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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).

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