Intro to PHP talk at LUV Beginners

Posted on June 20th, 2010

Linux Users of Victoria (LUV) holds a beginners’ session every month, aimed at people who are interested in Linux, but who might need some additional guidance or direction to get going. I was honoured to be asked to present at this month’s session, providing an introduction to the PHP programming language. You can see the presentation on Slideshare here;

http://www.slideshare.net/KathyReid/intro-tophp19-jun10-4541506

For a presenter, the venue, The Hub at Docklands, is perfect. It comfortably seats around 25 people, has good lighting, a whiteboard and a projector and projector screen. These worked perfectly with my Ubuntu-ised EEEPC, running Open Office Impress. My Logitech wireless presenter generally worked well, but it was sluggish at times.

The feedback from the presentation was generally positive. Introducing PHP is a very large topic, and in condensing it to around 2 hours there was a lot that had to be left out.

On reflection, I think that there are generally two entrypoints to PHP – and the current material and literature is really only appropriate for one of them – something that the community may have to consider in the future.

  • Coders who are already familiar with programming concepts such as variables, flow of execution, conditional processing, data structures etc. For this group of people, PHP is simply another programming language. The specifics that they are interested in are how PHP does object oriented, what specific language features it has, what the appropriate IDE and testing / quality assurance tools are etc.
  • People who have come from a blogging or design (say CSS and HTML with graphics) background, for instance via WordPress or Drupal, appear to approach learning PHP in a different way. The concepts that are important here are how PHP differs from HTML, the static vs dynamic concept, and a solid foundation in the client-server HTTP request response lifecycle.

Perhaps the PHP introductory documentation has to be rejigged to be more appropriate to each audience?

Ada Lovelace Day – Donna Benjamin, Brianna Laugher, Lorna Jane Mitchell and Elizabeth Naramore

Posted on March 24th, 2010

One of the reasons behind the Finding Ada campaign is to promote the wealth of female talent in science, engineering, technology and computing. In previous years, I’ve heard the laments of many would-be bloggers; “but I don’t know any women in technology or computing!”. In contrast, I believe there are so many to choose from!

Donna Benjamin

Donna is a stalwart in the Linux and Drupal communities in Australia, and a key member of AussieChix. Although she holds many positions of responsibility within those communities, it is her passion, dedication, fervour and strong commitment to the values underpinning open sourceĀ  that make me admire her so much. Education, openness and freedom are principles she strongly advocates – and on that basis alone she deserves credit. Her leadership abilities enable her to gain support – often from volunteers at events such as Software Freedom Day or for running conferences – and drive people to deliver on a shared vision. She is a force to be reckoned with, and a wonderful role model for other women.

Donna is @KatteKrab on Twitter, Identi.ca etc.

Brianna Laugher

Also a key player in the open source community, Brianna heads up Wikimedia Australia, an organisation dedicated to supporting the creation of free cultural works. She is active in the open source and Linux communities in Melbourne, and shares my passion for language.

Brianna is @pfctdayelise on Twitter, Identi.ca etc.

Lorna Jane Mitchell

Although having collaborated online as part of PHPWomen, I had the privilege of meeting Lorna while travelling in the UK. She is one of the most dynamic, energetic and determined people I’ve ever met – and an absolute dynamo during her time with PHPWomen. She now looks after the developer community at iBuildings, and has the (fun!) job of organising the Dutch PHP conference. As part of PHPWomen’s Big Sis L’il Sis programme, Lorna has mentored and coached a number of up-and-coming PHP developers, imbuing them with the confidence and skills to hone their PHP development technique.

Lorna is @LornaJane on Twitter, Identi.ca etc

Elizabeth Naramore

One of the founders of PHPWomen, Liz has previously worked on PHPArchitect magazine and in a number of development roles. She has played an instrumental role in establishing PHPWomen’s partnerships programme, in which open source software projects with strong values and statements about supporting equity and diversity within their development communities are promoted through PHPWomen. Liz is also a Mum – and how she manages her young family and still has time to code, I just don’t know!

Liz is @ElizabethN on Twitter, Identi.ca etc

So? Do you know a standout women in science, technology or computing? Then blog about them for Ada Lovelace Day!

Making Links 08 – Intensive Web Day

Posted on November 14th, 2008

The Making Links 08 conference was held this week at the University of Melbourne. The tagline of the conference is ‘where social action and technology meet’ – and the delegates are primarily from the community, not for profit, activist and educational sectors.

I decided to catch the train up to Melbourne as it’s both cheaper and less stressful than driving in peak hour traffic through the West Gate car park. Who should happen to sit next me on the train? None other than former Liberal member for Corangamite – Stewart McArthur. The irony was not lost on me – a presenter at a largely left wing conference chancing to sit next to a right wing MP. Perhaps the universe was having a chuckle. Stewart was devouring his way through at least three newspapers – so I tried to break the ice by asking him which one he thought was the most truthful. To his credit, he took the question very well and provided me with advice on the merits of various individual journalists. We got talking and I found out he was a keen runner, and he encouraged me to take up the sport. I felt like a politician when I refused to commit :)

My talk on the day was on free software for non-profit organisations;

making-links-kathyreid-useful-free-software (Open Office .odp file)

making-links-kathyreid-useful-free-software (Powerpoint .ppt file)

The presentation went well, and the audience let me know they were very pleased with it – and had a load of questions! :)

I then lead the CMS session – which didn’t go quite so well as we spent a lot of time on security issues rather than being able to demonstrate the software in a lot of depth.The group really wanted to see some different options with skinning Drupal and Joomla – however I hadn’t upoaded any and I couldn’t get FTP access with the wireless network connection. There was a lot of contention over whether Joomla or Drupal were more appropriate for use – with the comment raised theat Drupal documentation wasn’t up to scratch.

Some of the key themes expressed during the day were;

  • Concern over having sensitive information in databases hosted on the web: CiviCRM is a tool which holds contact details and personal information on donors and volunteers. Delegates were concerned about the security that would be applied to ensure that unauthorised access did not occur to this data.I’ve provided some links below for further information on these products.
  • Criteria on which to base a CMS decision: Many organisations wanted information on how to select the best CMS for their need. One of the delegates provided this handy link to CMS matrix which allows organisations to compare the functionality that is available through different CMSs.
  • How to being a foray into social networking: The organisations that were present needed pointers on how to step into the social networking waters – with some already on Facebook or Twitter, but with no real engagement strategy or supporting strategies.

Other key presentations included:

Jason King (non profit web designer) presented tips for non profits, including;

  • Register your name and keep it registered (so that somebody can’t grab it when it expires) - this theme was also bourne out by Darryl later on in the session with his presentation on whatsinaname.com.au, which lists all of the domain name registrars and prices for domain hosting (interestingly my host, Servers Australia isn’t on the list – and they’d be near the top for pricing)
  • Make sure that you keep all the details such as passwords for the site – so that in the event of a disagreement or dispute with the web designer, you’re able to get into the site and take control
  • Choose your web developers carefully – sometimes the director’s brother’s kid son is not the best person to plan or design your not for profit web site.

Andrew Edwards, of Huge Object also gave a presentation on working with developers, the key take aways being;

  • Know what you’re paying for – understanding exactly what the developer is quoting on can give you much clearer expectations of what will be delivered
  • Check our your developer - by making sure that they know what things like web standards are for instance
  • Have a clear idea of what you want in your website – so that what is delivered is more likely to be what is delivered

[Updated 17 Nov 08 to include summary of Jason and Andrew’s presentations]

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