Tag Archives: idealware

Techcafeteria’s Week Of Added Content

pile-154710_640As promised, I added about 40 of my guest posts here from the NTEN, Idealware, Earthjustice and LSC blogs. I also completely redid my categories and retagged every item, which is something I’d never done properly, so that, if you visit the blog, you can use the new sidebar category and tag cloud displays to find content by topic.

Included is my “Recommended Posts” category, which includes the posts that I think are among the best and the most valuable of what I’ve written. These are mostly nptech-related, with a few of the personal posts thrown in, along with some humor.

The newly-added content that is also in recommended posts includes:

Everything has been published by it’s original date, though, so if you’re really curious, you can find all the new stuff at these links:

I’m not finished — NTEN and Idealware have both given me permission to publish the longer articles that I’ve  written to the site.  So I will do that on a new “Articles” page.  These will include write-ups on document management, major software purchasing, data integration standards, RSS and system architecture.  Look for them this week.

Incoming Content – Apologies In Advance!

wave-357926_1280 RSS subscribers to this blog should take note that I’m apt to flood your feeds this weekend. Over the past few weeks, I’ve gathered 35 to 40 posts that  I’ve written for other blogs  that I’m adding here.  These are primarily posts that I wrote for the NTEN, Idealware, Earthjustice and Legal Services  Corporation blogs, but neglected to cross-post here at the  time. The publish dates run from mid 2006 to a few months ago. I’m also seeking  permission to republish some of my larger articles that are out there, so you’ll be seeing, at  least, my guide on “Architecting Systems to Support  Outcomes Management”, which has only been available as part of NTEN’s ebook “Collected Voices: Data-Informed  Nonprofits“.

Another part of this project is to rewrite my tags from scratch and re-categorize everything on the blog in a more useful fashion. With about 260 blog  posts, this is a size-able  book now,  It just lacks a good table of contents and index.

I’ll follow the flood with a post outlining what’s most worthwhile in the batch.  Look, too, for upcoming posts on the Map for Nonprofits and  Community IT Innovators blogs on Outsourcing IT and RFPs, respectively, which I’ll also cross-post here. Plans for upcoming Techcafeteria posts include the promised one on gender bias in nptech.  I’m also considering doing a personal series on the writers and artists that have most influenced me. Thoughts?

Where I’ll be at 12NTC


We are just under three weeks away from the 2012 Nonprofit Technology Conference and, as usual, it’s shaping up to be quite an event. It’s almost sold out, so grab your tickets if you haven’t yet! There are a bunch of fellow regular attendees that I missed last year when I had to sit it out, and there are lots of people I’ve met online that will be great to F2A*! So here’s a rundown of the places I know I’ll be if you want to meetup:

Monday, 4/2, pre-conference: #ntcbeer! As detailed in my prior post, the 4th annual get-together will be within walking distance of the hotel this year and it will run a little later, so that everyone with a dinner to go to can consider themselves un-conflicted. Details are on the official Facebook event page, visible to all (even FB haters, whom I often sympathize with).

Tuesday, 4/3: as always, I’ll be participating in the Day of Service, helping out some TBD nonprofit with some technical advice. In the afternoon I’ll be manning the Idealware table at the Science Fair. This is a great place to catch me and schedule a meetup.


Either 4/3 or 4/4, I’ll be presenting my “Doctor Who in A Tale Of Two NTCs” ignite, featuring many infamous NTENners in Lego format and a an exciting Sci-Fi story about daleks, time travel and technology.

Wednesday, 4/4: I’m participating in three sessions on Wednesday. First up, at 10:30, Tips and Tools for Technology Planning, with Carlos Bergfeld and Ariel Gilbert-Knight of Techsoup and Karl Robillard of the St. Anthony Foundation. At 1:30 I’ll co present on Only You Can Prevent Security Breaches with Legal Tech Expert Kate Bladow. And at 3:30 I’ll join common co-conspirators Matt Eshleman of CITIDC and Judi Sohn of Convio to talk about VOIP.

Thursday 4/5: My one session today, again with Matt from CitiDC,will be an oldie but goodie – the Virtualization Salon. Whether you’re about to dive in to the world of virtualized servers, or you’re an old hand with advanced questions or wisdom to share, this will cover the gambit in #ntctech style, with Powerpoint only on hand as an instructional aid and round the room wisdom sharing.

Thursday is also awards day, and as the honored recipient of last year’s NTEN Award, I get to present it to this year’s winner (no spoilers here!).

Sleep will wait until post-NTC. The best nonprofit tech party is almost here — see you there?

* Face to Avatar

My Idealware Campaign

Regular readers know that I’m an active contributor, board member and supporter of Idealware, an org that works full-time practicing the mission of this website: to help nonprofits use technology effectively. Please join me in contributing to their work in 2012 by donating to my campaign, using the unsightly widget to your right. I’m matching donations up to the first $375 contributed. idealware does great work, no question. Your support is appreciated.

Donate to Idealware

Where I’ll Be At The 10 NTC

NTEN LogoIt’s T-9 days to the 2010 Nonprofit Technology Conference, put on with style and aplomb by the amazing crew at NTEN, all of whom I’m proud to call my friends and associates in the scheme to make nonprofits start using technology strategically.  This year we’re gathering at the CNN Center in Atlanta, Georgia.

I fly in Wednesday  night, where I’m planning to shamefully miss (again) the annual pre-Day of Service dinner and eat with friends at Ted’s Montana Grill. After that, I’m hosting what looks like an annual brewpub gathering at the Porter Beer Bar — come and join us!

On Thursday, I’ll start the day at the annual Day of Service, where I’ll be lending what expertise I have to the Feminist Women’s Health Center.  Length of consult pending, I’ll then pop over to the unconference on open data standards, hosted by Netsquared.  The easiest way to find me on Wednesday, though, will be to head over to the Science Fair and locate booth 63, where I’ll be manning the Idealware table, and talking about our new web site, the revitalized blog, and our first book, among other things.

For the main conference on Friday and Saturday, I’m leading a five session sub-track that we’ve named the Tech Track.  This is in service of my standard rant about our nonprofit community’s need to support the front-line tech staff — accidental or otherwise — who struggle through the hassles of crashed servers, mis-routed routers, cloud versus closet computing, so-small-you-can’t-see-em budgets, and the challenge of communicating technology strategy to peers and higher-ups who don’t consider technology as much more than fancy typewriters.

The Tech Track operates on a few principle tenets:

  1. The best NTEN Sessions are driven by peer discussion, not endless presentations.
  2. The outcome of this track should be the creation of an ongoing nptech community, in addition to whatever wisdom is shared during the conference.
  3. Every time a PowerPoint Presentation is created, a kitten dies.

Tag for the track is #ntctech. Joining me are Johanna Bates, Matt Eschelman, Tracy Kronzak, John Merritt,  Michelle Murrain, Michael Sola, and Thomas Taylor. Note that John or Matt will be subbing for Tracy on Session one.

I leave town on Sunday morning, so let me know if you’re looking to hang out Saturday night.  If you’re looking to hook up, and this isn’t enough info to find me, hop on the Twitter and dial me up at @peterscampbell there.

The NPTech Lineup

NPTech LogosIt’s time for another quick note on upcoming events and happenings in my nonprofit-focused life. These are spare on details, but I’ll be making noise as they finalize.

First, you’re looking at the newest Idealware board member. There’s still some paperwork to fill out, but this is a done enough deal that it’s worth mentioning here. I join at an exciting time, with our first book on the way; a new website about to be unleashed,  and the successful rollout of the Idealware Research Fund (which met it’s initial goal!).

Coming up in February is the Green IT Consortium/NTEN virtual conference on Greening your Technology. Matt Eshleman of CITIDC and I will be reprising the Server Virtualization session that we did at NTC last year. Mark down the date of February 10th, and look for details very soon, including after-conference get-togethers in SF and DC..

Also in February, but as yet not fully scheduled, I’ll be participating on an NTEN-sponsored panel with representatives of Guidestar, Charity Navigator, and the NPTech/Philanthropy community to discuss the upcoming changes in how these organizations assess nonprofits. I’ve been blogging about this potentially dramatic change in the way NPOs are assessed, along with the associated concerns, here and here.

April brings the big event: NTEN’s Nonprofit Technology Conference, 4/8 to 10, in Atlanta, Georgia this year.  I have a lot going on — I’m assembling a group of NTEN’s more technical presenters to lead the technology track, five sessions that will focus on the less trendy, but eternally critical tasks that nonprofit techs face daily: keeping the servers running (and virtualizing them); installing wireless; supporting computer use and planning and purchasing with little budget.  Our hope is that this track will not only impart a lot of useful information, but also serve as the introduction of a peer community for the front line NP techs. And I’ll be flying down early enough to participate in Day of Service and this year’s experimental unconference, where we’ll, among many other things, discuss how we standardize on shared outcome measurements and what that might look like.

The biggest challenge? Doing all this without breaking the stride on my work at Earthjustice, where I’m busy developing a case management system, installing email archiving software, deploying videoconferencing systems and prepping for Office 2007 and Document Management roll-outs, among other things; blogging weekly for the aforementioned Idealware; and spending as much quality time as I can get with my wonderful wife and kid. If you have any extra hours in the day to donate, send them here!

The Idealware Research Fund

Idealware LogoFans of this blog are likely fans of the other site I blog at, Idealware.  So you already know that Idealware offers a rich, valuable service to the nonprofit community with it’s reports, webinars, trainings and programs that help nonprofits make smart decisions about software.  One of the big challenges that Idealware faces is to maintain a high level of independence for their reporting.  If your goal is to be the Consumer Reports of nonprofit software, and you need funding in order to do that, you also need to be very careful about how you receive that funding, in order to make sure that no bias creeps through to your reporting. Laura Quinn, Idealware’s founder and primary force, has come up with a few clever models for eliminating such bias, but today she unleashed a more sustainable approach to funding that will greatly simplify the process.

The Idealware Research Fund will provide basic, pooled funding for the great work that Idealware does, keeping it independent, unbiased, and resourced to provide the critical insight that smooths the stormy waters when we embark on big and small technology projects. The fund was kicked off today with a goal of raising $15,000 by December 31st.  Please let people know about Idealware’s work and this opportunity to support them, and consider supporting them yourself, if you can afford to.

Note that my self-interest is minimal here.  I’m an unpaid, volunteer blogger at Idealware and will remain such.  I have been paid (via Techsoup) for a couple of articles I’ve written.  But my support and pitch here is based solely on my belief that Idealware does great, effective work and needs our support.

My Full NPTech Dance Card

Congress can take a vote and change the time that the sun goes down.  So why can’t they give me the 10 additional hours in each day that I keep lobbying for?

In addition to my fulfilling work at Earthjustice and the quality time at home with my lovely wife and Lego-obsessed 10 year old, here are some of the things that are keeping me busy that might interest you as well:

  • Blogging weekly at Idealware, as usual. This is one of those rare entries that shows up here at Techcafeteria, but not there.  And I’m joined at Idealware by a great group of fellow bloggers, so, if you only read me here, you might get more out of reading me there.
  • I recently joined the GreenIT Consortium, a group of nonprofit professionals committed to spreading environmental technology practices throughout our sector.  I blog about this topic at Earthjustice.  Planned (but no dates set) is a webinar on Server Virtualization; technology that can reduce electrical use dramatically while making networks more manageable.  This will be similar to the session I did at the Nonprofit Technology Conference in April, and I’ll be joined again by Matt Eshleman of CITIDC. I’m also helping Ann Yoders, a consultant at Informatics Studio, with an article on green technology for Idealware.
  • On September 9th, I’ll be recording another episode of Blackbaud‘s Baudcast with other friends, including Holly Ross of NTEN. The topic this time is technology management, a subject I don’t ever shut up about.
  • Saving the big ones for last, NTEN’s first Online Conference is themed around the book, Managing Technology To Meet Your Mission. This one takes place September 16th and 17th, and I’ll be leading the discussion on my chapter: How to Decide: Planning and Prioritizing.
  • In early 2010, Aspiration will bring my pitch to life when we hold a two day conference that is truly on nonprofit technology, geared towards those of us who manage and support it. I’ve been known to rant about the fact that the big nptech shindigs — NTEN’s NTC and Techsoup’s Netsquared — focus heavily on social media and web technologies, with few sessions geared toward the day to day work that most nptechs are immersed in.  The goal of the event is to not only share knowledge, but also to build the community.  With so many nptech staff bred in the “accidental” vein, we think that fostering mentoring and community for this crowd is a no-brainer.
  • Further out, at the 2010 Nonprofit Technology Conference, I’ll be putting together a similar tech-focused sub-track.  Since the Aspiration event will be local (in the SF Bay), this will be a chance to take what we learn and make it global.
  • My nptech friends will forgive me for declaring my extra-curricular dance card otherwise closed — this is enough work to drop on top of my full-time commitments!

Where I’ll Be at NTC

Five days from now, the Nonprofit Technology Conference starts here on my home turf, in San Francisco, and I’m hoping to catch a few seconds or more of quality time with at least 200 of the 1400 people attending. Mind you, that’s in addition to meeting as many new people as possible, since making connections is a lot of what NTC is about. So, in case you’re trying to track me down, here’s how to find me at NTC.

Saturday — I’ll be home prepping, on email and Twitter, and then off to Jupiter in Berkeley (2181 Shattuck, right at Downtown Berkeley BART) at 6:00 pm for the Pre-NTC Brewpub Meetup I’m hosting. We have a slew of people signed up at NTConnect for the event. If you’re coming, get there promptly so you can help me reserve adequate space!

Sunday morning is Day of Service. I’ll be advising a local education nonprofit on low cost options for enhanced voice and video. NTC kicks off with the Member Reception, and I suspect that there will be lots of talk about our book at that event – if we’ve never met, this will be a good chance to figure out which of the 1400 attendees I am.

The Science Fair – NTEN’s unique take on the vendor show – is always a blast. If you’re at a booth, I’ll be coming by, but I’ll also be spending some time manning the Idealware booth, so that’s another good place to catch up. Dinner Sunday? I haven’t made plans. What are you doing?

Monday I keep busy hosting two sessions:

At 3:30, I’m at a loss, with excellent sessions by Peter Deitz, Allen (Gunner) Gunn, David Geilhufe, Dahna Goldstein, Jeff Patrick, Robert Weiner and Steve Wright all competing equally for my attention. If Hermione Granger is reading this, perhaps she can help me out.

On Tuesday, my tentative plan includes these breakouts: Google Operations: Apps and Analytics; Evolution of Online Communities : Social Networking for Good; and Measuring the Return on Investment of Technology. I caught a preview of the last one, led by Beth Kanter, at a Pre-NTC get together we did at Techsoup last month; it’s going to be awesome.

As a local co-host of the 501 Tech Club and a member of this year’s planning committee, I consider myself one of your hosts and am happy to answer any questions I have about what there is to do in the Bay Area, where I’ve lived since 1986. The best way to reach me is always on Twitter – if you’re attending the conference, following me, and I don’t figure that out and follow you right back, then send me a quick tweet letting me know you’re at NTC and I will (although, disclaimer required, I will quickly block people who use Twitter as a means to market products to my org). If you haven’t already gotten this hint, Twitter is an awesome way to keep connected during an event like this.

Using RSS Tools to Feed Your Information Needs

This article was originally published at Idealware in March of 2009.

The Internet gives you access to a virtual smorgasbord of information. From the consequential to the trivial, the astonishing to the mundane, it’s all within your reach. This means you can keep up with the headlines, policies, trends, and tools that interest your nonprofit, and keep informed about what people are saying about your organization online. But the sheer volume of information can pose challenges, too: namely, how do you separate the useful data from all the rest? One way is to use RSS, which brings the information you want to you.

rss-40674_640 Many of the Web sites that interest you are syndicated. With RSS, or Really Simple Syndication, you subscribe to them, and when they’re updated, the content is delivered to you — much like a daily newspaper, except you choose the content. On the Web, you can not only get most of what the newspapers offer, but also additional, vital information that informs your organizational and mission-related strategies. You subscribe only to the articles and features that you want to read. It’s absolutely free, and the only difficult part is deciding what to do with all the time you used to spend surfing.

Since TechSoup first published RSS for Nonprofits, there has been an explosion of tools that support RSS use. There are now almost as many ways to view RSS data as there are types of information to manage. Effective use of RSS means determining how you want your information served. What kind of consumer are you? What type of tool will help you manage your information most efficiently, day in and day out? Read on to learn more.

What’s on the Menu?

You probably already check a set of information sources regularly. The first step in considering your RSS needs is to take stock of what you are already reading, and what additional sources you’d like to follow. Some of that information may already be in your browser’s lists of Bookmarks or Favorites, but consider seeking out recommendations from trusted industry sources, friends, and co-workers as well. As you review the Web sites that you’ve identified as important, check them to make sure you can subscribe to them using RSS. You can find this out by looking for “subscribe” options on the Web page itself, or for an orange or blue feed icon resembling a radio signal in the right side of your Web browser’s address bar.

Consider the whole range of information that people are providing in this format. Some examples are:

  • News feeds, from traditional news sources or other nonprofits.
  • Blogs, particularly those that might mention or inform your mission.
  • Updates from social networking sites like Facebook or MySpace (for instance, through FriendFeed).
  • Podcasts and videos.
  • Updates from your own software applications, such as notifications of edits on documents from a document management system, or interactions with a donor from your CRM. (Newer applications support this.)
  • Information from technical support forums and discussion boards.
  • All sorts of regularly updated data, such as U.S. Census information, job listings, classified ads, or even TV listings and comic strips.

 

You can get a good idea of what’s out there and what’s popular by browsing the recommendations at Yahoo! Directory oriGoogle, while a tool like PostRank can help you analyze feeds and determine which are valuable.

RSS also shines as a tool for monitoring your organization and your cause on the Web. For instance, Google Alerts lets you subscribe, for free, to RSS updates that notify you when a particular word or phrase is used on the Web. (To learn more about “listening” to what others are saying about your organization online, see We Are Media’s wiki article on online listening.)

How Hungry Are You?

Dining options abound: you can order take-out, or go out to eat; you can snack on the go, or take all your meals at home; you can pick at your food, or savor each bite. Your options for RSS reading are equally diverse, and you’ll want to think carefully about your own priorities. Before choosing the tool or tools that suit you, ask some questions about the information you plan to track.

  • How much information is it? Do you follow a few blogs that are updated weekly? Or news feeds, like the New York Times or Huffington Post, which are updated 50 to 200 times a day?
  • How intently do you need to monitor this information? Do you generally want to pore over every word of this information, or just scan for the tidbits that are relevant to you? Is it a problem if you miss some items?
  • Are you generally Web-enabled? Can you use a tool over the Internet, as opposed to one installed on your desktop?
  • Do you jump from one computer to another? Do your feeds need to be synchronized so you can access them from multiple locations?
  • Is this information disposable, or will it need to be archived? Do you read articles, perhaps email the link to a colleague, and then forget about it? Or do you want to archive items of particular interest so you can find them in the future?
  • Will you refer a lot of this information to co-workers or constituents? Would you like to be able to forward items via email, or publish favorites to a Web page?
  • Do you need mobile access to the information? Will you want to be able to see all your feeds from a smartphone, on the run?

Enjoying the Meal

Once you have a solid understanding of your information needs, it’s time to consider the type of tool that you want to use to gather your information. First, let’s look at the terminology:

  • An Article (or Item) is a bit of information, such as a news story, blog entry, job listing or podcast.
  • A Feed is a collection of articles from a single source (such as a blog or Web site).
  • An Aggregated Feed is a collection of articles from numerous feeds displayed together in one folder.

So, what RSS options are available?

Tickers

Like the “crawl” at the bottom of CNN or MSNBC television broadcasts, RSS tickers show an automatically scrolling display of the titles of articles from your RSS feeds. Tickers can be a useful way to casually view news and updates. They’re a poor choice for items that you don’t want to miss, though, as key updates might move past when you’re not paying attention.

Snackr. For a very TV-news-like experience, try Snackr, an Adobe Air application. You can load up a variety of feeds which scroll in an aggregated stream across your desktop while you work.

Gmail users can use the email browser’s Web Clips feature to create a rotating display of RSS headlines above their inbox and messages. Because Gmail is Web-based, your headlines will be available from any computer.

Web Browsers

Your current Web browser — such as Internet Explorer (IE) or Firefox — can likely act as a simple RSS reader, with varying functionality depending on the browser and browser version. Browsers can either display feeds using their built-in viewers, or associate Web pages in RSS format with an installed RSS Feed Reader (much as files ending in “.doc” are associated with Microsoft Word). Even without an installed feed reader, clicking on the link to an RSS feed will typically display the articles in a readable fashion, formatting the items attractively and adding links and search options that assist in article navigation. This works in most modern browsers (IE7 and up, Firefox 2 and up, Safari and Opera). If your browser doesn’t understand feeds, then they will display as hard-to-read, XML-formatted code.

Firefox also supports plug-ins like Wizz RSS News Reader and Sage, which integrate with the browser’s bookmarks so that you can read feeds one at a time by browsing recent entries from the bookmark menu.

Portals

Portals, like iGoogle, My Yahoo!, and Netvibes, are Web sites that provide quick access to search, email, calendars, stocks, RSS feeds, and more. The information is usually presented in a set of boxes on the page, with one box per piece of information. While each RSS feed is typically displayed in a separate box, you can show as many feeds as you like on a single page. This is a step up from a ticker or standard Web browser interface, where you can only see one feed at a time.

Email Browsers

Asmany of us spend a lot of time dealing with email, your email browser can be a convenient place to read your RSS feeds. Depending on what email browser you use, RSS feeds can often be integrated as additional folders. Each RSS feed that you subscribe to appears as a separate email folder, and each article as a message. You can’t, of course, reply to RSS articles — but you can forward and quote them, or arrange them in subfolders by topic.

If you use Microsoft Outlook or Outlook Express, the very latest versions (Vista’s Windows Mail and Outlook 2007) have built-in feed reading features. (Earlier versions of Outlook can support this through powerful, free add-ons, such as RSS Popper andAttensa.)

Mozilla’s Thunderbird email application and Yahoo! Mail also allow you to subscribe to RSS feeds. Gmail doesn’t, however, as Google assumes that you’ll use the powerful Google Reader application (discussed below) to manage your feeds.

RSS Feed Readers

Another advantage of the full-featured feed readers is that you can tag and archive important information for quick retrieval. The best ones let you easily filter out items you have already read, mark the articles that are important to you so that you can easily return to them later (kind of like TiVo for the Web), and easily change your view between individual feeds and collections of feeds.

In practice, feed readers make it very effective to quickly scan many different sources of information to filter out items that are worth reading. This is a much more efficient way to process new information on the Web than visiting sites individually, or even subscribing to them with a tool that doesn’t support aggregation, like a Web browser or portal.

Feed Readers come in two primary flavors, offline and online. Offline feed readers are Windows, Mac, or Linux applications that collect articles from your feeds when you’re online, store them on your computer, and allow you to read them at any time. Online feed readers are Web sites that store articles on the Internet, along with your history and preferences. The primary difference between an online and an offline reader is the state of synchronization. An online reader will keep track of what you’ve read, no matter what computer or device that you access it from, whereas an offline reader will only update your status on the machine that it’s installed on.

Offline feed readers, such as FeedDemon (for PCs) and Vienna (for Macs), allow you to subscribe to as many feeds as you like and keep them updated, organized and manageable. During installation, they will register as the default application for RSS links in your browser, so that subscribing to new sites is as easy as clicking on an RSS icon on a Web page and confirming that you want to subscribe to it.

Online feed readers, such as Google Reader or NewsGator, offer most of the same benefits as desktop readers. While offline readers collect mail at regular intervals and copy it to your PC, online readers store all of the feeds at their Web site, and you access them with any Web browser. This means that feeds are often updated more frequently, and you can access your account — with all your RSS feeds, markings, and settings intact — from any computer. You could be home, at the office, on a smartphone, or in an Internet cafe. The products mentioned even emulate offline use. NewsGator can be synchronized with its companion offline browser FeedDemon, and Google Reader has an offline mode supported by Google Gears.

Online Readers also provide a social aspect to feed reading. Both Google Reader and NewsGator allow you to mark and republish items that you want to share with others. NewsGator does this by letting you create your own feeds to share, while Google Reader lets you subscribe to other Google Reader users’ shared items. Google Reader also lets you tag Web pages that you find outside of Google Reader and save them to your personal and shared lists. If your team members don’t do RSS, Google has that covered as well — your shared items can also be published to a standalone Web page that others can visit. You can, of course, email articles from an offline reader, but any more sophisticated sharing will require an online reader.

For many of us, mining data on the Web isn’t a personal pursuit — we’re looking to share our research with co-workers and colleagues. This ability to not only do your own research, but share valuable content with others, ultimately results in a more refined RSS experience, as members of a given community stake their own areas of expertise and share highlights with each other.

Online browsers are less intuitive than offline ones, however, for subscribing to new feeds. While an offline browser can automatically add a feed when you click on it, online browsers will require you to take another step or two (for instance, clicking an “Add” button in your browsers’ toolbar). You’re also likely to have a more difficult time connecting to a secure feed, like a list of incoming donations from your donor database, with an online reader than you would with an offline one.

The online feed readers are moving beyond the question of “How do I manage all of my information?” to “How do I share items of value with my network?”, allowing us to not only get a handle on important news, views, and information, but to act as conduits for the valuable stuff. This adds a dimension we could call “information crowd-sourcing,” where discerning what’s important and relevant to us within the daily buffet of online information becomes a community activity.


In Summary

RSS isn’t just another Internet trend — it’s a way to conquer overload without sacrificing the information. It’s an answer to the problem that the Web created: If there’s so much information out there, how do you separate the wheat from the chaff? RSS is a straightforward solution: Pick your format, sit back, and let the information feast come to you.


Thanks to TechSoup for their financial support of this article. Marshall Kirkpatrick of ReadWriteWeb, Laura Quinn of Idealware, Thomas Taylor of the Greater Philadelphia Cultural Alliance and Marnie Webb of TechSoup Global, also contributed to this article.


Peter Campbell is the director of Information Technology at Earthjustice, a nonprofit law firm dedicated to defending the earth, and blogs about NPTech tools and strategies at Techcafeteria.com. Prior to joining Earthjustice, Peter spent seven years serving as IT Director at Goodwill Industries of San Francisco, San Mateo, and Marin Counties, and has been managing technology for non-profits and law firms for over 20 years.