Thursday, May 3, 2007

Talked to New Dream's IT guy; things are looking good

I just got off the call with J., New Dream's IT guy, and things are looking positive and promising. I made some notes on the call below. My general impression was that they appreciate and value what I've done for them so far as a member/volunteer, and they think I have a lot to offer them, so it's just a matter of putting together a plan and hammering out the details of what exactly I would work on and what kind of a work arrangement they can offer.

Status of their web development projects:
  • Responsible Purchasing Network: almost done
  • Alternative Gift Registry: contracted out; almost done
  • Conscious Consumer: In planning/progress. New content will be added, including a major section on climate and New Dream's carbon initiative. There will be information about institutional purchasing as well as for individual consumers. The institutional part will mostly redirect to RPN, but Conscious Consumer will host some additional supporting information. Also, Conscious Consumer will be more interactive/crowdsourced, with users posting product reviews and info on where to find products locally. (I think this dovetails well with their Local Buying Guides initiative.)
  • Main website: Reorganization of site content/navigation plus new UI skin are in progress, due to be completed in the near-term. Enhancements to the interactive My New Dream section will be an ongoing work-in-progress, with an eye to making the tools more useful to local organizers (better forums, ability to create geographical-/interest-based user groups, etc.).
Questions I asked:
  • What web technologies are used on the website? Mainly PHP, MySQL, XML (drives some of the interactive features), Blueprint, HTML, CSS. Dreamweaver is used, but mainly as an IDE for PHP, not really for WYSIWYG. (I also noted from their website that they use Movable Type for Living Green Below Your Means, some Project Seven stuff, and the Democracy in Action service for the action alerts.)
  • What kinds of web development projects are done in-house? Which are contracted out? Most work is in-house, but time-sensitive projects as well as projects tied to a specific initiative (and specific grant/funding) are often contracted out to firms like EchoDitto and Akti Technologies.
  • Are volunteers ever utilized for website development? Not in the past, since they haven't had volunteers with the appropriate skill set. But they always have plenty of work and would be open to using volunteers in the future. (Note: I prefer to get paid for my work, especially if I will be devoting a significant amount of time to it. But I could see the usefulness/possibility of trying to recruit volunteer web developers on an as-needed basis for large projects. But at the same time, I don't want to undercut myself :)
  • What is the timeline for the web projects? A couple of the project are already almost complete. The main website reorg is due for completion in July, but enhancements to My New Dream will be ongoing, without a set deadline.
  • Who authors most of the website content? Mainly the program staff; J. also contributes some content.
  • Now that you know about my skills/background/interest, what kind of role/position do you see me in, with relation to New Dream? (subtext: what kind of position can you give me and will I get paid? :) Part-time is less likely, it will probably be a contracting arrangement - J. will follow up with me after discussing with the administrative staff.
Questions I answered (although my answers on the phone were not as well put together as below):
  • What kind of position are you looking for, and what is your availability? In the coming year, I am open to arrangements that do not require a full-time time commitment, e.g. part-time, contracting, freelancing. I will be available for full-time work a year from now.
  • Are you planning to get into web development? My goal is to work for New Dream. After talking with others on the staff, web development is the area where I can most easily transition into a role that is of value to the Center, given my background and interests.
  • Do you have a plan for learning the tools/skills needed for website development? Not in detail yet, but tell me more about which tools and technologies your website uses, so I can ramp up on them.
  • Are you interested in working on content, infrastructure, back-end, ...? I'm interested in all of the above.
Other stuff we discussed:
  • I proposed that I could take on a small, limited-scope piece of the current website reorg project (since it will be completed soon), and could also work on the My New Dream part of the website
  • J. felt that with my background, it shouldn't be too hard for me to learn PHP
Follow-up steps:
  • Send a thank-you email to J.
  • J. will follow up with me on Monday
  • J. will send me a draft of their new sitemap - send feedback on it
  • Figure out what hourly rate to charge. Also, find out how to get set up as a software contractor. I'm clueless on these two points; need to do some research and ask around!!!
  • Make a game plan for acquiring the skill set I need
  • Think about when I would want to start and how many hours I would want to work. I want to get my foot in the door, but it is important for me to balance this with my personal projects in the coming year.

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