Tag Archives: nptechinfo

posts related to the late, lamented nptech.info website

The End Of NPTech (.INFO)

After eight years, I’ve decided to shutter the nptech.info website, which will also disable the @nptechinfo twitter feed that was derived from it.  Obviously, Twitter, Facebook and Google Plus have made RSS aggregation sites like nptech.info obsolete. Further, as Google ranks links from aggregators lower and lower on the optimization scale, it seems like I might be doing more harm than good by aggregating all of the nptech blogs there. It will be better for all if I spend my efforts promoting good posts on social media, rather than automatically populating a ghost town.

Long-time Techcafeterians will recall that NPTECH.INFO used to be a pretty cool thing. The history is as follows:

Around 2004, when RSS first started getting adopted on the web, a very cool site called Del.icio.us popped up.  Delicious was a social bookmarking site, where you could save links with keywords and descriptions, and your friends could see what you were sharing (as well as the rest of the delicious userbase). Smart people like Marnie Webb and Marshall Kirkpatrick agreed that they would tag articles of interest to their peers with the label “nptech”. Hence, the origin of the term. They let about 50 friends know and they all fired up their newsreaders (I believe that Bloglines was state of the art back then — Google Reader was just a glimmer in some 20%er’s eye).

Understand, referring information by keyword (#hashtag) is what we are all doing all of the time now.  But in 2005, it was a new idea, and Marnie’s group were among the first to see the potential.

I picked up on this trend in 2005.  At lunch one day, Marnie and I agreed that a web site was the next step for our experiment in information referral.  So I installed Drupal and registered the domain and have kept it running (which takes minimal effort) ever since.  It got pretty useless by about 2009, but around that time I started feeding the links to the @nptechinfo Twitter account, and it had a following as well.

Yesterday, I received an email asking me to take down an article that included a link to a web site.  It was an odd request — seemed like a very 2001, what is this world wide web thing? request: “You don’t have permission to link to our site”.  Further digging revealed that these were far from net neophytes; they were SEO experts who understood that a click on the link from my aggregator was being misinterpreted by Google as a potential type of link fraud, thus impairing their SEO.  I instantly realized that this could be negatively impacting all of my sources –and most of my sources are my friends in the nptech community.

There is probably some way that I could counter the Google assumption about the aggregator.  But there are less than three visitors a day, on average. So, nptech.info is gone, but the community referring nptech information is gigantic and global.  It’s no longer an experiment, it’s a movement.  And it will long outlive its origins.

Delicious Memories

This article was originally published on the Idealware Blog in December of 2010.

Like many of my NPTECH peers, I was dismayed to learn yesterday that Delicious, the social bookmarking service, was being put to pasture by Yahoo!, the big company that purchased the startup five years ago.  Marshall Kirkpatrick of ReadWriteWeb has written the best memorial,  But the demise of Delicious marks a passing of significant note to our community of nonprofit staff that seek innovative uses of technology.  So let me talk quickly about how Delicious brought me into this community, and, along the way, a bit about what it meant to all of us.

In 2002, I was wrapped up in my job as VP of Information Technology at San Franciscco Goodwill.  At that time, the buzz term was “Web 2.0”, and it was all over the tech press with about a thousand definitions.  We all knew that “Web 2.0” meant the evolution of the web from a straight publisher to consumer distribution medium to something more interactive, but nobody knew exactly what. Around that time, I started reading columns by Jon Udell about RSS, technology that would, as a simpler, subset of XML, helps us share web-based information the way that newspapers share syndicated content, such as comic strips and columns.  I was really intrigued.  The early adopters of RSS were bloggers, and what I think was very cool about this is that RSS was free technology that, like the web, advanced the opportunities of penniless mortals to become global publishers.  People who couldn’t tell an XML feed from an XL T-Shirt were championing an open standard, because it served as the megaphone in front of their soapboxes.

I kept my eye out for innovative uses of RSS,a nd quickly discovered Joshua Schacter’s del.icio.us website.  This was a social bookmarking service where, by adding a little javascript link to your web browsers bookmark bar (or quick links, or whatever), you could quickly save any web page you enjoyed to an online repository for later retrieval.  That repository was public, so others could see what you found valuable as well.  But this is where Schacter jumped the gun, and championed two information technology strategies that have, since that time, significantly changed the web: tagging and rss.

Tagging

In addition to the link and a brief description, you could add keywords to each bookmark, and then later find related bookmarks by that keyword.  You could just find the bookmarks that you tagged with a word, or you could find the tags that anyone using Delicious tagged with that word.  So, if you were studying the russian revolution, you could search Delicious for russia+revolution and find every bookmark that anyone had saved,   This was different than searching for the same terms in Google or yahoo, because the results weren’t just the most read; they were the sites that were meaningful enough to people to actually be saved.  Delicious became, as Kirkpatrick points out,  a mass-curated collection of valuable information, more like wikipedia than, say, Yahoo Directory.  Delicious was the lending library of the web.

RSS

In addition to searching the site for tags by keyword and/or user, any results your searching found could be subscribed to via RSS.  This was crazy powerful! Not only could you follow topics of interest, but, using PHP add-ons like MagpieRSS or aggregation functions like those built into Drupal, Joomla, and pretty much any major Content Management System, you could quickly incorporate valuable, easily updated content into your website.  I immediately replaced my static “Links” page on my website to one that grabbed items witha  particular keyword from Delicious, so that updating that Links page was as easy as bookmarking a site that I wanted listed there.

NPTECH

I wasn’t the only nonprofit strategist taking note of these developments.  One day, while browsing items that Delicious termed Popular (e.g., bookmarks that multiple people had saved to the site), I noted a blog entry titled “The Ten Reasons Nonprofits Should Use RSS“.  The article was written by one Marnie Webb of CompuMentor (now better known as TechSoup, where she is one of the CEOs).  A week or so later, while following the office email mailing lis for Delicious, I encountered Marnie again, and, this time, emailed her and suggested that we meet for lunch, based on our clearly common interest in nonprofits and RSS.  Marnie told me about the NPTech Tagging Project, and effort she started by simply telling her friends to tag websites related to nonprofit technology with the tag “nptech” on Delicious, so that we could all subscribe to that tag in our RSS readers.

Marnie and I believe that what we started was the first mass information referral system of this type.  In 2005 we took it up a level by creating the nptech.info website, which aggregates items tagged with nptech from Delicious, Twitter, Flicker and numerous other sources across the web. Nptech.info is now more widely read via it’s Twitter feed, @nptechinfo.

I think it’s safe to say that the nptech tagging project grew from a cool and useful idea and practice into a community, and a way that many of us identify who we are to the world.  I’m a lot of things, but nptechie sums most of them up into one simple word.  I know that many of you identify yourselves that way as well.

An offshoot of meeting Marnie on the Delicious mailing list was that she introduced me to NTEN, and brought me into the broad community of nptech, and my current status as a blogger, writer, presenter, Idealware board member and happy member of this broad community ties directly back to the Delicious website.  I stopped using the site as a bookmarking service some time ago, as efforts that it inspired (like Google Reader sharing)  became more convenient.  But I still subscribe to Delicious feeds and use it in websites.  It’s demise will likely be the the end of nptech,info.  Efforts are underway to save it, so we’ll see.  But even if this article is the first you’ve heard of Delicious, it’s important to know that it played a role in the evolution of nonprofit technology as the arbiter of all things nptech.  It’s ingenuity and utility will be sorely missed.

How and Why RSS is Alive and Well

This post was first published on the Idealware Blog in September of 2009.

rss.png
Image: SRD

RSS, one of my favorite protocols, has been taking a beating in the blogosphere. Steve Gillmor, in his blog TechcrunchIT, declared it dead in May, and many others have followed suit.

Did Twitter Kill it?

The popular theory is that, with social networks like Twitter and Facebook serving as link referral tools, there’s no need to setup and look at feeds in a reader anymore. And I agree that many people will forgo RSS in favor of the links that their friends and mentors tweet and share. But this is kind of like saying that, if more people shop at farmer’s markets than supermarkets, we will no longer need trucks. Dave Winer, quite arguably the founder of RSS, and our friends at ReadWriteWeb have leapt to RSS’s defense with similar points – Winer puts it best, saying:

“These protocols…are so deeply ingrained in the infrastructure they become part of the fabric of the Internet. They don’t die, they don’t rest in piece.”

My arguments for the defense:

1. RSS is, and always has been about, taking control of the information you peruse. Instead of searching, browsing, and otherwise separating a little wheat from a load of chaff, you use RSS to subscribe to the content that you have vetted as pertinent to your interests and needs. While that might cross-over a bit with what your friends want to share on Facebook, it’s you determining the importance, not your friends. For a number of us, who use the internet for research; brand monitoring; or other explicit purposes, a good RSS Reader will still offer the best productivity boost out there.

2. Where do you think your friends get those links? It’s highly likely that most of them — before the retweets and the sharing — grabbed them from an RSS feed. I post links on Twitter and Facebook, and I get most of them from my Google Reader flow.

3. It’s not the water, it’s the pipe. The majority of those links referred by Twitter are fed into Twitter via RSS. Twitterfeed, the most popular tool for feeding RSS data to Twitter, boasts about half a million feeds. Facebook, Friendfeed and their ilk all allow importing from RSS sources to profiles.

So, here are some of the ways I use RSS every day:

Basic Aggregation with Drupal

My first big RSS experiment built on the nptech tagging phenomenon. Some background: About five years ago, with the advent of RSS-enabled websites that allowed for storing and tagging information (such as Delicious, Flickr and most blogging platforms), Techsoup CEO Marnie Webb had a bright idea. She started tagging articles, blog posts, and other content pertinent to those working in or with nonprofits and technology with the tag “nptech”. She invited her friends to do the same. And she shared with everyone her tips for setting up an RSS newsreader and subscribing to things marked with our tag. Marnie and I had lunch in late 2005 and agreed that the next step was to set up a web site that aggregated all of this information. So I put up the nptech.info site, which continues to pull nptech-tagged blog entries from around the web.

Other Tricks

Recently, I used Twitterfeed to push the nptech aggregated information to the nptechinfo Twitter account. So, if you don’t like RSS, you can still get the links via Twitter. But stay aware that they get there via RSS!

I use RSS to track Idealware comments, Idealware mentions on Twitter, and I subscribe to the blog, of course, so I can see what my friends are saying.

I use RSS on my personal website to do some lifestreaming, pulling in Tweets and my Google Reader favorites.

But I’m pretty dull — what’s more exciting is the way that Google Reader let me create a “bundle” of all of the nptech blogs that I follow. You can sample a bunch of great Idealware-sympatico bloggers just by adding it to your reader.

Is RSS dead? Not around here.

NPTech Update

Notes from here and there:

  • On a different topic, NTEN’s Online Technology Conference starts Wednesday. You can still register, and, if you tell them that you heard it here, they’ll give you a 25% discount. Who’s says it doesn’t pay off to read my blog?

NPTech.Info Updated

NPTech Aggragator at http://nptech.info

Those of you familiar with my sideproject at http://nptech.info know that it has been trustworthily aggregating blog entries, photos and websites tagged with the term “nptech” for close to four years now.  It’s been a little negelcted of late, but after Annaliese over at NTEN gave it a shout-out, I figured it was due for some clean-up. Here’s what’s new:

  • About 25 blogs added to the NPTech Blogs section, and a broken link or two corrected on the existing ones;
  • Information from Twitter added to the main “Tagged items” feed that already grabs nptech items from Delicious, Flickr and Technorati;
  • New additions to the general tech section from sites like ReadWriteWeb and Mashable
  • A simple Facelift, primarily adding a little color and going for a more attractive font (fancy design is not a big priority here, particularly since my last big effort to pretty it up got creamed in a Drupal upgrade).

As usual, if you have a blog focused on Non-Profit Technology that you’d like added to the mix, let me know, but rest assured that, if you can find your blog on Technorati, we’re already grabbing the items that you tag or categorize as “nptech”.

NTC08 Part 2: In Honor of Marnie Webb

At the NTEN awards on Friday, Marnie Webb took the Person of the Year award, and rightly so! In honor of Marnie, a key originator of the nptech community, I want to share the story of how I met her. And try to make her blush a bit more. 🙂

In 2004, I was reading Jon Udell‘s Infoworld columns about a new technology called “Really Simple Syndication”, RSS. The technology interested and thrilled me a bit, because it looked like it might provide a much needed management tool for web-based information (which it did). In early 2005, I was browsing through popular bookmarked web sites at Del.icio.us, a web site that made innovative use of RSS, and saw a link entitled “The Top 10 Reasons that Nonprofits Should Use RSS“. I noted that the author, one Marnie Webb, of course, worked near me in SF at Compumentor/Techsoup. The next week, I ran across a post by the same Ms. Webb to the del.icio.us mailing list. Armed with the knowledge that there was someone else obsessed with the same technology trends and potential that I was, I emailed her and said “You don’t know me, but we have to have lunch”.

The rest is this story — this blog, Techcafeteria, my happiness in finding/joining NTEN, which Marnie introduced me to. We started up the nptech aggregator web site, as the next logical progression in Marnie’s campaign to get people around the world referring useful information to each other via that ubiquitious tag. But I am positive that my story is far from unique — Marnie is one of those people who, in her unassuming way, promotes ideas and community. So, good work NTEN, and great work Marnie! A well-deserved award.

I’ve been busy

As you’ve noted if you read this blog either through NPTech.Info or Techcafeteria.com, I’ve been doing some serious remodeling. I’ve never been happy with the plain white look of NPTech.info, but, being much more of a plumber than a gardener when it comes to web development, I’ve been too shy to tackle it. But I’m actually proud of the work I’ve done on Techcafeteria, so I decided to share the wealth, bringing NPTech into the fold, so to speak, but I think it’s an improvement. Let me know if you have any thoughts one way or the other.

Techcafeteria was thrown up in my spare minutes during my last week at Goodwill, while I was cramming to finish up there and prepping for the NTEN conference. I basically typed it in on my laptop whenever I could catch a few spare minutes. This week, I finally took the time to turn it into a real web site with more of a graphical feel, some ajaxy stuff, and search. I’m using Google Custom Search because it searches through a variety of file types and allows me to publish the results locally.

NPTech Phase 2

About six months ago (give or take a few months) Marnie Webb got together with a few other people as interested as she was in del.icio.us, flickr and the possible intersections of RSS, social networking and non-profits, and started an experiment. What if they all, started tagging del.icio.us bookmarks of interest to non-profit technologists with the tag :nptech”? The idea picked up. People joined in. The attribute expended to flickr, furl and other tag-based information systems, and to technorati‘s stab at pasting tagging functionality on top of the blogosphere.

The best way to see the result of this project (until yesterday) was to go to Technorati and search for nptech. The resulting list of blog entries, flickr photos and del.icio.us links are all on subject.

So, on Monday, Marnie and I had lunch, and we decided to do something that, once we mentioned it, seemed kind of obvious. What if we were to set up a site that aggregates all of this information and allows us to communicate and collaborate around it? A very logical next step. We have the nptech tagging presence; we have a google group about it, but a web community puts the information and the people all in one place, with forums, blogs and other tools available to support moving beyond research sharing into collaborative action.

So we dove right in. CivicSpace is a customized repacking of the Drupal Content Management System – the one developed to support Howard Dean’s presidential run. It’s a great fit for this, because it has powerful aggregation and communication features — I’ve set up Drupal sites at Goodwill and for smaller communities. I put up a copy on my server (entry to follow on my recent server upgrade, which has kept me pretty quiet here) , And Marnie and I have started pulling information in and inviting alpha-testers on board.

So, you’re invited to alpha test at nptech.krazy.com.

It’s pretty raw right now – we will be improving the appearance and tweaking the functionality. that’s why it’s alpha. But there’;s no reason why you can’t jump right in and read the aggregated nptech information, post some thoughts, suggest some feeds, or, if you’re artistic, send me a much better logo for the site than the one I put up there last night.