News from the NTEN Connect Blog

How To: Put Technology To Use

Submitted by Brett on Tue, 10/23/2007 - 3:24pm
Your guide to resources that will help you put technology to work for your cause.

Understand Open APIs

> So, Kintera and Convio have released APIs (see Community Buzz, below). Great! What's that mean? "Advanced Purling Instruction"? "Automated Princess Interrogator"? Something else entirely?

> If you missed it, NTEN hosted an introductory session on Application Programming Interfaces at the 2007 NTC; the session slides are still available. We also published a report on Open APIs following our highly successful debate last year.

> You should also check out Care2's "Primer on APIs and Databases" and John Maeda's extended metaphor on the subject.

> Once you've got the basics, read "Can We Talk? Innovative Responses to the Data Integration Challenge", an exhaustively researched report on more than just APIs, by Dahna Goldstein and Jennifer Bagnell Stuart.

> By the time you've finished, you may want to sign the Integration Proclamation.

Choose Open Source Software

> Michelle Murrain and the Nonprofit Open Source Initiative (NOSI) have just published an update to their excellent "Choosing and Using Free and Open Source Software: A primer for nonprofits". If your organization is considering a move to Open Source software (or if you want to push it in that direction), you should give this well-written guide a read.

> While it targets forprofits, Si Chen's presentation on "Why Enterprises Are Adopting Open Source Applications" is full of information, including case studies; Frank Scavo summarizes some of it on his blog.

> If you're feeling especially ambitious, check out open source guru Eric Raymond's paper on the economics behind FOSS, "The Magic Cauldron".

Things We Like

Submitted by Brett on Tue, 10/23/2007 - 3:22pm
A monthly roundup of our favorite nonprofit tech resources. Read more posts on our blog.
  1. Dataplace! Take government data, mash it up, create something new.
  2. Many Eyes. Now that's some crazy data visualization.
  3. INOM's paper, "Successful Technology Use in Small Grassroots Nonprofits".
  4. Gene McKenna's SEO satire, "What if Google had to design their user interface for Google?" Funny, but true?
  5. Michelle Martin's thinking. Read her post "Culture of Training vs. Culture of Learning".
  6. Common Craft's Paperworks videos. For some reason, this reminds us of the old Sesame Street Typewriter Guy character -- and that's a good thing: simple, yet effective.
  7. AideRSS. Another RSS reader? Ah, but this one has a ranking system.
  8. Outside the box thinking. The LAFD appears to be using Twitter as a way to communicate about the ongoing wildfires. If you build it, they will find new ways to use it.

Community Buzz

Submitted by Brett on Tue, 10/23/2007 - 3:20pm
News and buzz from people and organizations in the nonprofit tech sector. Read our posts on the NTEN blog.

The Doors are Opening, But the Chain Locks Stay On

> Kintera opened up first, but only just, by announcing that the Kintera Connect API was available to clients and partners. To help people make use of it, they have published the full API and scheduled a number of free webinars.

> A few days later, Convio launched their Convio Open initiative, including not only an API, but a set of Database Connectors and other Extensions, including a Facebook application. Convio Open also sports a prettier web site.

> At first blush, it seems that Kintera has the more powerful API, Convio the better package deal. Some pundits argue that neither company goes far enough in opening up, but these are steps in the right direction, and important ones. A year ago, NTEN hosted a discussion on Open APIs. How great is it that soon, we'll have to update our report? Who's next?

Help the World While You Make a Sandwich

> The SETI@home project launched in May, 1999, creating a virtual supercomputer by linking together a vast number of internet-connected PCs to aide in the search for extraterrestrial intelligence. Participants install a small app on their computers, so when the the system is not in use, its processor can be used to further the project.

> Now, the IBM Corporation has sponsored the creation of the World Community Grid. As with SETI, the WCG aggregates computer idle time into a massive public computing grid. Current projects include the creation of more accurate climate models in Africa, the search for more effective drugs to combat tropical diseases, and the mapping of select human proteins. Now you -- and your computer -- can feel good about your time even when you're off doing other things.

Monthly Giving Survey

> M+R Strategic Services is running a survey polling nonprofits about online monthly giving programs. If your organization solicits sustainer/recurring donations online, they'd like to hear from you. The survey is only a few pages long, and should take about 5 minutes to complete. Help them fill out their data set by taking the survey today.

Mo' Better Mobile Campaigns?

Submitted by Holly on Tue, 10/23/2007 - 2:31pm

Somehow -- and I really couldn't tell you how -- I ended up on the mailing list for Electronic Retailer magazine. I was about to toss it into the recycling bin when I noticed a story on mobile marketing. Now, the magazine is produced by the Electronic Retailing Association, so most every story in the magazine is a sunny picture of how lucrative and awesome various electronic marketing options are. But there are some interesting stats to behold.

According to one article, a recent Forrester Research piece says that:

  • 90% of US mobile phones are text enabled, but only 35% are using the functionality
  • Only 11% of US mobile users surf the Internet on their phones

According to Forrester's marketing blog, exactly WHO the 35% of text messaging users are is no surprise: 80% of 18-24 year olds use some form of messaging on the phone.

Community Tweets in the SoCal Fires

Submitted by Holly on Tue, 10/23/2007 - 9:33am

Flickr Photo From: thedpqThe fires in Southern California are a tremendous tragedy. I've heard estimates that up to 500,000 people have been asked to evacuate their homes.

As this is one of the most tech-saturated areas of the country, though, it's interesting to see how many individuals and organizations are turning to the web to organize, share, and emote.

I asked the NTEN community to tell me what they were watching yesterday. Here are a few of the things you told me:

Net Neutrality in the News Again

Submitted by Holly on Tue, 10/23/2007 - 8:41am

The issue of Net Neutrality has come to the fore again. A couple of weeks ago, we told you about advocacy text messages temporarily blocked by a carrier. Last week, independent tests confirmed that Comcast is blocking access to some data.

From the article:

Comcast's technology kicks in, though not consistently, when one BitTorrent user attempts to share a complete file with another user.
Each PC gets a message invisible to the user that looks like it comes from the other computer, telling it to stop communicating. But neither message originated from the other computer — it comes from Comcast. If it were a telephone conversation, it would be like the operator breaking into the conversation, telling each talker in the voice of the other: "Sorry, I have to hang up. Good bye."

Voter Engagement Toolkit

Submitted by Brett on Fri, 10/19/2007 - 1:44pm

The Progressive Technology Project has just released the Voter TechKit, a web site "...for community organizers, technology support people and funders who are interested in learning more about how to increase and sustain civic participation."

PTP designed the TechKit to offer as much or as little information as you want, dependent on your interest and job role. They give a nod to the difficulty of reading page upon page of text on the web, suggesting that users start by reading the Introductory pages and the Overview pages of each section. The horizontal navigation structure then allows you to focus on your particular area of interest: Project Planning, Field Organizing, or Data Management.

Data Sharing: The New Black!

Submitted by Holly on Thu, 10/18/2007 - 1:57pm

APIs and data exchange are lighting up the sector this week, so much so I can hardly see straight! While most of the news has been focused on accessing your own data, here comes some really exciting news: United eWay and 1-800-Volunteer.org have started sharing volunteer opportunity listings.

From the press release I just received:

"The idea originated after Hurricane Katrina in which United Way of America wanted to have a simple way for individuals to access volunteer opportunities, regardless of the technology vendor they used for their search. After several years of leading the discussion, the concept of developing a process for volunteers to access opportunities in their community, regardless of the service the local Volunteer Center uses, is now in place."

See everyone? Being open is good. Good for you, and even better for mission! Now, where is the volunteer listing widget I can put on my blog?

How Do Nonprofits Manage Monthly Giving Programs?

Submitted by Brett on Thu, 10/18/2007 - 1:13pm

M+R Strategic Services is running a survey polling nonprofits about online monthly giving programs. If your organization solicits sustainer/recurring donations online, they'd like to hear from you. The survey is only a few pages long, and should take about 5 minutes to complete. You can help them out by taking the survey at:

http://www.surveymonkey.com/s.aspx?sm=1AWjY7_2buxf0pYSQ4X8kOYw_3d_3d

All individual answers will be kept confidential. Results will be shared in M+R’s upcoming study, which will include the survey results, along with data they've gathered about online monthly giving metrics. They expect to publish the study in early November.

10 Questions: The Changing Face of Democracy?

Submitted by Holly on Thu, 10/18/2007 - 10:47am

Word on the street is that the coolest thing to hit democracy since the women's vote is 10 Questions. (Sidebar: The best part of "Mary Poppins" is that suffrage-loving mother. She steals every scene she's in. Forget Julie Andrews. If you haven't seen it lately, it's definitely worth renting!)

If you remember the CNN YouTube debates, then you get the idea behind 10 Questions. Anyone and everyone can record a question. The trick here is, now the viewing public can vote for OR against your questions. The top 10 questions will be given to the candidates, who will respond with videos of their own. It's a great site with a great premise, and a very nice interface. As long as you're here, why not check out the top rated question, presented by the amazing -- and longtime NTEN member -- Ruby Sinreich:

So, what are you going to ask your community about?