News from the NTEN Connect Blog

Where Would We Be Without the Interstate System?

Submitted by Holly on Wed, 08/29/2007 - 3:10pm
Earthlink has effectively killed their muni wifi efforts. According to
Don Berryman, EarthLink's top municipal wireless executive, is out of a job. So are 899 other EarthLink employees amid a massive company reorganization. The shake-up includes office closings in cities that EarthLink had been targeting for public broadband deployments. The upshot for municipal leaders: Our collective focus is moving from big, feel-good public access efforts to government applications that deliver ROI.

This explains why Chicago killed their initiative today.

I certainly understand that rolling out municipal wireless is big undertaking. What's interesting to me is how quickly it has gone from the next great thing to quagmire. This is not a frivolous tech bubble, this is about giving people access to a vital service. In essence, municipal wireless is an infrastructure project. Like roads. Or phone lines. Or fiber. Each time we have taken on those projects, there have been push-backs and set-backs, but we've made each infrastructure project work.

Why? Because infrastructure is the cornerstone of a healthy society.

Want to Go for a Walk This Weekend?

Submitted by Holly on Wed, 08/29/2007 - 8:30am
It's Wednesday, which means you're probably thinking about how you'll spend your weekend. If you're interested in a nature walk, Jonathon Colman of The Nature Conservancy has a treat for you. Check out their new map, which lets you find areas they've protected that you can visit. A nice little Google Maps integration!

New Social Networking Site Kicks Off with Contest for Nonprofits

Submitted by Annaliese on Tue, 08/28/2007 - 9:31am

Everyone's debating the effectiveness of social networking tools for fundraising campaigns. A new social networking site, Razoo, seems to want to cut to chase: they're going to give $10,000 to a nonprofit organization that signs up at least 100 new members by September 15th. And it's not just a numbers game, as the winning nonprofit organization will actually be selected from the community based on their social change projects. Here's more from their site:

"Any social change organization that creates a Razoo Group and recruits at least 100 members to join by September 15th will be entered into the Change Your World Contest. The Razoo community will then vote for its favorite organization to select the winner of the contest. The prize is a $10,000 donation to your organization, and a high-profile online campaign built around your issues and work."

You can find out more about the contest here.

Successful Technology Management

Submitted by Holly on Tue, 08/28/2007 - 9:22am
You can't change the world with tin cans and string.

Become a technology leader and learn how to put technology to work for your organization instead of the other way around. A new 7-part webinar series from NTEN will make your work life easier and allow you to get more done with the same resources by giving you the information and skills you need to understand technology.Taught in plain English for leaders at all levels of technology comfort, the series wil enable you to:

  • Understand and contribute to technology conversations
  • Make smart technology decisions for your organization
  • Increase your organization’s efficiency
  • Identify and evaluate creative ideas for using technology to meet your mission


They're Just Like Us: Data Integration Obsessions

Submitted by Holly on Mon, 08/27/2007 - 3:02pm

CIO MagazineCIO magazine released a new white paper and video yesterday (registration required) on the topic of data integration. Although the content is all about big, for-profit enterprises, a lot of the data and analysis applies to the nonprofit community, as well. It turns out that for-profits have too many databases full of out-dated information, and they're fixin' to do something about it. Some interesting tidbits:

  • 73% of survey respondents say that Improvement of Business Intelligence is driving their data integration plans. In other words, they want a 360-degree view of their clients.
  • 47% of respondents say that the biggest challenge is changing the culture of their organization. Getting that end-use buy-in for the new procedures and policies is tough.
  • Most agree that a successful data integration initiative will have buy-in and support from the leadership and work across departments.

Sounds awfully familiar!

A Different Kind of Fundraising Widget

Submitted by Holly on Mon, 08/27/2007 - 8:35am (the winners of the NetSquared project) have released two new projects today: a fundraising widget that lets you track presidential fundraising; and plans for an API that will let you tap into their vast array of FEC (Federal Elections Commission) data.

According to their press release, we have a lot more to look forward to:

The presidential widget is the first of several more widgets that the organization will release. By September 15, will release a widget for U.S. Congress, showing total campaign contributions for each candidate for Congress. By September30, will release its "Money and Votes" widget, revealing correlations between campaign contributions and votes for any bill in U.S. Congress.

The widget is lots of fun, but it's the API I'm really excited about. I can't wait to see what the community is able to do with that data.

From the Affinity Groups: Recommendations for Online Donation Tools

Submitted by Visitor on Fri, 08/24/2007 - 5:07pm

Many organizations are successfully employing online donation tools. This topic was recently taken up by members of the San Francisco 501 Tech Club. Groundspring received a mixed response with some citing very positive experiences and others quite the opposite. A representive from Groundspring chimed in to highlight upcoming features that may resolve some of the mentioned problems. Paypal also received favorable mentions, as well as a warning of potential complications for nonprofit organizations engaging in long-term use for fundraising. Multiple members recommended Idealware's report on the topic, as well as Affinity Resources' summary matrix and Techsoup's articles.

With over 100 active groups and nearly 5,000 users, NTEN's Affinity Groups platform is an incredible resource for those in the nonprofit tech community. Join for free in order to view more useful and interesting discussions.

Facebook and Twitter Are Changing the World

Submitted by Holly on Fri, 08/24/2007 - 9:35am

I got a phone call from an old colleague yesterday. Well, he's not old, but our relationship is. So maybe that makes us both old, but that's beside the point. The point is, he sounded just like me a year ago: a little lost on why social networking sites and services like Facebook and Twitter matter.

Since I'm a recent Twitter convert (read: addict) and Facebook has long been part of my daily routine, I went through the laundry list of the benefits of these tools:

  • Discovery - you find things you would never find otherwise
  • Personal Connections - you meet people you would never meet otherwise
  • Marketing - great platforms for getting the word out
  • Relationship building - you actually get to see a more human side of folks, and that's nice.

He remained unconvinced. I spent the rest of my night presumably meeting up with old friends, but really just stewing about why I couldn't convince him. What is the killer argument in favor of these tools?

The Social Development Impact of Muni Wireless

Submitted by Holly on Thu, 08/23/2007 - 8:57am

A short time ago, things went sideways in San Francisco's bid to bring municipal wireless to the city. It's a long story to tell, so I won't. Suffice it to say that I think it's a real shame. Even worse, however, is that there is a distinct voice missing from the muni wifi debate in San Francisco and around the country: YOURS.

As has happened with every technology revolution (Web 2.0 anyone?), we are following the Roller Coaster of acceptance with municipal wireless. When cities and towns first started partnering and building service a few years ago, there was little awareness. But once it caught on, it caught on big. In the last year, we've been experiencing the swell of enthusiasm as a few major cities have begun to bring their networks online. Now we've hit the most interesting part of the ride: the drop.

GigaOM, a tech news and opinion blog, has recently commented on this stage in our relationship with municipal wireless:

Blackbaud Labs: Nonprofit Play Area

Submitted by Brett on Tue, 08/21/2007 - 3:52pm

Blackbaud, a provider of services designed specifically for nonprofits, has launched Blackbaud Labs, a testing ground for projects in the pipeline. Google famously maintains its own "labs", essentially a place where they can get free alpha-testers to fulminate over their not-yet-ready-for-primetime products.

The newer Blackbaud Labs currently features two products: a demo of Infinity, their Rich Internet Application (RIA) development platform; and a mash-up of Infinity with Microsoft's Virtual Earth API, which allows mapping of CRM data. The mapping demo features a pretty nifty screencast, highlighting both the potential and the developmental nature of the project.

Peter Gulka, of the Blackbaud User Society, seems pretty excited about the possibilities of Blackbaud Labs, but adds that he would really like to see Blackbaud offer an SDK or a free API. "What could we come up with on our own?" he wonders. "We're a smart bunch and I would love to see a developer community like SourceForge pop up here." Given the blazing successes of development communities for Facebook, Salesforce, and others, the potential for more great community-developed nonprofit resources seems high. You can let express your opinion in the Blackbus Labs Forums.