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The State of the Online ColdFusion Meetup

As a follow-up to my previous blog entry today, on news of the CFHour podcast show ending this week, some have wondered (publicly) whether perhaps the Online ColdFusion Meetup, which I host, might help "fill the void" here.

I don't hold that out as a real possibility, for a couple of reasons, and I'd like to discuss them here.

Indeed, it's a good time to share a "State of the Online ColdFusion Meetup", to discuss what you might (and might not) expect to see in the future, and what you can perhaps do to help.

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This week will be the 175th episode of the online CF Meetup

Just wanted to take a moment to recognize a bit of a milestone for the online ColdFusion Meetup.

This week will mark our 175th episode, with Jim Harris presenting on "Security: Hiding Info. from Individuals Not Authorized To See It", being held Thursday at noon US ET. (And the 176th episode will follow just after that "Requirements and Estimating", with Peter Bell.

If you've missed out on any of the past sessions, they're recorded and posted at recordings.coldfusionmeetup.com, and since 2010 are available in either streaming or downloadable (flv, mp3, mp4, wmv) format.

If you want to know about future meetings, you can join the 2400+ other members of the group (for free at the first URL above) to get email notifications, or you can follow the RSS feed of the calendar there, or if you can't get to meetup.com (being a social networking site), you can also just follow us via @cfmeetup on twitter.

Here's to 175 more episodes in coming years. :-)

PS If anyone is wondering, I count the sessions since I began hosting the CFMeetup in April 2007. Steven Erat had organized it originally and run it in 2005-2006. I simply started counting the recordings as I posted them and didn't think at the time to go back and find/count any previous sessions, so technically the number could/should be larger, but we'll leave that as a historical aberration. :-)

Getting notices about upcoming CFMeetup meetings

If you've been following my blog here for CFMeetup meeting announcements, please note that I will no longer do them. It's simply redundant, as there are four other ways to get notified.

You can still get CFMeetup announcements the following ways:

  • Via email: by signing up at the meetup site to receive email notification (use the "join us" button on the site, to become a member of the group, for free)
  • Via RSS: by following the RSS feed for the group's calendar, offered at the bottom of the calendar page on the site
  • Via twitter: by follow us on twitter (@cfmeetup, used pretty much only for announcements)
  • Via an alternate RSS feed: by following the RSS feed on the Adobe group for CFmeetup, which simply echoes the meetup calendar feed above. The Adobe group isn't used for much other than that, for now

Can't access meetup.com? We've got you covered

The latter two options are offered especially for those who can't access the meetup.com domain (coldfusionmeetup.com redirects to our specific page in meetup.com). Some workplaces block access to meetup.com, as a social media site.

4 ways should be enough, right?

But with those 4 ways, we should have everyone covered who wants to get announcements.

(For those who like getting email notice but can't sign up for meetup.com and don't like RSS, note that there are tools that can send RSS notices by email. See a category of such tools offered at my CF411 site. There are also ways to get email notifications of twitter messages, but that landscape's changing too fast for me to yet have created a list of such tools.)

All that said, I will mention while I'm here that we do have a CFMeetup today (July 1, at noon ET), with Ray Camden speaking on Building CFBuilder Extensions. For future announcements, please follow one of the alternatives above.

Accessing the CFMeetup site when meetup.com is blocked for you

Have you found the CFMeetup site blocked for you at work? Here's are a couple of ways to deal with that.

The problem

The ColdFusionMeetup, an online CF user group that I organize, has for years been hosted out of the commercial site, meetup.com. We use that for announcements, feedback, and more. (If you didn't know, meetup.com is a commercially hosted service with thousands of groups that use it for organizing their members.)

But some workplaces regard meetup.com as being a "social networking" site and have therefore blocked it. Popular DNS servers, like OpenDNS, also block it (and many companies that implement it don't give much consideration to what legitimate sites it may choose to block).

If you work (or get internet access) from such a site, you'll find that you can't access the CFMeetup site, and therefore can't get the important meeting information posted there. But here are a few different solutions that may help.

First alternatives: you can follow on twitter or my blog, or just show up

As I've been pointing out on the meetings, there are least some other ways to be notified about the meetings. We are twittering the events (@cfmeetup). I also blog the events, so you could follow my blog. While I hope you'd enjoy all the posts, you could follow just the feed for the meetup events.

While those do at least tell you the least you need to know about each meeting (the topic, speaker name, and date/time), they then offer a link to the very meetup.com event page that you can't access. So I realize they don't give you access to all the details (like the meeting description), nor can you RSVP.

So let me clarify that you don't need to RSVP. That's just a nicety. You can just show up in the meeting room, at experts.acrobat.com/cfmeetup, on the day of the show (it's opened just before each meeting.)

You can also see the feed in our Adobe Group page

Also, I do also push the feed of the CF meetup events into the Adobe Groups page for our group. At least with that, you can see the entire announcement including the description, links to recordings, and other details.

If you may wonder why we don't just abandon the meetup.com site for the Adobe Groups site instead, see the last section of this entry.

Finally, I'll point out also that if it's possible for you to at least obtain an RSS feed from blocked sites, the direct RSS feed for the CF Meetup calendar announcements is this.

A solution that some might think should work: use an anonymous proxy

This problem of blocked sites is not really a new problem. Many sites have been blocked from within various networks, and there have long been solutions proposed to get around this.

Among them are many free web-based "anonymous proxy" tools, which purport to help you easily access blocked sites. Here are just a few alternatives. Some of them even let me offer you a direct link to browse the CFMeetup site, as indicated below:

Unfortunately, these may not work for you. Despite their claims, some have reported that they can't use these sort of tools, either, in their site. Indeed, this was what this blog post was originally all about, but once I learned that they don't really work, I updated the blog post with the info above about how at least you can get notifications of meetings through other then at the meetup.com site.

Still, I'll keep the info there for now, in case it helps some. There was a part of me that doesn't like showing people how to get around such intended workplace limitations, but I felt to consider them in this case. Too many people have been complaining that they can't access the CF Meetup site and its info. I'd never used such a proxy myself, since I've never been in a restricted environment, which is why I didn't know of this as a solution until today.

Cookie support needed if you want to login

It's important to note that if the proxy does work and you want to log into the site you're trying to access (the meetup.com site, in this case, such as to RSVP for a meeting), you need to be sure then to use a proxy tool that supports cookies. (Many of them offer it as a default feature that's turned on, as controlled by an available "advanced options" link they may offer next to the field where you specify the URL to browse.)

Of the options above, Anymouse does not seem to support cookies at all. Still, since some won't care to log into the meetup.com site, and just want the info, I offer it.

(Some proxy alternatives are prone to popping up ads, so I have not listed them here.)

Keep security in mind when logging in via a proxy

Finally, it's also important to remember (when using any such proxy) that if you DO choose to login to a site you're proxying to, you must keep in mind that you are passing that username/password through that proxying server. It would be best to use https when accessing the proxy. Of the tools listed, webwarper doesn't support it at all. Anymouse, Hide-me-now, GoProxing, and Zend2 support SSL but don't offer trusted certificates.

I can't vouch personally for any of these tools, other than to say that they are among the most popular and frequently-referenced ones.

Again, if you're just using the tool to accessing the meetup.com site to get info on the meetings, there's no risk at all.

Why not use Adobe Groups instead of Meetup.com?

I do realize that Adobe Groups is yet another way to go for us to have a site for the group where we could host announcements, feedback, etc., and for now it tends not to be blocked. Our groups site is here.

For the most part, it just points to the "real" site (at meetup.com), though as I mentioned above it does also have a feed for events from the real site.

Some may wonder why I don't just drop using meetup.com and switch entirely and solely to the Adobe Groups site. Some groups have done that. Still, there are some challenges with it that have kept me making that move completely (dropping the meetup.com site entirely).

More important, since our group is known as "The ColdFusion Meetup", I do wonder if we would have a legal problem trying to move the group--while keeping the name--onto something other than the meetup.com site itself.

Anyway, hope all the info above is helpful. Comments welcome.

ColdFusion Meetup now over 1,800 members!

I just noticed that the ColdFusion Meetup now has over 1,800 members. Wow!

If you're not yet on the bandwagon :-), please consider it. Membership is entirely free. Just sign up at the site. It gets you email notification about the meetings, as well as the chance to share feedback on meetings they attend.

Of course, you don't need to join to attend the meetings. The RSS feeds for those are available free on the site, and the meetings are announced on twitter as well, via @cfmeetup. So we technically have even more members, unofficially.

But if you'd like to help us grow to the next 1,800 members, and more important, if you would like another avenue for learning more about CF and related technologies, please consider signing up. There's no obligation, and you're in total control of your membership experience.

About the CF Meetup

The CF Meetup is an official Adobe CF user group. Unlike most groups, we meet weekly (and sometimes twice!) on Thursdays at noon or 6pm US EDT (GMT -4, as of the date of this posting).

We have speakers from all over the world on all kinds of topics related to CF, whether new or classic topics, beginner or advanced; whether new or old presentations, or even new or experienced speakers. If you or anyone you know would like to present, there are always open slots sometime in the coming months.

We've now had 88 presentations since I took the reins from Steven Erat in April 2007. You can find links to all the titles, descriptions, and speaker bios, as well as recordings of the sessions, at recordings.coldfusionmeetup.com (or on my UGTV repository of nearly 400 recorded presentations from over 200 speakers).

CF Meetup announcements now available via twitter

For those who prefer/enjoy twitter, I'm now announcing the CF Meetup events via twitter, via @cfmeetup.

I do have my own twitter account (@carehart), but I decided to keep these announcements separate. For now, I haven't tweeted a peep in my personal account, but thanks to the ~80 people have chosen to follow me anyway. Hope to make it worth your while soon. :-)

Recap of the 40 Online CF Meetup talks for 2008

As many in the CF blogosphere reflect on the past year, I figured I'd follow suit with a recap of the 40 talks we've had in 2008 on the Online ColdFusion Meetup. you can find the title and links to descriptions and/or the recordings for each talk below.

Always seeking more speakers

On behalf of the meetup members, I certainly want to thank all the speakers. Still, as I say in each meeting, we always welcome speakers on any topic related to CF, new or old, beginner or advanced. With now over 1600 members, there is an audienced for virtually any topic. Whether you're a first time speaker, or an old hand who may have talks that our listeners maybe haven't heard, please consider coming to speak. We tend to meet Thursdays at noon and/or 6pm EST, and we can change that time if it doesn't suit you. Please contact me or see this page of info for prospective speakers.

The 2008 Topics and Speakers

If you're curious about other talks we've had, see the list of talks in 2007.

Again, thanks to all the speakers and attendees, and here's to much more in 2009. We already have several speakers lined up for January, and I'll be announcing them soon.

Seeking more speakers for the ColdFusion Meetup (an online worlwide CFUG)

Hey folks, if you're a speaker on CF topics (or would like to be), the CF Meetup wants you! I've written on this before in more detail, but suffice it to say that the Online CF Meetup is an an entirely online CF user group. We try to meet weekly (when I can get speakers), and with 1500 members (yet only 30-50 at each meeting), there's no topic that's too niche, too beginner, or too advanced to appeal.

It's a low-key affair. Don't fear that you need to be polished. Whether this would be your first or your fiftieth presentation to a CF audience, you'll be warmly welcomed.

See the link above for more information (answers to common questions), and drop me a note or leave a comment here to express interest.

You don't need to set a date (or you can if that will help you). We meet Thursdays, and you can choose either noon or 6pm Eastern US time. I'm even open to hosting at another hour to reach international speakers and audiences.

If anyone's interested, you can see previous talk topics that have been presented at the meetup (26 so far this year) on the recordings pages for 2008 and 2007.

I'm speaking on CF Meetup at noon US EDT today: on using and securing RDS in CF Editors

Today at noon (US EDT) I'll be speaking on the CF Meetup, about using RDS in Eclipse, DW, and HSStudio, as well as security issues, including changes in CF8 that may make it more acceptable to use in more environments. I think many will be surprised by what they can do via RDS in all the editors.

I announced both of today's meetup sessions yesterday, as I do each week, but I don't bother with all the details of each talk so as not to overwhelm my readers here. I give the link to the talk's event page on the meetup site and let interested readers go view them there.

Since this is my talk, I thought my readers may benefit from a more detailed clarification of my talk today, thus this entry. Here are the details:

Leveraging RDS in Eclipse, Dreamweaver, and Homesite+/CF Studio: It's more secure and more useful than you may think

Are you using the RDS-enabled features in Eclipse, Dreamweaver, or HomeSite+/CF Studio? If not, you could be missing out on a lot of increased productivity, from the query building tools it enables, to the component browsing tools, to enabling file access across the web, and more.

Perhaps it's been disabled on your server, or people may argue that it's insecure. If you could be shown how it could be secured, might you (or your admin) reconsider it? I think it?s a tragedy how many developers suffer without leveraging RDS, certainly on their own machines, and even on shared servers.

Whether you think RDS evil or a blessing, or are unaware of what it enables in your favorite CFML editor, and whether you use CF 8 or earlier, there may be more to RDS than you realize. And there are solutions to security concerns, especially in CF8 but even beforehand.

In this talk, frequent CFUG speaker Charlie Arehart will show you all the ways that RDS can be used to make you more productive in Eclipse, Dreamweaver, or HomeSite+. He'll also address (and in some cases resolve) common security concerns, especially the multi-user RDS security available in CF 8 (and CF 4 and 5), as well as how to enable it if it's been disabled (assuming you have the right to make configuration changes, of course).

Join us online at noon. Anyone's welcome. No preregistration required (though you may want to consider it: see below.)

About the CF Meetup

In case you've missed it, the CF Meetup is an online CF user group I run. I try to have weekly meetings, with speakers all over the world. FWIW, this is only the 2nd talk I've done of the 40 talks done so far, and the first this year. Anyone's welcome to attend.

While the descriptions of meetings are held on the meetup.com site (a commercial service to help groups meet up with each other), the actual meeting is held online at http://experts.acrobat.com/cfmeetup/. Anyone may join in on the meetings. Just log in as guest (everyone should, even registered members of the group.)

If you'd like to receive email notification of the meetings, as well as have access to other resources (to give ratings, take part in polls, participate in the mailing list/forums), you can join the group at no cost, again at coldfusionmeetup.com (which redirects to our group's site on the meetup site, http://coldfusion.meetup.com/17/.)

Finally, all meetings are recorded, and the recording URL will be posted after the meeting at http://recordings.coldfusionmeetup.com.

ColdFusion meetup online webinars will be announced here

Just want to let folks I'm going to start announcing the upcoming Online ColdFusion Meetup sessions here.

I host them, and it turns out next week I'll be speaking in a full session of my own for the first time since we started the meetup in February. I was about to announce my talk here here.

Then I thought: hey, why don't I just announce each talk here from now on? Of course, I've been announcing them to the 1200+ registered members of the group, but certainly some who read my blog (or trip over an entry when it may show up on an aggregator) may be introduced to the group for the first time.

So I'm going to post next the 2 talks for next week, and in the future I'll post the rest. We have a full slate set for December. I'm not sure how far in advance I'll announce the rest of the month's talks. We'll see.

For those not familiar with the meetup, I've written about it here previously (though that was from the perspective of a potential speaker).

Got a topic to present? FAQ for prospective speakers on the CF Meetup (online CFUG)

Updated Jul 2016

Are you interested in presenting to a CF/CFML audience? We'd love to have you on the Online ColdFusion Meetup, the online CF user group that I host. This entry is a bit of a FAQ for prospective speakers.

The LEAST you need to know

  • The most important thing to know is that if you want to speak, just let me know by email at charlie (at) carehart.org or by twitter (@cfmeetup), and I'll work to get you scheduled.
  • If you've created and presented a talk at a conference or local user group, the Online CF Meetup is a great way to get your talk out to a still-larger audience (if you choose to present here after the conference/user group, though some present on the meetup first, as a form of practice. Whatever you prefer.)
  • Even if you haven't ever presented a talk at a conference/ug, and maybe never will, you're still welcome! The CF Meetup is an easy place for any speaker who may like to present on any CF-related topic. And it can even be easier than presenting before a "live studio audience", as it were, as I discuss more below.
  • If you're concerned about webcams (and what your office--or you--may look like), don't worry. We don't use them. We're interested in your content: your voice, and your screen which is shared, via Adobe Connect, which is VERY easy for you as presenter, and using VOIP/internet audio (within Connect) rather than phones.
  • Our slots are typically for an hour but speaking for less time is ok if you prefer.
  • We do record the meetings, so it's a great way to have your session recorded (most conferences don't bother), so your hard work is saved for posterity and again still more people get to watch them.
  • Any topic that may be of interest to the ColdFusion community is welcome. It need not be solely about CF or CFML, but can be something of generic interest to all web developers. (Being an official Adobe CF user group, we can also have SOME talks on alternative CFML engines like Lucee, Railo, or BlueDragon, but note that we can't have a majority of topics on them.)
  • Finally, if you may wonder about the technical matters of what you need to be a presenter, and especially if you have any hesitation about presenting online, please see the faq below, What do I need to be a presenter on a Connect meeting?. You may also want to check that list, to see answers to important questions you may have not have considered.

Whether you're a new or experienced speaker, whether you want to discuss a new or old topic, whether for beginners, intermediates, or experts, there's an audience for your talk within the 1,200 2,400 2,700+ member Online CF Meetup user group (as of July 2016), which typically gets about 30-50 people per meeting (different folks for different meetings, typically), and then the additional views of the recordings.

So if you're interested, let me know. And if you have time, please consider the following.

Some common questions speakers may have

If you're interested in speaking, you probably have a few questions. In this note I try to address them:

  • Why should I consider speaking?
  • So what is the ColdFusion Meetup?
  • How often, and when, do you meet?
  • How long do sessions typically last?
  • Where do you meet?
  • Are your meetings recorded?
  • Can anyone attend the meetings? Watch the recordings? How do they hear of them?
  • What topics are welcomed?
  • Is there any list of topics people are interested in?
  • What next dates are available?
  • I'm afraid to commit to a date if I may not be able to make it
  • OK, so how do I become a speaker?
  • What if I'm nervous about presenting?
  • What do I need to be a presenter on a Connect meeting?
  • I just don't have time to build/update slides for a talk
  • Why presenting online is different, in a good way
  • How can I support the group?

Why should I consider speaking?

People enjoy presenting to the CF community for a variety of reasons: to share experiences and discoveries, to help solve problems they've faced, to share new tools, or even to promote something they've written.

There are certainly many CFUGs the world over, and we support them fully, but some people may not be close enough to speak to (or attend) one. And though some CFUGs welcome remote presenters, many presenters don't know where to turn or which to try to present to first.

The CF Meetup is really a great place to present, whether you have a new or often-presented talk.

In the case of a new talk, you can use it to work out the kinks (some find it easier to talk in front of a mic rather than standing before an audience). Also, other CFUG managers can see your talk and then may ask to have you present it to their group, whether on-site or online. (They may prefer that to telling their members to just go watch your recording.)

And if you have a talk you've presented before, consider that many may not have seen your talk, even if presented to other groups or conferences. And even if you recorded it before, this is a chance to do a second take. You can of course use this as a chance to revise a talk done previously (practice makes perfect), or to reprise a previous talk you did that you think some groups may feel is old news. We have room here for classic subjects!

Finally, another benefit for you is that we record all our meetings (more on that later), so you can share the URL of recording on your site, in emails, in your materials, etc.

So what is the ColdFusion Meetup?

The Online ColdFusion Meetup is an online CF User Group--in fact it's the largest CFUG in the world with over 1,200 2,400+ 2,700+ members (as of July 2016). Don't let that scare you, though, as a prospective presenter. We tend to have about 30-50 attendees at any one meeting (sometimes more, sometimes fewer. It all depends on the topic.)

We've had 17 165 245 talks so far (as of July 2016).

So how often, and when, do you meet?

Well, most CFUGs meet monthly, but being online we have the luxury to meet more flexibly. :-)

For years we had settled into a pattern of weekly meetings, Thursdays, at noon or 6p US Eastern time, sometimes with speakers in both slots.

In recent years (as of 2016), there seems to be a change in the desire of presenters to speak online (they still love speaking at conferences, of course!), so we have not been able to be weekly (let alone often monthly).

There is no change in the interest of attendees, though. We still have a huge membership, and every talk still gets as many attendees as the early years.

And there are enough potential topics (new and old) that I don't see the well running dry.

And it may not be the same folks attending meeting to meeting, which is fine, really. That's the beauty of being an online group. People will come if the topic interests them. No crowd is too big or too small.

We still try to meet on Thursdays at 12p or 6p US Eastern time, even if no longer on a weekly basis, simply because it's a pattern many have come to expect.

And those two time slots try to balance not only the needs of US audiences (across 3+ time zones) but also those outside the US. Noon will be the afternoon/evening for Europe and east but before dawn in Asia/Pacific and west. 6pm will be morning for Asia/Pac but late night for Europe. These are the challenges of a world-wide audience. (We've also polled the membership over the years and these were the most popular timeframes.)

But we can be flexible on the time and even the day. If you have a desire to present at another time, there will be an audience for it, for sure.

How long do sessions typically last?

Our talks are typically for an hour but you can take less time if you prefer (or a little more, if you need; just let folks know before you start if you think you will, or at least at the hour if you find you're running long). There's also time for questions afterward, which can go from anywhere from a few minutes to as much as a half hour, all dependent on your availability/interest as a speaker.

Where do you meet?

Again, we're an entirely online group. We never meet in person and we have members all over the world. The group always meets at http://experts.acrobat.com/cfmeetup, which is an Adobe Acrobat Connect meeting room that is opened only for the meetings (typically a few minutes before and after, just like a room in "the real world").

Are your meetings recorded?

Yes, they are. And as I mentioned above, that's a real benefit of speaking at the Meetup, if you're interested in being able to have others see your presentation after the fact. We post the URL for all our meetings at both recordings.coldfusionmeetup.com and Charlie's UGTV site, which offers links to recordings from hundreds of speakers from different CF user groups around the world.

And we owe a debt of gratitude to Adobe for their provision of a free Acrobat Connect account as well as the space and bandwidth for holding and presenting the recordings. This is an offer they make to all official Adobe User Groups. For more info on that (if you're a UG manager or want it for your user group), see the other blog entries I've done, starting with this one/.

Can anyone attend the meetings? Watch the recordings? How do they hear of them?

Yes, anyone can attend the meetings and watch the recordings. Membership in the meetup (which is free, at coldfusionmeetup.com) is just to allow for automatic emailing of announcements. There's an option to RSVP there. That's not mandatory, but it gives a bit of a heads up of how popular a topic will be.

Even without signing up, you can also follow the RSS feed offered on the Calendar entry there, or you can follow us on Twitter (@cfmeetup).

What topics are welcomed at the Meetup?

Getting back to being a speaker on the Meetup, we welcome pretty much any topic related even slightly to ColdFusion, whether on an advanced or a beginning topic, a new or old feature, etc. The beauty of the online format is that people can easily choose to come or not, or can just watch the recording. And again, logistically, no audience is too large or too small.

It need not be solely about CF or CFML, but can be something of generic interest to all web developers. (Being an official Adobe CF user group, we can also have SOME talks on alternative CFML engines like Lucee, Railo, or BlueDragon, but note that we can't have a majority of topics on them.)

Going back to a point I made before, we can even have you present some classic topic that you think some audience may appreciate. You (or a user group manager) may fear presenting an "old" or niche topic before a live audience because of the risk it may not bring out enough attendees. That's not a problem for us. With a thousand+ members, your talk will find an audience here! :-)

A user group manager may also worry that some niche topics may cause some to skip a month, and then be annoyed since it will be another month until the next meeting. We don't have that problem either, since there will be another meeting the next week! So really, any topic is welcome.

Is there any list of topics people are interested in?

In July 2009 I created a page on the CF Meetup site where members can edit the page to indicate topics of interest. Feel free to consider (or add to) that. It's not been used too heavily yet, so it's not at all "the" list to choose from.

Really, about any topic you want to present is generally welcome.

What next dates are available?

I'm always trying to line up speakers for future meetings. I welcome even just expressions of tentative interest (if you're not quite ready to set a fixed date). I'll keep track and follow up with you down the road.

I'm afraid to commit to a date if I may not be able to make it

No problem. Just go ahead and let me know that it's tentative. You can always postpone or cancel if you need to. I tend to announce each meeting only the week in advance, so no one but you and I will know if you have to cancel/postpone. And even at the last minute, people understand. Again, since we meet so often, and since no one has "drive to the meeting", it's really not the end of the world if we end up not having a topic any one week/slot.

But if it would help you mentally to pre-set a date, just to have a deadline to work toward, again, I'm happy to mark you down on my internal calendar. Only you and I will know until we're ready to announce it the week before.

OK, so how do I become a speaker?

If you're interested or have any other questions, please drop me a note at charlie (at) carehart.org or by twitter (@cfmeetup), and I'll work to get you scheduled.

What if I'm nervous about presenting?

Don't be. This is a friendly place. And I'll guide you through the entire process. As a veteran presenter of hundreds of user group talks myself, both live and online, I've helped our Meetup presenters (veterans and newcomers alike) with issues as varied as helping firm up a compelling title and description to sharing tips on how to present effectively online, including helping you sound good and even helping pick out good choices for headsets or mics--we don't bother with webcams. For all we care, you can speak in your underwear. :-)

What do I need to be a presenter on a Connect meeting?

As for software, you don't need anything special. Connect is based on Flash (yes, still as of July 2016), and most browsers have that. And Adobe Connect works with Windows, Mac, and Linux.

There are no ports you need to open, whether to be an attendee or a presenter. It all works over port 80 or 443 (if you really preferred). As a presenter, you'll just install one little additional Flash plugin when you are first marked to be a presenter (before we start the meeting).

Then you'll just share your screen with us. Whatever you show, we'll see. You don't need to upload anything, or offer a preso in some particular format.

If you have two monitors, that's great (but not needed). You could move the Connect window off to the second monitor, which makes it easier to keep an eye on the chat pod, as well as to confirm that we see what you want us to see. It works fine if you have only one monitor, too.

As for your voice, we don't use the phone (for now, as it's not offered in the version of Connect we use.) Instead, both speakers and attendees participate via VOIP/internet audio, provided for within Connect. You just need a mic and speakers. A USB headset works best, but even an older analog one can work.

While the mic and speakers in your laptop will work, it would be better if you use earphones or a headset to prevent echo from your computer mic picking up your speakers.

I just don't have time to build/update slides for a talk

Some speakers fear they don't have time to prepare a new talk. Well, I've already explained that old talks are ok, too. In that case, you just show up and give the talk you've given.

But if you are thinking of a new topic, just note that you don't really have to come up with a bunch of slides. Presenting online can be different in that respect. Let me explain.

Why presenting online is different, in a good way

You'll find that with an online talk, you can get away with putting a lot less detail into your slides. In a live talk, you may do that as much to help prompt you for what to cover. Sure, presentation software has notes features, but you may fear being tied down to the laptop in a live event, or if you printed the notes you may feel uncomfortable holding them while you talk.

But with an online talk, you can print those notes out for yourself (in large print) to have sitting next to you at your desk (or viewed on a second monitor). You can see them, but the viewers don't need to. (You can give them a notes file after the talk if you want to, to give them those details, and URLs, etc.)

Even in a live talk, with the extra bullets, have you noticed they don't help you as much when it's time to switch away from the slides to a demo? In an online setup, that won't be a problem. You can just as easily view your notes easily whether showing slides or doing a demo.

These things make doing an online talk a lot easier.

You could even just make a whole talk out of simply walking through a live demo. No one would care if you had "slides". More and more people are going away from them.

How can I support the group?

Hey, we could always use your support, whether as a speaker or just in helping "spread the word" on the group. :-)

If you're a blogger or belong to a mailing list and want to promote the Meetup as a place for prospective presenters to consider, we'd be grateful. Feel free to point them to this blog entry that you're now reading.

You can point potential members to the CFMeetup site (coldfusionmeetup.com), which also lists all the past meetings. Again, it's free to join the group. And let them know they can find the recordings at recordings.coldfusionmeetup.com.

I meant, "how can I support the group monetarily?"

Ah, well how nice of you! :-) Seriously, though, we're not setup to take in donations for now (nor are we setup as a non-profit).

I will say I pay a monthly fee for the meetup.com site, which is a commercial third-party site otherwise used by groups that meet in real life, and it helps them organize and promote such meetings. Our URL really just redirects to a specific section of their site, devoted to our group.

Beyond that, running a user group is itself a significant time commitment (getting speakers, organizing and announcing each meeting, managing and posting the recordings, and so on). Still, running the CF Meetup is really a gift to the community, and just another part of the many wonderful ways that we all learn from each other in this great CF community.

But if you're interested, I'll point out that there is an option on the meetup page for contributing a monetary donation, or I do also have an Amazon wish list.

But thank you!

But really, thanks for your support whether you're a speaker or an attendee, or if you do anything to help promote the group. It sounds trite, but as with all CFUGs it really is your group. You can help make it what you want it to be, and by promoting it to others, you make it all the more compelling a place to "watch and be watched".

I welcome your feedback and comments, and I hope to "see" you at an upcoming meetup.

Got something to show the CF community? Come present to the Online CF Meetup

If you're a developer, speaker, or vendor with something you want to share with the CF community, or know someone who does, here's a chance to reach thousands of folks. The Online ColdFusion Meetup wants you!

I explained previously the rekindling of the Meetup, which is an official, online Adobe ColdFusion user group.

The group serves a couple of audiences. Obviously, for those who don't have a local user group, it's a vital link to the community. Beyond that, though, anyone may join and participate, so it really serves the worldwide CF community. The group grew to 900 members during Steven's time, and now it's up to 1,100 over 1,200 members (update as of Oct 2007). We've had several successful meetings the past several weeks.

Meetings are typically 30-60 minutes long, just like a real user group meeting, as driven by the speaker's topic. People join in to listen (voice over IP) and optionally interact with the speaker via a chat window (we use an Acrobat Connect account that Adobe graciously grants to user groups). There are typically about 20-40 folks online during most of our sessions

Better still, we record all the meetings (again, with Adobe's generously hosting the recordings), so your message gets shared potentially to the entire CF community. I list all the recordings, along with over a hundred other user group talks, at my UGTV site. Folks typically blog about the sessions as well, all of which help further spread whatever news or tips you have to share.

Of course, we're not looking for anything exclusive. It can be a talk already given to another CFUG. But certainly if a speaker can't make it to any one group, or can't pick which one to present to virtually (if they use Connect), the speaker can at least present to this group and know that they can reach a wide audience, since all 1,100 members receive a notice by email of each upcoming meeting.

The topics can be anything related to CF, including ancillary tools, frameworks, products, etc. We want to help carry the flag for the CF community and be a resource for everyone. We can't expect that each meeting will interest every person, but we can hope that everyone might find value in one or more talks over time.

For now we're meeting irregularly (we've had 10 17 so far (update as of Oct 2007), sometimes with a week or two between them, but some on the same day). We'll fall into a rhythm of regular scheduling once we have a handle on availability of speakers and interest from the audience. For now, any ideas are welcome, and we already have a few folks lined up having expressed interest.

So again, if you're interested, or know someone who may be, let me know. My contact info is at right. Thanks in advance.

New place to find recordings of Online ColdFusion Meetups

If you're a fan of the Online ColdFusion Meetup, note that you can now find the URL for the recording of each meeting on one place in the Meetup Message board (this is in addition to it being listed in the UGTV site).

For those who've not heard of it, I've mentioned in the past that I'm hosting the revived Online CF Meetup, which is a virtual (and Adobe-recognized) CF User Group that meets via Acrobat Connect on a regular basis (weekly, recently).

Well, we also record each meeting, and until now, I'd create a new email in the meetup message board, a precedence which Steven Erat had started when he ran the group.

But I just noticed today the option to "pin" a discussion, meaning it remains at the top of the message board all the time. So I've just created a new message listing all the past recordings and pinned it, and will instead just change that after each meeting. Note that you don't need to be a meetup member to see that message.

And in case you may want to share the URL for any reason, here's a TinyURL version of it: http://tinyurl.com/2dbdnk.

Finally, some may ask why I list it in both places (the meetup site, and the UGTV site). I don't know, I just felt that meetup members shouldn't have to look elsewhere for the recordings, or wade through the ever-growing list of all recordings at the UGTV site.

For those not familiar with the UGTV site, it's a subset of my web site (http://www.carehart.org/UGTV/) where you can find now well over a hundred recorded UG presentations from around the world. It's search-able, sortable, has RSS feeds (even for a specific search keyword), and more.

The meetups have been going great. If you'd like to speak at one, or know someone who does, have them drop me an email. My contact info is listed at right.

ColdFusion Meetup now doing CFUnited previews

Following on the heels of the cf.Objective() preview sessions two weeks ago, the Online ColdFusion Meetup will now turn its attention to previews for the CFUnited conference. We've already lined up 7 speakers for each of the weeks between now and the conference, which is held the last week of June outside Washington, DC.

Michael Smith asked me to do the first preview, for my day-long class on "New in CFMX 6&7: What Did You Miss?". I'll have more about that in the next entry.

As before, these previews are just a 20-30 minute introduction to the topic at hand, with Q&A (thus the name, "previews"). The goal is indeed to offer great information and value, just as in the real talk, but they're not going to be the entire talk, so expect to be left looking forward to hearing more. :-)

Also, something new for the meetups is that from now on we will just use one Acrobat Connect meeting URL for all the meetings, both previews and otherwise. This will make it easier both for presenters to post the URL when they promote their own meetings, and also to help attendees make sure they don't end up visiting the wrong URL (only to find no one there, which has happened a couple of times.)

The new Acrobat Connect URL for the meetup meetings going forward will be http://experts.acrobat.com/cfmeetup/. As before, we do appreciate folks using the meetup system's interface to RSVP, as well as to be able to share thoughts before and feedback after the meeting. RSVPs are preferred but not necessary. Again, the meetup site is at http://coldfusion.meetup.com/17.

Stepping up to co-lead the CF Online Meetup, stepping down as Atlanta CFUG president

For fans of the ColdFusion Online Meetup group, which Adobe engineer Steven Erat created in 2004, I want to share the news that Steven has stepped down (citing work challenges) and has passed the mantle of leadership to myself and Ray Camden. We will serve as co-leaders of the 900-member virtual user group.

For more information on the group, which has offered (and will continue to offer) online presentations from speakers around the world, follow the link on this badge:

Once you join the group (it's entirely free), you can read more about the change in leadership, as I wrote a message of introduction at the group message board.

I also seek (in that message board entry) feedback from group members about the future of the group and in particular, prospective topics of interest for online presentations. (Please don't offer such here, if you're a member. Offer it on the message board for all members to see.)

Of course, any of the group's recorded presentations will be offered on my UGTV repository of recorded user group presentations, and indeed I hope that the Meetup may become a primary source for more and more varied recorded presentations.

Still, you'll want to consider joining the group (again, it's entirely free) to receive notification in advance of the online meetings. The group's message board itself can also be used for community interaction (though it's not been too active in recent months). Perhaps we'll see its use expand in the future.

Anyway, come check it out, and spread the word. We'll organize our first meeting within a few weeks, for sure.

As for the Atlanta CFUG, I have stepped down from the presidency of that group just this month. We coincidentally had elections just a few weeks ago and as I knew the change in the Meetup was coming, I stepped down (but didn't tell folks about the meetup as it wasn't finalized). Can't run two groups at once! :-) That wasn't the only reason I stepped down, but I won't deny that running the online meetup should be a lot less effort than running a real physical group.

I also knew that there were many capable prospective leaders in the Atlanta board of directors (numbering 14 strong, and of which I am remaining a member) who could step to take on that leadership role. The board selected Teddy Payne to replace me, and I'm sure the group will do great going forward.

The chance to lead the online meetup group is just a great challenge. With over 900 members, it has incredible reach, and both Ray and I are excited about the prospect of keeping it going as a great place to find online presentations, whether from ourselves or all the other fine speakers out there (and new ones who may want to give it a shot).

Again, if you're at all interested, click the badge above to join. We're happy to have you! :-)

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