I got the opportunity to participate in the We Are Microsoft Charity Challenge (under the umbrella of GiveCamp) in Dallas this past weekend. As I wrote in a previous post, this event matches charities in need of technical assistance with coders and other tech geeks willing to give up a weekend to help out a good cause. Most of the needs were web related, and ranged in scope from adding functionality to an existing Internet or intranet site to completely building a new web presence for the organization.
I was part of the team working with PaxUnited to create a new, more interactive website. These folks specialize in conflict resolution and mediation services and training for students, educators, and the public at large. Their old site was completely static and, without the in-house expertise to maintain it, it was quite stale. Our team, consisting of Todd Stone, Andrew Dalgleish, Jay Smith, and Nathan Woodward (sorry Nathan, I don’t have a link for you… send me one and I’ll add it) built a new site for them. Thanks also to Andrew’s wife, Jenny Leder, who wasn’t technically on the team but nonetheless rescued us from graphic design hell.
Our choice of CMS for this project was the mojoPortal framework. We had the option of using SiteFinity or Graffiti, but opted to go with a smaller, more extensible product to allow for easier custom development. All said, I really enjoyed this product – it’s open source and, with the exception of the dozens of stylesheets, was fairly easy to modify. I was only slightly disappointed that I didn’t get to use my strongest skillset, specifically database development, on this project, but it was fun to break out of the usual routine and do something different.
Sadly, we didn’t win any awards, but I believe we made a difference in the charity to which we were assigned. Our contacts there were gracious and appreciative, and I expect that they will get a lot of mileage out of the new site. We’re still working with their web host to get them set up on a Windows hosting plan, but for now the new site resides here.
It was a very rewarding but also a very tiring weekend; I’m still about 10 hours behind on sleep. No rest for the weary, however; I’ve got two major projects to complete before Friday, and then I leave to speak at SQL Saturday – Tampa on Saturday. If you’re in the area, stop by and drop in on my session about scripting SSIS.