Tag Archives: admin

Web Site Update

Over the weekend, I downsized Techcafeteria.com, something I probably should have done close to a year ago, when I started my job at Earthjustice. What’s left is pretty thin, and is less of a web site than it is a supplement to other things online.

Some say that we’re moving away from blogging to the next trend, dubbed “Lifestreaming“. But I wouldn’t call this a lifestream. “Stream-supplementing” might be more to the point. I hang out in a number of places online, the key ones being, in some kind of meaningful order:

LinkedIn – this is where I keep my resume and stay connected with people I know through work and community.

Twitter – This is where I do most of my online communication lately. My Twitter community is mostly made up of people I know through NTEN and other NPTech circles. You may think I’ve been pretty quiet in the two or three months since I last blogged, but I’ve published about 700 tweets.

NTEN, or, more accurately, the NTEN Groups like NTEN-Discuss and the SF-501TechClub. These are online lists, sponsored by NTEN. I’m also reasonable active on Deborah Elizabeth Finn‘s excellent Information Systems Forum, a Yahoo Group.

Idealware – Laura’s made me a staff writer, of sorts, and I should be contributing more articles this summer. I also comment on the blog regularly. Some of my Idealware articles are also picked up by Techsoup.

So, those are great places to find me. And this is where you come to contact me, or catch up on where I’ve been. I can’t call it “lifestreaming” – my life isn’t a show, and if it was, it wouldn’t be a very interesting one. But I do publish he pieces of it that I think might be valuable to others, and I’d rather publish them in places that others go, so it makes sense to have a web site that serves more as an signpost than a destination.

What happened?

Well, work happened, and I have to admit that I am not the driven blogger who can maintain a steady flow of posts while working full-time. I’ve been doing a consulting/contracting gig in San Jose that not only keeps me busy, but takes huge chunks out of my day for the commute, so my attention to Techcafeteria has suffered unduly. I’ll be wrapping up the work in San Jose and transitioning to a new, full-time position over the next month or two, returning to the ranks of Non-Profit IT Directors that I didn’t imagine I’d stay out of for long. More on that position later – I’ve been asked to keep it under wraps for a week or so.

So I’ll be closing the consulting services section of Techcafeteria, but I’ll be keeping the website going as time affords. It’s been an interesting year for me, so far. From 1986 until 2007, I held three jobs. I stayed at each one for at least six years, and I secured the next one before leaving the prior. I haven’t been unemployed (aka self-employed) for over two decades. But I have a bit of a self-imposed challenge – I want a job with deep business and technology challenges, at an organization with a worthwhile mission, at a pay scale that, while not extravagant, is enough to support my family living in the Bay Area, where my partner spends most of her time homeschooling our son. Those opportunities aren’t a dime a dozen. I reached a point early in the year where I was downright desperate to leave the job that I was at (a long story that I have no intention of relating here!), and applied at some for-profit companies. I think I sabotaged myself in the interviews, because it eventually became clear to me that having day to day work that combats social or environmental injustice is a personal requirement of mine. My partner supports this — she was proud to tell people that I worked for Goodwill and she’s even more excited about my new gig, which sports a killer tagline. So setting up the consulting practice was — and probably will be again — a means of staying solvent while I was very picky about what I applied for.

One job that I pursued was with an org called the Pachamama Alliance. They are a fascinating group of people. Their story is that the indigenous people of Ecuador put out a call for help to the Western World as they saw the earth and their culture being destroyed by the clearing of the rainforests. The group forming Pachamama answered that call, and their mission is to “change the dream of the western world” into one that is in harmony with nature, as opposed to dominance and disrespect of it. They maintain that environmental injustice and social injustice are tied at the knees – where you find one, you’ll find the other. For those of you who saw Gore’s “An Inconvenient Truth”, you’ll recall the fact that the main water source for the Sudan dried up a few years ago. That bit of trivia puts the subsequent genocide in Darfur in an interesting perspective. Pachamama has adopted Gore’s tactics with a multimedia presentation that both educates and inspires people to adopt a more sustainable dream. It’s a timely movement, as it’s becoming clear to all of us that our current rate of consumption of natural resources is having dramatic impacts on the environment. Pachamama spreads the word by training volunteers to share the presentation. Well worth checking out.

In other news, I’m hard at work on an article for Idealware that attempts to deflate all of this big talk about APIs and put it in terms that anyone can use to understand why they might want to migrate data and how they might do it. I’m also talking with my friends at NTEN about doing a webinar on the best practices for rolling out CRM at a non-profit. As long-time blog readers have probably picked up, I consider Constituent Relationship Management software to be the type of technology that, deployed correctly, completely alters the way a business is run. It’s not just about maintaining business relationships and tracking donors – it’s about working collaboratively and breaking down the silos of business relationships and data. So installing the software (if software even needs to be installed) is the least of it, and data migration is just a chore. But aligning business strategy to CRM technology is the real challenge.

So, I’ll post next week about my new gig, and look forward to a long life for Techcafeteria as a resource on non-profit technology, with less of the hawking of services.

NTEN Connected

Just a note that my article on IT Leadership was featured in the latest issue of NTEN Connect.

On a related note, my blog entry on Joomla Day West was almost quoted verbatim in the latest Joomla Weekly News (this is a PDF download). And I have an article coming out soon in Non-Profit Times on Data Management, a summary of the Managing Technology 2.0 presentation that I led at the NTEN conference in April. (Powerpoint link here).

Update on OpenID server

A quick addendum to my last entry:

First, my apologies if you’re trying to play. For some reason, the DNS change that will allow you to access openid.techcafeteria.com is taking a looonng time to propagate. I’ve asked my ISP about this. And it makes no sense to give you the ip or an alternate name – you need the actual name to get this working.

Don’t trust me to maintain techcafeteria.com 24/7 for as long as you may live? Good thinking! I’m hosting this on my home box, because I can’t hack PHP sufficiently in order to get it going on my ISPs system. So this is what’s cool about OpenID. It’s relatively easy to become an OpenID provider, if you have your own server. I think it took me two hours or so to get it all set up. So there will be plenty of providers out there. And OpenID gives you an option for setting up a permanent address on any server where you can create a simple page (regardless of whether it’s your system or if it has anything related to OpenID installed) and then referring it to your OpenID provider. So, if I take my system down (I do that about twice a year), you can register somewhere else and simply point your URL to their system. It’s very flexible, and you’ll have the instructions in front of you after you create your ID on my server.

In addition to OpenID.net here are two important resources:

OpenID Enabled is a wiki devoted to OpenID. Very thorough!

The OpenID Directory is an early stab at collecting all of the sites that allow you to log in via OpenID. It’s also an OpenID provider, if you’re looking for that backup.

Wanna play with OpenID?

Yesterday, Sun announced a rollout of OpenID for all of the company’s employees, and joined Microsoft, Yahoo!, AOL and others in embracing the emerging Single Sign-on standard.

In order to deepen my understanding of OpenID and what it’s ramifications might be for me and the non-profit community, I’m diving in and inviting you to join me. I’ve set up an OpenID server at http://openid.techcafeteria.com that you are welcome to use to establish your own ID. From there, you can also manage your identity, optionally revealing some demographic info to sites that you authenticate to (completely optional!) and managing the sites that you have authenticated to.

I’ve also set up my blog to allow for OpenID as a registration option, via a handy WordPress plugin.

Some notes if you want to join in:

  • If you sign up, you might want to then register on my blog and leave a comment on this entry. That way we’ll know who we’re playing with.
  • If you have trouble accessing http://openid.techcafeteria.com, wait a few hours – it should be fully reachable by Friday at the very latest. I just set up the DNS a few hours ago

If you don’t know where to use OpenID other than my blog, note that plugins are available for WordPress, livejournal, Drupal, MediaWiki, and other community-based applications, as well as a module for apache. Technet has articles on how to integrate it with ASP sites. So, it’s out there – look for the logo:

OpenId Logo

New Home, OpenID Redux

Okay, I finished the big job of migrating my blog from it’s old home to my new digs, and I think I have the bugs out, with thanks to the two blogs that linked to my OpenID article, and the two people who let me know that the email was broken (making it impossible for people to register). We’re off to a good start!

I offered some preliminary thoughts and asked a question about OpenID, proposing that, while this is a boon for users, it might have a negative impact on an organization’s ability to coax contact information out of web visitors, as providing personal info will no longer be a requirement for authenticating to a web site.

Johannes Ernst, a man who designs identity management software for a living, responded on his blog with a few counterpoints (which I’ll brutally summarize):

  1. People often present false information in contact forms anyway;
  2. “Because users can provide their OpenID that they also have provided to other sites, the site can actually learn more about the user — which other websites they frequent, for example.” Johanne qualifies this one with the rider that people won’t necessarily use their OpenID to share such data.
  3. With control of their identity, the visitor might feel more confident about sharing information.
  4. With single sign-on, and easier access to the authentication-required content, visitors might be more compelled to join and share.

Simon Willison, a co-creator of the Django Web framework, anticipated my question and replied on January 10th. Simon makes the clear point that OpenID will only replace the “enter your name and type a password twice” portion of an online registration. It won’t fully replace requests for further data and confirmation, such as the graphical Captchas that we’re all getting so used to. In fact, he proposes, the fact that a user has an open ID doesn’t mean that they aren’t a spammer — we shouldn’t accept it as full authentication, just a convenience for the password tracking part.

Simon has me fairly well sold that this isn’t as big a threat as I thought. But I still have a lot of questions about the idea, and I’m curious as to how it will play out once the standard is established (assuming it will be – I suspect so). if the authentication is as weak for the web service as Simon suggests, will an industry like SSL arise, adding verification to OpenID authentication? And I’m still intrigued as to what conventions will grow out of everyone having a personal web address, which, of course, will lead to some sort of web page.
Johannes made a comment that really intrigued me on his post, when he said:

” Personally, if I have a choice between knowing a URL pointing to your blog, and having the information you typed into a web form that I put up, I take the blog any time. (That might even be true if the form’s data was all correct!) That is not data that your typical CRM system knows how to manage, but as we all know in the blogosphere, extremely valuable to gain some view on the user’s social network and reputation and interests.”

Johannes has a pretty interesting idea for a marketing app there. While he suggests that the data is free-form, I’d counter that – most blogs follow very standard conventions, and many bloggers (hey, me included!) use the standard text that comes with our blogging platform to denote them. So just as HR staff no longer “read” resumes, how far can blog scanning be behind?

New plan for Content!

Regular vistitors to the Coconino County Home Page know one thing well: there’s not much reason to be a regular visitor to the site. The page tends to be updated annually, as opposed to regularly. This is defensible: I chose my subject matter for a number of reasons, the primary one being my love for it, but the secondary being the relative low amount of updating that would be required. And, as readers of my Site Notes know, my third motivation has always been to just have a web site where I can keep my skills (such as they are) fresh.

So I’ve done a few things to make adding content simpler, taking advantage of the latest buzz on the Internet: Really Simple Syndication (RSS). First, the bookmarks are now managed using del.icio.us, a very powerful bookmark sharing site. I highly recommend it! Second, I’m using RSS to centralize content creation for about four different web sites that I maintain, which will make it simpler to publish to krazy.com.

Over the next half year or so, I will be migrating Krazy.com to a full RSS/blogging platform called WordPress.. Don’t be concerned – the updated content on the site was blog-like long before I ever heard the term, and it will not change dramatically when it’s moved to the new platform. For those interested in the techy details, I will chronicle this more thoroughly in the site notes.

Why blog?

With over 8 million blogs out there (as of March, when I saw Mena Trott, founder of blogging service Six Apart, speak at the NTEN Non-Profit Technology conference), there’s a real good question as to why someone like me would add another “sad, default-Blogger-templated website” to the giant heap of the same out there. Well, I have a few reasons.

Mainly, while most people set up blogs and then notice how conveniently they can distribute them via RSS (Really Simple Syndication), I got here from the reverse direction. I have a need to strategically publish content to a variety of web sites, and RSS is an effective tool to do it. By maintaining a blog, I can pretty handily write all of that content here and then selectively copy it where it needs to go. The destinations for these posts include www.krazy.com, my website devoted to the classic cartoon “Krazy Kat” and it’s author, George Herriman; a private web site inside San Francisco Goodwill that I maintain (running on Drupal), where I blog on technology issues relevant to my organization and role as IT Director; and, possibly, the Digital Divide Network, where I am hoping to be more active.

Secondly, I think I have enough web street cred to be legitimate. I wasn’t born on the web yesterday. In 1989, I ran a computerized Bulletin Board system (BBS) out of my home. I wrote software to convert Usenet newsgroups to PCBoard BBS format so I could carry them for my callers. I registered krazy.com in 1994, and had a web site up there by January of 1995, a little earlier than most of you, right? Since about 2000, you’ve been able to find my web site at Google by typing “krazy kat” in the box and pressing “I’m Feeling Lucky”. The Coconino County Homepage is the first unsponsored link at just about any search engine when you look for either “Krazy Kat” or “George Herriman”.

Third, I hope to grow this into more than just a blog. WordPress supports adding additional pages, and RSS feeds on related topics, as well as forums and other features are likely additions in the months to come. Ultimate goal: port the whole Krazy Kat web site to WordPress as well.

Finally, this is not a place where you’re going to hear cute stories about my dog, and I promise to keep the “blogging about blogs” itch scratched, as much as possible. I will discuss related technologies, but from my perspective as a technology strategist, which I think puts a broader slant on things then just “ain’t it cool”. I’ll also throw in some biographical/political/pure opinion stuff, but I’ll try to keep it entertaining.

So, again, welcome!

Welcome!

Okay! After a few fits and starts on various blogging services, this is it – my own blog, hosted on my own server, with a title appropriately culled from Krazy Kat, my muse. WordPress is clearly a suitable platform, powerful, flexible, hackable. Look for a bit of early remodeling as I make the site look right. Good to be here – more to come!