Sunday, October 31, 2010

Each Week, I Learn a Little More with Joomla!

Yesterday I did a little searching and discovered a plugin that permits me to embed powerpoint presentations in Joomla! websites. I already had a SlideShare account, but hadn't thought about using that with Joomla! A little research on how to get my slides to embed in a website led me to that solution and it's working pretty well.

Some of the slides are a full screen, and those don't display exactly properly. But for now, it's a good start on getting our Electronic Bulletin Board, with local events and information constantly updated, onto our website.  This will make it easier for our volunteers to answer a question from someone who has seen something posted on the bulletin board but doesn't want to stand outside and wait for it to roll around again.  They can go to the website, click on the link, and find what the person is asking about.

I LOVE how technology can actually make things easier for us.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Joomla! Boston Users Group

Last night the Joomla! Boston Users Group met and had a long-distance presentation by Nick Antimisairis (nickname Nant on Joomlapolis), one of the core developers of the Community Builder (membership management) and CBSubs (subscription management) components.  We used Skype to talk with Nick and DimDim to see his desktop presentation.

Learning how Community Builder and CBSubs can be used together to help manage an organization's memberships, subscription, and even sales of items was great.  CBSubs seems very well integrated into Joomla! and many of the most widely-used extensions.  Being able to use multiple tools without any code hacking demonstrates good core component-building and integration.

After bidding Nick good night (at 3:45 AM his time), we talked and helped one member resolve a design issue she is having with her sight.   For the past several months, we've been able to fix at least one member's site each meeting.  Other members have had a chance to showcase their sites and some of us have then been able to adopt some of the extensions and techniques to improve our own sites. 

If you are experienced or a novice, join us and share in the experience.  We meet monthly on the 4th Wednesday, 7-9 PM, at the Cyber Cafe @ Malden Square, 100 Pleasant Street, Malden, MA 02148.  For more information, check out the Joomla! Boston Users Group.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Video Shoot for Tax Prep Volunteer Training

Tax season is several months away but now is the time that Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) programs start preparing.  We have to recruit and train new volunteers, call back experienced volunteers,  begin looking at changes in tax law, and get ready for the release of our certification training.  Many VITA Site Coordinators also wear other hats in their organizations, so it's a balancing act to juggle our upcoming, intense activities between January and April with our normal routine.

Yesterday was a cool change of that routine.   Five of us gathered at Malden Access Television (MATV) to shoot a video for VITA Site Coordinators and their volunteers to supplement the training materials provided by the IRS.  The major focus of this video is on the differences between the federal and MA tax returns.  These differences can make a significant difference for some people on their tax refund and we wanted to make sure that our volunteers and the general public can zero in on those areas when they prepare returns.

First, it was a lot of fun.  Second, I want to thank the MATV folks: Executive Director Ron Cox, Assistant Director Anne D'Urso-Rose, Receptionist/Floor Manager/Cameraperson Josephine Royal, and Volunteer/Cameraperson Barry Greenspan.   They were terrific, but I knew this going into the project and it's the only reason I felt comfortable saying I (and my employer, Tri-CAP) could "produce" this project.

We aimed for a 30-minute video, using a talk show format.  Hosting was done by Joe Diamond, Executive Director of MassCAP.  Guests were Bill Smitts, IRS SPEC territory manager (MA, ME, NH); Dana Ackerman, Taxpayer Advocate Office of the Mass Dept of Revenue (DOR); and Meelynn Wong, VITA Site Coordinator for Boston ABCD.  Two telephone conference calls to plan our topics and time worked; we had a smooth shoot, no stops, and at the end had extra time to add a piece on a topic we will insert into place during editing. My thanks to everyone for their thoughtful planning and execution. 

Now the difficult part begins: editing!  It's not really difficult; it's just time-consuming.  We have already set up several "dummy" tax returns in our system so we can hook the camera up and grab screen shots to overlay on the discussion we taped.  With my limited time available, we agreed to hire an experienced and fast editor for this part of the project.  She and I will have to coordinate our schedules so she can grasp the overall goal and help us put the right pieces into place.  Add a little music, take out any stammers, er's, uhm's, and all that -- and we're good to go. 

Joe wants to put it on YouTube when it's done, so anyone can benefit from the tips on preparing a return, so I'll post here when that's done.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Have I Neglected My Blog? Oh, Dear...

I feel as if I've neglected my blog.  Sometimes there is so much I want to say, I don't say anything. Today, I'm starting what I hope to make a habit.  I'll write something short every few days, sometime more than two days consecutively, just to be in the habit of writing, commenting, or sharing. 

So, it's Friday of a long weekend (Columbus Day) and I have the day off.  Got lots to do, but also want some time to just relax, enjoy the beautiful fall weather (walks with the dogs will permit that), and recharge my batteries for the upcoming week, which will be very busy. 

Have a great holiday weekend everyone.  Be safe on the roads, drive carefully, leave early, and don't sweat the small stuff -- it wrinkles your clothes!