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By Mark Wilcox, Campus Web Administrator

What I Did on My Summer Vacation

Since we seem to be talking about summer vacations this issue of Benchmarks Online, here is what I did on mine:

  • I attended the WebCT International Conference July 9-12, 2000 in Athens, GA. This was the 2nd annual conference of WebCT users, developers and administrators. There was over 900 people in attendance. WebCT is the most widely deployed Web based course delivery system in the world (over 6 million users at over 1000 institutions in over 62 countries). I'm a member of the WebCT Advisory board and we had our annual meeting at the conference. I also gave a presentation on successful WebCT administration (UNT is very well known for our WebCT setup in particular our integration with Microsoft FrontPage). I also had a number of consultations with other institutions on deploying WebCT. I also did learn a few new tricks.

  • I attended the O'Reilly Open-Source Conference July 17-20, 2000 in Monterey,CA. This is the largest gathering of open-source developers in the world. It was the third annual OSS conference and the 4th annual Perl conference (as many Perl programmers there, in particular to the proportion of other attendees, it would be hard to call it a 'mere' track). The majority of the best known O'Reilly authors were there including AEleen Frisch, Randal Schwartz, Tom Christiansen, Jon Udell and Lincoln Stien. I took full advantage of my time with these 'luminaries'. OSS is still new and small enough that the majority of the leaders of the movement are still very accessible (outside of Linus Tovalds, who I think would like to be more accessible, but it's just a media circus when he shows up). For example, at one of the after-parties, I met one of the core Python maintainers (Python is another popular scripting language) about adding LDAP support to the GNU Mailman listserv package (such support would be a great boon to UNT's distance learning endeavors). In the middle of our conversation, Guido Von Russom, the father of Python, joined us and he asked me to explain LDAP to him. It was a rather surreal moment :).

I also got to talk some more about WebDAV (DAV is this great new Web publishing protocol, which we're adding support for at UNT this year) with Greg Stein, who's one of the leading experts on DAV in the world. And I got to spend time with the Jabber guys. Jabber is the new open-source instant messaging system which has gained immense popularity because it's very extensible. Besides doing chat, Jabber could be used to communicate between devices (for example telling your porch light to turn on, as you leave the office). Even more impressive was the fact that half of the Jabber developers were recent high school graduates. I ended up agreeing to help them add LDAP support to Jabber.

Oh, yeah, I did give two presentations. Graham Barr and I gave a tutorial on LDAP programming with Perl (this tutorial was one of only about 12 selected from over 50 submissions). I also gave another presentation on advanced LDAP programming in Perl.
It also didn't hurt that it was only 65 degrees and we were on the beach in the middle of July :).
  • I attended the Ohio State "Kick It Up" Conference August 3-4, 2000 in Columbus, OH. This was OSU's annual regional WebCT conference. At the International WebCT conference, both OSU and WebCT invited me to come speak at OSU's conference (OSU, also wanted me to talk with their staff about setting up a new WebCT server). While not nearly as many people there, I did end up giving 4 presentations over 2 days on WebCT administration.
More importantly, this conference impressed my mom, who's a native of Ohio. While she was proud of me before OSU's conference, I hadn't really 'made it' until I was invited by OSU to go speak at their conference and teach them about WebCT :).

Until next time.