Bricolage

What I've been up to lately

I’ve gotten involved in a number of new projects in the past 6-7 months so thought I’d update y’all in what I’m doing.

School:

After a lovely summer break with no school and my time spent vacationing and working at a number of jobs, I came back to BYU for my first semester in the Masters of Information Systems program. But, as my classes this past semester were pretty boring, I won’t mention school anymore here.

E-commerce websites:

I’ve built two e-commerce sites over the past six months using Ubercart (a fantastic open source shopping cart — if you’re in the market for that sort of thing). Ubercart is a module (cf. plugin/extension) for Drupal, an open source content management system, another technology I’ve been working with extensively.

This past June, with two friends, I started a t-shirt company running out of our apartment. As the lone techie, I built our website at coolcamisa.com. By our expectations, the company has been a rousing success (i.e., we didn’t lose money)! We paid back our start-up costs by September (2 1/2 months from launch) and have netted some two grand since then. Not bad for our little apartment-based bootstrapped business. I’ve learned tons about starting a business, legal stuff (we organized as an LLC), pricing, marketing, website development, etc.

My second e-commerce site I started just recently. A good friend of mine, Nicole Sheahan, released her first CD in December (She’s an excellent singer btw, so go buy her cd). I’ve been helping her set up a website to sell / market her music. The site is still a work in progress but it’s amazing to me how fast it has come together. I’ve been working with open source software for awhile but I’m still impressed that I can singlehandedly put together a fully functional ecommerce store in under 10 hours for no cost other then my labor. That’s the power of a community.

Other (Drupal) web sites:

With a friend, I’ve been volunteering to build a website for the Utah Valley Ministerial Association. The website will have news and events from churches in Utah County and serve as an online directory of churches in Utah County and surrounding communities. The site is not yet fully operational but it’s soon in coming. Drupal’s ”Views” module was the real workhorse here slicing and dicing the church listings for display in a number of different ways. As you can see on the website, the different “views” of the data enable a user to find churches by city, denomination, or language.

Family History Site

Because of my Mormon heritage, the genealogy of my ancestors is very well done. Most of my ancestoral lines are traced back to the 17-18th centuries. About two years ago, my siblings/parents and I decided that while it’s great to have names, dates, and places from our ancestors, what is really interesting is to read the stories and letters they wrote and view pictures of them and where they lived. These stories/letters/pictures/etc. flesh out the skeletal data we see on the normal family history tree.

But while current genealogical software does very well at organizing, storing, and sharing genealogical data, it does a poor job at handling other types of information. Documents and pictures tend to get lost in attics of aunts/uncles/grandparents. If you don’t have them, they’re hard to get hold of and you have them, they’re hard to share with relatives.

We decided the best solution to this problem would be to create a website. Our first answer was a wiki website. The wiki software made it easy for our widely distributed family to work together on gathering information. But after some time we grew dissatisfied with the limitations of our wiki software and decided to migrate our site to one based on Drupal. That migration is still in progress but we’re excited as Drupal will give us much more control over how information is stored and displayed (albeit with a great deal more complexity).

A New Job

In June, I started working as an research assistant at BYU in the Kevin & Debra Rollin’s Center for eBusiness.

I’m working with a professor and a pH.D student studying how web2.0 technologies can be used in the classroom to help students become more active learners.

So far I can say this is the best job I’ve ever had. What I’m doing and learning just fascinates me.

Our main research thrust this past semester was creating a community site for a class to use at BYU — http://isyscore.byu.edu/drupal.

We have learned a lot from the experience — and it’s given us mountains of data to sift through — more on that in the future hopefully. Building the site showed me again the power Drupal gives a website developer (even if they really don’t know what they’re doing) to create sophisticated sites.

My other big project for my research job is creating a new module for Drupal called writing_assignment. This module will make it easy for teachers to give students writing assignments on a Drupal website. It will also facilitate easy peer-review and peer-grading of those assignments. This is my first Drupal module plus my first extensive project in PHP so I have faced quite the learning curve. You can read more about my module here.

Tagged with drupal | elearning2.0 | social software

Posted January 02, 2008


Kyle Mathews lives and works in San Francisco building useful things. You should follow him on Twitter