Becoming A Balloon HQ Volunteer
Frequently Asked Questions
Working on the Guide to Balloons and Ballooning is an excellent way to learn more about all aspects of ballooning.
– BHQ Administrators
- What skills and resources does a Balloon HQ volunteer need?
- What benefits do I get from being a Balloon HQ Volunteer?
- How do I choose which area of Balloon HQ I want to adopt?
- What should I keep in mind while working on a section of the Guide?
- I’m not sure Guide editing is for me, but I’d still like to help out. What other BHQ projects need attention?
- How do we transfer large digital files back and forth?
- I don’t know HTML, but I’m willing to learn. Can you give me some pointers?
- Ok, I’m ready to volunteer. Who should I contact?
What skills and resources does a Balloon HQ volunteer need?
Most tasks require some computer savvy, a good grasp of the English language, a love for organizing things, an eye for editing text, and access to some sort of computer system in your ‘free’ time. HTML programming knowledge is an eventual must for working on the Guide to Balloons and Ballooning, or specialized pages to be included in the Balloon HQ Highlights area. Thus, your computer must also have a word processing software package or a web page generation program (like PageMill) capable of creating ASCII text files coded in HTML format.
What benefits do I get from being a Balloon HQ Volunteer?
Need new one-liners? Struggling to master various types of twists? Want to delve into the business of ballooning? Need an excuse to learn HTML? Working on the Guide to Balloons and Ballooning is an excellent way to learn more about all aspects of ballooning.
Since you’re reading this, you’re already feeling that you want to be involved. You yearn to give a little something back to the balloon community. You crave the acclaim and prestige of being associated with BHQ! Plus, the administrators of Balloon HQ have been known to show their gratitude to volunteers with nifty gifts.
How do I choose which area of Balloon HQ I want to adopt?
Basically, identify a topic that you want to learn more about. If you have something in mind, let us know! Feel free to be self-centered and choosy. If you want to go reasearch something related to balloons and write a paper on it, we’ll add it to the Highlights section. There are always chapters of the Guide to Balloons and Ballooning to be updated… whether it’s merely editing, organizing, and adding the new information posted by list subscribers, or a massive layout overhaul.
What should I keep in mind while working on a section of the Guide?
- Everything has been pre-selected. Don’t throw anything away.
Mark Balzer culls “guideworthy” information out of daily posts to the Balloon HQ e-mailing lists. Mark edits and sorts that information and decides which section of which chapter it needs to go into.To keep track of what goes where, Mark has created a document called the Detailed Table of Contents. It’s just a version of the regular table of contents expanded to include all the sub-headings for each chapter.Mark pastes the new material into the Detailed Table of Contents, under the appropriate sub-heading. It takes a few months to fill up, but when it’s chock full of information to be added to the Guide, Mark uploads a copy of the Detailed Contents to this directory where it sits and waits its turn to be added.If you are revising a section of a chapter, find the file with the most recent date (the info in older files has already been added), click on it, and scroll down until you see your chapter title. There you’ll see just what has to be added to each sub-section.
Sometimes your editing process reveals that information slated for Guide Section X is better suited to Section Y. Don’t delete something because it doesn’t fit your section; save these paragraphs and return them to Mark. He will make sure they get to the right spot.
- There is no set time limit.
You are a volunteer, and we are grateful for your help. You can, however, expect that a Balloon HQ administrator will check in with you every so often. We need to make sure you are still taking responsibility for your project and also to see if you need our assistance in obtaining resources vital to completing your task. Do not succumb to the dreaded disease “Guide Guilt;” what needs to get done will… somehow.
- You decide how committed you are.
You may do a one-time update on a section of a chapter you choose, or you may volunteer to maintain a whole chapter indefinitely.Please note: If you find that you can not complete a section you’ve begun revisions on, please contact Mark as soon as possible. He will work with you to upload the work you have been able to complete.
- Adopt any format you choose.
Updates and maintenance require that you be able to write HTML, organize the sub-sections, and insert new material in its proper place. Extract the points and put them into lists, or create a flowing narrative, whatever you prefer. Just do your best to present all information coherently and make sure not to lose any relevant information. In fact, feel free to add your own original information (as long as it’s relevant to ballooning)!
- Don’t be afraid to edit or paraphrase.
While it is netiquette taboo to re-write someone’s e-mail messages, there is a valid need to filter out useful information from the context of someone’s happy chattering for inclusion in the Guide. Of course, sometimes it’s the happy chattering that really drives the point home; use your discretion. Ask yourself whether or not your readers need to see this phrase / sentence to get the point. Usually, there’s an opening statement that’s not needed for the context of the balloon-related revelation. However, be sure not to lose shades of meaning when editing.
- Use your best judgement.
Often there will be 2 or more conflicting opinions expressed in different paragraphs. Always strive to present all arguments; and never “play god” (except when you really, REALLY know that one way is best).
- Take a bow.
Document the date you complete your revision and add your initials at the end of the file.
- Finish the task.
When you get a completed, tested section update, promptly email it to Mark as an attachment.
I’m not sure Guide editing is for me, but I’d still like to help out. What other BHQ projects need attention?
There are always additional projects in the works, some current topics include:
- searching libraries for additional information on a topic and creating a coherent narrative
- organizing information gathered from non-digital sources and making it available online via the use of a scanner, typing in long quotations, or creating diagrams or images
- searching the net for balloon-related resources, and obtaining permission to include other people’s interesting balloon information at Balloon HQ.
- creating figure diagrams to go be paired with the figure instructions in the Sculptures Instructions sections
- searching the Guide and mailing-list archives for people that ask for information on a specific topic to include in their publications
- creating specialized tutorials or information pages on task- or event-specific topics like those featured in the Highlights area
- contribute to the BHQ newsletter.
How do we transfer large digital files back and forth?
HTTP is the protocol used by web browsers. When you view a web page on your computer, you have already transferred that page from the BHQ site to your own machine. You can save a personal copy of the page you are viewing for later review and/or editing. The precise procedure for saving a page will vary depending on the web browser you use. Most have a “save as” option, similar to any other piece of software used to edit files (word processors, illustration packages, photo editing tools). If your browser gives you the option of saving pages in different formats, chose “source” or “HTML source.” (Other options sometimes offered are “text”, “Postscript”, and “Printer file”). “HTML source” refers to the format in which all BHQ pages must be maintained. HTTP is usually the easiest way for you to get the pages you want to work on.
You may e-mail all of your changes and additional files for BHQ to Mark. Most modern e-mail software allows you to “attach” any type of file to a mail message. <!– using a format known as MIME. If you would like us to e-mail files to you because you are having trouble saving HTML source files, we can send things to you also, as MIME attachments.
Please note that very large files aren’t always easily sent via e-mail!
If you are transferring a large number of files, either from BHQ or to BHQ, or you are sending very large files, the most efficient way to do it is through FTP, or the File Transfer Protocol. This is usually done with a separate piece of software from your web browser and mail reader. Most modern systems come standard with a rudimentary ftp program. Details on use will vary depending on the system you are using. Most web browsers will allow you to use ftp to transfer things from BHQ to your computer, but this other program will be required to send things back to us. You can transfer things to and from us using the ftp utility by connecting to ftp.balloonhq.com with the username “anonymous”. Use your e-mail address as your password. Files being given to us can be placed in /pub/. If you choose to upload files to Balloon HQ via anonymous ftp, make sure to e-mail your Balloon HQ contact person to let him know that it’s sitting there waiting for him to grab.
The protocols described above are consistent across platforms. However, that’s about where it (consistency) ends. Even Netscape Navigator, which exists on many major platforms, can be different.
If you wish to send multiple files to us, or get multiple files from us in a single unit rather than one file at a time, two archive formats are most often used. Most unix users use the tar (Tape ARchive) format, while most Windows users use zip format. Both of those utilities are available for the Mac. If you are a Mac user, you may use the stuff-it format. Stuff-it files must be run through “Bin-Hex” and given a “.hqx” extension for the file transfer to work correctly.
I don’t know HTML, but I’m willing to learn. Can you give me some pointers?
Any basic html reference book should be able to help you get started. Visit your local bookstore or public library. Looking at a pre-existing HTML document is helpful as well. Additionally, a search on the Internet for combined keywords “HTML” and “authoring” will lead to a wealth of information and tutorials. Some examples include:
- NSCA–A Beginner’s Guide to HTML
- HTML: An Interactive Tutorial for Beginners
- WebCom–HTML Resources Guide
Ok, I’m ready to volunteer. Who should I contact?
Contact Mark Balzer regarding any of the material above. Contact Larry Moss if have the skills to help translate existing Balloon HQ pages into languages other than English.