News from the NTEN Connect Blog

Wireless Philadelphians: Documentary

Submitted by Holly on Mon, 06/09/2008 - 8:55am

On June 12, 2008, Earthlink Wireless plans to disconnect their municipal WiFi service in the City of Philadelphia. As of today, no alternative has been found, though the city is still exploring several avenues.

I've written several posts about why we at NTEN think wireless internet access is so important. Nothing I could write will ever be as powerful as a good story, well told, so check out this 13 minute documentary about Wireless Philadelphia: Change is in the Airwaves: A Documentary about the Philadelphia Wireless Initiative from George Rausch on Vimeo.

How To: Put Technology to Use (May 2008)

Submitted by Brett on Fri, 06/06/2008 - 3:17pm
Your guide to the resources that will help you put technology to work for your cause.

Become a Free and Open Source (FOSS) Expert

> Before you can advocate for free and open source software, you need to know what you're talking about. As much as any argument that begins, "The dictionary defines <insert hopefully obscure term here> as..." displeases us, you'd probably be remiss if you didn't start with WikiPedia's definition -- and not just because it runs on top of open source code. FOSS, F/OSS, or FLOSS? Choose for yourself!

> Groklaw has just started an interesting series on the history of Free and Open Source by historian Peter H. Salus. If you want to understand the difference between "Free Software" and "Open Source", take a glance at "Why 'Open Source' Misses the Point of Free Software", by Richard Stallman (who, it's generally agreed, is to FOSS what Neil Young is to grunge).

> For the latest on FOSS, turn to the Nonprofit Open Source Initiative, which maintains a news feed. The Free Software Foundation tans the hides of proprietary programs -- -- while simultaneously advocating for FOSS, and the Open Source Initiative and even UNESCO maintain FOSS sites. Oh, and FOSSBazaar has a decent blog in addition to a cool logo.

Earn Executive Buy-in for FOSS

> It's not enough to understand the benefits of FOSS if you can't convince anybody else. You need numbers -- and David Wheeler has them. Oh, boy, does he. Market share, reliability, performance, security, the ability of FOSS to walk your dog and keep your ice cream from melting in the sun: Mr. Wheeler seems to have collected every study ever done on Free and Open Source Software in one place.

> If that isn't quite enough for you -- or you just really like numbers -- take a look at a couple of European offerings: Infonomics and the stiffly named, "Economic impact of open source software on innovation and the competitiveness of the Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) sector in the EU" (PDF). It reads much better than its title -- and you get to learn such things as "[the] existing base of FLOSS software represents a lower bound of about 131 000 real person-years of effort that has been devoted exclusively by programmers".

> For a final brush-up on your internal marketing skills, check out CIO Magazine's "IT Governance Tips: Help to Improve Executive Buy-in".

Determine Which FOSS to USe

> You've convinced your organization that it doesn't need to use proprietary software. The next step is determining which FOSS software to use. The best read is "The Top 50 Proprietary Programs that Drive You Crazy -- and Their Open Source Alternatives". Who knew there was a FOSS replacement for PhotoShop?

> More straight up -- and less subjective -- lists can be found at the Free Software Foundation and SourceForge; the former is more user friendly, the latter, impossibly comprehensive.

> To help you make your final decision, turn to Michelle Murrain and the fine people at NOSI. Their primer, "Choosing and Using Free and Open Source Software" is indispensable reading for nonprofits. In addition to her article in this month's NTEN Connect, Michelle has been generous enough to write for us before on the subject -- and for those of you who don't like to read, she's even offered her wisdom in webinar form. In fact, it's not to late to catch some of her upcoming FOSS webinars, including takes on open source blogging tools and CMS systems Drupal, Joomla, and Plone.

Things We Like (May 2008)

Submitted by Brett on Fri, 06/06/2008 - 3:16pm
A monthly roundup of our favorite nonprofit tech resources. Read more posts on our blog.
  1. Who knew? You can download the full help files for almost every Google service.
  2. Why would someone want to fly over the Alps on homemade jet wings? "That was to impress the girls." We hear that was Neil Armstrong's fall-back phrase.
  3. Collactive's report on social media marketing. They found that orgs with "a successful social media strategy performed 27% better in achieving their business goals than those with poor social media strategy". Go on.
  4. Food hacking. Our overclocked blender totally rocks.
  5. Zazengo finally goes Beta with MalariaEngage: make micro-donations directly to researchers in Africa.
  6. Wired tells you how to get ahead on LinkedIn. You can also get a head on eBay.
  7. Is Windows Solitaire actually good for society? Whatever you do, don't let your boss find your name on the International Solitaire Rankings.
  8. The Way Back Machine. Be sure to check out NTEN's web presence, circa 2000 A.D. We looked so young!
  9. Because of a fuel shortage, leftover oil from street food vendors is powering vehicles in the Gaza strip. Apparently, the used oil works better, but "It makes the cars smell like a kitchen -- you feel like falafel is following you".
  10. Still not Twitterpated? Get a bigger head start than Jerry with the Nonprofit Twitter Pack.
  11. Reusable coffee mugs. They had us at "if you want to keep your reproductive organs functioning..."

Yahoo! Address Book API

Submitted by Holly on Thu, 06/05/2008 - 10:22am

Yesterday, Yahoo! announced that they are releasing a new API to the public. According to Wired Magazine's newly rejuvenated (yay!) Webmonkey blog:

The Yahoo Address Book API offers JSON/XML data responses and can be used for common tasks like syncing with another address book, e-mail address auto-completion, obtaining unique identifiers and more.

This is exciting news for the nonprofit sector since we rely so heavily on "Tell a friend" marketing for list growth. While most nonprofits will have a hard time using the API on their own, I have to think that the software vendors are already dreaming up new tools for us to use.

Good as Green: Can Doing Right by Planet Earth also Save You Money?

Submitted by Holly on Thu, 06/05/2008 - 4:48am

Flickr Photo: Tim.DeeringKermit the frog crooned that "It's Not Easy Being Green," but we're seeing more and more examples of how it IS easy to be green. (Seriously, can I get a round of applause for that pun? I wrote that while sitting at an airport gate at 7am!)

When email went mainstream in the mid-nineties, there was enthusiastic yammering about the coming of the PAPERLESS office. Of course, we now know that the digital age has actually increased our paper consumption. But trees are only one small part of the strain that technology and IT departments put on the environment. In fact, the IT department may be the most resource consumptive department at your organization.

Lots of for- and nonprofits alike are turning to their IT departments to fuel the greening of their organizations, however, and they are saving money in the process. CIO Magazine just profiled the Washington Mutual IT department and their efforts. Though WaMu is certainly a larger enterprise than most, there are a few tips we can all learn from:

Executive Directors Feel Peer Pressure Too

Submitted by Holly on Tue, 06/03/2008 - 5:18am

Flickr Photo: Johan KoolwaaijYesterday, we kicked off our Member Office Hours. If the rest of the office hours go as well as the first one, we're in for a lot of great conversation.

Jeff Forster from the Bayer Center for Nonprofit Management expertly led the first chat in the topic of Leadership. I think all participants would agree that it was as much fun to chat with and learn from each other as it was to get Jeff's insight. All around, a great conversation.

One of our biggest takeaways, getting your tech-nervous ED to try something new, may boil down to the oldest tactic of all: peer pressure. Here's an excerpt from that chat:

Can Your Clients Get Online?

Submitted by Holly on Mon, 06/02/2008 - 11:25am

Flickr Photo: reway2007How long has it been since you heard the term "digital divide"?

We don't talk about it like we used to. Back in 2000, dozens of foundations and many more nonprofits were focused on making sure that everyone had access to a computer and the Internet. Mainstream media coverage came fast and furious.

Somewhere along the way, the digital divide fell out of vogue. Still, in every community across this country, there are children and adults who do not have a computer or cannot access the Internet.

Blackbaud and Kintera: Community Roundup

Submitted by Holly on Fri, 05/30/2008 - 12:19pm

Unless you've been out of the office, you undoubtedly heard that Blackbaud is buying Kintera.  They are both publicly traded companies, so neither is allowed to comment on what will happen right now.  They have to keep behaving as completely separate entities until the acquisition is approved.  That doesn't give us a lot of good information, but it hasn't stopped the speculation either.

This is certainly very meaningful for the sector.  No matter how the acquisition plays out in terms of which products are kept, etc., there is one less choice in the nonprofit CRM market.  And I tend to believe that choice is good.  But rather than opine at this time, I'll instead share some of the musings of the nonprofit community and beyond:

 What's your take?


Ask a Question at NTEN Office Hours

Submitted by Holly on Fri, 05/30/2008 - 9:54am

Flickr Photo: Johan KoolwaaijLot of us are missing a true luxury in our work - the ability to turn to our office mate and get a quick answer to our technology questions. NTEN thinks that's a shame, so we've set up a new program exclusively for NTEN members to help you do it, virtually. That's the idea behind Office Hours - to give you a place to ask the questions that will help you succeed at your job and create more social change.

Office Hours will begin on June 2 and we already have a good crew of volunteer experts who have committed an hour/week so that you have the opportunity to get advice in an online chat room setting.

How do you participate?

Do You Speak Open Source? Check Out this Contest!

Submitted by Holly on Thu, 05/29/2008 - 2:28pm

Good deeds do get rewarded! If you know someone who’s been toiling in the open source vineyards, developing software that’s helping nonprofits succeed, check out the Tides Foundation Pizzigati Prize, a $10,000 annual award for outstanding contributions to software in the public interest. The competition, judged by a panel of national leaders in public interest computing, is now entering its third year. The application deadline for this year’s prize: September 1, 2008. You can find out more at

The last winner was announced at the NTC in New Orleans.