Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Convio and Kintera APIs... we're excited why, exactly?

My life in nonprofit technology continually gets defined by this moment in 2001 where a major technology company schooled me on why nonprofits didn't need open source... you see technology adoption runs on a five to seven year adoption cycle, they said, in 5-7 years, the innovations that are unique today will be commonplace and adopted throughout the sector, driven by the commercial market.

It is 4th Quarter of 2007 and Convio and Kintera announce APIs. Adoption can begin in their customer base. Mmmm... maybe the nonprofit sector is different.

Don't get me wrong, APIs are important, these announcements should be encouraged, only one more major vendor needs to be dragged kicking and screaming into 2002 (yes, 5 years out of touch). But please people, raise the bar a little. One has to wonder how long we would have waited for the vendors to release APIs if Salesforce hadn't flooded the market with modern software.

The real golden nugget is Convio's Facebook application based on the concept of extensions. This is where APIs need to move in the nonprofit sector if regular groups without 5 figure development budgets are going to use APIs. People need to be able to download applications, drop javascript into their web pages, not write code.

That said, looking at the 13 nonprofit applications on SalesForce's AppExchange, and knowing how many great things have been built by consultants and nonprofits but are not available, it may just mean that the benefits of open APIs are available only to those that can write a $10K+ check in addition to the cost of their commercial software. Hopefully Convio has more success distributing the innovation unleashed by their APIs.

P.S. APIs have been available from the beginning from open source tools focusing on the sector. The problem is that we still haven't come up with a distribution model that gets the tools in the hands of nonprofits without that darn five figure consulting fee.

Monday, October 1, 2007

Facebook is yet another step..

As much as I love Deborah, I think she is missing the point...

at this moment it feels like every self-respecting 501(c)3 is going to need to develop an application that integrates with Facebook.
Facebook is yet another step in the path to allowing non-programmers to do cool programmer things. A nonprofit doesn't need to create a application to raise money from Facebook users... they have lots of choices (causes, etc.). Advocacy campaigns have lots of choices. I'm sure in another few years they'll have apps to do all kinds of things we can't imagine.

The point here is all the NPO is doing is using their browser to click and configure. This started with widgets, is moving on to Facebook, and who knows where in the future.

The far more interesting item comes from the comments, where Caroline Meeks (a most excellent technologist) notes that the real magic comes when Google chooses to crush Facebook by "out opening" them.

But in the end, a human of average intelligence, a mouse and a keyboard can do things today that it took millions of dollars and special training to do yesterday. Nonprofits don't have to build Facebook widgets, but they do need to understand how to use tools in the new online jungle.

For those of us that have been in the technology game for awhile, basic technology literacy is still paramount to using technology sucessfully. Where we used to say "is it plugged in" we now say "are you logged in".