Tate Stirs The Pot

Tate Hausman of dotOrganize, whom I am really looking forward to meeting in person next week in San Francisco, breaks out his reality spoon gives the nonprofit technology pot a good ol’ stirring.

In his article “The Myth of the Bleeding Edge“, Tate draws on the results of dotOrganize’s ground-breaking research into the real-world technology needs and challenges of social change organizers to offer some strong pushback against the nonprofit technology sector’s “Web 2.0” enthusiasts (emphasis mine):

The vast majority of social change organizations don’t want to and aren’t in a position to use bleeding edge tools…. the more bleeding edge the tool, the less it has perceived value.

Today’s technology isn’t meeting
social change organization’s basic needs. Nearly 60% of respondents
said that their satisfaction level with their tools was somewhere
between “frustrated” and “it’s a disaster.” Only one percent of
respondents said they were completely satisfied with their tools.

Even organizations with large budgets and dedicated
technology staff focus on their basic needs, rather than bleeding edge
tools. When asked to make open-ended comments about their needs,
virtually no one asked for anything bleeding edge. Instead they asked
for systems that interoperate and share data freely, better tech
support, and better training.

In other words, organizations want to get their house in order
before pushing the boundaries. They understand that building new
additions on a weak foundation is a recipe for frustration and disaster.

It’s easy to get wrapped up in the excitement of bleeding edge
tools. But what social change organizations really need is enterprise
class software that meets their needs at affordable prices. That
doesn’t require bleeding edge technology. But delivering that at prices
that nonprofits can afford, now that would be bleeding edge.

That’s the kind of tough, contrarian love that many nonprofit technology enthusiasts desperately need. Kudos to Tate for delivering with a smile, and backed up with facts.

Here at ONE/Northwest, we’ve long tried to ground our native technophilia with a strong dose of nonprofit reality. The notes Tate sounds resonate with us. Most of partner organizations, who number among them some of the most innovative, effective environmental groups in the country, couldn’t care less about blogs, wikis, social networking, fundraising widgets, and tagging. Whatever potential those tools have (and they do have potential!), it’s overshadowed by the basic challenges of building, maintaining and operating basic, effective websites, emails and databases.

If we want to remain relevant and credible to our clients, we need to temper our temptation to blind folks with this week’s latest whiz-bang technology with a strong and abiding passion for continuously improving our ability to deliver on the fundamental tools that support basic organizing and advocacy processes.

Sorry, ugh.

Sorry for the instability of this server over the past few days.  I think the worst should be over.

Moral of the story, as summarized by Chris Heald: “Once you have a linux box that works, never try to upgrade it.”

Lesson learned.

What To Do When You Start Getting SCSI Disk Errors

One of our servers here at ONE/Northwest (which, among other duties, hosts this blog!) has been acting a little flaky over the past few weeks.  The SCSI disk subsystem was throwing intermittent clusters of CRC errors, which seemed to be causing the filesystem to go into read-only mode to protect itself.  Which would of course bring down pretty much all of its processes, requiring a restart and an fsck disk check.  Not good at all.

After Googling around a bit, and pondering the hassles of SCSI driver upgrades, I decided to just get a can of compressed air, disconnect all the drive cables, blow everything out, then carefully reconnect everything.

Twenty-four hours later, and not a single error.  Another day or two and I’ll be satisfied.

It’s nice when the easy fix works.

Vermont is beautiful

… even when it rains for four days straight and you don’t see the sun at all.  Actually, makes it feel quite a lot like Seattle. 😉

I had forgotten just how green it can be here.  Especially when the clouds are dark and the new leaves still have the last fading electricity of spring still them.


There were those who said it couldn’t be done. There were more who said it shouldn’t. But we took their advice and ignored it with all the gusto we could muster.

We finally flipped the switch today on the new, Plone-powered ONE/Northwest website.

It’s a got a lovely new design, a bunch of new content (and most of the same old stuff you love). But more importantly, it’s now powered by the best open-source content management system out there, and it gives us a solid platform for doing some serious refacoring of our content over the next few months.

This is just the beginning. Look for us to roll out a steady stream of improvements over the next few months. One great way to keep up with new content is to subscribe to our RSS feed of new articles. If you’re more email-oriented, you can subscribe to ONEList, our monthly email blast of goodness.

Buy me a beer and I’ll tell you all it is to redo your own website when you’re scrambling to launch sites for clients.  😉

Off to Vermont

I’ll be in Vermont visiting my folks for the next week.  Pray for snow.  If you find yourself in or around the Mad River Valley, drop me a line.