Friday, December 1, 2006

Reinvention of the wheel again...

One of my irritations in life is when dollars dedicated to social change get invested invested in duplicative technical infrastructure.

So I've been looking at DonorsChoose, Kiva and GlobalGiving. From a software perspective, I pretty much can't tell the difference between them. Authenticated user creates project, visitors contribute money to project, project contains some rich information about the project, there is some accountability structure and reporting.

Why did they have to build three incompatible software systems? Why not standardize on single open source platform? That way each organization's investment in the open source foundation benefits all users. Over time the cost of innovating and maintaining the software per organization falls drastically. [I'm not naive... there are lots of good reasons, but still.]

Better question... where is the "micro-project" data standard so small fundraising opportunities (a school in need of a whiteboard, a village in need of a goat) can be syndicated quickly and easily across the Internet?

Lets build our technology with the same eye toward social change we use when developing our projects.


ME-L said...

Interesting idea -- although there are differences that would make a common platform difficult to implement. For instance, DonorsChoose has an entire purchasing / ecommerce system, so that once projects are funded our staff can directly purchase the items and have them sent to the school. Such a system would be of no use to Kiva or Global Giving since their implementation models are entirely different.

Interested in the microformat / syndication idea -- could you elaborate?

-- michael -at-

David Geilhufe said...

Syndication is a very simple thing. After Hurricane Katrina, we built a syndication data standard for missing persons on the web in a couple days and had it implemented in software a couple of days latter.

PeopleFinder Interchange Format:

The guys at Yahoo have extended revised/extended it, but I don't think they have published any thing.

Donorschoose should just publish an RSS feed of projects pointing back to the source record (on Then build a little community around displaying projects on district websites, PTA websites, local newspaper/ classified sites, etc.

David Geilhufe said...

One of the good things about well-architected open source is that standardization is not about everyone doing everything the exact same way, but doing things in a similar way off the same core framework.

Something like purchasing/ e-commerce system probably can be completely distinct from the project/donation system... but I've done enough software projects to understand there may be cost (higher) and time (longer) implications of separating systems cleanly.

David Geilhufe said...
Another website with the same functionality.

Sombit said...

I like the syndication idea too and at GlobalGiving, we are experimenting with feeds on some social networking sites.

on the point of platform integration - DonorsChoose and Kiva are both wonderful sites, but as Michael said, the models are qualitatively different.

DonorsChoose procures supplies and sends them to teachers, Kiva administers user-financed loans via PayPal (where repayment is involved), and GlobalGiving facilitates donations. The audience demographics are different for each organization too, to the point we could not integrate our project entry systems.

sombit at