Apr 01 2012
Apr 01

Drupalcon Denver Group Image
Denver was my 9th Drupalcon. It was also the Con that opened my eyes. I became part of a very exclusive club and I'll never see another con in the same light.

Being on the Local Organizing Committee was exciting, exhausting, satisfying, and completely worthwhile. So, if you want to spend a little time with me looking back, I'd like that.

Many Many Months Ago
I heard a little yippee from the cube beside mine in the Examiner.com offices. It was a little nervous but definitely excited.

"Hey, hey Matthew. Pop onto #dcondtown."

I popped into the IRC channel and there was a little celebration going on. Denver had been selected for the North American Drupalcon in roughly 18 months. Contracts still needed signing - we were told to keep quiet. This needed to be SECRET until Drupalcon Chicago. But were going to start planning. We were a tiny team at this point - 10 or 12 of us.

We established a weekly meeting time - generally we would meet in Skype, although sometimes we would simply meet in IRC. We needed to finish doing things like:

  • Finalising the Venue
  • Figuring out the food
  • Organizing Partys
  • Line up local volunteers
  • Secure Hotels
  • Figure out our Social Networking Strategy
  • Build the Website
  • Fill the Website with Content
  • Organize Local Marketing and Communication
  • We had Local and Global Track Chairs
  • We needed to work out the Keynotes
  • We had massive amounts of signage to design
  • Badgelets
  • And SO MUCH MORE

We had 18 months. Thank goodness for the Association. Thank goodness we didn't really know what we were getting into. Seriously, we had 18 months. Where-ever Drupalcon will be in Europe after Munich - how they are feeling, that's how we were feeling - heady, excited, full of expectations. And they have 18 months! That isn't a lot of time.

We started breaking up our duties.

My Role
I'd signed up as customer service manager and as one of the two volunteer wranglers. What does this mean?

  • Manage the Zendesk Tickets as the come in as they relate to the con
  • Find Volunteers
  • Fit Volunteers into the right spots
  • BE REALLY NICE

This job was awesome. My role was to reach out to the community, leverage my connections, find people who wanted to help, and help people who had questions. A fairly well known "secret" about me is that I thrive working with others. I like to make people happy and valued. I think that is one of the reasons I do well managing teams of developers.

I ended up using Twitter, Facebook, and Google+ to reach out to folks. I posted on groups. I built two different google forms - the first to start gauging interest and the second to figure out who wanted to do what and when. There was also a mailing list available through mailchimp from the Drupal Association.

The second form was designed in such a way that I could pull pivot tables of people who wanted to different jobs.

cyberswat's shirtDrupalcon Chicago
Before Drupalcon Chicago, stickers were designed and printed by our friends at Aten. Cyberswat arranged for team members to have a ridiculously limited edition T-shirt. The Yeti costume was packed. We prepared to head to the Windy City.

In Chicago, after the announcement on the last day of the conference, we met with the Chicago and London Local teams. Our excitement was rising. Things were becoming more real.

From my part, I started the invitations to let me know general interest in volunteering. The first call solicited roughly 80 people.

What Do We Decide and What Don't We?
I think one of the biggest challenges for the local team was really understanding what we make decisions on and what we don't. If you are on a local team, make sure that you talk to the Association team up front. You want to avoid missed expectations. Also, you need to trust the Neil and his team. They have made this process an art.

Just a few examples:

  • You DO figure out the parties
  • You DO make decisions on speakers
  • You DO figure out the keynotes
  • Sorry, tote bags are a given
  • The ticket price is set based on expected expenses
  • Sponsorships and benefits are decided by the Association

The point here, is this is NOT a camp. A ton of things are predetermined. For us, these missed expectations, culminated with a visit from Neil. He really helped us to understand where those crossed wires really were. That was the night he joined us in IRC, he really wanted to engage the team in the "place" we spend most of our time.

Drupalcon London
The Drupalcon BEFORE your Drupalcon is the pivot point. This was London for us. We had a day time meeting with the Association team during the conference and evening meal with the local teams. As that conference comes to an end, you can feel the attention of the Neil and his team seriously shift to the event you are working on. At this point, some of us had been working for 18 months, others - like me - more like 12 months. Now we had roughly 6 months to finish the job. This is when the sprint really began for some of us. I had the Zendesk keys handed over to me shortly after London completed. For me, this was also the time to secure volunteers and find out they were interested in doing.

My Sprint
The next months for me were all about going to building forms, tweeting, google+, facebook, groups.drupal.org, and meetups. I needed to build interest in volunteering - posting a google form and then embedding it on a blog post on this website. There were lots of email, skype chats, and IRC pings. The form filled - and we had an internal deadline. I began building out the pivot tables for the different tasks that people might want to do. Every week we met for an hour at lunch on Monday by Skype.

The other thing that started heating up was the Zendesk queue. The goal is to never have a ticket languish more than 24 hours. There were days when I would review, reply, and close 20+ tickets. Remember, I have a full time job so this was all happening during breaks, lunch-time, early morning, in the evening, and on weekends. Tickets included simple spam, skiing questions (which ultimately led to my getting flowers from a straight man), questions about housing, queries on the venue, how to apply for scholarships, good places to each, cost of tickets, deadlines, room requests for BOFs, and so many other potential questions.

Meetings with the production agency on the state of our volunteers solicited a "that is the best organized I have ever seen volunteer management" which I must say made me very proud. Pivot tables rock. Once the initial organization was set up, I passed the task of on-site management of the volunteers to my friend and colleague at the Lullabots, Matt Kleve.

The date fast approached and before any of us really knew it, it was the weekend before the event.

New Belgium Party BusDrupalcon Denver
For me, Drupalcon Denver really started on Saturday March 17th. A group of 20 of us drove to the New Belgium Brewery for a tour and tastings. There were a few things that I loved about this trip. First, seeing old friends (both local and from abroad) that I otherwise don't get to chat with. Second, meeting new people I hadn't had the chance to hang out with before. Third, the brewery is really cool. I highly suggest making the trek up there. Do what we did though, have a designated driver or hire a driver. While you won't get drunk on the tour, you probably don't want to drive afterwards. The brewery is highly eco-concious, insanely employee friendly, and they have endeavoured to create a beautiful space. I'm proud they are a business in Colorado.

Sunday was a day of registration kit assembly for me. My wife and daughter came out to help. I suspect that my kiddo (who is 11) may be the amongst the youngest bone-fide volunteers at a con who did really useful work. I was amused and happy when she put on her women's small t-shirt, it fit and she beamed, "I'm just like you guys!" While she doesn't get exactly what Drupal is, she does know that for over five years it has helped pay the bills. A group of us went to the Wynkoop for dinner and enjoyed the fellowship of new and old Drupalers alike.

Monday was a day that I used to greet folks I haven't seen in quite some time. I also set up the Examiner Booth in the Exhibits hall. It wasn't such a great booth, but it did give us the chance to hang out and see where almost everybody would eventually pass through. In fact, it was right on route to the Core Conversations room - which meant seeing so many of the highly active members of the community. StaceyH and I worked on our presentation for Thursday - there was still quite a bit to be done. The base presentation was the same one I did for Drupalcamp Austin but needed about a third of the slides removed, lots of new notes written, and the whole presentation needed to be converted to the Drupalcon Denver template. We also needed to practice our timing a bit.

Tuesday and Wednesday - I went to both Keynotes of course and to a few of the sessions. However, a big part of my time was spent with thought leaders in the community discussing what they are up to, what they have going on in the future, growth opportunities. I spent time with folks ranging from the Lullabots to Acquia to Four Kitchens to the Commerce Guys. In some ways, even though this conference was the largest yet, it seemed easier to find and talk to people I specifically wanted to have time with than any in recent memory. It could have been the layout of the space - but I managed to bump into folks I haven't seen in a couple of years. Guys like Walkah who introduced me to Drupal and the Community. Long and short, this was the best networking conference I've attended. Tuesday night I went to the official party. The venue was cool - the buffalo carpaccio hors d'oeuvres were yummy. This was after having a great dinner with friends. Wednesday night I went to an evening Association meet and greet followed by a little time at the Acquia Cocktail party and later the Lullabot party.

Thursday - This was a strange day for me that was largely consumed by duty. Matt Kleve and I were asked to introduce Luke Wroblewski. There were also housekeeping items to cover before and after the presentation. What a presentation he gave as well!

The morning started in the Wells Fargo Theatre Green Room. We spent a little time getting to know Luke. I was impressed by his down to earth nature. We learned a little bit about his family and his background. I learned how to say his last name ("Row" "Blue" "Ski").

Ok, this green room... my background is in the theatre and I've never been in a green room quite like this. It is more like a green suite comprising several dressing rooms (the main one with a private restroom), a restroom, a bar, and two TVs. I'm guessing, given the posters on the wall (it included Elton John) that the "room" was designed to cater to some pretty heavy weight talent.

They had set it up with coffee, pastries, waters, and tea. That kind of stuff.

Wells Fargo Theatre


Wells Fargo Theatre

In the afternoon, StaceyH and I put the final touches on our slides. We reviewed our slides, took final notes, and really didn't expect many people. It was, after all, in the final session slot right before the closing session. Much to our delight, the room was nearly full.

I want to thank everybody for the great tweets, comments, and questions. It was a pleasure and an honour to present.

In the evening, we had the hand-off party. The association brought together the various local teams for dinner - just like in London and in Chicago. We celebrated the event, talked, joked with our friends from Munich. It was more than a fitting end to the conference and to the largest contribution I've had the pleasure to make to all of you in the Community. For me, this Drupalcon wasn't one week. It was 18 months crossing three Drupalcons. It encompassed a full third of all the Drupalcons I've attended over the last five plus years.

Unfortunately for me, I literally got hit with the DrupalFlu on Friday. I ended up in my Doctor's office with her sadly shaking her head and saying I needed to stay home for about a week to avoid making other folks sick. Quite a few people I know also became ill. Given influenza incubation, I caught it Monday, Tuesday, or Wednesday.

So what's next? For a few weeks I'll be helping the Munich folks by continuing to man the Zendesk. I think I'll be helping out with the Drupal Governance Project. I'll be working a little more heavily in the documentation group. Also, I plan to be in Munich - perhaps presenting again. I plan on submitting a proposal.

I want to give my deep thanks to the local team especially Ben. We knocked it out of the park. I also want folks to know that without the help of the Association's Neil Kent and his team, these events simply would cease to rock. His commitment and devotion to our community behind the scenes shouldn't go un-noticed. I am personally enriched having known him. He is a member of the community - all be it very different kind of member - drop him an email. Thank his team. They deserve it.

This experience has be so satisfying.

Drupalcon Denver Group Photo Courtesy of The Drupal Association. I cropped it to fit on my page better.
Mar 14 2012
Mar 14

Examiner.com is a very proud sponsor of Drupalcon Denver. Part of the sponsorship includes ads on the Drupalcon site. The team at Examiner.com decided to have some fun with them. Five members of the team were chosen to be "subjects" of each ad. I am the fifth subject in a series of five stories chronicling different community member's alternate time-lines. Or am I? Sometimes life is a stranger the Fiction. I bet you can weed through what is and isn't real.

matthew saundersIntroduction
Saunders sat at his little Macbook Air. He tapped away with the force of a small pony. He was writing short stories about people he knew, people he cared about, people who he respected. Square orange pictures were the starting point for each of the Drupal stories.

Saunders was a Drupal Cuckoo - he started as an outsider. To be honest, you could classify a lot of members of the Drupal community in the same way - but he really did come far afield. Years before, he had been heavily involved in the arts community and theatre communities. His degrees were not in Computer Science or in Information Technology. Saunders was an artist. He found technology by accident while working for an Experimental Dance Company in Ottawa called Le Groupe de La Place Royale. He was deeply saddened in 2009 when the company that started his obsession with technology closed.

What started him down the path was a wild and crazy live video project in a festival called "The Edge" - it changed everything and started a chain of events that brought him to Drupal in 2006 at think-tank style meeting.

Part I - The Gateway Technology
Creech logged onto LambdaMOO. His time on the MOO was largely a distraction, but there were a fair number of people he was very fond of who also logged into the server through telnet. LambdaMOO wasn't like a MUD - it had no reason to exist except as a microcosm of society. It had created its own government and governance that was periodically rotated through elections.

Flowers from beeradbReal life made its way into the MOO - people made plans together. Sometimes these culminated in marriages, other times they started businesses, and there were times when couch surfing was facilitated. The MOO was a gathering place. To some it was a hallowed place. To Xerox Parc it was a social engineering place. People chatted with names like Merak, Neeners, Kybx, Abraxas, alizarin, Ben, cath, Firne, Ickypoo, and Mollusc.

This is what started it all. I was attending a certificate program in Ottawa while working at and eventually managing a book store. The University provided me with the dial up access to a shell where I could telnet hither and thither. Living at home, the single telephone line was in high demand. Irate parents would pick up a phone regularly to hear the hideous squeal of modem to modem action. This is was where the obsession truly began. An obsession that would culminate just before Drupalcon Denver in a grown man sending me a bouquet of flowers. More on the flowers later.

Part II - The Segue
La Place completed the change. No longer was I interested in arts marketing or managing bookstores. Theatre was still an interest, but only in how emerging technologies could be integrated into them. The video work at La Place marked me. I knew that when I started graduate work, there was no way I would be satisfied with front of house work, ticketing, props, sets, costumes, or lights. These things would need to become a mechanism for the Internet. They did.

I started playing with places like "The Cave", a series of virtualized environments shared across many schools - where cyberswat set up his virtual security world. Emails started darting back and forth with George Coates an innovator in the Theatre, using nontraditional methodologies. I started thinking about how multicast video could be used to pull and push audiences. Three pieces were produced, all pushing boundaries. They ranged from mystical, to musical, to personal. The man, some called Creech, began playwriting honing his skills with a lovely woman named Barbara. I was brought to tears at news of her passing. Working with an old time band called the Konnarock Critters, I lived for a short time in Damascus where Zlender's ancestors came from.

LCIIIOn culmination of this work - I worked on one of the first interactive travel sites that was powered by a database. Visit Virginia allowed travelers to indicate when and what they wanted to see in the State. The engine would then plot the optimal route and spit out an itinerary for the visitor. Amazingly this worked because Morbus had wormed his way from Europe to rural Virginia and had lodged himself in the system. He would quickly calculate the options and then return, sometimes strange, results much to his amusement. When the site was retired, Morbus was forced out of the Blacksburg Electronic Village and he found a home in the Drupal CMS. At the time, I ran a Web Server from a LCIII in my apartment - and it became the first place I wrote under the dogstar.org domain - using flat HTML files that were written directly on the Quid Pro Quo Web Server.

All the while, I was compelled to continue to paint and sculpt in a converted school house that had been set up as a community studio space for artists and working in one of the finest Wine Shops in the region as an expert home-brewer.

Part III - The Transition
Somehow I ended up in Colorado managing the builds of custom PHP MySQL applications for a Regional Arts Nonprofit. Through a series of near perfect and impossible moments I met the Bryght guys and the folks from RainCity Studios in Vancouver. Strangely enough, shortly before getting the Drupal bug - I had the most odd experience. A man dressed up as Judy Garland and quoting from the Wizard of Oz - sent a small dog to bite a man in a blue ball suit on the leg. This fellow tapped his red shoes together and murmured "There's no place like Fernie, There's no place like Fernie". Then I discovered Drupal. It was 2006.

Saunders, Barcelona, Fireworks A small Drupal-shop hired me and shortly after that I ended up in some crazy festival in Barcelona where there were fire-breathing dragons and what looked like pinwheels on broomsticks. This is the city where I met Morten and my brain nearly exploded. Who WERE these people?

Well, they were to become my community. They were to become people that I would come to love and respect. Yes, we're getting close to understanding the flowers a little bit better.

The small shop had its ups and downs. I moved on, and through a series of lucky accidents, ended up working at a place called Examiner.com. This involved drinking from a fire hose as I helped move this site to Drupal. It has been the most extraordinary project of my career so far.

I took on the INSANE task of helping organize a Drupalcon in Denver with quite a few people I've become extraordinarily fond of. This leads to the flowers.

Part IV - The Flowers
Today, in an IRC chat - I, in good spirits, railed that I needed information from beeradb on the Drupalcon ski trip. I'm the guy manning the Zendesk queue - and people have questions. A few hours later he popped online and explained he hadn't been ignoring me.

I exclaimed, "You never call me any more. You do ignore me! You never send flowers!" Within four hours a beautiful bouquet of flowers arrived. It was a joke - and a funny one. But it completely and utterly validates my quote.

The Drupal community nourishes me personally and professionally. Thank you for the last five years.

LCIII photo from Wikimedia.
Feb 27 2012
Feb 27

Examiner.com is a very proud sponsor of Drupalcon Denver. Part of the sponsorship includes ads on the Drupalcon site. The team at Examiner.com decided to have some fun with them. Five members of the team were chosen to be "subjects" of each ad. Morbus Iff is the second in a series of five stories.

morbusAn Introduction
There really is no translation for so much of what I'm writing here. I'm doing my best to take something that is so very alien to the human mind and make it digestible and give it context so we, such a small creature tucked inside of itself, can begin to fathom the story of Morbus Iff. His (its/her) species is nothing like we are accustomed to - but, it turns out, they are very very adept with PHP. So bear with me dear reader, as I weave the Strange Tale of Morbus Iff and how he came to develop on Drupal.

Part I - The Seedling
The Seedling had the beginnings of a conscious mind. The very start. The beginning murmurs. A speck of thought. The Seedling was nestled in its incubation node, floating in a warm slurry of nutrients. At this point the Seedling had no name - just an attribution of numbers associated with the incubation node. A name would be assigned based on the order in which the Seedling emerged from the pod and began consuming information and food outside of its current dwelling. This was known as the Extensible Mandible Line - Reproductive Pod Conduit, providing input for the little larvae to survive. Little did it know that it would become central to the most important Content Management System a creature called Homo Sapiens would ever know all those millions of light years away.

Part II - Larva
The Seedling began its hard journey to break out of the incubation pod. It had grown to 10 times its original size and the node had become a very tight fit. The MidWives had been carefully monitoring over 10,000 Seedlings in this brood over a period of 600 days - keeping track of each by node id. The Seedlings had dwindled to 10 viable entities. These little creatures were ready to move from a draft state to a published state.

The Seedling wriggled out of the incubation node and was elevated to Larva. One of the MidWives consulted the taxonomy table and gave the new one the attribution of Morbus Iff. This little larva immediately began consuming the remaining 9,990 seedlings who would never be viable. They were to be purged from the brood table. Little Morbus hooked into the XML-RPC transfer point and began consuming information at a prodigious rate. This was a happy time for him and his siblings. It was a safe time of warmth, learning, and nourishment.

Part III - Pupae
Morbus became strong and his mind began to expand. The MidWives began to groom him for great things. He would be one of the few chosen to undergo the metamorphosis and take on his role as a full member of the Collection. When his time came, he would be added as part of the Great Index with the intention he would be assigned a user id to help manage the system. Morbus continued to consume knowledge and nourishment when his body began to initiate a change. This change would be so profound that it would alter his entire being. He would cease to be one of the Larvae and would take on the role of being a full member of the Collection.

Morbus rolled himself into a tight little package and went into a deep sleep. In this sleep, Morbus began histolysis - he digested his own body (much as he had consumed the remaining 9,990) leaving only imaginal buds to reassemble him into his adult form. The Seedling that had started life over 19 cycles before was to emerge into the Collection in just a few short days. The imaginal buds were just that - the method by which Morbus would begin to recreate or imagine himself as something completely different. His dreams directed this change along with his desires.

But the dreams and desires turned dark.

Morbus awaited the time he would emerge from his chrysalis and begin his plans for becoming the King of the Collection. He would be the one to direct society. His word would be law. His desires would become the base tenets of the Collective. Morbus would emerge from his cocoon as the Great Leader - the pinnacle of his histogenesis. He would not be satisfied with any UID. He wanted to have UID1. Morbus sat in his cocoon and schemed.

Part IV - The Overthrow
The chrysalis jerked. It flipped back and forth. It began splitting. It tore. A head emerged, and then a body. Morbus was ripping himself from the container he had built around himself to make the transition to the Collective. He had made it. Morbus began to exert his control - reaching out his mind to all the other members of the Collection, sure that he would become the supreme user. He was ready to take on the mantle of UID1.

The Collection had never experienced such a forceful wresting of control. Normally there was a transition period where a peaceful upgrade path was followed from one version to the next. This was no upgrade path like the Collection had encountered and threatened to fracture and fork the community. The darkness was so tempting. The desire to make this base whatever was desired. The ability to just change a little thing here or there was intoxicating. That is what Morbus threatened and began to do. He began to hack the Collective's Core.

The Overseers saw this and took action. Morbus didn't even see it coming. He was removed from the Collection entirely and his very consciousness was sent out at the speed of light into the cosmos. It was being sent towards a tiny blip in the sky. A minute spiral galaxy. A galaxy, the yet to be born race of hominids would call the Milky Way

Part V - The Journey
Morbus' consciousness had 100 million years to contemplate. He had 100 million light years to consider. He began to wonder if his decision to become controller of all had been shrewd. As the millennia passed he moved into a time of deep introspection and contemplation. His hunger for absolute power waned and his desire to build grew. Yet, he began to despair - with no body, only a mind - and in the middle of the inky abyss between galaxies, what could he hope to accomplish? He had 100 million years to cogitate.

As Morbus passed between thousands of galaxies, he realised the multitude of living beings and the vast variety of creatures that all thought they were all alone just as the Collection assumed. He became smarter and wiser than any of his kind before him. His being loosed from the corporeal had provided him with the very thing he needed to become more than just himself. He slept - sometimes for hundreds of thousands of years. Silently he passed through the cosmos.

Part VI - The Arrival
earth Morbus passed into the Milky Way Galaxy through the spiral arms and hurtled past thousands of solar systems. He had a sense his long journey was coming to an end and there might be a new beginning in front of him. He began fully waking himself, knowing that there might be but one chance to embed, imprint, or otherwise implant himself so as to be helpful. His time through the blackness had given him a sense of service and a need to bring meaning to his existence. In what seemed like a blink of an eye he entered into what was a mote of a solar system - and yet one planet was teeming with life. There was one planet that could be suitable. He had a chance. It was a tiny chance, but if his mind passed through a suitable mind, he might just have a chance. He might be able to embed himself and quietly make suggestions to a being that would take these ideas and create something great.

His mind hurtled through the atmosphere of this tiny blue planet. It passed through the clouds. It zipped down towards a continent. It smashed through the wall of dorm at the University of Antwerp and passed through the mind of a student leaving just a hint of the cultural richness from the Collection - a culture richness that would help form the seed of a CMS.

Morbus then found himself lodged in the Internet - the closest thing to approximate where he had come from. Those moments in that student's brain left ideas that would inspire that brilliant young man to create a movement to be reckoned with, one developer at a time, one project manager at a time, one information architect at a time. What began as a tiny group of interested friends ballooned into massive meeting in Denver just over a decade later.

Epilogue
Morbus' mind continued to work away on Earth. He never allowed himself to be seen, but that was because there was nothing to be seen. He managed to convince company after company, that he was simply a recluse. The truth is, Morbus needed a home on earth. He needed a system that felt like the Collective. He needed arms, and eyes, and minds to help him comfortably exist until his time on Earth was complete. He needed Drupal. He needed a dwelling place.


Morbus Advertisement courtesy of Examiner.com
Larva Photo: Jonathan Pio on Flickr under a CC license.
Milky Way courtesy of Wikipedia
Earth from Apollo 17 courtesy of Wikipedia
Feb 26 2012
Feb 26

Examiner.com is a very proud sponsor of Drupalcon Denver. Part of the sponsorship includes ads on the Drupalcon site. The team at Examiner.com decided to have some fun with them. Five members of the team were chosen to be "subjects" of each ad. After they were done, it seemed it would be fun to include a back story for each.


Disclaimer: THIS IS FICTION. Nothing here bears any kind of truth.
It is complete and utter nonsense.

Rok Zlender makes an audacious claim. He tells us he has been attending Drupalcons since 2006. To debunk this claim, we have to travel back to rural United States in 1898. We need to travel to Damascus Virginia.

Part I - Chipmunks and River Otters
Rok's ancestors aren't from Slovenia as he claims. In fact, his grandfather, Roger Slender, attended the first school in Damascus. It was built just south of the railroad trestle across Beaver Creek. Roger loved "The Little Red School House" with its three rooms. Mr. Jones Baker was his teacher and he learned spelling, geography, and grammar. For three years he revelled in his studies and learned quickly. Roger was a bright student with a bright future ahead of him.

Then disaster struck.

The Little Red School House burned down in 1901. School resumed in the Lutheran Church and Roger's fate changed - and in a strange way would intertwine with Garrison Keillor's - the man that has made Lutherans funny. But that is another story that won't begin until 1942 and has little to do with the man we now know as Rok. Roger came to despise the tiny town - even today it has fewer than 1000 people - that stole his beloved Red School House. He refused to speak and was desperate to get away. Much to his parents dismay, he ran away from home and joined a travelling band of Appalachian Trail hikers who earned a living by selling woven coverlets that were made from the wool of river otters and chipmunks.

This art form was adopted by the young Roger who became highly adept at complicated patterns with his small but nimble fingers. Unlike his fellow artisans, Roger - who worshipped LIFE - refused to slaughter the little animals that provided the materials for his lively-hood. He would shear them, like sheep, with tiny blade shears he designed himself.

Shearing a chipmunk is no mean task but even more difficult is holding onto an angry, wet, half naked river otter. These skills were handed down from father to son. Even today, Rok's secret passion and guarded talent has won him many blue ribbons for beautiful tapestries created from the fur of small animals like mice, marmots, and the rare sphynx cat.

In 1933, Roger became famous for his craft. He settled in Sherman, Connecticut where he became friends with Ned Anderson, a farmer. Ned was responsible for mapping and blazing the trail in Connecticut. Roger built a small house on the Naromiyocknowhusunkatankshunk Brook, near a ready supply of otters, a place Ned suggested.

Roger fell in love with Ginny Claptrap - and they had a child together in 1934. He was named Rob Slender and was the 395th resident of the town.

In 1941, Roger joined the Army and travelled to Europe because of World War II. He was lost in battle, but not before he had passed the skills of chipmunk and otter shearing to a 7 year old Robert. A tearful Robert joined the consolidated school that had opened in the center of town a few years earlier.

Part II - Robert and the Golden Crossroads
From an early age, Robert showed a great predilection for numbers. His chotter weavings (as he called them) began showing intricate designs based on the Golden Triangle with logarithmic spirals. (The Golden Triangle was a portent for where his own son would end up settling - another shocking coincidence in this shaggy dog tale.) His teachers in school couldn't make out this strange boy who not only was good with his hands, but could work out long equations in his mind without paper or pencil. He was truly a marvel. As he grew older and continued through the grades leading up to university, his ability with weaving and with numbers increased significantly. He found himself at a crossroads - should he study Art or should he study Math? At 16, he packed his bags and moved to Cambridge, MA where he had been accepted in the Math Department at MIT. Oh, but little did he know he was about to become central to the world of computing.

Jay Forrester discovered young Robert soon after he arrived at MIT. Jay had been perusing a local craft store where Robert had put up some tapestries for consignment. Robert had put them up for sale in hopes it would help support him in his time at the Institute. The designs in otter and chipmunk fur fascinated Forrester and convinced him he must be seeing the work of some kind of mathematical genius. In this, he was correct.

Forrester sought out Robert and offered him a job helping work on the Navy Computer, Whirlwind. Robert gratefully accepted and become responsible for finding the vast number of vacuum tubes needed to run the machine. Robert's mind quickly moved from pure Math to computer science. How could machines like the Whirlwind do more than just help the Navy train pilots? Could the computer eventually be used to share information? Could it be used to manage content, like libraries of books? His head spun as he thought about these things. In 1951, Whirlwind was complete and Robert was still a mere 17 years old with several years left at MIT. By 1954, Robert had proven himself as a powerhouse in the emerging computer world. He would prove to be critical in conceptualizing the concepts of packet switching. He would be present when Arpanet carried its first packets and would whisper the secrets of the emerging Internet to Al Gore who would later invent the Internet as we know it today.

While Robert put all his energies into his work - he never forgot his roots of complex weavings using the shorn hair from small creatures. He began a vole farm so he would have a ready supply of fur to spin into long strands of yarn to create his beautiful throws and hangings. He also began to build computers in his home which required more electricity than he could possibly expect in a residential area. Marrying his two loves, he constructed treadmills in his back yard which the voles were required to walk on but he found that too many voles would produce too much electricity while too few wouldn't produce enough power. He created a device that would measure the electrical potential difference and eventually these would be marketed in Radio Shack's around North America as Vole(t) Meters. This provided him with a ready source of electricity to work on his inventions.

In a shocking move by the Massachusetts government, Robert's voles were confiscated. His home was not zoned for farming, production of electricity, nor was he allowed to house wild animals. In a fit of rage, Robert swore to never trust the system in America ever again. He looked at where he might move with less regulation and on his activities and discovered that Slovenia was actually well known for both computing and small animal husbandry. He vowed he would make it to Slovenia to make a new life for himself. In 1980, Robert stowed away on a cargo vessel, with a sampling of his weavings and schematics for new computers, bound for Izola.

Part III - the Great Tapestry Re-Vole(t) of Slovenia

When Robert arrived in Izola, he threw himself at the mercy of the Immigration authorities and swore he wanted to renounce citizenship in the United States. He showed them his tapestries and schematics. He told them how he had been so mistreated by the Massachusetts government. He told a story of sacrifice of his grandfather and how he had learned his craft. In the end, the authorities relented and granted Robert citizenship. He Slovenicized his name to Bojan Zlender and made a life for himself in a small country cottage near a creek that had a large population of European Water Voles. These little creatures proved more difficult than any before to shear, but in time his deft hands became adept and removing the fur but retaining the creature's life. His brilliance continued has he created astonishing works of art which he sold in town at Gallery Alga.

One day, while wandering down Kristanov trg his eye caught a rare beauty looking at one his tapestries hanging the the Gallery window. He slid up beside her, and asked her name. She was Vladka - and they were meant to be married.

In 1984, a baby was born. A boy they named Rok. Rok truly seemed to take after his father's skill with vole keeping and computers and eventually registered at Fakulteta za računalništvo in informatiko in Ljubljana, Slovenia. He never knew that his roots were from The United States. Nobody told him.

In Ljublijana, Rok would take computer classes by day - but his other calling - weaving kept dragging at his soul. He began to take night classes in animal husbandry and weaving. He kept a small colony of friendly rodents in his apartment and made tiny coverlets that he kept secret. He wanted no one to know of this personal activity. Rok took on an alter-ego "Dušan Peterc" assumed the personae of one of the founder's of Arahne who had secretly gone missing. He merged his love of computers and weaving into a single space. But by day, he continued his classes and by night pursued his art.

This is where the story becomes interesting. A strangely young Dušan was seen in February and September 2006 at Studio Azzero in Italy and at the Office of the Development Commisioner for Handlooms in India *right when Drupalcon was occurring*. Rok CLAIMS he was working with Drupal at the time but I suggest that next time you see Rok, check his fingernails for tell-tale signs of vole fur. Then and only then, should you make up your own mind.

Epilogue
We all know that Rok began his rise in Drupal at NowPublic. We also know that between the time he began his work in Drupal and 2009 he found a letter from his father that shared with him his heritage from the Southern United States. Rok began a plan so cunning it would bring him to America where he could explore those roots. Through a series of masterful moves, he helped direct the purchase of Now Public by Examiner.com. That led to a succession of events that has now brought him to the United States on a work Visa in the City with Golden Triangle.

His plans are, allegedly, now to find a way to Damascus where he'll see the places that started this family journey. In Denver, ask him how the chipmunks are doing.

Rok Advertisement courtesy of Examiner.com
Blade Shears photo courtesy of Wikipedia
Whirlwind Tubes photo courtesy of Wikpedia
European Water Vole courtesy of Wikipedia */ /*-->*/
Feb 21 2012
Feb 21

Want to save $50? If you're planning on going to Drupalcon Denver today is the last possible day to get in at the early bird pricing. At midnight Mountain Time, the price goes from $350 to $400. That extra $50 in Denver would a REALLY nice meal for a couple of people with drinks. It could get two people into the official party. It is an Association membership with $20 left over. Come on? What are you waiting for? REGISTER today to access more than 104 sessions including core conversations, three GREAT keynotes, more Birds of a Feather conversations than you can shake a stick at. That does not even include the networking opportunities.

If you register today, that comes to $70/day. That increases by $10/day tonight (February 21/2012) at midnight.

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Jan 17 2012
Jan 17

The time has finally come. You can sign up for volunteer jobs and time slots You may have received an email if you signed up previously on the general interest form or you expressed interest through Mailchimp. Sign up quickly for the spots you are interested in!

How can you help? We need tote bag stuffers, power strip placers and strikers, help desk helpers, and room monitors. What's in it for you? Well, first of all awesome karma and the knowledge you are contributing to our amazing community.

Not convinced? Well, you will also get a nifty t-shirt that calls you out as one of the elite - an awesome volunteer!

How do you sign up? Fill out the form below or go directly to the signup sheet.

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About Drupal Sun

Drupal Sun is an Evolving Web project. It allows you to:

  • Do full-text search on all the articles in Drupal Planet (thanks to Apache Solr)
  • Facet based on tags, author, or feed
  • Flip through articles quickly (with j/k or arrow keys) to find what you're interested in
  • View the entire article text inline, or in the context of the site where it was created

See the blog post at Evolving Web

Evolving Web