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Interdisciplinarian currently teaching and working as an independent designer who can also be found working with local, cause-oriented groups.

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Ella Durham

Belated Nonprofit Dev Summit Notes, Thoughts, Links, Etc.

4 min read

Back in November, I attended Aspiration Tech’s Nonprofit Software Development Summit for the first time. Between the wonderful humans, excellent organizers, and great content, it quickly topped my list of pet conferences.

A bunch of time, the holidays, and some priorities later, I am just now getting around to pulling together the notes, thoughts, links, etc. that are still swimming around in my brain and jotted down on bits of paper I haven’t misplaced. I’m just going to dump it out in this post for fear I won’t get around to recording it otherwise.

The Internet Thing 
A sign that’ll monitor events and conversations of interest and light up when there’s significant online activity. 

xZINECOREx 
An emerging metadata standard for zine libraries. Neat because I love zines and libraries and data. 

OwnCloud
Self-hosted cloud. I’ve installed an instance of OwnCloud on my server and have been slowly migrating away from Google Drive. 

Privacy Story Telling might have been one of my favorite sessions. In short, it opened up with thinking about relatable, everyday stories people can be told to get them to think and care about their own privacy. There were many great perspectives in the room and mini-conversations that emerged.

A couple of big takeaways for me were that not one single message is going to reach all populations. If you say “privacy matters because if X is exposed about a person Y could happen," there are going to be a set of people that disagree with X and therefore will not side with privacy in that case. While it’s probably unlikely to come up with a universal story, there are some that come closer. For example, insurance companies data mining your network to determine rates.

It all had me thinking about messaging and how to possible handle privacy awareness campaigns.

There was a session on Application and Cloud Testing at the same time as Privacy Story Telling that I didn’t get to attend but was something I looked into later. The Specialists Guild helps train people on the Autism spectrum to become QA testers. Nonprofits may qualify for probono testing. 

The Cryptography Tools session, also one I wasn’t able to make, seems like it would have been a good brush up on crypto tools and a nudge to use them more frequently. I have it bookmarked.

I enjoyed How to Build Successful Communities of Practice. It was an open conversation about the different communities of practice we participate in and why or how we wish they were better. However, I was quite conflicted between it and Introduction to Tech Co-ops.

There were a bunch of co-ops at NPDev. I met some great people from Palante Tech, OpenFlows, Radical Designs, and Design Action Collective. 

I am really not sure why a co-op model hadn’t crossed my mind for a design shop before this but it was a bit of a funny epiphany.

I brushed up on and dived into some GIT as well as sat in on a session about using GIT for Content and learned about static site frameworks for rapid prototyping like Kalastatic. Which introduced me to Metalsmith and Swig.

There are a handful of other sessions I wasn’t able to attend that I want to go return back to. I have the wiki at the top of my downtime reading material bookmarks.

Ella Durham

Freeskool Workshop Recap: Screw Post Binding & Handmade Portfolios

1 min read

Screw Post Binding and Handmade Portfolios Freeskool Workshop Banner

Last month I held a workshop on screw post binding and handmade portfolios as part of a Freeskool Workshop Series I'm holding this winter. Between heading out of town a couple of days later for a nonprofit software development summit and returning to endless mountains of pie, I haven't had a chance to post a summary and notes until now.

I've posted the workshop outline and the notes, resources, and materials list as well as a folder of some images I pulled from the Interenet for my inspiration library on Google Drive for the time being. I hope to eventually fully develop digital counterparts to each of the workshops I hold but I want to make these available in the meantime.

Discussing lessons I learned while making my own portfolios in the past.
Talking about my own hand made portfolio and lessons I've learned making and binding portfolios in the past.
Demonstrating gluing chip board together to make a DIY binder book board.
Demonstrating finding the grain of chipboard to glue two pieces together for a thicker, DIY book board.
Gluing on an interior cover paper.
Gluing on the interior cover paper is always one of the more nerve-racking steps.
Attendees sit and watch in suspense as I glue together the final piece of the portfolio.
The suspense is palpable!

Ella Durham

Dear Person Who Set Out a Cooler of Ice Cold Water for Those on the Billy Wolf Trail on September 20, 2014:

2 min read

Illustration with cooler that has a sign on it that says,
The magic cooler.

Dear Person Who Set Out a Cooler of Ice Cold Water for Those on the Billy Wolf Trail on September 20, 2014:

You do not know it, but I love you. I think you might be my favorite human in the entire world.

You saved me from heat sickness when I casually set out for a mid-day, seven-mile run while stupidly under-hydrated and oblivious to the fact that it really was not fall yet no matter how much I tried to convince myself. There were still plenty of Nebraska summer leftovers to be had.

Sadly, I was unable to get back to the trail to leave you a thank you note before the cooler had disappeared. I wanted to let you know of my deep gratitude and that, even though I will never be certain of your true identity, I will forever imagine you as a caped hydration hero with 100% pure kindness oozing from your heart.

Illustration of heart oozing out joy with a speech bubble saying
This is your heart

I hope this note somehow finds its way to you.

Thanks again for you undeniable awesomeness and thoughtfulness of human strangers who happen to be me,

Ella


On a completely different, tangentially related and more contemplative note, all of this has reminded me I've been meaning to give a virtual hat tip the Detroit Water Brigade, the Detroit Water Project, and all of the great work being done to bring relief to families affected by the water crisis.

I've intended to donate for quite some time and never really had any good reason why I hadn't yet except for maybe that it's far too much work to walk across the house (and maybe even up the stairs!) to retrieve my debit card. However, after the magic cooler incident I had that cliché itch to 'pay it forward' and finally followed through.

If you're not familiar with what's going on or how these initiatives are helping, I encourage you to give it a moment of your Internet time.

Ella Durham

Lessons in Gardening

1 min read

We have pet rabbits. Many of them. We've been feeding them well with the bounty of our garden. They've feasted on beans, peas, peppers, melon vines, and sunflowers. They must not be fans of tomatoes, corn, and squash. This is pretty much all they have left untouched. They are adorable, but since they've leveled the veggies we might have to opt for rabbit for dinner instead.

This is the first year I've undertaken a gardening endeavor of this size and extent. I started seeds, built beds, and established a compost. I set out to learn about the layout of the garden, challenges and advantages of the site, my own limitations, etc. It's definitely already been a year of lessons, and they'll continue into the fall as I try my hand at winter gardening.

Ella Durham

Progress not Perfection

2 min read

When it comes to personal projects, I often fall into a cycle of stagnation as I begin to face obstacles of any sort whether it be inconvenient timing, unavailable resources, or simply indecisive creative direction. The cycle kind of goes like this: put a couple of hours of work in, put things away, return to the project, put a little more time in, reassess the project, put things away, scrap it all and start all over.

I knew if I wanted to actually ever be able to take the jump into the IndieWeb it would have to be with a completely different approach.

Enter the world of unapologetic lack of grace. Actually, this is only half true, simply writing this post attempting to justify the incredibly-imperfect-but-actually-somewhat-progressing state of my work indicates this approach is still a bit embarrassing and uncomfortable for me.

There's a slight bit of overhead in getting started on the IndieWeb and at first I really wanted to work out the nitty gritty of my approach before I took the jump. I found this to be another stagnation-inducing obstacle so I decided to dive right in and work out the details later instead. This meant I would take a familiar path and the easiest entry point no matter how much I really wanted to debate the best technologies, build and design my own theme, etc.

So, yes, I'm using Wordpress with the mostly-out-of-box-SemPress theme and things are clunky as I've installed a couple of plugins I haven't customized. Yes, the code could be prettier, and the footer is broken, my syndicated content looks a little funny, and there is no cohesion between the landing page and the blog. But I am here. I am generating content. This project is progressing.

Update: I'm now using Known and I've created a couple of custom content type plugins. Right now, my front page is static but I'm hoping to eventually make it dynamically generated. I need to do a lot of tidying up but I'm getting places!