Dollar Raffle returned after an absence of two meetings. The prizes were limited but the spirit of the crowd was not. The first of three raffle prizes was a large CD holder. Selecting the winner was real easy since only one person elected to enter: Bob handed the prize to John Sullivan.
The second and third prizes had plenty of hopefuls signed up for these drawings, and in less than a minute the second prize — a $15 iTunes Gift Card — was handed to Ronald Green. Finally, Paige Counts was announced as the new owner of a second generation iPod shuffle. The audience generously clapped for all the winners, a nice culmination to an energetic program with an equally energetic group attending.
The immediate feedback about the meeting was positive, and it continued at the “meeting after the meeting” lunch at Five Guys Restaurant. Additional email messages and postings on the TCS further substantiated that, to a person, each felt the meeting was a genuine success. With all the above in mind, the plans are already underway to build on this meeting’s agenda and topic. Everyone is encouraged to check the Pi Web site (www.wap.org) for further details.
Washington Apple Pi's July 2007 General Meeting: Luther Jackson Middle School, 3020 Gallows Road, Falls Church, Virginia. Directions below.
Apple has a Web site. The White House has a Web site. Your employer probably has a Web site. The irritating 10-year old down the street has a Web site. Do you have one? You should: space for a Web site is included with every Pi membership.
Web sites can be used for corporate purposes. But they can also be used for sharing photos of relatives, transferring files too big to send via E-mail, and sharing your brilliant video clips and original a capella renditions of Elton John hits. At the July meeting, we'll show you what you can do with your site.
A general overview of popular Web applications will be given during the first part of the meeting. Then we will produce -- before your very eyes! (if our network access is up) -- a Web site on the Pi's servers using Apple's iWeb. No man will be standing behind a curtain, no hidden props will be employed, smoking is strictly forbidden. The traditional Question and Answer session will start the morning at 9:30 a.m. This meeting should be a real learning experience; postpone mowing the lawn and learn something!
Coffee Break – unConferences!
Luther Jackson Middle School, 3020 Gallows Road, Falls Church, Virginia.
Questions: Contact the WAP office at (301) 984-0300.
The meeting, open to the public, starts at 9:30 a.m.