OERxDomains21’s Headless Program

It’s the day before OERxDomains21 and I am blogging, that’s a good sign, I think….regardless, it’s happening! And, given I still have a blog, I have the distinct pleasure to share with you my favorite part of the conference thus far—the TV Guide -inspired program.

OERxDomains21 Day 1 TV Guide

Click to see Day 1 of Guide in action

OERxDomains21 Day 2 TV Guide

Click to see Day 2 of Guide in action

I am so in love with Michael Branson Smith‘s “brutalist web design” (his words) for this project. It’s not the first time we’ve worked with MBS, and I truly relish the opportunity given he’s so damned good! I have had his HTML/CSS/JS animated movie posters in my head for a few months now, so when the discussion came around to building out the OERxDomains21 website, I immediately knew I wanted him to be part of it. Tim Owens and I also knew pretty quickly we wanted to avoid any potential bottlenecks with a slammed WordPress site over the two days of the event, and a return to a fairly basic HTML page seemed to be inline with the conference vibe. I really hate Sched and those cookie cutter conference session sites, so we “just said no.” Instead, we decided to build the entire experience around an aesthetic, not be beholden to some corporate conference scheduling tool! I meaning we’re fucking EDUPUNKS!

The only issue was the conference was only 5 weeks out when we hatched this plan, and to re-phrase a famous line from Zach Davis, “Behind every EDUPUNK is a frazzled web developer.” In this instance there were two given the headless approach meant we could tap another long-time collaborator Tom Woodward, whose work with headless WordPress sites at VCU has been an inspiration for years, and now we finally had a good use-case to employ his mad skillz.

Example of a presentation Entry in WordPress database that is pulled into Headless HTML site

You see, everything I do now is simply an attempt to try and recapture a bit of the creative magic of ds106 a decade ago, and this project filled that need quite nicely. As usual, I didn’t actually do anything, but I did bring the folks together and act as if there were no other alternative—which I think allowed everyone else to relent and go along with it. And I am glad I did, I think the site is awesome. The TV Guide-inspired cover by Bryan Mathers has yet to go up, but the actual layout and visual is awesome, and it is all pulling in from a WordPress backend via APIs to an HTML/CSS/JS page that is designing it just so. It’s a custom site for sure, but doesn’t every awesome conference deserve one as beautiful? Lead with the art and your ass will follow!

Presentation detail pop-up with a link to watch live on YouTube with a custom TV player

And the details on every presentation (which are broken up across 3 channels) pop-put so you can get more info from the TV OERxDomains21 Guide and then make the commitment to click on the watch button once it is live and you get sent to this player page with built-in chat from YouTube or Discord, depending on the channel.

OERxDomains21 TV with Chat

I understand this is a pretty random “rah rah” post for a project I love, but I’m hoping that soon after OERxDomains21 wraps up Tim, Lauren Hanks, MBS, Tom, and I can talk a bit about the project and what it was like to build it, although I know MBS is still frantically working on the final details, so this may be way too soon.

What’s more, Lauren has done some serious heavy-lifting building out Discord (which is the social platform we’re using in conjunction with the website) and the Help page for how all the pieces of the site(s), so there is a lot of debriefing to do in that yet-to-be-produced  post mortem video. That said, all this was made possible because the amazing partners at ALT (here’s look at you Maren Deepwell) have been down with experimenting every single step of the way. I am a BIG FAN! But avanti, there is still a conference to put on, people!

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3 Responses to OERxDomains21’s Headless Program

  1. There’s at least a couple posts for me to write about this experience – working with the time library, Luxon JS in particular. It ultimately was the key to sorting all the data in the guide as well as having the benefit of automatically displaying local time to different time zones.

    Thanks for the chance to work on this and hope day 2 goes as well as today!

    • Reverend says:

      Hey MBS,
      It was masterfully executed, and the fact you pulled every last thing off so elegantly despite our ridiculous timelines is amazing. I do want to actually repurpose this concept for another conference in the fall I have an idea for, so stay tuned-don’t touch that dial!

      Also, looking forward to every and any post about the development.

  2. Pingback: OERxDomains21: Reclaiming the Conference Experience | bavatuesdays

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