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The Other Side of the Camera

My daughters and I just visited the Ecotarium, in Worcester, MA. It was fun for my daughters to take part in the Great Pumpkingfest, but for me the trip turned out to be much more important.

I interacted with the last project as a freelancer building Drupal sites, in person, and from the other side of the camera.

The kiosk I helped build allows museum patrons to contribute videos of themselves telling "wild weather stories" and other stories. This visit wrapped up a whole potion of my career in my mind. Seeing kids crawling all over the kiosk I worked on, thrilled to be on camera, made me realize that my early work in Drupal was more significant than I had previously realized.

The Drupal web site, available to staff on the museum's network, behind the scenes, allows staffers to curate the videos that have been left recently at the kiosk. They can review the videos easily and delete some while marking others for saving. They can also elevate videos into a gallery of exemplars that is shown to visitors learning about the kiosk and deciding whether to leave a video of their own.

It was really fascinating for me to finally be on the other side of the camera that I had seen through so often while working on the web site. I had never visited before, in person and had done all my work remotely, which is just the way I have worked for many years, but is sometimes rather isolating. So I took the opportunity to leave two video contributions. One is a "wild weather story" and one is my reaction to being on the other side of the camera.

An interesting anecdote about this work is that it overlapped with the beginning of my employment at Acquia. As I tried to finish up this work it was in danger of failing, because my website running inside a virtual machine had made the whole kiosk software stack slightly unreliable.

I had to switch the software supporting the website to a system that handled JPEG images (for the thumbnail display, below), and WMV movies, and that was extremely stable in the kiosk's native Windows operating system. Fortunately, my new employer had a free product called Acquia Dev Desktop that fit the bill perfectly and saved the entire project.

When I got back home, I logged into the kiosk remotely. The "Visitor Experience Dashboard" of the Drupal site had familiar, yet strange, entries:

To my great relief, I had returned to the side of the camera that I am most accustomed to. But there is proof that I once ventured to the other side.

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