Archive for the ‘Musings on Software and Life’ category

It’s time to start thinking about OrangeCon2012!

October 11, 2011

Welcome to OrangeCon2010!
This year we thought we would get our clients involved in the structuring of the conference. The conference will be held over two days, one day for MPX and one day for Orange Leap On Demand. We are weighing the options of the seminar based conference structure from previous years, and modeling OrangeCon2012 after the new trend of un-conferences.

What is an un-conference?
An un-conference can be described as an open forum atmosphere where clients have direct interaction with not only our developers, but each other concerning best techniques and strategies for using Orange Leap to grow their non-profit. This is not to say that we would be stepping away from the administration of the conference, but moderating and guiding the discussion topics you choose.

Get involved!
We encourage you, the client, to participate in this decision because you can benefit most from the outcome. Take a look at videos from our previous conferences, and research other un-conferences. Simply click to vote on our Facebook group, or join the conversation and your ideas and responses under #OrangeCon2012. For more information visit our conference page.

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Open Source Project: How to be a good partner with an open source software project.

June 8, 2010

A big challenge to the success of an Open Source Software project is creating and maintaining a strong community. It is vital to have strong and dedicated partnerships and have symbiotic relationships to ensure mutual success. So what exactly are good partners and how do you can we become one?


Good partners solve problems instead of asking for solutions. An important aspect to participating in an open source project is recognizing that it is a partnership and not a customer/vendor relationship. This means that you take initiative in overcoming any challenges you come up against by utilizing all of the resources that the open source community provides before engaging the developers directly. At Orange Leap this means becoming familiar with our Knowledge Base, forums, and partnerships first, and hopefully finding solutions on your own. Often, community members have come up against the same challenges that you are facing and will help to resolve the issue. In the short term this is an adjustment for many newcomers, but in the long run it is empowering to be able to successfully navigate your way through problem solving. This brings us to the next point. Contributing to the community.

Sharing and making contributions to the community. In the event that you have successfully solved a problem, it is important that you contribute your information to the rest of the community. This is vital for the long term success of the community and in turn, the overall success of the Open Source initiative. Firefox is a great example of a successful community that has provided an incredible level of success in software design and implementation because of the community participation. Helping others to be successful is the key to open source success. Here is an example of how Orange Leap contributed to Spring. SpringSource.org

Engage other members of the community, and community resources to help and encourage others to solve problems. A good way to gauge whether you are a strong community member is to look at how much you have contributed to the community. Do you log into the forums and look for problems to solve or do you only log in with problems that you need solved? This type of proactive participation is vital for the long term growth and success of a project. Here is an example of how Orange Leap contributed to Jasper. JasperForge.org

Sharing information with the community by providing solutions, customizations, and contributions to help others overcome their challenges and obstacles. This is a key ingredient. At Orange Leap, we share our source code and software for our mutual success. We try and provide resources so that non profits are no longer held hostage to software licensing fees and minimal customizations. We are interested in being a good partner and in turn we ask the same from our partners. If you come up with a great customization it is vital that you provide your solution to the community so that all can benefit. In this free and open model, it is important to contribute to the overall success of everyone.

A good partner recognizes and honors the partnership and strives to make contributions to the community to ensure mutual success. It is a core value of Open Source Projects to give back to the community, which is also a core value to the non profit world we all choose to be a part of.

Understanding Business Rules and Fundraising Automation: How an Active System Can Manage the Donor Life-Cycle for You

February 4, 2010

Have you ever struggled with timely donor acknowledgement? Ever wished you could easily target cultivation to key donors in a consistent, systematic way? Processes at many organizations can be sporadically implemented and sometimes capricious having evolved organically over years.

These flawed processes leave the nonprofit highly vulnerable to sub-optimal constituent management because each organization’s business rules for this mission-critical function — the standard operating procedures and routines that have evolved into the group’s best practices — mostly exist in the institutional memories of individuals rather than in the infrastructure of the organization. In addition, the reliance on individuals to consistently remember and properly execute on key processes — like timely acknowledgements with versioning by gift-level and donor type, new donor welcome series via mail and/email, or cultivation and upgrade appeals based upon a donor action like event attendance — presents a serious risk that donors and other constituents will have inconsistent treatment, which results in current as well as potential income loss.

This Webinar will look at how implementing business rules in Orange Leap can automate your fundraising cycle and actually manage the donor life-cycle for you, leaving you free to focus on strategy, personal outreach and your mission.

Register for Instant Access

U2, Technology and Relationships

July 5, 2009

I just returned home from a few wonderful days in Barcelona. It is a magical city with beautiful neighborhoods accentuated by the architecture of Gaudi and the cuisine and culture of Catalonia. It was the perfect setting for both a reunion with friends and a chance to see the world opener of U2’s 360 Tour.

The opening show was nothing short of stunning. While I had seen U2 multiple times before, in arenas and stadiums, this show was stronger for a variety of reasons.  The technology—especially the sound, video and the stage—were leaps and bounds ahead of anything I had experienced previously, even in the last few years. From the fullness of sound and lack of echo—in a football stadium no less—to the clarity of video and dynamic lighting, it was really a breath-taking, fully immersive experience.

Yet, even with all that technology, what struck me most was the pervasive and sustained intimacy of the show. I have been to a few stadium shows in my day, and while many have been great rock and roll shows, none have created the level of connection I felt with the band and the crowd.  For this reason, I can honestly say there was not a single lull in the show.

But then as I thought about it, I realized that frankly it was the technology that created the intimacy. The massive 360-degree stage, with all its lights and speakers that takes 4 days to build and occupies half a football stadium, actually shortens distances in the stadium, connects people and creates a powerful space for relationship building. And that focus on relationships–building and maintaining them–is the only reason the technology exists.

I like U2. A lot. However, I was reminded, powerfully, that beyond wanting to hear my favorite songs or see a killer light show, a concert is really about relationships. If I had been standing in that show alone, just me and the band, the lights, the video, the music would not have mattered in the same way. It’s the relationships and experience of participation with a community of others that are the real elements of transcendence.

Nonprofits do transcendent work. You need to create that space and those relationships with constituents that bears testament to that. You are not just playing for one or two major donors. You are playing for everyone from the cheap seats to the VIPs. And the experience you create together is what drives your mission forward.

It is your technology that helps create that space, shortens distances and allows you to sing to the donor in the upper deck and make them feel just as important and connected as the VIP in the first row. Without the technology to facilitate the space for relationship, it is an entirely different experience.

More Failures for the Old (Proprietary) Model

February 26, 2009

Well, the failures of the old model continue to abound. A recent article details how the State of California has had to cancel their SAP implementation “after sinking $25 million into the project and seeing nothing out of it.” In fact, 3 plus years into the implementation, the state was unable to implement a number of crucial cost saving initiatives due to “absolutely ancient IT infrastructure.”

In this economy, no one can afford to sink significant dollars into failed projects, a nearly bankrupt state government least of all. We need those dollars going to projects of impact that create jobs, not outdated software licenses and old model consultants charging hundreds of dollars per hour.

So let’s embrace transparent pricing, the elimination of up front costs and the beauty of open models that allow organizations to actually trial the software to know if it is a fit prior to committing to implementation. Throw out your RFPs,  an outdated device for risk mitigation from the days when you couldn’t trial the software in your unique business environment. The new model mitigates your risk at an affordable price with no up-front investment.  Though it is bad news to the profit margins of proprietary software vendors. Oh, and it probably could have saved the State of California almost $25 million.

Open Lessons from the iStore

February 24, 2009

So, you may or may not have heard about Ethan Nicholas from Wake Forest, North Carolina.  He is the developer whose bills were piling up so he had the idea to build a an iPhone app in his spare time.  Over $700,000 later he’s amazed at how the open and collaborative community works.

The details are all here, but the lessons I take from this story are:

  1. An open community allows the best content and ideas to rise to the top unlike a closed and proprietary model that is hierarchical and often stifles creativity.
  2. An open community moves faster than a closed and proprietary model – this app was thought up, built, and released in six weeks.
  3. In an open community, consumers of a product or service get more choices and options than just what the closed and proprietary model chooses to offer.

The World is Open

January 6, 2009

Happy new year! After a December blogging hiatus, I thought I would begin 2009 with a bit of a reflection on 2008 (novel I know). Really it is more of personal observation that has come after the busiest year of travel in my life to date.

In 2008, I spent significant time in 9 countries including Australia, Bahrain, Egypt, England, Germany, Ireland, Oman, United Arab Emirates (my new home) and, of course, America. This certainly doesn’t set any records, but it was a wide enough sampling for me to observe some interesting patterns.

  1. Inexpensive, instantaneous communication is becoming ubiquitous. While many people have been able to text, email and make and receive calls from mobiles while traveling internationally for much of this decade, it has not been cheap (though it is getting more so). What I find particularly exciting was that I was routinely able to have Skype calls, often with video and on the spur of the moment, with friends, family and business colleagues. While Skype has been around for a while, it was just this year that every one I wanted or needed to talk to seemed to use it. I am convinced in the last year Skype saved me and my employers thousands of dollars. Access to ubiquitous and inexpensive (or free) communication is a hallmark of an open world.
  2. Grassroots, collaborative models are becoming a preferred method of operating. In politics and governance,  business and society at large, I saw this trend in most every country. The most obvious, Barack Obama’s election victory and grassroots supporter base, would have been unthinkable 20 years ago (for a myriad of reasons). But, beyond the macro, I saw time and again collaborative grassroots operations from Dublin to Sydney (and places in between like Cairo and Dubai) springing up to do everything from change local laws to help businesses share costs and launch new products. This goes beyond simply campaign activism or ‘strategic partnerships’. It is a distinctive way of operating jointly and openly that multiplies efforts, shares costs and builds foundations together. Your specific needs or concerns can then be addressed from that common foundation. Transparency and collaboration have an inherent efficacy that people are using to bring change and speed innovation.
  3. The myth of proprietary ideas and proprietary technology. I will admit to a bit of hyperbole there. Both obviously exist. But I found regularly that ideas I thought unique to one place had striking resonance with what I heard elsewhere–perhaps in different cultural clothing–whether I was talking to a Saudi business man or a Tasmanian taxi driver. That does not mean the ideas were identical (and certainly not their interpretation for practice), but it reminded me of the Biblical quote, “There is nothing new under the sun.” And I found this to be true of technology as well. I saw many exciting and innovative pieces of software and technology. But, the most exciting element was that many of these groups had built upon other’s work from the same open source code base, simply adding the features and functionality unique to their needs and region. Time and again I was told how they developed in months what use to take them years. The age of ‘owning’ all your code, or all your ideas, is quickly evaporating as people innovate on common platforms.

Nothing I have said here is in itself new. What struck me is the ubiquity of it. This is not just a few trail blazers or early adopters I observed. These are small town entrepreneurs and local individuals from diverse cultures doing this organically. This ubiquity drove home that the paradigm has shifted.  The world is open and it is incredibly exciting and eOrange Leaping, especially as the economic crisis forces us all to find a better way to operate.