The Team at Exaltation of Larks
Our diverse, creative and technical team can’t relax unless they’re out of their comfort zone, pushing the boundaries of design and technology. In short, we like doing hard things on the web and excel at creating and maintaining exceptional Drupal sites with unexceptional budgets.
ex•al•ta•tion (noun) sometimes spelled exultation:
1. a flock of songbirds, especially when in flight overhead
2. the action of highly praising or honoring someone or something
3. a sublime state of happiness; the quintessence of perfection
The name, “exaltation of larks” (sometimes spelled “exultation of larks”), comes from an old Victorian parlor game that invented many of the collective names we use today, such as “a school of fish” and “a pride of lions.”
Birds are highly social and we chose our name because of the social nature of the work we do.
Christefano is CEO and Co-Founder of Exaltation of Larks. Having created his first weblog in 1994 and quite possibly the world’s first built-in searchbox for web browsers in 1996, he continues today as an active developer and innovator.
In addition to being a long-time contributor and organizer in the Drupal community, Christefano contributes to a growing number of Drupal-related projects and is the maintainer of the Shared Email and COPPA modules. He is a Drupal core contributor to Drupal 5, Drupal 6 and Drupal 7 and has been on the webmaster teams for Drupal.org and groups.drupal.org since 2008.
In his volunteer time, Christefano is one of the most active organizers in the Los Angeles Drupal developer community and is a founding member of the Coworking, Time Banking, Santa Barbara Drupal, Drupal California, Broward Drupal, Ventura Drupal, Startups and Drupal Fit groups.
Previous to his current work, he helped organize workshops and conferences for teenagers and led discussions about citizen journalism, intellectual property, and online identity and privacy rights. In yet another career, Christefano was a contributing writer and columnist for technology magazines and has been published in Macworld, MacAddict and MacDirectory. Even earlier in life, he was born naked and defenseless and managed to overcome all odds.
In 2006, Christefano was honored by Time Magazine by being selected as Person of the Year.
An expert in Drupal social network development and architecture, Lee Vodra is a veteran of many startups and, before co-founding Exaltation of Larks, has played key roles in launching complex projects that range from real estate sales sites to social networks for kids.
Prior to working on the web, she spent ten years working for management consulting firms. There she performed market research and formulating best practices for marketing and business strategy in the heavy industry and healthcare sectors. With this experience, Lee excels at working with clients to develop their online social network businesses – whether it’s developing online communities, virtual economies, building cost effective marketing strategy, or developing metric dashboards.
Former clients include: Digital Playspace, Technology Consulting Group, CruiseSavvy, Trilogy Associates, Coca Cola, Canyon Ranch, Harvard University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, NASA, NRMA Insurance, The Powerhouse Museum, Kentucky Fried Chicken, Medtronic, What’s What, and Greenpeace.
Lee graduated from Cornell University with a major in Semiotics and minors in Physics, Anthropology, and Fine Arts.
Cary Gordon has been building websites and communities for over fifteen years. He founded the Cherry Hill company to put libraries on the web and dedicated it to providing innovative and cost-effective solutions.
As an early adopter of and partner with ColdFusion, he pioneered using open-source operating systems in production (Linux and FreeBSD), developed a library-orie3nted content management systems (LibrarySite), and used ColdFusion as a systems integration platform (24/7 Reference).
In 2005 he was tasked with building a user-friendly front end for a digital library system (dSpace) that was capable of consuming XML, and it had to be free. Drupal fit on both counts. Through working on that project, it became clear to him that Drupal would make a great replacement for Cherry Hill’s purpose-built ColdFusion library CMS, allowing them to offer affordable content management systems for every library.
Recognizing that Drupal was a community-built project, something that sets it apart from other free and open-source projects, Cary eagerly joined in and now sits on the Board of the Drupal Association with responsibility for producing Drupal’s major events — DrupalCons — worldwide.
Cary is also an advocate of open standards and has been a contributing member of NISO, the National Information Standards Organization. As a librarian, he is active in many professional groups and a frequent presenter at conferences.
Craig has been working in content management systems since 1999. In that time, his experience has run the gamut, from writing custom CMS applications and customizing and integrating with large-scale “closed-source” enterprise systems to working with open source CMS platforms.
For the last 5 years, Craig has specialized in Drupal-based solutions. He’s built out dozens of large scale sites, including custom e-commerce integrations, web startup platforms, internal authoring environments for custom presentation layers and numerous higher education sites.
Craig has worked at all stages of the project engagement workflow, from up-front consulting, sales support, project management, system architecture, technical lead, deployment manager in both hands-on development, and senior management capacities. He brings to Exaltation of Larks a wealth of experience in consulting around content strategy, technical architecture, functional requirements analysis, and business process analysis.
An active musician, Craig plays with several bands in and around the Los Angeles area. You can follow his musical undertakings at http://music.craigmc.org
François Carpentier is a PMI Agile Certified Practitioner (PMI-ACP), Certified Scrum Product Owner (CSPO), Certified Agile ScrumMaster (CSM) with more than 16 years of experience as both Project and Product Manager, including 12 years with the amazing world of not-for-profit organizations.
Working on web projects for not-for-profit organizations is providing him a satisfying balance between his passion for the Web and his long-standing dedication to improving the quality of life in communities. François has managed and/or developed more than 85 projects, and is highly skilled in managing large-scale projects.
His strengths are achieving open communications, maintaining positive relationships, converting conflict and challenge into success, facilitating consensus and commitment, ensuring accountability, promoting progress and feedback, and expanding and adapting agile methodologies for maximum effectiveness – all of the above while working with culturally diverse teams, since it is his belief that diversity is a strength.
François worked 3 years for Canada’s largest not-for-profit organization, the Canadian Cancer Society. A bilingual speaker of English and French, he was born and raised in Quebec City, Canada, but later fell in love with the beautiful British Columbia and made it his adopted hometown. Rain or shine, he enjoys hiking, swimming, painting, reading, meditating, growing his beard, and proudly nerding out with various open source communities. Easy-going and quick to laugh, François is also an open source enthusiast and contributor. He is an active member of the Drupal.org, Ubuntu.com, Virtualmin.com, Webmin.com, and Eclipse.org communities.
Equipped with a Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration (BBA) from the University of Quebec at Montreal, a degree in Arts with a specialization in Graphic Design, 5 years of experience in Web development and Web graphic design, François has a deep understanding of the team’s activities and greatly values its efforts.
Victor has been Owner/Director of aWebFactory since 2006. He is a process engineer, developer and architect with decades of experience in process management and today’s best-of-breed frameworks, including Drupal. He brings agile approaches to web application development and mentoring services to Exaltation of Larks’ clients.
A strong proponent of test-driven approaches to application development, Victor is an advisor on software development best practices and processes with an emphasis on proven, reusable “cookbook recipes” capable of meeting modern requirements.
Victor is also the author of Leveraging Drupal: Getting Your Site Done Right, published by Wrox in February, 2009.
Oliver Seldman has more than a decade of professional web development experience. He began building websites as a hobby while pursuing his BA in Philosophy at Vassar College and taught courses on HTML and web design as far back as 1993.
Beginning his professional career as a web developer for automotive print magazines including MOTOR TREND, HOT ROD, and FOUR WHEELER, Oliver worked with ad agencies to design Flash- and database-driven microsites for clients including Jaguar, Cadillac, Corvette, Dodge, Ford and BF Goodrich. In 2003, Oliver started building custom web applications as a freelancer, and began to focus on working with nonprofit companies. He developed sites whose missions and subject matter ranged from donation distribution systems to sustainable building materials to community-supported fisheries.
Oliver’s interest in Drupal was first sparked when he was asked to build a CMS-based site in 2 weeks. He quickly realized how valuable Drupal is for rapid application development and now works almost exclusively on Drupal-based projects. In 2010, he joined the LA Drupal community in earnest, helping build ladrupal.org, attending and presenting at local meetups and DrupalCamps and providing (and seeking) help on IRC.
Oliver specializes in site building, project management, theming, and custom module development. In 2011, he’s taken his extensive experience with client and one-on-one trainings and branched out to Drupal trainings with Exaltation of Larks. He joined the Larks team in late 2010.
Matt Wrather has been building websites for more than fifteen years, since the days of static HTML. Thankfully, he discovered Drupal in 2004 when he stumbled upon CivicSpace (formerly DeanSpace) and has been building open-source, content-managed communities ever since.
When not consulting, designing, and coding, Matt is a musician (piano) and actor, world traveler (five continents down, two to go), and Paleo Diet enthusiast. He holds degrees from Yale University and UCLA, where he joined the United Auto Workers.
Scott is a senior Drupal developer. He started making websites with Drupal 4.7 in 2006 to facilitate international collaborative art projects, and has seen Drupal develop over the years. Since then he worked as a site-builder in Drupal 5 and began developing full-time in Drupal 6 and 7.
Between 2008 and 2012, Scott developed Drupal as a Learning Management System. He now maintains a variety of modules, including Course, Certificate, Field Analytics, Highcharts, Regions, Signup Reminders, and Features Override.
Scott’s interest in free and open source software parallels his involvement with the free and open source cultural movement. He is a founding member of BASEKAMP, an artist-group that researches and co-develops interdisciplinary, self-organized art projects. At BASEKAMP, Scott organizes group projects, co-writes essays, and frequently presents at international conferences on critical group practices related to free and open source culture
Kathy has been working as a web developer / designer for about 16 years. She has been focused on Drupal since 2007, and also has experience with WordPress. Her strong suit is frontend development, theming, and troubleshooting pesky site problems. Her other professional interests include SEO & social media marketing.
Being an active participant in the Drupal community is important to Kathy and she has volunteered for, participated in and attended several DrupalCamps and DrupalCons as well as local user group events. She coordinates a weekly online Drupal study group and hangs out in #drupalsupport on IRC.
Aside from all that Drupal love, Kathy’s primary passion is being a mom to her two daughters, 3 dogs, 2 cats & 2 doves.
Who has two thumbs and loves Drupal? This guy. Steve is a jack of all trades and now master of one (Drupal).
Having started out as a Physics major, Steve graduated from Northwestern University with a double major in Theatre and Economics and pursued a career in the arts but felt his “geek” side was being severely neglected. He started building websites and databases as a way to not only continue learning, but because he truly loves it. Steve has now all but left his glory days as an actor behind and has been building websites for over a decade.
Working as a freelance programmer and trainer with Exaltation of Larks since 2011, Steve is based in Los Angeles but prefers to work from wherever in the world he is. Steve specializes in custom solutions for small and medium sized businesses and specializes in site architecture, data mapping and custom business solutions.
Having programmed in many frameworks, Steve’s skills include programming in PHP, jQuery, HTML5, CSS3, Ruby and Ruby On Rails, and he never thought he’d settle down with one. Drupal offers a community that makes programming so much more dynamic and he has developed his skills further than he could have alone (although he does still enjoy programming in his pajamas).
Blake is an innovative business thinker and is a veteran of the video games and film visual effects industries. His first job out of undergraduate school at Boston University was to create and maintain a working clone of the Mac interface for PacTel’s PC workstations, which was in use from from 1988-1993.
After working at PacTel, Blake led interactive multimedia development at Phillips, where he was the sole developer for 13 interactive documentaries, each averaging 7 hours in length and produced in 8 languages. At Phillips, he designed their second large scale digital asset management production system that tracked, compiled and built interactive disc images on demand.
Electronic Arts recruited Blake to work on the 3DO operating system, where he wrote the 3DO’s low level data- and video-streaming libraries. When the 3DO launch failed, he was recruited by Sony to work on the PlayStation operating system in Tokyo. After returning to the US, he worked for a number of games studios, including Pandemic Studios and Adrenaline Interactive, on high- and no-profile games, such as NCAA Football, Madden and Eggs of Steel.
In 1999, Blake worked as Director of Research for Rotor Communications, a pre-Youtube video streaming website. He developed video watermarking techniques which performed synchronization of multiple data streams (whiteboards, chats, polls, quizes) with the video, and demonstrated the technology by producing a 45-minute live variety show featuring local Los Angeles rock bands.
Blake left the games industry in 2002 to work on feature film visual effects at the Academy Award-winning Rhythm and Hues Studios. At the same time, he began night school for his MBA. After 6 films as a digital artist, he transitioned to the finance department where he was the only person in the studio who could write code, produce art and generate the cost accounting bottom line impact of issue solutions.
Also while at Rhythm and Hues, Blake created a studio forecasting system that used stochastic modeling to assign personnel studio-wide, identifying the best person for a task and helping the studio manage multiple 2000+ person jobs at once.
Clearly an underachiever, Blake seconded his class and completed his MBA with Beta Gamma Sigma International Business Honors and left Rhythm and Hues to found Flixor, a media technology startup that holds the global patent on Personalized Media. Personalized Media is online media that is on-the-fly modified to appeal to the viewer via replacing actors with the likeness of their family and friends as well as demographically selected product placements.
Desiring to use Drupal as Flixor’s online technology platform, Blake found he had to become a Drupal ninja in order to develop what he needed in Drupal. Blake architected and developed the Aureus Digital Forensics platform, an outgrowth of Flixor’s technology, for a recent client whose customers are 3-lettered governmental agencies who use this technology to track and identify persons of interest.
Jenn “Plaid” Ramsey entered the web space as an online newspaper editor in 1993, where she fell in love with that newfangled thing called the Internet. She’s been courting every facet of the web ever since, from marketing, project management and content management system design to information architecture and documentation.
Though much of her CMS experience has been with custom software, Jenn has been flirting with Drupal for several years and joined the Larks team in 2011. Her previous experience includes a decade of experience in marketing, documentation and QA testing. Her client list prior to joining Exaltation of Larks include Dell, AVN.com, Condomania.com, McGraw/Hill, Hay House, and Trojan Vibrations.
Ali has led a a successful career as a serial entrepreneur bootstrapping and selling several IT service-related companies, including as Neowave Technologies, Inc. He joined Exaltation of Larks in 2011 and is Director of Strategic Relationships.
While researching available technologies for a stealth startup, he found Drupal in 2010 and fell in love with its community and has since committed himself to harnessing its power and flexibility as a platform and CMS for SEO, social commerce and integrated marketing.
He has worked with a diverse clientele spanning several industries, from entertainment and fashion to finance, legal and medical, and specializes in connecting businesses with their customers via social commerce and marketing tools. In the fashion and beauty industries, he has provided IT networking and support services to clients including Nordstrom, HeyBaby of California and Giorgio Armani in Beverly Hills.
Michael Breen has a long history of being involved in web development and took on his first position as “Webmaster” for a local Pittsburgh ISP in 1995. He’s been running his own Linux servers ever since, and has helped keep the servers running at Exaltation of Larks since 2009.
Along with web development, Michael has worked in a wide range of areas in software development, including speech recognition, biotech, and video games. In addition to Drupal’s native PHP, Michael is an accomplished programmer in other languages including bash, C, C++, Perl and Ruby, and has worked extensively with Drupal, Magento and Ruby on Rails.
Passion for music led him to take a position at Berklee’s College of Music, where he developed a social network in Ruby on Rails similar to Facebook (including walls, profiles and discussion groups) for the school’s students, faculty, staff and alumni. He also implemented Apache Solr and developed new workflows and administration backends for the school’s alumni office.
In the video games industry, he worked at Demiurge Studio on titles such as Metal of Honor: Airborne, America’s Army, Advent Rising, and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory as well as Damnation, a Prince of Persia-like 3D platformer.
Michael’s speech recognition work at Autonomy Virage was more research-oriented, where he worked on projects such as detecting anger in an snippet of speech, or classifying an audio sample according to what language was being spoken. Autonomy Virage’s video search technology is now used by BBC, Sony, CNN, MGM, Sky, Bloomberg, Paramount, Fox, ESPN, CBS and France 2 to name a few.
Miguel Hernandez has been working with technology and Open Source software since the early 90’s. He joined Exaltation of Larks in 2011 first as a Drupal trainer and later as an expert in Quality Assurance engineering. Miguel brings to the team more than 15 years of QA and testing experience. For several years, Miguel has championed the SimpleTest unit testing framework in his presentations at conferences and user group meetups.
In a previous life, Miguel studied Gerontology at USC, where he also worked for various high profile projects, including the Spanish-Speaking Alzheimer’s Disease Research Program (SSADRP). While at SSADRP at the age of 18, he was the only undergraduate doing graduate-level Alzheimer’s research in the nation back in 1992.
His multiple contributions to Open Source projects include QA and testing of Drupal, Songbird and OpenOffice.org (now LibreOffice). Miguel is a proud member of the Drupal core patch testing team and is a columnist for Linux Journal magazine, where his articles have been picked up by Slashdot and Wired. He loves everything Linux, Open Source, ninjas and robots, but hates writing in 3rd person.
Samia has a broad background as a software engineer with expertise in friendly user interface design, flexible and scalable architecture and performance-oriented solutions to challenging requirements under hard schedules. She joined Exaltation of Larks in 2011 to work on McNally Jackson Books, which was a project that integrated McNally Jackson’s online storefront with the Espresso Book Machine for on-demand printing directly from the web.
In addition to working on Drupal, Samia has worked on Magento and Ruby on Rails projects, as well as Java desktop applications. Samia has completed a BS in Computer Science from FAST University in 2010. For her final project, she developed automation of detection and correction of design defects in software. She has built tools in Java and the Standard Widget Toolkit.
Samia presented a research paper, Concept Analysis Patterns for Design Defects Detection and Correction, at the 26th IEEE International Conference on Software Maintenance.
Joe Chellman has been a working web designer and developer since 1999, mostly in the nonprofit and creative sectors, with the occasional small business sprinkled in there for taste.
A user of Drupal and member of the Drupal community since 2006, focusing on site building and theming, but also developing custom modules where needed. He has published video training courses on Drupal and WordPress, and has worked as an in-person trainer on general computer literacy.
Joe’s favorite part of working on the web is being able to continually learn new things while helping people accomplish their online goals. When not working, odds are he’s playing drums.
Rain Breaw began tinkering with web development back when it was novel to change the background color on your 100% text-based webpage. Though entirely self-taught, she began teaching web development at UMass Lowell, NY State Community Colleges and Vassar College almost immediately out of undergrad, as there wasn’t an abundance of credentialed individuals able to teach the skills at the time. Over the years, Rain has taught and presented numerous times and at many conferences, including the Coalition for Networked Information and DrupalCon SF.
The most compelling aspects of web development for Rain are standards compliance / accessibility and the open source world. Rain’s mom is legally blind, and it has always been important to Rain that her mom be able to enjoy her work! Additionally, the ideas and values of open source are completely in sync with Rain’s personal values. Open source and accessibility on the web are two powerful tools for world-wide social advancement.
In 2005, Rain founded SunRain Productions with her best friend and creative partner, Charlene Sun. Under the auspices of SunRain, Rain’s clients have included the League of Women Voters of California, Stand Up 2 Cancer, Great Circle Learning, Kitchen Caravan, The Ettes, the list goes on.
In 2010, Rain is joining the Larks team and looking forward to truly exploring and expanding the boundaries of web media and web technology, especially in the open source arena about which Rain is passionate.
As well as being a web developer, Rain is a filmmaker, a photographer and a martial artist. She graduated from Vassar College with a degree in Film and Anthropology and from the USC School of Cinematic Arts with an MFA in Film Production.
Michael Thorne began working on large websites in 1997 and became the webmaster for CareerPath.com, a large job index website, until CareerPath merged with Career Builder. He did similar work for USAToday until 2002, when he started a successful consultancy that specialized in writing custom content management systems to suit the needs for each client project.
Knowing that there had to be a better way than writing a custom CMS for each project, Michael started using Drupal in 2005 as the framework for future projects and has been using — and training others to use — Drupal ever since.
Michael now specializes in building custom Drupal themes, drawing from his background in aesthetics and design. He also brings Exaltation of Larks a broad set of web related skills, including site architecture, interface design, project management and Drupal training. He joined the Larks team in 2010.