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Nats Management via the Web, Part 3: Dropbox Print E-mail

There are any number of services both free and paid for that can be used to back up or share files on the internet, but none do it so simply and effortlessly as Dropbox.


 Signing up to Dropbox is free, and there are versions of the Dropbox software for Windows, Macintosh and Linux computers. Once you've got that installed, you select a folder on your computer to be your Dropbox. From then on, any time you save a file in that folder, it is automatically copied onto Dropbox's secure server, so you can recover it if you need to, or download it on another computer. Even on computers that don't have the Dropbox software installed, you can use the dropbox.com website to look at your files and download them. You can also recover earlier versions of your files too, so if you stuff them up you can go back to an earlier version. There are special folders in your Dropbox called "Public" and "Photos", and you can use them a bit like Photobucket on steroids, to share not just photos, but other documents with everyone (read-only). Here's a great review of Dropbox written by Andy Ihnatko.

Dropbox Web View 

But the ability to share files with others is where Dropbox really came into its own for us. I created a folder in my dropbox called "13th Nats", and using the Dropbox website, chose to share that folder. All I had to do was give the email addresses of the people I wanted to share it with, and they received an email from dropbox.com inviting them to download the same software. Immediately, their dropbox folder also had a folder called "13th Nats", and it contained everything my one did. Any one of us could edit those files, create new folders and so on, and instantly everyone else also had a copy. 

As with the Writeboards features of Basecamp, the ability to have a single shared copy of documents made it so easy for the committee members to be sure we were all working with the latest copy. Furthermore, any of us were able to answer enquiries from entrants, because the scanned copies of all the entry forms were in the dropbox for any of us to be able to look up.

We used the dropbox and the Writeboard together to proof-read the Official Programme. Les put PDF copies of the programme on the drop-box, and everyone worked through it, noting any corrections on the Writeboard. As Les fixed them, he edited the Writeboard accordingly. As you can imagine, this was so much faster than disseminating and collecting copies of the programme with red pen corrections.

It could be that the paid-for "Files" feature of Basecamp might have been a slightly smoother process than using both Basecamp and Dropbox, but for the price (free!) you can't really go wrong. Everyone should have a Dropbox.

Nats Management via the Web, Part 2: Joomla! Print E-mail

This website is built using Joomla!, an open-source "Content Management System".


The olde worlde style of website maintenance required that the owner either know or pay someone who knows HTML and other things that might be described as the "guts of the internet". Generally speaking, this leads to one of three possible outcomes: very crappy websites, very expensive websites, or both.

Content Management (which is an extension of the software principle of MVC) is all about separating:

  • the stuff that gives the site its "look and feel"
  • the stuff that makes it work
  • the stuff it's trying to convey to the reader.

Basically you install Joomla! and find a template that suits your theme, and refine it with your logo, colours and so on. (You might need to pay someone to do this for you, if you're not fairly savvy with kind of thing.)

 But once that's done, you can easily maintain your website with all the latest information and have something that looks really professional. All you need to concern yourself with is the third of those bullet-points above. If you can participate in the forum, you can maintain a Joomla! website. Every page belongs to a section and category, just like every post on the forum belongs to a particular "board" and "topic". These blog pages are set up in this manner, and when you click on the "All Diary Entries" link, what you're seeing is the equivalent of a forum board. For more important pages, it's trivial to make one of the menus (along the top or down the side) be a link to your new page, so people can find it.

Joomla! has a very active community of people building plug-ins and extensions to the core software to do all sorts of cool things. The gallery and video functions on this site are built using free plug-ins. 

 This page turned out a bit more technical than the last one, but if you're interested in this - either for something FE-FC related or commercial - I'm happy to discuss it with you further.

Nats Management via the Web, Part 1: Basecamp Print E-mail

A while back I wrote a blog entry about how the 13th Nats planning committee was using Basecamp as our project management tool. We continued with this and some other great web-based tools right throughout planning the event, and I thought I would write up a few comments about them for the benefit of the Perth planners and others.



Basecamp bills itself as "The Better Way To Get Projects Done", and that's a pretty fair description. It's a web-based project management tool that focuses on communication and eschews PM-for-the-sake-of-it stuff like Gantt charts. Gantt charts are OK for construction projects, but in my opinion, more trouble than they're worth in most others. They're certainly not appropriate for planning a Nationals.

You create a project, give access to it to the appropriate people, and use it as the centre for all communication. It has forum-like aspects, where you create messages, as well as To-Do items, Milestones and so on. A paid account also provides the ability to share files amongst the group. Although we didn't ever wind up using this, I can see how it could be beneficial. We started with the free version, and wound up sticking with that. I'll talk about how we shared files later on.

One of the things you choose when you create your account (free or paid) is the web-address for your Basecamp project. Ours lived (lives!) at orange2010.basecamphq.com

Basecamp Screenshot 

This is what our Basecamp "Overview" page currently looks like. All the comments and updates throughout the system are shown in reverse chronological order. The tabs across the top: "Messages", "To-Dos" and so on take you to that specific type of information. Milestones can be closely associated with messages and to-do items, so you can create a list of To-Dos that relate to a specific milestone, such as a committee meeting. We had our visits to Orange over the last few years as Milestones with many messages and To-Dos attached to them, covering all the things we needed to achieve each time we went up there.

Writeboards are worth a paragraph on their own. A writeboard is a facility for collaboratively editing information. Rather than having an email going around with a Word or Excel document attached to it that everyone is making changes to, a writeboard is a central version of the document that everyone can edit. It's a bit like a private Wikipedia entry. All changes are logged, so you can quickly compare the current version to earlier ones and see what's been changed.

We used these for the compilation of lists, collectively agreeing on the wording of things like the Entry Form Terms and Conditions, and anything else where the information couldn't be managed by a series of messages. Free accounts can have only two, but paid accounts can have any number of Writeboards. We tended to use the one Writeboard for 2 or 3 things at a time.

I had planned to write up a bit about some of the other tools we were using, but I seem to have gone on a bit here. I might write up the others in separate entries. 

Well, that's that then Print E-mail

Hard to believe that after so many months of planning, meetings, phone calls and updates of the website, forum and so on, it's all over. The four days of the event just flew by.

Thank you to all the entrants and members who trekked across the country to make the event the success it was.

With 400 people to feed, it was a massive undertaking, and I would like to take this opportunity to thank the committee and club members of the FE-FC Holden Car Club of NSW for their tireless work in ensuring everything that needed to happen, did.

There are photos of the event starting to appear on the forum, and details of trophy winners etc will be added to this site real soon. Once I've caught up on some sleep.

Goodie Bags Print E-mail

I've managed to shift all the stuff that's been delivered to my place over to John's. At the same time Ted & Rhonda are drowning in clothing, which has now all been delivered by Distinctive Image. There are about 35 large boxes of clothes, plus all manner of other goodies that you'll receive on registration, and somehow it all has to get to Orange.

Fortunately we've got a club member who's driving up in his motorhome, towing his FC behind. I don't think he quite knows how full those under-bins in the coach are going to be!

Thanks Lawrie.

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