At THATCamp New England several weeks ago, I ran two non-BootCamp but BootCamp-like sessions on (essentially) turning your laptop into a basic local web development environment using XAMPP, and installing & configuring WordPress and Omeka within this environment. I have a long post in the works about this—the whys & wherefores, the process, the outcomes—but to keep this brief in this session-proposal context, I’ll simply say this…
I’m a big fan of doing my part to empower people to take control of their own applications (e.g. going with WordPress (installed) vs WordPress.com (hosted), Omeka (installed) vs Omeka.net (hosted)). Sure, it pushes some people way out of their comfort zones, but more often than not what happens is that people realize technology is not scary and not nearly as difficult to control as they might have thought. Now, I’m not saying everyone should always run their own servers and eschew hosted solutions—there’s a time and a place for all situations—but I’m also a big fan of ensuring people have a working knowledge of the things about which they’re making decisions (I also don’t like self-described “non-technical” people being pushed around by “technical” people; I like to level playing fields whenever possible).
Since this “session” was as much about explaining how web applications are put together (conceptually) and just how it is that your web browser magically displays content to you on demand, I took the time to explain a little bit about how the web works. Over the years, I’ve found that people take this process for granted; however, the only way you can really control a technology or a medium is to understand how it actually works (and then exploit that knowledge). Since DHers and related colleagues are supposedly in the business of (in part) understanding how technology intervenes in humanitistic inquiry, and how said inquiry continually shapes and reshapes technology, it stands to reason that we should all at least be able to explain the basics of web content delivery. So we started there, then talked about XAMPP (and *AMP in general), the connections between database, application platform, and content, and then put all the pieces together with installations.
In the end, 15 or 20 people walked away with shiny new development environments on their machines, but more importantly a better understanding of how the web works, especially within an application framework. So, if any of you would be interested in such a session, I’d be happy to lead it. The nature of the explanations and processes makes it less THATCamp-y and more BootCamp-y, but it’s a rollicking good time….
No prior knowledge is required—I promise.