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Come watch the Mura Show as we enable CArehart.org under Mura CMS

This could be very interesting. Starting today at 4pm EST, and over the next few weeks, the "Mura Show" (a weekly online user group for Mura CMS) will dedicate a few episodes to focus on the conversion of my site, CArehart.org.

A real live use-case, from scratch

What's interesting is that it will be an installation from scratch, in a "cinema verite" approach where we will assume nothing and if we trip over things, we'll talk about them. We'll talk about what I hope to gain by using Mura, and why it seems a good fit.

Ee'll proceed each step of the way with me as the new user (I have never used Mura), the Mura guys as my trusty guides, and of course with people able to ask questions all along the way and hopefully learning for themselves as we go.

Though I've not yet used Mara (or any CMS), I've been a big fan for a couple of years, observing it from the outside. Indeed, I blogged about how very impressed I was with their site in my May 2008 entry "A CFML-based product that really gets how to win customers, and what we can learn from it". And then I've watched as a couple of the ColdFusion Meetup episodes recently had covered Mura.

Though I've never really considered a CMS for my site, as I saw all that was possible with Mura and how it allowed for integration of existing CFML, I started to wonder if it may make sense to consider it for my site.

Going about enabling a CMS for a hodgepodge site

My site really hosts a few things and therefore offers different challenges in considering enabling a CMS. And this is what we'll cover over the next few weeks.

Some parts are static while others are dynamic (database driven). Some are just long static lists (my articles and presentations). Similarly, the CF411 site (which redirects to a page on my site) is an even larger list.

Each has just grown over time and naturally I'd love to make them both database-driven and to have some sort of paging, categorized presentation, searching, and such, and Mura can provide that. It can also allow me to let others contribute (especially to the CF411 site), which is a natural fit for a CMS.

Of course, I could also enable such db-driven paging and user contribution by hand. Idneed I had done that already for another part of my site, my UGTV repository of links to hundreds of recorded CF presentations. I knew when I started that it would not only grow substantially and that it would require entry of data by others.

So besides wanting to add more dynamic (and user-contributable) features for the other "static" parts of the site, it would also be interesting to see if/how I might keep or change this existing CF-driven part of the site. FWIW, the CF-driven part does not use any framework, either, since it was really a smallish app.

Another thing I've long wanted to add with all these sections (articles, presentations, UGTV, and CF411) is the concept of a "Landing page", where each item could have a page with more detail about it as well as features like rating, commenting, recommended related items, and such.

Again, I could do that for the UGTV site since it was already DB-driven, but since I'd have to make the other three sections be DB-driven and I'd have to code that, I just started to wonder if a CMS may be the way to go.

Mura to the rescue, and a case study is born

I thought to ask the Mura guys about things, and they felt on the surface that it woudl be a good fit. They asked me to present a list of the things I'd be interested in adding (as well as preserving), and on reviewing it, they not only felt it would work fine, but that it would make a great case study for the Mura show. They knew me from the past CFMeetups and they sensed that I would welcome the chance to do all this live on a Connect session. I said I would, absolutely, as I was sure many would benefit from seeing such a raw, live presentation. As they thought it over, they decided to propose a few weeks (whether they happen consecutively is to be determined), and I was open to that, as well.

Indeed, I expressed how I preferred (with the extra time) that we really do do it from scratch, so that people see really everything entailed. And of course we'd introduce how we got to this point (what you've read above), how they think it can all be done, and then (once we do the install, all this in the first show), we would proceed in future shows to start really integrating the site into Mura.

I'm really looking forward to it, and I hope others will too.

Update: The recording is now posted and available.

Connect recordings listed with breezecentral.com domain will break: here's the solution

If you're a speaker, user group manager, or blogger who offers URLs for previously recorded Breeze/Connect presentations, you may find that some now break because they point to a domain that Adobe no longer supports, breezecentral.com. Someone noted that an old entry that had been entered previously in my UGTV repository now broke. I looked into it, found the answer, and am sharing it here for others.

It's understandable, since Breeze was renamed to Connect a long time ago, but the bummer is that so many folks have for so long pointed to such recordings, and now they will all break. I've changed all the UGTV entries.

Here is a table of the old URLS and new ones that I've found to work for each. It's not always quite as obvious as it may seem:

Old URLNew URL
These need adobe.acrobat.com
adobechats.adobe.breezecentral.com adobechats.adobe.acrobat.com
adobechats.breezecentral.com adobechats.adobe.acrobat.com
mmchats.breezecentral.com mmchats.adobe.acrobat.com
mmusergroup.breezecentral.com mmusergroup.adobe.acrobat.com
seminars.breezecentral.com seminars.adobe.acrobat.com
These just need acrobat.com
experts.breezecentral.com experts.acrobat.com
stevenerat.breezecentral.com stevenerat.acrobat.com
mmse.breezecentral.com mmse.acrobat.com

Of course, I'm sure there are many other URLS out there using breezecentral.com. I'm only listing those that were in my UGTV database, that I tested and changed.

So for example, Doug Smith had noted that this entry from a 2006 talk by Sean Corfield, on "Objects and Persistence" failed (with domain not found):

http://adobechats.adobe.breezecentral.com/p31075720/

The correct new URL is:

http://adobechats.adobe.acrobat.com/p31075720/

So I've taken care of the UGTV entries. If you have your own listing of such URLs, I hope you'll take note of all this and make the changes for yourself and your readers.

New Connect Beta (Brio) On Adobe Labs--and a mini preview

Folks, just want to let you know that the next generation of Acrobat Connect is up on the Adobe Labs site.

It's a hosted service, not something you download, and it allows you to have up to 3 meeting participants.

Be sure to see the "Product Details" tab of the labs page, which offers more info about the new release, including some modest release notes. Most significant is the question most likely to be asked by those using Connect now:

"How is Brio different from Adobe Acrobat Connect?"

  • Richer expression in the Chat Pod with sizes, colors, and emoticons.
  • Text layout controls in the Note Pod including bullets, size, and color.
  • Save as .doc file option for meeting Chat and Notes.
  • Upload files to distribute to your meeting participants.
  • Voice over IP option as an alternative to teleconferencing.
  • Right click menus.
  • Access to key meeting features while screen sharing with new palette.
  • Whiteboard Pod with option to save your work as a .png file.
  • Annotate over screen sharing using whiteboarding tools with option to save as your work as a .png file.
  • Personalized display images in the meeting attendee list.
  • Additional options (accept all and automatic room entry) for accepting attendees to a meeting.
  • New Role names (host, participant and audience) for attendees and more capabilities for participants making it easy to collaborate during meetings. Participants can now share their screen, enter notes, whiteboard automatically without being promoted to a presenter.

Note as well there that free audioconferencing by phone (in addition to the traditional embedded mic and camera feature) is available in the beta. No need to make a reservation. Just click on the phone icon upper right corner of your meeting room and select Adobe Conference Number. You'll see a text box with the call-in numbers as well as the meeting ID number. There's no charge for the service, however, long distance phone charges may apply.

This preview of Brio is currently only available in English.

Finally, to find out more, check out the lab forums for Brio.

I'll have more to say after I review it myself.

Recording your next user group meeting (and finding the recording)

If you're a user group manager who is taking advantage of the free Acrobat Connect account from Adobe for user groups, the next challenge for you may be how to make and use recordings of your meetings. I find that many managers have just never done this, and it can be so valuable, especially since you can then list the recording for your members and indeed for the entire community on my UGTV site. More on this later.

Making a recording of your meeting

Fortunately, it's very easy to record your meeting. It doesn't matter if you'll be having any remote attendees. Indeed, it doesn't matter if you'll be having a remote speaker. As long as you have an internet connection, you can record whatever a speaker says and shows. Everything you see and hear will be captured and can be played back in perfect fidelity.

While you're in a Connect meeting (as a host, discussed in the earlier blog entry), simply hit the Meeting>Record Meeting option in the top menu bar. You'll be prompted for a name and description. Don't worry too much about getting this perfect at that point, since I'll show how you can easily edit the information later. (You don't even need a description, and since the recording will be timestamped, you don't even need to worry about creating a unique name, if you'll be editing it soon after the meeting--so you don't forget which recording is which.)

Tip: As a word of advice, I'd recommend you be prepared to start your meeting right after you hit the record button. The recording will indeed start immediately, and I've heard too many recordings where the host and/or presenter are fumbling around getting things situated while the "tape" is rolling. Please be considerate of those who will listen to your recording later.

They don't want to have to wait--and there's no easy means to know how long such preliminaries will go on. Advancing the playhead in the playback mechanism isn't as precise as it could be, either, so the listener won't be able to easily skip ahead. This is an easy mistake in the moment. You figure everyone else in the room is waiting patiently while you get started. But it's quite annoyance at the start of a recording.

An update: Yes, as I'll discuss later, you can now with later versions of Connect go back and edit the recording, but you probably won't bother, so just keep this in mind.

When you're done, you simply hit the Meeting>Record Meeting menu option again, or the red "recording" icon/dot in the top right of the Connect interface (which tells you you're recording).

Note that there is no "pause" feature. If you stop it, you're stopping that recording and would need to start a new one. If you're having multiple talks during a meeting, it may be best anyway to create a separate recording for each.

Here's another tip: you can use the ease of creating recordings to create a quick one before the start of the meeting to test how you and your presenter sound. Sometimes, you can't judge by what you hear, if you've got bad bandwidth temporarily. You can create a quick recording, go listen to it, then delete it. I'll show how to find the recordings next.

Finding the Recording URL

OK, so you've made your recording. Now, how do you find it? I hear this lament from user group managers all the time. In fact, it was 2 such pleas for help that I saw today which sparked me to create this entry (been meaning to for some time).

You get to the recordings not through the Connect interface but instead through the same interface you use to create the meeting. (Each Connect account may have a different URL, and of course you need a valid login/password, so I can't tell you how to get in. If someone else setup the meeting, you need to contact them, or your Connect administrator, to get that info.)

On the Admin page, click the "Meetings" link on the top of the page. That will show all your current meetings. (You can also use "my scheduled meetings", but it's a slightly different presentation of meetings list.) Select your desired meeting (the one where you made the recording--as you may see several listed).

You will then see several links, one of which will be "Recordings". That's where the recordings (if any) for that meeting will be listed. Click that.

Now you can click on a recording (that name you gave when you started the recording). That will show you the URL for the recording ("URL for viewing"). You can click the link right there to have it open and start playing the recording. You'll want to make sure it sounds and looks good. If not, just take notes to do things better next time. You can't edit the recordings in any way. An Update: note that you can now edit your recordings, such as to remove deadspace at the beginning or in the middle, or if a speaker loses connectivity for a time, etc. You do such edits from a button on the same manager pages being discussed here.

Tip: Here's another reason to view the recording while you're at this point. If the recording prompts for a username/password, you can alter it to not require that. Indeed, you can also make a slight modification to be able to track how many times the recording is viewed. I cover both in another blog entry, "Webcast: How to track views of your Breeze/Acrobat Connect recorded presentations".

Finally, while you're viewing the recording information (whether before or after you move it as discussed in the above-named entry), you will also see an option called "Edit", where you can rename it or add/edit the description. You can change this any time, even after people have started viewing the recording. The URL of the recording won't (and can't) be changed if you edit this information.

Tell the world about your recording

Now that you have the recording URL, you'll certainly want to blog it, and tell the presenter also, as s/he may also blog about it. (Again, be sure to have tested it first to make sure users aren't prompted for a username/password.)

Finally, don't forget to post it on the repository of recorded user group presentations, UGTV. Yep, that's a section of my site, but it's for anyone to post recordings to. Indeed, if you find a recording and don't see it listed, you can add it, whether you're the author or not. (If a recording is listed publicly, I can see no reason the author wouldn't want it listed in the UGTV list.) For more on the UGTV, see the UGTV category at right.

Hope that helps. Let me know if I forgot anything, or if it helps you. Feedback is always welcome.

Webcast: How to track views of your Breeze/Acrobat Connect recorded presentations

I'm happy to present my first webcast, a short audio/video presentation showing a screen recording with narration of how to solve a problem. I plan to do many of these in the future.

This first one is a 5 minute video showing how to solve the problem of tracking how many people have viewed a Breeze/Acrobat Connect recorded presentation.

I discussed the solution in a previous entry, but some had asked for more details. Rather than write them out, I used this as a chance to put together the webcast.

I'd like to point out that these webcasts themselves are not made as Breeze/Connect presentations, since I ultimately want to make them downloadable to ipods. I've made this and will make future ones using Camtasia Studio 4 from Techsmith. They've been so kind as to give me a demo license and I look forward to creating many more.

I'll welcome feedback from folks both in what you think of the approach, and its design, as well as any ideas for future webcasts you may like to see. Of course, I especially welcome feedback on the topic itself.

Are you recording CFUG meetings? Check out this tip to track how many visits you get

If you're a CFUG manager who may be taking advantage of the really nice offer from Adobe for us to use Connect to broadcast and/or record user group meetings, here's a nice tip for being able to track how many people have viewed the recording.

It turns out you can move a "Recorded Meeting" to the "Content Area" of your Connect account, so that Connect will treat the recorded version as "Content". Once you move it, you will now have access to the report section for the "content" (including the count of users who accessed the recorded version).

(Thanks to "Alain" on the Connect forums for sharing that answer when I asked about the challenge.)

Once you move it, you may wonder where to find it in the Connect Admin interface. You generally work in the "meetings" area, but you'll see a link in the top navbar next to that saying "content". That's where the recorded meeting is moved. Any URL for the recording remains the same.

What's more the count reflects all views since you recorded it, not just since you moved it.

One gotcha to watch out for: be sure to check the permissions on the recording, as the move could change the permissions. (Update 11/07: there was a time when I observed that the permissions would change, but recently I observe that I no longer need to do that.) Check "set permissions" while looking at the list of meetings at Content>My Content.

For more on the notion of user group managers using Connect, see the links below.

Is your CFUG taking advantage of the free access to Connect for Adobe user groups?

One of the benefits of being an Adobe User Group (CFUGs and others) is that the managers have access to a free Acrobat Connect account that can used to have remote speakers and/or attendees, and to record your presentations (so others local or remote can watch what you've had presented).

Many CFUGs don't seem to be taking advantage of the feature, so I wanted to point it out. Your manager may not know about it, or may have forgotten, or just may not be seeing the benefit. I share this to help you inform and encourage them. (This account is only for use with user group related activities.)

Let me expand on each of the reasons to consider using it.

Gives you access to remote presenters

The most obvious to some is that it permits a group to have a presenter who's not local. Many CFUGs have a hard time getting presenters from within their ranks. Some do get remote presenters to come live, such as if they're in town (which is always nice), but at least a Connect-based presentation is better than having none. It can also inform you of techniques from specialists holding expertise just not available within your group.

Such Connect-based presentations have been very successful. Not always perfect (audio, video, and bandwidth problems can play up), but successful far more often than not judging from those who try it once and then do it again.

Permits you to welcome attendees who might not normally come

Yet another benefit, whether you have a remote presenter or not, is that it can also be used to let others in your group (or even outside your group) see the presentation without being there. Yes, this is a two-edged sword, in that you don't want to cannibalize your local attendance by people saying, "I'll just stay home". We all know that being there is very important, so one wouldn't want to always substitute "watching" for showing up.

Still, there are some who for family reasons, or due to other commitments, can't make some or even all the meetings. This is a nice way to connect them to your group (and promote whatever other services your group may offer).

Naturally, this also opens the door to folks who aren't even local to your group to join in. There are ways you could limit who can participate, but the general thinking among most groups is that you should just let anyone in.

I'll talk about recording and watching recorded presentations in a moment. But this idea of having lots of online attendees brings up a point worth noting.

Sidebar: Challenges of a large number of online attendees

You may wonder, "should I worry at all about how many online attendees join in?" Yes, you might want to be aware of a couple of points. First, the Connect account that is shared is designated to have no more than (I think) 150 total participants at once, across all groups that may share it at once.

Second, when you have lots of online attendees, they tend to engage in chat, which may be a challenge for your presenter to keep up with. I do believe that the person running the Connect meeting can turn off the chat. I'm pretty sure it can be switched on at the end of the meeting (or when desired during the meeting), to open the floor to questions. Such online chat is a two-edged sword, as it can give detract focus from your local attendees. Like any tool, all must use it responsibly.

Recording your presentations, whether a local or remote speaker

Another really nice benefit of using the Connect account (even if you have no remote attendees) is that you can use Connect to record your presentation--even if you have only a local presenter. That's not something that many have yet thought of.

These recordings can then be made available for anyone to watch. They are saved on a server at Adobe (part of the account that's offered). Once recorded, you can share the URL of that recording with others in your group (such as those who missed the meeting, or want to see the presentation again), as well as those outside your group. There's no cost to watch the presentations, nor does is there any limit for the group on how many people can watch the recording. As far as I know, there's also no time-limit for how long the recorded presentations remain available at Adobe.

Speaking of these recorded meetings, I've long been meaning to create a repository for such, and writing this post finally motivated me to do it. It's now available at http://www.carehart.org/ugtv/. I may break it out into its own domain eventually, if it takes off (ugtv.com and .org are already taken). I'll also share the link with Ray to add to his nifty CF portal, where he links to such CF resources.

As far as the issues above about having too large a number of online attendees, or a concern over cannibalizing local attendance, note that you can choose in a meeting to not allow any remote attendees, and only offer the recording. That's your own call.

Showing previously recorded presentations at your meeting

One final benefit of these recorded Connect presentations is that you can use them as alternatives to live speakers. I mean, think about it, if you're viewing a presenter via Connect, it's not much different to just view such a presentation, recorded previously.

I know some may lament, "well if we can just watch the recording, couldn't we do that on our own?" I'll say, sure, you could, but would you? Do you? I know I have a really hard time getting around to watching all the available recordings that already exist. Just like we could also read a book or article or blog entry and perhaps hear all that a given speaker would say on any topic.

Yet still we go to the CFUG, both because we might not otherwise get around to reading up on the subject, and because we may never even think to in the first place. And of course, there's also the networking and camaraderie that comes from actually being at the meeting.

Those who know me know that I'm a huge fan of CFUGs, both learning from them and contributing to them. I've spoken to several dozen of them, many several times, over the past 7 years. I was also manager of the Atlanta CFUG in 2006-7 (and previously managed the Southern Maryland CFUG in 2002-2003). I offer this as one more way for the community to share and strengthen itself. I hope it proves helpful to many.

PS: The Virtual Online CFUGs

While we're on the subject of Connect-based presentations, note as well that there is a long-standing "virtual" meeting, called the ColdFusion Meetup, now run by myself and Ra Camden. It meets about monthly, and he often posts recordings of past presentations on the site. Ray had also previously started a new "Jedi Virtual User Group", with one meeting described here (if he has a link to all of them I'll change to that).

Getting access to the free Connect (aka, Breeze) account

If you're a user group manager, or want to encourage your manager to take advantage of these benefits of having remote speakers, attendees, or recorded meetings, the user group manager should contact the adobe user group program coordinators. All user group managers should know how to reach those folks. I'm just reminding you to do it. :-)

In the meantime, come take a look at my UGTV listing of previously recorded user group presentations, and add any that I'm missing.

Do you wish Breeze was less expensive? You got your wish: Adobe Connect. But look closely.

Folks who have longed to use Breeze but couldn't afford it got great news today, in its rebranding today as Adobe Connect. Now starting at $39/month or $395/year, it makes breeze much more affordable.

Note that I say starting at because there are going to be two editions, with the full-featured version being called Adobe Connect Professional. Many will miss that in the early hours of this announcement, I fear.

Note as well that it's not released today, but will be in November, "as a free trial version through the end of the calendar year. The commercial release of Acrobat Connect, initially available in English, is expected to be available in early 2007," according to the press release.

The base version is limited to just one meeting room, and to a maximum of 15 participants, which is still fine for many needs. Further, it will NOT include audio (which means you have to use the phone and a conference call for audio), and it will not include the ability to record meetings (important for some), among other things.

Adobe outlines all the differences in a comparison of the two editions.

Still, the base edition does include screen sharing, chat, and more. And even for 15 people it compares very favorably to other solutions in that space, such as GotoMeeting, which I've long favored because of its more reasonable price. Breeze, or I mean, Adobe Connect, will give that a serious run for its money.

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