Tucson WordPress Meetup, February 2014

It’s 2014 and a great time to kick off the new year with a WordPress event in Tucson.

Join the newly formed Meetup.com group to RSVP and be notified of new events: Tucson WordPress Meetup.

Follow us on Twitter @tucsonwp for news and announcements. Hashtag: #tucsonwp

Our next Tucson WP Meetup is Tuesday February 18th from 7–9 PM at CoLab Workspace, see details and directions.

See you there!

Spoke6 Changes Hands

Big news in the Tucson coworking scene this week. My favorite coworking spot, Spoke6, is changing hands with founder and owner Tim Bowen handing over the reins to the excellent folks at GraphicFusion.

No major changes planned, according to GraphicFusion—our bi-monthly WordPress meetups will continue to meet there. (Next WordPress meetup is Wednesday November 7th, 7–9 PM.)

Read the full story here.

WordPress 3.2, Gershwin

Last night I shared about the latest and greatest WordPress release at the July 2011 Tucson WordPress meetup.

The focus for the 3.2 release was making WordPress faster and lighter. Highlights include a new distraction-free writing mode, a completely refreshed admin UI, faster updates (only updating files that changed), support dropped for IE6, PHP 4, and MySQL 4, and the new default theme, Twenty Eleven.

Go update now! (3.2.1 is out now, by the way, with some minor fixes.)

Here are the links I mentioned in my talk.

The next Tucson WordPress meetup is scheduled for September 7th, 2011. Mark your calendars, and see you there.

Thanks to Andy Nacin for allowing me to use his slides from WordCamp Columbus as a starting point for my talk.

Coworking at Spoke6

The May 2010 edition of Tucson Green Times includes an excellent writeup of my favorite Tucson coworking spot, Spoke6. Centrally located in the Warehouse Arts District, Spoke6 is run by Tim Bowen of Creative Slice, a Tucson-based web design agency.

I work there once a week—usually on Friday—and love the quite, productive atmosphere, fast WiFi, and the ability to connect with like-minded individuals (learn more about coworking). It’s also within walking distance of three areas: Downtown, 4th Avenue, and University Boulevard, all of which offer great choices for lunch or a post-work happy hour.

You should come try it out if you live in the area. Your first visit is free!

Spoke6 also hosts Tucson Digital Arts Community events, including the Tucson WordPress Meetup which I host once a month.

Tucson's Web Design and Development Scene Is on Fire

There is a lot of excitement right now in the Tucson web design and development scene. Tucson Digital Arts Community is rocking the house with monthly workshops, local companies like Bookmans are innovating with their agile web development and engaging user-centric website, and there is a buzz of energy around getting together, sharing ideas and best practices, learning, networking, and improving our community.

Local web ninja Jared McFarland summed it up nicely in Capitalizing on the Tucson Tech Community.

We, as a community, can work together to educate and inspire one another. We can enjoy the same benefits as the people in major tech centers simply by knowing each other and inventing ways to work together. It isn’t about vast numbers of people, but small passionate groups. The web brings like minds together globally, but we can now use the web to find each other and act locally. We can turn Tucson into something intentional, and beautiful, for ourselves and the city.

The larger Tucson community is also bubbling with social events like Ignite Tucson and the myriad of Twitter meetups (“Tweetups”). Just search Twitter for #tweetup #tucson to be amazed. These events cover a much broader range of topics than web design and development but they all share a common goal: to mingle, network, and share with others.

This is how I think it breaks down: socially, the larger community wants to meet itself and technologically, web designers and developers are joining together to improve the tech community. All of this energy and enthusiasm is contagious!

In contrast, I want to share the story of the Tucson Geek Meet1, a group I was personally involved with for four years. Started as the Tucson Web Standards Group in 2003 by Molly Holzschlag, the Geek Meet slowly lost momentum over time. Instead of growing and expanding, it stayed a small core of five or six people.

Don’t get me wrong, because of those meetups the five or six of us are now steadfast friends, and several of us have had the opportunity to work together. Now that we are friends we can socialize anytime—we don’t need to call it anything. The idea of the Geek Meet isn’t going away, it’s just being replaced by ad hoc Tweetups and other social happenings around town.

What I want to encourage, and I think Jared hit on this, is not just the social aspects of meeting together but the educational and inspirational benefits of sharing code, experiences, and real-life examples of our work. TDAC is spearheading the effort by organizing workshops and collaborative coding days to get people together to educate, inspire, network, and improve. I’ve been a part of TDAC for six months now, and the tech community in Tucson isn’t just soaking it up, it’s clamoring for more.

We’re hoping soon to have a Refresh Tucson—our neighbors in The Valley have had a strong Refresh presence for three years—we can do the same here in the Old Pueblo. So please participate: join up, tweet up, meet up, share, and pass the word to your colleagues and friends.

Let’s do it, Tucson.

How to get involved

Tucson networks to join and participate in

Are you on Meetup.com? Tell your Meetup.com cronies to join the fine sites listed above, especially if you are on the Meetup.com Web Standards “waiting list”. Wait no more!

Notes

1 The Tucson Geek Meet is no more, it’s pushing up the daisies, it’s kicked the bucket. This meetup is not pining for the fjords, it’s gone to meet it’s maker. It’s… OK, enough of the Monty Python!

For posterity, here is a brief history of the Tucson Geek Meet:

2003(?): Started by Molly Holzschlag.

2005: Tucson Web Standards Meetup moved to Upcoming by Lance (from Meetup.com). We met at B-Line and Famous Sam’s. See Molly’s 2005 post and my 2005 post as well as the Upcoming group page.

2006: Met monthly at the Old Chicago patio. A few Flickr photos from 2006 events: Great Discussion at Tucson Web Standards Meeting, Geoff in Action.

2007: Changed the name to Geek Meet.

2008: The infamous Hooter’s incident. D’oh! (Yes, Molly gave us a good lashing for that, and it was deserved.)

2009: Called it quits in favor of other local groups and Twitter meetups.

This post was originally titled “Rest in Peace, Tucson Geek Meet” but I decided that it was just a small part of the burgeoning Tucson web design and development scene.

Project Update: AZ-Birding

I am proud to announce the recent launch of AZ-Birding.com, a custom reservation system for Arizona-based professional birding guides. I was involved in every step of this project from planning and prototyping to web design and development.

azbirding

AZ-Birding.com, a free service of WINGS, launched in February 2009. I have worked with WINGS since 2005, and this latest project is exciting since it brings focus to Arizona (as compared to WINGS worldwide presence) and enables anyone to hire a local birding expert to explore the state’s wonderful birding specialties.

The site’s main focus is taking reservations, so the majority of the work revolved around managing calendars, the reservation process, and the guides’ availability with a custom CakePHP web application. The CakePHP app has two parts: public-facing pages with reservation forms and guide information and an administrative area for WINGS to manage all the details.

The goal for the administrative aspect of running AZ-Birding as a service was simple: automate the process as much as possible. To do this, the app has built-in functionality that runs automatically to produce reminders, late notices, and feedback requests (sent out to clients after their birding experience is over). This automation reduces the office workload for WINGS while ensuring a high-quality, consistent experience for clients. This hands-off approach safeguards against common situations where an administrator would have to step in and take action, like when a birding guide might be out of the country—or offline for a few days—and cannot respond directly to a reservation request.

The pages that don’t pertain to managing reservations are managed with WordPress. This decision was based on two realities: much more development time and effort would be required to cook up a CakePHP-based CMS, and WINGS is already familiar with the WordPress product and interface as the content editor and producer of the WINGS blog, Wingbeat.

As an added bonus, the site also tracks the latest Arizona bird rarities—meaning WINGS can post alerts when rare or special birds are sighted in Arizona. The home page and the “Latest Rarities” page both feature these alerts (entered into WordPress as blog posts) as well as custom data delivered by eBird, a free service of Cornell Lab or Ornithology. For example, the eBird data feed for “Notable Sightings in Arizona” not only brings more value to the AZ-Birding website as a birding resource, but it also provides potential clients with an idea of what to look for—hopefully enticing them to place a reservation if they see something that excites them. All the bird-related content on AZ-Birding is geared towards providing a reason to book the short-term tour with the service’s expert birding guides.

Two people contributed to this project outside of simpledream, and I owe them thanks. Sam Devore did the heavy lifting on the data modeling and backend CakePHP setup, and also contributed greatly to the project planning efforts, including work on user actions and workflows during the planning stages. The AZ-Birding logo (inspired by the gorgeous Elegant Trogon) was designed by Julie Hecimovich.

See the official announcement from WINGS, view all the screenshots on Flickr, and read more details in the simpledream portfolio.