Sunday, March 23, 2008

Who Comes to NTEN: Ciaran Hayden and Eamon Stack from Enclude, Ireland

This is the first in a series of posts back from NTEN's Non-Profit Technology Conference NTC08.

I first met Ciaran Hayden in DC during NTC 07. It was end of day and we both had drifted into an Irish Pub for a pint to end the day. Ciaran's (Kee-ron) story was spell binding. Development work in Cameroon, including the equivalent of micro-loans. A home in Cameroon and being treated like a king by those he had lent a hand to when he returns("it's embarrassing!") A small Consulting Compnay that he and his partner were building in Dublin. And the trust and the traction they were getting with the Irish Government.

As I packed this year I shot Ciaran a note, hoping he would be headed to New Oleans for NTC 08. Three minutes later, he got back that he was. And this year his partner, Eamon Stack was along too. Eamon's academic training was with the Jesuits. If that does not resonate for you - ask a freind who was raised Catholic ;-) - think rigorous.

Not to wreck a grand tradition, one year running!, on Wednesday night we pulled up stools at Patty's Irish on Decatur Street in N'Orleans. A friend had tipped me off - when in New Orleans, try the Abita Amber and we did, a good tip as it turns out. And we settled in to solve the world's IT problems.

Enclude is continuing its roll. First they had been selected to be a sort of Tech Soup for Ireland. This from the About section of The Enclude website:

Martin Cullen TD, Minister for Social and Family Affairs, formally launches ENCLUDEit - Technology Donations for Irish Nonprofits - on December 12th at 15 St. Stephen's Green. Present were Paul Rellis, Managing Director of Microsoft Ireland, Austin McCabe, CEO Symantec Europe, Michael Galvin of CISCO Ireland and a large gathering of nonprofit organisations. The Minister emphasised the importance of this programme and congratulated Ciaran and Eamon on the development of ENCLUDE and the ENCLUDEit Programme.

At the heart of their work is a thorough IT needs assessment that they conduct for non-profits across Ireland (the focus of Ciaran's work), followed by implementations that often include Salesforce (Eamon plays the lead in these.)

Visit their site for more of their story.

It is one of the hopeful and exciting aspects of our current world that Ciaran and Eamon can come to the states and exchange ideas with 1,100 colleagues all with a focus on how "to bring affordable, trustworthy systems and IT consultancy" to non-profits around the world ...

Thanks to NTEN

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Ward Cunningham's new AboutUs venture

I just listened to an interesting podcasted interview with Ward Cunningham, the inventor of the wiki. He's currently working with a new start-up called AboutUs with a very intriguing premise. AboutUs takes the text from various domains' "About Us" pages, along with WhoIs information and probably other stuff, and puts it all into a publicly changeable wiki about domains. It automatically creates wiki pages for domains, but then you can edit those pages (for your own domain or someone else's). I found the AboutUs page for, and did some minor editing, like removing my phone number and address, correcting my email address and adding in as a "related domain". (In the last instance, since was not already in the wiki, when I clicked on the newly created link for it on the AboutUs page, it went and found the actual domain and created a new AboutUs wiki page for it -- currently quite sparse.)

One way that Ward described this initiative was in comparison to Wikipedia. Whereas Wikipedia documents what's going on in the world from the past to the present, AboutUs is a way of viewing -- if not the future -- the intentions of those who are creating/maintaining domains. That is, by sharing what folks are saying in their "About Us" sections of their own websites, you get an insight into where those people hope to go. I still don't quite have my mental arms all the way around this idea yet, but given Ward Cunningham's track record with the wiki, there's a good chance that AboutUs may be an important resource in the future. Worth watching.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

NEIT Solutions: Bad

Being new to this blogging game, I’m still trying to get a feel for what to write. At the moment, I feel like screaming to the world my frustration with my hosting provider, NEIT Solutions, that hosts my site. They’ve been pretty good for years, but a couple weeks ago, they changed servers, and most of my domain’s contents were lost (where before, I was getting a warning because I had less than 100 mb left in my account, now I suddenly have a 400+ mb surplus of space. Where’d all the files go?) Consequently, all of my production sites are down. (My home page, is fine, but all of my client sites, e.g., are broken. I also am effectively shut out of all of my communishare email accounts (including those depended upon my others as their primary email). The email server space is full, so new email senders get a bounceback.

So, how does NEIT deal with this? The last contact I got from them was, “Everything should be working. What’s wrong?” Then, after extensively documenting my problems, I’ve heard nothing. Four outstanding tickets have had NO response in almost a week. Their support phone has a message that acknowledges a general problem and that they’re working on it, but gives no more information and won’t even take a message.

So, I can’t get hold of them, and they won’t (or, at least, haven’t) communicated with me in almost a week? My sites and email accounts are dead in the water. What can I do?

(deep breath)

OK, I feel (very slightly) better now.


Here Comes Everybody

I've just begun reading a terrific brand new book (publication date February 2008!), Here Comes Everybody : The Power of Organizing without Organizations by Clay Shirky. It's about how people are spontaneously and organically forming all sorts of groups and achieving all sorts of tasks via new electronic media.

He offers, for me, the clearest explanation of economic theory for how this works, and why we are at the beginning of a permanent, profound change in how people can relate to one another to act differently within, and upon, the world. (It's definitely clear, but a bit dense -- I had to reread portions a couple times.)

Example: after the London terrorist bombings, people on the scene uploaded a flood of photos (many from cell phones) immediately onto Flickr. These photos (and the people who submitted them) are linked together by common tags. Gathering this corpus of photos so quickly could not have been achieved by a formal "organization"; only a platform that facilitated lots of spontaneous, individual actions could enable it.

More to come.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Interview with Valdis Krebs

I just listened to a great podcasted interview with Valdis Krebs. I was introduced to the work of Valdis Krebs by Stan Pokras way back when we were publishing the Other Networks newsletter in the early '80's. Valdis is a pioneer in the realm of social network analysis (SNA), a disciplined, statistical practice which long predates anything people think of today when you mention "social network". I found the whole 49 minutes interesting, but one point in particular was striking. Valdis contends that current "social networks" like Facebook and LinkedIn actually represent a new sort of "silo" and won't survive (at least not as currently configured) in the longer term. Their silo effect is because you have to "go there" to connect to "your" network (as he said to the interviewer, "It's like you and I could only talk if we met in a library"). His deeper view of social networks is user-centric, wherein each person has more control over their own networks, including distinctions and granularity of relationships. Will be interesting to see how this plays out.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Nominations for non-profit excellence in the use of Web 2.0 tools

This just crossed my desk:

Web2Expo seeking non-profit Web 2.0 initiatives to showcase

Seth & I are part of the organizing committee planning to launch NetSquared Tuesday's, Philly. That group will be dedicated to finding and fostering local initiatives that should be showcased at next years web2expo.

Give us a shout out if you know of any candidates


The wind and the waves favor the skilled sailor

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

CommuniShare Consulting: The Launch

Seth Horwitz and I are setting out on an adventure together - we are calling it CommuniShare Consulting in honor of Seth's pioneering community site.

Seth and I are encouraged by the work we are doing with and for Bob Goodman on his Star Cafe project at the American Friends Service Committee, and are off to share the marked benefits of this work with the larger "better world" community.

Building Networks of Trust, discovering Social Capital, supporting Collaborative Work, stimulating Collaborative Learning – this is the work that motivates us.

We have a combined 60 years experience in IT, mostly in the non-profit arena,and over the course of that time we have established an extensive network of fellow collaborators.

We will be using this space to share the stories and news of the people and projects that cross our paths in the course of our work.

Hope you enjoy it. We do!

Seth & Lem