Back at ITP!

This fall, I returned to the grad program where I got my degree, NYU’s Interactive Telecommunications Program, or ITP, to teach web development. It’s great to be back in the crazy, brilliant, creative energy that’s uniquely ITP.

Center for Human Rights and Global Justice

A WordPress-based overhaul of CHRGJ.org, the website of a non-profit human rights organization based in the NYU School of Law. I created systems in WordPress to manage large amounts of legal documents and reports, along with event listings, press releases, and announcements. The front end got a major redesign, taking a cluttered ten-year-old design to a clean, appealing, and well-architected site.

Emotional Bag Check

EmotionalBagCheck was a site where users could submit, or “check”, their emotional “baggage”, a short piece of text about something that had been troubling them, big or small. Their message would then be displayed anonymously where another user could choose a song that might provide comfort, along with an optional message. The bag-checker would receive an email with the link to the song on Grooveshark. I created it for fun, and for the first few months only my friends visited, but then it made the rounds with teens on tumblr. From there, a few media outlets picked it up and it took off.

[The site is archived at ebc.robynoverstreet.com, where you can see how the interaction worked, but posts are not stored and email is not sent.]

A nonprofit WordPress site to manage tons of documents

I recently launched a WordPress site for the Center for Human Rights and Global Justice (aka CHRGJ), a great human rights law organization based at NYU. We did an overhaul of a site that they were updating by hand, which of course WordPress is a great replacement for. The challenge, though, was managing the massive amount of documents they host. They’ve got press releases, articles, and full book-length PDF reports. WordPress has really come a long way in making itself flexible enough to handle the specific needs of a site like this. I used custom post types for the different types of documents so the staff could easily upload or enter content and know that it would go into the right place in the site. Now they’re set up to maintain an archive of all the important work they’re doing.

HTML5 Canvas is pretty cool

In March, I started working with skillfer.com, a new company that helps connect developers with startups, teaching a 2-hour crash course on the canvas element in HTML5. The great thing about teaching is you end up learning a lot in the process, and I’ve been really getting into canvas. It’s all Javascript coding, in a very Actionscript-like way, creating shapes programmatically and such. I’d been out of the habit of coding visual things, and it’s nice to get back to that.

The classes are going well — we end up going deeper into code than you’d think was possible in two hours. There are classes coming up in June and July. They happen at startups around the city. See the schedule at skillfer.

Some love for EmotionalBagCheck.com

Several months back, I made this project for fun called EmotionalBagCheck.com. It’s a site where you can leave your emotional “baggage”, and then someone else will reply to you with a song they think might be appropriate to your situation. The songs come in through the Grooveshark API, which is kind of fun. I shared the project with my friends, and they thought it was cool, but it didn’t get much traction until September of this year, by which time I’d almost forgotten about it. Suddenly it was getting tons and tons of visitors, largely through articles on All Things DWired UK, Marketplace and Good. I have to say, it feels really good to have one’s work acknowledged, especially when it’s a personal project and not something created to someone else’s specifications.

It’s interesting to watch how media attention turns something small into a perceived “legit” entity. I got a good bit of correspondence referring to “you guys” or “your company” — big press denotes a big entity, I guess. With one reporter, no matter how many times I said, “It’s not a company; it’s just me. There’s not a business model; it’s an art project” she’d shoot back something like “What is your position at the company?” Other people assumed it was built by Grooveshark as a marketing tool. Funny how hard it is to convince people that there’s not a catch.

The site is archived at ebc.robynoverstreet.com, where you can see how the interaction worked, but posts are not stored and email is not sent.

CUESA

A Drupal-based site for non-profit organization CUESA, the Center for Urban Education about Sustainable Agriculture. I used Drupal to organize the content around the key entities on the site: farmers, food, and recipes. Events, Articles, and Pages are connected to those topic areas. CUESA staff are able to add distinct types of content and link them to one another, which provides an intuitive system of navigation on the front end.

CUESA site is live!

Yesterday I launched a site with CUESA, the Center for Urban Education about Sustainable Agriculture, also known as the people who run the spectacular Ferry Plaza Farmers Market. I’ve been working with CUESA for about a year and a half, getting their existing and growing content on a backend system so that they can easily manage it. We chose Drupal as the CMS, and used a custom module to run the administration area. Now the staff at CUESA are easily able to add new weekly articles, promote events, catalog the types of fruit and vegetables sold at the market, and track the farmers and purveyors who participate in the market.