Tuesday, April 25, 2006

There - I like that better

I just played a bit with the blog page design, just to see what it would do...

Hmm, I don't have much to say, but I want to add more aggregated info to my sidebar.

Ain't that the way it's going, huh?

Community website governance structure?

What is a good basic governance structure for a community website? I'm asking because these kinds of "online communities" are cropping up all over the place, and I'm seeing a pattern I've seen before - when nonprofits encounter volunteers or donated computer hardware.

The basic (unexamined) assumption is a) free is better, and b) if we get it (community site, volunteer, hardware), it'll run itself. Left unexamined is the management time involved in making sure these resources run smoothly, and that some roles should b kept in-house, and some should be delegated.

Below is a brief brain-dump of the roles involved in running a online community site. Often, many roles are the responsibility of one person,but it's important to recognize the different roles which could eventually be divvied up among individuals. I know there's probably a good 5-6 formal models out there for tech support that I should follow - but I've got 20 minutes now, might as well just jot this down.

For the first read through, just ignore the little symbols.

Tech support layer:
*One time / setup high-tech needs (installation, configuration, theming, design, new functionality)
*Ongoing back-end support (problems with code - SQL, PHP, Java)
Ongoing general support (upgrades, patches, functionality support, domain registration)
@Ongoing back-end maintenance (adding email addresses, running backups, checking logs, escalating if necessary)

Management / Ownership layer:
@Fiscal responsibility (person who pays the bills: domain; website hosting; etc)
@Major decision makers (i..e the people who would decide on the site name, who approve payments, delegate all other roles)

Community layer:
@Ongoing maintenance (fixing broken links, watching for spam posts, welcoming new users)
*Super users -
-Forum / discussion board owners (people who lead and manage topics)
-Content owners (people who are allowed to manage certain types or areas of content)
-Moderators (people who approve posts, topics, discussions, etc)
*Regular users

Now I went through and identified certain roles:
@ means this role should exist within the organization (i.e. not be a volunteer or outside consultant). Why? Because these are - IMHO - roles that require liability - i.e. a way of requiring action (as opposed to the "best effort" of a volunteer). And even if volunteers are used, these roles should be considered the high-priority ones, so the most reliable - and proactive - volunteers should be selected.

* means this can - and probably should - be outsourced. Either the expertise required is niche enough not to be an asset to the day-to-day activities of the organization, or these roles are the best to delegate to folks who can do them on a "best effort" basis.

If there's no mark, I don't have a strong opinion either way.

[Retroactively filed under: OCC2006]

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Finding nonprofit Drupal / CivicSpace developers

In conversations with Drupal developers, I usually ask if they focus on working with nonprofits or not. If they don't their typical reply is that they work with anyone, including small businesses and nonprofits. I'm not going to argue the pros and cons of separating out nonprofits from other types of clients (if only to make them feel special?....), but I'll use the developers own words to differentiate them.

So I've stuck a very basic overview of Drupal and CivicSpace developers who focus on nonprofits / NGOs on the Net2Learn site (which is still working out the kinks, but go ahead and look at it) - along with resources for finding any type of Drupal/ CS developer.

Please feel free to comment there or here on add'l resources, or pros/ cons of segmenting nonprofits / NGOs from other types of clients. (I know where I stand, but I'm not going to make my case for it right here and now).

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Convergence: Drupal Camp

One of my roles at CompuMentor is to make connections between and among the different worlds we are inhabiting: nonprofit sector and subsectors (like arts); online communities; social web ("Web2.0") tools and developers; community wireless projects; etc. This convergence is one reason why I'm having to broaden the focus of this blog, because just so much is going on that is overlapping with other things right now.

For example, CivicSpace, the organization that is behind the open-source CMS (Drupal) I've championed previously is now - guess what? - fiscally sponsored by CompuMentor (full disclosure: the team I'm part of here strongly supported this decision.) CivicSpace, along with Civic Actions, put together a training weekend for Drupal developers; CompuMentor put up the space, and myself and colleague sat in on the sessions.

You can read a more detailed overview here. In addition to the great overview at the Drupal site, here are a couple of things I noted:
  • At least 1/3 of the developers present worked at nonprofit organziations themselves. That's fantastic - a strong showing in the vanguard of Drupal developers.
  • There is a specific challenge to Drupal beyond installing and configuring the system. I've mentioned it previously, and this session bore me out: Drupal is (fairly) easy to install and use, but making it "your own" is not something that can be done by a novice. This weekend session was designed specifically around "theming" - designing the look and feel of Drupal websites.
  • Jeff Robbins, the trainer and head 'bot at Lullabot, made an important point that touches on my last comment: Drupal is a very strong open-source community, and a lot of development - even stuff that's paid for - is given back to the Drupal community at large. The one area where this does not happen as much is with site "theming." A lot of work goes into theming, and as Jeff pointed out, a "themed" website is your organization's brand. Just as your organization (likely) does not want a generic looking page with some personalized colors, your organization also doesn't want to share the website "brand" you spent several grand developing. Even in this open-source world, there are small pockets of proprietorship....
[If you wanted to push it, you could share a similar but-not-quite theme, with different colors, fonts?.... But who would go through the trouble?]

Monday, April 10, 2006

Yanking links

I'm yanking the links off the bottom of my posts because they are not what I wanted - I want something to automatically add the tag I attach to a blog post - to my Del.icio.us list. I think Flock does that, but I haven't gotten to that yet...

Flocker blogging fixed?

If you understand this subject line, you're waaaay ahead of me. (Fogging blocker flix? Focking blix flogger?) Given a nudge by the Flock team I wanted to make sure I had done my due diligence before resorting to the Flockspertise. (I'll stop soon, I promise.)

Turns out that though the auto-setup function doesn't work "automatically" - if you cancel it you can enter your own info. I knew that previously, but what to enter there wasn't clear until I dug up this post - and I'll repost the information here for convenience:

To set up Flock with your Blogger account
1. Tools--> Options --> Blogging tab --> click plus ("+") sign
2. Try typing in the url for your blog (if it finds it, stop here)
3. If it doesn't find it, click CANCEL
4. Manual entries
XML-RPC API: choose Blogger
Blog ID: find this by going to blogger.com, logging
in, and going to your blog's page (past the dashboard) - you will see
the ID at the end of the url
Access Point: http://plant.blogger.com/api/RPC2

I'm now trying it, and if this is the end of the post, that means I was successful.

Update: I was able to successfully set up the blog account on Flock, but not post. These are the errors I got:
* A pop-up window: "blogger getPost() not implemented"
* Then the standard page not found - "Flock could not find the server ext311.blogspot.com"

Update2: I discovered the post I tried to make from Flock was actually posted despite the error messages - without my subject line (using instead my first line of text). And the formatting was very spaced out. But it... worked? Flock is still a work in progress, so if we make a step forward every day, we're still getting somewhere. :-)

Thursday, April 06, 2006

New colors, new topics

One reason this blog has been quiet recently is because of lot of my work has not be focused on arts-and-tech-related topics. So I don't post anything - which is exactly not how this is supposed to work. So I'm expanding my arena of discussion here:
  • Tech for arts orgs
  • Online community building (to empower civic engagment, not necessarily building community for community's sake)
  • Social web tools (otherwise known as Web2.0 tools).

As for those social web tools - they don't work! I am trying to use Performancing, which opens a text-editing window in your browser, then post directly to one or more of your blogs - without having to log in to any of them. (You have to set them up at the beginning, of course).

But so far, I'm getting errors. In fact, my previous version of this post raved about Performancing - before I lost the entire post because I was trying to reconfigure my Blogger settings - because... did I say this before - It doesn't work!

Hmmm, so much for easy-to-use social web tools.

And I know Flock is supposed to be able to do the same thing - but I haven't gotten that working either. Maybe that's the other reason I haven't been posting much lately - I'm still trying to get the bugs out of the tools that were supposed to make this easier.