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How Google+ Hangouts Can Transform Your User Group
How Google+ Hangouts Can Transform Your User Group

Queen City DotNetNuke User GroupThis past week we had another Queen City DotNetNuke User Group meeting. This meeting was unique in the fact that we had been promoting hard because DNNCorp flew one of their engineers out to speak to our group. Will Strohl arrived to Charlotte late last Wednesday evening. I gave Will a late night mini-tour of Charlotte and we talked as we rode around. Our meetings happen every 3rd Thursday so it wasn’t long before the next day came and it was meeting time. 

At some point either Wednesday night or Thursday during the day I told Will that I thought we should open the meeting up and try a Google+ Hangout to see if any DotNetNuke developers in other areas would like to jump on to watch the presentations. Will was open to it and so I made a point to bring my laptop. When we got to Microsoft (our group meets at Microsoft Charlotte) we began setting everything up. We weren’t really sure how the video or audio quality would be, but we wanted to give it a shot. I put my computer off to the side of the table (near an outlet) on the front row. I turned the Google+ Hangout on and posted a link to it on Twitter. Within minutes I had my first taker. Gifford Watkins, a DotNetNuke phenom from Nova Scotia, jumped on to see what the fuss was all about. Shortly thereafter we had one more, then another, then another and before long we had a crew on a Google+ Hangout at least 20 minutes before the meeting began.

Google+ HangoutOne of the first things I did was to give the guys a walk-around tour of the meeting. I got my laptop in my hands and showed them the room and the spread of food that we had at the meeting. I showed them the server rack near the door and randomly videoed people and talked with them as I walked around. It was kind of like a live virtual tour of the meeting. I did this to try to give the hangout attendees as much of a view of what was going on as possible.

The guys online were saying that they could hear me well and see the video clearly so it seemed like it was working out well. I told them we would do the best we could to make them feel like they were attending the meeting with us. To achieve that we also had one of our guys join the hangout. Will turned his laptop and joined the hangout and he interacted with the attendees via the chat window.  One issue we had to overcome was when someone at the meeting would ask a question from the back of the room. Obviously the guys online couldn’t hear the question so Will would type it out to them in the chat window. He also typed some lines of code that one of the presenters used in his slide deck to make sure the guys could clearly read it. During the Hangout one of the guys typed that being a part of the Hangout was better than being at the actual meeting because they got to see the presentation plus they didn’t get in trouble for “passing notes”. His statement referred to the fact that the hangout attendees could read and write message to each other in the chat window. Will also typed to the hangout attendees and asked them if they had any questions for the speaker and sometimes they did so we were able to ask the speaker questions from hangout attendees as well! Remote Q&A with the speaker. Cool stuff!

In this picture you can see our speaker, Will Strohl, interacting with members of the Google+ Hangout

Will Strohl interacting with Hangout attendees during the meeting

One note that is worth mentioning is that to make this happen the hangout attendees needed to turn their microphones down. I could see where some of the attendees were muting each other because they were getting feedback or their sound would steal the “stage” of the live speaker momentarily because that’s how Google+ Hangouts are configured. We just had to ensure that our speaker was the “live speaker” in the hangout and muting the microphones did this.

I will add one unique note as well. We had one DNN guy who wanted to attend the meeting. Robb Bryn was attending a meeting in the afternoon and was heading to Charlotte after his meeting. His meeting went over by a couple of hours so he was unable to make it. Though, when he found out about us opening it up to a Google+ Hangout he was able to join the hangout from his phone while driving down the road. I could literally see him in his truck riding down the road with trees passing him in the background of his driver’s side window. Eventually Robb finally pulled over on the side of the road and watched the whole meeting from his vehicle. Now that is some dedication and also some awesomeness that he was able to achieve via his Google+ app on his phone.

Richard English raising his DotNetNuke mug as he enjoys attending the meeting from afar

Richard English raising his DotNetNuke mug as he enjoys attending the meeting from afar

By the time the meeting ended we had 12 people total on the Hangout from Egypt, the Netherlands, Ohio, Cali, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Florida, North Carolina, Nova Scotia, and a few more states up north. They weren’t all on at the same time and some came and went, but nevertheless it was very neat to open the meeting up and reach out to even more people via the Hangout. At the end of the meeting the guys on the hangout were all commenting on how everything went well and they said they really enjoyed it. Some remarked that they felt like they were there and that the video and audio was very clear. They could even read the text that was presented on the screen. We asked them if they thought joining the hangout added value or was beneficial for them and they all overwhelmingly remarked saying yes! They also requested that we do it more at future meetings.

The post meeting hangout summary on Google+

Ultimately the decision to open the meeting up added a new dimension to the meeting. During the meeting we had a lot of energy in the room as well as online in the hangout. There were 2 different conversations going on at the same time and it was really cool to be a part of the live & virtual meeting at the same time. I think we’re definitely going to try to do more of these in the future and I would encourage any other user groups to give it a shot so that members in your community who aren’t in the local area can also attend and contribute.

Google+ Hangouts just changed our user group meetings for the good! And with that said…be sure to tune in to our next meeting!

Regards,

Clint
 


Why you shouldn?t host a DotNetNuke site in a sub-folder
Why you shouldn?t host a DotNetNuke site in a sub-folder
 
Skin folder structureI first encountered DotNetNuke incidentally.  The Admissions office at the University where I was employed was using an outside vendor for an admissions application and the application ran off DotNetNuke.  I had heard the term ?DotNetNuke? before, but didn?t have any experience with it.  It didn?t take long before the Admissions team asked us to add their logo into the background.  I was caught in the situation that many web/IT people find themselves...that?s the ?Hey you mess with computers so come do this? situation where you have no clue and have to learn something new to complete a task.
 
All the Admissions team wanted was their logo in the background of the site.  I started using the Firebug plug-in to look at the styles of the site and eventually I traced down the background image and over wrote the file with an updated image.  This was my first look into the folder structure of DotNetNuke.  Now days I can zip through those folder paths much more quickly, but back then it was a major headache.
 
This ?DotNetNuke? thing kind of intrigued me a little, especially since I could change the background!  I figured I would try to play around with it on the side and figure out what it was all about.  After all, another request from Admissions ?Can you do this too? was inevitably in my future.  I went over to GoDaddy and set up a hosting account with the sole purpose of running a DotNetNuke site on it.  I just wanted to learn about the framework and GoDaddy offered it as a 3rd party extension.  Within a couple of days I had a test site up and running and started my path of learning DotNetNuke.
 
GoDaddy installed the 3rd party extension of DotNetNuke in a sub-folder.  At the time it didn?t matter to me, but later down the road I would come to learn that this wasn?t a good thing.  I continued tinkering around with DotNetNuke on the side for a while and got a little better handle on it. I even started a new site running DotNetNuke on a different hosting install on GoDaddy.  I was making my way along until one day I installed a bad module?a really bad module.  Upon installation of this module my site crashed.  This was back in the DNN 4.9 days I believe.  I didn?t have a ton of background in DNN and I wasn?t a strong developer so fixing this was not going to be easy.  I got in touch with GoDaddy?s support and they responded ?We don?t support 3rd party applications.?  I was dead in the water.  
 
After hours of Googling I was able to find out how to remove this bad module via FTP.  I removed it and the site instantly came back up. Looking back the situation I didn?t really like the fact that my host couldn?t support the application that was running my sites.  I researched more and found other hosts that support DotNetNuke.  It became obvious to me that PowerDNN was the top dog in the DNN hosting world?and yes, they actually can help when things go wrong.  
 
PowerDNNShortly thereafter I moved my site over to PowerDNN.  When I moved the site the tech-support guy at PowerDNN recognized my site being in a sub-folder as an indicator that I was coming from GoDaddy.  He asked me if I wanted to leave my site in the sub-folder and he also recommended to me that this was not a good practice. Though, I told him to go ahead and leave it in the sub-folder because I had some good search engine results going by that time and I didn?t want to mess up / break any links I had showing up for my site.  He advised me again that this wasn?t the best configuration for the installation, but he did what I asked and left it in the sub-folder.  Yes, I should have listened to him!
 
After moving my site to PowerDNN I noticed that my site was loading way faster and that was (and is) awesome! They obviously knew something about DNN.  Everything was going good.  Time went by and then I learned about how DotNetNuke is multiportal and how you can run more than one site off a single DNN installation. It was almost too good to be true I thought.  I followed the directions and tried to create a new parent portal to run my 2nd site.  Fail!  I kept getting errors and I tried a couple of different times to make sure I was following the directions properly.  Finally I broke down and emailed in to PowerDNN.  That?s when I was informed that my site needed to be located at the root in order for the multi-portal feature to work correctly with the way I was setting up redirects and configuring my site.  Now, you may be an IIS guru or know a lot about domains and can make it work from within a sub-folder, but for the ?Regular Joe? like me I can?t make it happen.  
 
I had to bite the bullet ? I had to move the site to the root.  It?s not that I minded it being at the root, I just didn?t want to change the path that the links in search results had and I didn?t want to break every image/hyperlink that was on my site by altering the path.  Though, in order for my site to properly run more than one portal a move was necessary.  
 
I went ahead with my fingers crossed and requested that the PowerDNN guys move my site out of the sub-folder into the root.  I was impressed with how they informed me of what would occur if I did this.  They told me all the non-relative links would break and they let me know how long it would take them to get everything moved.  It didn't take long at all and my site was up and running in the root within the hour. They were accurate with both predictions of timing and the non-relative links being broken!  
 
  Broken Image
  I had to fix hundreds of these!
Moving the site did mess up my search results, but it only messed them up for a couple of days.  Google had crawled and re-indexed my site within 3 days and the new path was now showing up in the search results.  Also, the new site I was hoping to run off the same DNN instance was working the way it was supposed to?go figure!  Along with having users emailing in saying that "The site was down" (because they had the page stored in their cache with the old address), I did have to spend a whole week going back through the skin files, pages, and blog entries cleaning up all the now-broken links that I had just created for myself.  I also had to email frustrated users back telling them how to delete their cookies/temp files and to refresh their browsers. It was not fun at all, but sometimes learning comes with pain and the pain is what helps the lesson you learn stick with you for a while!
 
When the PowerDNN tech-support guy saw my DNN site coming from a sub-folder he knew it was an artifact of hosting a site at GoDaddy.  In retrospect I really wish I had listened to him when he advised me to not put the site in a sub-folder. I can?t praise PowerDNN?s team enough for the communications, knowledge, and support they gave me through the whole process of me learning a lesson!
 
Take-aways:
  1. Don?t host a DNN site at GoDaddy
  2. Don?t host a DNN site in a sub-folder
  3. PowerDNN rocks!
 
Lesson learned. Don?t let it happen to you too!
 
Regards,
 
Clint
 

 


Clint Patterson

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