Blogging techniques at KansasFest 2018

August 27th, 2018 9:30 AM
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Attending conventions is, for me, a balancing act. As much as I appreciate being in the audience of so many amazing panels and presentations, I don't want to be exclusively a passive observer; I like being involved and having something to give back. But if I overcommit myself, I end up being so busy that I don't find myself being present and enjoying the convention.

For KansasFest, I've struck this balance by submitting just one talk a year. It can be challenging for me to find topics to present, as I am not a software developer or hardware hacker. I've given many talks about Apple II games, but I can do so only so many times before I've drained that well dry. And I don't like talking about Juiced.GS (unless I'm also feeding everyone pizza), lest I come across as a shill.

For KansasFest 2018, it took me eight years to realize another niche I can share with the Apple II community: this blog. I've written over 500 weekly posts for this site; I teach online publishing at a local college; and I work for Automattic, developers of WordPress.com. Maybe I know something about online content creation and distribution?

So, last month at KansasFest 2018, I gave a talk, "Blogging II Infinitum".

More than 40 years after its debut, how is it there's still so much to say about the Apple II? How do we find what's new, and how do we spin it to make it interesting? After eight years and 500+ weekly blog posts, Ken still has plenty of new material about his favorite computer. He'll reveal the secrets of his sources, blogging and distribution platforms, and audience engagement techniques in this session.

A video of the talk has been speedily reposted online:

A technique I deduced from experience then had reaffirmed by the book Presentation Zen is that presentations should consist of three delivery media: the speaker; the slides; and the handout. The above video includes the speaker and slides but omits the handout. KansasFest attendees received a PDF that not only compiles the resources mentioned in the talk but also outlines an invaluable writing exercise taught in college graduate programs.

That free PDF is now available to subscribers to this blog's email newsletter. Just sign up today and, once you've confirmed your subscription, you'll receive a download link. You can unsubscribe at any time. (If you're already a subscriber, you've received your download link in a separate email.)

I love being involved — but not too involved — in the Apple II community. I hope these resources help you explore further ways to contribute, too!

Rescuing the Prince of Persia from the sands of time

October 15th, 2012 2:17 PM
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Jordan Mechner is a hot ticket these days. I don't know exactly when that happened — in 2003 when his Apple II classic Prince of Persia got rebooted for a modern gaming audience, or 2010 when the franchise was adapted to film, or 2012 when he was the PAX East keynote speaker. Regardless, he and his properties seem to be popping up everywhere these days, with The Last Express coming out for iOS this month and a new Karateka due out real soon now.

The Mechner story that was perhaps of most relevance to Apple II users occurred earlier this year, when the source code for his original Prince of Persia was found and salvaged. The effort was 95% Tony Diaz, with the other 5% being Jason Scott knowing to bring Diaz into the equation. As the connective tissue, Scott observed the entire experience and gave a presentation about it on Friday, September 28, 2012, at Derbycon. The entire 52-minute session is now available online (note: contains NSFW language):

Remove the foul language and the tendency toward eccentric clothing, and Scott is still an entertaining speaker who knows his material and has a good delivery style. I recommend this and any other presentation of his you have the opportunity to attend.

What's next for Jordan Mechner? At PAX East, he commented that computer gaming was essentially a sidequest toward his goal of becoming a Hollywood scriptwriter. Yet gaming seems to be where he's known best, and he continues to return to that scene. Whichever one makes him happy, I look forward to his continued works.

Apple II at @party demoparty

June 11th, 2012 7:26 PM
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What are you doing next weekend? If you're in the Boston area and want to meet some fellow Apple II users, or learn more about this machine that's developed such a rabid community, then consider coming to @party.

A demoparty founded in 2010, @party is all about squeezing the most impressive graphics, sound, and functionality out of the oldest machines. Think of it like HackFest, except for all retrocomputers and lasting all weekend. But you don't need to be a programmer to compete — there are music, graphics, ASCII art, and other competitions, or "compos". If you just want to attend, there's still plenty for you, including chiptune concerts, text adventure tutorials, and more.

For the first time in @party's history, "more" includes me! I'll be the weekend's first last official speaker, with a presentation on Saturday at 1:30 5:00 PM EDT entitled "The Apple II lives! KansasFest and beyond". Likely to be an adaptation of last summer's presentation to the Denver Apple Pi users' group, I'll deliver an overview of the Apple II history, hardware, community, events, outlets, and more.

At least one other KansasFest alumnus will be there: krüe, an award-winning demo artist. Krüe is a demoparty fiend and will be sure to show you the ropes.

@party demoparty

Hackers hacking their hacks at @party 2010.

Registration ends TONIGHT (June 11) at midnight. Tickets are only $56.02 — not bad for a weekend of camaraderie and retro-fun. Come enjoy your first demoparty!

Bringing KFest to Denver Apple Pi

August 25th, 2011 9:00 AM
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Being in Denver this summer, I've been eager to meet people and make friends. One way to do so is to seek out those with common interests, so I immediately took myself to the Denver Apple Pi user group's summer barbecue. As I introduced myself, they welcomed me into their fold — though I was surprised to discover for a few people, I needed no introduction. Tammy, the resident Apple II collector, recognized me by name as "the KansasFest guy", and Elissa, the group's secretary, knew of KansasFest, even though no one in the group had attended. In fact, since I would apparently be the group's sole honorary representative, would I be willing to come back from KansasFest and present to DAPi on everything they missed?

Wow! Only a few weeks in Denver, and already I was being invited to be a guest speaker!

The presentation occurred last Tuesday, immediately after Jeff Gamet of Mac Observer presented the new features of Mac OS X Lion. I chose to expand my topic to cover not just KansasFest, but the history of the Apple II, what its modern community is doing with it, and what additional resources exist for viewers interested in learning more. My media, as is my wont, was mostly a a slideshow, preferring images instead of text with which to complement my speech. I've compiled the many links I referenced into a document of show notes (PDF).

The quality of the facilities and equipment were surprisingly good. A lavaliere mic boosted my volume but didn't pick up the audience voices as well, which may be for the best. Although ClarisWorks and AppleWorks, for the Mac and Apple II respectively, were once simultaneously marketed by Apple, some audience members insisted that they were both Apple II programs. I found this a bit stunning, since their disagreement was with not only me, but fellow attendee Randy Brandt — who I think would know better!

The full video in which I present the Apple II to DAPi is available for viewing or download under a Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike Creative Commons license.

My thanks to Martin Haye, Peter Neubauer, Steve Weyhrich, and Andy Molloy for their help in preparing the slideshow. I hope I did my bit to evangelize the Apple II and spread awareness that it is alive and well. If nothing else, the presentation gave me an opportunity to connect with some of the kindest and coolest Mac users this side of the Continental Divide.

What to present at KansasFest

April 7th, 2011 11:58 AM
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KansasFest 2011, having recently opened for registration, has now put out the first call for sessions. Besides the camaraderie that can be found only in the company of Apple II users, the sessions are perhaps my favorite part of KansasFest. They appeal to all interests, from Apple II to iOS and hardware to software, and all experience levels, from journeyman to artisan.

I attended three KansasFests before being promoted to dinner banquet emcee, but it was six KansasFests before I gave my first session. In 2004 and 2005, I reviewed my favorite Apple II games in a pair of sessions that I barely recall. Bruce Baker continued that tradition in 2006 through 2009, focusing primarily on his favorite Softdisk titles and letting me off the hook. I was again just an audience member for 2006 through 2008, with the exception of a self-running showing of a chapter from BBS: The Documentary in 2007 and, to fill a gap in the 2008 session schedule, a brief and impromptu tour of the social media site Facebook, which I had joined five months earlier.

Then, in 2009, KansasFest started becoming very busy for me! I kicked off a new series called "Classic Gaming Inspirations", which looked at modern-day titles that capture the feel or spirit of original Apple II titles. I also compiled and showed the segments of the television show Dancing with the Stars in which Apple II inventor Steve Wozniak competed.

Deciding that two sessions wasn't enough, in 2010, I cranked up my commitment to an unprecedented five sessions:

If I follow the 2x+1 formula that represents my increase in sessions from 2009 to 2010, then I'll be giving an exhausting 11 sessions in 2011. I'm determined to go the opposite direction and ease up on my contributions, making room for other attendees to participate and allowing myself time to enjoy more of KansasFest.

Apple's Growing Divide Between Users and Programmers

'The brain power there caused the room to tilt a bit!'
said Kirk Mitchell of this KansasFest 2010 panel.

To that end, I've thus far committed to only two sessions: a behind-the-scenes look at the Open Apple podcast with my co-host Mike Maginnis, and a sequel to last year's banquet activity of the live-action text adventure game Action Castle. My tradition of offering a gaming session will again die, I hope to again be picked up by someone who's been similarly inspired.

But I would like to offer a third session: another panel, akin to last year's "Apple's Growing Divide Between Users and Programmers". The Apple II community has some genuine experts in their fields, and the opportunity to tap that collective wisdom shouldn't be overlooked. All I need is a topic that is relevant and of interest, but without being too controversial — we don't want to leave the room with any hard feelings, after all.

What sessions or panel topics would you recommend for KansasFest 2011?